Blog Profile / PianoMorphosis

Filed Under:Music / Classical
Posts on Regator:33
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Archived Since:July 25, 2009

Blog Post Archive


Dispatched from the Audition Room (mit Bolzano auch dabei) After the third day of piano auditions at New England Conservatory, I attended an evening recital given at the school by one of my piano faculty colleagues. Backstage, he said that while he was playing he imagined my stern voice from the audition room. Making a […]

BB on the web

“Glass Etude” on YouTube demi-cadratin review of Brubaker solo concert at La Roque d’Anthéron “Classical music dead? Nico Muhly proves it isn’t” — The Telegraph‘s Lucy Jones on my Drones & Piano EP Bachtrack review of Brubaker all-Glass concert “Brubaker recital proves eclectic, hypnotic, and timeless” — Harlow Robinson’s Boston Globe review of my Jordan […]

Piano Sonata as Video Game: Anomalies in My Reception of Beethoven’s Music

A transcript of my spoken remarks at Boston University this week, as part of a symposium on piano sonatas by Beethoven. “I’d like to talk about what I would call anomalies in my own reception of Beethoven’s piano sonatas. “I can certainly remember — as I’m sure many of you can remember — a time […]

Digging to France

When I tell a U.S. colleague about several concerts I’m playing in France he says: “You’re Jerry Lewis!” The French, it’s true, have a long tradition of appreciating U.S culture, and yes, that silly American comedian/auteur was highly venerated in France, perhaps more so than in the U.S. The French public have had a great […]

Conflict of Interest

12 months agoMusic / Classical : PianoMorphosis

The character of a piece of music is strongly influenced (or sometimes distorted) by the technique necessary to play it. The physical motions of fingers and arm will point music in a particular direction. There is always an interaction between a musical idea (perhaps written) and the movements of a human body that are necessary […]

Rising Tide

Patterns of rising and falling inflection are vital to a lot of music. Purely instrumental music often encodes emphasis-patterns that resemble speech, or song. (Linguists prefer the term “intonation” to signify these rises and falls.) In the notation of European classical music, at least since the 18th century, musicians have used “slurs” as a means […]


In performing Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life,” some singers deliver the subtle, and possibly difficult to pronounce word combination “distingué traces” as “distant gay traces.” A British lawyer or Harold Bloom might call this a “misprision.” We may willfully twist a text to achieve a particular meaning. Or perhaps we are always getting it wrong. Bloom […]


During October, I gave four performances in France (Paris, Lyon, Orléans, Paris) in clubs or alternative, non-classical venues. For each of these shows, the piano was amplified (some engineers prefer the term “reinforced”). Mics were positioned fairly close to the strings of the piano, the sound processed, and piped through a PA system. In one […]


Marian Seldes observed that one of the great problems of being an actor was accepting, or coming to terms with the inevitable rejection in auditioning for roles each year. Along with artistic capacity — we can add to the list of necessary attributes for a performer some means for handling disappointment. It’s curious balance. We […]


As I started working on Morton Feldman’s For Christian Wolff, I aimed to learn the notated rhythms accurately. The published score is a reproduction of Feldman’s handwriting. Some things puzzled me. There are a few measures that don’t add up to the expected number of beats (mistakes?). (The top staff is the flute part. The lower […]


We truly learn so much by reading music performance treatises; yet we make a mistake if we read them too simply. Many useful keyboard how-to-books grow from Enlightenment sensibilities: treatises penned by the keyboardists C. P. E. Bach, Daniel Gottlob Türk, Carl Czerny, Ignaz Moscheles. I’m not suggesting that these authors were practicing “esoteric writing” […]

All beats are not created equal

All beats are not created equal. They are endowed by their makers with differing length… Well, not quite. But if we’re describing rhythm as rendered live by human musicians then yes, beats vary, even in regularly-beated music played “in tempo.” Computer produced beats do not have to vary, as some post-1980 pop music displays. In […]

Ugly Beauty

“The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.” – attributed to John Cage The sound coming from pianos (the physical, real sound) may displease the pianist. In trying out a concert piano, […]

Moving Target

I don’t know how to play the violin. In a master class in France, a violin prodigy played rather brilliantly for me — while standing on one foot. “Try the beginning again, and be sure to keep both of your feet on the floor,” I suggested. With string instruments, I notice that when the position […]

4 Trombones

Arnold Schoenberg gave Rudolf Serkin an assignment. Consider the opening of Mozart's A-Minor piano sonata, Schoenberg asked Serkin. What is the right instrumentation for this music, if it were to be scored for orchestral instruments...


When you add on a new room to your house you're likely to utilize current technology in doing the construction. And Beethoven?


During a presentation by James Parakilas concerning examples of ambiguous musical notation, I noticed something. Parakilas was discussing the metrical organization in Fauré’s tenth barcarolle. A curious hovering syncopation pervades the music. Show More Summary

Doctor Doctor

I’m a Doctor of Musical Arts, but I seldom say so. In music schools like the New England Conservatory where I teach, the degree-ed-ness of the faculty is in inverse proportion to age. The older the faculty member, the less likely they are to have advanced degrees. Some older pianists earned advanced degrees in other […]

Mistaken Identity

In a solo recital at the Wigmore Hall, I gave the London premiere of Entranced by Mark-Anthony Turnage. It’s a fantastic piano piece, rooted in American gospel music by way of Duke Ellington. I spoke with Sally Groves at Schott Music in advance. Mark was traveling back to London on the day of my concert. […]

Thoughts while playing Knee Play 4

It can happen, in the laboratory of the concert — you notice things, discovery occurs. Suddenly, sometimes surprisingly, associations are made, even in music long-practiced. During the summer in France, I performed my solo piano transcription of “Knee Play 4? from Philip Glass’s Einstein on the Beach. And, in an auxiliary channel of thought — […]

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