Thursday, 29 March 2012


                                                                Mozart Reloaded by Eduardo Miranda

"I was intrigued by Mozart Sonatas and remixed them using the language of electro-acoustic music combined with piano.  I’m a keen pianist, instead of playing the music myself I had the idea of using recordings of other people playing, and manipulate their recordings.  So I took twelve piano sonatas and chopped the scores into bars and sections, I put them in a bag so to speak and took bits out and started to sequence them. I then began to change the pitches, process the sound, do the same sort of things that DJs do with scratching and the spinning turntable and different speeds.  I used computer software, some of which was written in my laboratory at Plymouth University.  In performance the pianist plays the score and I sit next to the pianist with my laptop and trigger the sounds that I composed from the recordings at different points indicated in the score, so the performer knows exactly how and when the recordings will come with music he or she is playing.  Pianists will have performed Mozart sonatas before, and what I wanted to achieve is that the performer would be surprised by the sequences that I have in my score that combines, let’s say, sonatas K310 with K280 and so on, so you have new combinations of bars from different sonatas.   And also in the recording that I processed, you can hear themes that are transposed, or are at different speeds, or even played backwards and so on.  The whole piece is around 15 minutes long.  The first movement is “Appassionata”, a reference to Beethoven – in working on this piece I discovered some themes, bits and pieces here and there, small segments by Mozart that appear in Beethoven and Haydn; these composers were recycling other music that they’d heard elsewhere more than other composers do and it’s so interesting to see how much they were doing this.  So I called it “Appassionata” because there are some Beethoven-like themes in there. The second movement is called "Dance of Shadows".  Here I used stuff from Gluck's "Dance of the Blessed Spirits" which again I think is very similar to bits one can hear in Mozart's sonatas. The third one is "Hip-Hopped" because it uses hip hop rhythms, the pianist has to synchronise the beats I wrote with the hip hop drumming that is going on in the recording. The process of making this piece reminds me something Mozart did with his musical dice games where you throw dice and depending on what number you get you sequence the bars, and maybe the procedures used by other composers like John Cage." (Eduardo Reck Miranda)

Mozart Reloaded is available on CD with accompanying book detailing the compositional process, the full score and all samples required for performance:

Eduardo Reck Miranda is a composer and computer music expert, working at the crossroads of music and science. He is also director of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research with Plymouth University and currently Composer in Residence at London's Science Museum, developing a work with Lottolab Studio in which live music performance is relayed to soundwall of 77 speakers and electronically manipulated.

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Tuesday, 13 March 2012


"My brother Tom was a pianist living in London and we’d become estranged. He had problems and was drinking heavily.  I live in Ireland and found this wonderful old 1920’s house by the sea; the woman who sold it lived next door.  My whole family were due to get together again at my sister’s wedding and Tom was coming over to see us after a gap of a few years, he was going to be staying with me.  We were really happy and optimistic that he was coming over and spent months planning everything. He had a history of disappointing us.   As a child, he’d been a kind of prodigy at the piano.  I’d always been close to Tom, when we were growing up I was his audience while he practised and played, it had been a feature of my childhood and of my life.  When I knew he was going to be staying with me I bought the piano from our neighbour; it was the same piano that had originally been in the house.  It was sitting here in our drawing room waiting for Tom. And of course Tom didn’t come to our sister’s wedding in the end, he was held back for his own reasons.   The piano has just been sitting here ever since.  One of the nice stories I have about it is that my son Leo then took up the piano. My friend Helen is a wonderful pianist and she’s teaching him. She put him in for his first grade and I was making him practice but it sounded really bad.  Helen kept telling me to get the piano tuned but I’d been sort of ignoring her.  When it came to Leo’s exam I was outside the room and I could hear someone playing, and it sounded like they were playing perfectly and it was Leo!  He’d been playing it properly all along; it’s just that the piano was so out of tune it sounded really terrible at home.  He passed with a Distinction so I got the piano tuned for him as a gift.  He continues to play so I’m really happy about that.” (Kate Kerrigan)

Kate Kerrigan is an Irish historical fiction author whose books are translated into several languages and sold all over the world.  Her novels follow Kate’s theme of drawing parallels between the emotional landscapes of women’s lives in the past with the way women live now. 

