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August 31, 06
Finding Jobs for Musicians: NEC's Bridge Worlwide Music Connection
One of the premier online databases for job opportunities for musicians is provided by the New England Conservatory of Music. Bridge Worldwide Music
Connections is a free service for NEC's students and alumni; annual subscriptions for individuals runs $55, $75 for institutions. This is a must-visit resource for exploring a wide range of opportunities, ranging from performance-based organizations to administrative job openings across every imaginable music-related field. I would highly recommend this not only for professionals and soon-to-be professionals (ie, doe-eyed seniors quivering in their final-school-year headlights), but particularly for those just beginning to explore their undergrad and post-grad education options. You may run across "non-typical" job opportunities that might otherwise elude the radar of the typical conservatory practice-room hermit!
If you have any stories of unusual musical employment detours, please send them to me and i would be happy to pass them along to our readers!
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August 30, 06
Video Clip: the Visual Recital Concept in Performance
First off, my apologies: turns out my 2nd camera wasn't even turned on, and camera #3 was mistakenly set to "auto-focus", resulting in constant blurring and focus shifting in the low-light situation...while the video is kind of grainy, i hope you can make out the general concept of the Visual Recital in live performance. I hope to have a few more clips that look better from other settings posted here soon...oh, another warning: the video file is quite large, around 30 MB, so it might take a little while to load/download...
Feedback is always welcome!
Can't view the clip? Download the player plug-in from Microsoft
In case you want to see the visual slides in their original clarity, you can download my actual Liquid Media presentation for the Tangata here. The file is about 8 MB in size. You can download the free Liquid Media player here. To advance the slides, press the "Page Down" button.
tags: visualrecital, visual_recital, liquidmedia, liquid_media, Piazzolla, Tangata
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August 29, 06
Arts In Motion: Provocateurs at The Philadelphia Art Museum
The repercussions from last week's video recital segment with Lidia Kaminska continue - i'm really looking forward to attending the next show this Friday by Arts In Motion
, a Philadelphia-based performing arts group that combines live classical music performances with innovative computer-generated visuals and video artistry. I'm reprinting the invitation email i received (with permission from the group) below - hope to see lots of you there in the audience with me!
Arts in Motion pays tribute to the Philadelphia Museum of Art's provocateurs - visionary subversives who have shaped the evolution of art. Classical virtuosi, DJs, and experimental video artists fill the Great Stair Hall with progressive music and immersive visuals inspired by the Museum's collection.
Live mixed video collage and three-dimensional music visualizations surround the audience, pulsing with the beat as fearless young artists fuse classical elements with next generation electronics. Drawing upon 500 years of musical evolution, Arts in Motion's amplified string quartet joins forces with some of Philadelphia's hottest DJs and electronic musicians. Results span the gap from Bach, Chopin, and Beethoven to Radiohead, electronica, and pop. Visuals draw inspiration from the greatest provocateurs of the past including Duchamp, Schwitters and Kandinsky. Experience the explosion of artistic boundaries as today's provocateurs challenge your notion of what art can be.
http://www.myspace.com/artsinmotion to listen to some samples.
If you print out this e-mail, you will get a discount on the admission and a half price 'provocateur' drink as well.
DATE : 9/1/06 (First Friday in September)
TIME : Music Starts at 5:45
LOCATION : Philadelphia Museum of Art (26th & Benjamin Franklin Parkway)
More Info : http://www.artsinmotion.org
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New Friends for My Favorite Musicians List
It gives me great pleasure to introduce two new musicians to my Favorite Musicians List (look along the left column of this website) and to the world wide web/classical music blogosphere at large!
, a young pianist at the Maryland Conservatory of Music and student of the school's founder, Dr. Duke Thompson, has sent me some wonderful tech tips and tricks in the past, and now has a newly revamped blog (containing a review of my visual recital performance with Lidia Kaminska!) utilizing a nifty and (from what i gather) easy-to-install blog script, Simple PHP Blog
. Check out his gorgeous black and white photos
from his first post!
is a wonderful Philadelphia-area flautist who just alerted me to her well-designed website
. Prema must be one of the busiest musicians i know of, teaching both flute AND piano students, as well as maintaining a busy solo and orchestral concert schedule! I recall working with Prema a few years ago when i first started using Tablet PC's as my music reader/automatic page turner; in fact, my very first recording session utilizing a Tablet PC was with her!
Prema maintains an impressive links page
, helpful for any flute student or enthusiast.
