Opus 130

Category: Uncategorized

5.20.14 | Demotivation

Not meant to be taken totally seriously, here’s something funny I found on the internet, captioned “When a student tells me they want to “be a musician when they grow up,” I give them these.

..because you definitely don’t want to deal with this:

-Raymond

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4.29.14 | Innovation Project

Half a year ago, I started a YouTube upload project with the intention of making public domain recordings of classical music on the internet more accessible. Most public domain recordings of an acceptable audio quality can be found on http://imslp.org/, also an excellent resource for public domain sheet music. So why go as far as upload on YouTube something that’s already found on the internet? The main reason is that YouTube is the most known media sharing site. While many students/enthusiasts of classical music utilize IMSLP, it is still not that well known.

It was to be called the Art Music Repository, and can be found here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ArtMusicRepository/

I had hoped that the project would contribute to the wealth of recordings already on YouTube, and more importantly, that it would give public domain artists more recognition. However, I can safely say that this project is currently a failure. Even with my attempts to create multiple presences of the project on several share sites,  the channel has gained one measly subscriber and an abysmally low number of views on its videos. The current upload project focuses on the major works of piano composer Frédéric Chopin, but with the videos being virtually invisible in the past few months, I have ceased uploading until I can find some way to make some portion of the classical music community on the internet aware of the project.

I believe that, in itself, the project was not a bad idea to start with, but the problem lies within my inability to understand the infrastructure of social media/media sharing.

That said, here is a recording of Chopin’s complete Op. 25 Etudes, performed by Mehmet Okonsar. The music still shines brightly as ever, even in struggle.

-Raymond

 

4.22.14 | Liszt

Liszt is known as one of the greatest piano composers of the Romantic era, but personally, I find that his music does nothing for me. He never fails to write virtuosic music, music riddled with wild cadenzas and innumerable technical devices (which make for amazing textual effect, one of the upsides of his writing), but I believe that the flashiness sometimes aims to compensate for sparse melodic material, or a lack of thematic development (motivic development, on the other hand..). Liszt was obviously a strong influence on the late Romantics, but behind all the double notes, octaves, glissandi, sprawling scales and arpeggios, I can’t stay interested by the material. Maybe someday, the power of acquired taste will kick in, and I will realize how foolish I am now.

However, learning his music is a unique experience, despite any regret I have for doing so now.. The physical aesthetic of playing his music is sometimes, dare I say, fun. (WHAT???)

The Liebestraume No. 3, played (sort of) by yours truly. Please excuse this rather unpolished performance (oh, the erratic tempi and random flubs!); it was a work in progress before my patience wore thin. Perhaps I’ll finish it another day.

-Raymond

4.8.14 | Nope

That is my reaction to Beethoven’s Op. 106. It was my first reaction, and it will always be my reaction. Few compositions have had me sit there in awe of its incredible profundity. It is a work experimental in nature, written when Beethoven was completely deaf, and stands among the greatest in his oeuvre, among the greatest in piano literature. However, it is not recognized as so. Popularity has given itself to his lesser sonatas, the “Moonlight”, the “Pathetique”, the “Tempest”, and so on. Beethoven in general is reputed as one of the more known classical composers, but I don’t believe that he intended his music to be popular, and certainly, he did not intend his Op. 106, “Hammerklavier” to be popular.

Music is ethereal before it is intellectual, but I feel as if Beethoven intended a scientific construction to this work. It is anything but standard, with its four movements (typical for a symphony!), and a monstrous and incomprehensible fugue of a finale. It is a work revered by scholars, but few truly do love it. I say “nope” because I do not accept its existence. It is far too rich in material to be attributed to just one composer.

The Op. 106 is a performer’s nightmare, but fortunately we are blessed with those dedicated to communicating Beethoven’s music, those who are very capable of pulling off such a feat. The piano used in this recording is a Bosendorfer, not the standard Steinway. I think that its warm, dark tone is suited for Beethoven.

-Raymond

 

 

4.1.14 | Sleep

Sleep’s an important thing to us humans. It helps us function during the day, and frankly, without it, we’d just be unresponsive zombies. The same principle applies in the process of practice. There is only so much material one can ingrain in one’s memory in one practice session. Any more, and the quality of practice will fall victim to fatigue. True improvement happens when you’re not practicing. But whether you’re a musician or not, get your sleep. It’s the best favor you can do your body.

I need to start following my own advice..

