Astute readers of this blog will notice that it’s been a really, really long time since I've posted a new recording. I have not been musically idle, however! Oh no. I have been working my little pianist tusch off.
One of the projects I've been working on, years in the making, is now finally coming to fruition. It is a composition for bass clarinet and piano called The Broken Mirror of Memory. Here’s my attempt to describe the piece, from the score’s performance notes:
Entanglement, soliloquy, tango, flight: each movement poses a problem from which the next unfolds. Themes continually resurface, transformed, as the music reinvents its own past — the endless process Gabriel García Márquez described as “piecing together the broken mirror of memory from so many scattered shards.” The coda gathers everything together, grappling, burning down — and then, from the embers, a simple benediction emerges, present all along, now laid bare. We discover in retrospect that the music’s destination has always been its source.
I've made a recording with the excellent Pat O’Keefe on bass clarinet, and I've worked harder on this recording than any I've ever made. It takes the mixing and mastering to whole new level. I think it is my best work, and I can't wait for you to hear it!
But … I'm not posting it on In the Hands just yet. “Oh, Paul!” you cry. “Hear me out!” I reply. First, I'm doing a Kickstarter project to get the recording printed up properly, so that you’ll be able to get a copy and hear it in its full CD-quality glory! Yay! If you can spare the five minutes, here's a little video I made that discusses the piece and its story in more detail:
If you’ve enjoyed the recordings I’ve posted here over the years, please consider backing the project. I really put my heart into this, and I promise it’s worth it! And stay tuned — more is on the way.
Update: The campaign was a smashing success! The CD is now available.
Of interest to listeners in the Minneapolis / St. Paul area: I have scheduled some house concerts for next week. I’ll be playing some Chopin and original work not yet heard on In the Hands!
Dates, more info, and reservations here.
I’ve added a two new things to my web site that may be of interest:
New Music-Only Podcast
For those of you not up on all the tech-y stuff, this site has a “podcast” — a feature that lets your computer automatically download the music and save it to your music library or portable music player.
Until now, the podcast has featured a spoken version of the written commentary that goes with each piece. This works well for people listening, say, at the gym or in their car. However, while you might want to listen to the music over and over, I really doubt you want to hear my introductions all that often. (My voice is just not that exciting.) Because the podcast always included the commentary, people who wanted just the music still had to manually download each track. Aaron wisely suggested that I do a music-only podcast as well. It’s a great idea, and I finally got around to doing it.
So now, over on the right (under the “Syndication” heading), you’ll see two links: one for a podcast with commentary, and one with only the music:
- If you are listening on the go, and want a radio-show-like format with spoken commentary, subscribe to the podcast with commentary.
- If you want to automatically download just the music to add it to your listening library, subscribe to the music-only podcast.
And heck, if you want the spoken commentary for the first listen and the music for future listening, well, subscribe to both!
Recording Method Explanation Updated
I finally updated my description of how I make my recordings to reflect all of the work I did last year to improve the mastering process. Although I made revisions throughout that whole area of the site, the bulk of the new information is in the section on mastering.
This is primarily of interest to others making their own recordings, but may also be of idle interest to anyone who is curious what goes into producing the finished product you hear.
Sorry for the long hiatus. It’s been a busy time: my latest sabbatical is running to its end, I’m broke, and back to job hunting. So I’ve been having to put aside the music and be all practical lately.
Still, I have not left In the Hands completely neglected. Listening to some other podcasts — and some of those old school … what are they called? … oh yes, radio shows — I noticed what a difference a really nice audio logo or theme song makes. It functions as an announcement, of course: “Pay attention! Your show is on!” And it’s a cue to get in the right frame of mind to enjoy what’s coming next. But most of all, I realized I love the ritual of the theme song, the anticipation and cozy excitement that comes from the conditioning of hearing the same theme again and again. It’s amazing how deep that conditioning goes: though they are from my single-digit years, my heartbeat still involuntarily quickens when I hear these unmistakable sounds! (Yay for Delia Derbyshire.)
The trick is, I don’t want a tune that’s so catchy it interferes with the music I’m about to play; my opening music needs to have a sort of palate-cleansing effect. I decided the thing to do was to make a collage of several different pieces, to get you in that piano mood without a piano tune in your head. Here’s the what I came up with.
This new audio logo won’t make much difference to those of you reading the text version, but for those listening to the podcast, here’s how it sounds as part of an episode.
(For those of you who didn’t even know there’s an audio version of this commentary, here are instructions for subscribing in iTunes.)
The latest episode of the always-excellent Bowed Radio features a movement of The Broken Mirror of Memory. The whole episode is quite wonderful, well worth hearing (listen) — and the great sound of the other selections really makes me wish I had a higher-quality recording of Diana’s nice work on Mirror! Adrian graciously describes In the Hands as a “must-listen” for piano lovers, and gets big bonus points for pronouncing my last name right.
Uwe Hermann’s podcast featured one of my Chopin étude recordings. I was especially pleased that he didn’t shy away from including a classical piece — it drives me crazy how there’s this weird wall between classical music and the rest of the musical world, a wall which a lot of people on both sides work awfully hard to keep in place. I have a dream that one day my music will live in a world where it’s judged not by its categorization or its genre, but by the content of its character.
