piano blog by Shirley Kirsten, piano blogger, piano blogging

Jeanne Bamberger, 94, shares a rich and abundant musical life

A former student of legendary pianist, Artur Schnabel, Jeanne Shapiro Bamberger sat comfortably at her piano bench, nestled in her Berkeley Hills home. She meticulously traced her East to West Coast journey that’s reached beyond the boundaries of piano performance. Through decades of creative discovery, Bamberger has synthesized elements of music and cognition; form, structure, analysis, with an understanding of how we react/respond to music. Her work has had a far-reaching effect. Four of her titles are read and respected across an audience of many disciplines, while her popular U.C. Berkeley course, “Music Cognition” draws interest/attendance from diverse academic, scientific and musical communities.

Adding to a prolific output of university-based activities, she’s created a software program that’s allied to the website Tuneblocks.com. It has integrated a community of musicians and technology mavens, some of whom sit in Bamberger’s classroom. Their posted mission “is to build computer-based and hands-on products that will help you develop your creative intuitions while having fun with music.”

http://www.tuneblocks.com/whoarewe.jsp

Bamberger’s list of well-reviewed books include:
The Mind behind the Musical Ear (Harvard University Press, 1995), Developing Musical Intuitions: A Project-based Introduction to Making and Understanding Music (Oxford University Press, 2000), Discovering the Musical Mind: A view of Creativity as Learning (Oxford University Press, 2013) and The Art of Listening.

Of no surprise, Jeanne Bamberger has been regaled as “one of the seminal figures in the fields of music cognition and child development.” (Bio: UC Berkeley, Music Department-http://music.berkeley.edu/people/jeanne-bamberger/)

In our videotaped conversation, Jeanne revealed her inquisitive mind that, in part, sprang from her deep immersion in Philosophy study at the University of Minnesota. Nevertheless, her interest in music, embedded early in life, never waned. Her status as a child prodigy led her to teachers, some of whom embraced the approach of Jacques Dalcroze.

Joanna Graudan, a Russian mentor, who had, herself, studied with Schnabel in Berlin, sent Jeanne to her very own teacher. It forged a lineage that continued through shrinking degrees of separation, to the Contemporary music cosmos at U.C. Berkeley where Roger Sessions became an influential figure in Bamberger’s musical development. (Earlier in her musical journey, Jeanne had studied with Ernst Krenek at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.)

Of particular interest, however, is Jeanne’s recorded memories of lessons with Artur Schnabel that were based in New York City during the 1950’s. In the company of Leon Fleisher, Claude Frank among other notables in fields of performance and musicology, Bamberger provided what is historically significant and of relevance to musicians, students, and educators around the world.

(Note Jeanne Bamberger’s re-labeling of her opening musical excerpt. It’s a Schubert Dance, Op. Posth. 171, #4 in D Major.)

***
LINK: Schnabel Music Foundation
http://www.schnabelmusicfoundation.com/

piano, piano study and aging

The Benefits of Piano Lessons for the Aging student

Despite the raging battle on Capitol Hill over health care legislation that threatened the loss of insurance to millions if enacted, a particularly vulnerable population of SENIORS engaged in music study, found sanctuary in a daily connection to the piano. Their “escape” to a universe of loving immersion became a mental prompt at the start of many long distance lessons. With a redirection of anger and frustration into expressive keyboard channels, these “aging” pupils braved a difficult transition of power in Washington (D.C.) without skipping a beat.

From my hub in Liberal, activist Berkeley, while imparting instruction to a Kentuckian at the polar opposite end of the political spectrum, a common musical journey was forged that neutralized our differences within the safe boundaries of a Beethoven Adagio (Sonata Pathetique) As a result, a rapprochement played out despite a house pet’s intrusion upon our conciliatory moments.

The following week, a “Make America Great” Trump rally moved into Louisville, triggering a lesson cancellation and temporary feelings of ill will.

