Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why you can't always trust these things...

Typealyzer is a website that purports to tell you the personality type of a blog's author. Simply enter the URL into the site, and it will tell you all about that person. Here is what it has to say about me.

The analysis indicates that the author of is of the type:

ESTP - The Doers

The active and playful type. They are especially attuned to people and things around them and often full of energy, talking, joking and engaging in physical out-door activities.

The Doers are happiest with action-filled work which craves their full attention and focus. They might be very impulsive and more keen on starting something new than following it through. They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time.

I have to say, the notion that I am a left-handed, pig-tailed, kneesock wearing female, who is also an impulsive extrovert... this is going to amuse me for quite some time. I will say this, though. "They might have a problem with sitting still or remaining inactive for any period of time." Yup. Guilty as charged there.

(FWIW, last three times I submitted a Meyers-Briggs profile, they all turned up INFP.)

Friday, November 21, 2008

I want to keep this guy on my good side

From this Pianoworld topic, I quote Monica K, a periodic visitor here.

So I landed safe and sound in SF, on my way to the Einaudi concert. As the plane taxied to the gate, I turned my cell phone on, and it rang a couple of minutes later. It was AnthonyB, who asked if I had arrived, and we chatted a minute or two about the free concert in a music store that Einaudi was giving tonight, which Anthony was able to attend but I was not (I didn't find out about it until AFTER I had booked my flight).

So then Anthony said something like "somebody wants to talk to you" and then another voice came on the phone, saying "Monica?" I thought it was some other PW member that Anthony had hooked up with, so I said "Yeah? Who is this?" And then the person said "This is Ludovico."

At which point I said something brilliant like "You're kidding!" and then started babbling and telling him how much I was looking forward to the concert tomorrow. [heart] He said "I will see you tomorrow" and then handed the phone back to Anthony.

Wow. Just wow.

The people around me on the plane thought I was pretty weird, though.

Mind you, Monica, from what I understand, is a professor at the University of Kentucky. English, I think? Point being, as much as she sounds like a stammering, giddy teenager who has just met The Osmonds Wham! the Hanson Brothers Justin Timberlake (insert whoever is today's teen idol, I am clearly not with-it-and-hip) for the first time, this is an otherwise reasonable and articulate person. She was rendered speechless by a impromptu greeting from Ludovico Einaudi.

This Anthony person... we know him as Sawtooth. He blindsided poor Monica. Shameful. Who knew he was capable of such trickery, such surreptitious deception? This is a person I want to keep on my good side. Sawtooth, can I get you a glass of water or something? A pillow? Newspaper? Everything good there?

Monica, Anthony, and a handful of others are in San Francisco for an Einaudi concert. Looks like it's the only North American event on the docket. If he makes it to Chicago, we're there. I think he'd make a great Ravinia guest, but what do I know?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Making my way through Recital #12

There were 77 submissions for Recital #12, totaling almost four hours of music. I'm about two-thirds of the way through, and should be done with one more train trip. There is also a very lively comments thread on Pianoworld. I would like to give my own feedback to the recordings, but how many different ways are there to say “Wow, that was awesome!” Truth is, I don't have much else to say; I'm in awe of the deep talent pool and breadth of these recordings.

More than one commenter has suggested that I am being too stringent in my self-assessment. Here is an example comment, from rustyfingers:

This was lovely. If I were you, I wouldn’t point out mistakes. We all make them, but sometimes they slip by unnoticed to those who don’t know the music as well as you do. :wink: This was an ambitious undertaking for someone who has been playing for less than a year, and you rose beautifully to the challenge.

AdagioM left a similar comment in the previous thread here. First of all, meaning no false modesty, I was not aware that everyone makes mistakes on their recital pieces. My children go to sleep every night listening to CD’s I have compiled from various sources, including Pianoworld recitals. The music is flawless to my ears. Since my recording did not reach a similar level of polish, I felt compelled to say so to anyone interested enough to come to my blog.

