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Mozart at dusk and daybreak (evading the wrath of neighbors)

soundwaves 2

I hadn’t realized I violated curfew as I recorded the first half of Mozart’s G Major Sonata, K. 283 (Presto) on Mac21 last night starting at dusk. Here in my Berkeley apartment complex, washing machines, dryers, and all music must cease at 10 p.m. meaning my video/audio track had ostensibly gone down the drain in my overtime spin– (Part A was memorialized as my iMovie “Project”) but I hadn’t the know-how to merge an incubating Part B the next DAY to finish the job. (At all costs I’d wanted to avoid a beer-bottle disposing neighbor who could put the kibosh on any further recording efforts this weekend.) He’d been known to trash more than one Bach Little Prelude in progress.

Still, embracing a shred of optimism, I headed for Google.com hoping to dig myself out of a despairing ditch. My Search Terms, “MERGING projects on iMovie” might lead to W.A.’s resurrection.

The Angels must have sprinkled fairy dust over my domain, because I found five other sobbing souls looking for the second coming. (That is, how to tag on part B)

The answer to our common project-related problem was as clear as day. “Select All, and paste the rest of the movement (when recorded) to what took place BEFORE.”

So true to every Chosen Word, I followed the Google-derived Gospel and completed my Project when the sun was comfortably shining at 10 a.m.

With an ear and eye to the latest technology, I stitched together this rendering, that had its original formatting as a spreadsheet.

Mozart Sonata in G Presto spread out on piano

Mozart Presto, K. 283

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Debussy Arabesque No. 1 and the back story (Video)

Speaking of pianos, and decisions about which to use, I decided to give Haddy Haddorff another opportunity to sing like a nightingale. This was a late-into-the-night sound exploration following an earlier trip to the Mac Store at Fresno’s Fashion Fair Mall. The Yeti mic was not registering–no sound–no explanation, though it was properly connected.

So I shut down the computer, re-booted and checked for updates. It didn’t matter. Still mute despite visual sound waves galore.

Another lingering problem– the intermittent though disturbing, out of synch frames–an issue finally acknowledged by a Mac technician, who declared, “It may be related to the iMovie program.”

So what’s next?

I guess I’ll wait for the next update as I watch my hands and the music run off in different directions.

Meanwhile, I was given a new Yeti Mic, since the older one didn’t register at the store.(better than a squeak in a pedal disappearing when the tuner waltzes in) This time I had the upfront and personal evidence.

I came home, practiced, and found myself wandering from the Steinway back to Haddy playing the Debussy Arabesque 1.

The grand piano afforded a nice work-out because the action is stiff by comparison to Ms. Haddy. So if you hang around the Steinway long enough and then mosey over to the second piano, the playing is a piece of cake by comparison. It resulted in a smooth transition to the Debussy Arabesque No. 1 without instrumental resistance.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have a work-out piano until the knots are addressed. (I’m waiting for the Magical Messiah tech to appear)

Next year in Jerusalem?

***

It was well after midnight when I managed to upload the Debussy.

Yeti mic was humming, though a tad out of synch with my arms and hands.

Up at 5 a.m., I hoped nothing had imploded during my zzzzzs, and was pleasantly relieved to see the posting. It came with some kind of message that the rights to the Debussy were owned by some entity and such.

“GoDigital MG For a Third Party Content Type: Musical Composition”

You just never whose domain you’re trampling on.

It’s getting so bad now that these companies own Chopin and other composers who died over 150 years ago.

That’s worth another blog and a half.

So stay tuned….

RELATED:

Debussy Arabesque Instruction


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/piano-instruction-debussy-arabesque-no-1-video/

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Picking the right piano to record a selection (Videos)–“Fur Elise” by Beethoven

I’ve heard stories about great pianists such as Richter obsessing over a choice of piano for a concert. Allegedly, he was very fussy, and sometimes regretted the one he picked out for a recital. But when he found himself playing in Siberia and rural parts of the Russian landscape, he rose to the occasion, and made whatever piano was given him, sing to the heavens. No regrets, thank you. (Vladimir Horowitz took his own piano with him, and apparently jetted it to foreign concert halls) Or maybe a boat was involved in the old days. (moisture issues in transit?)

I guess Volodya took things to an extreme.

Others wouldn’t have the luxury to transport a piano thousands of miles to a recital venue.

Lesson learned: Whatever piano you have, make the best of it. Even poorly maintained instruments may have a tad of inspiration tucked away, waiting to be tapped.

Easier said than done.

I talk about land mines when I play my own pianos. And I’ve become very frustrated over and again with poor piano maintenance in a small community such as Fresno.

When my piano needs regulation and the tuner says he doesn’t do that, it’s like a hired house cleaner saying she won’t get into the hard to reach, corner bathroom tiles and scrub them without a mop.

I used to work at the New York State Employment Service of the Department of Labor, Household Division, and we had all kinds of taboos associated with on the “knees scrubbing.” We had to ask the employer if she had a mop, and go no further. Have times changed?