Yet the fleeting relapse of relations was offset by Ludwig’s signature outpouring that promoted an enduring peace over the long haul.

***

Musical sublimation to new heights of distraction from Fake News and attendant political shenanigans, are not the only benefits of piano study among the over 60 set. Tenacious seniors are awakened to improvements in short and long-term memory as a direct result of a carefully built, layered learning foundation that’s composed of baby step advances.

Decisions and trials related to fingering, for example, tease neurotransmitters out of passivity, creating new “connections” that can have long-lasting effects–that is, if students stimulate them on a daily basis. For seasoned music travelers who fall into the advanced level category, analyses of a J.S. Bach Fugue within the woven texture of interactive voices, is equal to a brain massage generating convolutions to the exponential. Even mapping cadences, dynamic shifts, and noting rudimentary phrase markings, spark neurological gains that carry over from the practice room to life’s many diverse activities.

A cognitive/affective/kinesthetic triad imbued in consistently MINDFUL practicing demands riveted concentration that chases away demons of fuzzy recall and forgotten names of friends who elude aging adults at the supermarket. In a struggle to make word associations in order to retrieve “tip-of-tongue” identities of concerts attended a few months back, or to dredge up the latest telecommunication breach on the Do Not Call list, tenacious, returning-to-the-piano seniors are thankfully assured that the piece placed on the piano rack is the one assigned to them from the previous week. This is a harbinger of promise, since a new composition that has acquired a sacred status among those previously tossed aside prematurely, will survive any *abortive attempts.
(*Right to Life, or Choice partisans, notwithstanding)

***

In conjunction with a senior’s committed regimen of quality keyboard explorations, many self-labeled “troopers,” will exercise their mind and body away from the piano, in healthful walks, or forays to the local gym.

(“Gym…for the body machine…and Music for the soul is a good Duet.”)–Comments attached by a Facebook friend.

***

In fact, social interactions in a musical context can transpire in chance meetings on the Yoga mat or in the locker room.

By way of a personal anecdote, I bumped into a NYC High School of Performing Arts (“P.A.”) grad, class of 1958 (a bit before my time), who shot the breeze at the Downtown ‘Y’- forgetting my name only the second time we met at the Gravitron. I returned the fuzzy favor at our third serendipitous encounter by the Universal Gender rest room. She happened to be looking for an able technician to tune and regulate her C3 Yamaha grand, so in a blink, I tapped into my memory bank with rhyme scheme assistance, and retrieved the name of one surviving practitioner who broke a chain of plundering assaults on my Steinway.

Upon my fourth run-in with the “P.A.” alum at the Pull-Up machine, she had voiced gratitude for my sterling referral, but couldn’t quite remember the fellow’s name or what he did. In response, I urged her to practice more regularly given the activity’s benign crossover effect on her brain and memory function.

(For most seniors, the cardiovascular effects of a Mindful focus, with attendant respiratory benefits, are enough to draw them back to the piano bench with alacrity and enthusiasm. It’s a no brainer!)

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The Aging piano student and Isolation

Loneliness, an associated cause of unhappiness in the life of a senior, is positively addressed in the sphere of music study. Students far and wide, not only find a human “connection” to music of the Masters, but they often join Piano Clubs to share their love for music. One of my pupils from Edinburgh who relishes the quality of her retirement, is eager to brief me on her latest play date in the convivial community environment of kindred pianists of all levels. Apparently, they listen with empathy and affection, creating enduring bonds that spill over into the Internet transmitted lesson environment. Dreaded “nerves” that might have been a curse in a former life, seem to diminish with each experience of benevolent camaraderie. And it’s worth mentioning, that some retirees, still on detox from grilling, pressure-cooker corporate work environments find relief in an amateur music-making milieu.

Finally, the perks of studying the piano as we age are part of the totality of a life committed to beauty and personal nourishment. In pursuing creative development through patient, graduated steps of musical discovery, seniors become more OXYGENATED and alert, with a renewed appreciation for the bonds they make with friends and family during their reluctant breaks from the keyboard.

