Friday, December 25, 2009

Gone fishin'...

Aw2pp will go dark for a week or so, while we visit friends and relatives in Texas, and all parts in between. Yes, we're driving, and we're going to attempt it one fell swoop. 18 hours straight. 4 kids and 2 "adults". Wish us luck.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

- Aw2pp, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Wait, that's two gifts!)

Merry Ice-Mas

We don't do much here that would qualify as breaking news. Frankly, I am not on-top-of-it-enough to do that. Most of my posts germinate for a few days or more before they end up fodder for you. But these pics were too interesting not to share.

Here is our driveway this morning. Ice was about an inch thick here. Children were warned to stay off, and, wouldn't you know it, they did.

The Birch in front of the house is not happy with this.

The kids' week-old snowman seemed a little down, too.

It's ironic, Dad was here over Thanksgiving. He's lived most of his life in Alabama, including the last 32 years. I remarked that they had some ice storms while I was at Vanderbilt (late 80's, early 90's) that were simply ferocious. I had the gall to add that that sort of thing doesn't really seem to happen here.

- Aw2pp, who stands corrected.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Yip Yip Aliens

I don't have much to say today. The Fighting Amish are done for the year, ending my interest in fantasy football. Work is slowing down after a very, very busy few weeks. And after a couple piano-related posts this week, I'm spent on that topic. For now. Instead, put on your Rocky the Flying Squirrel voice, and say it with me: "And now for something you'll REALLY like..."

Rowan watches plenty of Sesame Street. It is therefore with informed regret that I report to you she has yet to meet the Yip Yip Aliens.

Words fail me. And them too, but that's part of the point. They communicate much more with significantly fewer words than does, say, Elmo. Ro's missing out.

- Aw2pp, who speaks whale.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sakura (Cherry Blossoms)

Here is another recording from the Plateau of Piano Mediocrity. PT tells me that this is traditional Japanese music played during tea time or something.

Sakura - Cherry Blossoms (Alfred's Book Two)

What I like about it: It took me two weeks to get this far, instead of three. Nice ending, too. Mordendo...

Why I consider it symptomatic of mediocrity: Rough in tempo and dynamics. This is an elegant, almost fragile piece of music. It sounds like I'm playing it with boxing gloves.

- Aw2pp, idol of idle youth.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Obligatory kid and family pics

It's been awhile.

Joey's growing up quickly, especially the last month or so. That'll be a theme here today, and you'll notice that many of the pictures include him. Here's another, in fact.

Jason (70 months) and Joey (16 months) playing our newest Wii acquisition, Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games™. (Yes, that is the full, official name of the game.) That's Jason on the left.

These two are looking more and more alike all the time. It's a credit to them both, really.

This was taken on a recent train ride through a Christmas village not too far from here. Free train, free hot chocolate, free popcorn... what's not to like? We'll have to add it to the list of things we should do every year. Joey was less enthusiastic later that evening...

"Don't worry Joey, your older siblings weren't so crazy about this either when they were your age."

Same night. Those aren't Mardi Gras beads. Just clarifying. He makes faces like this when he doesn't want you to take his picture. Posting it is an attempt on my part to say, "Nyah nyah nyah, we took it anyway, and now the whole world can see your goofiness." That'll learn him.

Good news! Joey is ambulatory (look it up, it may not mean what you think it means) and capable of getting himself into a whole new world of trouble. Here he is on the second shelf in our pantry. Getting in is easy... getting out, not so much. Speaking of which...

... this has yet to be explained to my satisfaction. Maybe I'm better off not knowing.

Tom Skilling says Meteorological Winter begins December 1. Phil Plait says Astronomical Winter starts December 21. They're both right, of course, but neither of them can tell you when Winter actually begins. I will tell you. Winter begins when I have to shovel the driveway, and the kids look like this after playing outside for 5 minutes.

No, we haven't signed Joey up for piano lessons yet, which probably explains this strange chord he's trying to play. He's at least six months away. He does, however, enjoy turning the piano off while I am playing it. For some reason, he does not do that to Jillian. Secretly, I'm insulted. But I won't tell him that, and I'm fairly certain he doesn't come by here, so the secret is probably safe for now.

- Aw2pp, sensitive to his critics.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Greetings from the Plateau of Piano Mediocrity!

I made a recording for you to commemorate my arrival here. Here, give it a listen, and tell me what you think: link - House of The Rising Sun from Alfred's Book 2

The Plateau of Piano Mediocrity is not such a bad place, really. Quite crowded though. And from the looks of things, lots of folks have been here a long time... some seem resigned to spending the rest of their lives here.

Looking back, I see that my trip began down in the Valley of Piano Discovery. The road rises quickly at first, but then gradually settles onto the Plateau. The subtle decrease in grade makes it hard to pinpoint exactly where the Valley ends and the Plateau begins. But after awhile, there is no mistaking that, though you’re making plenty of lateral progress, the terrain isn’t taking you any higher.

Way off in the distance, I see the Hills of Piano Excellence, and, past those, the Peaks of Piano Virtuosity. I would like to think I am headed in that direction, but the way is shrouded in a deep fog, and I am not entirely certain how to get there from here. Michael Stipe says it can't be done. I guess I'll keep on taking one uncertain step at a time. At least I can see that far.

Ok, so the metaphor only works to a certain point, I admit. But the truth is, it doesn’t feel to me that I am making a lot of progress these days. Plenty of reasons for this, of course… mostly having to do with schedules, travel*, work… you know, life. But it doesn’t change the self-perception that I am pretty much the same piano player I was a year ago… certainly the same one I was six months ago… At this rate, Chopin and Liszt are going to have to wait a long time for me to catch up with them.

