Monday, December 30, 2013

Video: Hamelin--The Ringtone Waltz

When you hang out in piano circles, somebody eventually asks the question: "What is the most difficult piano music ever composed?". The first answers are the obvious ones: something by Rachmaninoff, Liszt, Chopin, Brahms, etc. Then come the more obscure composers: Alkan, Balakirev, Godowsky, Sorabji, Kapustin. And Marc-André Hamelin. Now, I have no interest in torturing myself by trying to learn difficult music for the sake of learning difficult music. But I figure: if you're a piano nut, you owe it to yourself to hear what's being done with the piano "out at the fringes".

Marc-André Hamelin is particularly interesting to me, and not just because he's Canadian. He's taken some of the most notoriously difficult piano pieces and "recomposed" them to be even more difficult. But they're hugely entertaining at the same time. His arrangement of Liszt's arrangement ("La Campanella") of Paganini's second violin concerto is insane. But it's so clever and funny that it makes me smile from beginning to end.

I have no illusion that I'll ever be able to nail any of Hamelin's serious compositions. But as it turns out, he seems to have composed one (relatively) simple piece: The Ringtone Waltz (also known as "Valse Irritation d'après Nokia"). Rumor has it that he would break into this piece in concert if a cell phone went off in the audience. Not sure I believe that. Anyway, it's a nice, short, learnable piece and it lets me claim that I can play Hamelin!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Video: Bach--Prelude in C Major

It's been almost two years exactly since I posted my last videos. I have excuses aplenty for the drought, but they don't matter because I finally made the effort to 'shed some new pieces and made the time to record some new stuff.

I have the raw recordings/footage for three new videos. The first one is Prelude #1 from book I of Johann Sebastian Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. It's a simple piece but it's challenging to play it well. Most importantly, it's just really nice music that everybody likes. That's why I chose to learn it. I wasn't actually planning to make a video of this piece, but at the last minute I thought it would be a good way to ease back into recording. Doing the setup, recording and editing for these videos is a lot of work, and it's taking me extra time trying to remember the process. So having a piece that doesn't require a lot of post-production makes things go much more smoothly. As it turns out, I was able to use a single take for the whole video. It's far from perfect, and I could have fixed some of the more obvious flaws by editing different takes. But I kind of like the simplicity of the single-take video for this simple, beautiful piece.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

If I Had a Nickel...

...for every time somebody watched one of my videos, I'd have about $13,000. Funny how just a couple of years ago we were celebrating 20,000 YouTube views over the first two-and-a-half years. And now we're at 260,000. (It sounds more impressive if you pronounce it "a quarter million").

So thanks to the viewers from 188 countries, the 457 subscribers, and the hundreds who "liked", "shared", "commented" and "favorited". Without you I'd be just some guy who makes amateur piano videos in his spare ti...

Oh... right.