In the Hands
Paul Cantrell’s music
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Piano music old and new from a devoted amateur,
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Category: Recordings

The Broken Mirror of Memory, Part 2

The Broken Mirror of Memory is now released! (Fanfare!) And the best place to get it is straight from the artist. (That’s me!)

In this episode is one track from the new album. This is part 2; you heard part 1 in the last episode.

The bass clarinet has a kind of talking quality throughout part 2 that involves some unusual sounds you might not have heard before. You’ll hear a few bends and microtonal adjustments, and in many spots, Pat actually sings through…

The Broken Mirror of Memory, Part 1

The Kickstarter project for The Broken Mirror of Memory has passed its first major milestone! I’m now able to pay for printing the CD, and distributing in online music stores. Huzzah!! In celebration, and as a huge thank you to all the awesome backers who have pitched in so far, I’m posting part 1 (out of 4) of the piece.

Here it is!

This music comes right out of the gate at full speed, the piano and the bass clarinet in a…

Chopin Preludes 4 and 9 (as a pair)

Visiting the house of my composer friend Matthew Smith (who has an outstanding CD out now, by the way), I noticed the score to Chopin’s E minor prelude out on the piano. It turns out that his wife, children’s book illustrator and author Lauren Stringer, is taking piano lessons, and she has been working on it. I was delighted — the piece is a favorite of mine. I dug out my recording of it for her to hear…

Nomade à Clef

I don’t usually write jazz tunes, but my friend Todd asked me to write one for him. It sounded like fun, and he had written several great pieces for me, so I took up the challenge. Nomade à Clef is the result.

Todd premiered it at this year’s Keys Please, with David Edminster on tenor sax, and I think they did just a marvelous job with it. They really made it fly. I only wrote a lead sheet (just melody and chords) with a bare-bones piano part underneath to suggest voicings in the piano …

Cantrell
Edminster
Harper

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…

Bach Sinfonia 5 and Schumann Bunte Blätter 6 (as a pair)

As I went through some old recordings, I found that these two make a nice pair. Arranging nice little transitions like this is one of my favorite parts of doing a concert. It’s the same little pleasure as assembling a mix CD or playing DJ: even the simple act of ordering songs is a kind of composition, and carries the joy of being creative.

The keys of the two pieces (E flat and A flat) are related and make for a smooth transition, but beyond that, it’s hard to pin down what exactly connects them so well. The deliberate, thoughtful way both unfold? The way both of them seem to talk?…

Bach
Cantrell
Schumann
Cantrell

Todd Harper: Questions

Perhaps it would have been better if I’d just admitted to myself (and the world) that I’d be taking the summer off from In the Hands. But where’s the fun without the suspense?

Here’s what I currently have in the pipeline (not necessarily in this order):

  • Some newly composed pieces of my own.
  • A new recording of at least some part of The Broken Mirror of Memory, my bass clarinet / piano work.
  • A fine new recording from Don Betts.
  • The remaining remasterings of my older recordings.

…And that’s my autumn of music…

Sueoka
Harper
Minczeski
Cantrell

Northwoods Police Report

After a cold (which left my voice in bad shape for podcasting) and MinneBar (which was a great pleasure), it’s back to In the Hands! I’m continuing from last time the series of recordings I made recently with soprano Kim Sueoka of songs by Todd Harper.

For several years, Todd has been writing songs full of the sort of jazz changes that are his roots, but as much in the tradition of lieder as anything. He always makes them short…

Sueoka
Harper
Cantrell

First Autumn Night

Here, for the first time in a long time, is something I wrote — but it’s not the music!

A couple of weeks ago, I recorded some of my friend Todd Harper’s songs with Kim Sueoka, a marvelous local soprano who sings with (among others) the Rose Ensemble and a first-rate voice/guitar duo called Voce y Cuerdas. She’s great, Todd’s great, and by golly, we had a wonderful time making the recordings!