On the other hand, this comment has taken me back to some extremely compelling radio I heard a few months back. Paul Simon (not the bowtie Paul Simon, the other one) was being interviewed about his Graceland album, and agreed to voice-over an assessment of the title track while it played. This was fascinating. There were some parts of the song that greatly pleased him, like the opening 30 or 45 seconds or so. Something along the lines of “This is great, we’re not in any hurry, just meandering along, enjoying the trip. Then we get to one of the best opening lines I’ve ever written: The Mississippi Delta was shining like a national guitar.” There were other parts of the song he had intended to change before going to print (is that the right term?) on the album, and he just forgot to make the change. “Going to Graceland”, for instance, was just supposed to be filler until he came up with the “real” lyric, whatever that was going to be. And finally, there were other parts of the song that seemed perfectly fine at the time, but have really annoyed him ever since ("'ghosts and empty sockets'... I really forced that one...")

At the end of the song, he admitted that Graceland, warts and all, is his favorite song. Even a legendary professional musician, apparently, may never reach a point to where he/she is completely satisfied with even their best work... and yet they are able to take pride in it nevertheless. Why should I be any different?

So returning to rustyfinger’s comment, and the other encouragement I have received… I am not sure, perfectionist (er, competitive person) that I am, that I will ever get to the point to where I don’t acknowledge mistakes in a recorded piece… the question is whether or not I will admit them on the Interwebs, or leave them be. At this point, I think I’ll probably just grade myself generally, and leave the rest to you. If I’m really happy with something, I will let you know.

One more point. Last night, after putting the young-ins to bed, I busted out, from memory, a MUCH better version of Ombre than what I submitted for the recital. And laughed to myself.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Update on The World's Youngest Piano Teacher*

Following on Jason’s earlier update, let’s visit Jillian and her piano progress. We are actively seeking a piano teacher for Jillian. Recently, I asked her what she would be looking for from a piano teacher. “Well, I would want her to be young, like my music teacher at school, and really nice. Like my music teacher from school. She’s really nice.”

So Sue fired off an email to the school’s music teacher. Since she is Jillian’s Platonic Ideal for a piano teacher, wouldn’t have that been nice if she also taught private piano lessons? Sadly, she lives a cool 45 minutes from us, and no longer does lessons. So we’re waiting for a list of alternatives from her. Sue and I figured, incorrectly, it seems, that this sort of thing comes up all the time. I mean, if you were an elementary school music teacher, wouldn’t have a list or some sort of Rolodex of local piano teachers? Conversely, if you were a local piano teacher, wouldn’t you want to be on good terms with the local elementary school’s music teacher? Maybe music doesn’t work this way. Or maybe there isn’t much demand for piano lessons.

Returning to my conversation with Jillian.

“Jillian, what would you want to learn from your piano teacher?”

“Well, how to play the piano, of course.” Sometimes, Jillian can be a little sassy. We're working on it. This was not a sassy response. She was genuinely perplexed by this question.

“Right, but how will you know that you can play the piano? What do you want to be able to play that you can’t right now?”

“The rest of my Red book. And then the next one. Blue, I think. All the way to the Gray Book. I want to play the Gray Book some day. I bet that is really hard.” The books she’s referring to, by the way, are from the Schaum series, used by her first piano teacher.

“You realize your new teacher may use a different series of books, right?”

“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I just don’t want you to think that if your teacher breaks out a book you haven’t seen before, that you won’t still learn how to play the piano.”

“Ok, so long as she is nice. But I will still play my Red Book.”

That was about four days ago. This morning, at 6:45 AM, Jillian was on the piano, headphones on so as not to disturb the youngest or oldest members of the Aw2pp family, working through something in her Schaum Red Book.

* - I have no delusions that Jillian is really the World’s Youngest Piano Teacher, any more than I think Jason really is the World’s Largest Kindergartener. Just to be clear. I just have a thing for cool titles.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Update on The World's Largest Kindergartener

As mom3gram points out in the comments, we haven't heard much from or about Jillian or Jason lately on aw2pp. So let's visit Jason today.

Jason is doing well in kindergarten, making lots of new friends. This seems to come easy for Jason, who makes friends easily, much like Sue does. In Jason's case, very small buddies. I think they are naturally drawn by his adventuresome personality, easygoing manner, and hulking size. At a recent doctor's visit (hold that thought), Jason clocked in at 4'4" and 83 lbs. It does no good to compare these numbers with the growth curves for other 5.75 year-olds. ("Um, looks like he's the 120th percentile... no, wait, 125th...") Instead, think of it this way. He is the average height of a 8.5 year old, and the average weight of an 11.5 year old. And he can palm a volleyball. Football may be in his future, no? Certainly we can rule out a career as a jockey.

