Earth Day ukulele workshop and jam

If we celebrate birthdays, why not one for Mother Earth? Every April 22nd, people all over the world celebrate Earth Day in different ways. While I was living on Maui, I started using music to gather community and raise awareness for sustainability through concerts and jam sessions. It’s a combination of entertainment and education. The last one was my piano class joining forces with the ukulele class (video below). This year, Earth Day falls on Sunday 22nd April 2018, and I’m determined to do something special.

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Making private space public

Eight years ago, I gave a paper on “house concerts for art music” to economists in love with music in Copenhagen. Today, Groupmuse is one of the grassroot initiatives that intermediates between artists and venue owners to realise such a concept. On Maui, I know of a clarinettist who produces these concerts from his home — always sold out. In and around Utrecht, I know of at least two. What are the issues that confront turning your private space into a concert venue for the public?

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Have ʻuke, will travel

Tiny Tenor of Romero Creations (mahogany)

This past January, I introduced myself in Joel Katz‘s intermediate ʻukulele class by announcing that I was downsizing from the nine foot grand piano to the less than two foot ʻukulele. People laughed.

Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t giving up the piano by any means. Rather, I was embracing the ʻukulele. It has my namesake after all: KU in ʻukulele.

In truth, I didn’t know what I was getting into. A few of my music students had shared their love of the instrument. One even gave me a hand-built ʻukulele stand as a parting gift. Eventually I succumbed to my usual thirst for novelty and variety.

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Facebook happenings

Record, store, and share what you want to remember on Facebook.

One way to learn what’s happening in other people’s lives nowadays is through Facebook.

Half of my friends on Facebook are musicians. The other are non-musicians. Through Facebook, I learn which conservatory classmates have graduated, have given standing ovation concerts, and have moved to another country. About a third of my “Facebook friends” are people I’ve not actually had a conversation face to face.

Today I spotted a wedding photograph of a young man I’ve known since he was not even born. I’ve not known or been part of his life in the last 10 years or so.  Perhaps that’s why I was not invited to the wedding. After all, I was a friend of his father and late mother. How I miss her! There were times when I really wished she was here to give me advice.

I’ve been trying to get my parents to use Facebook so that they can follow what’s happening. They resist. It’s either too private or too time consuming. Secretly I think that they’d rather do the traditional interaction of face to face.

For me, Facebook is a stage. I populate it with photos, videos, and trains of thought. It’s also storage for memories along the timeline.

I believe there’s a saying that goes something like this: “it hasn’t happened until it’s been recorded.”

What better way to record, store, and share what you want to remember than to post it on Facebook?!? If you change your mind, you can always delete it.

Adieu to a Steinway

Saying goodbye to a Steinway Grand by finding the next owner and avoiding the fate of the worst kind….

When we first received the Steinway, it took up a big corner of the house in Bussum. I was afraid it was too close to the fire place. Robert joked, “Well that’s a lot of wood to burn, for a long time.”

Throughout the years, from the Steinway Welkomfest in Bussum to our house concerts in Utrecht, visiting concert pianists brought out the depth and breadth of sound — warm nostalgic tones from the Romantic era.

As I scout the market for its next owner, I can’t help thinking that once again I am saying goodbye to a friend via cyberspace. I am unable to play it, caress it, or hear it. I am on the other side of the world, answering e-mail enquiries and writing to those who might have a hand in its future.

A friend sent me 4 consecutive e-mails of the following video from the New York Times. He really wanted to make sure I got it, I guess. It’s not a nice way to say goodbye, and I surely hope it will not be the death of mine.

Requiem for a Piano (video)

Another friend sent me the NY Times article that wrapped around the above video: For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump.

For sale: 1908-1909 New York Steinway model A, Utrecht, The Netherlands

Listen to me playing my Adieu to a Piano on every one of the 88 keys of the Steinway, saying goodbye to its predecessor in London. [MP3]

Adieu to a piano by Anne Ku
Adieu to a piano by Anne Ku (3 page PDF)

Independence Day

It’s 4th of July 2012 — my first in the USA in many years. The tweets I’m getting not only celebrate Independence Day but also energy independence. Wean ourselves off oil and gasoline. Welcome electric cars!

