Song sheets: the barebones to guide music making

On my first day of taking the intermediate ukulele course in Hawaii, I was surprised to witness the entire class playing and singing along. We were sight reading and sight singing, skills that take years to master for musicians.

That morning at Maui College in January 2016, all we had in front of us was a single sheet of paper that contained the lyrics, chord names, and chord diagrams. No music notation. No Italian words about tempo and dynamics in italic. No tablature. No abbreviations. No other music symbols. How could a single sheet of paper with minimal information guide music making?

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Rose Concert 2015: Father’s Day, the Brain, Alzheimer’s Disease

Anne Ku connects the themes of rose, Father’s Day, the brain, and Alzheimer’s Disease to pay tribute and raise awareness at the Rose Concert 2015. She premieres Emre Aki’s “Little Angel” dedicated to his daughter.

Two years ago, I gave my first Rose Concert at Roselani Place, a home named after the rose in central Maui for elderly residents. When I ran out of songs about the rose, I ventured into songs about other flowers like jasmine, cherry blossoms, etc.

This time, on Friday June 19th, I also paid tribute to Father’s Day (Sunday June 21st) and National Alzheimer’s Disease and Brain Awareness Month. Call it a concert to celebrate the beautiful minds of Aaron Copland, Maurice Ravel, and Scott Joplin.

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Chopin in the movie Margin Call

Chopin’s Raindrop prelude was used in the movie Margin Call.

The movie “Margin Call” takes place in the space of 24-hours. In that time, someone is fired, a model gets completed, the results are communicated, decisions are made, actions are taken, reputations are ruined, and the financial crisis is triggered.

While waiting for dawn to break, head honcho Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) drifts off to sleep at his desk. We hear the second part of Chopin’s famous prelude, also known as “The Raindrop.”  It’s not the raindrops we hear but the growing sound of a storm coming. It starts low and builds in strength and range. When it finally reaches its peak, Rogers jolts from his nap and the headphones fall off. The music stops. He awakes.

Middle part of Chopin's Prelude 28 no. 15 "The Raindrop"
Middle part of Chopin's Prelude 28 no. 15 "The Raindrop"

The piano solo score can be downloaded for free from the IMLSLP Library. Listen to Horowitz play this famous work.

Click HERE for a good analysis of the movie “Margin Call” and analogies.

Music in the movie The Lady who is Aung San Suu Kyi

Mozart’s piano concerto number 23, K488, adagio is played twice in Luc Besson’s The Lady.

Last evening I watched Luc Besson’s “The Lady” at the Maui Film Festival. I had read about Aung San Suu Kyi over the years but never quite understood why she was kept under house arrest in Burma and separated from her family in Oxford. The movie educated me to her cause and touched me greatly. I was particularly moved by her son Alexander Aris’ acceptance speech of the Nobel prize on her behalf.

The two classical pieces of music were played twice. Mozart’s piano concerto and Pachelbel’s Canon in D will now take on a new meaning for me. As I have been collecting different arrangements of the latter, which suffice material for a separate blog, allow me to indulge in Mozart.

The second movement of Mozart’s piano concerto number 23 (also known as the Adagio from K488) played by soloist Maurizio Pollini was poignant and at the tempo I preferred. I had heard it on a CD broadcasted at my late composition teacher’s funeral this past August and thought it too fast. If you haven’t heard of this concerto, compare the faster version of Horowitz with the slower of Pollini. See how the tempo affects the mood.

Theme from Adagio, 2nd movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto K.488
Theme from Adagio, 2nd movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto K.488

My duo has played our own arrangement on various occasions. The piano is the solo, accompanied by the guitar as orchestra. It’s one of my favourite slow movements of piano concertos. We’re always arguing over the right tempo for this piece. Note: Scores for full-orchestra, 2-piano version, and 4-hand duet can be downloaded for free from the Petrucci Library.

In the context of the movie, Mozart’s Adagio conveyed sadness and death. Earlier in the movie The New World, it conveyed one of unrequited love. For me, it will always be a beautiful work — one that can be played as a piano solo.