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June 30, 06

Rachs in my head and other painful mental exercises

Cramming fistfuls of notes into my head for the Rachmaninoff 3rd piano concerto is much more painful mentally than physically - my homestretch memorization stages are always the most dreaded when i'm getting repertoire learned or revived. It's gotten me reflecting on my overall repertoire learning pattern for solo literature:
  • painstaking mapping of the most efficient and effective fingerings - this is by far the most crucial step, laying out the majority of the learning processes for muscle and mental memory

  • "bridging" - my method of creating the flow between notes of difficult passages and phrases. Slow motion connections focusing on fluid movements to get those notes learned within the momentum of the music

  • mindless repetition - the "lazy" part of my learning cycle, when i'm getting close to full speed and just have fun running through the piece...brain isn't necessarily running on all cylinders, just getting the piece stored into my head by a sort of "muscle osmosis" - the type of practice i do when i'm either short on time or short on mental energy

  • homestretch: painstaking measure by measure full-focus memorization, checking for errors, cramming those stubborn notes line by line, phrase by phrase like putting Shakespeare or my Shorter Catechism into my cramped brain word by word...


  • Memorization hurts for me, especially when patterns fluctuate as wildly as they do in Rachmaninoff's embellished harmonic textures...sigh...this is when i really feel like a blockhead - or a "Rach-head"...

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    June 29, 06

    Death of a Salesman? Today's Composers Podcast on MySpace

    I initially felt a bit of what Thomas Hampson must've felt when he entered the room at our first meeting and made a beeline towards my Tablet PC/footswitch page turning system, exclaiming in that wonderful baritone sonority, "I invented this in my mind!" Nice to see when something you've been dreaming of suddenly makes an appearance straight from your imagination into reality - and that seemed to be the case with a podcast series for Contemporary Composers that i found in MySpace called "Today's Composers".

    Well, at least it looked good at first glance...

    Now i'm feeling a little bit like i did when my wife and i left the pre-opening screening of "Superman Returns" - great ideas, but something lacking in the execution, somewhat of a letdown. Here's what i mean:

    "Today's Composers" is sort of a collective composers' podcast, providing a venue for little-known composers to be heard. For a relatively "small" fee, composers can submit works that are played in their entirety, without introduction, comment, or discussion. And that's precisely where i'm having a problem with the concept - this music can be difficult for the uninitiated to absorb. It's certainly easier to just slap up recordings and collect a little money on the side to help defray the cost of bandwidth, but it's another thing entirely to spend some time with the works submitted, to get to know the composer personally, and to explore and discuss the music in a way that helps folks get the most out of their listening experience. The submissions from the external homepage at http://www.todayscomposers.com/ seem to be stillborn - as of this writing, i count 11 submitted works listed dating from July 2005 sporatically up to January 2006. I also tried adding an iTunes subscription as per the site's instructions (you need to do this manually by entering the RSS feed xml file into iTunes' "Advanced"..."Subscribe to Podcast" menu options - why doesn't the webmaster put up a one-click subscription button?), but the feed seems to be dead in the water, as no files seem to be accessible anymore (the RSS icon doesn't appear on the site)...

    Hm...i sense a well-intentioned effort that seems to have died an early death...

    ...but perhaps, there is hope. The MySpace profile for Today's Composers seems to have been very recently created (5/22/2006), although it appears that all of the works are just resubmissions from the original homepage (the String Quartet by Yohei Kurihara seems to be a compilation of the separate movements that were previously submitted, for example). But with only 64 friends as of this writing and 338 profile views (3 plays listed today from the MySpace jukebox player - all of them mine, i think...), i'm worried that this concept will continue to die a protracted death...

    Don't get me wrong, that's NOT what i want to see happen!

    I have a few suggestions for helping this collective composers' site to survive:

    1. Get rid of the fee for now. Concentrate on getting composer submissions first, build volume, then perhaps introduce a nominal fee for additional work submissions. This collective needs a library worth listening to before it can become a meaningful tool to promote composers.

    2. As of this writing, the Classical Music Group in MySpace has 3551 members. Even the 20th Century Contemporary Classical Music History/Criticism/Analysis Group has 151 members. If i were the creator of "Today's Composers", i would be spending as much free time as i could inviting the members of these and other similar groups to join my friends list - you would see an immediate increase in the number of plays and in the overall exposure of the composers featured on the page. This is the fundamental mechanism that makes promotion via MySpace work so effectively, but it won't happen by itself. You need to actively find your fan base and communicate meaningfully to them!

