Saturday
Jul042015

All Four Recitals Now Online

I have finished uploading parts of all four of my recitals (2006, 2011, 2013, and 2015) to soundcloud.com/kathleenann45

Most of this is piano music by 20th and 21st century American women composers: Ruth Crawford (Seeger), Judith Laing Zaimont, Emma Lou Diemer, Margaret Bonds, Ruth Schonthal, Libby Larsen, Beata Moon, Marilyn J. Ziffrin, Rami Levin, Joan Tower, Elizabeth R. Austin, Beata Golec, and Jennifer Higdon. If you look closely, Bach and Rachmaninoff are squeezed in as well! If you go to the actual URL given above, the recitals are in the order of oldest first (2006), with playlists for the various recitals as well as individual tracks for downloading.

I hope you explore and enjoy this great music which is too often unheard--feel free to download and make your own playlists--soundcloud (a great new discovery for me) is free!

Sunday
Jun282015

To Be Heard and Seen: Recital and Book Available Online

Helen Bader Hall; Wisconsin Conservatory of MusicAdam Kirsch writes in last week's NYT Book Review, "For the truth is that there is something in the act of creation that presses forward into the public realm, whether the artist goes on to seek publicity or not. To write a poem or paint a picture is to translate inner experience into outward form and presence; it is to objectify sensation, and the definition of an object is that it can be passed from hand to hand, its shape fixed for everyone. To want to be an artist without creating such an object is a contradiction in terms. And once the object is created, it wants to be seen. [...] Art is a form of communication, and communication cannot be totally autonomous, just as there can be no such thing as a private language."

And so it is that I have made my recital (most of it) available online here.   You can access the program notes here.

I did not include the Beethoven Sonata op. 109 because I did not think, hearing it, that my playing did it justice.  One thing I have learned through the often-painful process of listening to my recital is that 1) I need to perform more so that I become more comfortable with it and 2) that I need to listen to myself while practicing. For that purpose, I have discovered that my phone has an app for that! And starting in the fall, the Conservatory will hold monthly opportunities for adult students to play for each other.

And, for those of you who have been waiting for the latest, corrected edition of my book of poems, The Beautiful Unnamed, it is available  here.  

 

I am in the process of choosing new music--Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Chopin--as well as a contemporary and a 17th-century women composers--Rachel Grimes and Anna Bon.  It is such a pleasure to find new music.

So far I have not been writing, but feel the waves building up there too.

I will be back!

 

Wednesday
Jun172015

Still Here!

Thanks again to everyone who came to my recital on June 6, and who contributed to Jazale’s Art Studio. I was able to hand over nearly $200 to Darren Hill (co-founder) immediately after the recital. If you did not receive my book The Beautiful Unnamed at the recital you may order it (or additional copies) here. Again, all royalties will go to Jazale’s.

Other nice things have happened. As some of you know, I was awarded third place as well as an honorable mention  in this year’s poetry contest sponsored by Wisconsin People & Ideas. The issue will be released, online and in print, next month, but if you want a preview of one of the three poems of mine that will appear there, “The Self-organizing Universal Nail Salon,” you may click here.

“The Nightly Dances of Madame de Loynes” is now up at Zo Magazine. You may remember my entry last August 16 about entering the contest based on connections between art forms: in this case, writing about a famous painting by by Luis Jose Estremadoyro, a contemporary Peruvian painter. The painting is called “The Nightly Unfolding of Madame De Loynes,” and is a fascinating hybrid of realism and, I guess, surrealism. You will have to scroll down the page on Zo Magazine (above) to see my poem, but while you are scrolling, take a look/listen at the other wonderful collaborations among poetry, art, and music!

After a long-anticipated event like a recital, there is often a kind of let-down after, but four days with active young boys—my two grandsons—grounded me quickly!

Another antidote to letdown is to start something new.  The original purpose of this blog was simply to chronicle the experience of preparing my book and recital. But that doesn’t mean that ideas don’t still come!

Looking for new music on the internet last week, I was immediately taken with the music of Rachel Grimes, British composer and pianist whose album Book of Leaves I immediately purchased. On it are many short, arresting pieces, including this one: Every Morning, Birds, which I include here for your listening pleasure.

