J.S. Bach Prelude in C Major,
WTC Book I
This Prelude and Prelude in the next recording serve as a fitting introduction to this series of recordings. Written some 16 years apart by Bach, they show him returning to the same compositional question – how to write a short piece for keyboard in C major that will open a series of Preludes and Fugues in all keys – with two different musical answers. The photographs in both cases are of manuscripts of the Preludes..
J.S. Bach Prelude in C Major,
WTC Book II
Here is another Prelude in C Major, but this time rather than the simple, repeating figure of the prelude in WTC I, we have a full, four-voice texture whose sustained lines could easily be played on an organ. The picture (somewhat blurred) is again of the manuscript. It’s always interesting to remember that these manuscripts were written with quill pens dipped in ink. Think of the deliberation and intentionality that must have come from this way of communicating musical thoughts to paper!
Lullaby for Litka
by Benjamin Krause
I commissioned this piece from composer Benjamin Krause to celebrate the birth of my grand daughter, Lisa Terese. The name “Litka” is my attempt at ‘polonzing’ (i.e. creating a Polish sounding nickname) the name Lisa Terese. It is very much a 21st century lullaby, inspired by those video cameras in a baby’s room that allow one to watch the child sleeping. It is amazing to observe the activity. You can see movement and vocalisations as the infant brain absorbs the new world it is living in. Benjamin has captured this in his enchanting composition.
Improvisation Set #1
The next three series of recordings capture improvisations I recorded in my studio during the virus quarantine. Each set contains three improvisations, and I gave titles to them after listening to them (not before!). The titles of the three improvisations in this set are:
Improvisation Set #2
Improvisation Set #3
Polish Folk Song: Kamień na kamieniu
In this set, only “Play” was titled after the fact (contrary to what I wrote previously.) “Birdsong” is my attempt to capture the marvelous richness of sounds I heard in the early days of quarantine when traffic noise subsided, and the spring birds filled the silence with their glorious voices. The last improvisation “Polish Folksong” is based on a tune taught to me by my Mother, who in turn learned it from her Father. Its Polish title is “Kamień na kamieniu” which can be translated as ‘Stone on a Stone”
The Space In between
This improvisation was created after a prolonged period of ‘zazen’ – sitting on the meditation cushion in lotus (or in my case half-lotus) position, and focusing on the breath. When practiced regularly, thoughts begin to grow farther and farther apart, hence the title “space in between.” The photo is of my meditation cushion.
I’m not sure if this piece can be called an improvisation, as it went through several stages in its creation. The original idea came from the fact that the keyboard hammers are currently being replaced, so there wasn’t sound available from the piano via the keys, but only on the inside, playing directly on the strings. So I used a series of rubber balls on the them to create the sounds. After capturing the sounds in a recording, I did further mixing and editing to create the piece. The photo shows calligraphy of a circle, a frequent symbol in Zen practice. It is often accompanied by the Japanese characters “Out of the one, the ten thousand things arise.”
A Garden Soundscape for Equinox
The sounds used in this piece were recorded in my garden during the Summer Solstice on June 20, 2020. They include a fountain, various chimes, and bells. The final gong-like sound comes from a copper fire pit, which has a beautiful, low tone when struck. The photo is of a ‘Gazing Ball’ a lawn ornament familiar to Mid-Westerners and a focal point in the garden.
by Franz Joseph Haydn
Here is a collection of six minuets by Haydn that I’ve excerpted from his keyboard Sonatas. Doing so highlights the simple beauty of the musical form, and draws attention to the lovely Trios – the middle section of each Minuet – which are hidden gems of musical expression. The last dance of the set is subtitled ‘Al Rovescio’ i.e. “In reverse.” Each section contains the same notes played backwards! The picture of a Baroque garden embodies the symmetry and elegance of the Minuet..
The Subtle Source
This piece was created at the end of a seven-day sesshin (Zen meditation retreat.) It was inspired by a line from the morning chants: The subtle source is clear and bright; The branching streams flow through the dark. The picture is a Sun Print titled “Branching Streams.”