Golden Rule, Turing Test – About the Music

June 13, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

 

“Golden Rule, Turing Test” is a suite of songs written by Lucas Pino and Jeremy Siskind about the relationship between technology and empathy. Below, you’ll find the names of the songs and a short explanation of what they’re about.

  • Turing Test

The Turing Test is an evaluation of a machine’s ability to exhibit intelligent behavior indistinguishable from that of a human. In the test, a human evaluator is shown the text of a conversation between two parties and instructed to determine which is a human and which is a machine. If the evaluator can’t reliably distinguish between the two, the machine is said to have passed the test. The Turing test was passed for the first time in June 2014 by a Russian chatter bot named Eugene Goostman who fooled about one-third of the evaluators into thinking he was a thirteen-year-old boy from Odessa.

  • How to Be Alone

According to a recent study, Americans on average check their social media networks 17 times a day – that’s more than once every waking hour. Smartphone users in Thailand, Argentina, and South Africa, among other countries, check their networks at least 40 times a day. Even though all this communication gives us the mirage of connectivity, roughly twice as many modern Americans describe themselves as “lonely” than in the pre-digital age.  

  • Dopamine

“Dopamine,” a chemical produced in the brain that forms the basis for traditional addictions like nicotine, alcohol, and gambling, is the same chemical released upon receiving an e-mail, tweet, Facebook notification, or text message. The addict’s craving for dopamine release feeds the compulsion to continually check devices for notifications. In fact, it’s estimated that 10 percent of Internet users are so obsessed with the web that their internet addiction undermines their social relationships, family life and marriage, and effectiveness at work.

  • Buzz. Feed.

5 reasons why you will love the next composition, “Buzz. Feed.” You won’t believe #4!

  • Listicles have become a staple of online news websites because their flashy titles and instant gratification-style text lure 20% more readers than articles written in prose.
  • Clickbait-style listicles feed our innate neural desire for instantaneous stimulation by pre-chewing complex information into easily-digestible chunks that don’t require conceptualization, categorization, or analysis.
  • Without the mental heavy-lifting required when reading prose, the brain’s ability to process complex thoughts and ideas withers and the reader defaults to simply scanning for main ideas. In fact, one study determined that modern readers only actually read 28% of the text on a given page.
  • According to a Canadian study, human attention spans have rapidly fallen from an average of 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. That’s lower than a goldfish’s attention span of 11 seconds.
  • Psychologists worry that a decreased attention span will make it difficult for humans to cultivate deep friendships, debate complex issues, and enjoy significant works of art.
  • #Humblebrag

“Humblebrag” is a word coined by comedy writer Harris Wittels that’s defined as “an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.”

  • Information Loop

Although the internet – as a whole – and social media – in particular – expand our choices of news with “newsfeed” technology, the cyclical nature of targeted content creates communities that are more insular, parochial, narrow, and ill-informed than those forced to see a wider perspective. User-defined information feeds limit or eliminate users’ exposure to ideas, social groups, and political doctrines that fall outside of their interests, preferences, and biases, resulting in a perverse form of self-powered, relentlessly self-validating censorship.

  • Clear and Present Stranger

Information control is censorship; censorship begets ignorance; ignorance breeds fear. Fear is a rough character in a dark alley who holds Compassion by the hair with a knife pressed against her throat. Fear is the one who incites the mob-like anger with which Americans scapegoat illegal immigrants; Fear is the one who provokes the shootings of unarmed black men across America; Fear is the one who condones the widespread rejection of refugees seeking basic human rights.

  • Pale, Blue Dot

On February 1, 1990, Voyager 1 took a photo of planet earth from 6 billion kilometers away. In the stunning picture, the earth takes up only a single pixel, surrounded by the vast blackness of endless galaxies and the occasional freckle of stars. Upon seeing the picture, astronomer Carl Sagan, noted: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”

In some ways, the internet represents the opposite of this telescopic perspective – it zooms in on all of the petty desires of the peoples of the world in an endlessly detailed, endlessly chaotic expanse. Perhaps our constant entanglement with this colossal digital world, with us – the users – clearly at its center – shatters our chances for true perspective. As Sagan writes, “There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than the distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another.”

