Atonal experimental piano

It was good to meet up with my friends Richjack and Costello inworld the other day. Costello now looks pretty good and no longer has the stamp of newbie across her avatar.

I was also very touched when Toby got in touch with me inworld. I know he reads this blog, so I just want to say thank you for your encouragement regarding my music. What Toby said to me was that he liked the way I explored new things in my music and how, even when I do covers, I somehow do them in a novel way. Casting false modesty aside, I think that is true; I really do put a lot of thought into working out reasonably original arrangements for my covers. This sometimes means that I keep playing them over and over at all my shows and I thank my regular fans for putting up with that. An example right now would be my version of Sir Bob Geldorf’s Mondays song. I heard another singer play that song inworld last night, using a simple guitar strumming accompaniment. The singer was ok, but the song sounded like a pale imitation of the orignal Boomtown Rats number. I feel that deciding NOT to play this on guitar has been a good move for me. There is piano on the orginal track, of course, but I have not followed that. My approach has been to develop an arrangement that breathes as I sink into the meaning of the lyric (which is highly disturbing, btw). Incidentally, it was my friend Costello who suggested I learn Mondays.

I have been thinking about what Toby said to me, especially in context of my piano playing. I often go to listen to Kourosh at Natida Ridge on Saturdays. His concerts are timed early morning in Second Life but I experience them as mid-afternoon, listening in England. Most of his playing is semi-structured improvisation. He sometimes plays a synth together with piano (one in each hand, I guess). His music washes over you in waves of harmony, yet from time to time he will startle you discordantly. I very much admire his style and in fact he has a large following of regular fans who I see there each week. The atmosphere is chillax [you chill and relax]. The music is slightly spacey. I no longer smoke cigarettes of any shape or form, but I imagine that a little joint and a cup of tea would be very compatible with this style of music.

I can’t play like Kourosh. Of course this is partly a question of keyboard skill. After all, the guitar is my first instrument. However, I do not think that this is the whole story. A couple of years ago a professional violinist who is also a professor of music at our local university suggested that I spend some time each day (perhaps 10 minutes or whatever) playing piano blindfolded – not trying to remember set pieces, but improvising freely in whatever way I choose. I have a full size 88 key piano. He pointed out to me that the keyboard is really quite wide; he held both arms out to physically demonstrate the fact. Then he said to me (I can’t remember the exact words) “You bought all of that – the whole length, and not just a little bit in the middle. Make sure you use it.”

I have been tidying up my studio over the past couple of days. Now that I have withdrawn from the MA in Animation and Design, I need to reorganise my space and throw out a certain amount of stuff that I shall no longer be using. I have found a very good place for my paint brushes:) Anyway, the clear up has extended to my music books, papers and so forth. I was rummaging through my bureau yesterday and found the blindfold! This isn’t one of those flimsy freebies that you get on Virgin flights; I bought it at a travel shop and it is definitely a deluxe model. It is comfortable and really does shut out the light. It is impossible to peek downwards to see the piano keys once it is pulled over my eyes.

I set my kitchen timer for 10 minutes, blindfolded myself, and let my fingers wander over the keys. At first, nothing much happened. I mirrored what was going on in my left hand with what my right hand was doing but this was more of a technical effect than anything else. Gradually, however, I became lost in the music that I was creating. It became more emotional in nature. It most definitely was not like Kourosh’s improvisation. I think the sound I create is less comfortable, more edgy. I don’t think the fans at the Ridge on Saturdays would like the music that I produce when I do this. There would definitely not be the typical comments you get such as “Oh, this is so relaxing – beautiful” etc.

The question arises as to whether I should risk subjecting my audience to a 10 minute timer improv. I have done 3 minute improvs before, even at Cascadia Harmonics, but I’m pretty sure I did that in a string quartet voicing (it sounded a bit like the sound track of a horror movie). It was done more as a novelty or musical joke, back then. If I do this again I shall do it in a piano voicing. It will have to be at my cosy little  venue, Terra Fyrmusica. The problem is that I have tiny audiences at my concerts when I play there. I have a show scheduled on my list for 11 am SLT (7 pm English Time) on Thursday 17th, tomorrow.

I could put in a 10 minute timed improvisation slot part way through the keyboard half of my show. It is just one of those things I have to do. If some listeners don’t like it, that is fair enough: they will just teleport out of the venue. And, of course, I shall not make a cover charge for the show. There has been a lot of debate and controversy about all that in SLMC lately but I’m not going to get into that here.

I must commit myself. I shall put the Terra Fyrmusica event in Search and make a statement about the planned keyboard improvisation in the blurb. I see it as atonal experimental piano, I would not call it jazz. Ok, I shall sort that out. Speak to you later.

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