* I’m doing my best to squelch a whiny post about traveling for work… truth is, I should be thankful that I have a job. But be warned, I may lose this argument with myself, and whine in an unseemly manner.

What makes me feel this way? A couple of things. First, it seems to me that it is taking a longer-than-expected period of time to pick up new pieces. Second, the added time I spent polishing pieces I think I've learned isn't really making them sound that much better.

Consider this recording I’ve attached. On the one hand, there is a lot to like about it. The phrasing is nice, and I added an 8va section (that's the higher part in the second half) that, to my ears, gives it a little bit of life that the original Alfred's version lacked. That's all good. Problem is, I worked for three weeks to get it to this point. One week to learn it, and two weeks trying to iron out wrinkles and eliminate pauses. Those two weeks produced no observable results. To me, it sounds hesitant and timid. It also sounds like another hour or two would fix that right up, but I'm telling you, it won't. This is as good as I can get it, and, until further notice, it ain't getting any better.

Likewise, it is taking a very long time to learn some of the Christmas pieces I’ve been assigned in Bastien Book 4, and also the Clementi Sonatina. It takes me a month or more to get those things down. In my mind, the music doesn’t seem that difficult, so it shouldn’t take so long. But the mechanics of making the fingers consistently go to the right places aren’t coming easily.

There is one more important point to be made here: I believe this is perfectly natural. Most learning involves an initial period of rapid acquisition, followed by a longer, perhaps even indefinite, period of perfecting some basic skills while slowly acquiring new ones. I get it. I am experiencing, I assume, the same feelings that everybody goes through when they pick up the piano later in life*. My hunch is that the vast majority succumb at this point, and accept that this is the musician they were meant to be. I’m going to continue to plug away, hoping to finish Alfred’s Book 2 some time mid-next year, and Book 3 another year after that.

* - Except for the select few who are naturally gifted… I'm looking at you, Tim Moriarty, hello!

Liszt and Chopin can wait for me. They've got time on their hands, to be sure. Good thing, because those Peaks are way far off in the distance.

- Aw2pp, who remembers something about slow and steady winning the race...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

In which he plays his first Steinway (long-ish)

About three weeks ago, I met some old college buddies in Nashville to watch Vanderbilt get destroyed by Kentucky* in football. Eh, it happens, one gets used to it. (Rice fans, testify! Can I get an "Amen!"?)

* - A truly unrelated observation: can somebody explain to me why Kentucky fans travel in such numbers to watch their team play football? Dudley Field, home of the Vanderbilt Commodores, seats roughly 40,000 people. Come game day, there were 30,000 Kentucky fans in attendance. Basketball, I get, but what interest do Kentucky fans have in football? Professor K, can you help me out here?

Nashville is a comfortable drive from 41 miles west of Chicago, but part of the weekend involves some Friday afternoon golf. Driving in time for tee-time would mean getting up and hitting the road around 4 AM, which is a lousy way to start a busy weekend that also includes late night card-playing and such. As luck has it, one of my buddies is a surgeon in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, and that represents a comfortable stopping point. So I rolled into Dr. C's driveway late Thursday evening, caught up on current events, debated the Public Option, and went to bed.

Next morning, I woke up to an empty house, save me and two Chihuahuas*. Dr. C was visiting some patients he'd worked on the day before, and his wife Penny was delivering the kids to school. I put on my running shoes, and went out for a run. On the way to the front door, I noticed something that had escaped my attention the evening before... a large grand piano. I took a closer look at it and saw that it was a Steinway, which I guessed to be about 6' or so.

* - What is it with our friends and Chihuahua pairs? Thankfully, all dogs survived this visit.

So I immediately scrapped all other plans, and went to town on the piano. At least, you'd think that, knowing me. Well, I didn't. Volleyball season is fast approaching, and I'd been getting away from that "get in shape" thing I have to do these days just to be able to play. And besides, something didn't feel right about sitting down at this beautiful piano without, you know, permission or something. So I headed out with my Blackberry and headphones, and went for a run around Dr. C's neighborhood.

That took around 45 minutes. During that time, I talked myself out of the very sensible decision to ask permission to play the piano, and used that as motivation to get back to the house quickly. I justified myself thusly: "Why inflict my poor playing upon my kind hosts? They should be spared that."

When I got back, I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that I had locked myself out. The only creatures inside the house were the two yappy, unhelpful, and very agitated Chihuahuas. For 30 minutes, I alternated periods off stretching and canvassing the outside of the house for the proverbial spare-key-under-the-rock / statue. (Admit it: you have one, don't you?) The whole time, trying (and probably failing) to look perfectly innocent. Finally, in response to a text I had sent him, Dr. C told me where I could find the key, and voila, I was back in the house.

The dogs looked at me like, "Oh, it's you. Never mind all that hollering we were just doing."

By this point, I was very much looking forward to playing the piano. But there was a problem: my hands were frozen stiff. They were useless. It was probably 40 degrees that morning, and I had been outside for over an hour by this point. I could not play the piano at all. I tried anyway, of course, but it was awful. And about this point, Penny, Dr. C's wife, returned. And heard, oh, about 45 seconds of the misery I was inflicting on the piano. And said, in that sincere way that Southern folks can when they say something nice that flies in the face of all available evidence, "You play beautifully."

We got to talking, and Penny told the story of how they acquired the piano. Dr. C has an aging rich Uncle with no heirs, and wanted to do something nice for his nephew. About two years ago, they met at the Steinway store in Louisville, played a couple of pianos, and chose this new mahogany O. It took about an hour.

