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?

Continue reading “Making private space public”

Dome Church Sunday Service Domkerk Utrecht

Sunday service at Utrecht’s most famous dome church is a must-experience. There’s more music than church.

Until my friend Anne from Oahu raved about her Sunday service experience at the Dome Church in Utrecht, I never thought of attending church there. For one, I already go to the weekly Saturday afternoon free concerts in the church, after shopping for bread and cheese at the market. Sunday mornings are reserved for my triple workouts at my sports club: weight-lifting, aerobics, and yoga.

Out of curiosity I decided to attend this 10:30 am service today. Continue reading “Dome Church Sunday Service Domkerk Utrecht”

Spatial music: movement and sound in Nicolaikerk

Years ago, as a composition student, I was asked to write music to make use of the huge space in St Nicolas Church in Utrecht. Pressed for time, I adapted a piece for baroque recorders and baroque violin. Only at the premiere did I see the greater possibilities of space and movement.

Continue reading “Spatial music: movement and sound in Nicolaikerk”

Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection

Watching an art and music improvisation session reminded me of the various collaborations I’ve had with artists in London, Utrecht, Crete, and Brugges. It’s about the process.

As a finishing touch to my recent application for an innovation grant, I asked the Maui-based artist Mike Takemoto if he would consider having his students collaborate with mine. I was thinking along the lines of an exhibit of paintings of musicians, music instruments, or music notes. It would be an extension of the piano ensemble poster exhibit that I “curated” and organized with the photography teacher Harvey Reed and his photo and design students last spring. Such interdisciplinary collaboration raised awareness of the activities we wanted to promote.

Continue reading “Art and music improvisation: an observation and reflection”

Ostinatrio electronified minimalist music

Ostinatrio, a minimalist piece written originally for three recorders in 2005, receives an electronic makeover in 2014 and once more for wind trio and piano ensemble.

What a delight it was to receive a request through Twitter to share a variation of my music!

I wrote Ostinatrio for three recorders and revised it for oboe after its premiere in Utrecht, Netherlands. Like most of my music, I forgot about it until I heard the electronic version which is a lot more, hmmm, what shall I say, relevant? for film music? exciting to play? for my piano ensemble?

Continue reading “Ostinatrio electronified minimalist music”

Monument house for rent in Utrecht, Netherlands

The monument house at Keulsekade 25, Utrecht, Netherlands is available for rent: 4 bedrooms, 2 toilets, 1 bathroom and a separate garden house with its own toilet, shower, sink, and tatami sleep area. Front and back gardens. Floor heating. High ceilings. Everything you want in a central location, convenient for shopping and the central station in Utrecht. Available 15 Oct 2013.

A year ago Robert and I put up our house in Utrecht, Netherlands for sale and for rent. We wanted neither, of course. But we were on opposite sides of the earth, 12 time zones apart, dealing with a situation that required us to empty our home and take the first offer. Had we sold it, we’d be closing an important chapter in our lives.

Luckily the first couple who saw the renovated Dutch monument house fell in love with it and offered to rent it.

Whew! We didn’t have to sell it. Thus I never wrote part 2 of my blog: monument house for sale. But we still had to remove everything, including my beloved Steinway.

Now it’s up for rent again.

Available in mid-October 2013 – the entire house plus the garden house behind it.

I wish a musician would rent it — then we would move the 1909 Steinway grand back where it belongs.

The piano room in the Dutch Monument House in Utrecht
The piano room in the Dutch Monument House in Utrecht

From 2006 to 2011, we met our commitments to hold two concerts per year as part of the Monument House Concert Series in that lovely space. The last one on 2nd July 2011, only a day after the first one, was a good-bye to years of music making. I can’t watch the video in the next blog without tears, but I will try to use it in introducing minimalistic music in the “Introduction to Music Literature” class I’m teaching this semester at University of Hawaii Maui College.

For more information: visit Sabbatical Homes

Mozart’s Requiem to mourn a loss

Listen to Mozart’s Requiem on full blast to experience and mourn a loss.

Can anyone tell me the name of the movie in which a man and a woman date, get into a relationship, and split — the man listens to Mozart’s Requiem to cope with the break-up? The woman can read minds, so he is never private?

