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May 30, 08

Stronger feelings for a departed friend

Out with the old, in with the new...in my last post, i shared some of the unexpected feelings of nostalgia and loss with the trade-out of my old Steinway L. The new baby has arrived and settling in nicely (pictures will be posted soon), but in the interim, i was surprised to receive this passionate email from one of my readers - he makes it sound like i posted one of my children for sale onto eBay! (many thanks to Michael for his permission to publish his remarks):

Geeze, Hugh,

I enjoyed visiting your blog, tipped off by a Google news update on the keyword Steinway.

And so, I hope you'll take this in the right way: YIKES! How could you do that to a Steinway?

It was built, checking the SN with the Steinway age finder, between 1972 and 1973. A mere adolescent in piano years.

And to have afixed shipping labels, et al...

I can't stand to see pianos and dogs abused.

Now I'll have to wait to see what you traded it in on. It had better be a Fazioli because you just sent out a piano with wonderful potential. Your spit didn't cause the brass to flake off; brass doesn't flake. I can't account for the pedals - that's strange, but they can be relacquered and unless the strings have "popped" because of incredible pressure on them thus damaging the pin block (for shame) it looks so repairable.

Anyway, I don't expect a reply - I'm just heartsick.

- M


- to which, i sent the following response:

Thanks so much for visiting my blog! My goodness - what a passionate response! While i can certainly understand your feelings on hearing how a once-beautiful piano received so much abuse over the years, that's an unfortunate everyday fact when you have to pound out a lot of high-intensity repertoire. The concert D at Curtis gets pounded to a pulp every year. My two Steinway B's in my office are pretty badly thrashed now - fortunately, we have a terrific in-house technician at Curtis who's promising me a new set of hammers over the summer!

My home Steinway was a baby L - way too small to sound any good, in my opinion. There was always this bizarre inharmonicity in the scale that made it impossible to tune completely correctly, and i think the small size prevented it from being able to produce a good tone (difficult for any grand piano that size/shape, regardless of make). i guess i'm spoiled with B's and D's.

I've heard wonderful things about the Fazioli, but i actually haven't had an opportunity to try one out yet. For now, the piano i've just traded my Steinway for seems to have a lot of wonderful potential...


...and subsequently, received this follow-up:

But of course you can post my chastisement on your blog. But you need to tell people I'm not necessarily an old (which I am) whiny (which I sometimes sound like, even to myself) b****y idiot who has nothing better to do than gripe at the perceived follies of other folk.

Instead, cast me in the light of someone so in love with pianos that he'd rather watch back-to-back "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction," and an endless series of Bush Speeches and Cheney leers than the one scene in the old Laurel and Hardy masterpiece: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Music_Box_(1932_film)

I couldn't stand to see the movie The Piano again; find Shine to be as rusty nails on a chalkboard; and Lang Lang's gyrations akin to ... well, it's akin to nothing but it sure is distracting.

Anyway, I can see, now that I know it's an "L" that you might not want to keep it up, but let's hope it's not being used for kindling.

I've screamed at good friends who dared to put a drink, sans coaster, on my polyurethane'd Kawai and came close to firing a cleaning lady for putting Pledge on my B. And God forbid someone attempt to dust the top of the black monster with circular motions and anything but an imported Chamois skin and water...

I've got a friend in Chicago who sells Faziolis and they are fine, fine pianos. Should you move that direction sometime, please let me know so I can let him know.

And now that I have granted Piano Dispensation, I'll be reading your blog to see what you replaced the Steinway with.

Mike


Of course, i couldn't resist looking up the movie clip from "The Music Box" on YouTube to see what Mike was talking about!



My goodness, all this drama over a piano!


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May 24, 08

Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend

tn_IMG_0169 My old Steinway has been gathering dust for quite some time now, since its multitude of busted strings and misaligned hammers made it pretty useless for practice.  I normally practice on my studio pianos at Curtis anyway, and the kids have been having their lessons on the Casio Privia PX-110 (although the Privia isn't really in tune, believe it or not, it's certainly better than the sorry pitch condition my poor Steinway had deteriorated into).  I had a technician come out to the house the other day to see if anything could be done to salvage the piano.  When he looked saucer-eyed and didn't even bother to crack open his toolbox, i knew the poor piano had seen its last days under my fingers.  Even if i had poured money into a complete overhaul, the end really wouldn't justify the expense since the piano - to be brutally honest - was never all that great to begin with.

