Monday, August 31, 2009


Next piece in Alfred's is the Tarantella. For those of you who haven't had enough pirate music in your day so far. link

Tarantella - Aw2pp

- Aw2pp, who thinks this would make a really annoying ringtone.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In today's epdisode, I drive an ice cream truck

"The ice cream truck in my neighborhood plays 'Helter Skelter'."

- Steven Wright

I can play the Mexican Hat Dance. Listen for yourself, and see what I mean. The problem is, I can't quite play it Allegro, whatever that is supposed to mean. I can play it at a brisk Andante, but when I ratchet it up to 140 beats per minute or so, all sorts of wacky things happen, and frankly, it's best I keep those to myself.

But because I can play it, I tried, over and over, to play it at the tempo I thought it needed to be played. Over and over. And over again. And several times, I made it halfway, most of the way through, only to have some sort of fatal error near the end. Thankfully, the family was spared this, because I am sure it was annoying. But after awhile, it occurred to me that this endless repetition of an otherwise perfectly harmless song sounded very much like an ice cream truck. And I wondered to myself, "How do those guys" (they're usually guys, in my experience) "do it? Do they have a playlist of 4 or 5 songs that they rotate when they can't stand it anymore? Does the music in their truck ring through their ears when they go to bed at night? If one of their children had piano or violin lessons, and came to the ice cream truck music, would the ice cream truck man / dad say, "Um, go ahead and skip that one please?" I had to deal with this for only about 40 minutes until I gave up and uploaded this. I think those guys are wired differently from me, because at this point, I am not sure I want to play (or hear) this song ever again. Of course, I have to play it this afternoon for PT, but I think I can convince her it's time to move on.

All that said, enjoy my version of the Mexican Hat Dance, recorded for your listening pleasure at about 80% tempo. link

Mexican Hat Dance - Always Wanted to Play Piano

- Aw2pp, whose kids can't hear me when I ask them to clean their rooms, but they can hear the ice cream truck from a county away.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Checking in with Joey

Say hello to Joe The Wrangler (formerly Joe the Baby).

- Aw2pp, who wonders if it is too early to sign him up for riding lessons.

New houseguest

We've seen this creature before, around the neighborhood. We think he (she?) lives up the street, and likes the cornfields across the road. But for a few days recently, she (he? bird-o-philes, help me out here) decided to stick around a little.

And the local gentry* is NOT happy it.

* - By that, I mean the birds who were living here already. Other critters were unavailable for comment.

- Aw2pp, who is keeping a close eye on the family cat, making sure she stays indoors.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

I Giorni - My Recital #15 Entry

Last Friday, with about 7 hours to spare, I submitted this file to the Pianoworld Adult Beginner's Forum Online Recital server. The recording is 6 minutes, 50 seconds long, so go ahead and grab it now, if you are curious, then read on. link

I Giorni - Always Wanted to Play Piano

I have a lot of thoughts on this, and they are all over the place. So rather than try to build them together in a coherent narrative, I have instead decided to interview myself. Which is a sloppy way of connecting disconnected thoughts, but hey, maybe it will work out. We'll see.

Q: Hi, Aw2pp, thanks for taking time out with us today. So, to get started, why I Giorni?
A: Glad to be here. After playing I Due Fiumi for the June recital, I took some time with my Alfred's pieces, trying to make up some lost ground there. And for about 6 weeks, I did make progress, completing about one piece per week. But before long, the idea of having to put together an acceptable recital piece began to loom large, and none of the Alfred's pieces seemed suitable. So I started looking around, and I Giorni seemed like the most logical next step in the Einaudi catalog.

Q: So it's only Einaudi pieces for you, in terms of recital entries?
A: Not at all. I envy folks who submit Bach minuets and inventions, ragtime pieces, Chopin preludes, and obscure jazz selections. I just can't play any of that. Until then, these Einaudi pieces represent, to me, the best mix of interesting / approachable music out there. Some day soon, I will submit something else, but this wasn't the time.

Q: I see that yours is the longest entry in this quarter's recital. How does that make you feel?

A: It's not supposed to be that long. It's more a matter of me not being able to play it quite up to the correct tempo. So if anything, I guess I am a little embarrassed.

