All posts by Gary

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About Gary

Piano Teacher with over 40 years experience, teaching in the Fort Lauderdale area. Teaches exclusively at All County Music in Tamarac FL.

SATURDAY, May 8, 2021 – 7:31 AM

SATURDAY, May 8, 2021 – 7:31 AM

Granados: Spanish Dance, Op. 37, No. 5 “Andaluza”

I played this from scratch last night, on a whim. I found some small errors, although I would not have caught any of them except by comparing with a couple top players and then comparing with the score. I’m not entirely satisfied with this, so I’ll come back to it later with new ideas. But it’s wonderful music. There are 12 of these dances, but I have only heard this one and so far I’m only interested in this particular dance, which is incredibly famous.

combining

SUNDAY, May 2, 2021 – 12:13 AM

SUNDAY, May 2, 2021

Gershwin Prelude No. 2

This is old, by today’s standards. They were composed in 1926, nearly a century ago. Many people play this with almost a 1920 or 1930 feel, which I don’t like at all. Bernstein got much more of a modern feel. But I think jazz musicians over the years have gotten much better, and that style is much more freer and and somehow. At that time straight 8ths were often play straight, or straighter. Today there is a strong tendency to make things swing. That’s the way I heard even the center section, sometimes straight but with a hint of swing, and the out sections for me have to very free, very “bluesy”, and more like what happened later, with people like Ella, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and so many more.

On Golden Pond

There is a long story about this: The theme song in the movie and on the sound track is wonderful, but it is with full orchestra, so if you buy the sheet music for piano only, it’s very empty. One of the problems with 20th and 21st century notation is that we now live in an era where you can listen to perfect music, played by the best players you can imagine, but the composers do not bother to shape or perfect what they sell to pianists. It’s up to us, the players, to be free, imaginative and creative to make this music come fully alive. Many years ago – decades ago – I took the standard printed sheet music for On Golden Pond, as written for piano solo, and changed it considerably. My aim is never to change the feel or the “soul” of the music, but rather to take something for full orchestra and transcribe it so that it gets as close as possible to the atmosphere of the music written for a much larger ensemble.

Ballade Russe

A good friend of mine, Jon Dzoba, wrote this a long time ago. I had in mind to write it out, do something with it, but I got stuck. It fell into that dark void filled with “things we meant to finish but never got to”. I did a bit more work on it today, and I hope I did it justice. It’s another one of those slow, expressive ballads that I like so much, and the chord structure is probably right in my wheel house.

Zankyou no terror OST – [ Fugl ]

The first is from an anime movie.

There is a long story behind this. I don’t remember how I ran across the music. Everything about the title is misleading. It looks like “Thank you”. In fact, that’s just romaji, meaning phonetic Roman letters for Japanese. In fact, this is about nuclear war. The original music is for piano and orchestra. Only the piano part seems to exist in notation, so I started with that and carefully added what is missing. It starts almost like a music box, then adds a counter melody. The middle section moves to more complicated chords and is much more complex. I added a little more intensity to the middle section for contrast.

Bert and Arty Blues

I wrote this a long time ago for a friend, and it’s just a silly little tune with a 1930s feel.

Dark Jazzy Minor

I wrote this two weeks. It uses jazz minor and other really important chords. I started it with theory in mind, but it took on a life of it’s own.

Grieg Nocturne

This often in method books for piano students, but it’s really quite hard. It is two against three, but if you play it well no one knows it is hard, or why.

William’s Song

This is a lovely tune written by Dave Brubeck and part of a whole book called “Nocturnes”. I have in mind to play all of them, so this is just the first of many to come, I hope.

 

MONDAY, May 3, 2021 – 4:01 AM

MONDAY, May 3, 2021

Grieg Elves Dance

This is another of Grieg’s Lyrical Pieces. I planned to record it in about a minute, but like everything playing it well is not as easy as I thought.

Casper

This is one of the longest and most complicated arrangements I’ve ever done. The film came out in 1995. The music is by James Horner. As with all this music there are only standard, stock arrangements, and many cases – perhaps most – they are not done by the composers. The people who produce sheet music are overworked and underpaid, and they hardly have big incentives to get creative. Everything that was most interesting to me was not in the music. It was in the film itself, so I took extra themes and incorporated them into the arrangement.

