Thursday, April 17, 2014

Are Collaborative Pianists the DJs of Classical Music?

Lost Vegas / cc
Lately I've been wondering about ways that we introduce and frame performers and their work, on the radio, on podcasts, on blogs, and on other platforms.

As a blogger, I have several options that I can run in the title when I feature a video. For the purposes of argument, I'll use this glorious live recording of Robert Koenig and Elmar Oliveira playing the final movement of John Corigliano's Violin Sonata.

Option 1: Traditional

The Final Movement of John Corliglian's Violin Sonata Played by Violinist Elmar Oliveira and Pianist Robert Koenig

That's a mouthful. With a long title like that, it's easy to lose an audience right off the bat, just by announcing the correct track details. They might never click on such a link given the length of information. It doesn't jump out.

Option 2: Non-Traditional

Corigliano Violin Sonata IV w/Robert Koenig feat. Elmar Oliveira

This title style is disruptive (with the pianist listed first) and highly EDM-influenced.

Option 3: Also Non-Traditional

Corigliano Violin Sonata IV w/Elmar Oliveira feat. Robert Koenig

This version, also using EDM nomenclature, is also disruptive in suggesting that the pianist is in some way "featured".

Option 4: Also Non-Traditional

Corigliano Violin Sonata IV w/Elmar Oliveira/Robert Koenig

The two names side-by-side might work the best. How to title classical music tracks remains a tricky issue and I still haven't come up with a clear solution.

While we're on the subject of electronic dance music - DJs in EDM often function as accompanists in classical music, creating backing tracks for solo singers and archiving, curating, and spinning tracks for shows that feature solo artists. In classical music there is perhaps a similar correlation with collaborative pianists, who because of multiple projects, often have many, many more concert appearances than the soloists that they work with.

Perhaps collaborative pianists are the DJs of classical music. They are the busiest performers. They are the overlooked curators and archivists of the tradition.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the musical culture was as interested in the performing projects of the collaborative pianists as in the solo artists themselves?

At any rate, the music needs to be introduced in such a way that it will come alive in new and interesting ways. We ignore this at our peril.

Bob and Elmar play so amazingly well together. Here's their video:

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Meme of the Day - The Performing Engagements Guarantee

Musicians: this is just a quick public service announcement regarding accepting gigs. Many of us (including myself) learned these lessons the hard way. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Job Opening: Director of Collaborative Piano, Southern Utah University

Southern Utah University is looking for someone to direct collaborative piano activities for their College of Visual and Performing Arts. About the position:

The Director of Collaborative Piano for the College of Performing and Visual Arts will organize and oversee staff and student accompanists for the college as well as accompany in one or more of the departments.

  1. Organizing and overseeing staff and student accompanists in meeting the needs of an active and thriving performing arts programs. 
  2. Accompany in a variety of areas that may include: opera, choir, musical theater, dance classes, and applied vocal and instrumental lessons, including performances, competitions, auditions, etc. 
  3. Work with faculty, staff, and student accompanists in the department of theatre arts and dance and the department of music.

The full job listing can be found here. The first review of applications will start May 5, 2014. 

Staff Accompanist Opening: Western Illinois University

Western Illinois University is looking for a Staff Accompanist for the 2014-15 academic year. Here's a quick look at the job's details:
APPOINTMENT: August 21, 2014
RESPONSIBILITIES: Assignment will include a balance of vocal and instrumental accompanying including Bachelor and Master level students in recitals, juries, convocations, seminars, lessons, and rehearsals. The assignment may also include accompanying vocal organizations and/or serving as pianist for the Wind Ensemble or Orchestra, and other duties as assigned.
RANK & SALARY: Faculty Assistant. Salary is commensurate with experience and qualifications. Western Illinois University offers a competitive benefits package including domestic partner benefits. For full benefit information visit: Requirements: REQUIRED QUALIFICATIONS: Bachelors degree required. Successful experience as a collaborative pianist with a substantial and significant repertoire required. Excellent sight reading and the ability to quickly learn new repertoire expected.
PREFERRED QUALIFICATIONS: Masters or Doctorate in Accompanying or Piano preferred.

You can find the full job listing here. Deadline is April 22.

