Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cristofori's Dream... Re-Envisioned

Looking back at the Dream...

It is nearly impossible for me to wrap my head around the fact that twenty-five years have transpired since the release of Cristofori’s Dream. This, my seventh full length 1980’s recording on the Narada label, indeed changed my life and opened a world to me that I had only hoped for and dreamt about since my teenage years.

So many memories flood my mind as I look back at this recording and this period of my life. The spark, the divine seed if you will for Cristofori’s Dream, was found in Judith Oringer’s book, Passion for the Piano, a gift received from a good friend, and a very fortuitous gift it turned out to be! In the forward of this book about the piano and various pianists throughout history, was a dedication to a one, Bartolomeo Cristofori, ". . . the inventor of the piano. . ." (excerpt from the new CD's 16 page booklet’s liner notes.)


Re-Envisioning the Dream...

The goal for this new recording was to capture the essence of the original album, but with the intimacy, spontaneity, and the sense of space afforded by a solo piano recording.

The title track is played true to the original composition, but many of the other pieces have been opened up leaving room for improvisation and slight variations.

In addition to the original seven pieces, two live-recorded concert bonus tracks are included:

A live rendition with full orchestra of Cristofori’s Dream, recorded in Seattle Washington, and the heartfelt Seoul Improvisation, a solo piano performance recorded in Seoul, Korea.

And I would once again like to say, as I did in the original 1988 liner notes, “This album is dedicated to Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731), the inventor of the piano-may his Dream live forever.”

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Making of the 'Here Comes the Sun' Video

I spent an enjoyable weekend last month with my good friend Bob Mueller here in my home shooting the new Here Comes The Sun music video. I played the song around 30-40 times and Bob shot me and the piano from many different angles.

The time lapse footage which opens the piece, was done a week later in downtown Bellingham, not far from my home.

With his new Canon EOS 60D DSLR camera, Bob was able to capture angles of the piano that I’d never seen. His artistic eye and his overall vision for this piece was impressive...I just played the piano:-)

For those of you who enjoy the technical details, Bob has included those in great detail below....

David Lanz

Here Comes the Sun Music Video
Tech Notes by Robert Mueller

Here Comes The Sun was shot entirely on a Canon EOS 60D DSLR Camera, a relatively new model for Canon which sports an 18 megapixel sensor and Canon’s DIGIC 4 Image Processor (the ‘brain’ of the camera - actually the sixth generation of Canon’s proprietary DIGIC image processing chips). The 60D became available in late 2010/early 2011.

According to Canon, compared with first-generation DIGIC processors, DIGIC4 represents a 50-fold improvement in the short space of just 10 years...quite an evolutionary accomplishment.

This being a CMOS chip, each pixel is actually comprised of four separate pixel elements - two greens, one red and one blue. So this 18 megapixel imaging chip actually has nearly 64 million individual sensors, all very precisely packed into an area only 22.2 x 14.8mm (329 cm2)! It’s an achievement that boggles the mind. This also represents 11.5 times the light-gathering area than, say, a current Sony Cybershot,or Canon Powershot, which both have a sensor area of only 6.16 x 4.62mm, or 28.5 cm2. This makes the 60D wonderfully light-sensitive, and provides beautiful depth of field.

Between the increased sensitivity and powerful processing of the DIGIC4, this camera can capture images that were extremely difficult, if not impossible to accomplish even a mere 20 years ago. For instance, anyone who remembers shooting ASA (now referred to as ISO) 1600 film in the late 80’s, early 90’s knows how grainy the results were. We embraced the grain, because it was the only practical way to capture low-light level scenes…and called it artsy. But with this camera, scenes shot at even its highest sensitivity (ISO 6400 and 12,800!) are remarkably smooth and detailed. It’s so sensitive, there’s even a special build of the 60D designed specifically for astrophotography.

