Another tremendously affecting documentary. The low-budget look of the film is fitting given the rural northern Mongolia setting where most of the action takes place. Paul Pena was a blind American blues musician who fell in love with Tuvan throat-singing. So enamored was he with this otherworldly sound that he began practicing these singing techniques on his own in his San Francisco home. He became quite accomplished. Word spread of his unique ability and a trip was planned that would bring Paul to the native land of these bewitching sounds. The hospitality shown to Pena during his visit to Tuva is a joy to see. He repays the grace of his hosts with spirited performances of their native music. It is a story that must be seen to be believed.
Monday, December 27, 2010
World-renowned concert pianist Byron Janis has written another excellent article for the Wall Street Journal. It focuses on important lessons he's learned, both as a teacher and a student. The article was published on 12/8/10 and features many insights from Janis' formative years. Here is an excerpt:
We hear a lot about piano performance but not about piano teaching, other than when program notes inform us that so-and-so studied with so-and-so or at such-and-such conservatory. Yet we should know more about it. As Rousseau observed, the child is the father of the man: The budding pianist's lessons shape the concert artist the public later hears.
Over the course of my career as a student, performer and teacher, I've realized there is no "right way" to teach the piano. But there is one cardinal rule that should be every teacher's credo: It is essential to allow talent its own creativity, and not give in to the temptation to impose your own.
Read the full article here.
Thursday, December 23, 2010
This documentary is thoroughly riveting from start to finish. It casts a spotlight on the annual Cliburn piano competition held in Fort Worth, Texas. A humanizing portrait of artists attempting to achieve great things. There are so many moments of deep emotion worth savoring, both onstage and offstage. The musical merit of each participant is indisputable, and when a winner is crowned at the end it hardly feels as though they are head and shoulders above the rest. Each participant is a virtuoso, and as such, they make fascinating subjects.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I attended a screening of Carl Theodore Dryer's classic 1928 silent film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" this evening. The film was accompanied by a 22-piece orchestra and 100+ choristers. The musicians performed the oratorio "Voices of Light", composed some years ago by Richard Einhorn. He wrote the music specifically to accompany this film.
Anyone who knows the story of Joan of Arc knows that there's no happy ending here. Her sufferings, graphically depicted onscreen are harrowing to behold. Maria Falconetti's performance as Joan has become legendary. Some hail it as the greatest film performance of all time. Her visage is magnetic. It feels as though she's disintegrating before your eyes.
My father is notoriously close-minded in terms of films he'll watch. His classic line is: "Why would I pay to watch a movie that challenges me? My job challenges me enough, and they pay me!" He definitely wouldn't have enjoyed this evening's proceedings.
Some bits of trivia:
- "The Passion of Joan of Arc" was immensely controversial when released and was banned in several countries. The ban was based on the film's unfavorable depiction of the church's role in bringing to pass Joan's execution.
- All prints of the film were thought lost until - random alert - a near-complete original print was discovered in 1981 in a janitor's closet of a Norwegian mental hospital. (This detail, one of the subtitles in the preface to the film, elicited the only laugh of the evening from the packed theatre.)
- Apparently, Falconetti was ravaged by the demands of the production. She never acted in a film again.
The live musical accompaniment this evening was solid, but not spectacular. I feel bad saying that, because seemingly every other audience member jumped to their feet at the conclusion to gift the orchestra a standing ovation. Maybe I'm jaded, but one of the cellists sounded badly out of tune on one extended solo, and, in the words of uber-genius Randy Jackson, the female vocal soloists were "a little pitchy, dawg." Still, overall it was an enjoyable night of live music and highbrow cinema.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
-- I will not be teaching during the last 2 weeks of December. Enjoy the break! I will resume my regular weekly teaching schedule the week of January 3, 2011.
-- The 5th annual Piano/Guitar Winter Recital will be held in the CSUEB Recital Hall on Sunday, December 12 between noon and 4pm. More details can be found here.
Have a happy month,