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August 26, 06
Reaction to the Visual Recital Concept
It's been wonderful to get feedback from my visual recital concept from all the various venues this summer, from the recital at the Monmouth JCC in Deal, NJ, to the students at the New York Summer Music Festival, the audience at the Masterworks Festival in Winona Lake, Indiana, and now most recently at Lidia Kaminska's Philadelphia Debut recital this past Thursday evening at the Ethical Society! Even though i only presented dynamic visuals for one work - Piazzolla's "Tangata" - Lidia's recital probably provided the best public exposure for this concept to date. Given the technical success of Liquid Media
as a multimedia program, i'm planning to convert all of my other visual shows (for Schumann's "Carnaval" Op. 9, Poulenc's "Histoire de Babar", and Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition") from PowerPoint to this new format and hopefully expand on the visual effects for a more powerful (and reliable) presentation.
I wanted to share one of the emails i received yesterday as a reaction to the performance - many thanks to John Baxter for giving me permission to do so!
I'm that large Irish fellow who was blown away by your performance with Lidia Kaminska!
First - a very brief hypertext story of our lives...
By day, I'm a software quality engineer with http://www.guideworkstv.com By night, audio guy for Lydia Ferrell http://www.lydiaferrell.com Meeting Lydia has changed my life and has led to the realization of a need to work with music...
Lydia is a caring and dedicated teacher of the art of piano, bringing this wonderful gift to her students at her private teaching studio http://www.lfmstudio.com Lydia is also a composer and artist. We work together recording her original improvisations... some samples are here: http://www.lydiaferrell.com
I love (and also struggle with) technology. Lydia and I actually met because a mutual friend thought I could help her with Finale, 9 years ago. We've made progress, but it's an ongoing Quest to keep Finale,
Logic Pro 7, and an arsenal of Macintosh applications humming away nicely and staying out of the way of her creative flow. We also have worked a bit with video (iMovie and just starting with Final Cut
Express). Lydia has been involved with a number of projects for charity... and we are starting one for World Vision where we hope to create a DVD with art and music by Lydia and her students - as a kind
of living gift for the needy.
I have always loved the idea of Music Visualization... The concept of immersion in flowing abstract graphic art in concert with music performance... Decades ago I built a primitive lightshow, and had the
privilege of a brief consulting gig in the 1970s contributing to software for an early computer driven stage lighting system for the British band Yes. Attending concerts at the Kimmel and recitals with
Lydia's students, I have always thought that computer-driven visualization would enhance and extend the experience...
We were "amazed and inspired" by your performance with Lidia Kaminska! The concept of a "visual recital" is so very powerful! Until we had the pleasure of meeting you, I thought that the visualization was somehow, impossibly, perfectly preprogrammed to the music. It was amazing to learn that you were playing it like an instrument!
Lidia's accordion, Jasmine's flute, the dance, your piano/electric Stargate... this was a truly magical evening - just wanted to thank you...
We have found your website and plan to attend your upcoming concert at Cabrini in Radnor!
Just wanted to say hello and thanks!
of "sound" mind,
John William Baxter
audio guy for
Lydia Ferrell http://www.lydiaferrell.com
I especially appreciated the fact that John realized i was directly controlling the visuals as an integral part of the music performance, not following a 'pre-recorded' visual track! The single-keystroke footpedal trigger system is simple enough to operate, and flexible enough with the right kind of programming to enable a dynamic and perfectly synchronized visual enhancement of a music performance. Thanks again, John and Lydia, for coming to our recital and for introducing yourselves as kindred spirits!
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August 24, 06
Conquering the Towel and calling it a Wrap: Mastering Liquid Media
Work with Liquid Media
, the PowerPoint-type multimedia presentation creation program by Skunklabs Software, almost came to a screeching halt yesterday - i was able to make certain scenes work in preview mode, but for some reason, the presentation would crash when i tried to play them in context with the main media player. Frustration level rose to incredible heights - what was i doing wrong, and why did it work in one context and not another? i felt like i was so close to achieving a working understanding of the program, and the potential for a really terrific presentation...but that brick wall of failed logic threatened to create an impass to all the progress i thought i had been making (see yesterday's post
A few quick, desperate posts to Liquid Media's Support Forum
and an email explaining that i needed this presentation to work for tonight's recital (with Lidia Kaminska
- 8 pm at The Ethical Society - tickets available online via Virtuous
or at the door) fortunately brought immediate results - and i mean, IMMEDIATE!! Richard Baxter must be one of the main developers, if not THE main developer. He shot off a few email responses within minutes and completely impressed me from a customer/technical support point of view, especially given that he was corresponding from New Zealand (and at 2 am, no less!)
Richard's valient efforts, unfortunately, still didn't solve the problem. The presentation in full playback mode worked fine for the first few simple transition scenes but still got stuck at the same scenes that introduced the more advanced scripting that i was struggling with. Even following his careful instructions (he gave me a line by line re-write of the code for corrections), the logic wall would not give way. Harried, unshowered and mentally wired, i rushed to my rehearsal with Lidia and the dancers involved with her show and got there a few minutes late. I must've looked like those manic video game programmers who live on pizza and cola and sleep in their cubicles when the release deadline for their game is imminent. She certainly got an earful of my tale of woe, as well as a few scant looks at the individual scenes that i could only show in isolated segments...