It reminds me of an article in last Sunday’s NYT’s Review section called “Birds of New York: A Soundscape” by Jeff Talman, a sound artist. If you play the embedded video, you will get a sense of what Talman means when he says, “Flight and music both represent freedom from earthbound restraint. But music is even more intangible; music is made of the air, the medium of flight, the ether between us. Music is made of the sky.” Talman composed by “time-stretching birdcall samples, or extending passages with extra tweets, peeps, and other song elements, I made them ‘fit’ with one another musically to create phrases, harmonies and orchestrations.”

He notes that these sounds are an “astounding part of our [everyday] soundscape.”

Just so.

This morning, before I got up, I listened to a crow starting a rhythm in the backyard. Soon it was joined by the sound of a lawn mower, and then those of the next-door children laughing before getting into a car that then zoomed away. But below it all was the sound of that crow (one of the most intelligent birds, they say, and ones I greatly admire.)

The experience reminded me of an interactive poem (you need to roll your mouse over the images to hear the crows and the music) that I wrote over ten years ago, “Bird Calls.” It is still in the New River Journal  archives here.

And so life goes on. And I guess this blog will too, at least for awhile, even if it has only a small audience! If you want to be notified of when a new post appears, sign up for the RSS feed at the top of the page. The RSS symbol will then appear on your browser, and you can more easily check for updates.

Thanks for being such a good audience!

 

Thursday
Jun042015

Appreciation

This particular journey is nearly over for me.  I want to thank each and every one of you who has read and/or commented on what I have been exploring here over the past ten months.

Now the book of poems, The Beautiful Unnamed, is available in a format I would never have foreseen. Ten months ago I had never heard of Jazale’s Art Studio, which now will reap whatever royalties the book yields. 

My fourth recital in the past ten years will take place day after tomorrow, 2 pm, at the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, 1584 N. Prospect, in Milwaukee. If you have not yet received an invitation, this is it!  I owe great thanks to my teacher, Stefanie Jacob, for being by my side as I have prepared this music. Do I get stage fright? Well, yes, but less so than I did years ago when I returned to taking lessons. It is true, as I tell my own students who must make speeches, that the more you do it the easier it gets.  It will never get TOO easy, however. There seems to be some cosmic rule of performance about that.

Sara Solovitch shared some of her forthcoming book Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright, in last Sunday’s New York Times (another source for which I am thankful).  In the article, she talks about how she battled her recurrent stage fright as a pianist returning to the piano at the age of 59 (which was about my age when I returned to lessons). She had a history of terrible anxiety around performance (so did I).  She says, “In the year devoted to the conquest of stage fright, I explored every tool I could find—from deep breathing techniques to biofeedback and cognitive behavior therapy.” She worked with a performance coach and consulted psychologists. She developed talismans.  She took lessons in the “Alexander Technique, a system of body awareness and movement that helps relieve old patterns of stress and is favored by musicians.” She took beta blockers, which cut adrenaline and thus minimize some of the more troublesome aspects of stage fright such as shaking. (Stefanie recommends a banana before performing—their potassium  and magnesium are said to have much the same effect.)

For me? The only two methods that have consistently worked for me are 1) taking every opportunity that comes my way to play before people—it DOES get easier—and 2) preparing the music to the extent that I no longer dread particular passages.  This latter method never works completely because there are rarely--if ever--passages that become completely unproblematic.

What also helps is the reminder that live performance is very different from the perfection of recordings to which we have become accustomed, and that such lack of perfection is what makes performance most human.

These reassurances I will carry with me into the recital hall on Saturday afternoon, but that does not mean that I will not be nervous. Hopefully I can channel whatever nerves there may be into excitement.

Solovitch concludes her article by saying that, finally, she “cared less about the mistakes and more about communication, about creating a connection with people. That’s what any good performance does; it connects with its audience on an emotional level. I’d spent so many hours behind closed doors, practicing and practicing, and now I wanted to share.”

Me, too. 

And that shared exploration has also been the impetus behind my book of poetry and behind this blog.

An audience’s appreciation (in the original meaning of the word, which is to increase) enlarges what is offered.

And for this, my deepest gratitude.

