Tuesday, November 1, 2011

space, and the overlanders (piano-related ramblings)

I am skipping my first class today, which is Ear Training. Sorry, but I'd rather be snuggled in bed than counting rhythms to Tool and Metallica songs. Yes, my teacher makes us listen to Tool.

Last night I went to a concert of student composers. It was really quite nice, and I heard pieces composed for a variety of instruments, though not always performed by the composer - computer, organ, electric guitar, piano (+ piano strings), bassoon, and an ensemble consisting of electric guitar, bass, soprano saxophone, and drums. My favorite piece was called "The Vomit Comet" by a senior composition major, and he played it on the organ. This is what he wrote about it in the program notes:

"The 'Vomit Comet' was a modified airliner used to train astronauts for the zero-gravity environment of spaceflight by simulating a ballistic trajectory. The aircraft alternately climbs and descends to produce a series of zero-g 'humps' during which its passengers experience about 30 seconds of weightlessness. Unfortunately, pitching motions also induce nausea. What a ride it must have been."

He incorporated the elements of the ride into the piece using a variety of techniques. The electric guitarist was up there with him to assist, for at a certain point the organist had him turn off the organ completely, even as he was playing notes, so that the air in the pipes died away slowly. It was an incredible effect. I really did feel as if I was experiencing pitching motions, and falling through space. None of the other pieces, save for the small ensemble (the composer noting that it was a "piece written for jazz musicians that isn't jazz" and that it is "the result of soothing parallel harmonies being abused by a rock band"), really captured my attention. It was mostly "modern classical fluff," or something. The piano piece, especially. If you've ever heard a generic, stereotypical performance of something that could be considered "modern classical," this was it right down to the last note. I just wasn't impressed, even though the composer looked all serious and had long hair and a beard and stuff. Anyway.

I have had a recording of Ravel's piano music on my computer for what seems like forever, and yet I have no earthly idea who the performer is. No, it is not Rogé (I do not like him), but whoever it is, they are one of the greatest performers of his works on earth, and I now compare every other recording to them.

There's this thing called the International Music Score Library Project which enables you to download virtually any sheet music your heart could ever desire. I downloaded Ravel's "Ondine," because it is seriously anything and everything I could have ever wanted in a piano piece. Ever. I've been dying to learn it for probably 2 years... Here is Michelangeli's interpretation:

I have learned, now, the first two pages! Not bad for just starting it today. I also got some Sibelius piano pieces, and Ravel's "Pavane pour une infante défunte," which should be instantly recognizable. It is slightly more difficult than it sounds, but it is so unbearably gorgeous I am up for the challenge. Here is Richter playing the piece in a recording that I seriously think must have been recorded in heaven (excluding the obnoxious noises from the audience):

(I also like this recording a lot, it's just as beautiful but without the live audience aspect)

I love learning things on my own, with the recordings of great artists as my teachers.

I almost forgot!! My piano teacher right now is actually a former student of the great pianist and conductor Leon Fleisher! I feel like a second-generation student of his, or something :3 I think that's pretty cool.

I play "Un Sospiro" for a recital dedicated to Liszt's birthday (which was actually October 22) on Saturday. I'm looking forward to it! I played this annoying Scarlatti sonata last Monday in a recital in which all of the piano students, undergraduate and graduate, played the pieces they were going to play for the final examinations in December or something. One of the graduate students played Chopin's Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, Op. 60. OH. MY. GOD. I had never heard it before in my life, but honestly the way she played it was like a dream... She was an incredible pianist. But anyway, I told my teacher how much I liked the way she played it, and he told me some things that Fleisher had told him about the piece. The beginning note is like a rock being thrown into a lake, and the splash and the ripples and the circles are the following chords. And then the amazing motif in the left hand comes in and it is one of the foundations for the rest of the piece... it sounds like a boat floating along the waves. I don't know if I really "love" this piece, but I was definitely moved and completely awestruck as she played it. Here is Zimerman playing it:

Every time I have a lesson with my teacher I learn so many interesting things. He apparently went to a master class with Russian pianist Marina Lomazov over the weekend, and he seriously could not stop going on and on about how beautiful she was, and tall, and striking. He told me what she had told him about the Russian school of piano, and how the way they teach young pianists is very different from the way many do here. There is a lot of hands-on learning, the teachers placing their hands on the students' elbows, forearms, and often right on top of the hand in order to mold it to be in the correct position. The most important thing to teach aspiring pianists, above all else, is sound. Anyone can play a note on the piano, but can they play two notes? Musically? Beautifully? To play a C to a D, beautifully, is the true meaning of a musician. I mean, listen to Rachmaninoff playing his pieces. Or just listen to the nature of his pieces - sound is everything! There should be no fear involved, but the intrinsic connection with the keys causing an extremely rich and deep sound to usher from your fingers. Otherwise, the piece is lost in notes gliding upon a frictionless surface. Boring.

I have some cool stuff to post soon, and I made possibly the best mix cover art in the entire world the other night. But I'll hold off on that because I don't know if I should post so many of those in such a short time.



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