Friday, April 15, 2016

Twelfth Interview – Of Present Times

Was sort of sudden.
No, it's about time for another interview, enough time has elapsed.
Well, OK, so where will we begin?
Let's begin with this blog and where it's likely to go before long.
What can you tell us about the response to this website?
So far, it would seem that the pianism of Franz Schubert has been promoted significantly.
What if you'd done one on the Beethoven sonatas? 
Apparently that's fairly well trodden ground. I got no responses when I advertised to teach lessons on them two years ago now. Time flies!
You've restarted the Great Composer's series.
Yes and of course the next to consider is Johannes Brahms.
Perhaps you can tell us all what you think of Brahms.
He was someone who came up from obscurity to become a serious contender for one of the very best composers there ever was.
Or some have thought.
Yes, some.
What perhaps is the least well known aspect of Brahms' life and career?
That he was incredibly gifted. He had perfect pitch and an incredible musical memory. Nonetheless, he seems to have taken incredible pains with his compositions.
Many of them didn't escape the flames.
Yes, pity.
You suppose we have missed something by not having more Brahms to listen to? 
There's never enough good music, ever, but there aren't always times for any music.
Such as our present time? 
It sounds very stark, but it's almost apparently so.
Would you be suggesting that the audience for ... what would you call it?
One might venture to call it “serious music” in the same sense as people usually mean “legitimate theatre” and by the way the whole gambit of live performance is significantly hampered by what hampers everything else these days.
But people capable of understanding what it is we experience 
...A quasi-religious experience? Human accomplishment celebrated as people play astounding music that fewer and fewer find astounding? The entire human race destroyed by the atrocities of the present age? Afraid to get out of their homes or go anywhere other than somewhere to work, if there's even a job available? 90 million Americans out of work and growing? Meanwhile the few get richer and richer? All of that is serious hampering. 
It makes you wonder.
In spite of all that there really is always wonderful new talent providing at least continuance.
You wonder sometimes as if we're headed into another Dark Ages? 
Ever see Bladerunner? We would be heading into something like that.
Yes, that would be another 12 to 15 years away perhaps?
Weird, eh? So what are you doing?
More like what I've done. In fall of 2014, I went out West and lived with my folks for six months trying to help my old father lick his last great illness. He passed away in early March.
Oh, I'm sorry ...
No, it's OK. He lived into his 89th year. He couldn't go on. It's just that simple.
You feel?
Grateful. Happy for him and grateful that I knew him. He was a good man.
Not in the least. As he grew older his appreciation for our music grew though. He said he couldn't stand listening to anything else. But then one of the last times I played for him, he bade me stop as it was too loud for him.
Well, how did you get interested in “serious” music?
I can attribute it mostly to my mother, my first piano teacher, but actually it was a gift of some LP records I received from my grandparents that did it. I was about 10 and from then on, all I really wanted to accomplish for a long time was to become a great musician like the great composers were.
What happened?
Lots of things, but mostly the culture was in the process of change, had changed anyway many years before I was born. I was only later to find out that six years before I was born, the last great piano concerto was written and also the last great violin concerto.
Who wrote them?
Bartók and Korngold. 
You like Bartók? 
More and more all the time.
Ever play any?
No. Some music you find you can play and enjoy while other music you just like to listen to, hear other people play it.
How about Brahms?
Oh, I played a few pieces, but mostly I prefer listening to others play Brahms. Trouble is, hardly anyone plays Brahms the way I would like to hear Brahms played. 
How is that?
Powerful and with deep conviction, whether played loud or soft.
So what is a good Brahms performance? 
Heifitz playing the violin concerto. None could do it better than he could. And Gilels playing the 2nd piano concerto. Hardly anyone did it better than he did.
How about your own music?
I recorded a realization, a set of pieces that I have begun transcribing into my fourth piano sonata. It will be a long piece, almost an hour long. 
I haven't composed anything since 1996 because well let's face it, who cares? Serious, so called “classical” music is about seeking after something that the world at large no longer considers important at all; the search for beauty.
No, I see nothing like that anywhere anymore.
Well it does exist, it's just not out in the open and I don't really know whether it ever was. Perhaps it was always only the pursuit of the intensely sensitive among us. 
So what brought this new burst on?
I came to some conclusions about music and my music in particular and decided that since the world at large only cares to use music as a backdrop for whatever passes for the inconsequential aspects of daily lives, that I would intentionally devise music intended to be played as background music.
Not getting it 
...Well, if I could explain it any better I'd just say that the recording of my own music is the only music I have ever composed or realized that I actually enjoy listening to. I even imagine it's by someone else. The distance is sort of weirdly appreciated. That way, as I transcribe it, I actually think seriously about every note that was played and how best to render that in notation without changing anything fundamental that the music contained.
Is it about anything?

