Tuesday, June 30, 2009

just in time for the 4th of July

comes this patriotic piano from Baldwin. read more about it here. note all that patriotic piano beauty will set you back about 15 grand...On closer inspection is looks a lot like a piano you might find on a london street corner. Just sayin....

Bringing out the Susan Boyle in All of Us

The London street pianos.  Interesting articles with more detail about the workings of the project and the reaction of folks to the pianos plunked down about the city. Link and link

Here's the website for the project. You can "book" a piano for event, have a look at photos of the pianos, and more. Link.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

New Opera in the Works!

Now that sounds just about right:

Sir Peter Maxwell-Davies, the Queen's Master of Music, has announced that he is writing a comic opera about the MPs' expenses scandal. "Who knows, the set may have a few duck houses and moats in it," he said. "I may even invite a few MPs to the opening night. They will of course want free tickets, but be able to claim them on expenses for some fictitious fee." 


Street Pianos

I so want this in my town. Looks like good fun.

Mover Over "Guitar Hero"

Not sure what to make of this news:

Game Life announced today that this November they will be releasing Easy Piano for the DS. The game comes with a mini-piano accessory (exactly how mini isn’t mentioned) that will plug into the DS, giving the player their very own tiny keyboard to learn with.


world's oldest musical instrument

35,000 year old instrument found. A flute.  What's most surprising isn't the flute. It's the beer drinking.

The wing bone of a griffon vulture with five precisely drilled holes in it is the oldest known musical instrument, a 35,000-year-old relic of an early human society that drank beer, played flute and drums and danced around the campfire on cold winter evenings, researchers said Wednesday

Sounds like early man would fit right in at a frat party.


But this is what most struck me:

The presence of music did not directly produce a more effective subsistence economy and greater reproductive success, he concluded, but it seems to have contributed to improved social cohesion and new forms of communication, which indirectly contributed to demographic expansion of modern humans to the detriment of the culturally more conservative Neanderthals.

What leads one to suspect that music "seems to have contributed to improved social cohesion..." This the part where I shake my head and harbor dark suspicions that a good chunk of archeology consists of digging around in the dirt and making up good stories...

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

j'adorable: otter plays keyboard

Iturbi Prize Winners

The winners of the week-long piano competition
$50,000 First Prize -      Dmitri Levkovich,(Facebook link) 29, Ukraine
$25,000 Second Prize -     Goran Filipec, 27, Croatia
$15,000 Third Prize -      Alexey Kudryashov, 20, Russia
$3,000 Spanish Prize -     Dmitri Levkovich, 29, Ukraine
$3,000 American Prize -    Alexey Kudryashov, 20, Russia
$3,000 President's Prize - Vladimir Khomayakov, 24, Russia
$3,000 People's Choice -   Vladimir Khomayakov, 24, Russia

Congratulations to one and all!
Hopefully next time around we can hear it online!
Levkovich has a string of prizes and concerts.
A performer to keep your eyes and ears on for sure!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

happy birthday stravinsky

Today is Igor Stravinsky birthday.. Celebrate by listening to some of his music. To kick things off here's vid of Fazil Say playing piano four hand arrangement of "The Rite of Spring"  with a specially adapted Bose concert grand.

And here's Igor in his birthday suit.

Mad Men of Another Sort

Actually, the ad campaign for the Zurich Chamber Orchestra actually kind of creeps me out... Yea... I get it, but its a creepy thought. Nobody needs to be up anybody's nose..

Classical Musics Pod People

A fine write-up on on the great success Naxos has had with its classical music subscription service. I prev. posted about Naxos and the cool online things have that happening -- such as their podcasts, Naxos Online Radio, and busy blog. Keep up with the happenings at Naxos by going here.

Read the LAT profile of Naxos' online presence here.  Let's hope others will follow the path Naxos is blazing.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Accidential Pianist

If you read Oliver Sacks' "Musicophilia",  you area already familiar with the story of the accidential pianist.  And he has a CD out - don't know how long it's been available but its news to me. Tony Cicoria became the accidential pianist after a near death experience:

Dr. Cicoria’s musical career began rather remarkably when he was struck by lightning in 1994 while speaking on a public telephone during a family reunion near Albany.  Shortly thereafter he developed an insatiable desire to hear and to play the piano..
 I understand he also gives recitals of classical music and his own compositions. Anyone heard him play? How is it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Piano Lid as Coffee Table

I think I just found a summer project for myself. This is definitely WTB approved. Feeling motivated? Then check it out (instructions included).

You're In the Army Mr. Beethoven

A fine write up on a Staff Sgt. in Afghanistan who takes up the piano and discovers it's amazing magic:
"On my last deployment, I was angry for an entire month and it took me a while to get over a lot of things," he said. "On this deployment, I was reaching that point where I was getting angry at certain situations so when this opportunity presented itself for me to do something for me, I took it. Teaching myself how to play the piano has given me a certain calm that is helping me get through this deployment."