I watched that movie a long time ago — and developed a habit of listening to Mozart’s Requiem whenever I wanted to feel the sadness and tragedy of a situation.

When I returned to Maui recently, I came upon such an occasion. But my CD of Herbert von Karajan’s conducting Mozart’s Requiem was no longer with me. It’s probably among the entire collection of CDs that have vanished from my life — in Utrecht.

That in itself is cause for mourning.

Thanks to the Internet, I googled “Mozart’s Requiem” and listened to a version on Youtube. Much to my dissatisfaction at the slower pace and thinner texture, I searched for “Mozart’s Requiem Karajan” to find that particular version I knew and yearned.

Not only was I able to listen to the entire Requiem but also see the performers on Youtube. This nearly beats listening to the CD, except I have no stereo system. That too is gone.

What am I mourning? The loss of what is meaningful because the situation dictates it. What is meaningful comes from intention, be it a gift or purposeful acquisition. Over time, even that which was not intentionally and deliberately acquired could become meaningful if dwelled upon and appreciated.

Two weeks ago, I returned to London and took out what I had stored in suitcases, photo albums, and boxes — everything that I had wanted to keep and preserve in the secret loft. I was like a child again, returning home, surrounding myself with everything familiar and nearly forgotten in the years I’ve been away.

Sadly, after reducing my possessions by half, I had to store the remaining half away, boxed up and sealed. I don’t know when I will return again.

In the 10 hour flight to San Francisco, I bid farewell via two onboard movies and a nap. Flying westbound was a journey of goodbye, mourning of a reluctant loss.

Listen to Mozart’s Requiem on full blast — and you will experience a great tragedy.

5 steps to concert promotion

Anne shares 5 steps she learned from 10 years of promoting concerts that she attended, organized, produced, hosted, or performed in.

One of the most read posts in this blog is “Getting people to come to a concert.” Another name for this exercise is audience development. One goal is to get enough people to come to a concert so that your costs are covered and you can even get a return. Another goal is to have these people that come to your concert come to  your next one and, even better, they get others to come.

The first concert may be a lot of work (to promote). Each subsequent concert should get easier. After you’ve built a reputation and a mailing list, you should get a full house every time.

Empty seats before the first concert at the Monument House Utrecht
Empty seats before the first concert at the Monument House Utrecht

In the last 10 years of experimenting with different ways to get people to come to my concerts, I’ve identified 5 steps that have worked for me.

  1. Identify who you want to come to the concert.
    This is where you have to analyse your audience make-up. In Houston, I brought my colleagues. In London, I invited my neighbors, colleagues, and new contacts. In the case of Monument House Concert Series in Utrecht, Netherlands, I wanted new people to come so that they can experience the authentic house concert tradition. I knew that previous guests would always come because of the sticky nature of such intimate occasions. I also knew the viral nature of word of mouth. But it was getting new people that was the challenge. If I only expected the same people to come every time, our concert goers would have been a clique.
  2. Analyse the lure.
    What is the ace of spades? Is it the music? The performer(s)? The composer(s)? The audience? (People want to come to be with other people they expect to see there.) The venue? The occasion? The date/time? (nothing else better to do). The theme? (benefit concert). Identifying the ultimate lure is the key to a yes.
  3. Figure out where these folks are located, i.e. how they can be reached.
    You may start with the low hanging fruit, i.e. your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues. Beyond that, how do you find your audience? Where do they hangout? Music stores? Music libraries? Music colleges? A concert? How about music lovers groups on Linked-In?  “If it’s fish you’re looking for, why climb trees?”
  4. Use the right communication tool.
    Some folks read their emails and act. Some react to newspaper ads. Some listen to the radio. There are online, offline, face-to-face communication methods. You might have to try everything. See “concert promotion by other media.”
  5. Write. Rewrite. Format. Reformat.
    A concert invitation is different from an announcement. You have to write to persuade. You may even have to put a personal touch to it. The result you want is action — which leads to a full house and a guestbook that looks like this.

The secret to success is your mailing list. The bigger it is, the higher the chance of drawing an audience. Mailing lists get built over time not over night. This is the subject of yet another blog post.

