Being online is a full-time job

I think twice about switching on my Mac powerbook and going online. There are several reasons for this hesitation. The biggest one is that it’s hard to switch off. Before long, I am online the entire day.

I think twice about switching on my Mac powerbook and going online. There are several reasons for this hesitation. The biggest one is that it’s hard to switch off. Before long, I am online the entire day.

Take today, for instance.

Just after 3 pm, I turned on the computer to get the addresses of the two enthusiastic fans who wanted to order signed copies of our new duo CD. I logged into Naxos CD Online so I could listen to Albeniz’ Tango which I played yesterday. I wanted to hear someone else’s interpretation.

While online, I decided to check my Concertblog statistics to see if it would hit 13,000 visitors today. Seeing that it was getting very close, I thought of writing a blog about yesterday’s meeting with an American singer/songwriter and his wife. When I tweeted the resultant blog, I saw a few things on Twitter that lured me to click and read on.

I went into Facebook to see if my tweets propagated. I thanked the friend who introduced me to the singer/songwriter. I thanked her friend and told the short story of how one thing led to another. This is about the Netherlands, Utah, Seattle, and 28 years ago in Okinawa.

I learned a thing or two about social media strategies for musicians and planning recitals, thanks to the clarinettist and blogger that I follow on Twitter. His blog links led me to new websites about how to succeed in the music business, a subject I find wondrously fascinating and remarkably mesmerising.

Many e-mails and several blogs later, it’s 11:28 pm.

There was just a short cycle ride to post one package of CDs to Virginia, a break for noodles and ice cream, and no time to practise the piano.

Rotary visit to Galerie Utrecht a.k.a Morren Galleries

What do art galleries have to do with music? Scanning the 16-page “Galerie Utrecht Journal” issue June – August 2010, I see the world of contemporary art in Utrecht and elsewhere. How nice it would be to have my own equivalent for music — a Monument House Music Journal and a big mailing list. Would it also take 18 years to build?

In the summer months, the attendance at my International Rotary Club in Utrecht dwindles because people go on holiday. The regular fortnightly dinner meetings are suspended in July and August, making way for special excursions that individual members propose.

One such event, organised by our youngest club member Sophie from New Zealand, was a private tour of the largest contemporary art gallery in Utrecht. She even brought nice wines for an elegant gathering on a warm summer’s eve.

What do art galleries have to do with music? Our experience of giving a small concert in the art gallery in Brugge, Belgium made us curious — can music attract people to come to an exhibition? It’s less formal than a concert hall.

Strategically situated in a corner building on the south end of the famous Oudegracht, Galerie Utrecht spans two floors – the ground floor and the lower ground (or canal level). The owner Eric Morren told us that it would soon be renamed with his surname for Galerie Utrecht has locations in Amsterdam on the prestigious Prinsengracht and elsewhere.

Morren led us through the gallery, introducing various paintings and sculptures on display. I truly value a guided tour by someone who knows the artists so intimately. I could see why the sale prices ranged from 500 to 10,000 euros. By telling us the reputation of the artists and the techniques they used, he educated us about art. He explained that the prices displayed were the minimum prices. I didn’t understand that — no haggling?

18 years ago Morren started the gallery with an exhibition in his one-room art studio downstairs. Over time, he gradually acquired more space and expanded to the two floors and beyond. He has a huge mailing list and his own publication. There is even a state-of-the-art kitchen downstairs for culinary events via FoodJazz&DJS.

Anne Ku outside Gallerie Utrecht in the Netherlands, 13 July 2010
Anne Ku outside Gallerie Utrecht in the Netherlands, 13 July 2010

Every single item in Morren’s art gallery has personal meaning to him, because he has gone through the process of obtaining the artwork for exhibition. He has developed relationships with the artists. In a similar vein, every single item in our homes bears meaning to ourselves in the same way. Perhaps that’s why it’s difficult to part with them.

I spotted a huge painting on the way to the toilet. It was nearly hidden in the small hallway where there was hardly any space to view the large painting. The price tag was €34,000. I asked him if that was the most expensive item on sale. Morren replied,”No. That’s not for sale. I own it. I just didn’t have anywhere in my house to put it.”