Pino White 

Solving Jazz Music’s PR Crisis

September 8, 2014 at 3:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There’s been much made about the Sonny Rollins New Yorker piece, probably too much. People have complained that it was deceitful, that it was disrespectful, the it was inappropriate, that it was mistaken.

My gravest concern is that it was commonplace.

Increasingly, the media seems comfortable with making jazz the butt of jokes – whether it be in NBC sitcoms like The Office and Parks and Recreation or in movies like Anchorman, late-night programs like The Colbert Report or comedy revues like Key and Peele. The assumption and message seems to be the same – jazz is ridiculous. Jazz is out of touch. Jazz is overly academic. Jazz is not for us. [author’s note: I’m not saying these jokes are not funny. Many of them are very funny…particularly Anchorman!]

The Sonny Rollins article was only the latest jab, and it wasn’t just a cheap shot. The type of joke assumes that the reader hates something and then surprises them by saying that the forerunner of that activity does as well. It’s a classic bit: imagine a Pele-penned article about the dullness of soccer or recently-discovered missive from Herman Melville letter complaining about overly-long novels. It’s funny – but only because we likely agree.

When “Sonny Rollins” writes about how much he hates jazz, the implication is that audiences hate jazz too. But is it true?

Well, it’s true that most American audiences feel disconnected from the music. But that doesn’t mean that they truly don’t like it or that the music itself doesn’t reach them.

As I travel the country playing house concerts with my trio, we’re constantly being told “I didn’t think that I liked jazz, but now I think that I do!” There are few words more gratifying to someone who cares about the music. Here are some examples from our guest book:

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Saying this is not meant to sound self-congratulatory but only to remind us all that – when approached in a certain way – audiences can rediscover their love for the artform!

Here are some thoughts on how we might help change the public image of jazz and help audiences rediscover that love:

  • Reach the Unreached Audience

What percentage of Americans includes a jazz concert among their regular rotation of outings? 5%? 10%? Either figure seems generous.

It’s problematic that we’re an army of specialists making music for…an army specialists. Not only does that mean that some 95% of Americans, many of whom would have a very positive experience with jazz music, never or rarely attend an actual show; it also means that the music is becoming more insular and more specialized itself. When we’re playing for jazz aficionados, we assume that they know obscure tunes, that they understand basic forms, and that they recognize complex references. We start to operate in a way that leaves “normal people” behind, further burrowing into our nest of exclusion.

So, create a new venue with a built-in audience. Find a way to share jazz at a school or community center. Find a way to collaborate with an artist of a different genre. Become an ambassador of jazz for people outside of our community.

  • Play Music that Means Something!

Standards are great. They’re standards because they’re among the most finely crafted melodies ever written. Musicians and audiences have connected with these songs in meaningful ways for decades.

However, with the advent of the jazz educato-sphere, people are playing tunes for other reasons. They’re playing tunes because they’re among those that they “need to know” and “need to practice,” or because they liked somebody else’s version of the tune or because the tune shows off a certain skill set. We need to go back to playing tunes with lyrics and melody that deeply touch us and keeping only tunes that move us part as of our repertoire (and explaining to the audience just why we like them).

There’s a place for writing originals to practice a concept or express a musical possibility (the practice room, a senior recital), but my experience has been that audiences like hearing originals that are about an emotion or an experience. Descriptive titles help to activate a listener’s imagination and let them feel like the music is for them, rather than for the musicians.

There’s a time to educate ourselves, to be in school, and to work on our concepts at all costs. Once we decide to become an artist, performing in public, we need to make sure we’re not shedding in public!

  • Give Something, Get Something

George Shearing used to say that the arrangements were for the audience and that the blowing was for the band. We might think of some phases of Shearing’s career as schmaltzy or financially driven, but this outlook seems extremely reasonable. Of course, we all want the audience to enjoy our soloing. But recognizing and admitting that the improvising isn’t for their benefit takes some of the pressure off and actually allows us to be freer improvisers.