This is HARD. I had to make numerous changes to make it smoother and more effective. In fact it was so hard that I delayed tackling forever. But I really think this is one of the nicest things that Horner ever wrote. I have a huge respect for film composers, and in my opinion there is no greater mistake than ignoring this music, which logically and artistically should be included right in the same concerts with Mozart, Grieg, Rachmaninov and so. In the past young pianists always showcased music that was being written in their lives. They promoted it, championed it, and that’s how it became known.

But today there is a divide. If it’s “popular”, it can’t be serious, or important, or played in the same venues as popular music, which is insane. A couple centuries it was just the opposite. Young composers played the best of everything, no matter if it was earlier music or something written the week before.

I don’t know how the music business became so fragmented. It’s insane.

Agustín Barrios Mangoré: Cathedral

I transcribed this a few months ago, and I’ve taught it to several students. It’s one of those pieces that never stops, and that’s always harder for me. No places to breathe, relax or refocus. One little mental lapse and it all goes up in smoke. The guitar composition is very famous among guitarists, but I wanted it available for pianists. There is never too much music for us.

TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 – 10:52 AM

Adagio from the Gayne Ballet Suite: Katchaturian

This is my transcription. It’s not exactly what the composer wrote, because he wrote this for orchestra, and with orchestra you have unlimited tone color. With piano you only have only 88 keys. That is the limitation, but also the challenge and in some cases the magic.

Many years ago I went to see 2001, A Space “Odyssey”. There is a scene where Dave, the main human character, is running on an artificial track in a space station. The track is circular and the gravity comes from the spin of the module. He is all alone in space, and the music from Katchaturian plays, unedited or cut. I remember hearing that and thinking: “Wow! That’s a few minutes of some of the most haunting music I’ve ever heard.”

Decades I’m still in awe of this music. Now more than any time in the past I realize that movie sound tracks, 20th century “traditional” music and what we are hearing now, especially in computer game music and anime are amazing similar in chord structure, feel and structure. I’m also more and more positive that this is the real direction music is going in now. It’s smaller, intensely personal and things all of us can do in the quiet of night. It seems to me that many of us are empowered in a way we have never been before to create and then put it out into the world.

Bach Goldberg Variations: No. 25

This is not only my favorite variation of the whole set but what I think is one of the greatest chromatic compositions of JS Bach. In this he used his whole bag of tricks.

The form is basically in two parts, but although they are marked to be merely repeated, it is my belief that in that time period performers always added things during the repeats, so that’s what I did.

In addition, the B part is so complicated that it predates “sonata allegro” form because there is a true development section before the beginning parts returns. This makes the form – as well as the chromaticism – absolutely mind-boggling.

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 2021 – 3:23 AM

Mellow

I wrote this just now, and it’s for students. But not just only for students.

What this is really about: I want to write more and more music that is a max of two minutes long, suitable for students at around the one year mark but still interesting. In other words, things I like myself but hopefully not too technically demanding.

I’m trying to teach intervals, scales and chords to everyone. These are the building blocks of all that we do. You can’t really learn much music without them, but you absolutely can’t write music without these building blocks.

I sat at the keyboard playing half and whole tones at random, thinking about what they sound like alone, then I started to examine all the chords I could think of that use them in a way we find pleasing. In older traditional music they are not used as often, and they tend to resolve, meaning that they go to simpler chords without these intervals, often called dissonances.

The first time such small intervals started to be used in the modern way was in the music of Debussy and his contemporaries. In fact, not much has changed since then. The difference was that Debussy used these intervals are final chords, or in a whole succession of chords. That changed the way we hear and what we expect. Everything since has been a further exploration of this idea, going ever farther.

“Mellow” is about putting as many of these intervals into chords as possible without causing tension or any feeling of dissonance. It’s not as easy as it looks, but nothing that sounds good is ever easy.

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 My Chopin Recordings

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 – 6:08 AM

My Chopin Recordings

Chopin Prelude in E minor

This is one of the most famous short pieces ever written and has appeared so many times in movies and other sound tracks that it never ceases to surprise me. Like other shorter, slower preludes it is always in books for students. I used the theme for my own “Chopin Variation”.