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“I perform some difficult  Nineteenth Century music.  When I’m learning it I find you have to have a lot of perseverance, you have to really tackle the notes,  get to know the notes, get the music really inside of you, get it completely memorised, and then I find, especially with more difficult works, it’s best to learn the notes and then put it aside if time allows you and let the music settle within you. If the music is really difficult it can take so many hours of practice that you don’t ever want it to get stale, or you don’t ever want to find you are getting sick of the impossible bits that you are practising over and over again, so putting it aside for a while is a good idea.  Then I do the obvious things, I listen to lots of recordings and decide what I want to do with the piece.  There’s a lot that the composer gives you in the score,  but there’s so much that they don’t at all.  Say, for instance, in the Schumann Fantasie, especially in the first movement, there is a lot of rubato, but it’s also very episodic, so the tempo does change throughout the movement and you really have to get a sense of unity but also have that freedom.  You have to interpret the music, and feel the different moods and characters and make your own decisions. Once you have memorised it I think it’s important to keep coming back to the score so you’re really aware of what the composer has given you to work with so you don’t just go off into your own world with the piece.  It’s a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions, you initially adore the piece and then you might go through down phases when you’re going a bit crazy, maybe there are bits just aren’t working how you want them to.  Especially with difficult music you hit these breakthrough points when suddenly it feels like you are finding your way and it’s really coming together as a piece.  I love performing concerts, and I’ve also recently realised that my dream is evolving because  I also love all the outreach work that’s going on, where you bring music to audiences  or venues that don’t normally get to have Classical music.  I particularly like to bring the music to children, and I sometimes find that kind of situation more rewarding than giving a traditional concert.” (Tara Clifford)

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"It was the 1970’s, I was seven and my sister was five and we had to flee from Chile; we lived in Santiago.  My granny used to play the Tango on the piano when my Dad was very young, Tango was very modern then and that’s what everyone was doing.  She would play the piano and sing.  My father had four brothers, they were all very musical and went to music school quite a long way from home.  They formed a band that played Latin music called Los Cubanitos when they were all still children, it was 1950’s.  My father was the youngest, he was on piano.  They got on the radio and performed quite a lot, they’d dress up in frilly clothing.  When we fled Chile in 1974 we arrived in Denmark with just a suitcase and no piano.  Whenever we were near a piano my father would play it, no matter where he was, he was obviously missing it.  Once he got a job he wanted a piano but couldn’t afford it, so he got one of those new organs with two keyboards, a cheap brown thing.  My Dad was listening to Jimmy Smith, he was playing that style at the time.   I started playing as well but went over to the guitar after a while.  Years later my father moved back to Chile and ended up inheriting my granny’s piano. When I visit him I wake up to the sound of him playing and then, last thing at night as well he’s on the piano, he’s always the last to go to bed.  He spends most of his day playing, he’s an amateur who really loves it, mainly jazz and also bossa, he plays a lot of Bill Evans.  He’s got a good ear, he’s pretty good. Music has always been very important in his life, when we first arrived in Denmark one of the first things he did was take us all to the big jazz club in Copenhagen.  It was the Jazzhus Montmartre and we saw Tania Maria.  They weren’t used to letting children in and didn’t know how much to charge." (Maria Larrain)


"I chose to record my CD in this particular hall because I’ve played many piano concerts there, I’m familiar with the piano and I’m very fond of it.  It’s in a big hall with big acoustics, it makes a lovely sound in that particular hall, the sound is rich and clear.  The venue is isolated, there are no disturbances around, it’s in a beautiful green setting.  I experimented on where to place the microphone, I put it chest height if you are standing, so it was level with the height of the instrument, it was just my own experimentation but it seemed to work.  I recorded over a period of two years; there were four sessions to each produce fifteen minutes of recorded music, so around one day’s recording to produce fifteen minutes of music.  In the end I made a one hour CD.  It was slightly frustrating getting to the end of a piece sometimes and perhaps making one mistake at that point. But overall I loved spending the whole day in the hall by myself, I think pianists in particular love to be by themselves. In some ways you have to love to be alone as a pre-requisite of becoming a pianist.  Unlike other instruments that rehearse with an accompanist, concert pianists rehearse completely alone, you achieve a particular focus and state of mind from being alone and just focussing on the music; in the world it’s just you, the composer, the instrument and the music, there are no distractions.  I think it’s a lovely state of mind to be I liked to see the result, to know that so much work over two years was such a good feeling.  The project was to learn and record a great deal of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words.  I fell in love with him a few years ago.  I did the recording without an assistant so I had these practical considerations; I had to switch the equipment on then run to the piano, then switch it off again after playing, organise all of that, plus sorting out the pages so there wouldn’t be any page turns.  I had to make notes, so I was writing a lot during the sessions to keep track of what I’d recorded, keeping a note of all the pieces as I recorded them, and then there was a lot of switching on and off of buttons, these were practical difficulties.  I did the whole thing alone, I chose the final recordings myself, I made all the decisions myself and I’m very happy with how it turned out." (Mikael Pettersson)