Of course, we wouldn’t even be writing about it here if this camera didn’t also manage one other thing extremely well…shooting High Definition video. The 60D leverages both the sensor size and DIGIC processor chip to capture amazingly beautiful, full HD 1920x1080P video at either 30, 25, or 24 frames per second, with all the benefits of shooting with a DSLR. Size, for instance. You’ll see in this video that we actually placed the camera inside the piano on the soundboard, for some very cool and unique angles!

The camera also includes software to tether it via USB directly to a computer (a small netbook in our case), allowing full remote control and through-the-lens viewing on the computer screen - thus avoiding the need to crawl inside the piano with it to frame the shots .

Another nice plus is that only a single lens was required – Canon’s 18-185mm f/3.5-5.6 optically-stabilized auto-focus zoom lens. The full breadth of focal length was used, from extremely wide to as long as the lens could go; and never once was a lens change required. Again harking back to the nineties, or even just ten years ago, you may recall that it really took three lenses to cover this kind of range: a dedicated ‘wide angle’ lens, say an 18-28mm; a mid-range lens like a 28-85mm; and finally a longer zoom lens like a 70-185 or 70-210mm. The latest optical engineering gives us a veritable dream lens – all the zoom range of three lenses without unduly sacrificing clarity and speed, plus the added benefit of optical-stabilization – like having a little Steadicam® built into the lens itself.

Yet another intriguing thing about the camera is that it has been hacked, and its capabilities extended even beyond the manufacturer’s design. Magic Lantern, for instance, is a firmware add-on freely available via the Internet that was originally written for the Canon 5D Mark II (the much more expensive 60D’s big brother) by Trammel Hudson in 2009. But it proved so popular with the new DSLR filmmakers that it has subsequently been expanded to support several other Canon DSLR cameras, which now includes this relative newcomer…the 60D. Magic Lantern firmware extends the 60D’s features in many ways, but notable for this video are the ability to shoot time-lapse without a separate external intervalometer, and to remotely control automated focus-pulls between two focus planes.

This video was edited and tweaked using Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, output as an uncompressed avi master, and then compressed using the h.264 codec in a Quicktime .mov ‘wrapper’. Adobe’s software has, like the cameras themselves, advanced at a rapid pace, while continuing to become ever more affordable.

Astonishing advances like these are leading to a veritable revolution in filmmaking today, as for relatively little investment budding artists and even old pros alike can create astoundingly high-quality results. Whereas only a decade ago very few could afford what it took to capture and edit HD video , today there is a new ‘democratization of video’ occurring that is literally revolutionizing filmmaking.

Thanks to Canon, Magic Lantern, Adobe, and the digital age itself, our little video can add another drop to that rising tide.

To view the video:

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Part two: Learning and arranging 'Don’t Stop Believing'

For this exercise we will play the song in G Major, which is the key the Glee
cast have used. This way you can play along to Glee’s version comparing
what you come up with as you work on your arrangement. (If want to change
the key of this or another song, please refer to the last page on transposing.)
Let’s listen first to the bass line. It begins by moving up and down in scale
tones (the entire song is based on the G major scale), but the bass line starts
and then lands on the downbeat of each chord in our progression.  In other
words, these chord changes happen on beat one of each bar...each chord
getting 4 beats.

The first bass note is G-moving up to D-moving up to E-then down to C. This
bass note pattern repeats, except it moves down to B from D (instead of up
to E) on the repeat like this:

G-D-E-C G-D-B-C this is the simple bass note pattern for all our verses-the
intro- the interludes-and the ending. Practically the whole song!

Now your basic theory will come in handy here when trying to figure out
what the chords will be. We know that there are three major chords and three
minor chords in any major key.

We are in G our three major chords are G-C-and D Major (built on
the 1st-4th-and 5th tones of the G major scale) The three minor chords are e-minor,
a-minor and b-minor (built on the 6th-2nd-and 3rd tones of the G major scale)

So now we can see that the chord progression here will be:

G Major-D Major-e minor-C Major
G Major-D Major-b minor-C Major

Again...these chord changes happen on beat one of each bar, each chord
getting 4 beats, or one chord per bar.