Todd mostly writes voice / piano duets — and that’s…

Harper
Sueoka
Cantrell

Carei Thomas: The Usual Topic

Here is a second selection from this year’s Keys Please to follow Todd’s little musical rattlesnake adventure. This is an improvisation by Carei Thomas, the rattlesnake’s narrator, now on piano. I thought — and he said afterward — that there was a little nod to my own funny little improvs in this one, especially in the way it starts with a very low note and a very high one … but it’s definitely a Carei thing!

Some improvs have a definite form (head…

Todd Harper: Rattlesnake Song #2

Things don’t look good for me to create more new piano recordings in my home studio in the immediate future, so I’m going to have to stall — but I figure I might at least stall with something good!

This is a piece from the most recent Keys Please! concert. It adds a nice little bit of variation to the blog: not only is it not Cantrell, Chopin, or Brahms, but … it doesn’t even have a piano in it! (Yes, I’m really going out on a limb.) It’s also stylistically different from what I’ve published so far, hopefully in a refreshing…

Harper
Ultan
Thomas

A new audio logo!

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…

Song for Lost Things (rough)

I’m doing something today that I haven’t done in far too long: sharing a recording of a new composition in progress.

I’ve been working for some time on a set of piano pieces, all of them dances in one way or another — and all of them, in one way or another, full of the feeling of entropy, full of things falling apart and things slipping away.

This particular one has much sweetness in it, but its main ingredient is ambiguity. Its different layers are centered in different keys, different places. They mesh so that a note which sounds unresolved in its own layer often harmonizes…

Schubert Impromptu D899.4, played by Don Betts

This is a very familiar piece (to piano aficionados, anyway) — but you’ll find Don’s performance a little refreshingly unfamiliar. It’s not a wild departure from custom, but there’s just a subtle tip in the balance in his performance that makes the feeling of the piece quite different.

In the last entry I mentioned the question of foreground and background. When most pianists play this piece, they put the right hand squarely in the foreground: what you hear is a series of speedy cascades down, a fun bit of finger gymnastics. But when Don plays it, he balances…

Schubert D946.1, played by Don Betts

I’m a fellow of diverse musical tastes, and there are a great many composers I love who don’t appear in the meager list over on the right of this page. So it’s a delight to post this recording, because I get to add a “Schubert” category. Yay for Schubert!

This is another one of the recordings I made in the living room of my teacher, Don Betts. He’s playing a little gem of Schubert’s that one doesn’t hear often — in fact, I’d never heard it at all until he played it for me. When I looked up some recordings by others, I was surprised to find that most people play it very fast, even

Schumann Arabesque, played by Don Betts

In the Hands is primarily for my own recordings, but today I have a special exception to make: over the summer, I recorded Don Betts, my piano teacher, playing in his home. Don has made a great many excellent recordings over the years — including the Chopin album available on this web site — but these recordings we made in his living room are something entirely different. They have a special kind of magic about them. The Chopin album was recorded in a concert hall, and it has a concert hall feeling: it’s Don the performer, playing a big piano in a…

Schumann
Betts

Lusk, Lingle and Torrington (as a set)

When I started In the Hands, I also started recording little unplanned improvisations. I’d done some of this same sort of work during college in the Macalester New Music Ensemble, and some things like it at Keys Please, but it wasn’t until last year that I started putting a regular, concerted effort into playing and recording these.

They’re perhaps not always as interestingly layered or as structurally satisfying as the compositions, but they have a raw energy and spirit of playfulness that I like. They’re also good calisthenics: doing them helps keep me loose and flexible for…

Cantrell
Cantrell
Cantrell

Niobrara (Interstellar Medium Remix)

My recent mastering experiments have been all about reproducing … well, not the literal sound, but the musical spirit of real-life piano — but of course there’s another side to this software I’m using, and it seemed a shame not to play with it! So I went and had some fun with Niobrara. (Some fragments of another improv are also tucked away in there; a free CD to the first person to correctly identify which one.) I hope you enjoy this little musical excursion!

