Tigran Hamasyan Tiny Desk Concert

Tigran Hamasyan Tiny Desk Concert

Tigran Hamasyan is an Armenian pianist who plays mostly original compositions, which are influenced by traditional Armenian folk music. The compositions often utilize unique scales and modalities which give his work a truly interesting style. In addition to Tigran’s folk influence, he is often influenced by American jazz, incorporating dissonant, complex chords into his songs.

Hamasyan has been living in his home country of Armenia since the pandemic began, and he’s taken these unsettling times as an opportunity to catch up on projects that have been remained unfinished; Some for years. For many musicians who previously spent most of their waking hours on the road touring, it’s one of the few benefits of the COVID-19 lockdown- the ability to get old things done and finally move onto new work.

Similar to musicians, the infamous Tiny Desk Concerts have also been forced to adapt to this year. The overall premise of the desk concerts was to showcase a musician at the offices of NPR in a small, intimate setting. That kind of environment isn’t difficult to replicate when it’s turned into the homes of the artists themselves. (Usually their bedroom, or a corner of the house.) Hamasyan jumped at the opportunity to do his own home concert in conjunction with NPR. The first performance in his Tiny Desk (home) concert, “Road Song,” features a melody Hamasyan wrote in 2008, but eventually recorded on his 2013 album, Shadow Theater. Hamasyan will  frequently play a solo version of the song live, but had never played it alone in a studio until now. Then follows “Our Film,” from his latest and project, The Call Within. This performance mirrors the intensity and sentimentality of the album version, but here it’s more intimate and fanciful. The last tune, “A Fable,” is the title track of his 2011 solo album, which was inspired by the writings of 13th century Armenian Vardan Aygektsi.

 

Click here to learn more about the work of Tigran Hamsyan.

Click here to see other Tiny Desk Concerts from NPR.

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Helping to Heal: Classical Piano Performances for Wildfire Refugees

Helping to Heal: Classical Piano Performances for Wildfire Refugees

Photo owned by Statesman Journal

 

In early September, all of Oregon and California experienced one of the most destructive string of wildfires in the west coast’s history. Over 2,000 fires burned throughout the forests, eventually causing massive evacuations and hazardous air quality for many of us here in Oregon. Two months later, most of the fires have now died out, with Riverside and Lionshead being the few exceptions. Now, as people begin to rebuild and move forward, one local pianist decided to do what he could to help the healing process with a touch of much-needed musical distraction.

Hunter Noack is a classical pianist who began the project titled, In a Landscape: Classical Music in the Wild. As a one-man army with a nine-foot Steinway on the back of his truck, Noack has been performing free outdoor concerts for residents of areas hit hardest by the fires across the Pacific Northwest. He says that each performance is sporadic and there is no concrete schedule. Instead, he’s just been moving from town to town and surprising residents with these impromptu performances.

Along the way, Noack found the Gates Community Church of Christ, which is one of the few buildings that survived the wildfires in one local town. The church has been helping those who who lost their homes to the fire by offering refuge, food and water. Noack performs for this particular congregation most often- in a way, they’re his regular audience.

“Sometimes it’s background music; sometimes they come and sit closer to the piano,” he said. “It’s just been really amazing to hear how meaningful listening music is for people who have lost so much.”

It’s very beautiful to see how the audience react to Noack’s playing. They’ve lost so much, yet are able to sit together, listen, meditate and dwell on the idea that nothing ends forever. That they have the means to continue to learn, listen, and experience together no matter what has transpired. It’s also a sharing experience between the performer and the audience. The act of listening or watching a performer is not purely for sheer entertainment; It’s a period of time in which the outside world dissolves and all that remains is that meditative state of mind in which we can all breathe a little, think clearer, and acknowledge that no matter what happens- beautiful things still exist.

“People have volunteered their stories,” Noack said, recalling one woman’s experience. “The way she was talking about that loss, I felt like she had given me a gift by sharing her story.”

