Tag Archives: piano

7 Things

The idea of “7 Things” is to write seven things that your readers may not know about you and then “tag” other bloggers to do the same. Unfortunately, I don’t know enough bloggers to do that, so if you read this and decide to participate, please let me know so I can pretend that I put you up to this. Here goes.

1. When I was in pre-school, I was convinced I was not a human being. The reason? We were read an environmental-themed book which showed “human beings destroying animals’ habitats”. Logic: human beings practise deforestation, I have never even thought about deforesting anything, ergo I am not a human being.

2. In the past week, I have been eaten by lift doors over a dozen times and almost lost my manhood to a scaffolding pole at a church clean-up

3. Russians don’t have middle names but rather patronymics so my full name is Alexander Petrovich Sheko (which is to say, “Alexander Sheko, son of Peter”). However, when I was young, I decided to rebel against the patriarchal system (you’re welcome, ladies) and called myself AlexanderTatianovich (Alexander, son of Tania).

4. At the age of three (or so), I had nightmares about a dragon chasing me around the backyard. Not just any dragon: the St George dragon. And I don’t mean the generic ectothermic creature of legend, but the dragon on the St George Bank logo. (Ironic twist: Last year I briefly worked for a sales company representing St George Bank)

5. I sing bass but because I have never had proper singing training, my range depends on the temperature, time of day and how long I have been singing. Usually the lowest note I can reach is D below the stave but it can go up to F if I’ve strained my voice. I once sang an A below the stave.

6. My parents made me learn the piano. At various points in time, I despised it and hated them for not letting me quit. I now have an Associate Diploma in piano, am being paid to play for a school musical (Cabaret) and enjoy playing every single day. I consider it a great blessing and one of the most rewarding aspects of my life.

7. A fundamental element of Russian culture is forcing children who have barely learned to speak to commit to memory large portions of poetry and recite them in front of large groups of people. At some point in my childhood, it was decided that it would be a good for my education (despite the fact I spoke very little Russian) for me to participate in this cultural treat and I learned some verses of a poem to recite at the annual Russian Culture Day. Unfortunately, I was sent on stage with a girl (half my age and height) who recited her poetry first. It never occured to me to adjust the microphone stand and I could not understand why several dozen Russians were laughing raucously at my attempt to combine poetry recitation with limbo.

If you are reading this and have a blog, please give it a shot of your own (and tell me so I can have a read!). It’s good fun.

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Colours

ColoursAaah… my first non-reflective post. It’s good to return to blogging, having kept an eye on my stats during the period I wasn’t writing. Having had 40, 50 or more visits per day during the period in which I was initially writing (having stopped in late September/early October to focus on study), it was a bit disappointing to see the number of visits steadily decreasing as people realised there was nothing new.

But now I’m back and hope to turn all that around. Firstly, I’d like to promote some music I’ve recorded during the study period, a short concept album of sorts. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to embed the music player directly into the blog, but you can listen to (and download) these recordings at my Last.fm page. The idea of a colour-themed concept album (EP, really) came to me when my brother was studying musical general knowledge for his violin exam and was learning about Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, a Russian composer of the Romantic era who had colour synesthesia, a condition which caused him to “experience” colours when hearing music played in certain keys.

I casually remarked to my mother that I associated certain colours with various keys and we soon realised that though I did not have synesthesia (I did not vividly “feel” the colours), some of my colour associations were the same as Rimsky-Korsakov’s. This gave me the idea to play with some musical ideas and record a set of improvisations in keys with which I associated colours, using colour-related ideas.

Red is in D minor, a key which I associate with the colour red and contains a lot of arpeggi and sequence passages, which sort of made me think of some exotic or ornate object, returning to loud and powerful tonal notes in the bass. Yellow is in triple time and meant to sound a bit Eastern European in its chord structure, which made me think of old Russian cartoons and storybooks with a big yellow sun. I also associated yellow with A minor. The image underlying Green (G minor) was one of a forest, and so I worked in some (admittedly simple) cross-rhythms to give the sensation of the complexity of the forest, of the trees in three dimensions, randomly scattered. Blue (E minor) is an ocean, with a lapping, repetitve bass line; the waves rising and falling with cresendo and diminuendo. Finally, White is in C major, more conventional and ballad-y with a recurring tonic note in the higher registers. When I was playing around with the ideas on my upright, the image was one of ice and its cold purity, especially through the harmonics that it caused; but unfortunately these were lost when I recorded it on my electronic piano.

I wanted to record a collection of pieces that meant something to me as a whole, unified by the concept and I found this difficult to do as music without words is quite an abstract medium. So I chose the theme of colour to unify the tracks, and the structure of the album as a whole is sort of like a tierce de Picardie, being in minor but ending in major.

The quality of the playing is far from perfect as these were essentially improvisations, but the actual recording quality turned out all right considering I connected an electric piano directly to the microphone plug of my laptop computer and recorded in Audacity without editing the sound (mainly because I don’t know how to). I would be very grateful for any feedback and hope you enjoy listening to the music (it’s available for free download). Hopefully, it’s something I will be doing more of in the future.

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Siren

Easily my favourite Roxy Music album, Siren contains so many fantastic songs. There are other albums that I love to bits yet are not so consistent. Yet with Siren, all but very few songs are excellent. With the possible exception of End of the Line, I never skip its songs if they come up on Shuffle.

Although, being a member of the iTunes generation, I rarely listen to albums straight and always play tracks on Shuffle from a large (1000 tracks or more) playlist, I really enjoy listening to Siren straight. Take Shuffle off, play Love is the Drug and don’t stop until Just Another High (well, unless there’s something really pressing!). The album just works so well as a coherent and continuing whole (although I am often tempted to repeat tracks).

Definitely my favourite song on the album would be She Sells. There are not many songs that I know of that grab the listener in the first picosecond and actually continue into a song (rather than a jingle). For me, the piano intro is just the best thing there is and the short bursts of syncopation in the verse is powerfully driving. The double-time towards the end also works, although the fade-out at the end of the song is a tad unsatisfying considering its powerful beginning.

The next favourite is Sentimental Fool, which begins a bit like something by The Mars Volta. A lengthy (about two and a half minutes!) introduction leads into silky smooth, almost dreamy vocals. The middle of the song is nice but nothing fantastic; however, the last bit (from spooky piano bit on) is hypnotic, mesmerizing. The ending is a bit of a suprise and terminates while you’re waiting for a bit more. But hey! That’s what the next song, Whirlwind is for (provided you are listening to the album– one of the main reasons this is more satisfying than Shuffle).

I could go on about every song, but I’d rather not, because then I’d never get to sleep (and only a masochist would read it all anyway). Readers please note just because I haven’t detailed each song on the album, it doesn’t mean they’re not as good. I just don’t feel I could say as much about them. It suffices to say that Siren is a very good album (have I said that before?). In short, Bryan Ferry‘s voice and music is fantastic, all the songs on the album are favourites of mine (apart from End of the Line, which I consider nothing special)– they are both interesting musically and have a good feel. I think that’s important; because you can have music that is “interesting” from a theoretical viewpoint, but they don’t “feel good”. Ferry hits the note (literally and figuratively) with the songs on Siren. 5 Stars.

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