Since then, the Steinway techs have been by a half-dozen times to service the piano, most recently two days before my arrival. Apparently the Steinway people are a little fussy about how you treat their product... they say things like, "Uh, Mrs. C, there is too much dust on the instrument, you folks need to pay a little closer attention to that." And "Dr. C, those Southeast-facing windows will allow morning sunlight to fall upon the instrument" (they like to call it that, I guess) "during the Winter months. You are going to have to move it to a new location, please." They take notes on these things, like a doctor maintaining medical records, and are unhappy when they find their advice / suggestions from the previous visit go unheeded. I guess this is all part of the Steinway experience.

Penny went on to tell me that the piano isn't played very much. Dr. C played as a child, but rarely today. Their children take lessons on it, but don't practice as much as they should. The older one would be really good if he practiced. And Penny doesn't play at all, which you might have already surmised by her review of my playing.

Dr. C got home shortly thereafter. We all had breakfast together, cleaned up, and still had some unscheduled time. I sat down once more (with permission this time), and took a go at I Due Fiumi and my most recent recital piece, the first movement of the Clementi Sonatina. I had to play from memory, since I didn't bring any music (that'll learn me). I played these things well enough the second time around to get a good feel for the piano.

Of course it was amazing. Neutral in all respects, which I believe most Steinway folks regard as a good thing. Bass? Plenty, but somehow not booming. Treble? Wonderful and clear, but without that bell-like ringing our church piano (a Kawai RX-2) has. The touch was heavier than either our Casio or PT's small Emerson grand.

The Verdict (keeping in mind, of course, that I am a true novice when it comes to any sort of "real" piano, much less fancy-pants models like a Steinway O... basically, I know nothing about what I am talking about):

A beautiful piano, one I'd take in a heartbeat from any willing rich, heir-lacking Uncles. Or Aunts, distant cousins, or strangers on the street. But to be perfectly honest, it sort of left me shrugging my shoulders. I guess I expected to be floored by playing a new Steinway. You know, the sort of experience that melts the hearts of hardened men. This was nothing like that. In fact, to my hands, the progression of key weights, from heavy bass to lighter treble, was not nearly as smooth as I expected. The sustain didn't hold as long as I'd like but this is probably a matter of taste, and could be adjusted.

For what it cost (for those of you scoring at home, that would be around $60k, and Steinway is infamous for their refusal to discount), I expected more. I guess I expected it would have made me a better player, but alas, it'll take more than a fancy piano for that to happen.

- Aw2pp, who is nowhere near as with-it-and-hip as he makes himself out to be… Case in point: his use of “with-it-and-hip” in this tag.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Aw2pp is still in business...

... although you wouldn't know it by my posting frequency. A thousand pardons for the radio silence here. Since we've last talked, I have been knee-deep in many projects at work, most of them (so far) fruitless. I like our chances of closing some nice things before the end of the year, though.

This week, if I can get to it, I will put up a couple of recordings, give you my thoughts on playing a Steinway, and maybe find some Internet drivel for our collective mental and emotional health.

- Aw2pp, man-child.

Friday, November 20, 2009


I probably owe you some thoughts on last week's ABF Recital, but fact o' business is, I haven't listed to any of it yet. This week has been incredibly busy. I hope to soon, because recital discussion at Pianoworld tends to trail off quickly after a week or two, but with next week being Thanksgiving, I am not sure when I'll get to squeeze any listening time in before then.

In addition, I played my first Steinway last week. I owe you some thoughts on that, too. (Teaser: I was surprised.)

But since I've nothing truly useful to say today, I'll do what I usually do in these circumstances, and that is to bring in totally unrelated content. Take a look at these scribbles Jillian put down the other day.

Do you think maybe, perhaps, the kids watch a little too much Spongebob? Consider:

  • The room off of our kitchen, which, ostensibly, is supposed to be "Papa's Office*". In practice, I call it The Spongebob Room. Mind you, I'm the only one who calls it this, but I think it fits, because watching Spongebob us the main purpose for which this room is used.
  • She went two for three in drawing some pretty recognizable characters. Patrick may need a little bit of work, but check out Squidward's face! And dollar signs in place of Mr. Crabs' (Krabs?) pupils! This sort of detail isn't easily acquired. It takes hours and hours to take it in, and reproduce it off the top of your head. She could do illustration work for them now.
  • My children have apparently seen every episode of the show. I don't know whether to feel pride or shame. Perhaps a mixture of the two... I'm sure the Germans have a word for it, but I don't.
* Yes, we built this house last year with the intent that Sue's parents would be joining us in it. And though they do so periodically (weekends, mostly, and when I travel during the week), they still haven't sold their house, and remain in it. Thanks for asking.

- Aw2pp, who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Fourth (really?) ABF Recital Piece

Here you go. Since the ABF Recital won't even be published or processed until this weekend*, consider this an advanced screening.

* - Yeah, what's up with that? I hear you. I am always one of the last entries, trying (and often failing) to get a clean recording even up to the 11th hour. Not really that different this time. I am headed to Nashville tomorrow to catch a football game and hang out with old college buddies. So for me, this is the 11th hour.

My recital piece this time around is the Clementi Sonatina Op.36 No.1 (the first part only). Previous recital entries have all been Einaudi pieces... Ombre, I Due Fiumi, and, most recently, I Giorni. Setting aside that I apparently only play music composed by Italian composers, you might say this entry represents a bit of a departure for me.

In some ways, yes, it's very different. This is my first classical piece. It's short. It's bouncy. The LH and RH are pretty much independent of each other, meaning I couldn't count on learning a few repeating patterns, and putting one hand (or both) on auto-pilot.

But still, in important ways, this is also like the other pieces. To whit: it's a stretch piece. Something that I probably shouldn't have tackled for another 6 months or so. Something that I didn't quite "get", and would probably play better with more technique under my belt. But, as with all good stretch goals, I learned a lot, and progressed.