Now picking out the melody will be done by ear. Listen to the melody...maybe
sing along. Once it is in your head, sit at the keyboard and pick out the
melody notes. Having the lyric sheet might be helpful. This is a fairly
simple melody most of which is based on only 5 notes. (All in the G major

To begin play a G Major chord-the first chord of the song.  Hint: the first
note of the melody is one of the notes in the G major triad.  Melodies are
often found inside the chord’s triad (or one tone away)...not always...but
it is a good place to start looking. Ear training, identifying intervals, is another
great skill to have and will streamline this process.  You may want to ask your
teacher about this or search out info on ear training exercises. I highly
recommend this!

Play the chord progression as you look and listen for the melody. This may
take some time, but remember that you are getting familiar with the building
blocks of the song, which will help you to create your own version of the
song as you go along. This exercise will also help you get started writing
your own songs.

Move on to the chorus of the song once you have the verse’s melody in hand.
(You may want to change the melody slightly from verse to verse...but it is
pretty much the same all the way through!)

Do the same exercise for figuring out the chorus.  Hint: The first four notes of
the melody are all suspended over one bass note (also called a pedal tone). The
bass rocks back and forth for two bars on an octave C...the chords played over
that are D Major-C Major-D major-C Major7 followed by two bars of G Major...
and then all of this is repeated and ends with what is know as a turnaround, a
series of chords that lead us back to the verse. Our turnaround is made up of the
three major chords found in our key (G Major) See if you can hear that and find
those yourself!

Once we have the basic melody and chord progression in hand, it is time to
see what we might want to do to arrange this song to our liking.

Here are the parts of this song we will want to identify and this will make up
our song’s arrangement pattern (keep in mind that many of these parts are
repeated patterns i.e. the melody-the chorus-the interlude-and the turnaround
are all repeated.)
1. The intro (uses the same chords as the verse)
2. Verse 1 (Melody starts here.)
3. Verse 2 (same chords and melody)
4. The interlude (same chord progression as the verse)
5. Verse 3 (same chords with added left hand movement.)
6. The chorus (has it’s own chord progression played twice)
7. A short turnaround (taking us back to the verse chords)
8. Repeat intro (same chord progression as the verse)
9. Verse 4 (same chords and melody as other verses)
10. Verse 5 (same chords and melody as other verses)
11. Repeated chorus (same chords and melody as first chorus)
12. Repeated turnaround (same as before)
13. Interlude...improvisation optional...use verse chords.
14. Tag/Ending (continue verse title/hook melody, 'Don’t Stop
Believing' etc, over the verse to end)

The rest is up to you! The tempo, the key, your dynamics, and the overall
feeling and vibe you want your version to have. Playing along with a recording
of the song at home can also be a great way to learn the piece and have some
fun in the process!

I also suggest you find a way to record your arranging and writing sessions
so you don’t lose any great ideas. You will find that going back to these
recorded sessions will help you to pick up where you left off as these
session can go off and on for days and even weeks. And remember have fun!!!


A simple way to transpose your song is to use the number system that has
been a standard method used especially by studio musicians who need to
sometimes quickly transpose a song for a singer that is having difficulty
singing in the key they have started with.

This number method of notating chord changes will work in all keys. You just
need to know how to play all your chords and scales...easy right? :-)
For example, the rock band Journey's original song, 'Don't Stop Believing', is
in the key of E Major. (Glee’s version is in G Major.)

The verse chord changes begin with this simple chord sequence:

E Major, B Major, c# minor, A Major

Looking at these first four chords let’s assign a number which corresponds
to the scale sequence they fall into.

E Major = 1, as it is the first note of the E major scale. B is the 5th note
of the E major scale, so our B Major chord = 5. C# is the 6th tone of the
scale and A is the 4th tone.