Debussy's Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse w/Anna Sohn and Hui-Won Lee

Sometimes it feels like the winter will never end. It's April 15, I just had my lawn aerated, put down seed and fertilizer in the front yard a few days ago, and I woke up to snow yet again. After a speedy commute on the Go Train listening to one of my favorite podcasts, I taught my vocal lit class at the Royal Conservatory, where one of the students in my class did a presentation on Debussy's Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse.

The recording from YouTube that she played created a stir, and we all enjoyed it for its imagination, humor, and quality of playing and singing. I love the joy of discovery that you can find on YouTube, with a new and fascinating recording just around the corner. Here is soprano Anna Sohn with pianist Hui-Won Lee - if anybody knows anything about Hui-Won Lee, please leave I comment. I couldn't find anything else on the internet about this fine pianist.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Free Headphones Giveaway: Sol Republic Relays In-Ear Headphones

For many years I've been something of a headphone junkie, and I've had countless hours of use from the mid-size AKG, Sennheiser, and Grado phones I use at home. I was glad to hear from the indie headphone startup Sol Republic about giving away a pair of their new Relays in-ear headphones.

My initial reaction was that the marketing of the Relays as an on-the-go pair of phones for sport and urban use might not be the right fit with CPB readers, many of whom are serious musicians who make their living working in the trenches of the classical music and music education industries.

So when SR sent me a pair of Relays to try out before running the promotion, I was more than glad to take them for a test run, playing some a variety of things and testing them against my trusty Grado SR80's.

The first thing I noticed about the Relays is that they need to be fitted all the way into the ear in order for the bass response and stereo imaging to snap into focus. Fortunately, there are four different sizes of ear-tips for every type of ear (the one I used were the second largest). There was definitely a discernible bass boost in these phones, but it didn't at all seem unnatural in the way that one often finds with some brands of phones.

What I particularly liked about the Relays was the lively, musical way that both stereo imaging and musical details were audible, especially the detail that I could hear in music with a fair amount of layering. The musicality of keyboard, strings, and voices came out very cleanly and in an immediate way, with slightly more clarity than my trusty SR80's.

In fact, I liked these phones so much that I would question SR's emphasis on marketing these phones solely for sports and urban use since they work so well for critical listening. My initial misgivings were unfounded, since I found the depth of detail ideal for the kind of listening that professionals need to be doing, and if you can take them on the road with you, so much the better.

Enough with my thoughts - let's get down to business, as SR has graciously offered to give away one free pair of Relays to a lucky Collaborative Piano Blog reader.

Here we go...

Competition Rules and Regulations

1. Send an email to collaborativepiano [at] gmail dot com with a) "Sol Republic Relays Draw" in the subject line and b) a link to your favorite Collaborative Piano Blog article in the body of the article.

2. Only one entry per person and per email address will be accepted.

3. The deadline for entries is Saturday, April 19th at 10pm EDT. After that I'll randomly draw one entry from the pool of accepted responses and announce the winner on the morning of Sunday, April 20th.

4. After that, I will put the winner in touch with the rep from Sol Republic - they will send you the headphones directly (not me).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

How Musical Culture is Quickly Becoming a Culture of Headphones

A few years ago, I had a lovely pair of full-size speakers that had a solid stereo image, crisp highs, deep bass, and filled a room with sound. When we moved into our new house, there was no longer any place for them so I gave them away.

Let's face it - the way we listen to music is changing very quickly. Music as a live activity is becoming increasingly challenging to promote, at the same time that the traditional speaker setup in home audio systems is in danger of becoming obsolete. Why?


This infographic from Sol Republic shows the sheer scale of the change, especially among millennials (people who became adults around 2000). The musical culture is becoming increasingly a headphone-oriented culture, and we as creative artists ignore this fact at our risk. What's more, people's use of music is becoming a private activity integrated into everyday tasks such as waking up in the morning, working out, or commuting.

The Collaborative Piano Blog community is known for their commitment to music, its creation, re-creation, and enjoyment. Music is our livelihood and our passion.

That's why I'm totally honored that headphone manufacturer Sol Republic approached me regarding a headphone promotion and giveaway for the CPB community. Stay tuned, as details on the promotion will be posted tomorrow morning...