Life According to Piano

Surprising simplicity

Today I have finished notating The Phoebe Returns, from Under the Greenwood Tree. My notation software is earning its keep, with its super-simple copy/paste function. It makes me very happy.

As does this song. I made it up one spring morning several years ago, just because I wanted to make up some happy music. It worked!

The piece is really very simple. In fact, now that I’ve written it down, I can see that it’s even simpler than I thought. As that hasn’t happened for several pieces now (since recently I’ve been writing down the big overwhelming solos from Handfull that had never been notated because they were big & overwhelming; and once I had the notes in front of me, I could see that… they actually are big & overwhelming), it was a delightful surprise to look at the score and see the simplicity.

I was quite worried about notating the end, though. When I was creating this piece, the ending was a bit of an issue for several days. I was working improvisationally, as I usually do. Practically, that means that I play … something … and if I like it, I attempt to remember it. Well, everything I was trying at the end of Phoebe, I didn’t like. And then, once, out of the blue, I did this really cool thing! I remember sitting there at the piano, after striking piano music gold so unexpectedly, just praying that I could do it again. “Oh please, oh please, oh please…” So I just flung my hands back into the last return of the A section, and……  YESSSSS! They did it again! The magic whatever-it-was.

Rough Cuts #2

Well, you all seemed to like last month’s Rough Cut, so here’s another one. The previous disclaimer applies: this is from my keyboard which, although in tune, doesn’t have the tone colors that are available to me on the Steinway. Well, really, what does?

I have always loved spiritual songs. I’ve recorded my arrangements of spirituals and shape note songs, and of course Christmas carols. I have many arrangements not yet recorded; today’s rough cut is one of those.

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence is a traditional French carol; the tune’s name is Picardy. The text, from the Liturgy of St. James, calls us to awe and reverence in the presence of the Divine. The melody is other-worldly and powerful.

My goal in this arrangement is to have the ”bells” front and center, and actually for the first two verses to have the melody well in the background. This is an experiment! I think I can pull it off on the piano; on the keyboard, maybe not so much. You decide!

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence arranged & performed by Kathleen Ryan © 2015 Indigo Mesa Music

Thank you for listening. I would love to hear your comments.


is the day I write fff (fortissimo and then some) into one of my piano scores for the first time.

Victory doesn’t just come sneaking in, after all.

And then there was one

Forest Green (the penultimate solo to be print-published from A Handfull of Quietness CD) is available. Finally.

You may recall me crowing about writing it down. Well, the editing of it was tougher than I expected. All those 16th notes!! I was just ready to place it in the store, when I discovered that I had some incorrect notes in the easy part of the left hand. Aargh! Apparently I’m still having challenges with the right-brain-to-left-brain, automatic-to-explicit transition.

Still, Forest Green is notated & published as pdf sheet music, and I can dream that some excellent pianist somewhere falls in love with it and decides to show how it should be performed!*

All that remains to publish from Handfull is Bells, the Veil & Victory. HAPPY DANCE!!!

* And along those lines, anyone who ever plays this little arrangement of Forest Green has my explicit permission to remove as many repeats from the final section as you like. Because… sanity.

Can I get my fill of writing about notation?

Apparently not!

Yesterday I completed notating the remaining 2 pieces from my first CD, A Handfull of Quietness. Actually, yesterday I completed notating the last one I needed to write down, Bells, the Veil & Victory. I had finished writing out Forest Green a week before but I was waiting on our new printer to arrive, so — contrary to my usual practice of completing one piece before beginning another — I started notating Bells.

Today I’m looking at 2 printed-out pieces to edit. It is daunting. I see why I like to get one completed before beginning another!

I’ve been thinking about why these two were the last to be written down. I’ve been making up music since before I actually could play piano, and for most of my life that’s how I have thought of it: making up music. As different from … composing.

I do recognize the hilarity of that, since composing is making up music. But when I was a kid, I was just “making stuff up.” And in high school & college, I was “writing songs.” And then I was “improvising for dancers.”

© 2006-2016 Topaz Productions • Email Kathleen