So using this system our first four chord changes can be noted as:

1-5-6 min-4

or you may also use roman numerals:

I -V-VI min-IV

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Going from Classical to Pop (part one.)

How to take a popular song, learn it by ear, and arrange it to fit your
playing style and ability.

I could easily write a book on this subject...but here now are my beginning
thoughts to help get you started.  Part one will give you an overview of the
process...part two will show you the process and how to get started actually
doing this!

Start by picking a popular song you enjoy and really want to learn to play
in your own way.  This can be done without written music...we are going to
try learning the song by ear, and then do our own arrangement of the arrangement that fits our style and playing ability.  We will use
the song, 'Don't Stop Believing' originally by the rock band Journey, and
now again made popular by the cast of television's 'Glee'.

If a song has been recorded and covered by multiple artists, you might want
to listen to these various versions...see what you like or don't like in
these.  I also recommend finding the original artist's recording so you can
get the essence of the song in question.  Your version may end up sounding
like the original, or you may want to transform the piece into your own
invention...changing the key, tempo, chord structure, and even the melody.  This is
all up to you and where you want the song to go!

Begin by listening closely to the song¹s melody. It may also help if you
have the lyrics printed out to reference the melody too.  Also, listen to
the underlying chord progression. Notice that the verse chords change once
every bar in this song. See if you can hear the bass notes of the chords as
they go by. Often times, by either playing a major or minor chord over the
bass line, you will start to find your chord progression...but this is NOT
fool proof...just a way to get started. More on this later!

The chord progression of any song is really the foundation on which you add
the melody and any other embellishments.  If you enjoy improvising within a
song, you will most likely do this over this same chord progression.  Any
song's chord progression is comparable to the foundation of a building. 
You start with the foundation, and then everything else is added to it.

Many songs pop and otherwise, use very standard predictable chord
progressions.  Of course you can re-harmonize the song using different and
alternate chord changes that still support the melody, but I recommend
finding out the original song's chord structure first before you alter it.
As it is said, best to learn the rules before you try and break the rules. :-)

Note: If you find it impossible to hear the chord changes of any given song,
you most likely could find a simple chord chart on the internet, but be
forewarned that many chord charts can be over simplified and even sometimes
include the wrong chords.

You will also gain valuable insights into song writing by looking and
listening to all variety of songs; pop, rock, folk, hymns, and even jazz
standards, analyzing the chord structures they are built on.  And as I said,
many songs rely on simple tried and true chord progressions, so after
awhile, you will begin to see similar and even identical chord progressions
being used.  You can even take these same chord progressions and by adding
your own melodies and rhythms, write your own songs!

Note: part 2 will deal with figuring out our song's chord progression and
melody and then putting our song¹s arrangement together...from the the ending!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ten Grands ‘A Must See Concert Event!’

Ten Grands features ten grand pianos and ten concert pianists playing a variety of classical and modern pieces both simultaneously and individually. Presented just once a year in Portland Oregon at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, and in Seattle at the world class Beneroya Hall.

I 'm proud to be a part of this amazing event...and have been for the past twelve years! The music highlights many of our young up and coming musicians; it's inspirational!

Concert proceeds benefit The Snowman Foundation (over two million dollars to date!), which in turn benefits youth service groups, helps generate scholarships and music lessons for disadvantaged youth in the Northwest and helps purchase pianos for schools and organizations in need.

What began as the vision of my friend, Michael Allen Harrison, Northwest composer and pianist, has evolved into a community effort that shares the joy, the healing, the learning, and the life-changing gifts music has to offer. The Snowman Foundation was formed in September of 1999 to promote the musical arts in the Pacific Northwest.