All…

Disembodied Dance (very rough)

I have been busy applying for a fellowship, and also writing writing writing more music. Here is a new one in the set of dances I’ve been working on — as with the others I’ve recorded, a rough performance (there’s a section in the middle that is horrendously hobbled together), but enough to give you the idea. (The score.)

This is probably the weirdest, most abstract thing I’ve ever written. I love it. But be warned: those of you who found the

Chopin Ballade No. 3

I wrote recently about the the danger that virtuosity can make us neglect the virtues of simplicity, and even neglect the music itself. That is true not only of a simple masterpiece like the prelude I was talking about, but also of technically difficult pieces — such as the Chopin ballades.

In everything Chopin writes, no matter how complex and virtuosic, that powerful simplicity is there at the core. Although he wrote some very difficult and impressive stuff, the ultimate effect of his music, I feel, should never really be to impress…

Chopin Prelude 4

To conclude this trip down prelude memory lane (at least for the time being), here is the veeery first piece I worked on with Don Betts. I’ve actually hardly played this one since that first year of lessons, but I found it came back quickly. Is playing a piece like riding a bicycle? Maybe a little.

Don always gives this one to his beginner students. At the time, although I’d had piano lessons for many years as a child, and had recently played piano in a dixie band, I was still really a beginner in many ways. I’d brought Louis Lortie’s recording of…

Chopin Prelude 20

As long as I’m on this Chopin prelude kick….

This piece is easy to sink one’s teeth into, I think, very dramatic and engaging on the first listen. But subsequent digging reveals a lot of subtlety in the way the different voices move, the modulation and chromaticism, the emotional shape. It has a fascinatingly unusual structure: many piece start softly and work to a crescendo, but this one starts loud and fades to a whisper. Many pieces in binary form have an initial section that’s repeated twice (AAB) — like

Chopin Prelude 6

We live in a time of superhuman performers. The stars of the classical piano world do things that hardly seem humanly possible — certainly that are far beyond me — and people love it, demand it. It’s a mixed blessing: on the one hand, it’s amazing to hear the most difficult works performed with such ability; on the other hand, the emphasis on the performer, the great cult of the virtuoso, can make us forget about the music itself. Should hearing a piece of music be like watching somebody juggle 9 bowling balls on a tightrope, or like embracing an old friend?

It is often true of the composers…

Chopin Prelude 9

An old favorite, brought from the past to the present for your listening enjoyment.

I love the steady outpouring of energy, the unbrokenness of the flow as it goes through such a dramatic series of changes, the perfect balance of the different sections, the tremendous sense of scope of this mere 95 seconds, a single printed page of music. Chopin is totally my hero.

Esoteric Musicological Aside

There’s an interesting controversy about this piece: in certain places, Chopin notated the melody as dotted eighth + sixteenth…

Improvisation: Rozer

Today’s improv is a bit of fun with one of my favorite sounds from extended piano technique, made by damping a low string with a finger or two at about the point where the copper winding ends. This sound also makes a prominent appearance in the second movement of The Broken Mirror of Memory.

Cantrell

I have been practicing some new material to record, and I’m getting the piano tuned later this week in anticipation of actually recording it. So stick around — I hope to have a few treats for you in February!

Dance for Remembering and Forgetting (rough)

Here’s another piece from the suite of dances I’m working on, the same set which also includes the Entropic Waltz and Cradle Waltz.

The composition, which was tricky, has actually been done for a while … but learning to play it has proved quite a bit of work! Though it may not sound like it, the piece is quite difficult — it has different layers moving in different registers of the keyboard, and so playing it essentially involves using two hands to create the illusion of three or four.

