Monday, June 30, 2008

Books in your inbox?

I have been digging up all sorts of geeky odds and ends this month. A new favorite is something called

In their FAQ page they offer this explanation--"We created DailyLit because we spent hours each day on email but could not find the time to read a book. Now the books come to us by email. Problem solved." Currently, I am about 6 daily installments into a free offering by Tom Peters, called 100 Ways to Succeed/Make Money. They offer a number of additional public domain titles free of charge, such as Jane Austen or Shakespeare. And then of course you can order titles that actually cost money.

While I don't expect this would ever become my normal channel for accessing the printed word, I have enjoyed the ride so far and it seems an idea worth watching.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Caitlin Rowley aka "Minim"

Tonight I am enjoying music from a composer, whom I have discovered online through Twitter. Listen to her piano piece Catharsis by clicking here.

She describes herself as an "australian, living in london, hoping never to have to leave. many years ago, i accidentally became a composer of classical music. some years later, i accidentally became a web designer. now i am engaged in reverting to the first accident and relegating the second to its correct status as a hobby." She also asserts that "capital letters are an unwarranted luxury."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Twitter. . . my new obsession

Okay, okay. . . I have fallen off the blogging wagon yet again. I played a concert Sunday afternoon and I have not posted to this poor blog ever since. Anyway, the concert went well despite the ridiculously hot weather (we are absolutely spoiled in San Diego, at least that is what people tell me routinely, so 90 degrees feels really hot to me). Also, this concert provided an opportunity to get my get the e-mail program in my Hostbaby account working. For this performance, a group of about 150 near neighbors got both an individualized e-mail announcement and a follow-up notice for the concert. Very cool! As a result, some folks came who I haven't seen in forever, but I digress. . .

After the concert I read a bit on David Hooper's Music Business blog about Twitter. He asserts that this is the next big thing social networking resource for musicians trying to build an audience through their online presence. Well, I am hooked. For the past four days I have been simply messing around with it, and I must say in a very unsophisticated way. I don't really know what I am doing yet but I am having fun playing with the toys.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Work We've Been Given

"Go home and be good to your wife. Treat your children with respect. And do a good job at whatever you've been given to do."

--Eugene Peterson's response when asked what he would say if he knew that he was about to preach his last sermon, quoted in Subversive Spirituality

I read these words this morning after taking my mother to the airport so that she can fly across the country to see the next of her grandchildren graduate from high school. My oldest son gave his valedictorian address this past Monday evening. Needless to say, I am an obnoxiously proud father and my life has been overflowing with more emotions and memories than I have been able to process. So today, my 71 year-old mother is flying across 3000 miles of sky just so that she can witness another piece of our tribe's history and to build even more memories. I have heard it said recently that it takes a whole life to make real art. These days this is the context that informs the notes I will play tomorrow afternoon as I recreate my versions of Beethoven and Chopin. This is the work that I have been given to do, and I pray for the grace to do it well.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scaring Myself into Productivity

It occurred to me this week that my summer break was approaching the halfway point. So while I should be enjoying my son's graduation from high school and all the other great things that happen in June, underneath it all I have this undercurrent of apprehensive worry about all the work I was hoping to do this summer. Each year when our semester ends at the university, I start what amounts to a fresh set of New Year's resolutions, except these are the things I plan to do while I am on summer vacation from teaching college students.

This year the list was pretty clearly defined: 1.) I absolutely have to record my next CD before I start another season of concerts and tours (the one with the all-Beethoven and Chopin program); 2.) Then, I really have to learn the music that I am scheduled to play next season--the Liszt Sposalizio and Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras number 4 are the new things that I am starting from scratch; 3.) Oh yes, I really need to get my diet and exercise routine back into a pattern that works; 4.) And finally, I need to finish booking my concert calendar for the year with another 8-10 dates to fill out my two concert tours and then meet my quota of public appearances for the year.

When I think about all of this stuff my immediate impulse is to go to the beach and indulge my huge capacity for denial and then down it with a chaser of self-denigration. Instead, I have decided to post my most pressing goals in a somewhat public place so that I feel accountable to the three of you who actually read these meandering entries. Incidentally, the image at the top of this post is the painting by Raphael that inspired Liszt to write the Sposalizio as part of the
Années de Pèlerinage.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Val's Art Diary

A few months ago I participated in the SmArtist Telesummit, an online seminar devoted to teaching artists to market their work more effectively and to build entrepreneurial art businesses that work. During one of the initial sessions, presenter Joan Stewart of Publicity Hound profiled a painter, named Valentina, who has developed a marvelous career by posting videos of her work in progress on YouTube. Since starting her series of weekly videos, she has sold each painting that she has finished and has more commission requests than she can fulfill. At this point I do not know how many creative folks can capture lightening in a bottle and reap rewards this rich from the new media outlets created in a web 2.0 universe, but it does seem clear that there is room for new ways of delivering authentic aesthetic experiences to new audiences through these channels. Stay tuned. . .

Monday, June 16, 2008

In memoriam: Barbara Schneiderman

Earlier this week I was saddened to learn that Barbara Schneiderman had passed away after succumbing to pancreatic cancer. She was a wonderful colleague and teacher from Del Mar, California. You can read an appreciative tribute to her life and work on the Suzuki Association of the Americas web page here.

I had the privilege of adjudicating competitions with Barbara from time to time, and I always appreciated her wise insights about the performances that we heard together. Her book, Confident Musical Performance, gets heavy use in my studio, as I find it to be one of the most helpful resources for understanding the art of performance preparation. Both of the copies on my shelf are worn, ear marked and almost illegible in spots from the heavy highlights and underlines.

With her passing, our circle of friends--pianists, teachers and thinkers--has diminished.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Prince of Virtuosos

I am currently reading Charles Timbrell's Prince of Virtuosos, a wonderful biography of Walter Morse Rummel who was one of the greatest American pianists that no one has ever heard about. The book provides a fascinating portrait of an expatriate American musician who made the European musical world his playground but also reveals his close connections to Ezra Pound, Godowsky, Debussy and other fascinating characters--a totally captivating adventure.

What are you learning now?

This week I began learning Heitor Villa-Lobos' Bachianas Brasileiras number 4. For longer than I wish to admit, I have had the Amsco publications volume of Villa-Lobos' solo piano music sitting on the piano at home. I have read through the notes several times and listened to recordings of both the solo piano version and the version for full orchestra, but I never took the plunge to dig in and actually learn the music. Since starting, there have been a few odd moments of deciphering an odd indication or two in the score. For example, there is a curious Da Capo al Segno at the end of the first movement that seems to go nowhere, as the only segno for the movement in my copy of the score is found over the meter signature of the first measure. This is far from causing enough annoyance to dissuade me from learning the music, but I do wonder how it will work out in performance. The music is lush and very gratifying to play at the piano, and for now, it has been a pure pleasure to immerse myself in these wonderful sounds. By the way, I heartily recommend the orchestra version in a recording with Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the New World Symphony Orchestra.