Sticky piano music of Yiruma

South Korean composer and pianist Yiruma wrote and performed “River Flows in You” often confused with piano music from the “Twilight” saga. It’s not but it’s very sticky nevertheless.

The first time I heard it on the piano, I thought it was a variation of Einaudi’s music.

When I heard it again, I realized it was something else.

After my piano class, a student from the next class started playing it on the piano just as I was leaving.

“What is it?”

“River flows in you,” she said.

She added, “It’s from Twilight.”

I don’t remember this piece. Who is it by?

The sticky melody caught my attention. It’s been a long time  since I’ve been caught off-guard like this. How could I not know the composer or the title of the work? I have watched all 5 movies of the Twilight Saga and don’t recall this piece at all. The closest one was Carter Burwell’s Bella’s Lullaby, which does not sound like this.

Rather, the piece I heard on the piano was “River Flows in You” by Yiruma, the Korean pianist who has lived in the UK. The sheet music of his works are freely downloadable from his website. Compare the difference, below.

My next step? Check out Yiruma’s music and sightread them all. What is his music so sticky? Maybe that could be project for my students.

 

 

A Thousand Years for easy piano

Anne Ku arranges Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” for beginning piano students.

How do you teach complete beginners how to play the piano?

Start with a tune they want to play.

So I searched Pandora and Youtube for the most popular movie themes. Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” is one of those sticky melodies that haunts me like the movie Twilight. Although I’ve yet to see Breaking Dawn, I can see why young people like it so much.

The short cut is to search for the sheet music online. However, it’s in a key too challenging for most beginners. Plus there are too many notes. Too much variety.

So I reduced it from 6/8 time to 3/4 time and transposed into the white key of C.

The result is something quite do-able, particularly with added fingerings. Of course, it’s always possible to simplify this further still. I will assign my students to figure how how it ends.

A Thousand Years for easy piano arranged by Anne Ku
A Thousand Years for easy piano

From performance to entertainment

Classical musicians are trained to perform not entertain. However, increasingly audiences want entertainment. Is there a compromise?

At conservatory, we’re taught to perform not entertain. Yet the world of performance is being crowded out by demand for entertainment.

Famous classical pieces take on new meaning after they have been chosen as themes for movies. Chopin’s posthumous Nocturne in C sharp minor reminds us of the movie “The Pianist.” Whenever I play it, I think of that tragic atmosphere of loss and hopelessness.

Debussy’s Clair de Lune accompanies that delicate moment when Bella visits Edward for the first time. My friend in Denver wants me to play it exactly the way it sounds in the Twilight movie.

Or is simply that classical music takes on a new context when used in situations that bear meaning to us?

Would it be a compromise on our training and eternal quest for beauty and perfection to abdicate performance and embrace entertainment?

Or should we pay attention to what our listeners want? They want to hear those tunes that remind them of the good times in their lives, the movies they love, the weddings they attended (or perhaps their own). We as musicians can easily execute that.

To us, Pachelbel’s Canon in D may be a performance. To them, it’s entertainment — reminding them of the theme from “Ordinary People.”

My friend in DC sent me the following clip of the most popular string quartet in Poland. They are popular because they are entertaining. But more importantly, they are virtuosic, creative, and fun! Mozart would be laughing at this. Click on Mozart Group.

In short, a performance can be entertaining. But to differentiate ourselves and to draw audiences, we as performing artists may need to do more than interpret the music the way we think the composers expect their works to be played.