Bach WTC Book 1 Prelude 1, à la Hewitt

As long as we’re conducting experiments on the familiar C major prelude…

Some years ago, Don and I heard Angela Hewitt play a marvelous concert of Bach and Messiaen. (There’s a combination!) She gave the most unusual performance of the C major prelude I’ve ever heard: very fast, very light, either a bit of pedal or just a superhuman legato (don’t remember which), and certain notes voiced to give the rapid…

Bach WTC Book 1 Prelude 1, à la Hendrix

So here’s the deal with the mystery recording (Ahree got it right):

It is, of course, a familiar Bach prelude. I learned to play the piece backwards — that is, playing the notes in reverse order — recorded it that way, then reversed the recording. Got it? So even though you hear the strange sound of backwards piano, growing instead of decaying, the notes come in the right order. Here’s what I actually played — and here’s the final backward-is-foward result again:…

A ridiculous surprise

Here’s an amusing little idea Joel and I came up with while talking on the phone. Why did I do this, you ask? Because it’s the internet. Because I can.

The first one to figure out what’s going on here gets … um, actually I don’t have a prize. Sorry. Still, try to figure it out!

If you want the full surprise effect, play the song without looking at the title.

Improvisation: Jelm

Crystalizing, particle by particle.

Cantrell

That’s the last of the January improvaganza. I’ve been composing day and night (and it’s a perfect night for it tonight: new snow and a near-full moon!), and that will yield some new recordings just as soon as I manage to get some of these new pieces learned. But next time, I have a quirky little treat in the works for you. No, no, it’s a secret. Only Joel knows.

Improvisation: Natrona

A sudden outpouring with no resolution!

Cantrell

I sat down and played this once, then for some reason started it again a couple of times — perhaps trying to find a resolution that wasn’t there to be found. But I ended up using that first take after all.

It somehow reminds me of GMH:

Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
  Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
  Selves—goes its self; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying…

Improvisation: Wyarno

I can’t decide: is this one emotionally charged, walking in an unfamiliar place, breath held? Or is it something moving without human intention, like water flowing beneath the ice, seen through human eyes?

Cantrell

Hmm. I think this one went on too long, but I do like the ending.

Improvisation: Alcova

Shelter. A safe place.

Cantrell

I’m returning from Colorado tomorrow, but it will likely be a while before my piano is back in tune and I’m recording again. Will the blog go silent, you ask? Fear not! I recorded a little round of improvs a few weeks ago, so that’s likely what you’ll be hearing here for the next couple of weeks.

When I post a bunch of improvs in a row like this, part of me cringes at them starting to feel like filler material — but I set out to post recordings twice a week, and by golly, I’m sticking to that! So I hope you can enjoy…

Brahms Waltz Op 39 No 15

At the New Year’s Eve party my family has been attending for the last … oh, at least 20 years, we have a tradition of doing waltzes. By “doing,” I don’t much mean dancing — sadly, only a few brave souls do that — but playing them, since it’s a musical crowd and it’s easy to form a pickup group. (It’s another instance of the sort of informal playing together, not playing for, that I wrote about in Comparing Notes.) Waltzes for the new year are a tradition our hosts imported from Austria…

Chopin Etude 25.1

The word “étude” means study — a practice piece, designed to exercise a particular technique. Études for musicians are generally dry, repetitious pieces, not music to perform, but just exercises for practice. So Chopin’s choice of that title may seem a little understated, or even ironic: his études certainly do exercise one’s technique, but they are expressive, poetic, passionate, and anything but dry.

I think the title fits beautifully: shouldn’t learning always be this way?

An interesting aspect of the piece I work to bring…

Brahms Ballade 10.4

I’ve been meaning to record this one for a long time.

Brahms
Cantrell

This is one of those mysterious and introspective pieces like Chopin’s nocturne 15.3 that has a strange logic all its own. It’s low and, even in the crescendos, somehow hushed throughout. There’s not a trace of virtuosic flashiness in it; it’s definitely not a piece that’s about the pianist. The way it unfolds is … well, a nice fellow from Paris named Frank who emailed me about piano recording, and who is also learning to play it, said it well…

Bach Invention 6

I love the word “invention” — it may capture what’s going on in the pieces of music it names better than any title I know of. What’s this? It’s just an idea, a creative spark. Bach has fun, and he’s sharing.