...i came home, ate something (i was ravenous from having missed lunch), then had a chance to cool my mental jets for a bit. Then, suddenly, the light bulb went on!
My first blog about 'throwing in the towel with Liquid Media (LM)
' talked about my initial frustration that there was no obvious way to create a simple keystroke trigger to advance the events and scenes. Turns out that there is indeed a method to create such a trigger - it's just that it's quite complicated, involving a good dose of algebraic thinking and computer logic! In essence, a logic argument is created where a 'list' keeps track of the number of times a variable is entered, and the events triggered by the associated event sum. Here's a sample of the code i was using to create this argument:
Key [Page Down]
ADD 1 to Variable 01
( If Variable 01 = 1 ) 121058843_5dd0bd09d4 CrossFade Fx-4,Smooth,1,Out,1.00
( If Variable 01 = 2 ) 164055494_0ef381cd62 CrossFade Alpha4,Smooth,1,Out,1.00
( If Variable 01 = 3 ) Next scene
Fine and dandy, the first time such a scripted scene appeared, it would run as expected. However, the SUBSEQUENT scenes just sputtered and froze, unresponsive to additional keystrokes. Turns out that the list was simply overflowing when run in sequence from the previous scenes using it - in other words, each time the command
ADD 1 to Variable 01
was used, it kept doing so until the next scene using that command took a look at the list and said, "hmmm - i just added 1 to 'Variable 01' and lookie here - i get 'Variable 01=4'...nope, no 'Variable 01=1' here, so i guess there's nothing to trigger..." That's why the first scenes using this piece of variable addition always worked, but the subsequent scenes didn't.
Solution? Add a reset. Bring the Variable 01 list back down to zero at the start of each new scene:
Set Variable 01 to 0
The 'Birth' command refers to the initial entrance to each media 'actor' and what state it needs to start with, ie: hidden, paused, etc. LM uses theater terminology to help understand how these various elements correlate, so for example, each piece of text or image or video clip that you want to work with is called an "Actor". Actors will have various properties governing them, such as their Birth, Death, Path (the timeline that governs their start and end points and the shape of their movements, if any), etc. The place on the screen where they will make their entrances or swim around or whatnot is called the "Scene". The "Presentation" refers to elements affecting the entire show.
But i digress - with the Variables being reset at the start of each new scene, i was finally able to get the scripts running correctly and as intended. I shot off an email to Richard explaining what i had discovered and he responded with great surprise that he had completely overlooked that! (you can see my forum post version of the solution here as well
) Called Lidia and estatically told her that i had finally figured out the problem and got the visual show working finally!
So: why put up with all the hassle of logic bugs, complicated programming environment, and some pretty byzantine ways to get a couple of slideshow images on a screen?
Here is a list of some of the capabilities that have me convinced that Liquid Media is pretty much the ultimate presentation creation program for my purposes and goal of creating content for visual recitals:
Shows can be exported to a single executable file. With PowerPoint, you need to keep your media files and folders intact so that the program can find and reference them - this is especially the case with video files. If you move your presentation to a different computer, you need to recreate the same folder layout. This becomes a real pain when you store most of your media files on a separate external hard drive. LM completely fixes this by creating a single file that embeds all of the media information, making it completely portable! Not only that, it also does an amazing job with file size and compression!
The complexity of LM's event scripting means that so many more elements are ultimately under your control. Each media event can make its entrance with so many more control points than PowerPoint offers, giving you much greater artistic freedom. Yeah, it's a headache to really get a working understanding of the program's logic, but once you do it really makes sense (at least, until i hit my next brick wall...)
LM handles graphics sooooo much better than PowerPoint does. You can create transparency levels of any element - text, image, even videos - right within LM. You can even crop images from within LM (Powerpoint only works with images as is, no direct editing capabilies). Video clips can be assigned start and stop points (again, PP only plays videos 'as is'). The state of an image can be infinitely altered along its path, regardless of whether it's moving or not. Images can even be set to change to other ones (no morphing effect, unfortunately...maybe i should make a suggestion for the next version of LM on their support board...)
Videos. LM works with video with so much greater flexibility and stability. One of my main gripes with PP is the fact that videos are being "called" from their source programs, and not really integrated within PP's presentation engine. Sometimes the videos hiccup, and they never seem to start smoothly or reliably. Given that external programs are being piggy-backed to play videos, you can only show one video at a time within PP. LM somehow integrates external videos much more tightly, giving you some terrific options, like: playing multiple vidoes in a given scene, allowing videos to have transparency effects, assigning individual entrance/exit effects for each video, allowing videos to move and travel along motion paths, etc. To illustrate this point, i created a finale for Lidia's video (it's a visual accompaniment to one of the Piazzolla tangos that we'll be playing together called "Tangata") where i have 5 videos playing all at once, with about 4 other photos of dancers slowly crisscrossing the scene, every element with its own trigger keystroke and transparency levels so that it looks like a crazy dancefloor full of activity!