Noack plans to continue the performances until the winter really starts to begin. Before then, his music will continue to help those across the coast find their little moments of peace as they continue to rebuild.

Click here to view video of the performance: https://uw-media.statesmanjournal.com/embed/video/6063582002?placement=snow-embed

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Than you for reading, “Helping to Heal: Classical Piano Performances for Wildfire Refugees”

Public Pianos in Portland

Public Pianos in Portland

While it’s still warm out, we at Michelle’s Piano encourage you to stop by our store and browse our extensive inventory of new and used pianos. At the same time, if you are running errands throughout the Portland Metro area, you may still be able to get a few minutes of practice in anyway! That’s because there are currently ten pianos around Portland put in place for anyone who wants to play. We saw one ourselves over at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Live music certainly has become a lost luxury this year, but it’s with small projects like this that we’re able to collectively discover the sounds of the piano in even the most unlikely places.

“I have to say after six months of being at home and playing for myself this feels amazing,” said Asher Fulero, a world-class pianist and keyboardist.

You can see more of the pianos in action HERE.

“It’s a connectedness that is really easy and deep, and I can have fun with it or be really serious about it,” he said.

Megan McGeorge is the person who developed Piano. Push. Play. They are the masterminds behind actually finding these old pianos, restoring them, and then placing them throughout the city.

“I truly believe in the power of people seeing the beauty and talent within others, and for a lot of musicians and pianists, it’s hard to have an outlet these days,” McGeorge said.

Each of the ten is given their own unique name. For example, the piano at Pioneer Courthouse Square on Wednesday is called the “Black Love,” decorated by Donovan Edwards.

“It’s a community-making machine, this instrument. That’s what I like to say,” said McGeorge.

Another interesting feature of the project is the inclusion of passports. In each piano’s bench, there is a unique stamp for you to mark your visits across the city. It presents the player with a challenge to find all the other instruments. Sort of like a combination of hide and seek mixed with busking.

We encourage you to try and find the ten yourselves and who knows, maybe you’ll attract an audience. Please take advantage of the public pianos in Portland while they’re still there!
And although most of us aren’t in the position to be traveling, you can use this passport to acquire some new memorable music experiences while here in Portland.

 

 

Blind Musicians as Savants

When we think of blind musicians in music, we tend to think of geniuses- Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Moondog, and also modern pianists like Nobuyuki Tsujii, who recently performed in Liverpool earlier this month. But for those of us who struggle to learn new instruments as able bodied individuals, how does having a sight handicap seem to raise one’s natural ability for sound? When you’re a blind pianist, how do you go about learning such a huge piece? And how can you be expected to pick up on gestures from the conductor? For Tsujii, it’s a process governed by extremely careful listening and, as he described it in 2017, “sensing what’s around me.”

Recently, Professor Adam Ockelford, a musician and visiting research fellow at the Institute of Education, London, discovered various evidence supporting this notion that weakness in one sense can birth genius in others. He and his research team surveyed and visited visually impaired children who had been premature babies, at home and at school. Working with around 40 blind children, as well as surveying parents, teachers and music therapists, the study showed that blind children are 4,000 times more likely to have perfect pitch – a traditional marker of exceptional musical ability – than their fully sighted peers.

The research, which also quizzed parents whose children were fully sighted, found that 48% of blind children demonstrate significant interest in everyday sounds compared to 13% of those with full sight. More than two-thirds of the blind and partially sighted children played at least one instrument, compared with 41% of the sighted group.

Parents of the blind children reported that music was particularly important as a source of comfort, helping them to relax and express their emotions.

 

When we think of blind musicians, we usually think of Ray.

According to Ockelford, the reason is “the obvious one”. He explains: “In young babies, the brain is very mouldable, synapses grow and connections are made all the time. In blind children, the areas of the brain involved in sight are not being used, but others, including those used for hearing, become much more important. The greater focus on auditory input makes the brain develop in a different way.”

