Andrew Eales: an interview

Interview by Frances Wilson

This interview includes material that originally appeared on Frances Wilson’s site The Cross-Eyed Pianist, and is reproduced here with her kind permission.

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Year of the Fire Rooster

Around this time last year I wrote a post welcoming the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Fire Monkey, in which I considered what might lie ahead according to the Daoist Astrological traditions of ancient China.

It proved to be prescient in many ways – and also ended up being one of the most popular posts of the whole year! For a general introduction to Chinese astrology before reading on, it is worth looking back.

Continue reading Year of the Fire Rooster

An Interview with Koen Janssen

Regular readers will know that for several years I have been sharing my recordings on the SoundCloud website, as well as enjoying the music that others share there.

10859623_10205637512122610_416762303_nOne musician whose tracks have regularly impressed me is young Belgian composer Koen Janssen. Like many whose music I admire on SoundCloud, Koen does not come from a traditional background in music education – following piano lessons as a child he has largely taught himself, and his musical adventures have included stints as a DJ and playing in bands.

Having returned to more classical roots, his first EP of epic soundtrack and piano music is now available on iTunes. I was delighted to have a chance to discuss his musical journey with him …

As you read on, enjoy listening to this example of Koen’s music, ’Touch’:

Continue reading An Interview with Koen Janssen

Morning Sickness & Mahler

Why are there some composers that we just don’t really like?

That’s a question that has reappeared in my thinking at regular intervals since I read a blog post on Norman Lebrecht’s site Slipped Disc way back in 2014 entitled 10 Works of Composers you never want to hear again. 

All this time later, the comments section of that post is still receiving periodic additions as more music lovers choose to name and shame the music that particularly irritates them.

A Facebook group for classical music lovers has recently had popular threads asking such questions as:

  • Which is your least favorite, most cringe evoking piece of classical music?
  • Name your three least favorite composers.
  • Which instrument most offends your ears?????

Continue reading Morning Sickness & Mahler

How to Warm your Hands

Piano Qigong Exercises

Here’s a short video in which I explain and show you how to warm your fingers using a simple, gentle qigong massage technique:

Explore Piano Qigong:

“The Lunar Tao”

Regular readers will have seen that I sometimes quote from the contemporary Daoist (Taoist) author Deng Ming-Dao, and as we rapidly approach the Chinese New Year it gives me pleasure to recommend his most recent book “The Lunar Tao”, published by Harper-Collins in 2013.

According to the publishers:

“The lunar calendar is a main pillar of Chinese culture, encompassing many stories and festivals. Deng Ming-Dao looks to the lunar calendar and highlights where these festivals and stories coincide with Taoism, giving readers a renewed and original way into this ancient philosophy.

Each day of the lunar year is represented with a reading meditation, original translations, illustrations and illuminating facts about festivals and traditions, providing readers with the context that gives Taoism such depth and resonance.”

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Christian Hartmann: Two Pieces

Sheet Music ReviewNew Recording

Per Hartmann’s independent publishing house Edition HH have produced many fine scores, and brought into the spotlight some fine classical pieces which were unjustly overlooked elsewhere.

I have been uniformly impressed with the quality of Edition HH publications, such as Barbara Snow’s brilliant Animal Jazz which I reviewed last year, and many others (more reviews of Edition HH publications coming soon!)

In the meantime I was delighted to receive a small score containing two solo piano pieces composed by Per’s own father, Norwegian composer Christian Hartmann (1910-1985). Hartmann senior is apparently well known to Norwegian children for his song settings for Ole Brumm (Winnie-the-Pooh), as well as having success with his works for stage and screen.

According to Per:

“I thought it would be good to have something composed by him in our catalogue, so I decided upon these two short piano pieces, which I love to play myself.”

I was naturally touched by the affection of the publisher for his father, but as I sat down to play these pieces I was equally impressed by the charm of the pieces themselves. Finding no recordings of them elsewhere, I agreed with Per to record them myself, sharing them here, and on my SoundCloud page.

Continue reading Christian Hartmann: Two Pieces

Does piano playing make children ‘smarter’?

Responding to a new research study.

In recent years a succession of academic papers, blog posts and media articles have pushed the view that learning a musical instrument can have the knock-on effect of essentially making children “smarter”.

One line of thinking is that many of the skills fostered through learning to play and practising a musical instrument have “transfer benefits” in other areas of cognitive development and academic attainment.

However, that view is now challenged in a research paper by Giovanni Sala, a PhD candidate in cognitive psychology, and Fernand Gobet, Professor of Decision Making and Expertise, both at the University of Liverpool, and published in the Journal of the European Association for Research on Learning and Instruction (EARLI), February 2017.

One difficulty in responding to Sala & Gobet’s findings is that alongside their strongly evidenced research paper they have also written a short blog post with the eye-catching title,  No proof music lessons make children any smarter, which is aimed at the general reader, and is now being widely shared online via social media.

I am grateful to my friend Mark Polishook for sharing it, albeit with the disclaimer, “Don’t blame me – I’m only the messenger” – a sentiment I would very much like to echo in sharing this research here!

That said, there are just so many great reasons for learning to play a musical instrument that I’ve never felt the need for spurious ones – and if it turns out that the notion of “transfer benefits” is such, then I hardly think musicians and educators need to lose sleep over it. Better to know the truth – and to focus on genuine benefits when extolling the tremendous value of music education.

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Initiating Practice

Guest Post by Roberta Wolff

Download FREE Resources to motivate students to initiate their own practice sessions…

Here we are at the start of a New Year!  There is a general sense of buzz and purpose as we all set about getting back into our usual routines and perhaps starting new ones…

This post is about helping our students harness this enthusiasm and turn it into regular and habitual practising time which is entirely self-initiated! Parents will love this and will also benefit from this article.

The free resources below will help you start a studio wide practice challenge. To Download and save, simply click on these links:

  1. Initiating Practice – student chart
  2. Initiating Practice: Teacher chart (master-sheet)

Continue reading Initiating Practice