Chamber Music Today has just posted one of the most comprehensive writeups on the Pianoteq program. If you want to really explore some of the inner workings and possibilities of what i think is the best modeled piano program on the market today, then spend some time mining this terrific article!
Two fascinating articles point to fascinating and imaginative applications of technologies from opposite ends of the spectrum - low and high. Wired magazine online profiles Volker Bertelman and his Hauschka project, a young pianist who performs on prepared pianos with both an eclectic mix of old and new technologies (that Ebow has me really, really fascinated!!) John Cage, naturally, would've been...well, referenced, at the very least, as he already is in the article. Kinda funny to see how digital programmers (like Pianoteq) on the one hand are trying to sound more like acoustic pianos, while pianists like Mr. Bertelman are trying to make their pianos sound more synthesized!
The New York Times writes about the YouTube Symphony project, where folks will be able to contribute their video renditions of orchestral parts from a commissioned work by Tan Dun leading to a final video mashup performance of jury-selected entries. The second part of the project involves an interesting twist on the traditional orchestra audition process, where video submissions will be judged by members of various major orchestras leading to an all-expense paid trip by Google for a Carnegie Hall performance under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.
Bold, imaginative, exciting - it's heartening to hear that classical music can find such a powerful venue to encourage fresh discoveries and new collaborations, and that "traditional" instruments can continue to re-invent themselves in cool ways!
I want to blog - i really do! But guilt has me working on way-overdue projects first before i can allow myself to indulge in unplugging the data-dam in my brain. In the meantime, i'll leave you with some videos that i managed to post up to YouTube in a jiffy, mainly because i didn't have a separate audio track to synchronize, but also due to my experiments with the Vista version of Windows Movie Maker. Nothing to really write home about, but the transition effects are nice enough and it "does the job" of slapping video together in a semi-presentable format.
From Wallenstein Castle in Prague, during my Music Technology lecture demonstration, i present to you these videos showcasing the expressive capabilities of the Pianoteq" virtual piano program:
Here's a neat comparison pitting the Pianoteq program back to back with a Petrof concert grand:
Again, my apologies for the mediocre audio quality, due to using only the Canon GL2's embedded microphone. I've since realized that i need to invest in a high quality, portable XLR microphone input solution (which i have - details and review coming soon!).
Many thanks to the Music Bridges International Organization for inviting me to participate in such a lovely festival! I'm still waiting for the audio tracks to put together clips from the other two days of performances, so be sure to stay tuned for more video from Prague.
Hugo Wolf – Italian Serenade
André Jolivet – Concertino for Trumpet, Piano & Strings
Roger Quilter – To Julia
Alessandro Scarlatti – Cantata for Soprano, Trumpet and Strings - Su le Sponde del Tebro
Igor Stravinsky – Concerto in D
I'll be busy with the Jolivet, that's for sure - tons of fiendish notes in that one! Believe it or not, i've actually worked on the piano reduction (HAH! more like "augmentation" compared to the original piano-only parts!) with trumpeters for several years, but i've never played it in the full setting with strings.
The Quilter is a gorgeous set of "Hallmark-moment" love songs - lovely writing, really!
i first encountered Amie Street through composer Charles B. Griffin's website a while back. At first i thought it was just another basic MP3 upload site for artists to promote their own tracks, with a curious pricing scheme that allowed newer tracks to be free and popular ones to range in price, up to 99 cents. To be honest, i didn't spend much time exploring around and soon forgot about the Amie Street concept.
Fast forward to this past Saturday. My oldest son now owns my beloved video iPod, so i'm stuck with either listening to MP3's through my (bulky) Samsung i730 PDA phone or with my dinky little Lexar MP3 player that came as a 'bonus' with my Bose Q3 headphone purchase. Well, i've been finally getting back into running and needed to quickly find some music for "exerci-nsperation" for Saturday's run. Being bereft of my iPod has made me a virtual iTunes orphan since i can't easily port over DRM-trapped tracks to any of my other devices, so i tried to think of some other options. i started revisiting AmieStreet.com and had my "aha!" moment when i finally understood how really, really cool this site is!
