Friday, January 21, 2011

Balancing act

I had a lesson with Sophia Rosoff this week. I've been studying with her off and on for about 4 years, and it had been a while since my last lesson. I don't always have time to work on classical repertoire, but I've been determined to get back into it, specifically to learn Stravinsky's "Serenade In A".
At the lesson we revisited something we did at one of our very first lessons, balancing an egg. I had heard about this Zen-like exercise from other pianists who had studied with Sophia, and it really blew my mind at the first lesson. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, Sophia instructed me to balance an egg first on the carpet, which is pretty easy, and then on a porcelain dish, which is near-impossible. As I sat there moving the egg around, feeling it's weight, but failing to balance it, she finally said "the point is not to balance the egg, but can you feel how all of you is trying to balance the egg?".
I instantly realized that not only was my mind completely engrossed in the activity of balancing the egg, but I could also feel that not just my hands, but my arms and back, and basically my whole body was involved in the process, with the egg being the end point. This is how Sophia says you have to play the piano.
She turns 90 years old next week! As one of her students put it, "90 years of illuminating this world."

Music and dance at the Launch Pad

Last weekend Old Time Musketry played at a very cool event curated by my friend and colleague Kenny Warren at the Launch Pad in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The Launch Pad is a small community art center, and is a great place run by nice people. Two new Kenny Warren bands had their debut that night, the first was Laila and Smitty, a country-blues-jazz outfit with Kenny taking the role of the singer on the trumpet. Here's a video of them playing Leadbelly's "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." Note especially Myk Freedman's awesome lap steel guitar solo!

There was also a dance performance choreographed by Sarah Zitnay, which I sadly didn't get video of, but it was great!
And then another new Kenny Warren group, Staunch Lad, with Dan Peck on tuba, Devin Gray on drums and Owen Stewart-Robinson on guitar.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

"Talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds."

Just watched Obama's incredibly moving and inspiring address in Tucson, Arizona. I was so depressed this week after reading about the shootings. Obama's remarks really uplifted me and made me proud that he's our president.
Here are some of the passages that struck me:

.."at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds."

"What we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."

"Sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thomas Ades' "Piano Concerto With Moving Image"

Last Thursday I saw a cool concert a Avery Fisher Hall, the NY Phil playing Mozart's G minor symphony, Mahler's "Kindertotenleider", and Thomas Ades' "Piano Concerto with Moving Image". The Ades piece was what brought me to the concert, I've been a fan of his music for a while, especially "Living Toys" and "Asyla".
I think it was one of the best music + visual art performances that I've ever seen. Apparently the composer and video artist collaborated very closely as the piece was composed. The concerto follows the story of Genesis in seven parts, for each day of creation. The images went so well with the music that at some points i felt like spontaneously applauding, or saying "yeah!" like at a jazz show. But you can't really do that at a classical concert, unfortunately.
The music was great, so colorful and inventive, and Ades was playing piano, looking completely at home in his creation.