Keystroke trigger reliability and flexibility. In PP, sometimes there were weird delays in triggering events with keystrokes (ie, my foot pedal programmed to simulate a "page down" keystroke). Given that the GUI is simplistic, there was no way to go 'under the hood' to fix the timing or triggering issues to work as smoothly or as cleanly as i'd like. LM gives you that 'under the hood' capability, resulting in much smoother keystroke transitions for me.
Timed events. Virtually every timing aspect can be controlled within LM, from the speed of fades (PP only gives you 5 levels - very slow, slow, medium, fast, very fast, whereas LM gives you an unlimited speed settings as an rational number, ie: 0.01 to 4.26 seconds to whatever). Kinda like the difference between paint-by-numbers and a full pallette of oil paints...)
I'm sure there are more differences, but these are some of the ones that leap out at me right off the bat. Hey, i've only been working with LM since Monday, so i'm sure there's LOTS more to learn and discover!
Someone had heard my previous frustrations with PP and had suggested using Macromedia's Flash instead; that seems to be more of a full-fledged animation program protoccol, with a much longer development time to put shows together and a much more complex coding environment for keystroke triggers - perhaps Flash would be more appropriate for the creation of individual clips within a larger presentation-type program like LM.
Sorry for the long-winded blog. This is as much for my own help as it is meant to be a pretty thorough overview of an amazing presentation program. To summarize:
PP makes it easy to put a presentation together, but with some severe graphic and performance restrictions. LM is far, far more complex, even for the simplest elements, but with that complexity comes much greater artistic freedom and power.
If you want a simple quick and dirty slideshow, stick with PowerPoint, as it will be much faster and easier to just throw up a bunch of pictures and words together.
If you're looking for a much more artistically pleasing presentation, something that will look and perform much better in an art/performance setting, then i can now heartily recommend Liquid Media.
As you can tell, though, the learning curve for Liquid Media is very, very high, and perhaps not for most musicians who aren't familiar with basic coding principles. If i get a chance, i'll try to put together some screencast video tutorials for getting around Liquid Media. This will be as much for my own help and future reference as it would hopefully be a service to the artistic community interested in integrating live music and controlled visuals.
For now, i leave you with my actual LM presentation
for tonight's recital with Lidia. The file is about 8 MB in size. You can download the free Liquid Media player here
. To advance the slides, press the "Page Down" button. If i get a chance, i'll include a recording of the "Tangata" from tonight's performance so that you can follow along...hmm, maybe i'll just embed the recording into a future file so that you can actually hear it while you click through the slides...better yet, just come to tonight's recital and see it in action for yourself!! In any case, i'd love your feedback on the visuals!
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August 22, 06
Picking up the towel again: getting my head around Liquid Media, Take 2
Wait a minute! i think i get it now!
For some reason, Liquid Media
- the PowerPoint-type presentation program from New Zealand company SkunkLabs Software that i was bashing earlier - is making sense now! Maybe a good night's sleep and a nice cup of coffee was all that i needed to jump-start my brain to get around its GUI (graphical user interface). Suddenly, i'm seeing how simple it is to actually put together some very powerful visual presentations!
A few key elements were missing in my understanding from my earlier struggles with the program, mainly:
setting the timeline paths long enough so that the transitions work smoothly. Now that i see how this function plays out, i realize i need to give any given sequence enough path time to engage whatever effect i want to activate
re-thinking the keystroke function by breaking down scenes into much smaller units to enable triggering, and taking advantage of the timed animation sequences to run on their own. In my PowerPoint presentations, i would clump several images into a single scene and assign them trigger points to appear sequentially with various entrance/exit animations (fades, zooms, pans, etc.) With Liquid Media, it works just as well to separate each visual element into its own scene to enable linear keyswitch control. Makes it actually easier to organize too, since i don't have to hunt under layers of pictures to see what's going on anymore...
I'm already playing around with some neat effects - having animated birds fly over an image of a foggy lake with the capability of making the bird image backgrounds transparent within Liquid Media; letting raindrops fade in and out with an automatic timed insert; adding video clips with much more effective effects and transitions than PowerPoint is capable of (i'm going to experiment with having multiple video feeds blending in and out at once to see if Liquid Media's graphic engine can handle it)...
I'm quickly putting another presentation together to put this program through its paces - i've already submitted a purchase order (runs about $199 for the enterprise version, $39.99 for a home version - i got the enterprise) and am waiting for the registration key to come in. This may be the program i've been searching for after all! Stay tuned, i'll keep y'all updated on my progress...
