02138, our zip code, is a cipher for what great composer and organist/harpsichordist?

“You know what I mean,” said the student defending Velveeta as the composer of The Seasons--his answer on a listening quiz. My colleague, Nicholas Tawa, suggested I counter with: Mozzarella, yes. Velveeta, never.

Teddy lived across the street. For some time, he had been observing children coming to my apartment for piano lessons. When he got a little older, 8 years of age, he asked if he could come over for a lesson. After a thunderous round of experimentation all over the keyboard, I thought of a good opening question to ask him: “Which way is up and which way is down on the piano?” He thought for awhile and answered, “The black keys are up and the white are down.”

When I entered Ivan Tcherepnin's apartment and saw John Cage across the living room I excitedly called out his name. Cage said, “Shhh. Don't tell a soul.”

I would see Professor John Huggler on his way from class, I, on my way to class. One day I asked him if he could quickly tell me the difference between classical music and jazz that could help me with my upcoming discussion in an introductory music course. His reponse was not only quick but accurate, insightful. “In classical music the performer strives for a standard or ideal sound, whereas the jazz musician aims to create his or her own individual voice.”

What abbreviated word beginning with capital P and appearing under the lower staff of many piano pieces resembles a dog?

My five-minute piano lesson with Luise Vosgerchian,Walter W. Naumburg Professor of Music, Emerita, Harvard University. Press a key down slowly to get a soft sound, quickly for a loud sound--for many years, I had been striking the key harder and harder.
What a difference her “physics” made! To play fast I should practice a piece at a slow tempo for three months. When playing at full speed for the first few times (maybe more), endurance should be the only serious physical challenge remaining. To play legato, you can use your fingers--no pedal, by momemtarily holding down both the key you are coming from and the key you are going to (overlapping the fingers, so to speak). Practicing became efficient and more fun since I knew what I was doing with my fingers.

During a music lesson, a five-year old student looked up at me and exclaimed, “Your eyes are green. Mine are blue which is the color of the sky which is everywhere!”

“Monsieur Messiaen” I asked? As if checking to make sure that he was Olivier Messiaen, himself, he replied cheerfully with increasing certainty and widening smile, “Oui, c’est moi !” After introducing myself, he asked what I was doing in Paris. When I told him I had just begun studying with Mlle. Nadia Boulanger he asked, “With that old bag? Is she still alive?”

Arriving late one afternoon to my lesson with Nadia Boulanger at her apartment on the rue Ballou, now rue Lili Boulanger, I was asked to give a reason for not being on time. Speaking truthfully, I told Mademoiselle that Messiaen's analysis class had run late. “You are studying with that old man?”she retorted. “You know, he is not a very nice man.” Sitting at the piano, which is where she always sat during my lessons, Mademoiselle played a progression of ninth chords the way Maurice Ravel beautifully voiced them in his music. Upon repeating the same progression this time with the palms of her hands coming down on the keys so as to produce clusters of sound, she uttered, “And that’s how Messiaen writes his music.”

Dr. Lincoln Spiess again took his place behind the old grand piano to present another lecture to music history students at Washington University, St. Louis. This time he began in an unusually loud voice, “Dammit (pause and decrescendo), William, that is, was an English composer who lived in the Renaissance.”

Thinking about copyright matters in a piece I'd completed, I had a chat with my godson, Stefan Tcherepnin. “I've just written a piece called ‘Cheap Shot’ that's made out of bits and pieces of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite and ends with a passage from the 1812 Overture. Through these notes one can hear, quite clearly, ‘Happy Birthday.’ Wouldn't that be a copyright question, since the birthday piece was written in the ’30s by the two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill?” Stefan smiled and said, “No--Well, wouldn't that be a matter for Tchaikovsky to take up?”


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