And when someone like Tsuji is learning a new piece, he has a team of helpers break the whole piano part down into recorded chunks which he then learns bit by bit. Given the scarcity of Braille translations of musical scores, doing it by ear is usually the best method.

 

Music as Medicine: Coping with Cancer and Covid though the Piano

In this June 3, 2020, photo, Associated Press retail writer Anne D’Innocenzio sits at her piano in her apartment in New York. Her piano has been a source of comfort during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Anne D’Innocenzio)

Since the beginning of the Pandemic, we all find ourselves spending time at home more now than ever before in our lives. And it should come as no surprise that many of us have tried to use this time effectively- so as to look back on this time with feelings other than sadness and grief; We desire to reflect on these times as a period in which we developed our creativity, improved our skills, and moved onto the next year having learned new things about the world and ourselves. For many, that has meant looking towards musical instruments as an outlet. Within our own shop, we’ve seen numerous customers walk through our doors who say, “I’ve always wanted to learn the piano. Now seems like the right time…”

In New York, Anne D’Innocenzio has been battling stage three breast cancer for the past three years. The pandemic forced her to take sheltering in place extremely seriously as she was at a high risk for complications if infected. During this time, she would go outside only for her chemotherapy treatments. But whenever inside, she focused on the piano.

“During that time, I longed for a bigger place with room for my piano, which my late uncle left me and was in storage for four years. Playing piano is a source of comfort; it helps me ease the anxiety that many cancer survivors have.”

Musicians all over the world, unable to play live performances to physical audiences, have appropriately turned to social media as a platform to showcase their own musical diaries as they compose, refine and develop their music.

“Every night, I play the piano. In recent weeks, I’ve been sharing videos with friends and family on social media. Now I’m getting requests — including ‘Wheels on the Bus’ from my great-nephew. I figure everyone could use some beautiful music, even if there are a few wrong notes.”

Barcelona Opera House Reopens and Performs for 2,292 plants

There’s a bit of an urban legend that plants actually respond positively to the sound of music. If it’s true, then what genre do they appreciate? Are they more fans of Mozart or Ravel?

This particular rumor that everyone has heard at least once is actually the result of several real-life studies done over the years. And the evidence is quite extraordinary. In 1973, “The Secret Life of Plants” was published by Christopher Bird and Peter Tompkins which was an intense analysis into the relationship between Man and Plants. Bird and Tompkins postulated that music not only helps plants grow, but that they maintain a level of consciousness throughout- and if consciousness exists, so does a sense of taste.

One of the earliest studies of the effect of music on plants was conducted in 1962 by Dr. T. C. Singh, Head of Botany at Annamalia University. He exposed balsam plants to classical music and found that their growth rate increased by 20% compared to a control group, along with a 72% increase in biomass. He then exposed crops to raga music over loudspeakers and found they yielded 25% – 60% more than the national average.

Recently, over two thousands plants were treated to a concert at one of the world’s most prestigious opera houses. After a three-month closure, El Liceu in Barcelona, Spain, held a performance of Puccini’s Crisantemi for 2,292 plants.

The project is the brainchild of Spanish artist Eugenio Ampudia, artistic director at the opera house. According to the artist, the concert looks to tackle whether humans can expand the concept of empathy to include our relationships with other species.

It’s an interesting substitution for live human crowds, which are still slowly returning to the concert halls, but not as quickly as we’d all like. However, until things change, we can all appreciate a few humorous, surreal concerts as a response to these equally surreal times.

Pianist Transposes a Selfie into an Eerie Experimental Composition

There is no current shortage of musicians taking the experimental route within Classical music these days. And since many are still spending more and more time at home practicing to pass the time, some have decided to change things up a bit with certain unconventional methods of composition. John Prevedini, a pianist, had the idea to take a selfie and then proceed with notating it into a musical score. He placed the contours of the notes across three lines of double-staved sheet music and matched the contours of his face to it.