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Throwing in the multimedia towel: Liquid Media
My frustration level is running pretty high after struggling most of the day to figure out the workings of Liquid Media
, a highly advanced presentation program similar to PowerPoint, the program that i've been using to present my visual recitals (VizCon for Visual Concerts? Need to come up with a catchy name...) The interface for Liquid Media is NOT very intuitive, and the tutorials are a total joke. The manual is somewhat helpful, but the scripting process is really byzantine. Granted, there's a lot of potential power in this program, but herein lies the problem - with great power, comes great complexity. The support forum is pretty sparse, with hardly any activity over the 3 year life of the program, and no apparent way to post new topics (am i locked out until i purchase a full version of the program? grrrr....)
[UPDATE: Turns out i simply forgot to activate my support forum membership from the confirmation email - silly me, i'll try posting some questions to see if i can make some headway...]
Transition effects work fine in menu samples, but strangely dissappear when i try to run full view previews...what gives? The program was designed for an older generation of Pentium chips - surely my Tablet PC has more than enough horsepower to render the various effects?
Liquid Media seems to be better suited for creating dynamic multimedia presentations where the user can interface with lots of hotspots and multi-key triggers. Fine for making standalone kiosk displays with lots of interface buttons to play with, but strangely lousy for creating a single key linear visual sequence trigger. My needs are so simple, why is it so hard to find a program that can handle this? I want a SINGLE key trigger for my video events with a program that doesn't hiccup with video clips like PowerPoint does...and yet, i want to keep the still image and text manipulation capabilities of PP, along with its streamlined interface...
Maybe i just need to throw in the towel and embrace PowerPoint as an artistic medium like David Byrne
apparently has...check out this 3 year old article from Wired magazine
on PowerPoint art by Mr. Byrne, along with a subsequent article about the evils of PowerPoint
...or maybe my brain is just too small and i need to give this program another hard look...
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August 21, 06
Portable Recording Solutions: iTalk
While i was away for my Masterworks Festival and camping trips, my pastor resorted to using a nifty little iPod accessory called the iTalk
to record his sermons. Unfortunately, it looks like the iTalk - made by Griffin Technology, the same company that makes my Powermate USB Multimedia controller - seems to be discontinuing its support for the iTalk, as its page for the device appears to be blank...you can still get it from other vendors, but perhaps not for long...
As you can see, the iTalk is very compact and fits snugly on top of the iPod for mobile recording.
Sound quality is adequate for recording speech, but probably not for music. Here are two sermons so that you can hear what i'm talking about:
This was recorded with the iTalk: Luke 11:1-13 "Teach Us to Pray, part 4" - sermon by Pastor Dr. Mark Herzer
For point of comparison, this was recorded yesterday with my Samson C01U USB Condenser Microphone: Luke 11:1-13 "Teach Us to Pray, part 6" - sermon by Pastor Dr. Mark Herzer
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August 18, 06
August 17, 06
ClassicalLounge.com - a new MySpace-type Site for Classical Musicians
Joshua Gindele, cellist of the Miro Quartet
, has set up an amazing new social-networking site specifically for Classical Musicians and enthusiasts of all types: www.ClassicalLounge.com
. As online social networking phenomenons like MySpace, Xanga and MSN Spaces continue to explode, this type of genre-specific niche will be an increasingly valuable asset to help the classical music community focus on ways to use this amazing power to connect, flourish and grow. The engine for www.ClassicalLounge.com appears to be Social Networking Software by Small World Labs
Setting up an account is completely free and very similar to a MySpace profile setup, following familiar functions of creating friends lists and adding friends and even giving you the option to either create your own blogs, or to pull in feeds from external ones (mine's already set up, but the pictures don't all come through...i'll need to work on that, it's a gltich with Feedburner, not ClassicalLounge...) I just put up a quick profile a few minutes ago, so i haven't really explored the ins and outs of the program template - not sure if there are options to customize your page with wallpaper or eye-numbing animations, for instance - but there appear to be ways to easily share files such as audio and video clips (and most likely anything else, like pdf music scores and such). Good boy that i am, i already created Classical Lounge's first Collaborative Pianists group!
One drawback i'm noticing is that there doesn't appear to be a way to go directly to view a member's profile on www.ClassicalLounge.com like you can with MySpace unless you've signed up as a member (for example, you can go right to my MySpace page here
regardless of your membership status). Granted, membership is free, but this might hinder the rate of signups if you can't have your ClassicalLounge profile set up as a de facto website...one of the powerful aspects of MySpace is the ease with which you can establish a significant presence on the web for publicity purposes. I wonder if there's a way to tweak ClassicalLounge's settings to allow for direct public viewing access to the members' profiles...