No, but it was written coincident with a visit to Seattle so I'm calling it A Seattle Sonata. 
OK. So are you going to perform it when it's done? 
Oh, I might. Or I'll send it to a few pianist friends and see whether they're interested. None of it is going to be really difficult either. 
What style is it?
Oh, it has lots of different things in it, all stolen form somewhere I suppose from both pop as well as classical. 
So what else are you doing?
Culling my library, selling books, trying to start an online business, some other things too.
You still blog your alternative money idea?
Of course.
Who got you started on that?
A mentor of mine from the UK who died back in 2010. He advised me that if I wanted to help people everywhere all over the world, the best thing I could do would be to persuade them to start using other money than what they had in their wallets.
Is that so. Did he have any ideas?
No. But within a short time E. C. Riegel was brought to my attention and I realized that he had stumbled on the solution. It wasn't original with him. Arthur Kitson, another Englishman, had discovered it too.
So you didn't invent it?
Oh no, I just changed the basis for it from one kind of money to another kind of money. It's still basically an idea from Riegel and Kitson before him.
How's that going?
It's not going. Too few people are at my level of awareness of the problems with the present system. They still think reform is possible, etc.
It's sort of a scary idea probably to most people.
Is it any more scary than a third world war? Facts are, that the money and war are directly tied together. If you really want an end to war, you must distance yourself from their money and their system sooner or later and there is no alternative that is really directly from each of us rather than from them.
I know that politics is off your radar ...
No, not off my radar, I'm just more than ever convinced than nothing can be accomplished through the usual political channels. It's a waste of time.
What do you see ahead?
Nothing very good, unfortunately. You hear all this “avoid the negative” or “don't give the negative power” kinds of talk. 
One can only abide so much of that kind of “wishful thinking” or “ignoring the obvious” before one recognizes that certain things and institutions even simply can't go on and will not go on as anyone has planned or foreseen.
Sounds ominous.
You want sweetness and light? Go talk to some one whose cheery for no particular reason then. Most people seem to want that now and not much more. 
But where is there hope?
In each of us, where it's been all along. It's just been syphoned off to meet the requirements of others, rather than ourselves. 
E. C. Riegel again... 
I'm afraid so.
So what would you tell all your musician friends right now? 
If you want a future for yourselves, your families, your children and your grandchildren, etc. and if you value civilization as we have always known it at best of times, exemplified by our great music, then you must gain an understanding of this money issue, grasp it and spread your understanding far and wide and then rather than worrying about changing things through any political action, we decide to go our own way, by the tens, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands ...
Yeah, I get it. You aren't laughing as much as we used to.
Not much in the world is very funny right now.
OK, so where is the website?
It's simple: 
Anything else before we close this one?
It would serve to bring hope to a lot more people if they read my book The Linton Bequest.
It's available on Amazon as a kindle ready download, right? 
Yeah and I purposely kept it as cheap as possible so as many could enjoy it. 
OK then, well call me up again when you want another interview, OK? 
Sure and thanks.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Music of the Great Composers – Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899)

We're breaking the near four year hiatus in this project; the truth of the matter being that I wasn't sure at this time in history that the subject this post is about, hasn't slipped from the “greatest” column into the “almost greats,” for you see, except for in Austria and often now only during the New Years' celebrations that happen there, this music is all but forgotten these days. Indeed, of all the classical music there is, perhaps the Viennese waltz is the most “dated” of the forms. But we will include him nonetheless: we now come to a composer whose story requires some recognition of his musical family, and the unique circumstances that produced the “Waltz King.”

First, the Vienna of the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars that shattered Europe, something the like would happen a century later. Then, the slow but steady advances in availability of music to wider audiences. There was no recording equipment in use then of course, so printed music became the main means of transmission of music from place to place. Inevitably the able and talented banded together to play popular music of the times, much of it dance music and much of it from Vienna.

In an old book about the Hapsburg Monarchy by the Englishman, Henry Steed, who spent some years there near the turn of the 19th century, he wrote just prior to the outbreak of the Great War: “The Austrians, and especially the Viennese, prefer to jog along comfortably and to let the State manage their affairs for them. They grumble and carp, but their grumbling is rarely serious. Earnestness bores them. The artistic temperament of the people and the efforts long and consistently made by the Government to encourage "amusements" and to discourage interest in intellectual pursuits and in questions of public import, have combined to produce a sceptical indifference that still seems to preclude sustained effort or action.”

At the time of this account, Vienna and much of the Hapsburg Empire had gone on like this for fifty years, among some advantaged classes for far longer. Austria-Hungary was much like our own globalist empires; multi-cultural and diverse, held together by a belief that the monarchy, the dynasty really, sheltered them all. But effort and action in Vienna it seems were the peculiar provinces of talented musicians, who were attempting to keep a valued tradition alive.