AmieStreet.com works as a virtual "stock market" for music. As i stated above, new tracks get introduced for free. The more popular a track becomes by the number of downloads, the higher it starts to rise in price. The cool part here is that if you download a track - either when it's brand new and available as a free download, or at any price point as it climbs in popularity - and then write up a recommendation for the track, you will have the opportunity to accumulate purchasing "credits" as the track (hopefully) rises in value. Say for example, you download a classical music track - oh, perhaps like the Chopin "Raindrop" Prelude in D-flat major (hint hint) while it's available as a free download. If you really love it and feel inspired to write up a recommendation for it, you'll "lock in" your "purchase price" - in this case, $0. If the track climbs in value, say to 55 cents, then you will be rewarded that amount to apply to any purchase within your Amie Street account. If the track is only available for a price, then you will need to purchase it first before writing a recommendation. Your received credit will become the difference between your purchase price and the final price (up to 99 cents, i believe) whenever you decide to "cash in" your credit for the track.
i don't know about you, but i find this utterly ingenious! By this system, listeners are rewarded for exploring and sharing their discoveries, and artists are given a viable tool to promote their work while still retaining full rights to their material. From what i can tell from my initial foray, AmieStreet has a $5.00 "storage fee" for each track. i'm assuming that once enough sales come in to cover that fee, then the artist will start receiving 70% of the proceeds above that amount.
i'm just dabbling with this for now, but i'll keep everyone posted as i upload more tracks for sale. You can visit my Amie Street "store" at http://amiestreet.com/hughsungpianist (banners soon to follow here on the site). Oh, and if you're curious as to what i ended up running to on Saturday:
Just received terrific news that a new version of Pianoteq has just been released (version 2.2 now). Here's a summary of what's been improved and updated:
- beautiful new preset 'C2 chamber', providing a closer intimate ambiance and clarity, following wishes that we received from users; audio demo: http://www.pianoteq.com/audio/deridder-chamber-blues-partial.mp3- added resonances for 'dry' notes (without sustain pedal), particularly noticeable when playing staccato chords ('C2 chamber' and 'C2 concert')
- improvement of space location for harp and sympathetic resonances slightly re-voiced 'C2 concert' for better transparency
The upgrade is offered for free to all customers. A trial version is also available.
I just received an email announcing a successful test run of a new product being developed in the Netherlands called the MusicReader. Not many details about the program yet - it appears to run on Tablet PC's with page turns enabled by foot paddles from Pedalpax Corporation (enabling both forwards and backwards page turns). Check out the demonstration video from their website below:
I'd love to see more details on the various functions of the MusicReader program, particularly with regard to annotation and networking capabilities. It'd be nice to see details about the pedal paddle too - seems to be silent operation from what i can tell from the video, but it's hard to confirm. Looks very promising and a welcome addition to the growing field of digital music readers!
Partnering with the Notes at 9,000 Emerging Artist Series, we developed a pilot Visual Recital Workshop for the 2007 Mad Cow Festival, where amateur artists created mixed media visuals for synchronized live performance to the music of Debussy. I collaborated with winners of the Emerging Artist Series competition in a fantastic concert combining dance, music, and visuals in a format that one listener proclaimed as "the future of live classical concerts!" With the Visual Recital Workshop, the audience member is immersed in the performance and plays a vital participatory role as co-creator with the musician. Many thanks to SoYoung Lee, Amy J. Clark, Charmain Schuh, and the creative team at The Dairy for this innovative approach to the live concert experience! Here's the video storyboard:
After 45 days, British Airways policy declares lost luggage "officially lost". This past Friday was the 45th day, passing by grimly without any word from BA. i was waiting for the insurance forms to be mailed out to me to start the dismal reimbursement procedures, bracing myself for the financial hit i was going to take for the loss of my Casio Privia PX-100 digital piano, my M-Audio Fast Track Pro USB digital audio interface, and the irreplaceable Justice Visions Camera Document Scanner, along with the slim ATA keyboard case and other sundry items within.
Imagine my surprise when, on the evening of the 46th day, my phone buzzed in my pocket during a screening of "The Bourne Supremacy" (Kyungmi has been dying to see this movie!) with word from a British Airways driver informing me that my long lost bag was being delivered directly to my house! No explanation was available for how it was found or why it took so long, but those things didn't really matter anymore, overshadowed by the thrill of having my piano resurrected from luggage-Hades!
