Back from hiatus

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus, very busy with other things, including writing two articles on Cage. One is a short piece for the Portuguese-English journal Cine qua non.  The title is “Five statements on silence by John Cage:  Questions, hypotheses, second thoughts”. It deals with Silent prayer, the string quartet, the experience in the anechoic chamber, 4′ 33″, and 0′ 00″.  The other article is a longer essay about Cage’s spiritual journey, titled “John Cage’s journey into silence”.  This will be published by Ashgate Publishing as part of the collection Contemporary music and spirituality.  I’ve been travelling, too:  my annual two-week retreat and a vacation in Italy.

And, of course, I’ve been playing the piano. I’m still playing For Bunita Marcus, and will blog again about that soon.  I’ve been trying to keep up some of the repertoire I’ve learned lately by playing everything  every few weeks, although some things fall out of the rotation and get rusty. And, without necessarily intending to, I’ve picked up some new pieces.  Sometimes it was just things that were lying around, or things that I heard and got the urge to play myself.  These include:

  • A couple of Poulenc pieces:  the first Nocturne (C major) and the third Novelette (e minor).  Years ago, when I was planning my undergraduate senior recital, I contemplated doing a set of Poulenc pieces to open the show.  I listened to a bunch of works and settled on three or four that I thought made a nice grouping.  That memory came to mind a few months ago and I sought out Poulenc piano music again.  The Nocturne and Novelette were in that grouping, and I remembered them as my favorites in the bunch. I got the scores and have been playing them a lot lately.  One thing I was a bit surprised by is how unidiomatic the piano writing is.  So many things are awkward and do not fall easily under the hand.  But they are beautiful, especially the dark and dramatic Novelette.
  • A couple more of the Rachmaninoff Preludes.  I learned the Op. 23, No. 4 (D major) some time back, did a video of it, and blogged about it here.  I got curious about other preludes in the set and listened to them again one evening while I was cooking dinner.  This led me to two other pieces in the Op. 23:  No. 10 (G-flat major) and, just recently, No. 6 (E-flat major). And just the other day I tried playing through the “alla marcia” No. 5 (g minor), which I played as a teenager. I think that I’ll revive that one, too.

With the coming of spring, I’m going to try to get back to more focused practicing and with that more blogging about it.  I need to finish my series on Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus, for one thing.  But as I am playing more of this other literature, I find myself wanting to blog more about that, especially as I think about the intersection of my inner life and piano playing. With the page-by-page descriptions of For Bunita Marcus, it’s gotten very technical in here, and I feel the need to ease up on that a bit.  As different as they are from the Feldman, those Rachmaninoff preludes have been making me think about “the piano in my life”; expect an appearance from them here shortly.

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