Saturday, April 28, 2007

How Fauré Brought Me Back to Life

Finally he came to the old tower where she was lying asleep. He was so amazed at her beauty that he bent over and kissed her. At that moment--after so long--she awoke, and with her the king and the queen, and all the attendants, and the horses and the dogs, and the pigeons on the roof, and the flies on the walls. The fire stood up and flickered, and then finished cooking the food (the roast sizzled away). And she and the composer lived long and happily until they died.

--adapted from Perrault

continue reading...

The Soundtrack 17

Veljo Tormis, The Singer's Childhood
The Beatles, "Why Don't We Do It in the Road?" (for A)
Gabriel Fauré, Les roses d'Ispahan (for B)
Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No.3
that damn truck, every Thursday between 3 - 4 a.m.

And finally. Because there are pieces that will bite you in the ass when you least expect it, no matter how many times you've played them.

Vivaldi, Laudamus Te (sorry girls--I owe you one)

continue reading...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Time for Silence

Now this has me thinking.

I feel like I "put up" with music when I eat out, although I'm surprisingly capable of tuning it out when I dine solo. But dining not-solo is another matter. Maybe the best soundtrack to a superlative dining experience is nothing more than conversation--and I'm not fussy about the topic; it could be a brilliant counterpoint about the food and wine, your laundry, and that sensational young pianist who just performed with the symphony. But music? It distracts...from the food and wine (if that's what I want to pay attention to) and from the conversation (if that's what I want to pay attention to) and makes me wonder: does this dining experience merit the challenge of this aural distraction? Usually the answer is no. But as I say, I "put up" with it, from the tasteful jazz at two beloved haunts to the dj'd electronic sets at the chicest place I know of to drink infinite glasses of exceptional Riesling. Sigh... I have, however, boycotted a certain coffeehouse because the music is just TOO LOUD.

And to eat my own words: I absolutely adore a particular grocery store at Shattuck and Vine where they play classical music. Yes. Grocery shopping with Beethoven. I'm down with that. Maybe I should break down and buy an iPod.

continue reading...

Monday, April 23, 2007

Spilling Secrets

In the end...

I wore a skirt.

And heels. (Maybe someday I will wear a fabulous vintage piece from La Rosa... to complement the perfect retro desk and chair. But this was version 1.0 and my Gap couture and simple Ikea table served well enough.)

I nixed the coffee cup prop but kept the steno notebook. I even consulted it (though in a much more obvious manner than if I were playing a piano piece from the score). Hint, hint.

Thanks to Jen who said it was "whimsical." (This is the response for which I most hoped. Oops. Am I supposed to say that?) Thanks to ---- who said my hands give away the fact that I'm really a pianist. And thanks to Carolyn Hauck for taking pics!

continue reading...

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Alonzo's Moths

The moths drive fast cars, cling to impossible curves, hairpin when you least expect it, throw arcs of shadow and bright left and right. Their wake is sometimes illuminated--jumping bits of dust, a cobweb's graceful bow, another insect's inadvertent entrance--and sometimes imperceptible, and so their trajectories, thus observed, seem very nervously navigated. The moths' flirtation with death is constant yet halting, at times aggressive, eager and athletic but then bashful and uncertain. The onlooker wonders: will they live? will they die? which this time? Why do some drive straight into the light while others cruise in aimless circles around it? Vroom vroom vroom, go the moths. Then, suddenly--gasp--they've all fled...the slipper-footed noise of their wingbeats a fading Doppler cry.

I spend a lot of time lately with moths and butterflies. They live in a Bourbon box and eat the watercolour pencils and paper flowers that I feed them. They are a scattered bunch, my new friends, and they certainly influenced my experience at Lines Ballet last Friday.

The Lines dancers do not go to the floor (period) and under the stark stage lights, in pale gold and straw colored costumes, they reminded me of my moths. Their fast fluttering movements (port de bras and extensions derived from classical ballet but then slightly exaggerated) were perfectly and convincingly executed, but after a while, the choreography wanted for structure. Comprised of nineteen sections, Long River High Sky (Alonzo King's collaboration with the Shaolin monks) presented an ordered disorder reminiscent of moths in the lamplight. First two, then one, then a whole flurry of passionate fighters. Partnerships heatedly made, then broken up or nonchalantly abandoned. As when watching moths, one could construe endless stories about the transcendent dancers, but it's too easy, after further watching, to give up and just walk away without care. King's strengths lie in punctuation (cartwheeling, backflipping children in counterpoint against the sinewy, oh-how-I-envy-their-spines Lines dancers) and dynamic range (a "break-it-down" section by the full company followed by one monk's meditative seated pose) but in Long River High Sky those captivating moments do not coess into an--aha!--big picture. This aesthetic usually works for me, and it has certainly worked for King in the past, but this time I felt that they--winged creatures, tumbling monks, gifted dancers--were trying so hard to convey une grande impression. And I just couldn't see it.