    3. Speaking of composers, there needs to be links to each of the featured composers' MySpace profiles and/or personal websites prominantly placed on the page. Music for it's own sake is one thing, but to promote yourself as a vehicle to help composers gain exposure without actively promoting the composers themselves is an example of bad marketing that serves no one. Talk about the composers. Link to them. Discuss their music. Explain what they are contributing, and why it's worth investing time and energy listening to. I get really frustrated when i see good fruit dying on the vine for no other reason than a lack of simple care and attention (metaphorically speaking, of course - don't pay any attention to the dying ficus tree in my office...ahem, ahem...)

    I've been dreaming about creating some sort of new music podcast series venue, and am in discussions with a number of composers about this. I was really hoping that 'Today's Composers' would be an example to follow for this type of venue, but that doesn't seem to be the case yet. Hopefully, i'll be eating my words in a few months and i'll see this concept explode with wild popularity, but i suspect that if some fundamental marketing principals aren't applied soon, then it'll be a long while before my mouth chews Nike leather...


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    June 28, 06

    Starstruck Stomach

    Morimoto's is one of my and my wife's favorite restaurants in Philadelphia. Located on 723 Chestnut street, it features uber-cool flowing decor - not a straight line or a right angle to be seen along the wavy walls and ceilings, and even the furniture "flows" with gently ebbing mood lights! - and some of the most incredible Japanese fusion seafood i have ever tasted! We've been to this restaurant several times, but last week we were lucky enough to see the Iron Chef himself manning the helm for the first time. Morimoto was kind enough to step away from the bustle of the sushi bar to pose for a picture with us.
    Appetizers are absolutely amazing (my wife and i love the tuna sushi with caviar); entrees are good, but can be a bit hit or miss (i had the 5-spice lobster, and while the texture was wonderful, i was a little dissappointed with the overall flavor - my wife's sea bass was much better); signature cocktails are even more hit or miss - well, actually more misses for me, as i have yet to find a Morimoto cocktail that i like (the Morimoto Martini with sake and cucumbers doesn't do it for me, nor does the lime cocktail infused with Japanese herbs...) - that said, the Morimoto Hazelnut beer is not to be missed if you like your ale with lots of texture and character, like i do!
    Highly, highly recommended restaurant if you're looking for a unique place with excellent cuisine and lots of character. Wallet warning on red alert, as this is one of the pricier restaurants in Philly, but well worth it in my book...

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    June 27, 06

    Modding MySpace

    I've had several musicians ask me about building websites to promote themselves. I'll try to get around to the website building tutorials i've been promising various colleagues and friends as an add-on to the "Getting Started" page (well, after i've finished cramming for my various concerts coming up next month...sigh...sorry it's taking so long, that's what happens when you're running around with full plates!) While i still feel that blogs and personal websites are going to continue to be the backbone of any serious internet-based marketing tool, you should consider adding a profile on MySpace.com. In lieu of my upcoming web-builder tutorial series, i'd like to spend time on today's article talking about my experiences so far in customising a MySpace profile page.

    Barely a few months into posting a profile in MySpace.com, and i'd hardly consider myself an 'expert' on the workings of the site - but i finally managed to get around to getting my page to look a bit more presentable. It's hard to maintain a decent design motif when you're stuck with a single scrolling page and limited HTML capabilities (no image maps allowed, no iframes allowed - sigh...), but hopefully i've struck a reasonable balance between visual appeal and legibility (the latter being sorely lacking in a shocking number of pages, it seems) In fact, i've already received a number of messages from fellow MySpace musicians asking how i customized my profile.

    There are a number of sites that offer free graphics and code templates to customize your MySpace profile. Many of them have pre-made designs that you can choose from, but i suspect most creative folks will prefer to be more 'hands on' in creating personalized embellishments. I used a very simplistic code generator site to create a barebones color scheme early on, but found a better template/code site (at http://www.mygen.co.uk) that does a much nicer job with more options, like transparency of the tables and left/right orientation options. Rather than use 'stock' background photos, i used my Rock Hall picture as the background wallpaper - to fit the screen, i modified the size and resolution to be both large enough visually (1024 x 768 pixels) and small enough as a file (i kept the pixel resolution to under 75 pixels per inch, i think) for relatively quick loading. Macromedia Fireworks was my image editor for the large background graphic, but i suspect you could use an open source editor like GIMP just as easily.




    I used a Contact Table generator at http://www.123mycodes.com/contact-table-generator.php to incorporate my studio piano/tablet pc picture, but have since found a better generator at http://www.surfourspace.net/contablegen.php - the latter site has a better way of showing previews of various text fonts.





