Category Archives: Piano

candid camera

Would like to see a hidden camera on composers offered a lot of money to score with ridiculous directions.

We have $18,000 in the budget can you make it sound like a pomegranate or like you are riding on the subway wearing a turtle neck? Can you play anything like that?

I bet they all say yes for sure I can, done it many times. (And I bet that’s true).

the yellers

People sometimes don’t speak English well and certain people think the way to respond to that is to speak English back louder! Even more distressing when the fluent English speaker displays that behaviour in foreign countries.
Couldn’t understand time signatures when a teenager, nobody explained it efficiently despite my ability to play fast or complex. Could imitate what I put my mind to. Other kids already musically trained tried giving me the low down on time signatures. They heard whatever rhythm I played tried to explain it, they would start with 1/4 notes – what the hell they were talking about? Boom I was lost.
What does it mean to say a note is a 1/4 note? Isn’t it an entire note? Shouldn’t that be a whole note? Didn’t we just play it? Why then call it a 1/4 note? They would say there were four 1/4 notes. What does that mean? Exactly where are these four 1/4 notes and why aren’t they 100% a note never mind being 25% of a note.
Once I got to music school the idea was explained again. Finally understood; like given the key to a sports car. They meant how many beats repeat and you could even manipulate that. Pow – I was in 5, 7, 3, 9 or 4. I wrote a song later called Bhopal trying to play a blues form in 5 just because now it was possible to imagine time signatures. Made a new song from the rhythm of Train in Vain by the Clash because I loved that rhythm now could manipulate it. Pow pow pow.
Teachers have to love trying to find a way in to the mind of the student, have to have the humility to reconsider how they themselves talk about things that is if they get something special out of teaching. Otherwise they should stick to tried and true methods of yelling meaningless equations.


One day as a teen put paper over the piano strings, sounded awesome. Couple seconds later mother freaked demanded it stops, piano will be wrecked. After that if parents went out of town it meant new chance to stick things between the strings. Many subsequent concerts with string alterations to imaginary audiences gathered on the living room couch. Bowing at the end. Beautiful shock arriving at Toronto music school discovering history of people preparing/ altering instruments. One night accidentally heard live album of Cecil Taylor. Applause at the end. Started to tremble like all your life knowing French but never did an actual person dit bonjour. There was a place found improvising. Made more special with lights turned out. Simply to make it all up. All I’ve ever wanted to achieve. Developing a way to locate that space where one returns to creating music that’s unplanned and tries to sustain the unknown. Where the more easily it can be repeated the less useful it is. That’s still the target, doesn’t matter now if the lights are on.