Sorry, he doesn't look 11 to me. 8 maybe.

Back to this doctor visit. We were advised by his school that Jason had failed two recent hearing tests. He failed yet another hearing test last year; we dismissed the result at the time as the byproduct of a cold / ear infection. Failing three hearing tests is much harder to dismiss. When he was a toddler, Jason did enjoy many ear infections. We were not surprised, then, when the doctor advised us that his ears are not draining fluid properly, and that this is probably a chronic condition that has been in place for some time. Poor Jay! He sometimes slurs his words, and true, he's not the world's greatest listener. But we'd just ascribed these characteristics to natural boyhood. We've had to consciously remind ourselves that he is, after all, not 11, not 8, but rather 5, and we've done our best to cut him the slack that he's due. We are (well, I am) still pretty hard on him sometimes, because it is sometimes frustrating to say the same things over and over again. But maybe there was a hearing problem all along.

(Sue just let me know that we have an an ENT appointment scheduled for a week from today.)

Now, mind you, Jason isn't deaf, and there is no indication that we're headed down that path. But if this has been getting worse, it would surely be tough to take up music in a serious way. Jason hasn't really taken to the new piano. Once in awhile, I'll catch him playing Dance of the Unicorns, the piece Jillian wrote (and now wants to rename... "I'm over unicorns.") But for the most part, perhaps because his teacher* doesn't have anything new to teach him, Jason hasn't put much bench time in. Now that we are a piano household again, and now that we've actively begun searching for a piano teacher, perhaps that will change.

* - For those of you just joining us, that would be Jillian, his six year old sister. Where have you been, anyway?

Jason has, however, expressed some interest in the guitar. I floated the idea to Sue that perhaps we don't sign Jason up for piano lessons, but rather guitar lessons (if Santa brings a guitar this year, that is). Jillian overheard this and protested, honestly and vehemently. "Daddy, I AM JASON'S PIANO TEACHER!"

Well then.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Couple topics as we move on

Having submitted the Ombre recording for recital #12, I am now moving my attention to the next one. I have been tinkering with Stella del Mattino for a couple of months now, I haven't really given it my full attention. This, combined with some unfamiliar rhythm patterns, have kept me from making the sort of progress on Stella that I would have expected. But now that I don't have to strive for perfection on Ombre, perhaps Stella will come together quickly.

I hope so, because I have already begun experimenting with I Due Fiumi. Which seems like A LOT of fun, and not quite as hard as it sounds.

I Due Fiumi - Ludovico Einaudi

Congratulations to Michelle Himes (mom3gram) on her recent purchase of a Casio Ap-200. She claims my recent purchase of same had no influence on the decision, but I know better (wink). mom3gram, feel free to chime in periodically on your thoughts on the Casio. For me, I have mentioned a time or two that I am overall very pleased with it, albeit perhaps underwhelmed by the sound. I've had a handful (well, we're up to three, so not quite a handful) of people contact me on Pianoworld asking me to expound on this. So here is my take on that.

The Ap-200 has two 8 watt speakers. For comparison's sake, consider the Casio PX-800, which has 40 watt speakers. When you consider an acoustic piano, it's a deceivingly loud instrument. It would be very difficult to carry on a conversation in a regular-sized room while someone was playing an acoustic piano, unless they were playing very, very softly, and/or the room was very large. This is not true for my Ap-200... even when I have the volume turned up the whole way, which I usually do. I would assume that the Px-800 is probably much closer to an acoustic, at least in terms of volume. The sound samples, from what I understand, are the same. So although they would sound identical, 8 watt speakers simply can't provide the same volume and depth (especially depth in bass) as 40 watt speakers. This is my main complaint with the Ap-200. I preferred the sounds of the Yamaha instruments I cross-shopped.