-Raymond

 

3.18.14 | Ow

Prokofiev did not write “pretty” music. His music is a subtle amalgamation of the great piano composers that lived before him. Although it is very clear that his style of music is unique from his predecessors, we can see elements of the polyphonic writing of the Baroque era, the classical form, the lyricism of the early Romantics, the conservative nature of the high Romantics, the sharp drive of the late Romantics, and perhaps the experimental tendency of the Impressionists.

I will admit, I did not like Prokofiev when I first discovered his music. ‘Dislike’ is probably an understatement. I utterly hated it, with every fiber of my being. Who could listen to this “music”, with its incessant banging, angry nature, and seemingly episodic musical phrases? And then the power of acquired taste kicked in. Prokofiev’s music never makes sense to me, and probably never will. It moves me because it isn’t trying to. His music is grim reality, as compared to the effusive emotions of the Romantic era. Absolutely nothing is excessive in his writing. Polytonality, modal harmonies, and an overall disjunct motion towards a vague home key paint his human character. We can see his troubled nature, his immense struggle in the political events of his country at the time. This definitely warrants the use of both ends of the extreme in technical devices.

Modernism in art creates an objectivity of subjectivity. Prokofiev wrote in a way that forced the performer and listener to perceive the music for himself/herself. We are not expected to feel happy or sad at any given moment. The surprising thing is, he was not an atonal composer. His music is littered with diatonic melodies, but in conjunction with harmonies that are out of place. He broke convention more often than not; akin to the the main criticism of the Modernist composers. However, these “awkward” juxtapositions of melody and harmony give rise to an infinite number of possibilities for music, an goldmine for personal interpretation.

Prokofiev’s music never gets old for me. The melodies do not get worn out, because they are part of a canvas of a million shades of grey- by the time you find one again, you are inevitably engulfed by its surroundings. You hear the melody again, and it’s completely different, but it’s you who’s changed.

The Op. 125 Symphony-Concerto for solo cello and symphony orchestra:

-Raymond

3.5.14 | The Art of Sound

The ability to produce a flexible variety of tone color is often neglected as an element of virtuosity.

-Raymond

2.26.14 | The Process

I am an amateur pianist. What do pianists of any kind do? They play the piano, duh. However, they practice a h-e-double hockey sticks lot more than actually playing music. Practice is a counter-intuitive process to me. One devotes a painstaking amount of effort to polish a piece to the point where their impossibly high self-standards could possibly be satisfied, perform the piece, and then forgets it. That small window of the “perfection” of the piece is the only time when one can enjoy their own performance of it at the very best. But why spend a massively disproportionate amount of time practicing, compared to playing?

Maybe it’s just me, but I find something oddly satisfying about depressing white ivory keys. The pure physical aesthetic of playing the piano is enough for me to keep coming back to it. But I speculate that the main reason why anyone willingly plays an instrument is to communicate their expression. The journey is undeniably worth it. However, I will admit that there is a number of times I can hear myself play through a phrase of music before going insane.

Practice isn’t supposed to be fun (but how you can make it enjoyable, that’s a different story!). It’s a process of experimentation, hopes, and failure. There is no final product, because any performance of music can never be perfect. Physically, there is nothing to show for your practice (okay, maybe tendonitis or arthritis). The gratification from being able to play a piece of music comes from the subconscious realization that the performance is a totally personal achievement. It is not the gratification that comes from receiving a physical gift, but a gratification that is rooted in self-transformation. Music is an enigma to me; it can make all the difference or none of the difference in one’s life.

Here’s some Liszt. Enjoy.

-Raymond

The Daily Grind | 2.19.14

I am probably much too young to complain about the weariness of tedious daily routines, but everyone has something in their daily routine that they are sick of.

-Raymond

2.12.14 | Gifts

The social obligation of giving gifts for a certain occasion has never bothered me. It’s just one of those pitfalls of human interactions. I deal with it because it is inevitable. I don’t know why people say ‘bless you’ in response to a sneeze, why some conversations end with “have a nice day” (do you hope I have a nice day, or are you telling me to have a nice day? How do I make myself have a nice day?), why it is customary to hold the door open for others, etc. I find it best not to think too hard about the logic of these actions. I don’t believe that any individual count of these actions genuinely matter in a practical manner. However, I do believe that these social niceties matter because the do-er cares just enough to do them, regardless of their insignificance.

I’m going to post something different than my usual music post. Why not?