Using a single mode (with no accidentals or key changes), the piece has a wonderful mood of stillness, contemplation and calm. Just like a relaxed weekend front-facing camera pic in your favourite café. Hear it in the video above.

Graphical representations on scores have quite an interesting history. A 14th-century love song, Chanson Belle Bonne Sage was notated in the shape of a heart. In his passions, some have observed J.S. Bach using the shape of notes to form a symbol of the cross. American composer Geoge Crumb and other composers of the 20th century took visual scores to another level entirely.

John seems to partake in lots of other interesting and inventive projects. You can find more on his Facebook page and website. We love the sound of your smile, John!

See the score below:

 

Selfie, by John Dante Prevedini. Picture: John Dante Prevedini

Lincoln Center Offers Intimate Private Performances for Essential Workers

There haven’t been any live public performances at America’s biggest arts center since mid-March. But New York’s Lincoln Center has been hosting some free mini concerts for healthcare providers, teachers and other essential workers, featuring just one or two volunteer musicians and audiences of about five people. Most of the musicians are volunteers from the New York Philharmonic.

Prior to COVID, Lincoln Center enjoyed hosting various musical performances both in it’s halls and outside in nearby Central Park during summer nights. Now, a violinist performs in the backyard of a working nurse and she is surrounded by a handful of family members. Everyone listens attentively while wearing masks and sitting 6ft apart from one another.

“It was nice that it was so intimate that we could enjoy it, just the two of us and safely, of course,” she says. “Live music is one of our favorite things to do. So it’s definitely a piece of us that’s been missing during this whole pandemic. This was such a treat.”

The meticulous nature of keeping these private performances safe extends into the finale. Once the performance is concluded, staff disinfect each seat before the performance is officially “concluded.”

Madera, a teacher at  the New Design High School, says that it wasn’t just the music she appreciated- it was the act of sitting somewhere new and having experiencing a sense of change- something that has become a lost commodity in a year of monotonous repetition.

“I literally sat here and started crying because I walk through here every day on my way back and forth to work,” he says. “I haven’t been back here since the thirteenth of March. So just being back here is so powerful and then hearing music, it really — I mean, I don’t want to sound clichéd, but it really soothed the soul for a minute.”

Ellis-Lee says that even with everyone masked, he could see the joy on Lu’s face as he played. “I think that’s really what got to me more emotionally,” Ellis-Lee observes, “because I’m thinking about what I want to get back and do, what I’m passionate about — be in front of kids. And I don’t think I’m going to do that in September. That’s the painful reality.”

Speaking after his performance, Lu says he felt like he needed the experience just as much as his listeners — if not more. Like Ellis-Lee, he hadn’t been back to Lincoln Center since March 13th.

“That was magical,” he exclaims. “I knew this was going to be amazing because I haven’t been playing for four months for the general public, so I knew I needed it. Actually, this is more like a therapy for me.”

In the months ahead, Lincoln Center is planning to bring similarly small-scaled concerts to hospitals and other medical facilities.

Free Music Masterclasses Online

In order to prove that you can socially distance and still learn from world-renowned musicians, we’ve compiled a list of free resources to improve your technique and skill in various different instruments. See below for more!

The Benedetti Foundation: Virtual Mini Sessions

Following its Virtual Sessions in May, the Benedetti Foundation is launching the Virtual Mini Sessions, a series of short, focused workshops, throughout July and August.

There will be separate workshops for music students, recent graduates, teachers and adult learners, all delivered by leading musicians including Nicola Benedetti, Elena Urioste and Laura van der Heijden. Although there is an admin fee to participate, there are bursaries available for those who are struggling financially.

For school-age string players, there will be classes and workshops on vibrato, shifting and beginner basics. Adult learners and teachers can learn about embedding healthy practice routines, performance anxiety, building a portfolio career and interpretation. Details of all classes can be found here.

