Archive for Blog

New Mac

Over the last few days I went out and bought a new Mac. It is definitely speeding things up. My old one was really starting to limit what I could do. The episodes may be more frequent. I will hopefully be more active on the blog. I may try some other things as well.

I really appreciate how everyone is so patient.

Different Beats


One of the things I find interesting in music is how different beats have a different feel to them. I think there is a reason why a downbeat is called a downbeat. It should have a certain solidity to it.

I will sometimes hear a recording where the upbeats are slightly stronger than the downbeats. There doesn’t seem to be enough resolution.

On the other hand, I will hear recordings where the artist gets it just right. The music feels like it is resolving things all the way through.

Do you sometimes encounter this too?

Photo Credit: Chilling Soul

Starting Cello

I just thought I would mention something about the e-mails I receive about viewers starting cello. Over the last 2 years I’ve received quite a few. There is a wide range of people that start. Some are in in school and some are older adults. I get e-mails from parents asking for advice about their children. I also receive e-mails about restarting cello or some other instrument after taking some years away from it. I really enjoy getting these e-mails. They are very inspiring to me.

There are many questions that I get asked. I try to provide good information and links to resources. If you have a question you can leave a comment below or send e-mail.

Music on The Internet

There is one topic that I could probably write several blog posts about. It is the unique way something like Cello Journey makes use of the internet. I can mention six things right away.

1. Classical music sounds good recorded live. It does not require much mixing or mastering. This makes it ideal for video.

2. Classical music is abundant. There are several hundred pieces that one can play. There are cello pieces and also music for other instruments which can be transcribed. Much of classical music is in the public domain. A typical pop band has 1 to 3 hit songs. On Cello Journey the repertoire is pretty much unlimited.

3. The distribution of audio and video on the internet. With services like YouTube and iTunes, Cello Journey has been seen over 500,000 times. It can be viewed on computers, iPods, cell phones, Apple TVs, and other media players.

4. Anyone can subscribe to a video podcast like Cello Journey and receive episodes automatically.

5. There is feedback and conversation. It is great that everyone can respond either through comments, e-mails, suggestions, or even by writing on their own blogs.

6. With classical music it is possible to build a relationship with the audience over time. With each episode and each new piece the audience gets to know the musicians better. The musicians get to know the audience better.

Should I write more about this?

Mozart and Blogging

Was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a blogger?

Ok, obviously not.

But composers like Mozart did write many letters. In those days this was the usual way to communicate over distances. You can actually read some of them at Project Gutenberg. I just thought it was interesting how Mozart regularly wrote music and also wrote words.

One thing I found fun is how Mozart mentions how pleased he was when someone “recognized him right away.” These were the days before drivers licenses and television.

A Key Difference Between Pop and Classical

One of the things I have thought about is identifying a key difference between classical music and pop music. I know that the two genres generally sound very different. There is also a tremendous amount of variety in both genres. But I tried to pin down the one difference that holds true across almost all pop songs and almost all classical music pieces.

There seem to be some obvious answers such as a steady tempo. But there are many classical pieces with a steady tempo. You might say that it is the instrumentation. But there are pop songs for voice and piano. You might say complexity. But there are complex pop songs and classical music pieces with very simple melodies and textures. The differences I’ve mentioned so far seem to have all kinds of exceptions.

But there is one difference which seems more consistent. I am referring to repetition. In both genres you have a meter which repeats. But in pop music there is a different balance between new material and repetition. There is usually more repetition. There is a drum track. There is a kind of melodic or harmonic groove that can last throughout large sections of a song or the entire song. In classical music something is usually only repeated three times, then the composer writes different material. The overall balance is more towards new material and less towards repetition.

Maybe there are some other consistent differences that I am missing.

Is Beethoven a brand?

There is something that has been knocking around in my mind. I am not sure what to make of it.

We rarely use full composer names.  I often hear statements like these, “What do you like better, Mozart or Haydn?” “I am playing the Dvorak.” “Mendelssohn is my favorite.” “Last year they played lots of Bach.”

There is nothing wrong with this. But it somehow gives me a funny feeling.

In your daily life you can often hear, “What do you like better Coke or Pepsi?” “I am a huge fan of Dell.” “U2 is the coolest.” A brand has all these ideas and emotions associated with it. Coke and Pepsi are more than just types of soft drink. When someone says that they like the band U2, they may be talking not just about the band’s music but also about their image and attitudes.

Ludwig van Beethoven was a person, not the word Beethoven. A person that lived about 200 years ago. He had ideas, feelings, habits, a family, a life story. How would we play his music if one day we could meet him and talk to him? If we could say, “Hi, Ludwig. How are you? I am playing your sonata right now.”

What does it mean when someone says, “I am playing Beethoven for my next concert”? Are all his pieces so closely related?

What does it mean when someone says, “I am playing the Brahms E Minor”? This refers to the Sonata in E Minor by Johannes Brahms. Should not one say, “I am playing this haunting piece with soulful harmonies and a beautiful theme at the beginning”?

Sometimes I worry that we may not play the music in the piece but rather express the brand in some way. There is something interesting in playing a piece for someone and not telling them its name.

What do you think? Is there anything to what I am saying?

Writing Every Day

I am going to try to write here on a daily basis. You may be wondering why I am doing it. Over the weekend, I attended a wonderful conference on podcasting called Podcamp Toronto. It was about podcasting and the future of new media. I also met some really great people.

We tend to respond differently to video, audio, and text. I think a blog would be helpful. I have many ideas of what I could write about and get your feedback on. You could also suggest topics. A blog gives a chance for a conversation.

There is a deeper idea here. I think it is good to connect music with other things.

Comments are really appreciated.

Starting a Regular Blog

So far on Cello Journey I stick to posting news and episodes on the main page. I thought of having a separate Blog tab (up at the top) where I will post more regularly. Sometimes a few weeks goes by between episodes and I would like to communicate better with everyone.

A new episode is in the works. It the Tarantella by Squire. We will try to record it next week. I used to play this piece quite a bit when I was first starting the cello. It has great melodies, double-stops, and a good overall feel. It is very rewarding to play when you are learning the cello because it sounds so good.