Kyle Gann tells me he’s added In a Perfectly Wounded Sky and Three Places to the playlist over at PostClassic Radio, which plays a fine selection of “weirdly beautiful new music.” The show seems mostly oriented to the credentialed circles, so I was very pleased with Kyle’s graciousness in including a small-timer.
And finally, Netherlands-based Robkast featured last week’s Brahms Intermezzo. I don’t speak Dutch, so I have no idea what Mr. Rob of Robkast is saying (listen) — but careful listening suggests that he may be announcing the name of the piece.
Since In the Hands was featured in Adam Curry’s Podfinder (Thanks Adam!), a lot of people have been asking how to subscribe to this podcast in iTunes.
Please note: This is not the support web site for iTunes. These are instructions on how to subscribe to this podcast. That’s it. For general help with iTunes, please contact Apple. General questions about iTunes posted here will be deleted.
(It’s amazing how many people post iTunes support questions here anyway. Truly, I fear for humanity’s future.)
You should be able to subscribe as follows:
Click this link to open In the Hands in iTunes.
- Click the “Subscribe” button.
If that doesn’t work, you can subscribe manually:
- Copy the following URL:
- Open iTunes. Go to the “Advanced” menu, and choose “Subscribe to Podcast.”
- Paste the URL you just copied, and click “OK":
That should do the trick!
On this subject, I have a favor to ask of In the Hands listeners. The reason people are having trouble subscribing is that Apple hasn’t included In the Hands in their podcast directory. It’s been submitted, but hasn’t shown up yet. Their support department has been completely useless — they just sent a form letter saying that submitted podcasts show up within two weeks (it hasn’t), and didn’t respond to my second inquiry.
So, I’m kind of stuck, but you can help: go to the iTunes request page, and request that iTunes include the “In the Hands” podcast. Maybe if they get some requests from several different people, they’ll start paying attention.
Update [2005/09/26]: I’ve finally shown up in the directory, though I’m still not appearing under the “music” category. After over a month of waiting, I finally filed this as a bug report on Friday (as Michael suggested below) — and by Monday morning it was in the directory. Methinks Apple is not running a very tight ship with this whole podcast directory thing. Sort of unusual for them — they usually do really fine work and are on the ball.
Update [2005/09/27]: ItH has vanished from the iTunes directory this morning. However, iTunes support did finally send a response to my latest inquiry: it seems to consist of all of their canned responses for podcasters pasted one after another in a single long email. It it hilarious. It now looks as if their support department is not actually staffed by humans at all, but by a bot — and a rather stupid bot at that. I wonder if it’s reasonable to submit “iTunes support department fails Turing Test” as a bug?
I’m hardly the first to note that the US government — the president in particular — have shown unforgivably shoddy leadership after Katrina. But we can’t wait to help until we’re asked; when our leaders fail, our responsibility as individuals doubles. Please consider donating to the American Red Cross right now.
All right, I admit that it’s not exactly directly related to piano music, but I have to share what my dad is up to. He’s a psychologist who (roughly speaking) deals with learning, with helping people learn how to learn, and has written what I think is quite a marvelous book about raising intelligent children — not in the narrow and fairly silly Mensa sense of “intelligent,” but in a broad, practical, rich sense of the word that might challenge some ideas you have about what intelligence really is. His writing is full of wisdom, optimism, and just plain good advice; it is a wonderful book, of interest even if you’re not a parent. And yes, I say that in part because he’s my dad, but I mostly say it because the book is really good.
Anyway, I’ve put together a web site to support the book, intelligenceriver.net. We’re putting the full text of the book up on the site one chapter at a time, and there is also a news section (discerning readers may note a faint similarity in the blog software!) and a forum for discussing parenting and the mysterious human mind and that sort of thing. The site is only just hatching out of its shell, so we’re looking to get feedback, and get discussion rolling in the forum. It would be wonderful if all of the good and discerning people who read In the Hands made a visit. (Pretty please!)
Here, to whet your appetite, is a favorite passage of mine from the first chapter of the book:
You’ll do your best job for your child if you’re having fun. I want to help you approach the task of raising your child with confidence and pleasure. Every word here is meant to calm a fear, almost a panic, that has come to pervade the way our culture thinks about children. We seem to be taking childhood awfully seriously as we step into the new millennium. We hear that our children will have to fight and claw their way into the world if they expect to do more than survive. Even when we try not to listen, the messages of ruthless competition, dwindling opportunity, increasing demands — the threat to these people we love so much — chews on us. It makes us fearful. It can even corrode our common sense and our natural instincts. Our children have to be prepared! Every minute is important! Every homework assignment has to be finished!
Wanting to prepare our kids for the worst, we are, paradoxically, in danger of giving them a taste of it. Real intelligence, I constantly argue, is built on a base of enjoyment. Learning is what humans do best. It is our natural state. When we try to force the process, we are in danger of thwarting our own good intentions.