Yesterday was "T-Day" - the day my Steinway was going to be traded away for a newer piano (i'll reveal that in my next blog - it was simply an offer i couldn't refuse!)  Suddenly, i was overcome with nostalgia - after all, this was the piano my Dad had bought for me, the instrument i had grown up with ever since i was a little kid!  Memories of being enslaved to "the black beast" for hours on end, spitting on the fall board out of spite (maybe that's why the brass lettering flaked away...), memorizing the nicks and scratches peppered throughout the woodwork...i never realized the thousands of stories that a musical instrument can elicit, the deep imprint into one's memories - musical and emotional -  it can leave.

tn_IMG_0148 I never came up with a name for that piano, and i never really took notice of the serial number until yesterday - good ol' 428295.   (Sounds like i'm writing a eulogy for a droid!  "Ah, C3PO...how well i knew you, R2D2...")  I took the opportunity to use my new Canon G9 to preserve the views of my piano that i had taken for granted for so many years.  You can see the full gallery of pictures here. 

There are stories in the scars - i'm sure that alliteration has an obvious source somewhere, but it's still amazing to recall those stories as i post these pictures. 

 

tn_IMG_0142 Here's a view of the battle-scarred piano-scape, complete with busted strings and overturned tuning pins.  You can even make out the chalk marks on the strings from all of my prepared piano exploits!

 

tn_IMG_0154 You can just make out the remains of the lettering here - spittle marks evaporated long ago, but i'm sure they contributed to the accelerated oxidation of the brass labels!

tn_IMG_0132 Eric had only good intentions when he decorated the piano with a large postage-delivery label.  He had no idea that i would be so upset - and no idea that tacky labels would be so difficult to remove from lacquer finishes!

tn_IMG_0157 My piano's brass pedals weren't unique, but the way they colored the soles of my feet green from hours of practice was certainly memorable.

tn_IMG_0161 I don't know what it was about this old-fashioned music rack support bracket, but i always found its double-fold design to be endearing...

tn_IMG_0136 I know i've been harping on the ugly scars on my piano, but it still had its beautiful perspectives even after all these years...

 

tn_IMG_0173 And so, i bid a fond farewell to 428295 - if anyone is lucky enough to inherit this battered old piano (hopefully fully refurbished), i hope you enjoy this little testimony from a grateful previous owner! No Trackbacks | Digg this Bookmark this post on del.icio.us. Submit this post on reddit.com. Submit this post on furl.net.l Bookmark this post on Google. Bookmark this post on Yahoo. Add this post to Technorati Favorites Add post text to Rojo Add this to Co.mments Add this post to Newsvine Add this post to Scuttle Add this post to Shadows Add this to Simpy Add this to Spurl Add this to Squidoo Add this to Stumbleupon

May 13, 08

Visual Recital Workshop: The Chopin Project

IMG_0087

I've been working with the superintendent of the Neptune, New Jersey school district for several months now to put together my latest Visual Recital workshop for the Neptune High School students.  This is my most exciting VR workshop so far, if only for the fact that i'll be able to work with the students for about a month (as opposed to the one-day workshops where we make the art then quickly scan everything into the computer for a show either later in the evening or the very next day).  Given the advanced artistic capabilities of the older students, i've decided to try something much more challenging:  visualizing the Ballade No. 1 in G minor of Frédéric Chopin. 

Today we had our first hands-on workshop where i presented the Ballade in 13 segments, each with a short descriptive text to give the students a basic concept of the emotional content and flow.  We tried picking out a few landscape pictures that a previous art class had already made, matching them to the shifting moods of the ballade.  That led to some fantastic brainstorming to come up with an amazing set of story and visual elements!  I'm planning to use www.VisualRecital.com as the project website to present notes, sketches, and a discussion forum for the students to contribute ideas and flesh out the scenes for the ballade's visualizations. 