Chopin Prelude in A major

This is possibly the shortest and easiest piece Chopin ever wrote. But it is also very famous, and like all things that sound good, it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Chopin Prelude in C minor

This piece is entirely made of big, massive chords. It is in all books written for developing students, but it was not written for students and is not at all easy to play.

Chopin Prelude in B minor

This is another famous, short prelude given to students. It sounds pretty easy, but it’s not.

 

Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

FRIDAY, May 7, 2021 – 3:51 PM

Things I’ve Written for Students but Also for Myself

Mellow

I wrote this with small intervals in mind, so it’s a teaching piece. But I also like the feel, so I tried to put some special ideas into it.

Bert and Arty Blues

I wrote this about 30 years for a friend and her husband. It’s just a silly little song, upbeat, with perhaps the feel of something from the 1930s. It’s supposed to have a sound from a very different age.

Dark Jazzy Minor

There is a particular atmosphere in certain scenes in movies. You might think of an older movie where people are in a nightclub. The mood is quiet, dark. As always I composed this without a title in mind, but I mostly used jazz minor for the theme. Jazz minor is just a major scale where the 3rd note is lowered to b3. But I also used a bridge that toggles between a diminished and augmented chord, which has a uniquely haunting sound.

Memories

This is one of the shortest things I’ve written. I was in a very sad mood, thinking about people in my life who were really important to me. So it is bitter-sweet. I’d like to expand it someday, and I may. But for now, I’ll leave it just as it is, this tiny little moment in time.

Just a Lonely Night

Mostly written in pentatonic, I wrote this to illustrate a melody with somewhat jazzy sounding inversions of seven chords.

Lydian Soliloquy

I heard a nice electric guitar improv in Lydian and used part of it as a theme. The middle parts uses an octatonic scale.

Variations on a Spanish Theme

Many years ago I was going through a method book and found a series of variations that was sort of interesting, but sort of boring. I took the idea and added a whole bunch of more complicated ideas, all over a very famous chord structure that is very famous in Spanish music, most of all in guitar music. That progression is always Am, G, F and E, those chords. But I did not like the theme. A week ago I rewrote the theme to something I like a bit better.

Variation on a Theme of Chopin

The chord structure hints at a very famous Chopin E Minor Prelude as I illustrate an example of how to use a harmonic structure to improvise a rolling melody.

Le Mystique

I wrote this about a year ago, but I fleshed it out a bit for a more advanced version. It is all about a double harmonic scale, where you start with a major scale and then flat 2 and 6. It’s a scale you won’t hear in traditional music until perhaps the time of Debussy or more modern composers.

Bass Line in C

This is something basic and rather simple that I wrote many years ago. I decided to add a modulation to another key, F major, then added a coda with extra modulations. Finally, I added octaves. It’s no longer easy to play, but it’s a lot more fun.

Indian Dance

There was a little piece by Michael Aaron that my brother and I played called “Indian Dance”, and we both liked it. So I gave it to several of my young students, and they have all picked it as something they like to play.

Using this very simple idea I expanded it, made huge changes to the harmony and greatly changed it in many other ways, using only a bit of the original theme. This has way more notes and is much harder. I have not yet taught it.

My recordings from the late 90s

THURSDAY, May 6, 2021 – 8:39 PM

Chopin: Ballade in G Minor

A ballade as conceived of by Chopin was a very free form composition with no strictly defined structure, interweaving various themes, and Chopin was apparently the first famous composer to write pieces of this name that were, in general, highly dramatic and often heroic in nature. Robert Schumann was hugely impressed with this work, and both Liszt and Brahms also wrote ballades, obviously influenced by Chopin.

It is structurally complex and not strictly confined to any particular form, without doubt one of the most famous and frequently performed compositions of Chopin.

Debussy: Children’s Corner

Debussy composed Children’s Corner between 1906 and 1908 and dedicated his suite to his young daughter, Claude-Emma (known as “Chou-Chou”), who was at the time of composition between the age of one and three. His dedication reads:

“A ma chère petite Chouchou, avec les tendres excuses de son Père pour ce qui va suivre. C. D.” (To my dear little Chouchou, with tender apologies from her father for what follows.)