That said, I am not disappointed. I understand that Casio had to save some money on speakers in order to keep the prices low. I didn't buy the Ap-200 for its sound, but rather for its sturdy stand, and keyboard feel. I can always improve on the sound by wearing headphones. The equivalent model from Yamaha (which would be the cheapest Arius) costs $200 more, and, to my fingers, is a league below the Ap-200 in terms of keyboard feel. This was more important to me.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

First Recital Submission

You may or may not know that the deadline to submit an the 12th Quarterly recital is this Friday evening, 9:00 PM Eastern time, November 14. And while I know I still have a couple of days left, I am also honest with myself. This recording of Ombre is going to have to do. Feel free to listen while you read.

Ombre - Aw2pp

While there are a handful of mistakes in this recording (see below), and there is an overall lack of smoothness / musicality, it’s actually a pretty good attempt for me. No sense pretending to be better than I really am. If you gave me 20 cracks at running through Ombre, this would probably be better than 19 of them. That said, I am beyond the point to where I think I can measurably improve on this recording anytime soon. More (most?) importantly, I am ready to put Ombre to bed for now. I’ve been playing this a lot over the last month. Our poor piano is going to start wondering whether or not there is any other music to be played. “Oh, no, he’s playing this again…”

I MUCH prefer this over the Limbo recording I shared with y’all about a month ago. First off, while I downplay the quality of my performance, it’s still an improvement, musically, over the Limbo recording. Second, Ombre is more interesting than Limbo. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating; Limbo sort of wanders around in one place, never really getting anywhere. At the end, you find yourself exactly where you started, with nothing resolved. Ombre builds on some very simple themes, and (in theory) takes you somewhere with them, decorating the themes along the way with new layers of complexity. I’m glad to have worked on it. I have read that there are some LH patterns used in this piece that are reused in other, perhaps more sophisticated pieces. Hope so.

Anyhow, as I am listening to the recording, here are a few comments.

First 20 seconds – Some full note LH chords. I could stand to be a little more synchronized on these.
0:46 – This could be smoother.
1:09 – Trying to mix up the tempo a little the way Einaudi does.
1:12 – Worked awhile to get those triplets right.
1:27 – Missed a grace note there.
1:57 – Would like to have been bolder on the RH. This is me “playing timid” like I mentioned last time.
2:11 and 2:15 – Missed a note at 2:11, throwing off my concentration for a moment and resulting in a second error at 2:15.
2:23 – Should that first whole note chord be that quiet? I’ll need to check the music on that.
2:35 – Made an edit here, removing about 6 seconds of dead space. In real life, I was shuffling papers. The music for Ombre is 5 pages long, but I can really only fit three pages on the music desk of the Ap-200.
3:30 – You can hear me pausing ever so briefly, hunting for these LH octaves.
3:49 – Another missed note, but I recovered quickly this time.
4:40 – Would like to have boomed these low notes a little more.

Overall that’s four missed notes and a couple of things I would like to have differently. Now, mind you, I’m no perfectionist. But I am competitive. And after awhile, it got to the point to where this wasn’t so much a piece of music, but rather a competitive challenge to be overcome. This is good for now. And while it leaves room for improvement, it’s not so bad that the crowd on Piano Hero** would have booed me off stage.

* - No, really, I’m not. Stop snickering.
** - You know, if there were such a thing. Now THERE’S an idea…

Friday, November 7, 2008

Ombre update

On the one hand, I haven't put the hours and hours into Ombre that I had intended. On the other hand, I have been working on it for quite a long time, and, since it's really not THAT hard, I would have thought I'd have been able to save a clean take on it. And yet, no, this has eluded me. Recital entries are due one week from tonight. The best recording I have saved right now has a couple of cringe-worthy missed notes, and a couple of other hesitations. At what point do you say, "You know, the piece might be a bit of a stretch for Aw2pp, hmm?"

I'm still submitting it, of course. But I wanted to set your expectations appropriately. Basically, I am not happy with where I am on Ombre, and, though I'll continue to try to improve on what I've got recorded, I'm also quite looking forward to putting it to bed for awhile.

In the meantime, I have been noticing that a lot of songs on my iPod make subtle use of the piano. And in many cases, I had not noticed before that a piano was even being played. Look forward to some examples of these in the next few weeks.