Just an idea: one scale coming up, one going down, alternating steps. And from that idea, a little world unfolds.

Bach
Cantrell

The Broken Mirror of Memory (cello version), 4th mvmt

Here is the fourth movement of The Broken Mirror of Memory, with Diana Frazier on cello. The second movement, the one from Saturday’s post, comes straight out of the cello, and all the extraordinary sounds it can make. (It also serves as a break for the pianist, who has rather an exhausting job in the first movement.) This movement doesn’t have all those wild sounds; it is pure and unabashed melodic counterpoint, a melody that’s been there playing all along throughout the piece. But listen closely — that second movement…

The Broken Mirror of Memory (cello version), 2nd mvmt

This is one movement of my cello piece, The Broken Mirror of Memory. Unlike most of the recordings in this blog, this isn’t a recording from my home studio, but rather from a concert at Macalester. And yes, I admit, it’s actually an old recording (2003), which is sort of cheating on this whole “two new recordings every week” scheme — but it is at least previously unreleased, so I hope you’ll enjoy it anyway.

The cellist is Diana Frazier, a family friend who was just wonderful in taking…

Noah’s Song

I wrote this piece for a former piano student of mine. He was (and presumably still is) exceptionally thoughtful, patient, and sensitive for an eight-year-old; in fact, he had the better of most adults I’ve known in those respects. I wanted a piece that would give him a chance to be really musical — he had the right stuff for it — but was within his technical reach and within the physical limitations of the birth defect in his right hand. So this is what I came up with.

Cantrell

He did learn it, and played it quite nicely. This, of course,…

Chopin F minor Fantasy (introduction)

Here’s a preview of a piece I’m working on — this is the march that opens Chopin’s Fantasty. The whole piece is quite an epic (about 14 minutes), and rather difficult, so I’m not going to be posting the whole thing in the near future.

This opening, however, is neither so long nor so difficult, and so I’m posting a rough version of it as a little appetizer. It almost stands as a little piece on its own, but right where I stop in this recording, instead of winding to a close, the music takes off full throttle.

In the future…

The Walking Concert

Here’s a little composition from my tender youth. I remember that I was a little befuddled at the time about how to write down the rhythms! This piece thus lived only in my head for a long time, yet I still remember it quite clearly. It will be obvious why when you hear it — it’s kind of catchy.

Hearing this again makes me smile. Perhaps it’s just pleasant memories of sixth grade (which was a happy year for me), but I hope that the tune is enjoyable for you even without the personal associations!

The Monster's Theme

In college, I won an award from the Math/CS department for being the most outstanding procrastinator of my senior class. I don’t think it’s exactly fair to say that I procrastinate, though; I’m just perpetually late. My life is like a finely tuned Swiss watch that’s set to the wrong time.

So I finally got around to putting The Monster from Keys Please! up on the site. To celebrate the occasion, here’s the opening number in its original, bare, single-piano form:

Compare that with the full-on decked…

Thoughts at 4 AM

Here’s a little gem of a piece that my dear friend Todd Harper (of Keys Please fame) gave me as a present for my 25th birthday. Naturally this charmed my socks off. So tonight, with my socks back on (no shoes, though, as usual at the piano), I recorded it to share with you. He has it marked “really quiet,” with “really” underlined twice, so in addition to playing it that way, I kept this recording mastered a bit low.

Harper
Cantrell

What? Oh, yes, of course I recorded it at 4 AM! Well, actually it was more like ten…

Improvisation: Niobrara

The Niobrara River starts in Wyoming and flows through Nebraska. Wikipedia tells me that the original native name in the Omaha-Ponca language, Ní Ubthátha khe, means something akin to “water spread out horizontally” or “wide-spreading waters.”

