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July 29, 06
Thoughts on practicing
As crazy as this past month has been for me, i've really benefitted from a mode of practicing that has forced me to focus on getting the best results in the most effecient time. That's always supposed
to be the case throughout the year, but it becomes much more necessary when you're faced with a huge chunk of repertoire converging in a tight time frame.
A colleague of mine at Masterworks just emailed me asking about practicing suggestions for his students, so i thought i'd share my reply here:
Rather than focusing on time units, i like to focus on creative strategies, getting the best results in the fastest time.
My basic practice strategies fall along these lines:
1. Initial layout: finding effective fingerings for me is one of the most critical initial activities, as it will set the 'programming' for me with muscle memory. Other activities include phrase definitions (finding the "commas", "periods", and "paragraphs" musically-speaking)
2. Trash In/Trash Out: i try to practice with the realization that it's very much like computer programming. when i taught piano students in the past, i noticed how quickly they would 'capture' mistakes and repeat them with amazing accuracy - a result of bad initial 'programming'. Since i'm so pressed for time, i can't afford to waste time fixing 'learned' mistakes, so i focus my practicing on getting things as right as i can from the get-go. Virtually no 'mindless' repetition for me: each time i practice, i'm hyper aware of what i'm putting into my fingers, brain and ears, and keenly aware of trying to make sure it goes in as cleanly as possible.
3. Emotive practice: Some folks practice the notes and technique, then put 'the feelings' in later - i try to incorporate the full emotional range immediately from the get-go. More exhausting practice, but much, much more effective!
4. Practice journal: since i use digital music, i can make image clips of the measures/pages that i need to spend extra time practicing. I collect those clips into a "practice journal", a separate file that keeps all my "to practice" items in one document - sort of a 'cliff notes' version of a particular piece. That way, if i only have a few minutes to practice, i can get right to the trouble spots immediately without wasting time hunting them down
5. Digital recording: again, since i use a tablet pc to display all my music, i take advantage of that by recording myself with open source programs like Audacity and a USB microphone like Samson's C01U. It's amazing how objective you can be when you're listening to yourself through headphones! i find it easier to catch spots that need work or musical items that don't work as effectively as i thought they would when i hear myself through the recording.
Audacity has been terrific as my virtual orchestra; i play sections of the piano reduction of the orchestra part, recording them on separate tracks, then practice playing the solo parts while listening to the "orchestra" audio tracks through my headphones - wow, what a huge help for working out difficult rhythmic spots!
I'll try to see if i can get around to talking more about my fingering techniques - lots of neat tips and tricks to share in that area! I'd also love to hear about your practice suggestions, so feel free to drop me a line!
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July 26, 06
Accordion and Piano Recital tomorrow
In case you missed my previous 3-part interview series with Classical Accordionist Lidia Kaminska
, here are the details for our recital together at The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ:
Classical Accordionist Lidia Kaminska joins pianist Hugh Sung in a recital at The Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ. A fantastic mix of music ranging from Bach to Mendelssohn, Tangos to Tchaikovsky!
Summer Stars Classical Series
Thursday, July 27, 2006
at 7:30 PM
The Great Auditorium
15 Pilgrim Pathway
Ocean Grove, NJ 07756
Click here to view map
The Highly acclaimed classical series is set in a casual seaside setting. Without a doubt these fine performances are the finale to a perfect summer evening get-away. Come early. Have dinner in one of Ocean Grove fine restaurants, stroll the quiet boardwalk and watch the sky and sea darken as night draws near. Then head through the park, past Victorian homes and inn towards the lights of the Great Auditorium. Then enjoy an unforgettable performance.
All performances are on Thursday evenings at 7:30pm in the Great Auditorium. $12 each performance or $55 for the series of five. Tickets are available at the Great Auditorium Ticket Office or call 732-988-0645, or use our ticket order form. Visa and MasterCard accepted
Hope to see lots of you tomorrow!