[**8/18/06 NOTE: Patrick just left a comment on this here - see below - yes, you CAN adjust your privacy settings to allow your page to be viewed directly by the general public! Thanks for the tip, Patrick!!]
Come jump in on the start of what promises to be an exciting new way to connect with classical musicians and the rest of the classical music world from the inside out! See you in the C-Lounge!
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August 16, 06
Lidia Kaminska on WHYY's Radio Times!
Here's an invitation i'd like to pass along from Bayanist Lidia Kaminska
for two wonderful upcoming events - an interview on WHYY's Radio Times
, and another recital with me, flutist Jasmine Choi
, and dancers from the Pennsylvania Ballet next week on Thursday, August 24 at 8 pm at The Ethical Society:
I would like to invite you for my debut recital in Philadelphia! (information attached). I hope you can come!
I was just featured in the Philadelphia Magazine August issue and was invited for an interview on WHYY Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane, 91FM, Thursday August 17th, 11am. Check it out! best wishes, Lidia
BACH TO PIAZZOLLA
Lidia Kaminska - Accordion, Bandoneon
Hugh Sung - Piano
Jasmine Choi - Flute
Featuring Pennsylvania Ballet Dancers: Emily Waters and Elysia Lichtine
Choreography by Jorge Laico
Thursday, August 24th 8pm
The Ethical Society Building
1906 South Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia
Tickets: $10 at the door
To buy tickets on-line please go to:
By the way, Philadelphia Magazine has a nice audio clip
of Lidia playing Bach on their website!
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August 15, 06
Camping with the Sungs, Part 2: When Tents Tank
I picked up the largest tent i could find at Target - and Eddie Bauer model that listed itself as being able to sleep up to 9 people. Well, i had heard that you should always get twice the size of the number of sleepers, so this seemed to fit the bill.
Here are some pictures of the initial tent setup, which actually was quite easy - good setup design for sure:
Here we are, laying out the tent canvas and the frame - nice, easy snap-together design, easy to figure out...
...now we're attaching the canvas to the frame with the clips that are sewed in...
...and now the final red rain tarp goes over the tent...
Voila! Home sweet away-from-home!
Timmy and his Dinosaur lending support to the whole operation...
Hm, maybe this view is better for his dinosaur to direct the tent setup...
Of course, the whole point of camping is to get away - to play video games! hahaha!
Unfortunately, the first day of camping also brought a sudden downpour of heavy, torrential rains. One of the support poles snapped, collapsing the tent - and making the Mrs. very, very stressed (and yearning for a nice bed & breakfast to escape to...)
I managed to keep the pole somewhat functional by lashing four tent spikes around the break with duct tape like a splint - that kept the tent upright and relatively dry for the rest of the week, but that definitely put a damper - figuratively and literally - for our first day of camping...oh well, here's hoping we can get a complimentary replacement pole from Eddie Bauer...
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August 14, 06
Camping with the Sungs, Part 1: A Road Warrior's Best Friend
What would a camping road trip be without some cool tech to help get us there? On my way to the South Bend, Indiana airport from the Masterworks Festival
, my driver - Masterworks faculty violinist Mary Erwin - had what looked like the Garmin StreetPilot GPS system in her car, and i was really impressed with its portability and ease of use (even though it seemed to take a really long time for the unit to lock on to the satellite signals...); that helped convince me to splurge on the Garmin Nüvi 350
, to make our road trip as easy as possible.
This unit is wonderfully compact and much thinner than the StreetPilot unit - easily slips into your pocket like a PDA. In fact, it's surprising how functional this unit is beyond the excellent GPS navigation capabilities - there's an MP3 player and an Audible Audio Book player built in, as well as optional modules for language translation and tourbook guides that you can purchase separately. There's also a built-in calculator and metric convertor. The Nüvi does a wonderful job of integrating music and audio books in its operation - when the audio prompts come on to give you your driving instructions, the audio or music automatically pauses, then resumes with a 2 second rewind automatically so that you don't miss anything. Nice touch!
The operating system is well designed - the touchscreen interface is clear and easy to read, even in bright sunshine, and the interface buttons are large enough for easy operation, as i think you can see from the first picture above. The antenna is excellent, locking into the satellite signals pretty quickly (initial setup takes a few minutes for the unit to align itself, but once it does consequent operation is a snap). The windshield mount is also well designed, making for easy snap on/snap off placement with a ball bearing mount for optimal viewing (my kids insist on having the unit viewable to them - they want to keep an eye on the virtual 'car' on the GPS map!)
The software makes it easy to find addresses and save them - one problem i had, however, was the fact that Knoebels amusement park
doesn't have a mailing address per se, and its location wasn't pre-loaded into the Nüvi's directory. I had to resort to finding Knoebels on Mapquest, then finding the nearest intersection for reference.