You may recall a couple months ago that I asked PT for an introductory classical piece. She assigned me this, and, to follow, the second and third parts of the sonatina. I since learned that everybody seems to play this at an early part in their classical piano training. I got lots of feedback and suggestions on how to handle it. Truth be told, I needed the help. I did not find this easy at all, even though it is apparently as easy as anything else in the classical repertoire. As my family can attest, I spent a lot of time learning, eventually memorizing, and finally trying to grab a good recording of this piece. No lie, I must have recorded 60 takes. I can't play it at anywhere near tempo... this is about 75% the speed I had aimed for, and about 50% of the speed I hear in professional recordings*. And I've yet to play it error-free, at ANY tempo, although I submit this recording in the hopes that the most egregious errors are subtle enough to escape your notice. But the biggest problem I had, and I don't believe I am alone here, is maintaining a consistent tempo. It's uneven, you'll hear that... but it's better than it was.

* - Still plenty fast for me, boy howdy.

All in all, I am happy with this, happy to submit it, and ready for the 2nd and 3rd pieces of the Sonatina. Depending on how they go, one or both could be my recital entry next time.

Of course, I am also gearing up to attempt Le Onde at June's recital (Live! In Person!). So I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

- Aw2pp, spiritoso!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jillian's ABF Quarterly Recital Piece

Jillian recently recorded the following, and asked me to submit it to the Pianoworld Adult Beginner's Forum Quarterly Recital. It's called "Morning Prelude", and it is found on page 36 of Jillian's Bastien Piano Basics (Level 1) Book.

I am not entirely certain how to get this submitted, since Pianoworld doesn't allow 7 year-olds to register. But I'm sure we'll get that worked out in due time. Meanwhile, here are her comments on the piece:

I chose my song "Morning Prelude" because it was my first song I got to use the pedal on. I have thought it sounded really pretty, and I hope you do too.

She could give me lessons on being succinct.

- Aw2pp, quick learner.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Extraneous Accents

(Not a music related post. If that's what you came here for today, go ahead and move along. Nothing to see here.)

I speak Spanish and Portuguese. And, arguably, English, but that doesn't help me make my point. Which is, I think I know a thing or two about accents. Written accents, on words.

In Spanish, "Feliz" ("happy") has no accent, because standard pronunciation guidelines tell the speaker to accent the last syllable on (most) words that end with a consonant. And Spanish normally abides by its own rules, whereas Portuguese is less internally consistent. (Neither are nearly as poorly behaved as English, of course.) Some exceptions do apply, and written accents are there to account for these. Therefore, "Lápiz" needs an accent to let everyone know they need to hit that first syllable hard, rather than accent the second syllable like a normal, everyday, consonant-ending-word should.

(See what good stuff you get from me? You're probably telling yourself, "I should visit here more often.")

Portuguese basically plays the same game, but they add additional diacritical marks to account for their numerous eccentricities. For example, in order to tell avô (grandfather) from avó (grandmother), you use a circumflex accent for the former (which produces a closed "oh" sound, rhyming with "low"), versus an acute accent on the latter (which produces an open sound, like the sound you make when the doctor asks you to open up and say "ah"). And there are other fun things, but we'll set those aside for now.

Why all this? Because my minor annoyance of the day is Pokémon. You heard me: Pokémon.

Check out that accent: second syllable. Don't believe me? Visit (if you dare) The Official Pokémon Website.

Say it out loud: "POHK kee Mawn", with a hard accent on the first syllable, and a secondary accent on the last. The least accented syllable is the middle one. You know... the one with an actual accent mark on it. That's perplexing and annoying. If I had to guess why it would be there, I'd say some marketing meeting was held. And someone had the temerity to suggest that "Pokemon" wasn't a sufficiently foreign-sounding (or looking) word. And some intern sitting in the back of the room... somebody who obviously knows NOTHING about accents... suggested they put an accent somewhere in the middle of the word, and that would impress the world's six- and seven-year olds*.

* - And then, so my theory goes, the room fell silent. Until the Bigwig Marketing Exec said, "Here is what I propose: we add an accent to the second syllable. Then everyone will know this is some sort of fancy, foreign thing." Then the rest of the room erupted in agreement**.

** - Of course, this is not my idea. FedEx had a great commercial on this theme years ago. Here, in case you missed it. It's funny because it's true.

Of course, here we are 15 years later, and Pokémon aren't losing any momentum... heck, Jason was a Pokeball (or Pokéball?) for Halloween (pics coming). So who am I to tell these people what to do?

- Aw2pp, linguistic purist

Friday, October 30, 2009

Aw2pp's Wii Baseball Tips

I apologize for this post. You can't expect me always to maintain my usual level of brilliance. This post goes out to my children, especially Jason, who, for the life of him, can't figure out how to beat me in Wii baseball. My Wii baseball rating is something like 2200, which won't impress the local junior high crowd*, but qualifies as big-time stuff at the Moose Lodge down the road.

* - According to my marketing department, we aren't really reaching that demographic anyway. I guess piano blogging just doesn't capture the next generation's attention like it should.

Here, for the benefit of all (or at least Jason), are my tips. I'll post them in the context of competing against the computer itself, but they work just as well when going against a live human being.

In some respects, Wii baseball success is brought about by doing things successful baseball players and teams do at the MLB level. One of these is to take a lot of pitches. Except in certain circumstances (hold that thought), I don't swing unless there are two strikes on the batter. The goal is to quickly elevate the other pitcher's pitch count, so that they get tired and start making mistakes. The #1 thing I wish I could do better is to hit foul balls on purpose. If you can, good on ya. I can't, so I take as many pitches as I can.

The difficulty here is that it's hard to be successful with this strategy if the other pitcher is pounding the strike zone. If they are throwing a lot of strikes, you're likely to see some quick scoreless innings. Thankfully, this is pretty rare. Don't stress if you aren't scoring much, if you get elevate the pitch count, you'll score plenty when the other pitcher tires out.