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July 24, 06
July 21, 06
July 20, 06
July 18, 06
An intermezzo blog
Thanks for bearing with me with my spotty posts as i slam through what seems to be the craziest three weeks of my musical career; Rach 3 is looming large this weekend, preceded by yet another solo recital and masterclass, then followed by my recital in Ocean Grove with Bayanist Lidia Kaminska
, followed by (gulp) a double Mozart concerto night a week later at Ocean Grove: K. 382 (Concert Rondo in D major) and K. 466, the big D minor - double gulp indeed!
Funny how one starts to hoarde brain cell activity when one feels pressured to cram in way too much information in too little time - hence, the lag in posts these past two weeks...ever feel like that yourself?
I leave for Indiana early tomorrow morning - one nice thing about being stuck in airports and airplanes is that the forced 'down time' actually becomes some of my most productive; i'll be catching up on some much needed podcast editing, as well as writing up articles on my wonderful time at the New York Summer Music Festival
last week - lots, lots to talk about there, along with some pictures, so please stay tuned until i get reconnected at Masterworks Festival in Winona Lake tomorrow afternoon/evening! I also need to catch up on some promised files for various students from both the Strings International Camp and NYSMF, tracked audio and digitally annotated scores (i'll explain more on those when i get those files delivered!), as well as a debriefing on my multimedia recital.
The multimedia recitals seem to have gone over quite well as far as audience reaction is concerned, but Powerpoint really flops as a multimedia platform; a friend from church was recommending that i look into an educational presentation tool called Hyperstudio
, but i think i found something even more promising with an amazing looking program called Liquid Media
...i may not have time to really play around with Liquid Media before my insane concertizing abates a bit, but hopefully i'll be able to re-tool my visual presentation before my November recitals at Cabrini College and at Arizona State U. But i'm procrastinating now...need to go back and cram more Rachs into my head...
Until my airport benchwarming and plane ride! See you in Indiana!
(P.S. Thanks so much to all the folks who've been leaving comments both here and on my MySpace page
- i'll be replying to each one as soon as i can!
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July 13, 06
July 12, 06
Feedback on the Internal Piano Rear Projection System
Last night was an evening of firsts: my first full recital with projected visuals, first performance with a double pedal cradle, first 4 hand performance with a tablet pc! It was wonderful to see some friends in yesterday's audience at the Axelrod Performing Arts Theater in the JCC of Greater Monmouth County - thanks to Katie and Melissa and their families for showing up, and to Nathan for being there as well! There weren't too many other folks in the audience due to some poor publicity apparently, but we managed to have a wonderful time nonetheless - in fact, we turned the whole recital into a bit of a technical demo for my new Internal Piano Rear Projection System with direct feedback!
Most of the folks seemed to like the concept, but there were a handful of detractors. Here are some of the excellent comments and suggestions i received:
I tried angling the screen lower by using a block under the back of the projector to bring the sightline somewhat parallel to the pianist, but the resulting glare from the projector was too bothersome - seems that a higher angle (as originally set up) helps to alleviate the bulb glare somewhat, but i need to add a black "skirt" under the frame to hide the remaining light bleed.
Here's a picture from home of what i had in mind for the lower frame sightline...you can see the glare of the bulb along the left side of the image frame.
A few people thought that the screen blocks the sightline between the audience and the pianist; others thought that having the screen in front of the piano seems to distract people's attention away from the musician too much. Perhaps having a screen behind the pianist instead of in front? My projector cable isn't very long - i'll have to see if i can either find a longer cable to try that out, or perhaps a wireless adapter (pretty pricey, but that might be an interesting solution if i go with the 'behind the pianist' approach...)
One lady thought that that perhaps white backgrounds were too bright for the screen - perhaps having more muted backgrounds would help? Not sure if this was related to the bulb glare issue, but that's something i'll have to ask my next audience about.
I didn't think the "Babar" piece worked particularly well, given that nearly everyone in the audience (except for my friends) was a senior - this works best for an audience that has young children (my 4 year old son Timmy loves the piece); i may try to drop it for the next recitals, unless i know for certain that children will be attending. I managed to find time to add some very simple title frames for the Schumann movements, and that seemed to go over very well with the audience, helping them to follow along with a clearer understanding of the music.