Thanks to being debt-free and getting a better handle on my business-related finances, i've been investing in several new bits of equipment, such as:

IMG_0081

My brand new Sanyo PLC-XF20 5000 lumen monster projector (aka Proxima PRO AV 9350).  Did i say this beast was a monster?  Try lifting this puppy at 80 pounds!  Hence, the dolly in the picture - an absolute necessity for me to move this elephant around!  As a point of comparison, my old HP M3130 DLP projector throws out only 2000 lumens and can be carried on my shoulder - can't be more than 7 pounds or so, i guess.  The Sanyo is loaded with tons of inputs and blazes its luminary output with 4 halogen lamps.  There are a lot of thoughtful touches in the design, such as the retractable handlebars on both sides of the unit as well as the front feet dials which have spring-retractable knobs as well (so that you can rest the unit on either side while you catch your breath trying to get the hippo into your minivan...)  IMG_0084

The lamps are surprisingly easy to install and remove with the back top-loaded hatch.  The main lens is motorized for automatic zoom and focus.  I got this projector very used through eBay for an incredible steal of a price - i wasn't planning on getting this type of projector for a good while yet, thinking that it would cost me twice as much as it did.  Hopefully this will help to address image brightness issues for future Visual Recitals.

At an initial pre-workshop meeting with some of the art students, i noticed that they were working with large canvases.  There was no way i would be able to fit their work onto desktop scanners, so i knew it was time to bite the bullet and finally invest in a decent digital camera.  I've been getting along with my trusty Sony DSC-T7 for three years now, but you can only do so much with 5.1 megapixels and a limited set of shooting options (my DSC-T7 pictures have always had gamma balance issues, heavy on the red and yellow spectrums).  I wasn't interested in going out on a limb to overspend on a full digital SLR, so i tried to get something to meet me halfway:  the Canon Powershot G9.

canong9

i suppose almost any camera after a relatively crappy point-and-shoot would be reason to celebrate, but man oh man, i LOVE this 12 mega-pixel camera!  Don't get me wrong, the DSC-T7 served its purpose well by being the camera easiest to hide in a pocket and whip out at a moment's notice, but the G9...wow, i never realized just how much fun it could be to play with F-stops for depth-of-field shots like this one (yes, i took this flower shot):

IMG_0042

Here is a sample shot from one of the art students' landscapes:

IMG_0069

You can see some other pictures from the Visual Recital Chopin Project blog here.

More tech to talk about, but right now i've got to catch up with some serious video/audio editing...back to the digital salt mines (sigh...)

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May 05, 08

When Tech Tanks: Bidvertiser shenanigans

A friend of mine just alerted me to this disturbing ad from Bidvertiser flashing across my site:

Pictureofsung

No, i do not "need girl friend" and i certainly don't need Bidvertiser anymore.  The offending ad services has been promptly removed.  My deepest apologies for the offensive display - please let me know if you come across any other advertising anomalies on any of my sites! 

Google Adsense seems to be somewhat better behaved, as it tries to match ads to the text content of the site.  I see a lot of ads for music related products and services, tablet pc's, and even some financial things from time to time.  The other web ad referral services like Amazon Associates and various online music publishers like Virtual Sheet Music are much more preferable if you want direct control over advertising content.  With Amazon, i can select only items that i'm interested in promoting, such as my own CD's, carousels of my favorite books on career and finances on TheProsperousMusician.com, and music scores that i'm starting to recommend to students on my new piano lesson satellite site (more recommendations and updates to that site forthcoming soon).

A side note:  placing ads on my website helps to take care of the costs associated with running the site (domain name registration, server subscription, etc.), but i'm not expecting to retire rich from the income anytime soon. i'll be posting some metrics on my earned web income soon at TheProsperousMusician.com later today. 



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May 01, 08

Yours truly featured on "Piano" magazine

pianomagazine Being a musician who strives to eliminate paper from his office and music stand, making the cover of a magazine is definitely one time where i can appreciate the benefits of paper!

Many thanks to Piano Magazine editor and musical scholar extraordinaire Jeremy Siepmann for graciously inviting me to submit a double whammy - an article and an interview.  i'm still marveling at the surgical skills of Jeremy's editing - i submitted a 2000+ word monster of an article and for the life of me couldn't find a way to pare it down below 1400+ - you'll simply have to buy the magazine and see a master journalist's handiwork ;)

As you can see from the title, the emphasis is on my explorations of technologies to enhance the classical pianist's art and capabilities.  Jeremy came across one of my blog articles on the subject (back when i was just starting my search for the perfect digital piano) - he seemed to find my depiction of some of the concert stage pianos i've put up with as "kindling and firewood" particularly fetching, and asked me to make sure i kept mention of that in my contribution. 

I'll have to keep my eyes out for US distribution - Piano magazine is based in the U.K., and i haven't seen it here (yet), but you can order subscriptions online.  Can't wait to get my own copy!

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Welcome!

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

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