 

The Pianist Platform

Every evening at 8pm, pianist Yulia Chaplina and Coach House Pianos are hosting interviews with the UK’s top pianists and piano teachers as part of its Piano Bootcamp. Guests featured include heads of keyboard at top UK schools and conservatoires.

The complete programme can be found here.

Virtual Benedetti Sessions

From Monday 11 May, the Benedetti Foundation will provide three weeks of free, regular online music tuition for young musicians, university-level students, teachers, adult learners and amateur musicians.

The sessions will be hosted on YouTube, Zoom and social media platforms and will be led by violinist Nicola Benedetti and tutors from the Foundation. There will be a mix of live and pre-recorded turorials.

The programme will include seminars, activities, presentations and workshops in physical and mental wellbeing. There will also be two live sessions from instrumental teachers each week, a live session for conservatoire and university msuic students with leading artists and two weekly sessions for parents to chat to tutors about how to best help and support their children’s musical education at home.

The final weekend (30-31 May) will run from 10am to 5pm with presentations and tutorials throughout the day.

Sign up here. Registration is free and will be open until Thursday 7 May.

Music lessons from Nicola Benedetti

Every day at 12pm BST, The Benedetti Foundation hosts a lesson or workshop on its Instagram via IGTV and its Facebook page. It will be then be available to watch on Facebook afterwards. Sessions so far include violinist Elena Urioste discussing yoga, meditation and the role of wellbeing in performance; games and songs with cellist David Munn; and a live samba session from percussionist Patrick King.

On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays, Nicola Benedetti will go live across all her social media channels to discuss music and share insights.

Lockdown Insanity Prevention: Flute Tutorials

Emily Beynon, principal flute of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, is hosting a series of tutorials on her YouTube channel. The first tutorial is now live, focusing on vibrato technique.

Flautist Sharon Bezaly

Sharon Bezaly is hosting regular virtual masterclasses, which you can apply to take part in via her Facebook page. Passive listeners are also able to join via Zoom link.

Bristol Plays Music Virtual Academy 

The Bristol Music Trust has created a programme of one-on-one music lessons for students. Teachers will run 20-minute sessions for primary school children and half-hour sessions for those in secondary school.

There will be a charge for lessons, but children of key workers or those suffering financially because of the pandemic will be able to apply for free bursary places. Otherwise, tuition is available in blocks of ten lessons, with prices from £100.

Lessonface

Lessonface is a digital platform that connects music teachers with students of all ages.

The platform’s ‘Go Classes’ are interactive group courses with flexible tuition (free spaces are available). Teachers and students are also invited to take part in an Open Mic Night to share the music they’ve been practising. The sessions will be hosted by a Lessonface teacher. You can apply to the next Open Mic Night here.

Learn to play Elgar’s Salut d’amour with Nicola Benedetti

Nicola Benedetti is hosting daily tutorials at 10am BST from 10-19 April on her YouTube channel to teach audiences how to play Elgar’s Salut d’Amour. Participants are then invited to email their performances to info@benedettifoundation.org or upload on social media using the hashtag #salutnicky by 5pm on Thursday 16 April. A winner will then be picked from those who have entered, followed by a live Q&A with Benedetti.

Click here for more information, downloadable sheet music, videos of Benedetti performing the piece and Petr Limonov performing the piano part for you to play along with, and full details on how to submit your performance.

This series is in conjunction with the release of Nicola Benedetti and Petr Limonov’s performance of Salut d’Amour, which will be released digitally as a single and on Benedetti’s upcoming album, which also features Elgar’s Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski.

Learn to play Elgar’s Chanson de Nuit with Nicola Benedetti

Following on from the Salut d’Amour challenge (you can listen to the winner here), Nicola Benedetti is now inviting musicians to create a music video inspired by Elgar’s Chanson de Nuit. Listen to the piece here. Send your submissions to info@benedettifoundation.org or tag your videos on social media with #chansonchallenge by Sunday 3 May.

