Tag Archives: Music

Listen to Fred Hersch

You have to watch this youtube video:

To me Fred Hersch’s version of “Both Sides Now” is profoundly beautiful and touching. It clearly stands out compared to the millions of stimuli that I get on a day to day basis. When I say stimuli I mean everything ranging from music, photography, writing, management presentations, engineering solutions, mathematical equations to coffee table discussions. In my quest to understanding “Life, the Universe & Everything” I can’t resist to ask: “Why?”.

To tell you the truth, I don’t think I have a way to test my answers (hypotheses) in a “true-or-false” manner. However my intuition at the moment tells me this:

  • Technique. You have to be in control of your fingers to be one of the top piano players in the world. Interestingly I don’t think you have to be in total control, as in all points in the four dimensional “what finger, what key, what intensity, what time” space. You just have to cover a big-enough, interesting-enough subspace, which is a challenge already.
  • References. “Both Sides Now” by Joni Mitchell is considered a master piece in its own right. Not only has it proven to capture people’s minds, but for those who know it already, it will most likely trigger positive emotions instantaneously. Similarly Fred Hersch’s interpretation is firmly rooted in the tradition of Jazz, which provides another huge set of references.
  • Story Telling. From the first note to the last Fred Hersch takes you on a journey that is logical from one note/one phrase to the next and that is holistically consistent in a way that it captures your imagination throughout the piece.
  • Personality. Both what he plays and how he plays it screams “Fred Hersch”. Even if you would transcribe his music and have it played by some random, classically trained pianist, it would probably lack some important characteristics.

For lack of scientific methods, I can’t be sure that this list is correct or exhaustive. But what I can say is that I find all of these qualities in Fred Hersch’s “Both Sides Now” and that I should certainly make sure they are in the random coffee table discussion to make it just as beautiful and touching.

Andachtsjodler – Merry Christmas from Austria

Around 2000 I was one of the most active trombone players within my 30 km radius (my radius as a trombone player is more link 500 meters these days). On the 23rd of December of 2000 I was hired to play with a brass quartet in the “Welser Altstadt” (see Google maps, we played within 10 m of that location). I was a teenager back then and at a point in my life where 100 EURs plus open bar felt like I had conquered the world. I even got to kiss a girl later that night. But that is not the point.

The point is that I heard (because I played it) an Austrian Christmas tune called “Andachtsjodler” for the very first time in my life that night. I had never heard or played it before, but when we played it the innkeeper who had hired us (he was pretty drunk by the time) started to cry. It was not only him, the song also touched me.

More than 10 years later (about five years ago) I improvised a piano version of the “Andachtsjodler” and distilled it into a brass quartet version. I hope it helps you beam yourself to Austria and experience some of the magic that still surrounds Christmas.

Piano recording (scroll down for quartet sheet music):

Download quartet sheet music: Andachtsjodler.

Alles Leuchtet – Everything’s Shining

For as long as I can think I’ve had one or more songs every year that were like my own personal summer soundtrack. When I hear one these songs they put me right back in time by bringing back memories, smells, tastes, feelings, …

So here is this year’s song:

What is interesting to note is that it makes use of different German accents.

Arts and Jazz

Another night out playing some jazz music. This time for the visitors of the vernissage of Austrian artist Jörg Wascher.

wascher

The gig was ok although for me listening to Jazz while looking at art (mostly paintings, but also some sculptures) and drinking wine is a little bit too much of a cliché. Plus I don’t like background music in grocery stores, so why would anyone like it at a vernissage?

But it’s not my call, we got paid for the gig and I really enjoyed playing with that group. We were four and we have not played in that setup before, but interestingly all share some kind of common history or are linked otherwise.

The trumpet player, Erwin, and I are friends for a long time. He also studied mechatronics, and obtained his PhD a couple of years ago. After being a post doc at KU Leuven he’s now back at JKU for another post doc position. His office is on the same floor as my office.

The bass player, David, was the youngest of our group, about age 20. He studies bass at Anton Bruckner university, the school where I studied jazz piano for some time. And here it comes: We also were neighbors for most parts of our lives! Our parents are still neighbors. David has an older brother Joe (we’re almost the same age), who is a brilliant guitar player. It really is interesting that neither my personal, nor Joe’s or David’s musical paths crossed while we still lived in Thalheim. – I played in a band with Joe later and with David for the very first time tonight, but not before anyone of us was older than 20.

