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.
The title “get the music to my orchestra” begs for attention. The orchestra produces music how does one get the music to the orchestra? Read about crowd funding that’s needed to get the scores to the orchestra.
An orchestra produces music. Why would you need to get music to the orchestra?
The title of Robert Bekkers’ crowd funding project begs attention. He needs to raise enough funds to rent the sheet music of the blind composer Joaquin Rodrigo’s “Concierto de Aranjuez” or the “Aranjuez Guitar Concerto” so that the musicians can read from the score and perform it for his Doctorate of Musical Arts recital at the New England Conservatory (NEC) in Boston on Sunday May 11th, 2014.
As preparation for her next concert of many hands on many pianos on 14th July 2012 in Maui, Anne Ku discovers other interpretations on the Internet.
In preparation for my next concert in mid-July on Maui, I decided to check out performances of the selected works on the Internet. The interpretations are much faster, crisper, and cleaner. It’s really hard to play fast, crisp, and clean —– that is, with many pianists on many different pianos.
Darius Milhaud’s Paris: Suite for 4 pianos spans different arrondissemont of Paris. I try to remember the Paris I know but I only remember Montmartre, L’ile Saint-Louis, and the Eiffel Tower from the 6 movements. I could not find a video clip of this fantastic work against the different scenes of Paris though the 2 on Youtube are sufficiently interesting. This piece is by far the most demanding of our entire 1.5 hour program.
Next, I looked for Gerald Busby’s Four! a statement for 4 pianos. Instead, I found Plucked — 15 hands on one piano. It’s a most remarkable and funny piece. If you have time to watch it, do enjoy the performance art.
Another 4 piano 8 hand piece is Wallace DePue’s 16 Pawns. It’s a short and fast one page work. No videos on the Internet. No background description. Perhaps we can get our own recording at the concert.
We will be playing two multi-hand pieces by Robert Pollock, founder and artistic director of Ebb & Flow Arts, the non-profit organization that is putting together this concert of Sunday 14th July 2012. The titles reveal just how many pianists and pianos. Five for Four. Three for Six. Answer: Five pianists on 4 pianos. Three pianos for Six hands.
I finally get to play a work of Morton Feldman, a composer I have heard much about but never studied. His “Piece for 4 Pianos” is interesting in that all pianists have the same score. It’s up to each pianist to decide when to play each note. Everything is soft. The result? a kind of rippling, echoey effect. Watch the meditative result below.
John Cage’s “Music for Piano” is another aleatory piece (one which the composer instructs the performer to decide on duration or other aspects of the composition). We each chose two consecutive pages from the album. It’s prepared piano at its best, though it would take about 30 minutes to prepare. We each have a bag of black rubber and white felt objects to insert between the strings of the piano for those notes we need to mute. The result? Texture that we’d otherwise not hear. Again, we decide when and how long to play each note. Last time we had agreed on the piece to last 7 minutes, but some of us were too fast and others too slow. It does take some practice to get 4 pianists to end at the same time.
Below is one interpretation of John Cage’s “Music for Piano”
Sadly there is not enough music for many pianos. Ebb & Flow Arts commissioned composer Thomas Osborne to write one for us. The mp3 version of his “Canyons” for four pianos is very powerful. I will try playing it today.
Luckily there is plenty of fun pieces for two pianos and even two pianists on one piano. As 14th July is Bastille Day, we decided to choose works of French composers. Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite; Faure’s Dolly Suite; and Debussy’s Petite Suite.
I am so glad to be able to participate this time. Last year my multi-hands on one piano work “Three on One” was performed in the Battle of the Pianists concert in Maui while I was in Utrecht. Ironically, rehearsing these multi-hand, multi-piano works with other pianists just makes me miss sightreading chamber music with string and wind players even more!
Free concert – no reservation required. Get there early — last year was standing room only!
Maui College Choir prepares for spring concerts entitled Earth Songs.
First I met the conductor, Celia Canty. Then I saw the college choir perform. Next I wrote reviews.
Now I accompany the singers, arrange for them to perform, and blog about their upcoming performances.
I asked Celia about her choice of songs for the Spring 2012 concert. “They all have to do with the earth,” she replied in a recent interview. “The songs are from all over the world, and the choir sings them in original language. But ‘earth’ also has another meaning, too — as in planting trees, jasmine flower, etc.”
In the beginning, the choir was a collection of individuals with separate voices and universes. After weeks of rehearsing, they blend into one single sound. It requires hearing oneself and hearing others. Celia Canty, who has perfect pitch, can hear if someone sings out of tune. She says it’s both a blessing and a curse to have this ability to hear absolute pitch, as it’s sometimes called.
When we arranged to have the college cable TV crew film the singers, it was intended as a concert performance with no audience. I would have preferred a video of a rehearsal, for that’s far more interesting than a concert. At a rehearsal, one gets to learn. One gets to see how the raw material becomes refined into something beautiful. See the video below of a rehearsal of the popular Chinese folk song — Jasmine Flower, which Puccini used in the opera Turandot and which I once arranged for harp (PDF) because I loved it so much and wanted to play it.
Many pianos do not make an orchestra. It requires pianists to listen to each other and play in sync.
I was surprised how difficult it was to get my students to play the same note at the same time to make the sound of one note.
Pianos are, after all, not stringed instruments that can ease into a single sound. Pianos are not wind instruments either.
At my first rehearsal with three other pianists on four pianos, I noticed the same phenomenon as I had in class. We were easily out of sync. Our leader turned up the volume of the metronome. We followed the loud beatings at the expense of not hearing each other. Eventually we stopped the amplified metronome so we could really play like an ensemble.
At the second rehearsal a week later, we had improved greatly. Not that we had practised more, I think, but that we got used to each other. We were in tune. And in sync.
It’s hard to expect 4 pianos to sound like an orchestra. But it sure is fun to play. And it’s difficult to hear who is playing what part. We are all pianos after all!
Concert date: 14th July 2012 at the Maui Music Conservatory in Queen Kaahumanu Shopping Mall