Art Topilow, the jazz pianist/Oncologist who invited me to play the recital, joined me in a rendition of Poulenc's Sonata for 4 hands. I was expecting to use his paper music, but to my delight he was really taken with my Tablet PC and had no problem viewing the music from the digital screen! He even came up with the idea of projecting the score onto the screen for the audience to follow along - what a neat idea! Perhaps that's something that could be incorporated with a multiple screen layout in the future - one screen showing the score, another set of screens for accompanying visuals...not sure if there would be a feasible way to operate this as a one-man show, but it'd be interesting to look into...
The Mussorgsky - perhaps not surprisingly - worked the best by far. I had put a lot of work into putting together a really elaborate visual show for each of the movements, tightly choreographed phrase by phrase, with lots of mixed video clips, animations of pictures being drawn, and photos/text effects set to special fades and motion paths. As effective as some of the sequences were, i was pretty frustrated with the visual limitations of Powerpoint, in particular with the way it tries to work with video clips. i've looked into other VJ software like Resolume
, but those video sequencing programs work primarily with multiple keystroke assignments for realtime mixing as opposed to a linear single-key trigger sequence (which my footswitch is supposed to emulate). Freepath
looks promising as a Powerpoint supplement, but for some reason it has a hard time opening video clips within Powerpoint; i'll have to send an email to the developers to see if there's a way to address this. Any VJ jockeys out there with some suggestions?
Man, my feet were busy last night...here's a picture of the 2 pedal cradle that helped to keep my feet under control:
The left pedal was used to trigger the video sequences, the right one for turning the pages of my digital music. To secure the USB cable, i created openings using my drill press along the back of the cradle and split seams with the rubber grips sheet on the bottom:
Here's a detailed view of how the cable slips through:
Here's the cradle by itself:
Next time i'll put up a sample page of one of my scores from last night - i came up with a really neat way of showing cues for the video triggers!
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July 10, 06
My Internal Piano Rear-Projector System in Detail
The next few weeks will be pretty crazy for me - i'll do my best to update this blog as often as i can, but please bear with me if i miss a day or two. No time to put together this week's podcast (several really great interviews are in the production can - just need to find time to put them together!), so in lieu of that i'm posting some detailed pictures of my new Internal Piano Rear Projector System (what an awful mouthful of words - can someone help me come up with a more elegant depiction of this crazy contraption?) - debut concert with the IP-RPS taking place tomorrow evening at the new Axelrod Theater in the JCC of Greater Monmouth County, featuring accompanying visuals with Poulenc's "Histoire de Babar" and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition"!
It turns out that cameras don't like to take direct pictures of light sources, hence the washed out look in Saturday's post - i tried to compensate by having the camera adjust exposure for the light source directly, making everything else a bit darker - but hopefully you'll get the idea. In this picture, you can see a good view of the projector seated within the piano. As most folks will be seated lower than eye level with the projector bulb on a typical concert stage, there shouldn't really be too much glare - the lycra does a nice job of capturing the projected image. Despite the camera's exposure limitations, it really does look much better 'in person' - or so i hope...
Here's a closeup of my HP M3130 DLP projector. Nice compact unit sits comfortably on my multipurpose extended technique music rack (METMR? Gotta cut out with the silly pseudo-tech acronyms...)
Here's the rear projector by itself without the projected image - it was really hard cutting the lycra for a clean, wrinkle-free fit! This piece was the third one cut out, and seems to be the best/cleanest fit...
A back corner view to show how the whole unit is collapsible - note the L brackets holding the screws in place; i used insert nuts to enable me to use machine screws without damaging the wood. Adhesive velcro is stapled onto the lycra, and the counterpart piece stuck to the wood frame. If anyone needs hints on a good way to cut lycra for a smooth velcro fit, email me...it took me 3 tries...