LINKS:

“The Relation Between Instrumental Musical Activity and Cognitive Aging”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4354683/

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Oliver Sachs: Thoughts about music and Alzheimer’s disease/Dementia

***

Recommended:

Musicophelia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sachs
https://www.amazon.com/Musicophilia-Tales-Music-Revised-Expanded/dp/1400033535

beginning piano instruction, composing, piano, piano instruction

Liz, age 8, composes a piece at her third piano lesson

giant Catapillar and Music Tree

Creative explorations are intrinsic to musical growth at all stages of learning, so piano teachers should encourage students to compose at every opportunity.

Liz rose to the occasion and shared her first creation that followed a lesson segment that focused on echo phrases. She had watched a you tube video of duo pianists, Arie Vardi and Yeol Eum Son playing a set of Haydn variations that were permeated with echoes, and these turned out to be a nice springboard for understanding form and aesthetic. The listening example also had the dual effect of inspiring Liz to try her own hand at composing that was followed by analyzing what she had played so she might teach it to others.

The process of “organizing” notes in groups; discovering symmetries between phrases, and exploring rhythm/dynamics proved to be a valuable learning experience.

For the teacher, the activity provided a challenge to “compose” a Secondo to enrich the student’s Primo with a bed of harmony.

LINKS

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/an-8-year-old-begins-piano-lessons/

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/liz-age-8-has-her-second-piano-lesson-with-my-interspersed-thoughts-about-materials-and-teaching-philosophy/

Bach Prelude no. 17, Baroque music, blog, blogger, blogmetrics.org, BWV862, California, fingering, J.S. Bach, J.S. Bach Prelude in Ab, Johann Sebastian Bach, learning a new piano composition, making fingering choices, pianist, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, piano instruction, piano lessons, piano teaching, piano technique, piano tutorial, practicing new piano music, Preludes and Fugues, setting a good piano fingering, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, tutorial, Well-Tempered Clavier

J.S. Bach Prelude in Ab, BWV 862: A Fresh Start for Student and Teacher

In the course of teaching, a situation may arise where a particular favored piece is requested by a student that I’ve never studied–which means a deep-layered journey is ahead of two learning partners.

And given that J.S. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in Ab, (Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1) requires thoughtful fingering choices; an awareness of Baroque era ornamentation, phrasing/articulation/voicing, and a knowledge of counterpoint/harmonic movement/structure, the undertaking requires a baby-step advance.

Therefore, one of my learning reinforcers is to create a self-made tutorial early in the assimilation process, well before I’ve had significant exposure to a composition. The goal is to exemplify a parceled practicing approach that is stacked heavily in the direction of gaining mastery, or relative fluidity when the piece ripens to tempo.

The big embracing mantra, however, is Patience un-enslaved to any Deadline because learning and growing into a desired tempo has no marked out notches of predictable progress. Yet one has to have a heap of confidence on credit to keep optimism in high gear.

With that said, one pivotal aspect of the learning journey is setting a good fingering and in the case of Bach’s Prelude in Ab, a separate hand approach becomes only one dimension of the undertaking. In truth, there are more than two steps to be taken in determining a workable fingering.

1) I assigned what I thought were reasonable choices for the Right Hand in a slow tempo frame.

2) I did the same for the Left hand.

3) The above first and second steps had to be refined if not revised significantly in certain measures, when hands were played simultaneously.

And this is an epiphany that most students will have as they explore a new score. Where fingering might work separately for each hand, it will not necessarily comport for both. (This explains the current adjustments I’ve made since I last e-mailed my student)

Naturally, the Baroque style of phrasing is the other important universe of decision-making, and all that follows in relation to harmonic rhythm, modulation, and the contrapuntal cosmos must be part of a nit-picking, ground-up exploration.