But it doesn’t have to be that the melody is for the audience and the soloing is for the band. Ask yourself, what is it that you’re giving as part of your performance to balance the parts that are most personally expressive? It could be that you do a great job talking to the audience. It could be that the band is very good looking and dresses well. It could be that the rhythms are great for dancing. It could be that there’s a singer singing evocative words. It could be that you’re great at talking and tell jokes between tunes.

Whatever it is, make sure that you are giving something, because the more you give, the more you get back in return!

  • No Music, No Hesitation

Have you ever been to a concert with an even somewhat decent rock band? Nobody would even think about using music, much less bury their head in it. Even subs are required to memorize the book before a performance. Not only that, but everybody knows the setlist and they know exactly how they’re going to transition from one song to the next.

One of the reasons people enjoy seeing art is because it reminds them of their own potential to create. It shows them how they could function at their most expressive, their most free, their most in-tune with the world.

Jazz musicians, however, disrupt this image of the idealized self by burying their heads in music, discussing their performance on stage, calling tunes on a gig (is there any worse phrase to say on stage than “I don’t know that one”), and generally being egocentric. It’s sad that the concept of a “band” – a group who is wholly committed to a musical project together – is lost on all but the top jazz groups and that mixing and matching musicians is so prevalent.

With that said, form a band! Commit to more rehearsals (I know all of the downsides of rehearsing, believe me). Hire a less-in-demand musician who’s willing to be more committed. Expect more from your subs. Plan out the set in detail, plan what you’re going to say and how things are going to transition.

Being a killing jazz musician doesn’t give one the right to be unprepared or semi-prepared.

These are some humbly submitted suggestions on how we might start to win back some members of a difficult public. I don’t ever expect jazz to regain “pop music” status, but I do think that there’s room in everybody’s life for all types of music (except modern country, of course).

 

 

 

 

Exercises for Improvising Contrapuntally

December 18, 2013 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A friend recently asked me how I practice contrapuntal improvisation. Below are some ideas for practice.

A)   Controlling Two Voices

Practice a tune with only one voice in each hand so that the voices always sound at the same time (homophonically). Practice all different types of motion, except oblique (not necessary). Contrary will the most important of these and should receive the most time:

1)   Parallel – with the interval between the voices remaining the same (practice all different intervals – chromatic and diatonic)

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2)   Similar – with same directional motion but different intervals

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3) Contrary – with voices moving in opposite directions (and different intervals)

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4)   Mirror piano – a special kind of controlled contrary motion where the symmetry of the piano around the notes D and Ab is exploited, so that the same fingering and white-key/black-key patterns are used in both hands. Practice alternating which hand is playing melodically  and matching the “mirror” in the other hand.

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B)   Additive Process

Do each of these steps for as long as it takes to feel completely comfortable and creative. Tips are listed below each step in italics.

1)   Pick a tune and play only the melody
2)   Play the melody in one hand and a line of counterpoint in the other hand (switch hands)

–       Make sure that the quality of the melodic statement (that you’ve established in step 1) is maintained while adding the second voice
–       remember, one line should move when the other holds/rests and vice versa
–       aim for as many consonant intervals (3rds/6ths) on downbeats and long notes as possible
–       practice playing homophonically and with totally separate rhythms
–       practice assigning different rhythmic values to the non-melody line: whole notes, dotted half notes, half notes, dotted quarter notes, quarter notes
–       practice solfege-ing both lines to focus your ear in different places

3)   Play the melody in one hand and two lines of counterpoint in the other hand.

As a beginning step, it is often useful to limit yourself to one finger for each line to make sure that you’re not “cheating”. Thumb and pinky are physically the easiest limitations, but practice with all different combinations. As you add more lines, each line will necessarily move less, both because of physical and musical limitations

4)   Play the melody and one line of counterpoint in the same hand and a single line of counterpoint in the other hand

Practice playing the melody with only the pinky or only the pinky and fourth finger to allow yourself enough physical space to play an alto line

5)   Play a total of four voices – two in each hand, including the melody

Practice placing the melody in each different voice!