Q: How was it learning I Giorni?
A: Not bad. It didn't take more than a week or so to get it recognizable, then another week to be able to play it the whole week through. There were a couple of sections I had to play over and over, and never quite got there... and I'm short a few BPM on the tempo. But this is my first experience with extended runs of simultaneous 8th notes on both hands, my first 16th notes, and first time playing 8th notes with two fingers on the same hand at the same time. If that makes any sense.

Q: Not really, but we'll move on. Anything you wish you had done differently?

A: Well, sure. I think this particular recording has a very weak finish, with a number of hesitations and missed notes in the last 90 seconds or so. I'd like to have those back, but since the first 5 minutes are fairly clean, I'm good with the result, all things considered.

Q: What's next?
A: Well, back to Alfred's for awhile. I know that, at this point, there is no way I can finish Alfred's Book 2 this year. But if I make some good progress this Fall, I might be done with it some time in the Spring. And of course, the next ABF Recital is right before Thanksgiving, so I will have to have something polished by then. Maybe Nefeli, maybe a Bach piece, I don't know. But whatever I decide on, I will use it as a carrot for making progress in Alfred's.

Q: Huh?
A: That is, I am going to try to keep focus on making technical progress, doing my lessons, and improving my skills. If I get through, say, 5 or 6 Alfred's pieces, maybe I'll start picking through the stack of fun things then. I figure as I progress technically, I should be able to pick up new fun pieces more quickly, and perhaps broaden the range of things I am able to play. Nothing against Einaudi, but there is a world of music out there, and most of it is beyond my ability at this point.

Q: Ok, then. Don't you have a real job or something? You should probably get back to that.
A: You're right. Later.

- Aw2pp, native Hawaiian.

Friday, August 14, 2009

This is funny

I try to stay out of politics here. Yes, I know, there simply isn't enough political discussion on the web.* But if we engaged in political discussions here, it wouldn't tip the balance. And besides, none of us would agree on anything anyway.

* - That was sarcasm, in case it didn't come across that way.

All that said, today's Doonesbury is funny (especially in light of my most recent signoff).

- Aw2pp, who realizes he has about 12 hours to produce and upload an acceptable recital recording.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Crunch time

I'd say it's 50-50 whether I will get an acceptable recording of I Giorni before Friday's deadline. Sue says I am being too hard on myself. I know I won't have a perfect recording, but I'll need to do better than I have so far if I am going to turn something in.

That said, I have two mystifying problems recording. First, Red Dot Forever installs fine on my ThinkPad, but for some reason, doesn't seem to be able to record anything. No idea why this would be. It works fine with Sue's, although, come to think of it, we just shipped her machine off to The Shop* to be fixed. Hmm. This could be a problem.

* - That would be her brother, Marty, who is good at this sort of thing.

Second problem is that the ginormous piano soundfont I have been using (the 939 megabyte "maestro_concert_grand_v2.gig") produces only static when using the New! Improved! version of Synthfont. Reverting to the previous version (1.124) solves this.

- Aw2pp, reluctant Cub fan.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Happy 3rd birthday, Ro

Sue doesn't have many pictures from her baby years. The few that we have of her toddler years suggest that we don't need baby pictures for Sue... I am convinced that we have basically a carbon copy in Rowan, our third child, who turns 3 today. Cute and funny and feisty and spontaneous and unpredictable and smart and loving, just like her mother.

Since we're sending her to pre-school in about a month, I guess she is no longer a "toddler", but rather, a pre-schooler. Rowan, that is. Sue passed that milestone a long time ago.

- Aw2pp, who should be immune to the cuteness, given that he gets a daily dose of it. You would think. But no.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

That can't be good

Yesterday, I grabbed my first recording of I Giorni. It was 7 minutes and 56 seconds long.

Einaudi's studio version is 5:58.

Yeah, I think I may have to up the tempo a little, yes? Ya think so?

- Aw2pp, quick as a hiccup.

Friday, August 7, 2009

One week to go for a recital entry...

... and I vacillate (SAT word) between two extremes on my progress on I Giorni.

One moment, I am thinking, "Wow, I should have recorded that. No worries, if I can play it that well, I can play it even better with the Red Dot* blinking at me."