    I found a really nice Flash MP3 player code at http://www.myspace-code.org/flashmp3player - the site allows you to generate a code that contains up to 20 mp3 files with custom titles that will play in a self-contained player, separate from the player embedded in the band template of the MySpace profile. Keep in mind, that you will need to have a separate site to actually host the MP3 files (i'm linking to my church's music page where my psalm and hymn arrangements are stored). Also, if you already have songs loaded up in the MySpace player, you should probably have the flash player set NOT to start when the page is loaded; otherwise, you'll have two players starting different songs simultaneously (well, perhaps Charles Ives would actually prefer that on his MySpace page...)


    Another nice site for little tweaks and miscellaneous MySpace widgets to cram into your profile is http://www.surfourspace.net/. This might sound hypocritical, given the busy nature of my blog, but i'd caution against overkill, especially if the visual/design elements detract from making your bio difficult to read (ex: transparency levels below 90% really start fading fast - not a good idea, unless your background image is relatively static and colored on the opposite end of the color wheel...)

    Oh, almost forgot to mention - so, where do you put the codes once you've generated them? All page template modifications need to be inserted within the band's 'Bio' or the 'About me' section of your profile settings. Other sections can have HTML codes inserted - this is how other folks add sundry pictures, widgets, video clips, etc. throughout their profile (my MP3 flash player's code is inserted in the "Band Members" section, for example), but the 'Bio' or 'About me' is the only place where you can modify the full page's layout.



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    June 26, 06

    Music Meets Tech #17: Lidia Kaminska, Bayanist - Part 2


    <A HREF="http://hughsung.com/images/tn_kaminska.jpg"></A>


    Can't view the clip? Download the player plug-in from Microsoft

    Meet classical Bayanist Lidia Kaminska! The Bayan, originating from Russia, is also known as the Chromatic Button Accordion. In Part 2 of our interview, Lidia performs a Piazzolla Tango and talks about her background - how she started playing the Bayan, and her future plans to establish the instrument as a classical concert instrument.

    This special video interview is being presented both as a Windows-compatible WMV file (approximately 13.5 MB) and as an iPod-compatible Video Podcast. Running time is appoximately 7:30 minutes.


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    June 24, 06

    Creating Digital Music: Tablet Theremins, Foldable Guitars, and Other Cool Stuff

    Amazing what a surfing expedition will turn up! First noticed an article from GottaBeMobile.com about a new applet that allows you to create music like a Theremin (see my article on the YouTuble Theremin Video) on a Wacom Tablet or a Tablet PC (albeit with some bugs). That article was courtesy of Sumocat - which in turn, was courtesy of an article posted by Gizmodo - which in turn, was thanks to an article from a fascinating site called Create Digital Music...
    Link dizzy, yet?
    The end result of this fractal sufing escapade is another goldmine site for those who want to read up on the latest hardware and software for creating and enjoying digital music in all its fascinating permutations, from foldable guitars that can fit in a suitcase to a new program from M-Audio that tries to create a GarageBand clone for Windows users, and music on sticks as an iPod alternative. Oh, and check out this wacky alternative to the traditional piano keyboard:


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    June 23, 06

    My PR Manager is Fired: Last Minute Concert Announcements

    There was a classic Star Trek episode (original series) where Kirk fires Scotty for some engineering snafu...well, Hugh Sung has officially fired Hugh Sung for forgetting to notify folks of some last-minute concerts at the Kimmel Center! The Philadelphia Orchestra will be performing Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" tomorrow morning as part of their Family Concerts series; they asked me to play excerpts from the original piano version for two of their pre-concert adventures, in collaboration with NYC-based arts outreach specialist Misty Pereira. The pre-concert shows will be 9:30 am and 11:15 am in the Perelman Theater (prior to the Orchestra's performances at 11 am and 12:45 am respectively in Verizon Hall), and should be lots of fun! You can purchase tickets for the show here.

    If that weren't enough, Bayanist Lidia Kaminska has invited me to play a show at the Kimmel center later in the evening (7 pm), which should be a wonderful preview of our upcoming show in Ocean Grove, NJ - we're putting together some terrific tangos by Piazzolla, together with collaborations by some dancers! This is all part of the 19-hour Summer Solstice festivities (12 pm to 7 am the next day!) at the Kimmel Center. You can get info and tickets here - sounds like this event would be the perfect antidote for insomniac music lovers!

    Anyone who wants a marathon fill of Hugh's playing is welcome to hang out with me all day tomorrow! Since i fired myself, i have nothing better to do, i suppose...


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    June 22, 06

    Super Typing Wizard Speed Test

    Ok, all you hotshot keyboard players out there - let's test your mettle! Courtesy of a post on one of PianoWorld.com's forums, there is an online typing speed test. Unfortunately, it only works with Windows XP and Internet Explorer 6.0 (the javascript doesn't work within my initial test using Firefox and Windows ME - yes, i still use Windows ME as one of my computers! Still runs like a charm!) So, what's my score?
    87 words per minute with 7 errors
    Argh...gotta practice my typing! Hee hee!