The great thing about having the Nüvi was the ease with which we were able to find other resources - like groceries and the ubiquitous Walmart! No more wandering around looking for restaurants or shops - the Nüvi has a pretty amazing resource directory built in!
My favorite feature by far was the built-in Audible book player. My wife and i love listening to audio books during long drives, so i had a great Michael Connelly detective novel (The Closers), as well as Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian loaded into the Nüvi's hard drive - almost 700 MB of free space was available, giving me plenty of room to fill it with great reading material! Too bad the drive was so short - not enough time to get through enough of the books!
The one big drawback of the Nüvi is its price: i had to plunk down about $700 for the unit. Yeouch! Nevertheless, well worth the price if you don't want to deal with the headache of navigation or finding things on the road.
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August 12, 06
Back from Vacation - sort of...
The Sung family is back from a much-needed week of camping in the Poconos! I have a LOT of blogging to catch up to, several articles that are swimming around in my head to commit to virtual page! For my own organizational benefit, here's a list of articles that i'd like to tackle as soon as my synapsis snap back into shape:
Summer Music Festival Rundown: Need to recap my experiences with Summer Strings International, New York Summer Music Festival, and the Masterworks Festival. Hopefully this will be helpful to prospective students looking for places to study next summer...
Visual Recital Feedback: This has been a terrific summer for trying out my 'visual recital' concept - a lot of feedback to share, and hopefully some sample video clips to show the concept in action
Tech and Education articles: Need to post some articles on some other wonderful software that i've been using with my sons to help them with their schoolwork - some fantastic notetaking and study software that's really made a tremendous difference with their grades!
Getting Started on the Web: I want to provide a simple overview on some easy-to-implement options for tech-averse musicians to set up a powerful and effective presence on the web. Options will range from super-simple to moderate/slightly advanced applications and services.
Podcasts, podcasts, podcasts!! Yes, need to ramp up my podcast schedule again - several interviews are waiting editing in the hard drive, others are waiting for me to pick up the phone and put our conversations down in Audacity! I hope to get back up and podcasting full speed by the start of September, so please be patient - thanks!
The Sung Camping Trip! Of course, lots of cool tech used to make our camping trip as enjoyable and stress-free as possible - nevertheless, we still came back one day early so that the Mrs. and i could splurge at Topper's Spa for a facial and much-needed massage to 'recover' from the trip! LOL
It's been amazing to see how strong the readership to this site has been despite my spotty posts - many thanks to all of you out there that have sent me emails and wonderful comments, including several links to articles that i'll need to follow up on for commentary. The slow days of summer are drawing to a close, and i hope to be fully up to speed with this site to return the many kindnesses i've received!
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Faith in the Internet: Website Tech Glitch Finally Solved
After almost four months and virtually all hope having dried up, a generous poster on the support forum of my Nucleus CMS Program
(CMS=content management system, the template blog program that i use to run this website) FINALLY came through with the answer to my questions about fixing the Multiple Categories feature! Basically, my host server switch made the Multiple Categories somehow incompatible with the newer version of MySQL provided by my new host, hampering searches of my blog topics by category. Turns out that the kind poster was able to interpret some of the Japanese of the original source code to get a workable solution out!
For those of you using Nucleus
, the working version of NP_MultipleCategories.php for servers with MySQL 5.0 can be downloaded here
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August 07, 06
The Coolest Virtual Piano
This gadget alert is thanks to one of my readers - source article comes from that uber-tech site Engadget.com
This is so fascinating I couldn't help calling your attention to this item (just in case you missed it) from www.engadet.com - play a virtual piano without the piano:
Virtual Piano for Chopin on the go
Posted Aug 4th 2006 9:25AM by Paul Miller
Filed under: Misc. Gadgets
It was bound to happen sooner or later. Ever since those keyboards of the typing variety got all virtual on us, we knew the instrument version would go infrared and turn our rhythmic table tapping into beautiful music. The new device, from Digital Information Development, operates -- and looks -- quite like that Bluetooth version from iTech, 'cept there's a speaker in this unit to pump the tunes you're generating. Though there's just a 25-key keyboard in this version, DID is promising an 88-key "grand piano" unit, and even some sort of weighted notes (we'll believe it when we see it). This first iteration includes piano, organ, pipe organ and harpsichord sounds, and should cost around 15,000 yen ($130 USD) when it hits stores in Japan this November.
Pasted from <http://www.engadget.com/2006/08/04/virtual-piano-for-chopin-on-the-go/
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August 05, 06
August 04, 06
My hands stay dry, i know not why...
