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this is supposed to be a picture of my two hands on a piano keyboard
New recording every Tuesday
  Index of MP3 recordings

The thing with the rodent predicting the weather and how it has to do with baby Jesus

customs are strange things

striking a chord

blogs obsessed with a single, singular harmony:

The Sound of nostalgia  
striking the chords of memory

Notes on a Very Polite Train Wreck
no ears were harmed during the playing of this V7 chord!

Did Massenet really mean that chord or should I improve it for him?

The hymn tune with the funny name (you know, that one!)
Does it take a rogue person to write rogue harmonies?

 Don't your fingers get tired?

A question and answer page for the curious...

this is supposed to be a picture of some dude playing the piano in front of a stained glass window!
 Wedding pages
These are some of my former piano students from Baltimore. Can't see them? sorry about that.
 for students:
 Musical Games 

 Erasmus's blog:
In Praise of Chicken

 Mike's Ballpark
 hotdog review

The Global
Hall of Fame

This week's featured recording:

Traumerei (dreams)
by Robert Schumann

If you find yourself feeling a strong urge to hibernate during these winter months in the Northern Hemisphere (and you can't go to Florida with half of our congregation at Faith UMC) here is something to help. It is the most famous of the 13 miniatures that make up Robert Schumann's delightful "Scenes from Childhood." It is followed by a musical reminiscence of that great winter sport, sitting by the fireplace.

Am Kamin (by the fireside)

If you find yourself wanting more, you can listen to the entire set (it's only 15 minutes) here.
upcoming events:
   "Taste of Champaign" with TimeZone, 5-7pm, Thursday, Feb. 11 Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Champaign, IL
New on the Blog   (updated Feb. 2)  
from the concert hall... Monday 1/25/16
OK, but when is this thing gonna be over?
novelty wears off after a while
from the teaching studio... Wednesday 1/27/16
There's always room for one more
Do you have to play the notes, all the notes, and nothing but the notes?
from the organ bench... Friday 1/29/16
for organists -- Changing the culture at your church (part two)
maybe awkward teens are just organists in training...
for February 2

Bless the recording stars and the children
first posted October 31, 2009

Everybody has to be a star.

In the spring it's usually the birds. They don't have to start from scratch every year like some other critters, and, like star performers, they come prepared to sing their favorite arias almost immediately. They are quick studies, and they know it, and they want you to know it. And to know they know you know it. And they sing loud.

The reason this is an issue is that I have my own recording equipment, and will often drop in a recording I've made myself on this website. It loses something in sound quality, particularly if I haven't figured out where to put the microphone, but it gains something in not having to book studio time or be especially prepared with a piece I'm just learning (if it's no good I can throw it out and haven't lost anything). I'll probably replace most of the amateur recordings on this site with professional ones sooner or later, though every once in a while I get lucky and the results aren't too bad. But do those darned birds have to be in it? It is solo repertoire, after all. I tried explaining that to them, but they don't seem to care.

From about mid-July through October, it is the crickets. There is one that takes up residence just outside one of the windows in our church sanctuary, and likes to keep time. Actually, it's more like one of those avant-garde experiments with going in and out of phase that was popular in the 60s. Cricket-phase, I think.

You can hear the resident cricket most prominently in a recording of a strange little piece I made four years ago of Erik Satie's Prayer For the Health of My Friend from Mass for the Poor. I imagine many of my friends could use prayers for their health these days, as do I. That virus (not the flu) that seems to be the very thing these days (all the kids have it) has given me a lot not to be able to talk about.

Besides that recording for piano and obbligato cricket, there is that prelude I played earlier this month by Michael Praetorius. I started the month by playing 400 year old organ music from Germany. More recently, I've been posting ragtime (without much comment from my supporting cast of creatures). On the Praetorius recording you can hear birds chirping about 5 minutes in. This is partly because I positioned microphone in the back of the church, because up front it was getting sounds from the organ's playing mechanisms that was disruptive. The sound seems to be better in the back. I guess the birds think so too, which is why they've got a nest back there.

Not that the birds or the crickets completely drown the organ; they are not really that much worse behaved than the average symphony audience. For real disruption, though, you can't beat the experience of one of my teachers while recording a CD professionally in Cleveland. They chose Labor Day weekend for the event, which is, if you are trying to record something in Cleveland, a very bad idea. Cleveland likes to host a little thing they call the Air Show every year at that time. I don't know whether everyone concerned realized this before or after the Blue Angels made their first pass over the recording studio. But it did cause some stoppages in the sessions.

I guess I shouldn't get that worked up, then, when somebody drops a pile of lumber in the sanctuary during a recording (in case you wondered what that loud noise was near the end of Summo Parenti Gloria. That recording also dates from my first year in Illinois, when we were having the roof replaced. One of my first times practicing the organ in our sanctuary featured some tiles being dropped on the roof right above the organ. It sounded like Armageddon localized directly over my head. Particularly since I didn't even know they were up there (why couldn't I get a still, small, voice?).

By the way, I should mention that the Champaign/Urbana area has suffered a plague of ladybugs recently. I don't mind them that much, really. They are well-behaved, meaning they don't make any noise, and they generally go about their business, which is a pleasant mystery to me. They actually seem like they are in town for a convention rather than plotting a blight on humanity. Currently they are just having meetings about it. If I were Pharaoh, and Moses gave me a choice of plagues, I'd go with ladybugs. We've had gnats already this year, and they are far more of a nuisance.

Winter is coming, and with it the lesser challenge to recording sanity. The crickets will stop chirping--even they have grown tired of meditating on the same note night after night. The birds will be at their time shares in Florida; the only sounds will be the constant humming of the heating system, filling in the awful void that actual quiet might create. I have a way to filter that out in recordings, though, but if I have to do too much of it is distorts the sound. I'm not complaining about the heat, though. I used to have to play in winter with a heavy coat on. I can still attribute the missed notes in an early recording to the stiffness of the coat I was wearing at the time. Of course, there was that recent recording I made with a fly buzzing around my head (that takes concentration!)--one of my sessions was interrupted by a couple of guys coming in to change a light bulb (twenty feet above the floor). Life goes on, in endless variety.

Some days incidents like this are just funny, but we are taught to be goal-oriented in this society, and there are times I just want to make a decent product and not spend all morning trying to get it to go. I'd prefer to record without the constant comments from nature's peanut gallery, just as I'd prefer not to miss notes. But I'm reminded of a Muslim quilt maker who intentionally mars each of his creations because it reminds him that only God is perfect. I don't have to try, usually. The mistakes happen, and the crickets want to be backup singers, and it provides an interesting diary of what time of year it was and what I was doing with my life at the time when I listen to it later. I've noticed several of the recordings I made while in Baltimore have sirens in the background, because you couldn't go thirty seconds without an ambulance screaming down the street. Humanity puts out a lot of noise, particularly when its members are in trouble. But the birds and the crickets go on singing whatever their lot. Come to think of it, so do we.