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    June 21, 06

    A Flute Student's Impressions of the Tablet PC

    Megan Emigh is a phenomenal Juilliard-bound flute student who had a chance to try out my old Electrovaya SC 2100 Tablet PC, along with two of my footswitches - one from Delcom Engineering, the other being the Griffin PowerMate USB controller with my custom made "cradle". Megan was gracious enough to write this review, and gives an honest assessment of her experiences with this sort of technology for reading digital music.


    PC Tablet Review by Megan Emigh

    My first contact with the PC Tablet came several years ago when I received a brochure about it in the mail. On the brochure was a picture of orchestral musicians with computers on their stands displaying music. "Interesting," I thought and quickly dismissed it as one of those "what will they come up with next" wacky gadgets. It wasn't until last year when I started working with Hugh Sung that I saw these computers in action. I was fascinated by the technology, but saw it only as a fun toy for musicians. Then, came that fateful day, when I tried a Tablet for myself. I was rehearsing "December Chrysanthemum" written by Xiagang Ye for the 1st Nicolet Beijing Flute Competition. Because page turns were impossible, I reduced the 18-page score to four and a half large pages. I was able to manage with two stands and just one page turn. Everything was great except for one small problem - the music was very difficult to read after being reduced to a quarter of its original size. I told myself that my eyesight was fine and that I would have it memorized by the performance! When I showed up to rehearsal carrying my super-sized music sheets, Hugh Sung looked at me with a smile and said, "How would you like to try a Tablet PC?"

    One of the first things that impressed me with the machine was the quality of the resolution on the screen. It was easy to see the music. Using a stylus was no problem and the software was terrific. Now came the interesting part - the pedal. How does a flutist use a pedal for page turns? This proved to be Hugh Sung's biggest challenge! I tried his round pedal (designed for hands), but that was too unreliable as a foot pedal. I wasn't able to turn the pages consistently. This made for some very funny situations. However, what was humorous in the practice room could become a nightmare onstage at a competition. We decided to give one of his older pedals a try. I was more at ease with the design, but it had an annoying squeak. Hugh Sung sent me home with these two pedals and the Tablet PC to practice with them and see if they would work for the competition. After working with the round pedal during the week, I still wasn't able to get it to perform consistently for me. We tried some different silencing techniques with the flat pedal, but the noise was still audible. At my next rehearsal with Hugh Sung, we discussed these problems and he had me try a new cradle he had developed for the round pedal. The cradle dramatically cut down on missed page turns! With this new solution, I felt more confident using this pedal. But, as I did play-throughs of the piece, I noticed that the problem was not completely alleviated. I would inevitably miss a page turn and then would go through a frenzied dance while trying to remember what came next in the piece! As the competition was rapidly approaching, I had to make a decision soon; would I go for security and noise or silence and risk? My decision was made for me when I did not have to play the piece in the competition.

    Overall, I was very impressed with the Tablet PC. The capability and potential of these computers is astounding. Even in my limited experience with these machines, I can already see that they are not just a gadget or a toy; but an extremely valuable tool for musicians. While I cannot say enough good things about the Tablet PC, I would be hard-pressed to come up with something positive to say about the pedals. Someone needs to design a foot pedal specifically for instrumentalists, which is both quiet and dependable. With a good pedal, I would have no fears using a Tablet PC in performance. So, to all musicians out there, don't miss the opportunity to be on the forefront of what promises to be a huge breakthrough in musical performances!