One night in the early stages of learning the basic fundamentals of playing the piano, there was a storm and the power went out in his building. The ivory of the piano keys were luminous in the pale green glow of the keyboard's reserve battery. This light allowed the sergeant to continue playing.

"Only the shadows of the keys were visible but there was enough light that I continued to play," Sergeant Began said. "In that moment, alone in the dark with the rain pouring down, I was able to forget where I was. It was so peaceful."
Read the rest here.

Cliburn Radio Documentary

If you missed the live webcasts, you can make up for it by checking-out a radion documentary of this years "Cliburn International Piano Competition". The broadcast, "The Cliburn 2009: Pursuit of Excellence",  airs tonight on WRR101.1FM - and you can listen to online here.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

coming to a street corner near you....


The excellent "Celebrity Series of Boston Blog" posted an interesting bit about pianos being "deployed" about the street corners of London.

Details and more found here.

Now what would be interesting if these setup sort of like the NPR story booths, so that just anyone could walk up to one play something and have it recorded. Oh sure, you'd have to wade thru alot of chopsticks, fur elise, and so one. But you know there'd be a nugget or two that'd make it all worth. Just like gold panning. Call is "sound panning"... Or something.

Musikalisches Würfelspiel

12 sided dice with musical notes on them.  I want these!!  In fact, I want these as fuzzy dice to hang in my car window.  I also want these incorporated into a magic 8 ball (I'm working on it).

A big tip of my hat to Classical Convert for pointing the way to these gems.

The dice also be played with a tarot card / board game called the Muzoracle, but I think I'll skip that altogether.

They can be used in composing Aleatory and 12 tone-music, or as a basis for improvisation; they’re fun in a jam session. They also make an effective study tool: they can be used as “musical flash cards” when learning harmony, and their randomness makes for fresh and challenging exercise in sight-singing and ear training. 

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Cliburn Chatter: Cliburn Competition Winners Announced !

Whoa... no third place winner...!!

That Mariangela Vacatello did not even rate at least 3rd place is a pity and a shame. I'm really shocked.

Zhang is a solid pick and musically a typical "Cliburn" 1st prize winner. I was more than just a little reminded by his playing of Alex Kobrin (1st prize winner of the last Cliburn). That said, it will be interesting to see how things pan out. At 19 and the youngest of the pack it would be easy to dismiss him as a less than mature pianist. But you'd be wrong.

Zhang is a musically safe choice and yet for the sheer fact of his age a surprising one. He was one of the pianists I thought was someone to keep an eye on, and I'm not disappointed. I look forward to hearing more from him, especially more daring and originality!

Tsujii on the other is an inexlicable pick for first prize -technically there was nothing 1st prize worthy about it to my ears compared to the others. I'd have pegged him for 2nd prize.

I've no regrets that Bozhanov was sent away without a prize. All that cartoonish mugging for the cameras got old and quick!

I really can't come up with a good reason for Son reaching 2nd place. Inexplicable.

Official Results:

Gold: Haochen Zhang, Nobuyuki Tsujii
Silver: Yeol Eum Son
Crystal: not awarded

Prize for Best Chamber music performance: Evgeni Bozhanov and Yeol Eum Son (tie)

Prize for Best performance of a new work: Nobuyuki Tsujii

Discretionary awards: Alessandro Deljavan, Eduard Kunz and Lukas Vondracek

WTB's own choices if I were handing out the prizes: 

Gold: Zhang
Silver: Tsuji
Crystal: Vacatello

Monday, June 01, 2009

classical meet mr. emo

Seriously. Am I like the last person on the planet to hear about this guy... ?

Beds I Have Known

Just in time for my summer reading (and gardening) comes a splendid recommendation from a WTB reader.

Martha Smith's Beds I Have Known: Confessions of a Passionate Amateur Gardener. I don't know how this gem escaped my notice previously. If you love gardening and laugh out loud funny writing, then Smith's tome is your cup of tea.

Check it out.

Cliburn Chatter: Final Stretch

If you've been following this year's Cliburn Competition you already know who the finalists are:

Evgeni Bozhanov (*)
Yeol Eum Son
Nobuyuki Tsujii
Mariangela Vacatello (*)
Di Wu
Haochen Zhan (*)

(*indicates a WTB pick)

Of the 5 pianists that I liked going into the competition, three have made it to the final stretch. Not bad. I'm still bullish on them, particularly Bozhanov. I am very surprised Kunz did not advance. Both Son and Tsuji surprise me in having advanced this far.

By and large, this seems to me the most unexciting crop of Cliburn competitors that I can recall. Most of the playing strikes me as fairly uninteresting and uninspired. I've not heard many sparks of originality and imagination. Upper-tier conservatory-grade recital playing (with the usual slips here and there) seems the norm. I'm hoping things get turbo charged in the final stretch.

On the upside, just 1 Rach 3 to hear.