In the Hands
Paul Cantrell’s music
blog & podcast
Piano music old and new from a devoted amateur,
all free to listen to, download, and share.

Manic Dance (rough)

Things may have been quiet on the blog, but I’ve been doing tons of music work lately. The recent round of Zo went well: I took a bit of a risk playing mostly pieces that were fresh out of the practice oven (or, in a couple of cases, still baking), but people seemed to enjoy it, and I was certainly satisfied.

(If you want to know about future concerts, you should get on the mailing list.)

Concerts done, I’m now composing day and night, quite productively. I now have a complete first draft of my set of dances! The last big obstacle was a sort of “keystone moment” in the piece, where everything has to come together just so — but with some dogged persistence and late nights, I pushed through and filled in the final hole in the cycle. It’s very exciting; I’ve been working on them since forever.

Even though I have a complete draft, however, a huge amount of work remains: there’s a lot of refining and revising, practicing, and polishing the interpretation necessary in order to get a really good recording together. It will be a good long while before you can hear the full cycle.

In the meantime, I’m recording rough versions of the pieces as I learn to play them. I always hesitate a bit to do that, because the rough versions are, in fact, rough, and don’t completely convey the ideas of the music. There’s always a danger that the ideas will be so muddled that the music will just sound like a jumble of notes. Performance really matters!

However, I don’t like the alternative of not sharing anything until it’s perfect; I’d rather keep people at least somewhat in the loop on what I’ve been doing — partly because folks seem to enjoy it, and partly because I’m eager to share! Enough of the music comes through in these rough versions, I think, to let you in on the fun of watching the whole cycle emerge.

In that spirit, then, here’s one I finished writing a couple of months ago and am now playing somewhat successfully. It was a hit with the audience at Zo. As per the warning above: the performance is not yet completely assured: you’ll hear me struggling for notes in some spots. Use your imagination a bit, and pretend it’s rock-solid steady. Or just pretend it rocks.

Manic Dance (rough version)

The sound at the beginning is a whack from the music desk being pushed back. After that, throughout the piece, you’ll hear fingertips damping the strings — sometimes after the hammer strikes and sometimes as it strikes. I love that sound, and this isn’t the first time I’ve used it.



I think this is your best work yet: an overall structure that brings the listener along, surprises aplenty, and above all, fun from first to last. The music-box melody takes me inexplicably to my childhood each time I listen.


Hi Paul,

Made it to your website. Why weren’t we privilaged with a house concert in Fort Collins? It was good seeing you again.. I’ll have to download some of your work for office music… which one is written specifically for keeping motivated while sitting at a computer?

Take care,


Hi Paul,

This piece is totally awesome. I was listening to it in the car and I could feel the rumbling of the bass tickling my feet through the pedals. It is extremely visceral and uninhibited. The music box melody was superb as well and it reminded me of a piece call the “Music Box Waltz” by Zygmunt Krauze (1977) from The Waltz Project. Looking forward to hearing the rest of this series.


Zhi Bin

Looking forward to more of your recordings =)

Zhi Bin
Pianos Brisbane

Hi Paul,

Do you have a facebook profile? I would love to listen to moreof your recordings