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    June 20, 06

    Microphone Masterclass

    Last night i think i had one of the most productive - and one of the most humbling - practice sessions that i can recall. Working on getting Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" back in shape for this Saturday's Pre-Concert performances at the Kimmel Center, i wanted to experiment with efficient ways to get my memorization of the piece ironed out. So often when i'm memorizing music, i find that i have a completely different mentality than that of performing musically - for me, at least, memorization "wood-shedding" consists of focusing on notes, patterns and mneumonic forms, rather than on crafting a linear artistic line. The transition from 'mental shelving' to stage presentation can be pretty jarring at times. I decided to take advantage of my Tablet PC's digital recording capabilities to let the microphone capture the details, so to speak, while i focused on simulating the performance.
    Turns out, i got far more than i bargained for; recording was indeed a tremendous help, at once freeing my mind to focus on musical aspects, and at the same time providing an objective record for me to review where i needed to hone my memorization - but i found that so much of what i thought was coming out musically was completely out in left field! My goodness - do i really rush things that badly? Where are the phrase endings, the breath marks? Why do i compress the sub-beats so much, what's my hurry? All those expressive details that i completely missed from the score...the microphone suddenly gave me an objective clarity on my own playing that was nothing short of startling! How humbling to hear that my sense of pacing was so far off the mark - i tend to rush things through, and fail to give proper time and weight to the spaces between notes, between passages...my deadliest spots were the slowest passages, where i found myself 'cheating' the beats from the time rightly due to them! And in so many places, i found myself overhanging the ends of phrases when a clear release would delineate them so much better, and with much more musical 'energy' than with a forceful 'superglue' touch...
    I have yet to meet a musician that enjoys listening to themselves in recording, and i find this exercise no less painful than quaffing some of that putrid old Chinese herbal medicine my Mom used to make me force down my throat...but what a revealing exercise! I'm kicking myself now for not recording my practice sessions on a regular basis in the past! One adjusts and corrects so quickly during a professional recording session - why not in one's personal practice?
    My Tablet PC makes digital music scores and digital recording capabilities too readily available - i really need to take advantage of the powerful tools right before me on the music rack, painful as they may be in exposing my musical weaknesses...(good grief, my "Great Gate of Kiev" sounds more like a picket fence...sigh...)

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    June 19, 06

    Music Meets Tech #16: Lidia Kaminska, Bayanist - Part 1


    <A HREF="http://hughsung.com/images/tieshoes2.wmv"></A>


    Can't view the clip? Download the player plug-in from Microsoft

    Meet classical Bayanist Lidia Kaminska! The Bayan, originating from Russia, is also known as the Chromatic Button Accordion. Lidia demonstrates the amazing expressive qualities of this instrument and explains how it works.

    This special video interview is being presented both as a Windows-compatible WMV file (approximately 13.5 MB) and as an iPod-compatible Video Podcast. Running time is appoximately 7 minutes.


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    June 17, 06

    Pianists' Piano-rific Pianorama!

    I remember once looking up into the night sky, somewhere in the middle of Maine where we were fortunate enough to be far enough away from any sources of man-made lights, and the complete sense of wonder as i saw with my own eyes the vast blanket of stars, so thick and dense that "infinity" was the only word that could possibly approach the sense of scope and scale that struck me...

    Sorry, i'm waxing poetic - but i'm starting to get a bit of that wondrous sense of scope and scale as i run into more and more of these blogs and forums where classical music lovers seem to gather and commune; it's exciting to see how vibrant the classical community is, away from the glare of media conglomerates that seem obsessed to wring profitable grist from myopic "artistic" content!

    Thanks to that wonderful blogger over at "Exposed Fifths", i'm kicking myself for my online ignorance, never before having stumbled across an enormous forum that apparently has been around for several years - Piano Forums at PianoWorld.com. If you recall, i was talking about how a similar forum, PianoStreet.com, popped up in my radar a few days ago - i hereby declare myself at a bit of a loss! These sites are the equivalent of temporal black holes! I could spend days and days here, reading through questions and answers (i already put in some corrections regarding degree programs and age requirements for Curtis auditions) and the generally fascinating discussions about repertoire that fill these sites...temporal black holes indeed! Of course, my procrastinating nature would prefer to spend time reading classical music blogs and forums nowadays than actually PRACTICE for all my upcoming recitals and concerti and whatnot...sigh...

    Amazing, truly amazing. I really feel like i've tapped into a wonderful undercurrent, connected with a whole society that shares a common love!

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    June 16, 06

    Keyboard History Lecture: Class of 2006

    Yesterday i finished another round of my 4-part "History of Keyboard Instruments" lecture for the Landmarks Elderhostel participants at Curtis, combined with some excerpts from my "Contemporary Keyboard Literature" class. This lecture has evolved more and more into a discussion exploring the symbiotic relationship between technology and art music, from the ancient Greek Hydraulis (water organ) to the 1901 Telharmonium (the first electronic synthesizer) and beyond. My contemporary lecture series is usually a separate 4-part component, but i really wanted to squeeze a little bit of new music advocacy for my last class, briefly touching on the evolution of tonality by Prokofiev and Debussy, new modalities by Schoenberg and Messiaen, and multi-timbrel/microtonal aspects of Cowell and Ives...not nearly enough time, but hopefully a good teaser to entice more listeners to explore an entire world of contemporary piano literature!

    Here is a picture of this year's class - what a lovely group of students, full of enthusiasm and thought-provoking questions! Every time i teach an Elderhostel class, i mention how much i want to grow up to be just like them!


    No class would be complete without a class clown...sure enough, Mark Horowitz filled that role perfectly, being a professional clown...