Aside from a busted plastic name tag cover and evidence that the bag was jostled around violently enough to dislodge one of the tough velcro pads securing the piano within the case, everything seems to be relatively intact. The PX-100 powered up just fine - i'll have to test the JV Camera Document Scanner and the M-Audio device as soon as i get a chance.
Funny how hard it is now to maintain my fury at British Airways - but don't get me wrong, i'm going to be thinking long and hard before i commit to putting another piano through check-in baggage...
After installing Ubuntu, the "friendly" version of Linux onto Jayne, my newly donated RAID-capable pc, i found myself in a strange situation - something akin to having a custom-built Maserati with no wheels, or a Hamburg Steinway D with no keys - a beautiful operating system with tons of potential, but about as useless as eye candy for the working musician. The main problem simply is that i couldn't find drivers for the audio equipment i needed to interface with Linux, specifically my M-Audio Firewire 410 Mobile Recording Interface. M-Audio has a strange way of teasing folks with links to Linux drivers that spit out "n/a" - what's the deal with that?? Creative Labs doesn't even bother for their E-MU digital audio interfaces (another strikeout for my recently donated E-MU 0404 USB digital audio/MIDI interface), and all of the Linux/Ubuntu forums on the topic are filled with pleading net-urchins begging for developers to dole out respective drivers. I'm sure there's a way to get my basic MIDIMAN 1x1 USB interface cable to get recognized by Ubuntu, but installing drivers in the Linux universe is a major pain - the EZ-USB MIDI project is anything but "EZ".
There are lists of compatible sound cards and digital audio interfaces, but frankly i'm not in a position to spend even more money on an OS that is frightfully immature with regard to audio and MIDI manipulation, even if the software is mostly open-source. Maybe if an older soundcard like the M-Audio Delta 1010LT gets donated my way, i'll be inclined to give the Linux thing another whirl, but for now i think it's better left as an Office alternative (and a good one at that). The current ratio of Linux geeking to productive output just isn't in the musician's favor yet, save for those who really enjoy splitting headaches.
Lest i leave the impression that the Linux audio/MIDI world is completely bereft of helpful resources, here is my list of Linux Links for the Musician:
Linux-Sound.org - a directory of Linux-compatible music hardware and software
Music Education with Linux Sound Tools - this is a terrific article with links to lots of neat programs (some are cross-compatible with Windows) for the active music teacher/student. Almost makes me wish i could really get Linux to talk to my microphones and Roland RD-700SX...GNU Solfege in particular looks like a terrific program!
The CFS Boys' Choir and i arrive in Cape Town and immediately start a downtown tour of the Two Oceans Aquarium, a little rock shop, and a bayside shopping mall. Bag problems continue, and i describe how the South African voltage fries my digital piano plug! Our first concert at a school for the sight impaired couldn't be recorded due to our late arrival, but instead i feature a short clip of the school's own choir performance (that begins with a bang! Luckily, no injuries!)
I just returned from my tour of South Africa with the Church Farm School Boys' Choir! From Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and back, we performed under the direction of Gary Gress at schools and churches, taking in the amazing sights, wildlife, and warm hospitality along the way. Part 1 of this special series introduces Gary, the CFS school and choral program, and chronicles our departure from Philadelphia and layover in London en route to Cape Town.
Getting ready to head out to South Africa today - i managed to locate and purchase a slim keyboard ATA case for my Casio PX-110 digital piano, putting my mind more at ease regarding the safety of my new digital piano in transit.
Given all the hassles of weight and linear restrictions for checked baggage, i used my digital scale to measure the weight of the Casio in its new case (first by stepping on the scale myself, then stepping on with me holding the case and subtracting the difference). Looks like i'll be coming just under the 70 pound limit, with my new keyboard+case coming in at 68.4 pounds. Linear dimensions come out to 61" wide, 21" deep, and 7.5" high - total of 89.5 (i'm hoping British Airways will have the same 100" limit that USAirways has...)
Gotta finish packing and taking the last shower for the next 30 hours of travel...here's hoping our BA ticket counter agent is friendly!
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!