A best-case scenario is that the pitcher will walk a few batters, and maybe you'll pair a few walks and hits to score a few runs. But for the first (and to a lesser extent, second) inning, the most important thing is to get the pitcher to throw lots of pitches, hopefully at least 25 per inning. You'll know they reach that point when they start sweating. After they throw 50 pitches, they'll begin sweating profusely, and... well, I get ahead of myself.

Don't throw strikes
Meanwhile, while you are on the mound, stay out of the strike zone. Again, much like real baseball, the goal is to get the batter to swing at your pitch. Wii batters tend not to take many pitches; if you can get them to swing at something out the strike zone, it's almost always a good thing for you.

As a warning, I'll add that if you have a big lead, especially a big early lead, the Wii computer will override your pitch location selections, and you'll end up throwing strikes whether you want to or not. Natch, the other team will then smack the ball around the yard like it's the All Star Home Run Derby. Just accept it. Sometimes, the machine just has to have its way.

When I get two strikes on a Wii batter, I almost always throw split finger pitches until they strike out, dribble a grounder to an infielder, or walk. Which leads me to...

Recognize the split finger pitch
There are a couple things you need to know about the split finger pitch. First and foremost, it is never a strike, unless you choose to swing at it. Second, you can't hit it. The computer can, if it is in the mood, and may sometimes (very rarely) get a hit, but you can't. Which means you should never, never swing at it.

Once caveat: if the computer is in a grouchy mood, it will make you "miss" a split finger pitch, and you'll end up lobbing a slow meatball right down the middle of the plate. On which the batter will tee off. Dance with the devil...

Mix Up Your Pitches
Pretty simple, and again, much like real baseball. Alternate the speed and location of your pitches. Fast in, slow away, vice versa. Get two strikes, then throw your split.

The Exclamation Mark
Here is where you close the deal. Assuming you have made the other pitcher throw a lot of pitches, somewhere near the middle to end of the second inning, they'll get really tired, sweating a storm. When they get to this point, you'll notice them making "mistakes", which you'll recognize by the appearance of an exclamation mark (!, just to be clear) above their head when they deliver a pitch. When you see an exclamation mark pitch, go ahead and hammer it. This is my exception to the "Swing only with two strikes" rule... if it's the third inning, and the pitcher is throwing one exclamation point after another, I'll go ahead and swing with the wild abandon of a Dominican rookie.

The tireder (hey, that's a word?) they get, the more mistakes they'll make. When you get to this point, it is not uncommon to plate 10 or more runs in an inning.

- Aw2pp, filmed live before a studio audience

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I did not win my football pool this week. I'd like to blame my loss on the Bears, as I optimistically predicted they'd beat Cincinnati, even assigning a 9 point weight to the pick. Truth is, most of the pool participants are myopic Bear fans*, and they too put heavy points on a Bear win. So when the Bengals dominated the Bears 45-10 Sunday, the result had an insignificant effect on our confidence pool.

* - My choice was less a vote of confidence in the Bears, and more of an aspersion cast against the Bengals. I doubted they could continue to post miraculous last-second wins. As it turns out, I was right about this, but not in the way I expected. As for the Bears, I have no delusions that an NFL team trotting out 4 Vanderbilt graduates in their opening day starting lineup could possibly be any good.

We've not once talked football here, and we're not going to anytime soon in the near future. So why now? Well, as an excuse to post cute pictures of Rowan, naturally. (You didn't see that coming, did you? Keeping you on your toes, I try.) The Bears have not had cheerleaders since retiring the Honeybears after the 1985 Super Bowl. Ironically, they won that game by virtually the same score as Sunday's loss, 46-10... and haven't won a Super Bowl since. Is there a Honeybear curse?

I think the Bears should revive the "Dancing Girls", as Old Man Halas called them. Inspired by this level of cuteness, Super Bowl wins should follow soon thereafter. Even if 20% of the starting lineup comes from Vanderbilt.

- Aw2pp,who agrees that the senseless waste of pitting these two mighty forces of nature against each other, like matter vs. anti-matter, will be a tragedy, not only for the teams involved, but for our planet. All nations must band together, to ensure that such a conflagration never takes place.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Quick update on my recital piece

Just a quick hitter to say that, over the weekend, I got about 4 hours of bench time, and made significant progress on my Clementi Sonatina Recital piece. Which says more about where it was than where it is, but still, I now like my chances of having something in the hopper by November 12.

(Heading to Nashville that weekend, so I can't wait until the 11th hour like I usually do.)

- Aw2pp, a member in good standing of the Rock n Roll Justice League of Illinois

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Imeem, I am done with you

The whole point of embedding an Imeem player for recordings was that you didn't have to go anywhere else to hear the music. Then they started embedding ads in their embedded player, which I did my best to remove before posting. They seem to have figured that bit of trickery out, and now only allow you (me, anyone) to embed the first 30 seconds of a given sound clip.

Imeem, I am done with you. All further recordings will be posted using links only.

- Aw2pp, who originally posted this without adding anything here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

"The Berlin Reunion"

Ok, bear with me here. I'm not sure I can explain this in a sufficiently compelling way... you're probably better off just clicking this link, and bypassing my commentary entirely.

The Berlin Reunion - as shown by The Big Picture

For those of you who are still here (why are you still here?), here is what the others are seeing, as described by The Big Picture:

Earlier this week, 1.5 million people filled the streets of Berlin, Germany to watch a several-day performance by France's Royal de Luxe street theatre company titled "The Berlin Reunion". Part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Reunion show featured two massive marionettes, the Big Giant, a deep-sea diver, and his niece, the Little Giantess. The storyline of the performance has the two separated by a wall, thrown up by "land and sea monsters". The Big Giant has just returned from a long and difficult - but successful - expedition to destroy the wall, and now the two are walking the streets of Berlin, seeking each other after many years apart.