C)   Four-voice Coordination

The following exercises are meant to create a contrapuntal texture where the different voices are better coordinated – where they sound more “aware” of each other. It’s important that you actually attempt to make these sound good and not play them simply as though they are exercises.

1)   Practice improvising on a tune with only your thumbs and pinkies in each hand. Double the notes in the top and bottom voices of each hand – the soprano and tenor; alto and bass.

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2)   Practice improvising on a tune with only your thumbs and pinkies in each hand. Double the notes in the similar fingers – pinkies (soprano and bass) and thumbs (alto and tenor).

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3)   Practice improvising on a tune with only your thumbs and pinkies in each hand. Move the top and bottom voices in each hand in tenths – that is, with a tenth constantly between the soprano and tenor; and the alto and bass

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4)   Practice improvising on a tune with only your thumbs and pinkies in each hand. Move the thumbs in each hand in thirds and the pinkies in each hand in thirds – that is, with a tenth constantly between the soprano and bass; and a third constantly between the alto and tenor

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5)   Practice improvising on a tune with only your thumbs and pinkies in each hand. Practice placing  two of the voices in different hands (soprano-tenor, soprano-bass, alto-tenor, alto-bass) in homophonic contrary motion.

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D)   Managing a “Middle Voice”/ Three-Voice Texture

One of the hardest things about forming effective counterpoint is actually being able to play lines that might exceed the limits of your hands. These exercises are intended to help you move melodies in between hands.

1)   Improvise only one line on a tune. Pick a note as your “boundary” – when the melody is above this note, the right hand will play; when it goes below, the left hand takes over. Practice using several different “boundary notes”

2)   Pick a tune to play in a three-voice texture. Play the outside voice in whole notes (they must move every measure) and practice with faster note values in the middle voice: start with half notes and move to quarters and maybe eighths.

Practice in the following ways:

A)   Alternating every note between hands (one note right hand, one note left hand, one note right hand, etc. Use only thumbs.)

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B)   Alternating every two notes between hands (two notes right hand, two notes left hand. Use thumbs and index fingers)

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C)   Alternating hands every three notes

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D)   Freely, without any restrictions as to which hand plays what; make sure that one hand doesn’t merely take over, though

Even though your focus will inevitably be drawn to the challenges of the middle voice, if you’re doing this at a high level, the outer voices should also be forming good melodies and should be played with good tone, etc.

3)   Pick a tune to play in a three-voice texture. Play half notes in the middle voice. In alternate measures, play four quarter notes in the top voice and then the bottom voice. Play whole notes in the voice that is not active.

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The idea of this exercise is to not “lose” or neglect the middle voice when other voices are active AND to practice playing the middle voice in the hand with a less active melody. Try to keep a “good melody” in the middle voice; if this becomes difficult, place a limit on yourself – play only stepwise lines or sing solfege of the middle line to make sure you stay focused on that line

Good luck to you, contrapuntal improvisers!

“Your Fingers Moved Soooo Fast!” – Audience Responses Examined

November 3, 2013 at 12:03 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I spent much of this week trying to refocus my attention and my students’ attention on why we do what we do.

It’s easy as musicians to lose sight of our principle goal – expression. Music is a tool of self-expression and communication. We often spend so much time learning how to use that tool that we forget what it’s being used for! In the process of practicing and managing musical details, we all sometimes lose track – if we ever knew in the first place – of just what we’re trying to express.

As an audience member, you are also responsible for hearing the music not as an exercise, but as a means for expression of our deepest feelings. Lately, I’ve been getting audience responses that have given me pause, and I want to take a moment and discuss what kind of responses I like and don’t like hearing from audience members.

 

“You are so good.”

“Your fingers move sooo fast. I love watching them.”

“I was really impressed.”

Of course, we all like our ego stroked now and again. However, if peoples’ main takeaway from a performance is that my fingers move fast, then I’ve really misfired – they’re admiring the tool rather than the work of art (“Wow, Michelangelo, I really like that chisel you’re using!”).