I did not know that when I chose the title; the word’s music simply seemed to me to fit my piano’s music. Though it’s accidental, it seems to me that the visual fits.

Cantrell

I later produced a remix of this piece, with an…

Improvisation: Goshen

Just some good clean fun with with notes.

Cantrell

I just liked the word, but it turns out that “Goshen” is actually a place mentioned in Genesis. I am sure half of you already knew this, but for me, it is an exciting new fact. Seems I ought to search this here “inter-net” more often!

Chopin Waltz 34.2

Today’s recording brings In the Hands over the one hour mark: since I started this blog at the end of August, it’s brought over 65 minutes of free piano music to the web. Yay!

This recording also marks a more dubious milestone: for the first time I’m late with the post (it just turned Wednesday in Minnesota as I type this). I’m not sure anyone cares, or even notices, but I do try to keep myself honest with this Tuesday/Saturday plan.

Chopin can get very complex, virtuosic, or just generally full of big piano sounds. But always…

Brahms Intermezzo 117.2

When I first saw the sheet music for today’s piece, I was a bit boggled. I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a piece that sounded less like it looked! You might figure it for some sort of virtuosic toccata thing, all flash and texture, but no, it is slow, minimal melody with a lush, dark accompaniment.

The notation makes a little more sense if you think of Bach’s preludes. Do I grow predictable claiming everything is full of Bach? Very well, I grow predictable. This one is full of Bach: the layering; the figuration…

Brahms
Cantrell

Chopin Nocturne 15.3

One of the most fundamental, most important principles in music is return: when things happen, they come back. Throughout a piece of music, there are recurring elements that unite the whole. The beginning and the end connect. If we depart from where we started, we return there — or at least look back.

The familiar verse / chorus / bridge form that underlies so many pop songs follows this principle: we might get a new melody, the bridge (“Why she had to leave, I don’t know”), but we still come back to the original repeating verse / chorus music (“Yesterday…”). Many, many classical…

Chopin Nocturne 15.2

It’s organic, and sounds almost improvised — except that it is impossibly perfect in every detail. Its soundscape is vast, deep, and richly pianistic, but look at the construction and you’ll see the spare elegance of Bach. It has a loving tenderness, and a longing, that’s unlike anything else, yet seems instantly familiar. And it’s gorgeous.

What is it? Chopin, of course!

There’s nothing quite like learning to play a piece of music to really get inside it. With this one, like many I’ve shared here, I knew it was excellent…

Entropic Waltz

Today, another one from the set of dances I’m working on that also includes the Cradle Waltz. This one is a bit different in character!

Cantrell

This performance is rough — I’m still learning it, and it’s not easy! — but I thought I’d share it with you anyway. (You can look at the score and see what I’m supposed to be playing.) I think the basic spirit of the piece comes off: somewhere in the grey area between humorous and disturbing…

Schumann Bunte Blätter 6

I’m just back today from a wonderful, wonderful trip to NYC and New Haven, CT, which was a reminder of just how wonderful family and friendship are. And although I’m really looking forward to sleeping in my own bed (I’ve been up since 5:20 AM Minnesota time), I did manage to edit and master tonight something I’d recorded beforehand for you.

Schumann
Cantrell

As I mentioned last week, I’m working on a set of short pieces, and in that set, I’m thinking constantly of Schumann. He wrote many sets of short…

Cradle Waltz

Here, for the first time in this blog, is a brand new composition — one of a set of dances I’m working on right now. This is probably the most innocent piece of music I’ve ever written (thus the title).

Cantrell

Here’s the score. It’s only two lines long on paper, but those two lines sure took a lot of careful thought!

The set as a whole is still very much in progress, but I’ve finished writing a few of the individual pieces, and they’ll show up here as I learn to play them. Not…

Improvisation: Lusk

A mysterious improv: snaking, atmospheric, perpetually unresolved … sort of … lusky. What can I say? The word seems right.

