Category Archives: Music

The Diagnosis

So it looks like we are going to try to save the neck on my double bass, rather than doing a full replacement and grafting the scroll back on. In the process my luthier will give it a new fingerboard, shim the neck to correct the action, patch up the scroll, carve me a new bridge, and fix some of the chipped purfling around the edges. This will be considerably cheaper, and the end result is that I will be able to practice once again and the bass will sound great and be highly playable. I can hardly stand the wait…

Time to fix my double bass

Yes, it is time to fix the behemoth and start practicing again. We just did our taxes and, lo and behold, I can finally afford these repairs. I take it in on Monday for the evaluation. I am indeed quite psyched about this. It has been at least a year and a half since I practiced, and several years since I practiced regularly. But I have been looking forward to this operation since I got the damn bass back in 1993 and I have been itching to practice for a long long time. Thankfully since I don’t need to make a living off that thing anymore, I can just focus on playing only what I want to. I think I’ll work up the Misek Sonata again, get going on the Hindemith Sonata, the Smandl Gradus Ad Nauseum book, and of course my Bach Suite #3.

Most of all, I am psyched because Yingwen has her grand piano and we can jam.

Harmonic Juxaposition

This evening on my way home I was listening to a new CD I had recently purchased: Yo-Yo Ma – Solo. This CD is, as the name implies, Yo-Yo playing contemporary solo cello pieces; works by Mark O’Connor, Bright Sheng, David Wilde, Alexander Tcherepnin, and Zoltán Kodály.

Yo-Yo certainly has his own style. I can always tell when it is him playing cello just by the tone, by the way he inflects a note, or the way he rips out a passage. I have to admit, I have not always personally appreciated his personal style, but at the same time I have always greatly respected his passion for the music and the cello.

This recording is right on the money. I think Yo-Yo excels at this listing of contemporary pieces. It’s the way he gets into a tone, and I mean really in to one single tone. It’s like this: He’ll start out with a simple, pure, quiet tone. Then maybe he will add a little crecendo with an upbow. Now maybe a little gradual vibrato. And then maybe a touch of sul ponticello as the dynamic gets more and more intense. And finally he’s burning the cello’s ovaries incandescent as the thing begins to moan and scream with the rapid and near-violent undulations of the bow.

I don’t have time to get in to the details of each piece here, but items on this disc stand out for me. The “Seven Tunes Heard in China” by Bright Sheng is a beautiful set of pieces, obviously written based on thematic material from Chinese themes. The words that sprang to mind when I first heard it was “harmonic juxaposition”. Bright Sheng sets up a wonderful play between the pentatonic modalities that are inherent of Chinese melody, that create soft dissonance and a simple yet rich texture of harmony as the melodies intertwine. Yo-Yo executes these pieces with a strong sense of musicality and attention that is rarely given to the works of living composers.

My other favorite of the moment on this disc is the Sonata for Cello op 8 by Zoltán Kodály. This piece (and perhaps also The Brahms Trio op. 8) makes me wish that I could play the cello. There is nothing else I can say about this piece – it is just simply badass.

Other recordings to check out along these lines:
O’Connor, Ma, Meyer – Appalachia Waltz
Astor Piazolla – Tango, Zero Hour

I will add links later. I’m tired and I have to get some sleep now…

Learn to Play Piano!

This is actually an older design but resurrected and updated with new copy and it’s own permanent domain: www.yingwenlewis.com. This is Yingwen’s site for her piano teaching activities. It includes a short bio, contact info, and a bookstore that orders direct through Barnes and Noble. Future plans include a student/teacher application that will allow her to input data about student progress and allow students and parents to log in and see information. It will be very cool.

For now, this is pretty much a static site with a cool design. It’s much more freeform than my corporate sites and I like the opportunity to do something that is more creative and artistic.