Life According to Piano

The birth of A Handfull of Quietness

Some number of eons ago, all the way back in the last millenium (aren’t we lucky we get to say that?!), I recorded my first album, Topaz, for release on cassette (see, I said it was eons ago).

Before recording Topaz I had never spent time doing a studio recording. I had recordings of various performances, which of course were live events: however I played the music, that’s what ended up on the tape (see, I said it was eons ago).

Since I both practiced and performed the Topaz music often, and generally was pleased with my results, I believed I’d waltz into the studio, record all the tracks once or twice, get the mastering done and waltz back out at the end of the day with the master in hand. And that is more or less what happened.

I was completely unprepared, though, for the kind of editorial pickiness I could get into now that I was in a studio with an engineer who could edit my playing. Suddenly, nothing that I played was quite good enough. And my playing deteriorated too, the more I tried to play everything “just right.”

My first video!

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Performed by Matt Mazzei, violin, and Keith Snell, piano left hand; and arranged by Kathleen Ryan.

And I didn’t have to do a thing! Well, that may be understating it somewhat, so I had better clarify.

I arranged Somewhere Over the Rainbow for my friend Keith Snell and his violinist friend Matt Mazzei to perform and record. Arranging for piano left hand alone and violin was an interesting challenge for me, made even more “interesting” because Keith wanted the music pronto!

As you may have guessed from reading this blog, I really do not like to write “pronto!” What I like to do is take my time and feel my way through the depths of a song before I commit to any notes.

But Keith wanted to be able to get the video recorded before he made this trip to Bath, and therefore he wanted the music just as quickly as I could create it. Hmm... well, even though I’m a turtle at heart, I can speed up if I must. I composed the arrangement in about 3 or 4 days.

Off the music went (what did we do before computers, Sibelius, and the internet?) and Keith and Matt proclaimed themselves pleased with it, and then they recorded it. The video is up at YouTube, but hey: I embedded it above, just because I can.

Endlessly notating, it seems

I haven’t complained about this in more than 9 months, so here’s another go!

Dynamics! Arrgh!!

What I’m learning by notating everything is that I really have no idea how quietly or loudly I play (except when I’m really very loud!) I know when I play quieter, or louder, but not where my baseline is. Most of the time I just want to write p and leave that for everything, and obviously I do not play quietly all the time or even most of the time.

Working on Under the Greenwood Tree today. I have it complete except for the dreaded dynamics. What I do in Greenwood Tree is very basic and very repetitive. There is a certain shape to each phrase: begin quietly (or whatever is today’s calm baseline), swell to a certain point, then fade to a more quiet quiet. Lather, rinse, repeat. Did I say it’s quite repetitive? So my solution is to mark the piece p at the beginning, and I'm putting in crescendo/decrescendo marks for the swelling/ calming sound. Only it’s the same for each verse and each chorus. It’s driving me crazy! Why do I have to keep putting these marks in? It’s always the same.

Learned something

Well, it turns out that Eagle’s flying music is on shuffle, so he was not listening to Wings on the Breeze as he flew over. On the other hand, he plays it for take-offs! Whee!

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