Category Archives: Piano
Wallingford was dangerous
Date: Mon, 15 Oct 2001 14:25:04 -0400 (EDT)
From: Richard Handal
Subject: Wallingford was dangerous
I’m starting to feel like an idiot when I talk about the concerts on this tour. I mean, I’ve seen lots of amazing shows since 1994, and as for public comments, I have always tended to discuss the better shows and to remain quiet about a concert unless it was either pretty damn good, or there was something special to mention. So, maybe I never left adequate room to describe shows that might achieve heights no show has before.
Such is my current dilemma. This Wallingford concert was so far off the scale of any show I have ever seen that there is no possible way to not sound like a flaming lunatic when discussing it. I know it wasn’t just my own distorted view of things, though. To a person—including friends who’ve seen twenty- or thirty-some concerts and one who, as myself, has seen a hundred-some—EVERYONE I saw afterwards was astonished at the sheer force of power and deep emotional expression of this concert. Folks were absolutely flipping out. There’s nothing like the high of seeing a show where she has just hit one out of the park into the next county, and looking at the faces of friends as their jaws are dragging the ground in amazement.
’97 Bonnie & Clyde was delivered with the most concentration of intensity of any night on this tour. Past the Mission began with huge, crashing chords on the lower register of the Boesey which were answered with supple, organlike tones from the Rhodes.
Then it was time for the first appearance on this tour of Sugar. This was not the lovely, soaring version of Sugar from the Dew Drop Inn Tour. This was essentially a piano reduction of the band arrangement from the ’98 and ’99 tours—sledgehammer powerful still with “just” the piano and her muscular chest voice. Wow. How fantastic it’s been when the old favorites have shown up on this tour for the first time! The (for me) long-awaited appearance last week of Little Earthquakes was a real breath-taking moment for me.
By the time she was into Doughnut Song with its increasingly strong repeats of “you can tell me it’s over,” I was shaking in my seat.
At this point I want to mention that this show had one of the necessary ingredients for an astonishingly good show—a great audience. Folks were darned quiet during the songs but explosively enthusiastic after they ended. Without this there’s no way she can do a truly top notch concert.
My notes for Mother say “tons of rubato but it still seemed natural, appropriate, and enhanced the expression.” I see I also noted how wonderful it was the way she had such wide-ranging dynamics, such as when she whispered “he’s gonna change my name” during this Mother.
If I’m ever gonna finish writing this I best skip to Imagine. She had supposedly told someone in New York that she would play it there, and of course last Tuesday was the anniversary of John Lennon’s birth so why she skipped it there and brought it out in Wallingford I don’t know, but the effect was staggering. She prefaced it by saying something like “If you could help me sing this it would be good.” Perhaps eighty to a hundred folks streamed down to the stage area and formed a warm cocoon for the performance of what HAD to have been THE most overwhelmingly emotional version of this song—ever. I know this sounds like bloated hyperbole but I’m not kidding. Remarkable. She also slipped in a change once to make the line into “a brotherhood of man—and woman.”
The first version on this tour of Mary and then Twinkle, and we were done.
The brother of a friend of mine had a ticket to this show but didn’t attend because the last several shows had already taken their toll and he didn’t think he could take anymore. He made a wise decision to skip this show, because surely, it would have at least put him into the hospital. So, if you’re feeling none too stable these days and have tickets for a show yet to come, steel yourself before you go with a barrel-full of resolve at the very least. Yikes. I’m not even sure how much more of this I can take and I ought to be used to this by now.
Be seeing you,
Where Would Music Be Without Tori Amos?
Amos pushed the envelope for musical innovation and confessional lyrics. Why didn’t we notice?
posted on March 12, 2014 at 3:56pm EDT
Sady Doyle, BuzzFeed Contributor
A long overdue encomium. Much thanks to Ms. Doyle. There’s just one bone I want to pick.
I have no idea why people ever believed Tori was copying Kate Bush. She has strongly denied it.
When I was seventeen years old — which was, I’m 30 now — um, people started coming up to me while I was playing in the clubs and saying to me, “God, you sound like Kate Bush.” And I would say, “Well, who’s Kate Bush?” So this happened for about, I don’t know, a few months. And I finally heard her work, and I didn’t think I sounded exactly like her. I felt like there were moments, but stylistically and the writing-wise things were very different. Um, I think she’s incredible and she gave a lot to music. She was quite a front-runner. But I try not to study her work too much, just because I was already getting compared to her um, thirteen years ago.
Some people genuinely believe Tori was lying as if she were trying to avoid admitting “the truth.” That’s astonishing.