The Foundation's primary source of funding comes from fundraising events such as the annual "Ten Grands" concerts, as well as recordings, theater productions, and small concerts. Proceeds from these events support our schools, our children, and our community through the following:

  • Musical instruments, materials, and supplies for members of targeted groups
  • Performing arts lessons for members of targeted groups
  • Scholarships for laboratory studies in the performing arts
  • Artist-in-resident grants for targeted groups
  • Grants to fund production and travel costs to bring performing arts productions to target groups
  • Encouragement of multi-generational and multi-cultural interaction in artistic productions

School budget cuts continue to increase the demand for foundation funds and services. Over one half of our community's elementary schools have lost their music programs. To address this void, The Snowman Foundation launched a campaign to bring the music back to places where it has been dearly missed and desperately needed.

This event will hopefully be embraced in other cities around the country soon but for now its Seattle and Portland Oregon. I can’t encourage you enough to attend one of these concerts, and or make a donation in support of our children’s musical future!

For more information on donations…

A few videos on YouTube from various Ten Grands performances....

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Many songs have chord progressions that use this movement in creating chord
progressions that move up in intervals of fourths:

C-F-Bb-Eb or down C-G-D-A-E

This is used in my piece Cristofori¹s Dream. The chord progression used in
the chorus moves up in intervals of fourths and looks like this:

D Major - g minor - C Major - F Major - Bb Major

Exercise: Try playing a Major chord then move a fourth up and play a minor
chord and continue this pattern moving through all 12 notes.

Starting with C Major it will look like this:

C Maj - f min - Bb Maj - eb min - Ab Maj - db min - Gb Maj - b min -

E maj - a minor - D Maj - g minor - C Maj

Here it is starting on the relative minor:

a min- D Maj - g min - C Maj - f min - Bb Maj - eb min -

Ab Maj - db min - Gb Maj - b min - E Maj - a minor -

Also try this with all Major chords and try going the other direction as well:

C- G- D- A- E- B- F#- C#- G#- D#- A#- F- C

This info works in combination with the Minor Chord info...


In the material on chords...I want to make sure you know how to make a diminished or
augmented chord. The diminished chord is a series of minor thirds (one on top of another) i.e.

A-C-Eb-Gb (this is the A diminished chord)

G-Bb-Db-E (this is the G diminished chord)
or.... augmented chords are built with major intervals stacked one on another i.e.

C-E-G# (C augmented)

D-F#-A# (D augmented)

Another handy, more practical chord is the half diminished i.e.

d- f- a flat- c- (d- half diminished...or also known as d minor 7 flat 5)

These chords are prevalent in jazz chord progressions...especially in what is known as the 2-5-turn around. (Usually resolving on the 1 chord)

In C Major, that would be:

(2) dm7-5 (5) G7 (1) C Major...the numbers relate to the

position in the scale the note occupies:

d is the second note in C Major... g is the fifth note in C Maj etc...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

George Harrison's Day

George Harrison’s many contributions have been generally underrated and overshadowed, in part, by the other geniuses around him...namely John Lennon and Paul McCartney. No need to go into all that here, except to say that we may have not embraced world music, meditation, yoga, and experienced epic Super Star, socially driven, ‘Live Aid’ type rock concerts without George Harrison leading the way; ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ was the very first of these.

The song ‘Sir George...Liverpool Farewell’, from the CD ‘Here Comes the Sun’, began as my sole musical tribute to George Harrison. Using the type of chords he was prone to use, diminished and augmented, chords that had fallen out of favor in pop music, gives this piece a subtle Harrison sound similar to his 70’s hit song, ‘Isn’t It a Pity’.

Later in the studio as the arrangement and production of Sir George developed, I expanded the concept of this piece as a tribute to include the other George...Sir George Martin, the brilliant producer who was instrumental in guiding the overall revolutionary sound the Beatles created in the studio.

But today is George Harrison’s here is the stripped down solo piano version of my song for the quiet, and the spiritual Beatle...the late and very great, George Harrison!

