Sunday, 30 September 2012

A Late Quartet (2012)

Yes! Finally another film that will put classical music in the spotlight once again. Starring Christopher Walken, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Catherine Keener, it's about how world-renowned string quartet based in NYC struggles in the face of death, and competing egos (we've all been there haven't we?). Definitely looking forward to this movie. Beethoven's op.131 makes an appearance (as we see in the trailer). Hopefully the repertoire included will be vast and interesting!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

'This Is How To Live' @ 2 Willow Rd.

The performance of my string quartet at 2 Willow Rd. was a great success (considering I had written the string quartet in 2 1/2 days, and the players only got half an hour to learn and rehearse it)! The night was filled with art, culture, interesting people, garlic-y hummus, macarons, spicy haloumi and specially mixed gin. 

2 Willow Rd. is the house of architect Ernö Goldfinger and his artist wife, Ursula (which is now in the care of the National Trust). Interesting fact which I learnt: Ian Fleming lived just down the road from Goldfinger, and disliked him, hence why he named the James Bond villain after Goldfinger!

I was asked to compose the string quartet last minute by a friend of mine, and the purpose was for it to be performed alongside an exhibition of a sound installation by Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, created from 3D scans of objects collected by Goldfinger here:

The piece itself, is based on the textures, materials, shapes and sizes of the objects. Which coincidentally is a pretty similar idea to scanning the objects and then transferring it into sound using computer software. It meant that the visitors could hear both electronic and human interpretations. 

Everything in the house was very protected, and almost everything could not be touched (which meant there were hardly any chairs people could sit on even though there were chairs everywhere). We also did not realise there would be no music stands so... we had to improvise. (Thank you to my viola player who had blu tac on him):

A recording/video of the performance will be uploaded soon on my website

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Naming a chamber group is hard.

Choosing a name for your chamber group can be hard. Very hard. I've recently experienced this over the weekend, when I finally established a piano trio with a good violinist friend of mine, and her good cellist friend.

Usually there are the usual options a chamber group can take:

1. Name the group after a favourite composer.
2. Name the group after a favourite chamber work (e.g. Archduke, Ghost, Trout)
3. Name the group after a member of the group.
4. Try and combine all the members' names into one name, and make it sound cool/abstract.

But what if you don't want these options? Naming your group after a composer or a work can define what your group is about, but can also strangle your chamber group into only performing works by said composer, or performing works in that style/period. Naming the group after a certain member could also have dire consequences if members get 'jealous'... or, in my case, no one in your group likes their own name enough.

So far we option, which I have thought of, but I shall announce what the name shall be soon!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

This is my website

I now have my own website, from which you can also access my blog, read tweets, and watch videos of me playing. It's still early stages so there will be more content added over the next few months. In the meantime, I hope you will carry on following this blog. Feel free to comment or request anything!

Musical Design of the Week (10)

To celebrate the arrival of iPhone 5.....

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

New 'Glenn-Gould-inspired' app!

A new app for iPhone/iPad has come out, which is inspired by Glenn Gould's belief of using gestures to create musical compositions. 

It uses animated scenes with bells, stars, or floating quavers (to name a few) and the user presses or swipes these 'buttons' which triggers particular pitches, sequences or chords. It's almost like a nice improvising exercise on your phone, and you can record yourself and share it with your friends too. The app is loaded with the 'popular' classics like Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, and Bach's Prelude in C

Here are some screenshots of the app:

Piano Invention app

Piano Invention app

Piano Invention app

App is FREE to download here!

Monday, 17 September 2012

Leeds Piano Competition 2012: A lack of exposure

The Leeds Piano Competition finals were on Sunday, but in my opinion, compared to previous years, it has gone by very quietly indeed. No BBC live broadcast on TV (only BBC Radio 3), or any media hype about the finalists before/after the finals. I remember there used to be a lot of anticipation before the finals, but this year, there definitely was no such feeling. 

I feel there has almost been a slight shift in attitude towards piano competitions these days, or any competitions in fact. Sure, Leeds, along with Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Van Cliburn (and many others) are still the 'the big ones', but now, winning a competition is not a ticket to guaranteed success as it seemed to be a decade ago. You could win a competition, and chances are, audiences will easily forget about you after a couple of years... so I'm starting to ask the question: 

Are there still any genuinely good reasons to compete? 

There's first of all the prize money. This year's Leeds Winner, Federico Colli, from Italy would have been £18,000 richer over night, but after preparing for, I'm guessing, 2 or 3 years for a competition as big as this, is it worth it? Just having a normal teaching job could earn more in one year. (Music may feed the heart, but let's be practical here, we still have to earn a living).