Now we have piano techs deciding that regulation, voicing, are equally out of the mainstream.

Last night, I wanted to re-record Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” for the nth time. This playing would be captured on iMovie with my Yeti external mic. Eliminating the whooshy camcorder sounds was motivation enough. And then I could go High Definition.

Two days ago, I had uploaded a “Fur Elise” that was far too slow, so I raced to delete it. (Playbacks are always defining–especially the morning after review)

My precious Haddorff console, as singable as it was, had some morbidly awful pedal squeaks, and a noisy action. I’d posted a Beethoven reading on Haddy with built-in mouse noises.

Still, I liked Haddy’s basic voice, because it was Old World and daunting. The piano basically sang like a nightingale.

Nevertheless, I opted for the Steinway M Grand in this new reading–knowing I needed to ply it in a way that I could maximize its performance.

Having a few very lazy keys, it was a crap shoot to rely on them.

Being philosophical, a pianist can make the most of what he has until and when a Savior walks through the door, and announces he can tune, voice, and regulate your piano to high standard.

Fat chance. I will be waiting for a time.

In any event, I did record “Fur Elise” on my vintage Steinway grand, M, 1917 and compared it side by to the performance rendered in the past on Haddy.

My verdict is in for me: The Steinway came through more defined, and with greater nuance. (and the mouse was eradicated)

Haddy, no slouch in her own right, had issues but rose to the occasion.

Here’s her version following the most recent Steinway grand rendition:

Haddorff console (1951)

Did I detect some tooth grinding in both? Geeze, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

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Piano practicing, performance, and gym routines: Always Reach Beyond! (Video, Bach Invention 8 in F)

I take my inspiration from the two Irina/Irena-s, each pronouncing their names slightly differently. Irina Gorin is the ingenious piano teacher from Carmel, Indiana via the Ukraine, and Irena Orlov is from Washington D.C.’s Levine School of Music via Leningrad. They both inspire students to explore and draw out their deepest creative expression.

That’s what we should all be doing in our personal practice sanctuaries. I certainly try to evaluate and re-evaluate my own performances, whether they’re recorded for myself to review, or for You Tube. Regardless of having an audience of one, or many, the process of learning from experience, examining phrasing, physical comportment, and anything that might have intruded upon a free flow of physical and emotional expression (there’s that word again) is worth noticing.

That’s why I believe that videotaping yourself is an amazing teaching tool– one that can spur musical growth if you, the player, can distance yourself enough from the recorded sample to make some valuable observations. In other words, don’t be hard on yourself. Look at the mirror of your playing like it was someone else’s image– Think of a friend, whom you would not harshly criticize. Underline “O” for objectivity.

This type of mirrored self-analysis is the next best thing to having a teacher present looking over your shoulder. Or maybe you don’t want anyone encroaching on your space. Give yourself a breather and do a little self-assessment.

If you can spot places in your recording where something went awry, and not necessarily a glut of conspicuously wrong notes, you can try to pinpoint a physical problem, where perhaps a tense arm or wrist got in the way. You might remember at this moment, that you lost your breath and became anxious. Every aspect of one’s mental state and respiration factor into a total performance. Musical inspiration or intuition are not enough to get a pianist from the first measure to the final cadence. There must be a pacing, just like athletes know. Pianists are part athlete, part Terpsichore or any nyphm in the forest you choose to be–and part split personality when they’re playing. Vladimir Horowitz talked about fire and ice states when tackling the warhorses.

Being attuned to a relaxed physical state, in any case, works in a player’s favor

Which reminds me that today, a few hours before I attempted to record the whip-lashing, nerve-splitting, Bach Invention 8 on my iMac, I dashed off to Bally’s Gym, with my boots on, no less, and did a self-instigated photo shoot. Actually I aimed the silly Sony Cybershot at the mirror, not realizing that the flash (an automatic setting) would obliterate me, like I was blown up in one of those superhero video games. But at last, I survived once I knocked out the flash.

My goal was to get a pic of myself working out on the Gravitron where I build upper body strength and feel a good workout for my arms. It’s really helps leverage weight into the keys, so I strongly recommend it.

Here’s a fleeting look: I set the weight at 70, which means I’m pulling about 45 pounds. I follow up with 30-minutes of leg press, deep breathing all the way through.

Not to forget, that behind every performance, especially one being recorded, there’s a cat lurking in the wings ready to pounce at the wrong moment, sending any and all music to the trash! So make sure when you sit down to videotape yourself, that your feline is not permitted on the piano, in the piano, or near the piano. In this instance, Aiden was about to leap to the window sill to make his favorite racket, pawing the blinds.

RELATED:
Tutorial on this Invention 8, BWV 779–using a spring forward wrist motion:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/piano-instruction-j-s-bach-invention-no-8-in-f-bwv-779-using-a-spring-forward-wrist-and-hand-rotation-two-videos/

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Playing piano and getting into the spirit (Video with Aiden cat joining in)

It’s holiday time, and we’re all eating with gusto. In honor of Thanksgiving, we completely let go, pardoning ourselves of any rigid diet that would preclude an all out splurge.