    Another ingredient to a successful class: the teacher's apple - and heart - and orange thingy - balloon creations courtesy of my class clown!


    I've posted a gallery of the rest of my pictures from this week's Elderhostel class and from my 1-day session several weeks ago. I'll be including pictures of some of my presentation tools, one of my favorites (and hardest to find) being the AverKey VGA to TV Video convertor, pictured here:



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    June 15, 06

    Keyboard History Lecture: The Theremin

    The tail end of my keyboard history lecture talks about how an eerie early electronic musical instrument called the Theremin influenced Robert Moog to develop his groundbreaking synthesizer - well, i have a wonderful CD recording of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockwell playing Saint-Saen's "The Swan" from "Carnival of the Animals", but no video - until now, thanks to YouTube.com!

    Here's a wonderful performance by Samuel Hoffman from an old 1953 TV show called "You Asked For It":





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    June 14, 06

    Historical MP3 treasure trove

    This is thanks to that fantastic classical music blog, On An Overgrown Path - Finnish radio station YLE Radio 1 has an incredible listing of historical recordings available for free listening - i'm listening to Primrose right now playing a Boccherini Sonata in A major. Other artists' recordings listed include Sarasate (yes, it looks - and sounds like - Sarasate playing his own stuff!), Kreisler, Cortot, Landowska, Casals, Jussi Björling (one of my all-time favorite tenors)...the list goes on and on and on! Looks like i will be spending a LOT of time at this site! Everything is in Finnish, but the layout is pretty easy to intuit, with the composers listed along the left column - not quite sure how to find the overall listing of artists, but part of the fun is in the exploring, no?
    Recordings appear to be available as both MP3's and RealAudio media.
    This is absolutely must-listen stuff for the serious classical music lover and student - and yes, for many of us in the professional field who always bobbed our heads when we promised our professors that we would run over to the library to listen to this or that recording...uh, making the same promises 6 or 7 times...who, me?

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    New Ink Blogger: Sumi Ink









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    June 13, 06

    MySpace sentiments echoed

    Check out Philadelphia-area composer David Toub's thoughts on MySpace - his initial impressions almost exactly mirror mine. I first came across the site several months ago thanks to a colleague at work, and had a hard time understanding what all the hullaballoo was about, given the awful graphic design of most of the profiles and the uncomfortable ways so many of them exposed their lives to the public at large. Call me an old asian fuddy-duddy, but i like keeping my private life private, and i'll keep personal messages relegated to direct emails or phonecalls. Nevertheless, upon taking a second look (again, similar to David's experience, at the semi-prodding of a fellow musician - in this case, Brian Sacawa) i began to understand how useful a networking and marketing tool social network sites like MySpace could be. It's a great way to come in contact with a larger world, and classical musicians (and classical music lovers) seem populate the site in fairly large proportions. Be aware that simply registering and putting up a profile won't do anything in and of itself: networking in any medium, be it the phone, email, music convention, post-concert cocktails or internet social networking site, still takes an investment in time and effort. The best aspect of sites like MySpace may not be the technology itself (and a clunky one at that), but the fact that - if you choose to - you can gain some valuable marketing acumen and fundamental understanding of the value of reaching out, making friends, and keeping in touch.

    Visit David Toub in MySpace at www.myspace.com/dtoub

    Feel free to sign up for free, stop by, and listen to some of my music tracks on my own MySpace profile at www.myspace.com/hughsung






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    Online Resource for Pianists

    PianoStreet.com (formerly pianoforum.net) has been popping up in my radar a lot lately - this looks like a site that offers over 10,000 pages of piano music as downloadable PDF's, along with a very active forum that covers a wide gamut of piano-related questions. The caveat is that you'll need to pay about $3 per month for membership for unlimited access to PianoStreet.com's content, but given that they've been around since 2001 you can be sure there's a lot to find given the very reasonable fee!

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    June 12, 06

    Music Meets Tech #15: Is Classical Music Dead?

    Is the classical music recital format dead? What might happen if the traditional barriers between stage, audience, composer and listener were dissolved? And does technology today kill the contemplative mind, or enhance it? These are some of the issues composer David Ludwig and I mull over thanks to a tangent from our discussion over the Vermont MIDI Project and the new educational and artistic possibilities it inspires.