As musicians, we’re often to blame for this – as ego-driven people, we demonstrate our technique and fancy harmony more than we should. We play faster and louder than we really intend. We play Liszt and Giant Steps too often. We want to do that complicated thing we practiced, and leave people thinking rather than feeling.

These responses are also common because modern audiences often consist largely of fellow musicians who almost can’t help but think musically. They might want to prove themselves by mentioning a musical technique they heard in the show or by comparing the music to the output of other musicians. Of course, this urge is understandable, but it’s disappointing – and a bit alarming – that they’re too ego-driven to allow themselves to be swept up by the music.

 

“I enjoyed it.”

This is a good, positive comment, indicating that the listener received some joy from the performance.

However, if I really have my way, I don’t want a listener to merely enjoy something, I want them to respond to it. The difference, to me is one of involvement – you can enjoy something from a safe distance. One enjoys a football game, a boxing match, a sitcom on TV. Art, however, is something we hope will change you in some way, no mater how small. I’d prefer someone to say:

 

 “It sparked a lot of memories, like…”

“It reminded me of….”

These are good! I fear that people think daydreaming or thinking about something else during a performance is wrong. I think it’s great! Music is a language that speaks eloquently to the subconscious; let it permeate that subconscious mind and – by all means – let the conscious mind travel elsewhere! I once had an audience member tell me that he was having flashbacks to his days working with monkeys in Borneo – I thought it was great!

Good music is an invitation to the imagination.

“I’m inspired to…”

“I made a decision to…”

I love when the music moves someone to make some sort of a change in their life. Sometimes, the decision relates directly to the concert – “I’m going to listen more jazz”; “I’m going to start taking piano lessons”; “I’m going to get my piano tuned”; “I’m going to host more concerts”. But sometimes the person makes a decision about something unrelated – they decide to pursue their own passion, to learn a language, to call a friend who they’ve been out of touch with for too long, to forge a new relationship.

What’s more rewarding than doing something so powerful as to spur people to live a better life? These kinds of experiences are usually reserved for places of worship or encounters with nature.

“I cried.”

<people start dancing in a non-pretentious way>

 

These two things might not seem to have much in common, but they’re both (more or less) inadvertent physical responses to music.

 I think I can still name all of the concerts (and there are quite a few now) where someone has told me that the music made them cry. The first ever was in Santa Barbara while I was still in high school, and someone told me they cried during a free piano improvisation I did – I don’t think I’ll ever forget that feeling; I was so stunned I had no idea what to say in reply!

The power of tears is that they happen totally against one’s will. Crying is the result of experiencing an emotion so overwhelmingly powerful that your body has to respond. To think that music could communicate on a level that requires a physical response is wildly powerful.

Dancing is, of course, one of the greatest physical expressions of joy available to us as humans, and when I see that my music compels someone to express that joy with their body is a huge honor and a huge reward.

We as musicians hope that you audience members will partner with us to allow us to give you something really meaningful.

Day 12: Philadelphia

August 27, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There’s no doubt that our set-up for our Philadelphia concert was an odd one. I’d contacted my friend, Robin Rose, who set up a concert at the house of her vocal teacher, David Hall. Robin was to provide the audience, David the space.

Meanwhile, Robin was invited to go to California at the end of August and then David was required to attend a faculty meeting at the same time as the concert. So, guests ultimately showed up to a concert at a home where the owner was absent and the person who had invited them was absent as well.

Fortunately, Robin’s friend Susan Troxell acted as surrogate host (or, maybe sub-surrogate host) and was as nice and generous as could be. She had studied piano at Eastman (like me) and then gone on to become a lawyer. She now spends much of her time writing about history (with a particular interest in King George III).

The house was beautiful – in the Queen Village of Philadelphia, steps away from wonderful restaurants and across the street from a parking lot (thank god!). The interior space was wonderful as well, and David has a lovely Steinway M with an incredibly rich bass:

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We had a great time at the concert – it was our last performance, and there was a feeling of joy and abandonment at having come this far (as well as sleeping in our own bed that night). I was relieved and overjoyed that the audience seemed to appreciate my new piece – Decrement – and I felt confident in dropping out during Lucas’ solo on “I Could Have Danced All Night”, and he played these wonderfully wispy, swirling lines that reverberated off the walls of the lovely room.