The drummer, Markus, played in Joe’s band while we were teenagers, and I would see him every now and then from across the street. Also he was one of the best friends of a very good friend of mine, who I met much later – they went to the same music highschool. So I have met Markus again at a couple of birthday parties since then. – He went on to become a professional drummer.

It is funny to see how all of us are connected to other people in such diverse ways, how we develop our own paths. And sometime, like magic, they cross again, or lead into different directions …

Another Round Of Pro Scientia

I guess I keep repeating myself. But the truth is if you blog every day for 30 days and if you do not start repeating yourself, something’s probably wrong.

Apart from my day job (which is more than a day job, but which I can’t or don’t want to talk about that much) I did indulge myself in the world of PRO SCIENTIA  again. I left work early to listen to the organ concert of Christiane Hornbachner. She’s one of the 3 “PRO SCIENTIA student representatives” and a gifted, professional organ and piano player.

I think the last time I’ve listened to an organ concert was 5 years ago, and to be frank it always amazes me what kind of music these people (read “the organists”) are able to get out of the per se inaccurate and dynamically disabled instruments. – Sorry, please don’t kill me for that statement.

Later that night we had another PRO SCIENTIA presentation. This time from a member who has an engineering PhD and went on to become an engineering manager. The topic: Product Development. We spent the whole evening discussing graphs like this one

General Assembly

Some suggestions what you can do to live up to the stereotypes about Upper Austria/Bavaria:

  1. Play a brass instrument
  2. Be a member of a local wind band
  3. Go to church
  4. Go to a Gasthaus (tavern, inn) after you’ve been to church

I guess I can say I payed my dues today. 1/2 are things that I am doing for years and 3/4 were part of today’s general assembly of the Stadtkapelle Laakirchen (a local wind band), which I took part in. During the 3 hours event we were informed by the ExCom of the registered association about the past year, future plans, the financial situation, …

Jahreshauptversammlung_2014

Lots of talking, lots of fun, lots of beer (not for me actually as I was the designated driver), lots of photos from past events, lots of awards (especially for members of age 60+) and a great evening for all of us.

Choices, Perfectionism and Photoshopping

Today I stumbled across yet another video

Many people on youtube gave it a like. I disliked it and some people asked why.

To begin with, I’d like to make one thing clear: The video is georgeous. The song is beautiful, the lyrics are convincing, the setup of people making music in a backyard is awesome. It really has everything that justifies it to be called “beautiful”.

What I don’t like about the video is that it is trying to sell the image that this actually was the setup that they used to record the whole thing. You can see mics all over the place and they left some imperfections in the video that probably are supposed to make you think that this was the original way it was recorded. E.g., how the drum pickup at around 1:55 is not perfect, or the imperfect intonation of the brass instruments, which for instance can be heard at around 3:30.

I do still doubt that it was recorded in that backyard, as they try to lead you to believe. There is musical photoshopping going on. If not entirely, at least at quite a few points. Like at 1:32 (“And I”) when you hear Emily sing background vocals while her mouth is not moving.

Again you can still say that the video is beautiful, there is no argument about that. – But so are the photos of those superficial models on the covers of the magazines at your local newspaper kiosk. I would rather prefer it to be a little bit more authentic with less photoshopping. Even if that meant it would turn out to be less perfect.

There is was a time when

… I was a musician. The time when I practice the piano for hours every day and the time I played at least a gig every week. Today I am an engineer with a profound understanding of music but with a lack is practice. Maybe that’s a good thing. Because there’s no pressure, no need to make a living out of music.

Today I had one of those once-or-twice-a-month gigs that I still do with a band called Bojazzl at a small bar, about an hour from Linz. Their piano player had broken his clavicle and they had asked me to jump in, which I really enjoyed. Although I would have needed more rehearsals to really make the most out of it.

canape

Twentysomething in an Alternate Universe

I stumbled across this video last weekend and it made my jaws drop in a way I did not anticipate. Seriously, I have not seen a single video on youtube, that had a similar effect on me.

They are called the the Dirty Loops and they blend pop and fusion in a musically perfect way. All three of them master their respective instruments at simply unbelievable levels.

I still can’t stop watching their videos over and over again. I just love their music so much and a part deep inside of me wants to be able to play like that really badly. I can’t. But if life is fair, making music like that is what I did during my 20s in an alternate universe. Too bad I’m stuck in this one :D