Music past

This evening I’ve been exploring music past. I wanted to hear the music I knew in the 60s and 70s. Someone put up a list of top Australian hits in 1974 and I looked at it and realised that it’s quite different to the music generally associated with that year. We hear about music from the USA, you see, and from the UK.

I listened to some of the tunes on that list first, but one of the top ten struck me as getting my mood exactly right when it was first released: Helen Reddy’s “Leave Me Alone” was perfect for a proto-teenager.

I moved onto orchestral music. When I was in primary school and early high school, we went to Melbourne Town Hall and were taught to understand orchestral music. In primary school we were taught the instruments of the orchestra, how the orchestra worked, Peter and the Wolf, Tchaikovsky (The Nutcracker, mainly), Beethoven and… that’s all I remember. I watched a Bernstein recording and he taught children very different stuff. More the stuff I discovered when I was a teenager. As a teenager I fell in love with Schubert, played in a regional orchestra and the school orchestra (second violin in one, first in the other), and I went to concerts every fortnight. I came from a musical family and went to a standard state school… which happened to have free music education. I once did a lot of music, and the Bernstein brought the formal education aspect flooding back. My top moment of music learning was when Felix Werder taught me to care for Mahler and when my father’s first cousin taught me how to listen. Linda was a composer and a music judge and a critic, and her random remarks taught me so much. Since that moment, everything has gone downhill… but… my evening of music didn’t stop with memories of Mahler and Linda. I was very privileged musically in my childhood, not so much as an adult.

I sang, of course, some songs I learned from Alfred Deller and also the King’s Singers. They were my personal favourite musicians when I was a teen, and both really annoyed my family. Everyone else was singing ABBA and the bay City Rollers and I was listening to a counter-tenor who sang folk songs. I was informed by my family how very bad my singing is

Then moved to my final music for the evening. I’m writing to it now. Tom Lehrer. This sentence is being typed to the rhythm of The Vienna Schnitzel Waltz. The final note of the night was either going to be Lehrer or Flanders and Swann. The news makes me sarcastic right now, so of course it’s Lehrer.

And now, of course, I’m very curious about the music of your childhoods. Of course I am.

What Deborah’s Playing on the Piano

Saturday afternoon, I attended a lovely Hallowe’en student concert at Cabrillo College. Audience was masked, performers masked or PCR tested. So great to hear live music again! One of the pieces was a synthesizer adaptation of Satie’s first Gnossienne, which I’m working on. (It was very weird. Very weird on steroids.) That reminded me it’s been a while since I posted what I’m working on now. For those new to this journey, I’m an adult piano student who began piano lessons 15 years ago, my first ever formal instruction. I’m a grown-up, or so the theory goes, so I get to play what I want.


  • Satie. Gnossienne #1. It’s a hoot. One measure that goes on for pages, with directions like “Postulez en vous-même” (wonder about yourself). Lots of repetition of the motifs with subtle differences of expression.
  • Gillock. “Silent Snow” from Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style. Gillock was primarily a teacher. These short pieces are beautiful and fun to play as they challenge technique. The one I just started requires exquisite control of dynamics and pedaling. Gillock’s pieces are a great prep for composers like Debussy and Satie.
  • A couple of Schubert waltzes. They’re like “bon-bons” or Chopin Lite.
  • “Warg Scouts” from Howard Shore’s music for The Hobbit. The dwarves are running for their lives, Radagast is trying to lure the orcs on their wargs away, and Gandalf is scheming to get his part to Rivendell. Pounding rhythm. Am I nuts? When I looked at the piece, I went, “Ack!! I can’t possibly!!!” So I’m tackling it slowly with the metronome under my teacher’s guidance. Might take a couple of years to get it up to tempo (quarter note = 180, agitated) but it will do wonders for my technique. And be soooo much fun!
  • Bach Invention 14. If I skip a day, it falls apart. Otherwise, I’m focusing on the way the motif bounces back from one hand to the other, detached notes in one hand but legato in the other.
  • Debussy. “Claire de Lune.” Be still, my heart. I’m about a page away from playing it straight through and then we get to work on dynamics, speed, and expression.
When I have time, I work on my past repertoire. Current favorites are “May It Be” (Enya), Debussy’s “La Fille aux Cheveux de Lin,” Satie’s 1st and 3rd Gymnopédies, a transcription of Ashokan Farewell, and a bunch of music from LotR.