David arrived when we had about three songs left. He turned out to be the nicest, most wonderful man. He regaled us with stories about studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, about meeting Virgil Thomson in Germany and all kinds of fascinating things in between.

He took us up to his amazing (and new) deck where we relaxed and it seemed the perfect end to a chaotic tour.

Our favorite guestbook quote:

“Inevitable letdown indeed! I could have listened to you forever…”

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I should be doing one more post in the next couple of days to share “what we learned”, but I’ll give you a preview: people are extremely generous. If one gives a little, the ways that people find to give back to you is truly astounding.

Day 11: Frederick, MD

August 26, 2013 at 4:16 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Although this blog post is about Frederick, before I get started, I have to mention that we had an amazing morning in C’ville. I got to go run with Anne (who has qualified for the Boston marathon). The weather could not have been more amazing and everything was in bloom. Anne is a retired Olympic-qualifying equestrian-ist and we got to meet her horses, plus other friends on the farm – dogs Clay and Zeke, and chickens (who provided us with freshly-laid eggs). We had an incredible breakfast sitting out in the front yard. We were sad to leave (and, in fact, left late!).Image

 Our next engagement was in Frederick, at a house owned by Robin Sagoskin, mother of my friend from Eastman, Graham Keir, and her husband Art. They’d recently bought a lovely Yamaha piano and were anxious to try it out. They had a huge room and had an attendance of nearly 60 people – quite possibly the largest in-house concert we’ve played. The room was notable for its maroon paint and movie memorabilia, which you can see below: ImageImageImageImage

Graham was at the concert with his guitar and played with us as we opened and closed the concert – we even played a new tune that Graham had just written that day. One highlight of the concert was playing “Everything You Need” and hearing audible sobbing once we were done.

It’s always odd playing a concert in the daytime. Especially in a room with lots of sun exposure on a sunny day, the atmosphere is just undeniably different than at night or on a cloudy or rainy day. At first, we played songs that matched the day – upbeat numbers with more virtuosic improvisation – and then we found at a certain point that the audience was captivated enough that we’d transported them into our world from this sunny bliss. 

Speaking of sunny bliss, we spent the rest of the evening exploring the Sagoskins’ new pool – amazing! – and watching My Cousin Vinny in their movie viewing room (also amazing!). Lucas and I argued over who could win in 200 and 400 meter races – he claims to have the body of a sprinter, but I claim to have much more practice and endurance. I think a race is imminent.

Tomorrow is the last day of the tour. We’re doing a concert at the Lombardi Cancer Center at Georgetown in the afternoon, driving to Philadelphia for a concert at the home of David Hall, and then driving back to NYC to sleep in our own beds. I must say, that will be a relief! 

Our favorite guestbook quotes:

“Close your eyes…Coltrane playing with Brubeck and along comes Lady Day.”

 

“Ditch the caterer…hire the jazz band!!!”

Days 9 & 10 – Athens, GA & Charlottesville, VA

August 25, 2013 at 3:23 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We were in Athens, Georgia, home of the University of Georgia, solely because of the efforts of Pete Jutras, a professor at the school who I got to know through Clavier Companion, a magazine that I’ve written for over the past 5 years. Pete runs the magazine and – to my surprise – claims to have read every word of each of my reviews.

We presented a class for the student MTNA chapter at UGA in which we did a bit of playing and discussed our project of bringing music into peoples’ homes. Then Pete took us to an amazing home cooking/soul food restaurant, Mama’s Boy where I had the best (and most buttery) biscuit I’ve ever had in my life.

Our concert was co-hosted by Pete at the house of Kitty Wilson, an amazing lady living in an amazing house in Athens. Kitty was so much fun and took care of every detail of the concert. I got to play a beautiful Bosendorfer in a room decorated with classic southern paraphernalia – portraits of a classic Southern gentlemen and a bird dog.ImageImageImageImageAfter the concert, we compared accents with Kitty and her friend Beth and learned a valuable lesson – never pronounce the last “t” in “Atlanta”. I was really thrilled to have a student at the concert who was a graduate of WMU and a student of Silvia Roederer. Sometimes I’m amazed at how connected we all are.