Cantrell

My family has always loved Wyoming names, particularly three neighboring towns we’d sometimes see driving between Colorado and Minnesota: Lusk, Lingle and Torrington. Such fine words! They’ve long been part of our family lexicon, and I’ve dedicated my first three improvs to them to help…

Bach Sinfonia 5

The first Bach of the blog, one of his sinfonias (also known as three-part inventions). The three parts in this one are not obvious at first: the upper two voice are wonderfully intertwined, and do an intricate little tango together as third voice turns slowly through a cycle of Bach permutations underneath. I love the way it unfolds.

Bach
Cantrell

As I listen to myself play this one, it sounds like I’m still a bit tentative with a new piece — certainly there is room to be more expressive, and more fluid. I am pleased to have worked out the ornaments, though…

Improvisation: Torrington Lope

Today’s improv is a quirky, silly little thing — a lopsided dance for good (if uneven) measure. I encourage you to invent some dance steps to go with it, and post any here that didn’t result in physical injury.

Cantrell

Brahms Intermezzo 116.4

Something sweet today: a bit of magic from Brahms.

Brahms
Cantrell

These late Brahms pieces — same with the first recording in this blog — are amazing to me as a composer. They sound lush, but the writing is actually quite spare and elemental. The structures are at once formal and organic, like Bach preludes. And the incredible emotional intimacy, their sense of being so personal, is like no other music I know.

This was the first Brahms I ever learned to play. It looked to me like a relatively…

In a Perfectly Wounded Sky

Today’s recording is a composition of my own, which I see I play a bit faster than I did three years ago. I like the new version — I think the faster tempo in the middle sustains the structural momentum a bit better — but of course I may have changed my mind about that three years from now. That’s the fun of interpretation: it’s never done!

The title is based on my mishearing of a Tori Amos lyric (from Cruel). I generally go for titles that are evocative and somehow seem to fit, without actually having any clear meaning that listeners will try…

Improvisation: Lingle

Recordings of compositions are many months, sometimes years, in preparation. It takes me a long time to learn pieces, and even longer to write them! But I’m sticking with this plan of posting a recording every Saturday and Tuesday regardless, which means that many of the recordings will be entirely spontaneous improvisations — like this one.

I’d originally meant to give all the improvs pleasing nonsense names, in the manner of Autechre, but for now, at least…

Cantrell

…I’ll be…

Chopin Nocturne 55.1

You probably were all wondering when I’d get to some Chopin, no? Well, wonder no longer! Voici!

This piece is a subtle, spare thing, and its spareness makes it much more difficult than it sounds. Listening to this recording again, I think I could play some sections better now; perhaps I’ll record it again in the future. A really fine piece of music is a lifelong exploration, so I’m certainly not opposed to posting new versions of pieces I’ve already recorded! Still, this recording is decent — the idea of the music certainly comes across, and people do seem to enjoy this version.…

Three Places

I had a lovely productive day in the recording studio (i.e. in my living room with the mics on) today, and you, O lucky readers of this blog, will see the results of that work over the next couple of weeks as I get the recordings edited and mastered.

Here’s the first from today’s session. This piece is my old, trusted standby. I wrote it back in college, in the winter and spring of 1998, and since then it’s been the one piece of my own that I’ve continually kept in my hands and head, always at the ready when somebody says, “Play something you wrote, Paul!” It still remains satisfying…

Cantrell

Brahms Intermezzo 117.1

To get the recording train rolling, here’s a recording of a lullaby of Brahms, one of my favorites. I made this recording to play with equalization settings, but liked the performance enough to keep it.

It’s a piece Brahms wrote late in life, a lullaby. He included a motto at the top from an old Scottish folk song, which in modern English is roughly:

Sleep, my child, now sweetly sleep
It grieves my heart to see you weep.

Brahms is perhaps the most humane composer I know, most especially in these last piano pieces of his. I’ve…

Brahms
Cantrell