Saturday, April 28, 2007

a cold spring

Though the sky is pale blue and clear, and the sun shone most of the day, today felt more like a mild winter than spring. I sat out on the porch today with my guitar in hand and was grateful the strings were nylon and not steel! After half an hour of playing tonight my fingers became so cold they almost felt numb playing barres and crossing strings. My fingertips as they slid and scrapped across the strings felt like they were pressing against not nylon but steel.

But it was nice to hear the guitar ring out from the porch and hear the sound of bright new strings mingling with the sound of birds and distant traffic. And even a cold sunny day is bolstered by a loud major chord. It was a cold spring today but with music it still felt like spring.

finishing a piano sonata as a self-taught pianist, doubtful pedagogues, and studies for right hand

Well, after ten years I've decided to let the piano sonata drop. It's done as far as I'm concerned. It's got a number of flaws but I think that by cutting out at least half a minute of material I've cut out everything that I would now consider extraneous from its form. There's a sonata form with one theme; an aria (ABA) with its own theme and a transition that leads attaca into; a fugue in which the exposition has a subject and second countersubject derived from the themes of the preceding movements.

The sonata form begins in C major but ends in F sharp major while the second movement is in B major and modulates to C major for the beginning of the fugue. The conceit behind the sonata is, if you'll bear with me, that there can be one form and theme for a groom and one form and theme for a bride and, so to speak, the fugue is where the two themes are transformed into contrapuntal elements of a fugue that doubles up as a kind of wedding march. It's pretty nerdy and this doesn' t mean that it sounds great or anything but after ten years of working on it I figure I'm done. Maybe a year or two down the road after some dedicated piano practice I'll try to write another piano sonata.

The biggest obstacle hasn't been a knowledge of sonata form or other musical forms but simply that I am a self-taught pianist. Years ago I attempted to study privately at college but the professor most interested in taking me on as a student had a tour that tied up his time; he said another professor who would have time would probably be too demanding for my skill level; and the only remaning professor literally told me they were saving their teaching spots for more worthy students and that it didn't matter if I taught myself how to play Joplin or Bach that they weren't taking me on as a student. It also didn't matter that the chair of the piano department had told me I could study with any professor I wanted as far as he was concerned.

In hindsight I'm still pissed about getting treated in such a way but I am also glad I didn't study with that dismissive prof. One of my friends in college studied piano with this professor and was told to employ a set of pedaling gestures in a piece and when a time to play for others came up my friend did as she was told. Another piano student pointed out that the pedaling was distracting and loud and the professor turned on my friend and said that was true and that had to be fixed and that my friend shouldn't have settled on those pedalings. Blaming your student for your own unmusical decisions as a pedagogue is pretty low. Eventually this professor earned a reputation as a less than capable pedagogue and musicologist so that seven years later when I came across a woman who studied at the same college she told me she only took a certain musicology class after friends had assured her that this particular professor was NOT teaching it. It would be nice to say that people who get doctorates really know what they're talking about but it's only true in a lot of cases, not all.

Which is my long whine about an unnamed piano teacher to explain that when you have to teach YOURSELF how to write a piano sonata with no outside help from any actual pianist it takes a long time and you don't know for sure if what you've written necessarily even works as piano writing. Another reason to call it a decade and see if maybe I can persuade someone to play the thing.

I have also taken something of a break from composing even for the guitar to focus on technique development and also to have that done so that I can play some music for the upcoming wedding of some friends of mine. To that end I decided to join a classical guitar discussion forum. This one, specifically:

I don't have a ton to contribute there but that's not necessarily THE reason to join a forum like this. It's just fun to read and learn and sometimes share a few things.

It was there that I discovered Mauro Giuliani's 120 studies for the right hand. I've played through the first 34 as of last night and surprised at how fun they are considering it's just switching back and forth between C and G7! If you want to really give your right hand a work out as a guitarist of any style I heartily endorse Giuliani's studies. Your right hand feels pretty warmed up playing through fifteen or twenty of them. Eventually the plan is to be able to get through all 120 one of these days.

Revisiting Hebrews lately. Not much to say about that right now because there's too much to digest in the epistle and just sit down and blog about just a few hours after waking up. I've been taking a page from my roommate which is not so hot in the getting actual sleep department.

I think this will suffice for this blog entry.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


For the next month or so my blogging is likely to be intermitten. I found out i have work related travel plans. I will, true to comic book geeky self, make sure to catch Spiderman 3 before I have to be goin' to California with an achin' in my heart. Not really any ache but I just felt like quoting one of Led Zeppelin's over-exposed songs. But at least it's the Led Zeppelin song and not that incredibly stupid not-quite-remake Pearl Jam did ten years ago. Why they never got sued is beyond me ... maybe Page and Plant just have so much money they don't care.

Been watching sci-fi stuff lately. Mainly X-Files, one of the masterpieces of genre TV ... at least right up to the movie and then Carter should have dropped the show and gone on to new stuff. And a friend introduced me to Heroes, which I am enjoying immensely. It didn't seem too promising when I saw bits of the pilot on TV last year but I discovered the problem with pilots is that all they're doing is set up, not fleshing out characters for a series in ways that, unfortunately, always matter. Or maybe I just don't watch enough TV to know these things. Anyway, I gave the pilot and an episode or two a shot and found I really dug the show, particularly HRG and Claire for reasons I can't really explain. I just found myself liking those two characters a lot and the further along the series has gone the more I like those characters.

Well, that's about enough for now.