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Our Favorite Guestbook Quote:

“The audience was wrapped in a cocoon of velvet tones and transported to the mind’s most intimate inner spaces.”

Charlottesville, VA

My connection in Charlottesville is the hardest to figure out – my friend Marissa’s dad worked with someone who worked with someone who worked with Anne Chapin, our host. Anne and her husband, Curt, run a foundation that supports string players (Curt is a self-defined “failed cellist’) and they’ve hosted a number of in-home concerts in the past, but never jazz.

Anne & Curt’s house is incredible – on a big piece of property with large stretches of green and lots of horses. The room in which we played seated almost 40 people and had a lovely Yamaha piano:

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The ImageThe Chapins hosted an incredibly picnic before the concert and the weather and setting could not have been better. The audience was very genial and I got to talk with quite a few young people who studied piano afterwards.

I also met a Theater Professor at UVA who knows a theater professor at WMU who I’m likely going to be working with. Once again – small world!

We had a lovely concert and we’re ready to have a shorter drive (Atlanta-Charlottesville was about 8 hours!). Tomorrow, we’ll head to Frederick, MD for an afternoon concert.

Our Favorite Guestbook Quote:

Thank you for this opportunity to share a lovely evening of music with my daughter. These are the moments we will reflect upon years from now with great pleasure!

Day 8 – Duluth, GA

August 23, 2013 at 4:10 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Duluth is a suburb of Atlanta. On the drive, we got caught in a torrential thunderstorm which flooded the streets – I turned to Nancy and said “This is going to be a great concert!”

Our host was Peter Hildebrandt – to be honest, I was a bit surprised that Peter agreed to host – my experience in general is that the further removed the person is from my original request, the less likely they are to follow through on hosting. In this case, I asked my Uncle Lloyd who asked his friend Evelyn who asked her friend Ann who happened to know Peter. I didn’t know Peter at all – I only knew that he plays the bass and has a lovely Steinway and a beautiful high-ceilinged room.

Here we are with our hosts, Peter and Nanette:Image

The room was beautiful – painted a deep shade of blue with amazing artwork (apparently both of Nanette’s parents are painters) and with stand lights designed by Peter – he has a company, Aria, that designs lights for music stands. They are VERY cool and Peter was kind enough to gift us three stand lights.🙂

Here’s a view from the “box seats” on top of the stairs:

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One of the things that made the concert special was the presence of a few relatives – my Aunt Mary Ellen and cousin Max (at whose house we’re sleeping for the next two nights) and my Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Nany, who recently painted my portrait. Nany brought the portrait with her to be displayed (I had to explain to the audience that I am not – in fact – an egomaniac), and I finally got to see it in person. The level of detail is truly incredible. Here’s the two of us with the painting:

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After the concert, a jam session started up and Peter grabbed his bass. It was great to be able to unwind and play some music with friends.

Our favorite guestbook quotes:

A true treat for us! If Jeremy happens to need a second job, I think he could make it as a comedian! Brilliant and entertaining when the music stops playing!

 

And

 

Breathtaking music, from the heart to the heart.

Tomorrow we’re going to Athens, GA to make a presentation at UGA and play a house concert in the home of Kitty Wilson. 

Day 7 – Savannah, GA

August 22, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My only contacts in Savannah – a city which all three band members had long dreamt of visiting – are Connie & Steve Lyman, very good friends and stalwart supporters who hosted us in Indianapolis. They have a beautiful second home in Savannah, but sadly, this one has no piano.