Sheet music for sale

Why couldn’t I decide on which sheet music to keep earlier? Then I’d be able to find proper homes for each kind of sheet music. FOR SALE: SHEET MUSIC & 400 CDS & OTHER BOOKS Saturday 1st September at the Monument House, Utrecht

Books on bookshelf for sale
Books on bookshelf for sale

When Robert told me a few weeks ago that he had packed my sheet music into 12 moving boxes, I mentally switched off. What he really meant was, “What are we going to do about your 12 boxes of sheet music?”

These books and scores were stacked in 3 huge Ikea book cases. Every time he mentioned my music, I fell silent. Already I had to let go of 400 CDs. sheet music was even more precious. I was not ready to decide.

To make space to photograph the house for sale, he declared that he’d move the boxes into the bicycle shed. Out of sight, out of mind.

I have nowhere to put those 12 boxes in Maui. I don’t want to pay for shipping. I simply don’t want to deal with it. Why not?

I had gone through my music in London before I decided to pack them into boxes and move them to the Netherlands in 2003 and 2004. Thereafter I continued my curious hobby of visiting music bookstores and music libraries to select sheet music to buy or copy. This unusual pastime of a person who loves to sightread started a long time ago. It accompanied my travels. Every time I visited a city that had a music book store, I would treat myself to buying sheet music.

Houston. New York. London. Amsterdam. Paris. Milan. Prague. Taipei.

I began by collecting music for piano solo. When I discovered the joy of piano duets with my piano teacher at Duke University, I started collecting music for 4-hand, 1 piano and then 4-hand, 2-piano. When I discovered the joy of chamber music, I started seeking scores for piano and other instruments whose players I befriended: clarinet, flute, bassoon, oboe, French horn, violin, viola, cello, harp, guitar, recorder. I bought the music so that I could play them by myself or with others.

Once at conservatory, I reasoned that it was important to learn about different instruments so that I could compose for them. While pursuing my teaching diploma in piano, I began collecting piano pedagogy, methods, techniques, and other related books. Collecting sheet music was no longer merely to feed my insatiable thirst for sightreading. It was necessary for teaching piano, my composition degree, and performance. I discovered the buzz of performing long before composing and teaching. In the Netherlands, the world of getting paid to perform with guitar, French horn, cello, and voice opened up — as did the need to expand my chamber music repertoire.

I knew that I was the most loyal client of second-hand sheet music stores. There were two I visited on a regular basis: one in London and the other in Amsterdam. I also knew that the owners regularly scanned the obituary column in local newspapers, looking for famous musicians that had died. They knew that they could get their sheet music for next to nothing. They’d get them in bulk and price each piece individually.

Second-hand sheet music are typically cheaper than newly printed scores. However, often second-hand sheet music is no longer in print and thus no longer available. As a graduate student in London, I’d go after second-hand sheet music. As a full-time magazine editor traveling between London and New York, I’d go for first-hand music books and collections. Over time, I built a sizable library of sheet music that included composers from A to Z.

With less than 2 weeks before Robert’s return to Boston, I finally gave in. “Let’s take a look at those boxes,” I said.

There were now 15 boxes stacked in the garden house bicycle shed.

The first box took half an hour to go through. The second box a little less than half an hour. By the 3rd box, we had gained momentum and criteria. Say good-bye to anything that can be found on the Internet, too hard to play, boring, old, falling apart, or duplicated. Keep the really interesting pieces that I can’t get anywhere else, including out-of-print editions and those I paid dearly for.

We are now half way through my music. I’m letting go of all chamber music except for piano & guitar duos that we’ve yet to try but want to. I’m parting with that collection of Dutch composers, piano duets, piano methodology and technique books, easy piano for students, and countless binders full of photocopied sheet music — which Robert said is illegal to sell.

Out of 15 boxes, I expect to extract enough for just 3 boxes to ship over.

That’s a lot of music to say good-bye to. A lot of music I won’t be playing. A lot of time spent choosing and acquiring the music.

I just hope what I don’t keep will find a home very soon.

FOR SALE:
400 CDs and sheet music for piano, duets, piano methods, piano technique, chamber music with piano, dictionaries, travel guidebooks, and more!!

Saturday 1 September 2012 from 1 to 4 pm
Keulsekade 25, 3531 JX Utrecht
or by appointment (REPLY BELOW)

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)