The photos (including the one below) tell the rest of the story.

I know it sounds implausibly silly, but the pictures are very moving, and do a reasonable job of conveying the story and emotions that surround it. And 1.5 million people showed up to see this? Around here, you need an air show, or maybe Oprah, to draw that kind of crowd.

Anyway, take about five minutes to see what they did. I'll file this under Internet Drivel, but it isn't your typical Internet Drivel.

- Aw2pp, who is doing his best to make up for a slow posting month

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"I'll take SWORDS for $200, Trebek"

I can't express to you how much I enjoyed this. My soul is fed. I may as well call it a day right now.

- Aw2pp, two-time Osage Chief.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Streets of Laredo

Continuing with a relatively heavy posting schedule this week, I now offer for your approval my version of the next Alfred's Book 2 assignment. I actually had this one completed before Introduction and Dance (a pox on it), but the purist in me wouldn't allow the blogger in me to post it (Laredo) without having completed the earlier piece (Intro) first. link - My recording

Streets of Laredo - Aw2pp

My favorite version, of the hundreds scores dozens one or two recordings I've heard comes from Nashville musician and self-proclaimed Last of the Full Grown Men: Webb Wilder*.

* - Not his real name, I'm sure.

By this point, my 30 second version of the song is surely done (you listened, right?), so why not hear a professional's take. link - Webb's version

Streets Of Laredo (The Cowboys Lament) - Webb Wilder

It's simultaneously an interesting, sad, and perplexing song. Apparently all the following is true:

A cowboy is a drunken gambler lowlife. Said gambler is also a cheat, and got caught. So somebody shot him. At which point, while dead ("dressed in white linen and cold as the clay"), he wanders the Streets of Laredo, and comes across the, uh, narrator. Whom he doesn't know ("I see by your outfit* that you are a cowboy..."). So he (the now dead cowboy cheating gambler) spends the rest of the song describing what happened to him, finishing up with very specific funeral arrangements. Which the narrator (again, a stranger, mind you) dutifully follows, even arranging for a sextet of prostitutes to sing a song in his memory. And why? Because, shucks, that kid, that's just the way he rolled, and they all loved him like that.

* I can just imagine this conversation between two rough characters.

"Nice outfit!"
"Oh this? Just something I threw together this morning."
"No, really, it's simply dashing** the way it conveys your cowboy-ness."
"Uh, thanks. Say, your outfit is... unusual. Looks like some bedsheets. And come to think of it, you also look kinda pale. Is that a new base you're working with? Or is there a toga party I am missing somewhere?"
"Oh, that. Well, funny you should mention it..."

** Yes, they actually use the word "dashing" in this song.

That's quite a bit of inconsistency to try to digest. And yet? It's still vastly superior to "Those Were The Days". (I know, it's time to move on.)

The Streets of Laredo (The Cowboy's Lament)

As i walked out in the streets of Laredo
As i walked out in Laredo one day
I saw a young cowboy dressed in white linen
Dressed in white linen and as cold as the clay

"I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy"
These words he did say as I boldly stepped by
"come sit down beside me, hear my sad story
Shot in the breast and i know i must die

Play the drum slowly, play the fife lowly
Sound the dead march as you bear me along
Take me to the green valley, lay the sod o'er me
I'm a young cowboy and i know i've done wrong.

It was once in the saddle i used to go dashin'
Once in the saddle i used to go gay
Off to the dram house, off to the card house
Shot in the breast and i'm dying today

Beat the drum slowly, play the fife lowly
Sound the dead march as you bear me along
Take me to the green valley, lay the sod o'er me
I'm a young cowboy and i know i've done wrong.

Get six strong cowboys to carry my coffin
Six pretty whoregals to sing me a song
Place bunches of roses on top of my coffin
So they can't smell me as they bear me along"

We played the drum slowly, played the fife lowly
Played the dead march as we bore him along
Took him to the green valley and laid the sod o'er him
We all loved our comrade even though he'd done wrong

As i walked out in the streets of Laredo
As i walked out in Laredo one day

- Aw2pp, who tends not to let his freak flag fly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Introduction and Dance

Sorry to have put you through this. But given the time that I spent on this miserable, accursed piece of music (more here, in case you missed it), the very least I could do is let you hear my recording of the final time I will ever play it. Yes, once this was recorded, I turned the page on this piece, literally speaking, forever. Enjoy. link

Introduction and Dance - Aw2pp

- Aw2pp, who actively detests wistful songs about long-passed days ofyore

Monday, October 19, 2009

The View from My Window

For some reason, I have this notion that you (and Andrew Sullivan) would be interested in seeing what the view out my window is. Thanks for asking.

It's hard to explain, but my office is in my (our) closet. Thing is, out closet is about a kajillion times bigger than what Sue and I need. So we partitioned the thing, giving me a little 50 square foot cubicle. When I stand up, I look west out that window, and see what you see here.

- Aw2pp, hempen homespun.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I'm stuck

I do have a recording for you, but not today. Instead, I will whine about the piece I was supposed to have finished weeks ago. In Alfred's, it goes by the unassuming title Introduction and Dance, a Folk* song.

* - This Folk fellow... quite a prolific composer. Lots of Alfred's Book 2 pieces are attributed to him.

When I got started, it seemed simple enough. Sure, it's a minor key, and sure I tend to struggle with those for some reason. Two pages, with a repeat. I didn't recognize most of the first page, until the last three notes. Then I knew what I was playing. It was foisted upon us the year I was born, and remained on the airwaves for so long, I actually have childhood memories of hearing it on the radio. Naturally, I had the good sense even at a young age to develop a healthy hatred for this song, a whiny, defeated longing for times gone by. Here, in case you don't know what I am talking about, enjoy this clip, for all its putrescence. Please join me in despising this music with the fiery passion of a thousand burning suns.