That great diverse central European empire, with its elegant multilingual capital, a haunt of the high and mighty on diplomatic missions from foreign powers, with all its society, gaiety, music and art, dancing and merry-making, with all its advantages and disadvantages for the people and for music, managed to survive into the 20th century, until the war destroyed them all.

After 1825, on public and private stages alike, the same period marked the beginning of the grand advance of the piano, a product of the industrial revolution then taking place throughout western Europe and its influence spreading eastward into Russia. For the Strauss family, their ability to play the violin attracted entire generations of young people with musical aptitudes and ambitions with the desire to acquire violins and play them everywhere. The guitar was making steady headway as well, but was less popular. The notion of forming small ensembles of string players, string bands, which had been another established tradition as far back as the 17th century throughout central Europe, was given greater impetus by the demand for dance music, the waltz and eventually the polka.

Europe took nearly 50 years to recover from the effects of war, but by the mid 19th century Vienna and its music were at the peak of their power and influence with the various three quarter timed dance forms invented decades before, now flowering and disseminated everywhere. The nineteenth century Vienna waltz really became the very first popular music of any claim to mass international appeal. Franz Liszt had become the first international touring superstar after Niccolò Paganini had inspired him of the possibilities for fame and fortune. But, by the time Johann Strauss Jr. reached his greatest success, everyone would know who he was and what his music sounded like. He would become so famous and so associated with the waltz that even waltzes by his father and others would automatically be mistaken for his.

Johann Strauss Jr. (1825-1899) the future "waltz king" was the son of a father with the same name who also wrote music, much of which is still available and some of which is still regularly performed. In fact by the standards later set by his son, the father was certainly no slouch. He would have preferred his son to enter the banking profession rather than follow his example, which was that he had started out orphaned at 12, engaged as an apprentice at a bookbinders' while he became first a competent violinist and then the member of various ensembles until he was working with dance orchestras, essentially string bands that played dance music. 

Dance music: this is a kind of European music that has largely faded away, that during the 19th century was played everywhere. Visitors to Vienna at New Year's or along the Danube in summer may sometimes catch some grand waltz strains, but now it is mostly a fading memory.

However, before backing away from it all as merely musical cliché, let's re-examine why the waltz phenomenon, and later the polka craze, became the first most successful mass musical wave in western history to that time. The father had three sons, Johann Jr., Josef and Eduard. They would all take to writing dance music and the style each used is practically indistinguishable form that of their brothers. Together, all of them combined would churn out so much published music that the stack of their published works would tower over those of the comparative mere piles contributed by the greater composers; you could conceivably carry all of Chopin's music under one arm. One doesn't usually go to this much effort and expense if there weren't someone buying the printed music and playing it elsewhere, and they were. By the 1870's the Viennese dance music craze was certainly going international, to North and South America, China and Japan.

This dance craze was happening all over a war weary Europe that wanted more leisure entertainment, was temporarily content to be ruled by mostly aristocrats (who employed tremendous bureaucracies that slowed down everything imaginable), nobles, and others of means, who threw lavish parties and spillover occasions for the general public. In addition it was a time of new opportunities for industry, business and trade which was feeding more, always scarce, money into the general economy.

Considering old European dance music as merely a prop to the pomp of some of the ceremonials of bygone times would be to date it more than it already is, but even as retro fashions sometimes receive a comeback, so too might a few more of these dried roses reveal their haunting scent. Recall also that this was the romantic era, by which we come to understand a time when there were no radios or televisions certainly, but a time where circulating novels (fiction), romances and staged dramas (and operas) served the same purposes, and where the music was often called upon to support the themes in this fictional literature.

Before leaving the father, it is well to remember him for perhaps his best known work, the Radetzky March, Op. 228. The father and son developed quite differently over the years, the son favoured more liberal democratic politics, while the father preferred the nobility and wrote this march, which is still played with Austrian national fervour, as it was again in 2008: 

RADETZKY  MARCH  -2014-Wien, New Year's Concert

The father's waltz output also serves as a basis for the later development of these dance forms by the sons. Here is one of his biggest waltz productions for the coronation of Queen Victoria in April, 1837. Strauss Sr. who was 33 at the time, was as usual touring away from his family and actually did manage to cross over to London and perform the premiere of this waltz there, later at the newly refurbished Buckingham Palace:

Johann Strauss I -Homage to Queen Victoria Waltz Op. 103 
Conductor: Christian Pollack - Orchestra: Slovak Sinfonietta, Zilina

The father, did not want his sons to have to come up the hard way as he had; they were to be anything but musicians. So what was it that attracted them? For one thing they must have been relatively speaking naturally gifted violinists, all of them. They would also have had more than the usual rudiments of music notation as it pertained to writing for strings. Beyond that, it's a matter of practise and play as much as possible and write it down between shows. That's how pop music was produced at the time and everyone in Vienna liked and sponsored music as an ongoing civic tradition, led of course by the aristocratic families. Much the same was going on in other European capitals at the time.