P.S. If you are interested in the spiritual side of George Harrison, I can highly recommend the book ‘Everyday Mystic’...and I may write a review of that for another blog entry in the future.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Little Bit About Melody

The melody of your song is what most people will remember, and really is the heart and soul of the composition.  There are a few rules and guidelines that help in writing a good melody.  Ask yourself, is it catchy and singable?

This can be equated with repetition and flow.  Does it have shape, develop thematically, and is it dynamic?  The bottom line is does it create an emotional response?  Does it tell a story and invite listeners on a journey?  And most importantly, can you hum or whistle your melody when away from the piano? 

Getting started.

Nothing replaces the ‘inspired’ melody, but that is between you, your soul, and your imagination.  While you are waiting for inspiration to strike, sometimes a simple chord progression will give you a clue to help start your melody, other times, it may just be more intuitive.  Improvising over a chord progression, or just humming or playing along until an interesting phrase catches your ear can also be a good way to start.  Be aware that melodies don’t always start at the piano.  They may pop into your head at anytime or, anywhere!  Although we want some repetition, it’s a fine line between catchy, and annoying so we need to give it SOME variety as well.  Changing dynamics within the melody, loud and soft accents, using harmonic and key changes, speeding up, slowing down, pauses, playing some sections in a different rhythm while keeping the same notes etc. and adding harmony to some of the notes to create texture are things to keep in mind. 

Rhythm is a very key element of your melody!

Try tapping out the melody as if it is being played on a drum.  Does is flow and have a groove, or does it seem a little jumpy?  If the song is an instrumental, and your melody seems a little awkward, you might try making up words just to see how it sings.  If you are writing lyrics, try removing any words that are not absolutely essential.  You might need to even out your melody.  Often times just changing the rhythm by removing (or adding notes) can smooth it out, but less is usually more.

I have spent years listening to the melodies of many great songwriters, analyzing those, and then writing my own.  Keep listening to uncover the patterns and shapes great melodies have in common and in the process discover what you like and don’t like about certain melodies and of course keep writing your own! 

A little analysis.

In the song 'Cristofori's Dream' the melody is based on the scale tones of the key it is written, D-minor.  The verse uses the harmonic minor scale (D-E-F-G-A-Bb-C#), notice the melody follows these scale tones with a certain amount of repetition.  For a melody to really work, it has to have some degree of repetition.  Here the first 3 notes are repeated 3 times and then it continues up the scale adding a little variety and theme development.  Once the melody is stated, it repeats itself. Then the melody gets repeated again in the key of A-minor, and then the D-minor and the A-minor melodies are repeated AGAIN in a lower octave...repetition!  The melody of the chorus brings in chord tones (i.e. D-F#-A) which blend and flow nicely with the scale tones.  Writing large interval jumps in the melody usually is not a good idea.  The melody should be singable, and too many large jumps will make it awkward generally speaking.  That being said, in the song ‘Return to the Heart’, the melody begins with an octave jump from E up an octave to E ( Key of A Major).  This resolves to the 3rd of the key (C#) and is repeated 3 times.  The sound is pleasant and still melodic, so there are exceptions to every rule.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Using Your Musical Influences to Energize Your Piano Playing!

Your musical role models can inspire and impact how you play, perform, and if you dare...  how you might compose your own music!

Like the effect of our primary relationships with parents and families, our earliest relationships with music runs deep and may leave lasting impressions.

Among my influences in this regard, was the Beatles’ genius song writing team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney and band mate George Harrison.   

Numerous books and articles have been written pointing out the influence of the Beatles on modern day music, and their effect can be heard in the recordings of many contemporary music makers.   

(A case in point are my two latest projects, ‘Here Comes the Sun’, and the 2010 release, ‘Liverpool, Re-Imagining the Beatles’.)

It is very flattering to hear that my own original music and style of playing has been a strong influence on many other pianists. However this is cause for me to point out my own, as well as my role model’s musical roots, so that all these elements may be uncovered, explored, and understood more fully.