So in the spirit of step-by-step learning, the video below should be foundational and of particular assistance to my student and others taking this common journey.

Bach Prelude in Ab WTC revised p. 1 revised

Bach Prelude in Ab WTC revised p.2

bassoon, cello, Friedrich Edelmann, pianist, piano, piano blog, piano blogging, Rebecca Rust, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, word press, wordpress.com, you tube, you tube video

Dining with musician friends at Bacheesos in Berkeley, CA

Friedrich and Rebecca crop

This was a happy reunion after many long months. The last I caught up with Friedrich Edelmann and Rebecca Rust they were returning from one of their European tours only to land one in Japan, playing for the Emperor and Empress. The happily married bassoon and cello duo, who sometimes add a pianist to the mix were in esteemed royal company.

The latest musical updates were imparted by Friedrich as Rebecca, Alana (a mutual companion) and I dove into our plates filled with salads, artichokes, salmon, seasoned chicken, pilaf, hummus, and infinite ambrosian delights:

“On our tour to Japan in July-August 2015 we played 15 concerts in Tokyo, Hamamatsu, Nagoya, Kobe, Kyoto, Oita, Tsukuba and others. The concerts were organized and supported by Mercedes-Benz, Japan, by Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corporation, Nagoya, and by the German-Japan Society, Kobe.

“On July 13th we were invited privately to the Imperial Palace, Tokyo, playing for the Emperor and the Empress of Japan, and Empress Michiko also played on the piano together with Rebecca on the cello.”

Rebecca and Friedrich touring Japan

What a unique musical journey among many this couple has taken around the world.

I took my own sojourn to the house piano, a satisfying Kawai studio upright with a lovely resonant tone.

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 7.42.12 PM

As an encore to this get together, note the riveting interview I’d convened with Friedrich that tied his 27-year Munich Philharmonic tenure to various adventures with piano soloists, Michelangeli and Barenboim.

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/08/poignant-recollections-about-pianists-michelangeli-and-barenboim-from-the-munich-philharmonics-principal-bassoonist/

And finally, not to overlook a fine dining Bacheesos hostess who made our musician family reunion a memorable one.

Soraya

LINKS:

http://www.edelmann-rust.com

http://www.bacheesos.net

Bach Prelude in C from Well-Tempered Clavier, J.S. Bach, Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California, pianist, piano, piano blog, piano instruction, piano pedagogy, Shirley Kirsten, Shirley Smith Kirsten, Well-Tempered Clavier

J.S. Bach Prelude No. 1 in C, Voicing and Harmonic Rhythm (my ideas and Seymour Bernstein’s)

J.S. Bach

A musician’s understanding of a masterwork is a composite of ideas derived from many sources. In the course of piano study, perceptions change and grow, enlarged by a combined theoretical and musical examination of a composition that invites mentors into the mix.

In this tutorial, I realized how I synthesized the contributions of harpsichordist, Elaine Comparone and pianist, Seymour Bernstein (with whom I conversed about the Bach Prelude in C, BWV 846–WTC Book One) with my own, coming forward with a “voiced” harmonic/musical portrait.

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Flashback: October, 2012

My visit with Seymour Bernstein at his Manhattan apartment and our interchange about Bach’s ethereal Prelude No. 1 (Well-Tempered Clavier)

LINK:
Love the Second Time Around
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/03/30/love-the-second-time-around-seymour-an-introduction/

Baldwin grand piano, Baldwin piano, new piano, piano, word press, you tube

My New Baldwin Grand Piano Arrives! (on video)

Baldwin from outstide in

Baldwin Grand with lid up plays J.S. Bach Prelude in F minor, BWV 881 (WTC Book 2)

And J.S. Bach Prelude No. 1 in C, Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1

Mozart Sonata in C, K. 545, Allegro

LINK:

MY BIRTHDAY PRESENT TO ME!
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2015/04/09/my-birthday-present-to-me/