One discovers strange things under extreme environmental circumstances. Last night's performance of two Mozart concerti (K. 382 and K. 466) felt like it was being slow-broiled in a wooden dutch oven - 100+ degree weather on a stage with NO airconditioning (a few scattered fans did little more than circulate the heat like a convection oven...). I made the added mistake of taking a quick shower right before the concert, thinking that it would cool me off - turns out, showers actually HEAT UP your body, so the sweat was really drenching me out of virtually every pore in my body...
...except, for my hands!
Several folks commented afterwards that they were astounded that i didn't slip off the keys despite the miserable torrent of heat and sweat - some even noticed that while i was constantly mopping my face and forehead, i didn't once wipe the keyboard with my handkerchief! In all my years of playing, i had never noticed the absence of sweat from my hands until last night - what a fortuitous physiological perk!
Turns out the acoustic setup in the Great Auditorium was trickier than expected for the chamber orchestra. The first picture above was the initial setup, but with the lid up it was difficult for one side of the orchestra to hear the other, given the height of the wooden ceiling and it's enourmous parabolic curve. The sound would go straight up before bouncing out - sounded fine in the audience, but made it very difficult to gauge balances from the stage.
We tried removing the lid and moving the piano perpendiular to the stage to bring both sides of the orchestra closer together, but that made the piano actually more difficult to hear, and was much less visually 'appealing' from the audience point of view...
We finally reverted to the traditional setup, keeping the piano lid off. That seemed to be the best compromise - the orchestra was actually able to hear (and see) itself better.
Kudos to Gordon Turk and the orchestra for slogging through a tropical steambath stage setting! Even more kudos to the audience that actually braved the weather to show up for the show! (complete with a sea of handfans fluttering like butterflies throughout the auditorium!)
So, back to the non-sweat hand issue - upon hitting the Marlton Tavern with my wife for a thirsty nightcap, i asked one of her medical colleagues what the reason could be for this anomaly. His medical response? An enlightened shrug.
Sorry, wish i could impart some wisdom along this line to all the clammy-handed pianists out there...
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August 03, 06
Mozart Double-Header Tonight
If any of you are free tonight and able to come over to the Great Auditorium in Ocean Grove, NJ, you can catch me performing TWO Mozart concerti - the delightful Concert Rondo in D major, K. 382, and the great D minor, K. 466. Weather forecasts call for record-breaking heat with possible thunderstorms in the evening, so i'll be sure NOT to wear a tux - most likely i'll wear a nice, well-ventilated short-sleeve shirt with a funky BW pattern. No point fainting on stage for the sake of "dress code", eh?
Gordon Turk, the director of the Summer Stars Classical Music recital series, will be conducting the Ocean Grove Chamber Orchestra in this finale concert. The Concert Rondo K. 382 will open the program, followed by Soprano Monica Ziglar
singing the Exultate Jubilate KV 165, closing with the D minor Concerto K. 466. No intermission, so the show will probably be just over an hour in length - perfect timing for a hot summer night, in my opinion!
For more details, including tickets and driving directions, go to the Summer Stars Classical Series website.
Be sure to hang around afterwards and say hello!
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August 02, 06
Tracy Hooten's Beginner's Guide to Tablet PC's
If you haven't guessed, i'm focusing this month's blogs on educational tech resources for students and parents getting ready for the new school year. Tracy Hooten has posted an excellent article
on her site The Student Tablet PC
that serves as a comprehensive primer for the student serious about utilizing the Tablet PC as an academic tool. Everything from hardware to software, accessories to notetaking and book scanning issues are covered, complete with links to archived blog articles from a plethora of sources (including yours truly
for the music student!). Thanks, Tracy, for another tremendous resource!
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August 01, 06
"Dad, i don't want to play anymore!"
"Eric, you play until you finish level 2! You're not allowed to stop until you finish the level 2 boss!"
Who would've ever thought that a parent would be forcing their kid to play videogames? That's the predicament i'm finding myself in with my second son as we work through his multiplication tables. Besides rote copying and digital/paper flashcards, i've found a fantastic multiplication tutor videogame of all things!
is made by Big Brainz - a free downloadable home version is available, with upgraded versions offering more graphics and background variety (one gets really tired of the same-looking levels and monsters all the time). The player maneuvers a little green character through a dungeon who can "attack" various ogres by answering the multiplication problems on their bellies. Answers need to be typed in within a set time period, forcing the player to really know their times tables well. Each of the 12 game levels represents - naturally - the corresponding multiplier, gradually moving up from 1's to 12's. The end 'boss' reviews all of the problems that were presented in the given level, showing results and restarting the level if equations need reviewing.
Graphics are really impressive, and the gameflow works extremely well, with a good AI that hones in on problems that need extra work. Funny thing is, videogame or not, it still feels like homework to a young mind!
So far, only PC's are supported with this game, but a Mac version appears to be in the works (estimated availability around Sept. 30th, according to the maker's website). Highly, highly recommended for a fun way to reinforce basic multiplication skills!
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