Remarkably, the Lymans contact their across-the-street neighbor Cindy Prutzman (who also doesn’t have a piano) who, in turn, contacted our hosts for the night, Maggie and Bill Rousseau. Here are all links in the chain together:

Savannah 5

BIll is an amateur pianist as well as a professional painter and retired engineer (as one concert guest said, “he’s the type of guy who can do anything at an extremely high level…I despise him.”). He and his wife were incredibly gracious hosts and invited a rather fascinating array of guests to the concert including a former Dutch ambassador to the Koreas and the executive director of the Savannah Symphony (they’ll be doing the world premiere of a work for the first time next season.

Here’s the room, which was brightly lit and charming:

Savannah 4 Savannah 2 Savannah 1

This was the first time I ever performed on a Young Chang piano. It had a nice tone, if slightly finicky action. It’s so sticky and humid right now, wooden instruments are having all kinds of problems – Lucas really had to work to get a good sound out of his clarinet, for example.

Savannah 3

After the concert, we went out with Steve for a night-time tour of Savannah (decidedly NOT a ghost tour) and stopped for some drinks and collard greens (when in Rome…).

Our favorite guestbook quote:

You not only understand Savannah’s sophistication, but added to it!

Today, we drive to Duluth, GA (a suburb of Atlanta – about a 4 hour drive). Everyone’s been warning us about traffic, so we’re going to try to leave early.

Days 5 & 6 – Magic in North Carolina

August 21, 2013 at 4:18 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Our first night in North Carolina was with John Q Walker, who I think of as the Willy Wonka of pianos. His company for the past few years has been Zenph, which was contracted by Sony to re-record the great piano albums. To do this, they transferred recordings of pianists like Glenn Gould, Vladimir Horowitz, Art Tatum, and Oscar Peterson to code so that they could be played on “souped up” player pianos. Then, those pianos give “performances” and they re-record the albums.

In order to do this, John has built an enormous concert hall modelled after Wagner’s Bayreuth, with – currently – four top-notch grand pianos. We sat in the audience and watched a 9-foot Yamaha performed precisely as by Glenn Gould and Art Tatum. It was truly unbelievable. we marveled at the technology, the musicianship, and something surprisingly emotional – it felt like we were being visited by a long-dead relative, or witnessing an important historical event – Christ on the cross, Napoleon at Waterloo, Hitler in the bunker. These recordings are the stuff of legend.

Check out the concert hall, with my 9-foot Yamaha:

Walker 3 Walker 4 Walker 5 Walker 6

Sadly, John’s company did not survive the crash of the recording industry. Instead, he’s working with a team of scientists developing a cure for Alzheimer’s. As far as getting back to being able to hear history’s great musicians play in person, John said “Let’s succeed with a great software start-up again, then we might be able to revisit it.”

 

We love John! And, side-note – this picture, which looks like it’s made of paper, string, and staples is actually totally painted.

Walker 1

I also got to play with some local musicians that John invited: Anatoly Larkin & Paul Rodgers.

Our favorite guestbook quote:

The composition and performance skills were something that I have not heard before.

I thought I was back in the Oak Room at the Algonquin Hotel in New York. We just do not hear that quality of talent very often.

Day 6: Greensboro

In Greensboro, we played in the home of Jayne Ericourt, the widow of the great French pianist Daniel Ericourt, who personally knew Debussy (and has recorded all of his music).

The concert was co-hosted by Maggie Triplette and Jane Levy and was in Jayne’s beautiful house, which was filled with tremendous artwork, particularly of the Medieval/Renaissance era:

Ericourt 1 Ericourt 2 Ericourt 3 Ericourt 4 Ericourt 5

Jayne, a pianist herself, had a beautiful, rebuilt Steinway that she only purchased a year-and-a-half ago. It was a complete pleasure to play!

The night was made even more special by the presence of wonderful pianist and educator John Salmon, who helped to arrange the concert. We premiered my new song “Decrement” with a newly refurbished middle section.

Here we are with some of our hosts:

Ericourt 7

Our favorite guestbook quote:

“This is the way entertainment should be. Burn all the televisions!”

Tomorrow, we head to Georgia – we all are very excited to see Savannah, especially since we’ll be staying with my friend, Steve Lyman. We were so excited that we all made up Savannah names – Nancy Peacock, Lucas Humperdinck, and Jeremy John Blackdiamond.

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