Next moment, I am thinking, "Oh mercy, I am never going to have this section at an acceptable level of polish."

* - The Red Dot, for those of you outside the know, is that little light that shines (or in the case of my Ap200, blinks) when recording. It has a powerful, sometimes paralyzing effect on the performer. I like to think of the Red Dot as a heckler, who turns up the volume and intensity of his attacks as the performance (recording) proceeds towards success. Near the end, I sometimes imagine it saying, "Ha, this is going pretty well, isn't it?" At which point, I usually relax, let my concentration lapse, and make an error in a section I know really well. Totally annoying.

MJ clearly had no troubles with the Red Dot. Then again, he never played I Giorni. Insofar as I know.

What is holding me back at the moment is the final section, which is supposed to be played at the same tempo as the rest of the piece. Which is, to my ear, just shy of 120 beats per minute. I can play most of I Giorni just fine at about 108, which will just have to do. But at the end, I slow down to, oh, I dunno, 90 or so. At this point, I may just keep it as is, and attribute the diminuendo to artistic license. "Yes, I meant to do that. Sure I did. Stop snickering."

One week to go. You'll hear a recording before then, I promise.

- Aw2pp, who wants you to know that no trees were killed in the composition and posting of this message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Back to lessons

Had my first piano lesson since May yesterday. We spent about 10 minutes talking about Jason, 10 minutes talking about her (PT's) children and their musical development as they grew up, 5 minutes reviewing what I had been doing this summer (Alfred's pieces), then about 5 minutes plodding through I Giorni.

As far as Jason goes, she doesn't regard this summer's lessons as a failure, or wasted time. In her world, 6 is very early to begin lessons, and the fact that he demonstrated interest and some aptitude speaks well of his long-term future as a piano player (or as a musician playing some other instrument). The fact that he chose not to practice in the off-hours is not entirely unexpected. But PT's guess as to what happens next with Jason is this: he'll continue to tinker on the piano here and there, and perhaps even play some of his assigned pieces on his own. He may ask for (or need) help with these, and I am fully capable of providing this. Over time, he will see me continue to do my piano thing, and, at some point in the next year or two, his desire to "want to be like dad" will cause him to return to the piano more formally.

"So, if you keep playing the piano, and progressing, he'll take it up, too." No pressure of course. In that same vein, she told me that two adults have approached her this summer about taking lessons, citing my recital performance as the thing that pushed them over the edge. Basically, the conversation went something like this: "I have always wanted to play the piano..." (hmm, where have I heard that before?...) "... but figured it was too late for me. But I guess not. Do have you have any openings?" I told her I knew who she was talking about because a someone came up to me after the June recital and said basically the same thing.

"Really? Who?"

"Well, the guy whose sons preceded me. George something..."

"Oh, George is a wonderful guy. But no, not him. These were other folks." Well, then.

As to how I did... her old piano takes some getting used to. In our 30 minute lesson, mind you, I only played maybe 5 minutes. I played I Giorni in its entirety, struggled through most of it, even though I played some parts much more smoothly than I ever had before. (Gremlins, again.) But overall, I left there with serious doubts as to whether I could produce an acceptable performance for the ABF Quarterly Recital.

Then I came home and played it pretty well, so who knows.

- Aw2pp, whose lack of mastery of I Giorni is starting to make coffee nervous.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I want to be this guy when (if?) I grow up

Meet Scott Bradlee, professional musician. He is available to play birthday parties, Bar / Bat Mitzvahs, and, one assumes, weddings. He will play anything on the piano. To prove the point, he took 10 songs from my high school years, ran them through some sort of ragtime processing filter he has in his brain, connected them together, and produced the resulting 6 minutes of genius.

(Which songs can you identify?)

Bonus points for the tie and vest. Those, and more, are subtracted, however, when he reveals himself to be a wink-shooter at the end. Boo! Boo!

- Aw2pp, who wants to remind you that it is Shark Week! on The Discovery Channel.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Joey

"Joey, today is your birthday! Any comments on that?"

"Yo de yo de yo de yo de yo."

To be fair, that is his response to just about anything.

- Aw2pp, who can't believe it either.