  1. Download or play Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum: This is Debussy’s very humorous allusion to “Gradus Ad Parnassum” by Muzio Clementi, a set of pieces that were usually considered tedious to play and to listen to. In contrast, Debussy’s composition is playful and joyous.
  2. Download or play Jimbo: This is about Jumbo, who came from the French Sudan and lived briefly in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris around the time of Debussy’s birth. It was misspelled as “Jimbo”, and possibly as a result of confusion between the French pronunciation of“u” and “i”. I think Debussy had in mind a smaller elephant, more the size of his daughter.
  3. Download or play Serenade of the Doll: Supposedly this is a porcelain doll, but my conception is of a doll that comes to life and who dances with great expression.
  4. Download or play The Snow Is Dancing: Some people may think also of another famous piece of music by Debussy, Des pas sur la neige (Footprints in the Snow), a short prelude by the same composer. Everything is muted and indistinct one minute, precise and crystalline the next.
  5. Download or play The Little Shepherd: this is simply a small boy with his flute
  6. Download or play Golliwogs Cakewalk: This gives us a window in time to examine what popular music was more than 100 years ago. The cakewalk was a dance, and the dancer with the fanciest steps won a cake. This is one source of our modern idiom “to take the cake”, meaning to win or to beat everyone else. Basically this is a ragtime with jaunty rhythms and banjo-like effects. There is even a humorous allusion to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. Of great interest to me is that Debussy’s view of “pop music” is very dated, obviously “old”, reflecting a very different time, but in his more serious music his chord structure and musical ideas remain amazingly modern to this very moment, often reflecting the same sounds and structures as rather modern jazz.

THURSDAY, May 6, 2021 My transcriptions of music that is special to me

THURSDAY, May 6, 2021 – 4:06 AM

My transcriptions of music that is special to me

On Golden Pond

The theme song in the movie and on the sound track is wonderful, but it is with full orchestra, so if you buy the sheet music for piano only, it’s very empty. One of the problems with 20th and 21st century notation is that we now live in an era where you can listen to perfect music, played by the best players you can imagine, but the composers do not bother to shape or perfect what they sell to pianists. It’s up to us, the players, to be free, imaginative and creative to make this music come fully alive. Many years ago – decades ago – I took the standard printed sheet music for On Golden Pond, as written for piano solo, and changed it considerably. My aim is never to change the feel or the “soul” of the music, but rather to take something for full orchestra and transcribe it so that it gets as close as possible to the atmosphere of the music written for a much larger ensemble.

Casper

This is one of the longest and most complicated arrangements I’ve ever done. The film came out in 1995. The music is by James Horner. As with all this music there are only standard, stock arrangements, and many cases – perhaps most – they are not done by the composers. The people who produce sheet music are overworked and underpaid, and they hardly have big incentives to get creative. Everything that was most interesting to me was not in the music. It was in the film itself, so I took extra themes and incorporated them into the arrangement.

Zankyou no terror OST – [ Fugl ]

There is a long story behind this. I don’t remember how I ran across the music. Everything about the title is misleading. It looks like “Thank you”. In fact, that’s just romaji, meaning phonetic Roman letters for Japanese. In fact, this is about nuclear war. The original music is for piano and orchestra. Only the piano part seems to exist in notation, so I started with that and carefully added what is missing. It starts almost like a music box, then adds a counter melody. The middle section moves to more complicated chords and is much more complex. I added a little more intensity to the middle section for contrast.

La Catedral, Movement One, Andante

This is the first movement of a famous composition for guitar. I’ve never heard it played on piano. I changed the key from B minor to A minor, added octaves in the 2nd part and made a few subtle changes at the end, but otherwise the piece is as it was written.

La Catedral, Movement Three, Allegro

This is the last movement. I added a few notes and change

Gayne Ballet

This is my transcription. It’s not exactly what the composer wrote, because he wrote this for orchestra, and with orchestra you have unlimited tone color. With piano you only have only 88 keys. That is the limitation, but also the challenge and in some cases the magic.