Tori Amos grew up super close to where I lived, going to junior high school eight blocks from me in Silver Spring. I knew and even played music with some of her musician friends. If Kate Bush was known to anybody I was friends with before Tori turned 17, she certainly wasn’t a favorite musician of any of them. Kate Bush was not an artist who sold a ton of records where Tori and I lived in the 1970s. Tori would have likely needed to listen to WGTB or WHFS to have heard her on the radio in the ’70s. GTB was a rogue experimental station with a weak FM broadcast signal out of Georgetown (which might explain the comments of bar-goers when Tori played in Georgetown clubs). Its tag line was “WGTB: One nation, underground.” Tori certainly wasn’t listening to that station, especially in Rockville and Potomac. She probably heard HFS from time to time, but it’s difficult for me to imagine her living on their musical diet as presented by Cerphe and Weasel. I did listen to HFS constantly for years, and if I ever heard Kate Bush on there, she certainly was not played with great repetition.
No one has ever explained to me why Tori Amos would want to copy Kate Bush’s music. Tori Amos is a serious, trained musician. No serious, trained musician has any interest whatsoever in copying the music or sound of anyone else, unless overtly as a rare and/or amusing nod of respect. In the early days of learning one’s instrument one often plays to recordings and tries to match them note for note, but it isn’t to copy them in public performance nor to copy the style of the artist as if it were one’s own. I’ve known a ton of musicians for more than 40 years, and none of them ever copied another musician hoping to “borrow” the style as their own. Further, Tori Amos began writing songs when she was quite young, and she considers herself a composer above all else. Composers steal from many musicians not just one. The only way such stealing from many artists can be avoided is to not have heard them in the first place. The only such composers I can think of off the top of my head are Harry Partch and Carla Bley, although Ms. Bley came to often write brief humorous references to well known compositions by others.
Casey Stratton sounds so much like Tori Amos he is effectively a tribute artist. That’s not what we’re talking about. No one ever accused Tori of sounding nearly identical to Kate Bush at every turn. At least if they have I’m unaware of it, and it’s preposterous.
Sometimes Tori has sung in a tiny girlish voice one could say reminded one of Kate Bush when she, too, would sing in a tiny girlish voice. What is one to say to that? How much effort must a musician invest to sound specifically unlike every other musician, simply to avoid risking an accusation she is trying to copy her? Seriously? People also live within categories of psychology, and no musician can reinvent the wheel every time she composes or performs—nor should she.
Did The Beatles not learn to sing harmony due in part to inspiration of the Everly Brothers? Did they not also “borrow” generously from others and succeed in forming their own style of creating and performing music?
There seems to be a psychological imperative among some listeners that they presume the first player with certain sounds is being copied by a second player the listener hears, if the second reminds them of the first. I wish those who feel this way would come to understand there’s a lot of aural illusion going on in such things.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Mozart
Jayson Dobney, Associate Curator and Administrator, Department of Musical Instruments
Posted: Monday, January 27, 2014
On January 27, 1756, the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. One of the many musical instrument treasures in the collection at the Museum is a pedal piano attributed to the workshop of Johann Schmidt of Salzburg, Mozart’s hometown. [ . . . ] Michael Tsalka plays an excerpt from W. A. Mozart’s Variations in F Major, K. 613 on this piano.
In defense of Lang Lang (sort of): Pianists and stage persona
By Evan Mitchell, 07 January 2014, photo © Philip Glaser
via Bachtrack, the largest classical event finder online
Every age has its own tastes, its own aesthetic lines drawn in the sand. Since the 19th century, with its seminal guardians of musical decorum (Clara Schumann chief among them), pianists and their critics have debated the role of stage persona. Most outspoken are those who believe that a quiet, undemonstrative approach to the instrument – à la Arthur Rubinstein – best reflects a serious commitment to earnest musicianship. The corollary is presumed true as well: that excessive body movement or facial expressions can cheapen an interpretation or betray a lack of real understanding. Pianist Lang Lang, often insensitively derided as “Bang Bang”, is held in this case to be Public Enemy Number One. Our current notion of good taste is less extreme, and concedes that a bit of visual display can be acceptable and even beneficial, so long as it is a natural byproduct of a performer’s interpretation. [ . . . ]
All this is surprising to some? The entire ecology of a concert affects the experience of it for everyone in the audience. It begins with anticipation building up to buying tickets when one hears a concert has been scheduled. People speaking near one or waving their lighted phones around during the concert certainly affect it. Some would argue a musical performer’s demeanor and physical embodiment of the music which emanates through them is of no consequence? Between robotic artifice and rock concert flash bombs lie endless forms of visible expression.