Paul Cantrell
Composer & Pianist

In the Hands

My piano music blog and podcast, featuring commentary and original recordings. You’ll hear my own compositions; Chopin, Brahms, and my other favorites of centuries past; spotaneous improvisations; and occasional guest recordings from other performers.

(Curious? Here’s an in-depth description of my recording method.)


Fun to look at! Fun to play! Little black dots the whole family can enjoy!

These are the written forms of my own compositions, and they’re really creative works in themselves. Even if you don’t read music, I think they’re rather appealing just as abstract visual art. And if you do read music, well, so much the better! Have a gander.

Concert series

The New Ruckus

A mutual support organization for composers, improvisors, songwriters and sound artists. I’m the artistic director and resident redhead.

Keys Please

This annual concert featured fellow pianists Carei Thomas and Todd Harper, and sometimes a non-pianist guest. It ran for 15 years, from 2002 through 2016. Playful, genre-bending, and a rollicking good time.


I occasionally hold small, informal concerts in my living room. I’ve never really felt that the formality of the classical recital ritual suited my playing, and wanted a more intimate and risk-friendly venue — so I made one! The music at these concerts is whatever I’m working on or just enjoying playing at the moment; it’s sort of like “In the Hands Live.”


The Broken Mirror of Memory

Winner of the International Clarinet Association Composition Prize

Entanglement, soliloquy, tango, flight: each movement poses a problem from which the next unfolds. I’m the compo­ser & pian­ist; Pat O’Keefe plays bass clari­net.

The River Inside of Trees

An album of songs com­posed by Todd Harper and sung by Kim Sueoka, full of wilder­ness and quie­tude and quirky humor. 30 tracks, 32 min­utes, one connec­ted arc. I’m the album’s co-pianist and co-producer.

Contents May Differ

Pat O’Keefe opens up the clarinet box, and uncovers a world inside. I’m Pat’s guest on Broken Mirror (a different recording from the one above, with a different perspective!), and on Pat’s Silent Snow.

Keys Please: The Early Years

Favorite live recordings from early Keys Please concerts. A celebration of long-standing musical friendships, full of roaming and romping and tenderness.

Donald Betts

Don, my teacher, mentor, and dear friend, played with an introspection and a poetic sensibility like no other musician I know. We lost him to Covid in 2021. He loved sharing music with others, so I share some of it here.

  • Dimensions: A retrospective of Don’s recordings spanning 1966 to 2009.
  • The Inner Voice: A magical album of Schumann, Beethoven, and original Betts.
  • Betts Plays Chopin: Before recording this, Don said to me, “I’m in love with Chopin.” It shows.
  • Betts on In the Hands: My podcast includes several recordings of Don playing at his house.

More recordings

  • My YouTube channel: Include a smattering of live performances not published elsewhere on this site. The audio’s a bit rough on many, but you do get to see musicians’ smiling faces!
  • My undergraduate senior recital: An abundance of Chopin, a dash of Beethoven, and three Paul originals. As a friend put it, “classical, but definitely not legit.”

Most of the music on this site is complete (not excerpts!), free to download, and DRM-free. It is also free for you to copy — with certain legal restrictions.

I’ve chosen to make this music free to everyone. 💙 I ask that you honor those rules.

Questions, comments, bad puns? Contact me!