What Technology Wants

what-technology-wantsA couple of years ago, Robert Krulwich, one of the affable, avuncular hosts of WNYC’s Radiolab, interviewed a very leading-edge guy named Kevin Kelly and another writer, Steven Johnson – also very interesting but it’s Mr. Kelly I’ll focus on here. Kevin Kelly can include in his resumé that he was an editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and is the founding executive director of Wired magazine. I thought I should listen.

In his book (which I’m just now reading)  What Technology WantsMr. Kelly proposes that the ” . . . global, massively interconnected system of technology vibrating around us . . . has some degree of autonomy. “ To my great relief he names this agitated entity The Technium and not The Matrix.  And he tempers the notion by saying, “I don’t believe the technium is conscious (at this point).” OK, the tempering is tagged with foreboding but let’s not go there right now, Mr.  Anderson. He fleshes this out with the idea that technology has “ . . . needs, a compulsion toward something . . . The technium wants what we design it to want and what we try to direct it to do.” More provocation . . . Continue reading


musicophiliaI’ve been an avid reader of Oliver Sacks books since 1985 when I encountered The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. Mr. Sacks projects his subjects’ maladies through the prism of his own brilliant and inventive mind to reveal modes of perception and being that we wouldn’t otherwise imagine. While he puzzles through the neurology and physiology, parsing the mechanics of synesthesia or color blindness, he glimpses what it might be like to be that person and he communicates that brilliantly to us.

I had an experience many years ago when I was playing the piano for a group of residents at a nursing home. Right next to the piano there was a woman in a wheelchair with her head stretched back and her whole body tensed in muscular spasm. She couldn’t speak but she made noises that seemed to me to be attempts to speak. I started playing Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” Continue reading

Finale 2012, A Trailblazer Guide™

F2012TBG coverMark Johnson’s Finale 2012,  A Trailblazer Guide (as with the 2010 and 2011 editions) is the resource I recommend to Finale users who are looking for a clearly-written, accesible approach to the program. If you want a Finale desk reference, this is the one to buy. Kudos, also, to Kami Johnson, who edited the manual for technical accuracy. I hope this terrific team continues to produce these excellent guides for future versions of Finale!

An iPad at the Ordway

My piano student Lisa and I attended a Schubert Club concert at the Ordway in January featuring cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan. The concert was a delight on every level. Weilerstein brought well-deserved star status but the performance was not a soloist + accompanist affair; it was a true partnership and a great evening of music making.

There was another ‘player’ on the stage that evening, an iPad in place of the music desk; a silent partner which, by being nearly invisible, avoided the usual page-turning sideshow. From our perch facing straight on in the upper balcony we couldn’t see the iPad at first and we questioned the wisdom of playing such a demanding duo program without music. But then I saw it and thought, “Well, there you have it, the iPad has arrived!” Continue reading

The Secret Life of Musical Notation

the-secret-life-of-music-notationAnother book that will open your eyes, ears and mind is Roberto Poli’s The Secret Life of Musical Notation, Defying Interpretive Traditions (Amadeus Press—an imprint of Hal Leonard). This remarkable book debunks, uncovers, corrects and illuminates. For pianists, especially, it’s revelatory.

From the back cover:
Every student learns conventions of musical notation that are generally taken for granted—for example, that an expanding hairpin indicates an increase in volume, or that a sforzando is a sharp accent. But can we be sure that such instructions meant the same in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they do now?

We can’t be sure and, furthermore, there’s solid evidence that Inigo Montoya’s corrective to Vizzini can apply to some of our current use of musical symbols and words:

“You keep saying that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

The book also refers to online recorded examples of the musical illustrations wherein you’ll also discover that Poli is a very accomplished pianist.

Behind Bars

behind-barsElaine Gould’s Behind Bars, The Definitive Guide to Music Notation is exactly what its title describes. It’s quickly become the indispensible reference for anyone who does music notation. The book speaks for itself and the reviews have been stocked with superlatives.

The title and book cover links will take you to Amazon’s site. Music students will be interested in knowing that if you buy directly from Faber Music you may qualify for a discount that’s not offered through third-party sellers. Depending on your location, that savings may be swallowed by shipping costs but it’s definitely worth investigating. Links to the discount forms are at the very bottom of Faber’s page.