Yick. I don't blame you if you never come back here again. I am sure it's pieces like this that convinced Anthony B to learn piano using his all-Einaudi repertoire. Heavens, even my piano teacher dislikes it... I stumbled through it for her last week. When I finished, I started to point to a measure I have trouble with, but she stopped me, saying simply, "I think we've heard enough of this one."

So you'd think I'd just move on, wouldn't you? Thing is, it is my very hatred of this music that keeps me from letting it go without perfecting it. Sounds strange, I know. But there is a voice in my head (don't laugh, you have them too) that says, "You can't let THIS beat you, can you?"

No, I can't. So Alfred's progress (and, to a lesser extent, progress on my Clementi Sonatina) stalls while I grit my teeth and try to pound out a recording.

- Aw2pp, with a tip o' the bowler to Aleister Crowley.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

As I was saying...

Once in awhile, when PBS is trying to raise money or something, they'll put interesting programming on.* One of their staples during these times** is a series of documentaries about TV in the early days. I try to watch these each time they come on, even if I have seen the particular installment before. I enjoy trying to imagine what it must have been like. Today, we have several hundred channels to choose from... back in the day, folks would gather the family at the giant TV and gaze at a test pattern, marveling that the annoying tone and concentric circles were being broadcast all the way from downtown.

* - I kid, of course. I'm a fan. The Ken Burns National Parks Series last week was phenomenal.

** - "Pledge Drives", they call them. But I know you pretty well by now, and I suspect I didn't need to tell you that.

One of the things that I learned from watching these documentaries is that, in the early days, late night TV had some real geniuses. One of them, Jack Paar, got himself into an argument with his network TV hosts, and as such, left the airways for a spell. I don't recall any of the specifics, and, natch, I am too lazy to look them up. But I do recall that there was some doubt as to whether he would be coming back. And during the interim, since this was before The Daily Show, Nightline, or QVC, folks, either watched their local test pattern, or, heaven forbid, turned the TV off at night and turned in early. Or something.

Anyway, returning to what I DO recall from this story, Jack DID return. His studio audience applauded him wildly as the show opened, for some time, several minutes even. The applause died down, and then Jack paused. There was some tension in the studio. Would he acknowledge the "recent unpleasantness"? Would he take a moment to say bad things about NBC (I think it was NBC, but don't hold me to it)? Or would he go on as if nothing had happened, thereby creating the possibility that the tension would forever be unresolved?

He did none of those things. Or all of them, depending on your point of view. The first words out of his mouth were... "As I was saying..."

Laughter ensued, tension was broken, brief hiatus was simultaneously recognized and dismissed, and the world returned to normal.

What relevance does this have? Pretty much none. I am nowhere near as interesting as Jack Paar, I have not gone on hiatus because of some feud with Google, and, by all accounts, you've probably not noticed that it has been a couple weeks since my last post. And besides, even if all that were true, I totally forgot what we were talking about. Instead of "As I was saying," "Where were we?" is probably the more appropriate question.

Work has been very busy. I've spent various parts of the last two weeks in beautiful Appleton, Wisconsin and Holland, Michigan. There is talk of paying a visit to St. Louis next week. Remember, now, I am in software sales. And remember also (or perhaps you didn't know, since you weren't with us then, I'm looking at you, Moriarty) that July and August were disconcertingly slow. I had a lot to say then, and lots of bench / piano time. Today, not so much. But regard this as a good thing... salespeople like it when they are in the weeds.*

* Waiter term. Look it up. And it doesn't mean what you think. Shame on you.

The bad news, at least for our purposes, is that this pace results in a lighter posting schedule. I'll work on it, but no promises. Briefly, if I had been posting, I would be saying any or all of the following:

- Jillian continues to progress well in her lessons. And practice pretty much without being asked, although I think she over-reports her practice times to her teacher.
- I have missed two weeks in a row of lessons. Not to worry, Jillian has taken my time slots instead, and seems to be getting quite a lot out of the extra 30 minutes.
- Nevertheless, 10 minutes here, 30 there, I try to make progress on my own. I am almost ready to record a couple of Alfred's pieces for you. But I am growing concerned about my lack of progress on the Clementi Sonatina. That needs to be recital-ready in a month.
- I am finding myself reading a lot of "I just got my new piano" threads on PianoWorld. Which I really shouldn't be doing.

And, as you've come to expect, you'd see some kid pics. Sorry, not today.

I have to get back to work. I have to create a presentation explaining a prospective customer's pain points. You know, to show that I understand their problems, and how my company's software will help. Gripping stuff.

- Aw2pp, who knows how to improve the quality and outcome of business stakeholder reviews. No really, he does.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"You are under my control"...

We've been watching "Meet The Robinsons" lately. One of Rowan's favorite parts are when the villain (aka "Bowler Hat Guy") hypnotizes various creatures*. To ensure they have reached the proper level of suggestibility, he tells them, dreamily, "You are under my control..." To which, the hypnotized animal replies, dutifully, "I am under your control..."

* - Mainly, the Singing Frog, but also a dinosaur... yes, this all makes sense if you see the movie.

Now that you have that image in mind, add our little three year old, walking around the house with a yo-yo, waving it back and forth slowly, and saying, in a forced monotone, "You are under my control..." If only she knew how much we, her parents are under her control. Hmm, come to think of it, maybe she does know. Let's table this topic for another day.

All this leads up to today's Useless Internet Drivel link. Those of you who are subject to motion sickness... move along now, you must leave. Likewise, any of you who are subject to visually-induced migraines or seizures. Away with you. But the rest... click on this link, and follow the instructions. IT'S AWESOME! (And a little unexpected, I must say, but that's just me.)