I don't know if you noticed that i'm using a thicker dowel to hold up the frame in this picture. My previous dowel was fitted with one of my metal music stands, but at last week's Strings camp the stand felt too wobbly. The thicker dowel, along with the nicer wood music stand base, allows for a much sturdier support. Note also the reinforced frame base - that design was intentional, but man it was hard getting the lycra to fit smoothly around that without bunching up...
Closeup of the screw pin in the music stand base that secures the dowel's height.
My piano's too small for a proper view of this, but with a concert grand i think the composition will be better balanced between the projection screen and the instrument...i'll be sure to take some pictures of tomorrow's stage setup...
More pictures to come - i'm waiting for the glue on my new double footswitch rack to dry; one footswitch for turning pages with one tablet pc, the other footswitch to advance the slides and activate videos for the other tablet pc...you'll see what i mean tomorrow...
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July 08, 06
July 07, 06
July 06, 06
That Mad Musical MacGyver is at it again...
Sorry for the late post today, folks...just got back from a really long day of guest teaching at Strings International Summer Music Camp
on the beautiful campus of Bryn Mawr College. I gave a master class this morning and worked privately with a couple of the students afterwards...what a wonderful camp! Sandy Marcucci has been talking to me for a while about getting involved for some time, and this was a great way to get a taste of what they do there - more details to come after we discuss some possibilities for next year!
So, for today's post, i leave y'all with a little picture puzzle: no, no, this isn't my latest acquisition of weaponry from the Ninja mart
- but what indeed does a crazy pianist like me need with four pointy pieces of wood, a long dowel, half a music stand, my extended piano technique music rack, velcro, and...lycra??
hee hee - mystery to be revealed here soon! Send in your guesses!
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July 05, 06
July 04, 06
Musicians' watering holes
i've been so impressed with the breadth of the piano community represented in PianoWorld.com's forums
- likewise with the contemporary art composers represented in sites like Sequenza21
. I've been informed of another hangout for trumpet players at Trumpetherald.com
, and try to follow along with that huge forum at Violinist.com
is another fantastic site for orchestral musicians covering a range of relevant issues for players, administrators and presenters.
What are some of the other big classical music community sites out there? I know that the flute community is famous for their annual flute conventions, and ran across the forums at Fluteland.com
- is that site representative of the true breadth (and incredible organizational skills!) of the Flute world at large?
I'd love to hear about your favorite classical music forums! This blog tends to attract a large tech following, but i'd love to reach out to more musicians who are "tech-averse" by nature, so please share your favorite "watering holes"!
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July 03, 06
July 01, 06
Batting 1000 on MySpace
Yes, yes, i'll confess - i've become a bona fide MySpace junkie
! It's all Michelle's fault, of course - Michelle is a co-worker at Curtis who also happens to be the manager of a funk rock band called "Stillicide"
- she was the one who gave me my first peek into the world of MySpace with her band's profile way back near the beginning of the spring semester. Well, this week i celebrated the addition of my 1000th friend gracious enough to add me to their respective lists, as well as the first 1000 plays of what's turning out to be my most popular posted track, my arrangement of "Moon River/Claire de lune" played by Jeff Khaner (flute) and myself - part of the upcoming Jazz CD that will be released someday
(apparently a copyright snafu has turned up at the last minute - yet another bump in the road...sigh...)
I'm thinking of putting together another blog article soon entitled, "Play like an Artisan, Market like a Rock Star" - sounds corny and cheesy, but that article about choral/opera electronica composer Eric Whitacre
(i think it originally appeared in Reuters or the AP back in March 2006, but has since disappeared from public view - fortunately, several blogs still carry 'live' copies of the article) really has me thinking about the feasability of applying some of the pop world's marketing savvy to make inroads as a classical/contemporary art musician with today's generation. I almost typed "younger generation", but i think "today's g." is more appropriate, as the internet's marketing reach really cuts across so many previously defined demographics and age/culture/geographic barriers...
Amazing how 1000 folks can suddenly give you a vista view of a wide, wide world out there...see you on MySpace
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