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    June 10, 06

    Collaborative Pianists Unite on MySpace

    I've just created a new group for Collaborative Pianists (and those looking for them :) on MySpace.com. I'm hoping to create a network of collaborative pianists, accompanists, répétiteurs, and chamber ensemble musicians, initially with this type of social network forum, eventually with a more sophisticated database on a separate site that would eventually correlate pianists and repertoire (much like the database system i've developed for Curtis) so that if someone is looking for a pianist who knows the Boulez Sonatine for Flute and Piano for example, they'd be able to pull up a list of pianists who have that specific work in their repertoire list.
    BTW, my MySpace profile is still pretty bare - most of my attention (and my main web love!) has been building this site, but given the powerful networking capabilities of sites like MySpace.com, i'll be working to beef up that profile in the weeks to come. Add me to your friends list and drop me a comment!

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    June 09, 06

    Lights! Camera! - - -

    I've been having so much fun with my audio podcasts and screencasts that i really wanted to explore producing more material for "live" video. Inspired by the humble tech setup of RocketBoom's daily video podcasts (a consumer-level video camera, a computer, and a map on the wall), i've invested in one additional Samsung Digital Video camera (got it for about $150 off of eBay) and a 3-point lighting system package that i found at Ritz Camera. My messy studio is now even more of a mess with wires, light umbrellas, video camera tripods and whatnot sharing occupancy with 2 Steinway pianos!
    I've actually been shooting video with Bayanist Lidia Kaminska for the past 2 weeks, and yesterday we completed our interview. What a huge difference a lighting system makes! What fun to edit cuts between a double camera setup! I can't wait to post our video interview series - if this turns out well (and it's really looking terrific so far), i may invest in a 3rd DV camera to add an additional viewing angle, and as a minimal video setup for concerts (wide, close, and tight angles). Audio is being recorded separately with 2 condenser microphones running through my M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB Audio interface into Audacity, and will be later mixed in with the video. I hope to have the edits for the first show done in a few days and posted as podcast #16 if all goes well (#15 will be the 2nd part of my discussion with David Ludwig over the Vermont MIDI project and the future of Classical Music Concerts).

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    June 08, 06

    Ink Blogs: Love 'em, Hate 'em, Leave 'em?





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    June 07, 06

    New Poll Feature: What Scares Classical Musicians about Tech?

    I just figured out how to implement a cool new polling feature for my blog which you can find along the right sidebar menu. I'll try to host different poll questions from time to time and post the results either as a blog entry or as an audio comment in my podcast series. This week's question was inspired by a conversation i had with a pianist yesterday who had those saucer eyes when she saw all the computers and tech tools strewn throughout my office. I think my over-zealous tech-proselytizing freaked her out a bit when i rambled on and on about the advantages of Tablet PC's over 'primitive' paper-based music...her simple response was that all this 'wonderful' technology was simply too cost-prohibitive for the average classical musician.
    What do you think? Why are so many classical musicians reluctant to embrace the latest technologies? If you don't see an adequate response represented in the right sidebar poll, please feel free to leave a comment with this blog post.

    [Note: You may need to give Macromedia Flash permission to run on your browser for the poll to animate correctly; the 'warning' message popped up for me when i tested the poll with Internet Explorer]

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    June 06, 06

    New Ink Blog Forum









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    June 05, 06

    Music Meets Tech #14: The Vermont MIDI Project

    The Vermont MIDI project is an innovative program that enables public school students to learn the craft of composing music by harnessing the power of the internet, connecting them with professional composers who guide the students' works as mentors. David Ludwig serves as one of these mentors and explains how this program works.

    Show Notes:
  • The Vermont MIDI project is made possible thanks to a wonderful collaboration with music notation developer Sibelius

  • The students and mentor composers use the free Sibelius browser plugin Scorch which allows users to not only see music scores from within any web browser, but hear them as well

  • Be sure to visit David Ludwig's website at www.davidludwigmusic.com - David is on the composition faculty of The Curtis Institute of Music




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    June 03, 06

    Coldplay Video Piano Lesson from Mario Ajero blends Pedagogy with Smart Revenue

    Mario Ajero, that pedagogy wiz, has put together another video podcast teaching novice pianists how to play the first few measures of British rock band Coldplay's early hit "Trouble". This is a second "lesson" based on a Coldplay song, the earlier video having taught the first few riffs of the song "Clocks". Mario somehow manages to make the music very legible on a video ipod screen, combining friendly graphics with clear, engaging instructions and just enough music theory to make the medicine go down "with a spooonful of sugar", as the old Mary Poppins song goes! Brilliant stuff - and what's even more brilliant is the fact that he has Linkshare links directing folks to buy tracks of the song from iTunes and copies of the full version of the sheet music from online vendor MusicNotes.com. A great way to educate, promote original artists, shake hands with legit vendors, and make a little extra money on the side! Great job, Mario!

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    June 02, 06

    Classical Music for an MTV culture

    How do you reach a video generation that has had virtually no formal music education and no relevant cultural connection to classical music? How do you communicate musical concepts to an audience that has virtually no concept of even the basic grammar of music, much less any acoustic discernment? What syntax do you use to bridge an illiterate listener?