The moths elicit strong feelings. You get caught up in their dervishes, in how they drive their fast cars, in their racing and graceful dancing, and maybe you pray over the ones who extinguish or cheer the ones who fly away. But [shrugging] then you go about your own business. They are, after all, just moths. What they do is instinctual, not choreographed. I'm ok feeling this way for my Bourbon box dwellers, but I'm not sure if I'm ok feeling it about Alonzo King's company this spring. Hmm.

read Ms. Howard's dance review here...

continue reading...

Monday, April 16, 2007

TypeMusic 1.0

Performance This Coming Sunday!

Fieldwork presents
New Performance Works
Sunday April 22, 2007
6:30 - 8:30pm
Shawl Anderson Dance Center, Berkeley
This FREE event is part of Bay Area National Dance Week

I will perform TypeMusic, the piece I began building last summer as a beginning student in Max/MSP. Yes, I "play" the computer. (Is that my true love, the piano, faintly protesting?) What I'm wearing is a surprise. There is rumor of champagne and strawberries after the performances. See you there!

continue reading...

Sometimes Doing Next to Nothing

wisdom from the barstool...

"It [the video footage] is almost too beautiful. I don't want to touch it. I can't imagine editing it."

"So don't."

continue reading...

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Butterfly, butterfly
born in a bower
christened in a teapot
died in half an hour

--The Oxford Book of Nursery Rhymes

continue reading...

Friday, April 13, 2007


'It is considered that time, per se, helps to make known the essence of things. The Japanese therefore see a particular charm in the evidence of old age. They are attracted to the darkened tone of an old tree, the ruggedness of a stone, or even the scruffy look of a picture whose edges have been handled by a great many people. To all these signs of age they give the name, saba, which literally means "rust". Saba, then, is a natural rustiness, the charm of olden days, the stamp of time. [--or patina--A.T.]

'Saba, as an element of beauty, embodies the link between art and nature.'

In a sense [we are] trying to master time as the stuff of art.

--Andrey Tarkovsky (quoting & commenting on Soviet journalist Ovchinnikov's account of Japan) in Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema

continue reading...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Soundtrack 16

Bela Bartok, Tavasz and Ne Menj El
song of the western meadowlark
George Gershwin, "I've Got a Crush on You"
Tom Waits, Mule Variations
the purr of my new car

continue reading...

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Busman's Holiday

"It's a busman's holiday tonight," he observed, and the phrase flew into my head and fluttered around for the rest of the week. I liked the sound of it, the retro feel of it, and its meaning was certainly not lost on me. When people ask me what I do for fun, I tend to respond automatically: I play the piano. Doing the same thing for play or recreation as for work? I shrug: doesn't it make perfect sense?

In February, a good friend visited, and though he was technically here on business, I tried to orchestrate an ideal bay area vacation for him. I dragged him to important local haunts and temples and comped him a great seat to a "new performance work" ... that I played ... that I created ... that I programmed. Oops. I somehow forgot to separate the work from the play. Melding the two for T created a unique but true perspective on living here, one with a more contemporary focus than the ubiquitous guidebook sights and sees perhaps, but not lacking historical and social contexts. The picture was complete and integrated and, I hope, indelibly memorable.

Blurring the distinction between projects and dreams, work and endeavor makes things feel very 3+ dimensional. I never know what might inform or inspire or revise the next composition or dance step or thorny passage in a piano piece I'm learning. I muddle it all together, with the result that what matters most to me is kept in constant and immediate focus. (My behavior confuses others, however. Are you taking class or playing class? Fifty percent of the time no one knows for sure, not the desk staff or the ballet instructor or the other students. I keep 'em all guessing.) This intertwining of work and play smoothes the edges of a multi-faceted life and keeps me quite satisfied.

I do not suggest that the let's-play-where-we-work attitude is always ideal; if artistic projects are not coming together, I'll slink glumly about town. By contrast, I have long admired a certain fabulous pianist for her ability to disengage from her art (her work?) now and then. She and her husband (also a classical musician) retreat to the Sierra foothills for a few weeks every summer and enjoy exotic vacations: they've gone on safari in Africa, climbed ruins in Mexico, and wined and dined their way around the Italian countryside. I never hear her fret or worry about "not practicing" or "missing rehearsals" during these vacations. She is able to separate her piano-self from her tourist-self, and thus her life seems composed as a very beautiful card catalog, with each experience kept in a separate drawer. The aesthetic is clean and definite, and not at all knotty and entangled like mine.

Or, mine of the moment. It is spring, and entanglements are fun, and lately I'm finding all kinds of new ideas and positive critical feedback when I take the equivalent of a busman's holiday. So, all I have to say is: I'm off to the barre!

continue reading...