Many years ago I went to see 2001, A Space “Odyssey”. There is a scene where Dave, the main human character, is running on an artificial track in a space station. The track is circular and the gravity comes from the spin of the module. He is all alone in space, and the music from Katchaturian plays, unedited or cut. I remember hearing that and thinking: “Wow! That’s a few minutes of some of the most haunting music I’ve ever heard.”

Decades I’m still in awe of this music. Now more than any time in the past I realize that movie sound tracks, 20th century “traditional” music and what we are hearing now, especially in computer game music and anime are amazing similar in chord structure, feel and structure. I’m also more and more positive that this is the real direction music is going in now. It’s smaller, intensely personal and things all of us can do in the quiet of night. It seems to me that many of us are empowered in a way we have never been before to create and then put it out into the world.

 

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 2021 – 3:22 AM

WEDNESDAY, May 5, 2021 – 3:23 AM

Mellow

I wrote this just now, and it’s for students. But not just only for students.

What this is really about: I want to write more and more music that is a max of two minutes long, suitable for students at around the one year mark but still interesting. In other words, things I like myself but hopefully not too technically demanding.

I’m trying to teach intervals, scales and chords to everyone. These are the building blocks of all that we do. You can’t really learn much music without them, but you absolutely can’t write music without these building blocks.

I sat at the keyboard playing half and whole tones at random, thinking about what they sound like alone, then I started to examine all the chords I could think of that use them in a way we find pleasing. In older traditional music they are not used as often, and they tend to resolve, meaning that they go to simpler chords without these intervals, often called dissonances.

The first time such small intervals started to be used in the modern way was in the music of Debussy and his contemporaries. In fact, not much has changed since then. The difference was that Debussy used these intervals are final chords, or in a whole succession of chords. That changed the way we hear and what we expect. Everything since has been a further exploration of this idea, going ever farther.

“Mellow” is about putting as many of these intervals into chords as possible without causing tension or any feeling of dissonance. It’s not as easy as it looks, but nothing that sounds good is ever easy.

TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 – 10:52 AM

TUESDAY, May 4, 2021 – 10:52 AM

Adagio from the Gayne Ballet Suite: Katchaturian

This is my transcription. It’s not exactly what the composer wrote, because he wrote this for orchestra, and with orchestra you have unlimited tone color. With piano you only have only 88 keys. That is the limitation, but also the challenge and in some cases the magic.

Many years ago I went to see 2001, A Space “Odyssey”. There is a scene where Dave, the main human character, is running on an artificial track in a space station. The track is circular and the gravity comes from the spin of the module. He is all alone in space, and the music from Katchaturian plays, unedited or cut. I remember hearing that and thinking: “Wow! That’s a few minutes of some of the most haunting music I’ve ever heard.”

Decades I’m still in awe of this music. Now more than any time in the past I realize that movie sound tracks, 20th century “traditional” music and what we are hearing now, especially in computer game music and anime are amazing similar in chord structure, feel and structure. I’m also more and more positive that this is the real direction music is going in now. It’s smaller, intensely personal and things all of us can do in the quiet of night. It seems to me that many of us are empowered in a way we have never been before to create and then put it out into the world.

Bach Goldberg Variations: No. 25

This is not only my favorite variation of the whole set but what I think is one of the greatest chromatic compositions of JS Bach. In this he used his whole bag of tricks.

The form is basically in two parts, but although they are marked to be merely repeated, it is my belief that in that time period performers always added things during the repeats, so that’s what I did.

In addition, the B part is so complicated that it predates “sonata allegro” form because there is a true development section before the beginning parts returns. This makes the form – as well as the chromaticism – absolutely mind-boggling.

MONDAY, May 3, 2021

MONDAY, May 3, 2021 – 4:01 AM

MONDAY, May 3, 2021

Grieg Elves Dance

This is another of Grieg’s Lyrical Pieces. I planned to record it in about a minute, but like everything playing it well is not as easy as I thought.

Casper

This is one of the longest and most complicated arrangements I’ve ever done. The film came out in 1995. The music is by James Horner. As with all this music there are only standard, stock arrangements, and many cases – perhaps most – they are not done by the composers. The people who produce sheet music are overworked and underpaid, and they hardly have big incentives to get creative. Everything that was most interesting to me was not in the music. It was in the film itself, so I took extra themes and incorporated them into the arrangement.