In thinking about independence, I also think about words like co-dependence. Financial independence. Emotional independence or detachment.

Are we ever really independent?

In chamber music, each instrument is an independent entity, producing an independent sound. The combined result, however, relies heavily on blending. This blending of independent sounds requires each musician to listen to each other and adjust to each other.

When we first started rehearsing Morton Feldman’s music for several pianos, we were only told to start together (the same note) and try to end together after 7 minutes. Although we were all following the same score, we decided on when and how long to play each note. We more or less tried to listen to each other to make sure we didn’t all play at the same time (after the first note). Ironically, at our last rehearsal, we were told that the composer did not want us to listen to each other at all. He did not want us to be affected by what others played, only to start at the same time and end after 7 minutes. We all had to play softly, so that the music sounded like echoes or ripples.

As for electric cars, by weaning ourselves off gasoline, we become dependent on electricity, which is generated from several other energy sources. Do we become more independent or dependent? At least we are not throwing all our eggs in one basket, ….. but in several baskets.

Surfers and Performers: a parallel universe?

A musician notices parallels in the worlds of surfers and performers.

Recently I came across an article entitled “The Surfer’s Guide to Personal Development.” The author Svrinas Rao, obviously a surfer, talks about lessons he learned as a surfer and how they apply to life.

Being a newcomer to the surfer capital of the world, I can’t help but be fascinated by the surfer culture here: the lingo, the way surfers check weather forecasts, the intricate network in which surfers monitor the waves and call each other up for updates. I’m intrigued by how keen they are to get up before dawn to catch a wave and how they talk enthusiastically about it afterwards.

How does this relate to the world I’m from?

Musicians have our own language. We get information about gig opportunities from other musicians or from participating in certain projects and ensembles. We observe certain etiquette — the way seasoned surfers acknowledge the line-up. Each concert is a real-time experience, just like catching a wave. Each wave is different. The acoustics are different. The audience is different. We have to be able to anticipate and cope with uncertainty. We embrace the unknown.

Rao talks about “being present.”  He translates this to mean “focus on what you’re doing now.” As performers, we can’t afford to be distracted by movements in the audience or unexpected and annoying flickering of light. We have to focus on the music, our playing, and delivering the best.

In his earlier article, Rao wrote “timing can make the difference between a great ride and a severe wipeout.” For us chamber musicians, it’s all about timing. That’s why we first establish the tempo and the rhythm. We have to be in sync even when we are slowing down, speeding up, or doing a rubato.

Here on Maui, I’ve seen men greet each other not just as teacher to student or salesman to customer but also as surfers who have shared a morning together. There is a comraderie built from years of surfing from the same beach. Perhaps these surfers who go to Utrecht, Netherlands will notice how my fellow musicians greet each other, from years of performing together.

Click here for a live webcam from Mama’s Fish House at Hookipa, Maui. Click here to read a sociological study of surfers.

Two year anniversary of Concert Blog today!

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo’s concertblog on began 2 years ago. Time to categorise the topics.

Hard to believe that it has been exactly 2 years since we launched the Concert Blog on to document our adventures and discoveries in music. Since our first blog on 24th March 2009, we have evolved from writing about our duo to reviewing concerts and sharing insights into cultural economics of concertizing.

The two-year journey has taken us from the Netherlands to England, Crete, Belgium, Spain, Finland, Denmark, Italy, France, Taiwan, and the USA. In addition to the musicians and composers who have actively contributed to our concertizing and exploration in the world of live and recorded music, we have worked with artists, photographers, film makers, and other interesting people from all walks of life to make concerts happen. What we learned, we shared. We are grateful to all the feedback from readers and audiences everywhere.

It is now time to categorise the different topics and make it easier for readers to access from our Blog Page.

Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Wailea, March 2011. Photo: Dennis O'Keefe
Bekkers Piano Guitar Duo in Wailea, 16 March 2011. Photo: Dennis O'Keefe

Time to celebrate! But Robert flies to Phoenix tonight and Anne to San Francisco in mid-May.