Visual Trick that messes with you

- Aw2pp, who took about a minute to fully recover from this. Just to warn you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Nerds only, please

If you don't place yourself in some sort of nerd-relatedcategory, please go about your business. Nothing to see here. Have a good weekend.

The rest of you* (er, us) will appreciate the amazing awesomeness of this mix. I'm speechless in its presence.

* - And, given that this is a piano-related blog, that probably still constitutes a not-insignificant number. It's not like we're discussing something trendy, like Project Runway, Las Vegas, or Dan Brown's latest release.**

** - Although feel free to discuss these things amongst yourselves, natch.

And just to lay claim to some serious nerd credentials here, it's in my DNA: my Aunt and Uncle were part of the production crew for the original Cosmos series. In fact, that set for "Spaceship of the Mind" was the brainchild and creation of my Uncle John, who also reviews cars for a living. He has an Emmy at his home in San Pedro to prove it, and he'll let you hold it if I bring a nice Central Coast Cab with you. Personal experience suggests Justin Isosceles will do the trick nicely.

But I digress. Enjoy every moment of this. I know you will.

- Aw2pp, who will wear glasses (not contacts!) if'n he ever needs them.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Festive Dance

I had a lot of fun learning this little piece. I had a maddening time trying to get a perfect recording (you know me). Instead, I leave you with this perfectly acceptable, yet subtly flawed version of this faintly Slavic thing-a-ma-bob. link

Festive Dance - Aw2pp

Technically, I was done with this last week, but wanted to grab a recording before moving on. My Alfred's pieces are (at the risk of incurring the wrath of the angry piano gods) easy these days. I am able to pick them up in maybe 2 or 3 hours (which, these days, still translates to a full week... not getting much bench time with our new busy Fall schedule). I know Hava Nagila looms shortly in the distance, and that is certain to take me a week or three. But for now, I am putting one lesson after another in my rear view mirror.

To make up for this, PT has assigned me some of her standard stuff. So I am working on a Clementi Sonatina. Without going into too much detail at this point, it's a real pain. In the Alfred's stuff, the LH mainly plays chords or simple repetitive patterns. In the Einaudi pieces I have learned, where the LH is often playing a repeating bass line, allowing one hand (sometimes both) to go on auto-pilot. Not so this classical stuff, where I have to pay very close attention to what both hands are doing. And, uh, well, I can't. At all. So this could take awhile.

- Aw2pp, keeping it between the ditches.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Even if you don't like tennis...

... ya gotta watch this.

- Aw2pp, who has nothing else for you today, but even if he did, Roger Federer would have something better.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lessons resume tonight

I've been away from lessons for a couple-three* weeks. During this time, I:

- Went from "yick, that sounds awful" to "hey, I recognize that!" on Stella del Mattino. Might fall back on this as my recital piece in November.
- Completed Festive Dance (oh, I owe you a recording) and did enough on Alfred's Scherzo to be annoyed by it.
- Worked some on the Clementi Sonatina I asked for last time.

* - "Two or three." This phrase works much better verbally, it seems.

So it should be a full lesson this evening, which is a bit of a problem. PT likes to talk. A lot. Each 30 minute lesson usually contains about 10 to 15 minutes of talking and catching up. Not sure there is enough room for that today, but we'll see.

In the meantime, since I have nothing much else to say, here are the annual first day of school pics, including Ro's First First Day of School. Enjoy.

- Aw2pp, new "Mad Men" fan.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Anthony B's Senator (well, one of them, anyway)

Setting aside whatever you might think about his politics, you'd have to admit, this is pretty impressive.

- Aw2pp, who did not play the accompanying piano music for this clip.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Checking in with Jason

I went to the Cubs game the other day with The World's Largest Kindergartner First-Grader. It was Jason's first Cubs experience. Here, I have the pictures to prove it.

Among other things, it was an afternoon of mental gymnastics. Jason has begun the Ask Random Questions About Everything phase, as I think I did when I was his age. If my recollection of my childhood is correct, and if he follows the same path I did, he'll remain in this phase for another 6 or 8 years. At least.

As best as I can recall them, here are some of the questions Jason asked. In no particular order, since it's not like they came up in a logical progression anyway.

  • How do the airplanes know where to line up? (On the way to the game, we drove on the Kennedy Expressway, which roughly parallels incoming flight traffic to O'Hare.)
  • Is fencing dangerous?
  • How do they make the lines in the grass?
  • How do the leaves grow on the wall? (The famous Wrigley Ivy.)
  • Who is the tallest person in the world? How did he get so tall? Do you think I will be that tall? (This started a whole other conversation about Pituitary Glands, then the endocrine system in general, and quickly exhausted my subject matter expertise. I was not sufficiently informative. My guess is that we'll come back to this some time soon.)
  • Why are there so many dragonflies here (at Wrigley field)? What do dragonflies eat? Do they think there is food here for them?
  • How many birds are here (again, at Wrigley)? What kind are they? Are there hawks here? Do you think our hawk friend will be here?
  • Do you think the organ player is our piano teacher? Do you think she could play this song on the organ? How much practice do you think it takes to be an organ player?
  • Why are Kane County Cougar games so special?
  • What is that guy doing? (Answer: lying down, stretching.) Why does he have to lie down to stretch? I don't have to lie down to stretch. Here, watch...
  • Why does wind blow in different directions?
  • Do you think Brown Bears who go up to the North Bole become Polar Bears? Is a Brown Bear bigger than a Polar Bear? I bet it bites harder, don't you?
  • What is the difference between an asteroid and a meteor?

That's about half of them, I'd guess.

- Aw2pp, who'd better get studying up on some of this stuff.

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.