    Bloggers like Greg Sandow and a host of others are asking these questions and many more, challenging aspects of classical music presentation that may be alienating audiences and doing more harm than good in the name of antiquated and irrelevant traditions. At the same time, it seems that there are more and more young classical artists that are rising to the challenge in new and ingenious ways. Enter Philadelphia-based Arts in Motion, an innovative performing and educational arts organization that has used Curtis students and Philadelphia Orchestra musicians for some of their past performances, combining classical music with cutting edge visuals and groundbreaking presentations that seek to bring contemporary relevance to audiences and artistic evolution to musicians.

    It seems that they use high-end Alienware PC's to generate proprietary computer graphics that can be synchronized to live performances via a tap-tempo input device. This seems to work on a 'live' video-game software architecture, where imagery can be manipulated in real-time. The graphics from some of their demo videos look like flying tadpoles soaring over an abstract valley, where each note played displays a new 'tadpole' that is placed higher or lower depending on the given pitch, and varying in size depending on volume. The viewing angle can be shifted around, and the landscape/note colors can vary accordingly, presumably in relation to the 'mood' of the music. This offers considerable freedom for the musician, as they aren't held to a strict 'click track' to keep in time with the music (a la orchestras playing movie scores, following along with the fixed pace of the visuals) and can play freely, with the visuals keeping in time with the music instead of vice versa.

    Here is their mission statement:

    Art is for everyone. That means you.
    Arts in Motion, a non-profit corporation, presents concerts and education programs that bridge generational and cultural gaps while preserving and expanding the classical music tradition. Through collaborations with video artists, electronic musicians, poets, and interactive designers, AIM's informal and accessible concerts present new forms of multi–sensory art. Arts in Motion Education Department (AIMED) brings classical music to underserved youth with free performance demonstrations and computer–aided music composition lessons. Both AIM's concerts and education programs employ the latest technology to bring classical music into the 21st century


    Be sure to check out their video gallery, as well as the link to WHYY from their site that features a great documentary on their innovative educational outreaches.

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    June 01, 06

    A Newbie Opens Pandora's Box at Last(fm)

    Music recommendation technology has been around apparently for quite some time - at least since way back in 2002 - and i completely missed the boat. I first got a glimpse of what this was all about a few weeks ago from a fellow blogger and didn't pursue it any further from the 'thumbs down' impression, but the techno-curio-cat in me couldn't help but wander into the ether-web for a dabble into this fascinating technology. Basically, sites like Pandora, Yahoo LAUNCHcast Radio, and Last.fm offer various ways to explore music based on your personal tastes, the idea being that by starting with music you're familiar/comfortable with, you'll discover an expanding network of similar works that will eventually lead you to discover artists and tracks you might have not come across on your own. It's sort of an attempt to be the ultimate personalized radio playlist of sorts, tailored to your own current - and hopefully, expanding - tastes, and connecting with other listeners by sharing playlists.
    I haven't spent enough time with these various services to really get a feel for how this all works, but early dabbling with Pandora seems to indicate that classical music has a sparse representation with this site. Last.fm fares much, much better with classical music, and seems to get kudos from other reviewers as well. If you really want to feel like you're a fringe musician, try entering composers like Alberto Ginastera or Alban Berg - nary a hit on Last.fm, sadly, but the technology is certainly promising and begging for a truly in-depth catalogue of serious art music. Apparently, classical music is too complicated for some of the current AI algorhythms to categorize effectively, or so one developer claims...i'm sure paltry market representation does not a strong incentive make, if i may be Yoda-esque here.
    Oh, did i mention that most of these services stream the music into your computer for free? Well, at least a significant excerpt's worth...if you find something you really like, you can click links that take you directly to vendors like Amazon or iTunes that sell either the entire track or the source CD'ss. Cool.
    For an excellent overview on the music streaming/mapping/networking services out there, read this article from ExtremeTech.com entitled, "Free Music Recommendation Services". Pandora and Last.fm seem to top the field, according to this article, with nods going to Last.fm for its breadth of classical music offerings.
    If i didn't have so much on my plate right now in preparation for the summer, i'd be spending lots of time on these music recommendation sites, if only to find some cool new tracks for my workout! Many thanks to The Rambler and Paul Lamere's blog for their early insights into these services.

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    Welcome!

    Thank you for visiting this site! I hope you'll find this to be a friendly place to learn about and discuss the fascinating technologies available for the Classical Musician. A great place to get started is with the ongoing "Getting Started" series. Remember, the worst questions are the ones you never ask, so feel free to email me!

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