As any of you who have ever learned a piece of music or made a recording know, what I’m doing here is a lot of work. It’s amazing how much time it takes to post two recordings a week. Just the mechanics of recording, editing and mastering are a chore for single person — even a simple improv ends up taking at least an hour or two of work to record, prepare and post. The compositions of others often take many dozens, hundreds of hours to learn, polish, and get a good take; my own compositions take many hundreds of hours more to write before I even start learning to play them in earnest.
This is not meant as a sob story — it’s work I love doing! — but it does raise the question, “How on earth do you find all that time, Paul?” My secret is that I’m jobless: I quit my last job in May, and have been living off savings since. (I also do a little freelance writing for MPR, but it doesn’t pay much.) The months since May have been some of the most enjoyable I’ve ever had, but all good things must end: my savings are running out.
This means that, as things stand now, there there are only a few months of In the Hands left. When I’m finally “down to me last few coppers,” as Wallace puts it, I’ll have to get a job. When I get a job, I’ll have very little time for the piano.
It’s too bad. I’m having fun with this! (I hope you are too.) So I’m wondering: what can I do to keep this project going?
I am interested in your ideas: how can I raise money? Would you be interested, for example, in buying CDs? Classy “In the Hands” T-shirts? Having body parts signed? (I would draw lines with that one.) I want to keep the recordings themselves free to download — that’s part of my unwritten mission statement for this site — but perhaps there are other creative things I could do. Or perhaps not enough people are genuinely interested enough in what I’m doing to keep it going. I really don’t know, and I’m open to opinions. What do you think?
As a first step, I’m now accepting donations. The era of wealthy patrons is gone, but I wonder: can an online audience of ordinary people do today as well as the nobility did in the 18th century? Can all of you together be a patron? I don’t know. You might at least help stretch the lifespan of In the Hands: by my estimate, if every single regular reader / listener contributed a mere $10 right now, it would pay for another month of music; if some people went beyond that, In the Hands could almost be sustainable. If you have been enjoying following along with my experiments, if there was one recording you found particularly moving, please think about what the music is worth to you and consider a contribution.
What are the cool kids going these days? Podcasting: it’s the new skateboarding! And what, you might ask, is this “podcasting?” I didn’t know myself until Dan Steeves clued me in.
Here’s the idea: You have a portable digital music player (e.g. an iPod). You find some blogs to your liking that include audio (e.g. this one!). Such a blog is called a “podcast” — and yes, people use this word with a straight face. Then you get a program (e.g. iPodder) that automatically downloads new entries from the audio blog to your music player.
At first I thought this was just a gratuitous overapplication of technology, one of those delightful but ridiculous “because we can” projects like The Public 8 Ball. But actually, it makes sense: every day on your commute or your run or wherever it is that you carry your iPod around, instead of getting the same songs over and over, you get a sort of personalized global community radio. Nice idea. Heck, if I had an iPod, I’d probably do it.
Obviously this idea fits In the Hands perfectly. And a few sites devoted to podcasting agree: the folks at Podcast Reviews and Podcast Bunker gave the blog nice little write-ups, and decent ratings to boot. Thanks fellows!
Oddly, this is the only blog / podcast I’ve found that’s publishing original music — all the other podcasts seem to be either talk or broadcasts of already-released music. Surely I’m not the only one? If you discover any others, let me know!
I’m on the road now, visiting my brother and many old friends on the East Coast: New Haven, NYC, upstate NY, New Brunswick, Philly, DC! I prepared a few simple recordings before I left, but they’re not enough to support the whole three weeks of my trip. So I’ll be posting only Tuesdays until Dec 11.
…nor have aliens taken me to a distant world where they keep me in a cage for the amusement of their unwashed masses. No, the reasons for the blog silence are much more mundane: the combination of lots of election volunteering and having all five of my wisdom teeth out hasn’t left me in great shape for posting new recordings. (Yes, five wisdom teeth. I am a mutant.) But fear not! I’ll be back in the saddle soon. And if I return the piano slightly less wise, I will at least now have the life experience of tooth extraction to draw upon in my music — an experience which I assure you is as fascinating as it is disgusting.
I’ve re-encoded all the pieces in this blog using VBR, which I think has improved the sound quality notably. (Now why I didn’t do that in the first place?) For those of you not familiar with the term, variable bit rate encoding basically increases the sound quality at sensitive moments when your ears are likely to detect the difference.
The MP3s still don’t sound as good as the better-than-CD-quality originals — sorry, I just don’t have the bandwidth to post those! — but they now have more of the clarity and transparency of the originals, as if a thin veil was lifted from the sound.
If you’re hanging on to all these recordings, I recommend re-downloading the ones you already have, particularly Three Places, which is my personal favorite of the recordings I’ve posted so far.
As part of my general mission to increase the flow of bits hither and thither (and, from time to time, yon) across the Internet, I’m starting a music weblog. (That would be this.)
My initial goal is to post new recordings twice a week (!), every…oh, let’s say Tuesday and Saturday. Sometimes they’ll be recordings of compositions I’ve been learning (and, in some cases, writing), and the rest of the time, they’ll be pure improvisation. Hopefully the variety of old/new and polished/spontaneous will be enough to keep things interesting.
And yes, for the time being, it will all be piano solo. I’d like to post collaborations with other people on other instruments, but I don’t really have the means to much such recordings at home, at least not yet.
I’ll also be using this weblog to post the programs of my concerts, and give audience members a chance to post their feedback. Other creative suggestions for what I might post are, of course, quite welcome.