Looking closely at the Beatles, you will find they were highly influenced by American Rhythm & Blues Rock and Roll, Big Band, and English Dance Hall music.  

Some of the classical touches in their recordings, like the string quartet used in the songs Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby, were due in large part to their producer, George Martin, who’s own classical training and roots mingled with the Beatles song writing, and studio experimentation, helping to shape their overall sound.

This classical influence I heard in the Beatles, and in other 60¹s rock recordings, later helped re-kindled my love for the real classical masters, which in turn had a definite effect on my approach to composing for the piano.

I guess you could say that the Beatles brought me back to Beethoven :-)

It is an interesting journey tracing back your own musical roots, but very important to also follow and identify your role model’s role models.

As a teenager when I listened to the Beatles, I was not aware of all the different ingredients in their sound...but like a good stew, many ingredients come together to make up the whole. And in turn, if we can trace back our influences, this process will enrich our experience and deepen our appreciation for what has come before.

I point all of this out to encourage you to allow different musical styles and composers, to inspire and shape your own musical pursuits, not only in learning to play their music, but even trying your hand at composing with these different styles and influences in mind.

It may take you years of playing, as it did for me, to discover your own unique musical voice, but by playing music you love, experimenting with writing your own, and challenging yourself by trying different styles of playing, you can keep your enthusiasm and excitement for the piano alive and well!

David Lanz

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Cristofori's Dream

As the music begins we find our selves in little Italian village. It is the
1700's. The sun is going down and the stars are coming out.  Looking through
a leaded glass window we see Cristofori hard at work in his harpsichord
shop. (picture Walt Disney's Geppeto)

It has been a rather long and frustrating day for Cristofori as he has been
putting in long hours and hoping for a breakthrough on his new invention
(which will eventually transform the harpsichord into his imagined piano

With the days work done, Cristofori puts his tools aside, lays his head down
on his workbench, and falls to sleep.

As Cristofori sleeps, he begins to dream. And as the music continues, two
beautiful dream goddesses appear. Through their impressionistic dance and a
dream sequence,  Cristofori is shown the evolution his invention will go
through in the next several hundred years. He is also given a sense of the
tremendous impact the piano will have on the world of music.

Eventually Cristofori finds himself standing in a balcony overlooking a
beautiful concert hall. Center stage is a 9' concert grand piano and a full
symphony orchestra which are now playing together as the piece is reaching
it's musical peak.

As  the peak is reached, everything begins to slowly spin and spiral
downwards. Cristofori awakes very inspired by his dream and even though it
is still the middle of the night, he relights his candle, reaches for his
tools, and goes back to work.

Now the music slowly begins to wind down much like a child's music
box.....and as the very last chord of the song sounds...Cristofori's
harpsichord... changes magically into a piano.....Cristofori's Dream.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Night Thoughts of a Baffled Humanist

I was talking to a long time friend a few days ago about the current state of affairs that not only our nation faces but that the planet as a whole faces, i.e., the economy, the worldwide demonstrations, pollution, etc... He mentioned that he was going to send me an article but forewarned me that it was a bit long and difficult at times but that he thought I would appreciate.

I found this article very interesting and wanted to pass it on in part because I thought it covers so much that we take for granted and also because it is so well written… It was written by Marilynne Robinson who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2005...

Night Thoughts of a Baffled Humanist
By Marilynne Robinson

This brings me back to the subject of competition, great ally of austerity. There is the ancient habit of competition among nations, for the biggest fleet, for access to commodities, for colonies, for the technologies of warfare. Even cultural competition is ancient; for example, the Roman desire for an epic to compare with Homer’s. I know Americans are supposed to believe in competition. I think it is wasteful and undignified in most cases.