A lot of pianists would agree, as do I, that we compete for the sake of getting exposure, although this year, the Leeds Piano Competition seems to have been a bit of a let down in that area. Radio is not really the exposure you are looking for in this day and age, and the internet has hardly exploded with Leeds Competition news. The Guardian wrote a measly 3 paragraph review on the finals, The Telegraph has nothing. Who should we be blaming for the lack of exposure? The Competition itself? Or the music critics? Alas, perhaps at the end of the day, everything is to do with funding, and Leeds just did not pay the BBC enough to get live coverage.

[If you missed the Leeds Competition on BBC Radio 3, you can catch up by listening to it on the BBC Radio 3 website. From 21/9/12, Dame Fanny Waterman and Lang Lang will feature in a six-part BBC 4 documentary about the Leeds Competition, aired on consecutive Friday evenings 7:30-8:30pm.]

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Musical Design of the Week (9)

"Music will always be with us. It evolves over time but will bring forever joy, hope and inspiration to many. Some musicians and bands sadly fade away but there is always enormous new talent emerging from underneath."

Peeling violin

Thursday, 13 September 2012

BBC Piano Season starts with...

Lang Lang smiling cheesily at the camera:

It's not surprising BBC has chosen Lang Lang to introduce the season. There will be a few programmes that focus on him with 'Lang Lang at the Roundhouse' and 'Lang Lang: The Art of Being a Virtuoso'. (Maybe it should be called Lang Lang Season?). Anyway, Piano Season is a six-week celebration of MY favourite instrument, and runs from tomorrow (September 14th) to November 6th. Highlights include Leeds Piano Competition and recitals by the likes of Alexei Grynyuk, Ashley Wass and Huw Watkins. 

For a full programme listing click here.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Piano Seesaw

This could work with the opening chords of either Tchaikovksy Piano Concerto, or Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto!

Piano Seesaw

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Musical Design of the Week (8)

I have loved this art work for many years, and I want to share it with you.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Happy Birthday John Cage!

Tomorrow, John Cage would have turned 100, and all over the world, many events have taken place this year to celebrate him. Now, I could write a long article about his life, his works, his achievements and his philosophies in music, but I think sharing THIS with you is much more interesting.

The app celebrates one of the ingenious innovations of the American composer- the prepared piano. What's more, the sounds are authentic, and meticulously sampled from a piano prepared with the actual materials used by Cage while writing Sonatas and Interludes (1946-8).

Note: the above link is for the iPad app. For iOS/Android phone there is a FREE VERSION.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Coldplay and Charles Hazlewood's Paraorchestra

For a very long time, I was wondering why the Olympics and Paralympics featured so many British artists and yet Coldplay never appeared. They've been on the British music scene for 13 years since their debut album Parachutes. I've personally always had a soft spot for Coldplay (Chris Martin's falsetto has the right balance of polished and mature vs. fragile and raw, not to mention his talent in songwriting) but even if you're not a fan of their music, you have to admit that their music represents 'Britishness'. Every country in the world knows who Coldplay is.

My anxiousness about Coldplay not featuring in any of the Olympic/Paralympic celebrations has paid off though. Hundreds of musicians will be performing Viva la Vida around the UK at the same time to mark the end of the Paralympics, AND Coldplay will be joining Charles Hazlewood's 'Paraorchestra' in the closing ceremony.

Charles Hazlewood has campaigned vigorously for his Paraorchestra to perform in the closing ceremony of the Paralympics since the beginning of this year, putting pressure on Cameron and Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. His inspiration has been a personal one, as his daughter suffers from cerebral palsy. The paraorchestra is formed of 17 performers with disabilities including one-handed pianist, Nicholas McCarthy (who has featured heavily in the news recently), and Lyn Levett who has severe cerebral palsy and operates an iPad with her nose.

Channel 4 will be airing an hour-long documentary next Sunday about the orchestra. For now though, do visit the Paraorchestra website to check out the musicians and watch this incredible video:

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Musical Design of the Week (7)

Now obviously this isn't brand new, but I thought I'd share it with those who haven't stumbled upon this before. Referred to as Neustadt Kunsthofpassage, this wall of a building in Dresden, Germany, has a very unique gutter system that 'plays music when it rains'. Probably not in the literal sense, but the point was to shed light on the pure orchestral sound of the rain. The Kunsthofpassage is actually a complex of buildings containing artworks and decorations - worth going there if you're ever in Germany!

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