 

Sunday
May242015

There is Something that Can Actually Help to 'Put the Guns Down'

I visited Jazale’s Art Studio with my friend Judith yesterday. Darren Hill and his wife, Cookie, showed us around the new space that already is drawing in kids from the neighborhood and from other neighborhood organizations.  Darren has just received his degree in Educational Policy/Communications from UWM, and his brother, Vedale Hill, is a graduate of Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.  Vedale credits Judith, a professor at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, for his success at the school, where he developed both his artistic and writing talents.

As we walked into the building that houses the studio, the poster  “Put the Guns Down” was prominently displayed on the wall. This was not the usual “no weapons allowed” sign that is on most public Wisconsin buildings now since the right to carry concealed was passed by our legislature last year.  No, it was a home-made plea from the neighborhood.

In today’s Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel is an article called ‘Put the Guns Down’ by Gina Barton, recounting the shooting of Debra Hopkins, who was attending a vigil for her son, Kendrai Walker—Milwaukee’s 59th homicide victim this year, shot May 15 in an alley near 28th and Auer. The next day, gunmen opened fire on a vigil in his memory, wounding five people, including his mother. From the hospital, Kendrai’s mother says, “I just hope people start waking up and…start doing for each other like we used to do instead of hating on each other. Put the guns down and pick up a Bible or book or something. Pick up a phone and say, ‘Hey, how you doing? Let’s go to a show or something. Let’s go to the park and play some ball.’”

Last Friday evening, her friends and neighbors came together for another vigil. The Rev. Erik Rodriguez said, "It's watching out for each other. It's knowing something is not acceptable and saying something about it. We can't be afraid."

As our daughter, Jessi, a public-health nurse in Madison, notes, violence is a public health issue that can only be solved by community-building.

How do we do that? Another article, from today’s New York Times , Why Do We Experience Awe? by professor of psychology and social behavior Paul Piff,  says that research provides strong evidence that activities which often produce “awe,” like “collective rituals, celebration, music and dance, religious gatherings and worship,” shift focus from “narrow self-interest to the interests of the group to which we belong.”  He goes on to suggest that our culture is “awe-deprived.”  We spend less time outdoors in nature; we attend fewer live arts events; arts and music programs in schools “are being dismantled in lieu of programs better suited to standardized testing.”  Even brief experiences of awe, research shows, “redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions toward the needs of those around us.” He goes on to echo Ms. Hopkins' plea: “we suggest that people insist on experiencing more everyday awe, to actively seek out what gives them goose bumps, be it in looking at trees [how many trees are in Kendrai’s neighborhood? how safe are the parks?], night skies [how much can be seen past orange sodium street lights?], patterns of wind on water [how many kids in Kendrai’s neighborhood have actually seen Lake Michigan?], or the quotidian nobility of others—the teenage punk who gives up his seat on public transportation [how many have mentors who have told them to do so?], the young child who explores the world in a state of wonder, the person who presses on against all odds [yes, there are still those].”

Darren, Judith, Cookie, and I bemoaned these realities in Jazale’s Art Studio.  We can’t change everything, we decided, but we can support small pockets of awe-inspiring places like Jazale’s where kids can have access to some of these experiences, including the support to ‘put down the guns’ and to see that there really are alternatives out there for them.  

The Wilhelm version of the I Ching speaks, in Hexagram 16, “Enthusiasm,” of this effect of the arts:

When, at the beginning of summer, thunder—electrical energy—comes rushing forth from the earth again, and the first thunderstorm refreshes nature, a prolonged state of tension is resolved. Joy and relief make themselves felt. So too, music has power to ease tension within the heart and to loosen the grip of obscure emotions. The enthusiasm of the heart expresses itself involuntarily in a burst of song, in dance and rhythmic movement of the body. From immemorial times the inspiriting effect of the invisible sound that moves all hearts and draws them together, has mystified mankind.

On June 6,  I hope that you will be moved to talk with Darren or Vedale after the recital to find out more about what they are doing to bring the possibility of awe to a new generation of kids, and perhaps to contribute some support.

My book, The Beautiful Unnamed, is now available on amazon.com. As I’ve said before, all royalties will go to Jazale’s Art Studio.