Our competition with the Russians, insofar as it was cultural, was harmless to moderately beneficial. Insofar as it was military, it was disastrous for both sides. I am speaking of those stockpiles and everything that has gone into the making of them. But the story that has currency is that we competed with the Russians and we won. So there is a heightened and ongoing zeal for competition, without a continental power on the other side of the earth to dignify the role of competitor. Since September 11, 2001, some have attempted to put radical Islam in the place of godless communism. But the Muslim world is too diverse, too important to Western interests, too indifferent to the Tchaikovsky competition and speed skating, to fill the role. In need of the focus that comes with having an alien and threatening government to contend with, an appreciable number of Americans choose to consider their government alien and threatening, and, for good measure, socialist. Again, this kind of thinking is eminently compatible with austerity, as the redistributive activities of government are exactly what they choose to be austere about. Other alternatives include returning tax rates for the very wealthy to historically typical levels and cutting subsidies to oil companies. Or there could be a candid admission that the responsibilities of the government involve it in great expense. None of these options ignite populist zeal. This is reserved for attacks—call them “austerities”—directed toward public schools, Social Security, national healthcare, the laws that protect air and water quality.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Notes on Composing…

My own process in becoming a composer was really through osmosis.  My early musical influences fed the fires of inspiration and motivated me to begin writing my own songs.  Those were very primitive to start with, but as my experience and influence widened, my attempts at composing followed suit.  I never received any formal training in composing, my process began at 10 years of age, and I’ve spent a lot of time using trial and error as a method as well as imitating my favorite songwriters as I went along.  If you want to fast track your composing skills, you may want to investigate the many books and methods available that will help you to understand the rules and ways of composing.  Of course having a sense and knowledge of music theory is also highly recommended.

I must say that nothing really beats listening to the masters as a way of ear training and inspiration...masters in all genres...allowing their music to really get under your skin, giving you excellent examples of well written material and templates you can use for your own attempts. There is nothing wrong with imitating and even attempting to re-write a piece you love in order to discover the structure, form, and flow of the piece.  Learning to dissect songs...discovering chord progressions, keys, scales and modes used to create the melodies, will get you headed in the right direction.

You may ask yourself; OK... so what shall I compose? Where do I find inspiration?  Do my compositions need to be about anything?

Life experience, your relationships with friends, family, and loved ones...this is rich ground from which to gather emotions that can be translated into music.  Your spiritual life and connection to the soul and so called higher realms can also serve as great jumping off points for your composing.

Many composers, including myself, have also found inspiration in concepts and themes i.e., mythology and religious stories, world and social events, holidays, famous people etc.  This is sometimes referred to as program music.

And there is also what some serious composers would call music for music sake.  Music that just flows, creating its own conversation, with no serious subject matter or concepts to express, just the sound and texture of music making its own way...a world of sound unto itself.

To create a memorable piece of music, a piece that really connects to your audience is a worthwhile goal.  You may be able to create music that has this effect, but there are no guarantees.  However, the muse may touch you on the shoulder someday and inspiration may strike! However...if you are not prepared or if you have not at least begun to do the work...the muse may smile and laugh as it disappears... and you will have to wait for another day.... a day when hopefully you are more prepared.  :-)       

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Spiritual Significance Of Music

Music, like spirit, is invisible. Yet it moves us to sing, dance, laugh,
cry, even march to war, to heal, and pray, Music has the power to bring
thousands of people together to celebrate. What else in life has this power?
Everything on this Earth eventually crumbles and returns to the dust of which
it was made. Only Spirit remains. Great music endures centuries, outliving it’s
creators and performers. Music, being so related to spirit, is not only a
wonderful tonic, but an inspirational force and powerful ally that can lead one
out of spiritual darkness alleviating emotional, physiological, and physical pain;
restoring and refreshing the soul. Is it the voice of God? The sound of nature?
Music, like spirit, like God, is indeed invisible and humankind will be wise to
recognize it’s healing and spiritual significance, and they need only to listen!