So now, enter the piano, as a feast of delights waiting for the player to partake without a hint of holding back. It seems like climbing a mountain.

Agreed that you must learn the notes carefully at first and parcel out the fingering, etc. It takes patience. A famous piano teacher, Irena Orlov, from the Levine School of Music in D.C. recommends that students master one measure per day, particularly when faced with technically challenging pieces. Just imagine how well a pupil would know the Mozart Rondo Allegretto K. 545 after just 76 days! Not an impossible task, considering that a baby needs more than a year to learn to walk.

It’s all relative….

Tonight I was shuffling between my Haddorff console and Steinway grand piano, deciding which instrument would best suit the Mozart I had previously mentioned, and then again, Aiden was bench hopping so I allowed it because of the holidays. I reasoned, why not include him in a recording session in between turkey treat nibbles. He needn’t be shooed into the bedroom in solitary confinement every time I attempted to capture some music on my Imac.

Sad to say, by lifting restrictions on his comings and goings, he killed two especially good readings of the Rondo. In one he managed to squiggle off the piano bench, meandering his way to the window sill where he orchestrated his usual racket. (When iMac is capturing an EVENT he knows just when to paw the shutters to bring any and all music to a grinding halt) Naturally, as soon as I sense his general direction, my playing begins to deteriorate. A glaring case of anticipatory anxiety.

Irena Orlov would have interjected in her Russian accent, but dorogaya moya, Дорогая моя (“my dear”) you hev to learn to concentrate.. and maybe you need to think one measure at a time.”

Redux: Aiden did it again, but on the third warning, he abandoned his monkey business and jumped off the piano bench and settled into his favorite chair. (off camera)

What has all this to do with playing piano and getting into the spirit?

The basic lesson to be learned is that you must find a place within yourself where music totally absorbs you and allows no room for distraction.

What other reason is there to take up the piano in the first place if not to be immersed in a spiritual process.

***

Tonight after I had gorged myself silly on turkey, homemade stuffing, and pumpkin pie, I wobbled over to the piano, and reclaimed my right to channel Mozart without a hitch. Aiden was hanging around being otherwise quiet until…

That’s in the past now, because the Mozart Rondo made it to You Tube while two other playings were “moved to the trash.”

Related:

Link to Documentary about Irena Orlov:

http://vkontakte.ru/topic-21909584_23795931#/video-21909584_159343755

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Everything but the kitchen sink on video: How to make an iMovie with any sanity

I was experimenting once again with the iMac’s iMovie plopping myself down at Haddy, (my Haddorff piano) at the first opportunity after lessons were over today. In the process of exploring and refining recording conditions here at home, I decided to take my Yeti, not Big Foot, but a spiffy looking silver plated mic to a remote part of the living room, to achieve a composite auditory imprint of the piano. With the mic formerly placed within two feet of the instrument right beside iMac 21, I’d noticed that Haddy’s mid range notes had cut sharply into the treble, making it nearly impossible to balance voices. Add in a built-in drone, that if raised a few decibels would have shocked the ears like an amplifier gone berserk, and I faced a formidable challenge. Still, I reasoned that things could have been worse. I remembered the time a local recording engineer had placed pricey mics inside and underneath my Steinway grand, causing pedal impulse pick-up. The drum beats killed Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” rendering the track useless. It was a costly learning experience.

Fast forward to the present:

In my zeal to conquer auditory problems associated with Yeti, an external device that connected into companion, iMac through “System Preferences,” I had completely overlooked Mac’s own built-in camera and its conspicuous reach beyond the living room into my kitchen. The sink, thank goodness was out of range but a prior iMovie “event” in progress had been canned after Aiden cat managed to put himself on camera, skittering across Apple’s mini keyboard, producing electronic belch bursts that turned Mozart trills into red-hot zingers.

The poor cat, in shock, was shuttled off to the bedroom, after which calmness prevailed, but for the phone ringing, a motorcycle whizzing by, and a helicopter circling the neighborhood in search of the latest drug trafficker. (This IS a good area, but like most there’s always a simmering mystery below the surface)

Ironically, my US attorney adult student had curtailed his lesson because of a “terrorist” threat of a nonspecific nature telling me it was best that I knew less not more. So out the door went Debussy’s Arabesque along with him.

Earlier in the day, Rina’s lesson, captured on iMovie, had some disturbing, out of synch (pronounced “sink”) frames, that hearkened back to the silent film era. (at least when our hands were still moving at the piano without sound) A great fade out.

How a version (event no. 5) of Mozart’s K. 545 managed to upload to You Tube amidst this chaos is a baffling miracle. Nevertheless, I’ll assess the mic placement upon video review, and muster the courage to tap in new “events” if anything unexpected crept into the track. Apologies for the messy kitchen.