Film-Poem Alchemy

This afternoon was the last day of the Christmas holidays, unexpectedly sunny, crisp and breezy. After the departure of some visitors, Robert and I were about to go out for a walk and some tea and cake, when he suddenly pointed to a patch of light on the wall behind me. The reflections from the garden of waving branches and the wrought iron of a clothes post were casting flickering shadows onto the wall in an astonishing fashion, almost like a silent movie. Robert grabbed his iPhone and captured some video. “You could use that for a poem-film, “ I remarked, thinking about the beautiful short videos some friends had made recently.

When we got home from our walk, I began improvising to the footage on the piano, while Robert listened and wrote.  Within twenty minutes we both had something. Remarkably, when Robert read his poem aloud, it was exactly the right length. He recorded it, synchronized it with the video, and then I recorded my part on top onto a different track so that we could experiment with individual volume and colour.

I’m not a recording engineer, but I know what works when I hear it. In this case, I knew we needed to take the ‘edge’ off the sound on both tracks. It took a little whole to find the right effect for the piano part. It wasn’t until Robert added a little reverb that it harmonized with the imagery. It sounded as if it had been recorded many years ago in a dusty, cavernous ballet studio on a slightly tinny upright. Perfect.

We both could hear that Robert’s voice was also cutting through the texture in a way that sounded too immediate, modern and dynamic. When he equalized it, using an effect called RCA Victor 1947, it all came together.

Result: a film-poem in one evening. If only making art could be this easy and graceful every time.


Busy blogging

Wow, it’s been a busy time lately, as I have had commissions to write for several other blogs, so what with teaching, coaching and a trip to Australia to meet our new nephew, I haven’t had time to post here.

However, I’d love to point you to a couple of posts I wrote for the Music Teachers blog: one on how to develop effective communication with your students, and one on how to manage your energy in relation to your students. I’m enjoying focusing on the psychological side of teaching and communicating in posts for this particular blog, as I feel it’s a way to contribute what I know, both from study and from experience.


On hearing Leon Fleisher play Bach

 

He knows what’s important— the purity, the essence of the music. There’s nothing like not being able to play the piano for forty years to make one appreciate each sound. Each opportunity to create beauty. There’s no excuse, no need for artifice. Each moment has purpose.

Years of absence and silence have refined the desire to create sound. Decades of trying and failing to regain health, prestige, career have bruised and beaten the ego to a pulp. Only the heart of the music remains, as only the soul of man survives.

Now he wants to play Bach, Chopin, Schubert. Why play music that is purely virtuosic? He learned long ago that maximum notes per second are not where it’s at.

“Before, I was just a two-handed piano player,” he says. “What happened to me has expanded my life, my awareness, my humanity.”


Songs without words

I was interested to read an article by Frank J. Oteri in New Music Box today that resonated with me. He complains that increasingly all music is being described as ‘songs’. I’m grateful to know that I’m not the only one who calls a song a song, and an instrumental piece, a piece or composition. It’s only since coming to the US in fact, that this has been an issue at all. When I began to teach piano, I was astonished when some of my students referred to their pieces as songs. I’d love to know how this started- any ideas?


Confessions of a (former) Beethoven Hater

I have a secret that I never told anyone, growing up as a classical musician- I hated Beethoven! My rather formal and strict piano teacher had very precise ideas about what constituted great music and Beethoven was her ne plus ultra. I therefore imagined that I had some dreadful flaw which no one must ever discover.
Continue reading…