This is HARD. I had to make numerous changes to make it smoother and more effective. In fact it was so hard that I delayed tackling forever. But I really think this is one of the nicest things that Horner ever wrote. I have a huge respect for film composers, and in my opinion there is no greater mistake than ignoring this music, which logically and artistically should be included right in the same concerts with Mozart, Grieg, Rachmaninov and so. In the past young pianists always showcased music that was being written in their lives. They promoted it, championed it, and that’s how it became known.

But today there is a divide. If it’s “popular”, it can’t be serious, or important, or played in the same venues as popular music, which is insane. A couple centuries it was just the opposite. Young composers played the best of everything, no matter if it was earlier music or something written the week before.

I don’t know how the music business became so fragmented. It’s insane.

Agustín Barrios Mangoré: Cathedral

I transcribed this a few months ago, and I’ve taught it to several students. It’s one of those pieces that never stops, and that’s always harder for me. No places to breathe, relax or refocus. One little mental lapse and it all goes up in smoke. The guitar composition is very famous among guitarists, but I wanted it available for pianists. There is never too much music for us.

SUNDAY, May 2, 2021

SUNDAY, May 2, 2021 – 12:13 AM

SUNDAY, May 2, 2021

Gershwin Prelude No. 2

This is old, by today’s standards. They were composed in 1926, nearly a century ago. Many people play this with almost a 1920 or 1930 feel, which I don’t like at all. Bernstein got much more of a modern feel. But I think jazz musicians over the years have gotten much better, and that style is much more freer and and somehow. At that time straight 8ths were often play straight, or straighter. Today there is a strong tendency to make things swing. That’s the way I heard even the center section, sometimes straight but with a hint of swing, and the out sections for me have to very free, very “bluesy”, and more like what happened later, with people like Ella, Count Basie, Duke Ellington and so many more.

On Golden Pond

There is a long story about this: The theme song in the movie and on the sound track is wonderful, but it is with full orchestra, so if you buy the sheet music for piano only, it’s very empty. One of the problems with 20th and 21st century notation is that we now live in an era where you can listen to perfect music, played by the best players you can imagine, but the composers do not bother to shape or perfect what they sell to pianists. It’s up to us, the players, to be free, imaginative and creative to make this music come fully alive. Many years ago – decades ago – I took the standard printed sheet music for On Golden Pond, as written for piano solo, and changed it considerably. My aim is never to change the feel or the “soul” of the music, but rather to take something for full orchestra and transcribe it so that it gets as close as possible to the atmosphere of the music written for a much larger ensemble.

Ballade Russe

 A good friend of mine, Jon Dzoba, wrote this a long time ago. I had in mind to write it out, do something with it, but I got stuck. It fell into that dark void filled with “things we meant to finish but never got to”. I did a bit more work on it today, and I hope I did it justice. It’s another one of those slow, expressive ballads that I like so much, and the chord structure is probably right in my wheel house.

Zankyou no terror OST – [ Fugl ]

The first is from an anime movie.

There is a long story behind this. I don’t remember how I ran across the music. Everything about the title is misleading. It looks like “Thank you”. In fact, that’s just romaji, meaning phonetic Roman letters for Japanese. In fact, this is about nuclear war. The original music is for piano and orchestra. Only the piano part seems to exist in notation, so I started with that and carefully added what is missing. It starts almost like a music box, then adds a counter melody. The middle section moves to more complicated chords and is much more complex. I added a little more intensity to the middle section for contrast.

Bert and Arty Blues

I wrote this a long time ago for a friend, and it’s just a silly little tune with a 1930s feel.

Dark Jazzy Minor

I wrote this two weeks. It uses jazz minor and other really important chords. I started it with theory in mind, but it took on a life of it’s own.

Grieg Nocturne

This often in method books for piano students, but it’s really quite hard. It is two against three, but if you play it well no one knows it is hard, or why.

William’s Song

This is a lovely tune written by Dave Brubeck and part of a whole book called “Nocturnes”. I have in mind to play all of them, so this is just the first of many to come, I hope.