Scanning the 16-page “Galerie Utrecht Journal” issue June – August 2010, I see the world of contemporary art in Utrecht and elsewhere. How nice it would be to have my own equivalent for music — a Monument House Music Journal and a big mailing list. Would it also take 18 years to build? It’s already our 5th year of Monument House Concert productions.

Completing the trio: music, barbecue, and acrobatics

I called it “Completing the trio.” I just needed a violinist to complete my duo with French horn and my duo with cellist. The Dutch violinist who opened the music gates for us in Taiwan was returning to the Netherlands for a short vacation. I decided to make an event of it.

Some of the best memories I have are not recorded on photo, audio, or video. For this reason, I blog as a kind of bookmark — to trigger the memories and to never forget. How could I forget sitting at the piano, playing the Brahms horn trio, the Mendelssohn piano trios, and Piazzolla piano trio versions of his Four Seasons?

That afternoon of Thursday 15th July 2010 was a special one for me.

I called it “Completing the trio.” I just needed a violinist to complete my duo with French horn and my duo with cellist. The Dutch violinist who opened the music gates for us in Taiwan was returning to the Netherlands for a short vacation. I decided to make an event of it.

Once we started playing the trios, I realised that it was the most wonderful thing to play and experience chamber music. The sound was overwhelming and all encompassing. Had I discovered chamber music earlier, I would majored in music instead of engineering. Chamber music didn’t exist in my childhood on Okinawa. The closest thing was quatre main — piano duets. I played the keyboard in various bands, but that was not chamber music.

To entice the musicians to come to this “Completing the Trio” event, I organised a barbecue. I marinated spareribs in a special spicy Asian mix. I defrosted several dozen giant tiger prawns. I prepared Chinese cold noodles in the fridge. It was just a get-together for my indulgence in music — not a concert by any means.

I wanted to keep it small, intimate, and manageable. Just the 3 musicians plus me and Robert, that way I could focus on the music.

I tried to resist inviting others to this indulgent day of music and barbecue. I failed.

In the end, I invited my friend Kristen from Atlanta whom I hadn’t seen in 2 years. I invited a Hawaiian artist and his Dutch partner, both of whom I had never met but was very curious after reading his art catalogue.

The phone rang unexpectedly that afternoon. “I heard you’re having a rehearsal. We’d like to come to hear you. There are five of us. May we come to hear you?” News leaked of our musical gathering. “It’s a rehearsal,” I said. “Not a concert. Bring some chicken for the barbecue.”

The guest list of 3 expanded to 12. There were 14 of us that day enjoying the music, the barbecue, and the acrobatics.

Anne balancing on Robert's knee with help of Emile and Annelies on 15 July 2010
Anne balancing on Robert's knee with help of Emile and Annelies on 15 July 2010

The hidden world of music

When you sit in front of a musician, charged with energy and intensity, telling you some of the juiciest, untold stories of his life, how he made it to who he is today, it really hits you in the head. We had a blind date with the American composer, pianist, and singer Rich Wyman. With great enthusiasm, the 7-time ASCAP award winning singer/songwriter from Park City, Utah started recounting the day he decided to become a full-time musician.

When you sit in front of a musician, charged with energy and intensity, telling you some of the juiciest, untold stories of his life, how he made it to who he is today, it really hits you in the head. “Wow! I’m so lucky to be sitting here, in a private audience, to hear him off-stage. How many others get to hear this? ”

But then, I’m a musician with lots of stories. I discovered that the life of a musician is full of interesting tales of the hiccups along the way, the strange experiences and life stories of people he meets and encounters in his travels. Every single concert has its own untold stories. We learn from them. They become the stuff of legends.

Yesterday we drove nearly 2 hours east to give concerts in two locations in the same village of Warnsveld in the Dutch province of Gelderland. Since we had forgotten what exactly we played in those concerts in late May, we decided to inject several guitar and piano solos for variety’s sake. It was the 200th birthday of Albeniz, Schumann, and Chopin — plenty of pieces to choose from.

As it was a hot day, I had brought along a plastic pitcher of iced tea. On the way to the refrigerator, the lady of the first house showed me the new apartment being made ready for a new resident. It’s the 14th ensuite room she said. You could hardly tell that this stately house of high ceilings in midst of a beautiful park was a place for the elderly.

We played in a corner room to an audience of 10. Once a month they gathered on a Friday afternoon for wine, coffee, tea, juice, and special snacks for a concert.