Mendelssohn's Lieder ohne Worte recorded by Mikael Pettersson is available via 

Monday, 5 March 2012


"I am just about to go on tour with the Goldberg Variations to Singapore and Australia.  It takes 80 minutes to play the full version.  I was at Dartington Summer School in 1982 to take part in Andras Schiff's masterclass at his concert at the beginning of the week and it totally changed my world, it was one of those experiences that had a profound effect on me. And after the concert I came out and looked at the trees and the lawn outside the concert hall and they all looked different, everything was different, and it was as though I was hearing the sirens singing to me that I had to learn this piece.  It took me some years to learn it because I was doing other things as well, it’s a feat of memory because it’s one of those pieces that you have to be completely obsessed with it; you have to devote countless hours to it.  There’s a single mindedness, it’s a question of the amount of practice time you have to devote to it.  It’s not a question of memory, that’s just like a computer file that you open up!  It’s a question of focus, of not being distracted too much.  I have a full teaching load but I’m really trying to give as much as possible, it would certainly be four or five hours a day seven days a week at the moment.  When I’m on tour, on concert days it’s very gentle.  I don’t do anything else except a little practice in the morning, then I go for a walk in the afternoon then I rest until the evening.  If the music isn’t ready by the day, there’s nothing much you can do on the day to make a difference. The best pianos I’ve ever played have inspired me...brought out the best in me.  If I’ve got a particularly wonderful piano it brings out an almost like a magical quality that you can’t account for.  I don’t play an encore after the Goldberg Variations, even though people ask for one.   I think this music really doesn’t need anything else with it." (Graham Fitch)  

Connect with Graham at his blog


                                    Peter Frankl, Hong Kong 1978, by Diane Gorvin


“It was over thirty years ago, I was at art college and we were given a project to design a relief sculpture for a bank and I thought I’d  base it on the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra as I’d get lots of drawing practice and I could make something interesting based on them.  I was attending many of their rehearsals and sometimes they’d have a concert pianist there. The soloists were always the most interesting and exciting people to draw and inevitably I ended up drawing a few pianists during these rehearsals.  When someone is a soloist they have such a passion for the music that they move in an intense and interesting way, it’s very hard to capture.  I like the challenge of it.  Drawing a pianist is very difficult.  The piano is such a complex, architectural form that it’s very difficult to draw so if I knew I was going to be around a lot, then I could invest a lot of time in drawing the actual instrument.  I went on tour with the orchestra to Hong Kong and Peter Frankl was in that series of concerts and I was with them for the whole three weeks.  I think that my Peter Frankl work was the best of series of drawings that I did for this project because I had time to invest in drawing the piano and then I could set him against the piano, and try to capture his stance and movement.  It’s such a big instrument that it makes drawing it very difficult, so if I was only going to be there for an hour or so, I would concentrate on the artist and put just a few lines in for the keyboard because it’s fascinating to see just how much people move when they play the piano.  When I was drawing the orchestra I didn’t talk to the soloists, I was young and lucky to be given the chance to draw - they were famous and there to rehearse their music.  I was given a lot of freedom to sit where I liked. I was drawing Peter in the concert hall, I was sitting in the front row, it was during a rehearsal.  This work was sold to a collector in Canada in an auction to raise money for Motor Neuron Disease, my friend Amy Doolittle who was a flautist and musician, was dying and her family and friends had an auction to help her.  Peter Frankl was great, he signed the work that I sent him before it was auctioned, and he posted it on to Canada, he e-mailed kind words that I  also forwarded to Amy - it meant a lot to her that so many cared, and helped.” (Diane Gorvin)  Phil Bews and Diane Gorvin are a partnership that makes sculpture for the public realm, collaborating on a wide range of public art projects, internationally and throughout the UK. Experienced in liaising with architects, landscape architects, structural engineers and fabricators, they have designed, made and installed over a hundred site specific, sculptural works in a wide variety of environments in both urban and rural contexts, many were commissioned from 'percent for art' policies.