The Exhale Project

27 April-10 May

Originally planned to be a musicians’ retreat in Switzerland, violinist Gwendolyn Masin’s Exhale Project will now be hosted online. Created for professional musicians and students alike, the course will include a series of masterclasses in yoga, Alexander Technique, psychotherapy and Feldenkrais. A portion of the participation donation will be donated to charity.

The Illustrated Theory of Music

The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment has launched a series of short, informal videos to help students learn Grade Five theory, GCSE and A Level Music. It breaks down the questions we think we should know: what does a ‘quaver’ really mean? Why do we use bars?

The videos are hosted by musicians from the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. You can watch the videos here.

The Conservatoire in Blackheath

London’s Blackheath Conservatoire is moving all its classes online, with interactive Zoom classes and YouTube ‘boxsets’, which include classes on ukelele for five-year-olds, watercolours and drama for adults.

The classes are intended for parents who are both home-schooling and looking for a creative outlet. There are also many classes available for young children.

There are bursaries available. Every day on social media, a ‘Course of the Day’ offer will be posted on Facebook, free taster lessons for young children on Facebook and YouTube during half term and course discounts for newsletter subscribers.

Taster sessions can be found here.

Piano masterclasses with Leif Ove Andsnes

At 5pm EET on 18 June 2020, Norwegian pianist Leif Ove Andsnes will lead an online masterclass with the Riga Jurmala Academy, free to watch online here.

The Riga Jurmala Academy has been holding weekly masterclasses, including lessons with principal musicians from the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, all of which are available to watch here.

Masterclass with baritone Benjamin Appl

Samling Institute for Young Artists has hosted a masterclass with two of its alumni: baritone Benjamin Appl and pianist James Baillieu. The pair held a remote masterclass with 17-year-old Ben Ryan from Darlington, who sang ‘The Foggy, Foggy Dew’. You can watch the masterclass here.

London Philharmonic Orchestra: The Studio

The London Philharmonic Orchestra has launched The Studio, an online resource space for young composers. It is a series of video classes featuring prominent composers including Howard Shore, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Brett Dean and David Arnold.

The series culminates with a new composition brief with a new piece of choreography devised by Monique Jonas. Musicians are invited to submit audio recordings of their compositions to accompany the dance. Selected compositions will be performed by members of the LPO and synced to the choreography. Composer Gavin Higgins has also written a piece to go with the choreography, and the course will feature his tips for composing for the work.

“Alter 3” Becomes the First Robot to Conduct an Orchestra

Alter 3 Conducts

Keiichiru Shibuya is a Japanese composer who recently finished his orchestral piece, “Scary Beauty,” which premiered in the United Arab Emirates last week. However, it wasn’t Mr. Shibuya who was the one to conduct the orchestra, it was Alter 3, a humanoid robot. It was created by roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro of Osaka University and Mixi Corporation and is embedded with an artificial neural network developed by artificial life researchers of the University of Tokyo.

Like other well-known examples of AI and robots developed in the last few years, such as Hanson Robotics’ Sophia the Robot, Alter 3 both looks and moves like a human being. Its face is the most delicately formed body part, resting on a metal, machine-like body where all the technology can be seen working away as it conducts on the podium.

When asked about the composers wishes to have Alter 3 conduct, he said, “This work is a metaphor of the relations between humans and technology. Sometimes the android will get crazy, human orchestras have to follow. But sometimes humans can cooperate very comfortably.”

While Shibuya wrote the music, the android robot was in charge of the tempo and dynamics of the live performance, even adding its own electro-vocals to the mix.

The overall reception to the performance was lukewarm. Many audience members said that although they appreciated the energy of the performance, the overall human touch of Alter 3’s movements were, “lacking.” However, the audience as a whole did applaud with great enthusiasm at the end of the performance.

Android Opera Scary Beauty is part of Sharjah Art Foundation’s Sharjapan exhibition which highlights performance art and sound-based installations from Japan. The aim is to examine the interactions between nature, technology and human life in tandem.