Just a short drive away was another house whose interior was more modern and the residents more alert. We played the “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” to open the half-hour first-half followed by the 25 minute “Grand Potpourri National.” It was time for intermission. Out came the “bitterballen” and other deep fried snacks on trolleys.

We played a further 15 minutes after the intermission. That was our day: a morning workout (yoga for me), a long drive, two concerts in a small village east of Zutphen, and a drive back to Utrecht.

I had arranged a 7:30 pm appointment in Doorn. We had a blind date with the American composer, pianist, and singer Rich Wyman and his wife Lisa, neither of whom we had never met.

They were nowhere to be found. In the reception (office) of the RCN Grote Bos, we tried to contact Rich. I had not taken down his Irish mobile telephone number which he had given to me in an e-mail. I tried to search for it on the slow computer without success. He had not checked into his bungalow. How were we to meet?

At 8 pm when we were just about to give up, a stocky man strolled into the office straight to where Robert and I sat. “I’m sorry I’m late,” he said. “I left my telephone at the last place where I played. We went to Amsterdam this afternoon. We’ve been stopping at payphones trying to ring you. But we kept running out of coins. See, I even wrote your phone number on my hand.”

It was a strange way to meet. I explained later that I had “friended” a neighbour whom I had last seen in Okinawa in 1982. Her father and mine were colleagues. We all lived in the same neighbourhood and went to the same schools. She wrote on Facebook that a musician friend of hers was touring the Netherlands in the summer.

Rich Wyman led us through the grounds of the Dutch resort to find the staff member with the key to his bungalow. He brought us to the on-site restaurant and introduced us to his wife who practices yoga. “Anne is a friend of your best friend whom she’s last seen 28 years ago.”

We lost track of time over cold beer, red wine, and deep fried meatballs. We saw what we wanted to order from the menu. By the time we flagged down a waiter, it was past 9 o’clock — the kitchen had closed. We drove to the nearest restaurant in Doorn. The kitchen had also closed. “This would never happen in the States I’m sure. You have to plan ahead in this country,” I said.

Anne Ku meets Rich Wyman at RCN Grote Bos, Doorn Netherlands
Anne Ku meets Rich Wyman at RCN Grote Bos, Doorn Netherlands

We finally found an Italian pizza restaurant at 10 pm. The owner was happy to serve us, their only customer on a Friday night. Robert chatted with him about brewing beer while I talked about my yoga experience with his wife. Eventually the four of us started talking together about the hidden world of music in America.

“What’s your secret?” I boldly asked.

With great enthusiasm, the 7-time ASCAP award winning singer/songwriter from Park City, Utah started recollecting the day he decided to become a full-time musician.

The value of signed CDs

What is the value of a signed CD? i.e. a CD signed by the artist(s)?

What does it represent? That you have been at their concerts? That you have met them in person?

Do signed CDs increase the value of the CDs?

Or do they trigger memories of your meeting?

What is the value of a signed CD? i.e. a CD signed by the artist(s)?

What does it represent? That you have been at their concerts? That you have met them in person? Or that you know the artists personally?

Do signed CDs increase the value of the CDs?

Or do they trigger memories of your meeting?

I have a signed CD of the late pianist Glenn Corneille. I didn’t know if he was famous when he was still alive or more famous after his death. I was simply introduced to him at a concert of his. A mere conversation gave me a feeling of what a nice person he was. He was an incredibly talented young man who died in a car accident before he became world famous. Every time I open the CD and turn it on, I am reminded of the great loss. When I see his signature, I remember that night when Robert Bekkers took me to see him play.

As we sign copies of our first CD before sending them by Dutch airmail to purchasers in Virginia and Houston, I wonder what would happen when we finally figure out a fast and efficient way to distribute signed copies of our CDs to those who request for them. Right now, our CDs are available through CDBABY unsigned.

Tomorrow afternoon, we will give a one hour concert in Amsterdam where we will also be signing and selling our CDs. Afterwards we will drink the organic wine on sale and eat and get to know our audience.

In the evening we will go to the free outdoor concert of the American singer songwriter Rich Wyman at RCN Grote Bos in Doorn, a village near where we live. I am sure we will be buying a signed copy of his CD — he has seven to sell.

A signed copy of a CD triggers the memory of your meeting and the event with the artist(s). And memories are priceless.