Johann Strauss Jr. entered the world late in 1825 in a town near Vienna. He was the first and his father was just 21. His father was playing dance music in Vienna and certainly continuing to compose. Three years later he would have a larger ensemble to work with so things were looking up. Nineteen years would pass and the son would study on the sly with the aid of his mother who was eventually separated from his father. Johann Jr. would learn to play the violin, to write music and to lead a string band and he would debut with his own string band in a place that had formerly seen many of his father's successes. His father, now forty years old, was so furious with his son for his disobedience, that he had already beaten him once over music, that this time his father vowed never again to play in that place. Of course the father couldn't give up music either and now was beginning to be in competition with his own son!

They didn't just write waltzes as we have already seen. Here's Under Thunder and Lightening (Unter Donner und Blitz) played by the Bavarian State Orchestra on tour, May 19th,1986 at Syowa Women's Univ. HITOMI Memorial Hall, Tokyo, Japan conducted by the redoubtable Carlos Kleiber.

We'll pick up the story here:

From the 1934 movie: Waltzes from Vienna,  directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

From Johann Strauss Jr's operetta Der Zigeunerbaron (The Gypsy Baron) which premiered in 1885, let's listen to a vintage 1938 recording of young Jussi Björling and Hjördis Schymberg: Björling and Schymberg- Wer Uns getraut? (in Swedish)

For any more of Johann Strauss Jr's tremendous output, the best thing perhaps to do is listen to a playlist of his waltzes. Many of them you should recognize right away.

Strauss & Brahms

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Scriabin's Op 25 Mazurkas

Let's take a survey of these nine masterpieces. They have long been a fascination to me, as they always sound exotic yet very tonal and structured and there are instances of sheer piano colour, for ten seconds or shorter, that are unmatched anywhere in the piano repertoire, actually succeeding in taking off from where Chopin left off.

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), said to be the sui generis composer of all time, composed these nine pieces in Switzerland. They fall into what Scriabinists like to recall as the end of his first period. Some even contend that Scriabin was a decent enough composer in much of this tremendous first period and that many of those pieces are easier to get across to audiences than much of his later works. But they remain unique as to what they ask of the pianist and the tricks they play on audiences. Those fond of finding form in unfamiliar music will be surprised even shocked by the elements Scriabin uses. The wikipedia article on Scriabin gives a good description musically concerning this first period.

A mazurka was a dance form from Poland that was of course used by Chopin. But Scriabin's mazurkas are structurally bigger, though some use amazingly slight resources. One hears elements derived from ethnic traditions beyond Poland too, all delivered as if in reflection. This is music almost for surreal dancing or dream dancing rather than dancing by real warm flesh and blood human beings. So yes, much of this music has been characterized as dark, downcast, disturbing (#1, #3, #5, #9), but then just as easily there are shafts of tremendous light, brilliance, tenderness (#2,#6,#8).

First, let's get familiar with the music by hearing them all payed through. Here's Samuil Feinberg playing them:

Scriabin Mazurkas Op 24 (1-9 complete) 

Now let's consider each one. The first is in f minor and is marked Allegro. It is played here by Elena Doubovitskaya. She plays it almost exactly as I played it when I had this one down. 

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #1

The second in C major marked Allegretto evokes some kind of picture in musical terms of a flirtation, perhaps an exchange of flirtations. These emotions saturate the main theme, whereas the incidental theme contains suggestions of a bleak opposite. The recording I've chosen showcases a Knabe 6'2” grand from 1892, possibly rebuilt. Ryan Layne Whitney certainly plays it as I did when I had this one under my fingers. Lovely.

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #2 

A lot of people play the gloomy third Mazurka in e minor marked Lento. It's short, can be played to affect a mood of high tension, always a pretty easy to grasp piece. It adequately demonstrates Scriabin's power to set the mood, even if it's not a particularly calming or joyous one.  Here are a few versions: 

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 $3 
Played here by Vladimir Sofronitsky this is a classic Scriabin performance.
Played here by Margarita Glebov where she offers us an update on the classic interpretation.
Played here by Dmitry Melnikov for yet another interpretation.

The fourth in E major marked Vivo was the first I was ever aware of. Artur Pizarro plays it as indeed it must be played, slower than it seems marked to be played. This is a real nocturnal dreamlike dance, a dance for the mind or soul as much as ever for any bodies that would take up its gentle rhythms. The contrasting theme is hard and bitter, seconds of it reveal raw passion. When some people who don't know me ask what I think of when playing this one or any of them, I tell them ... something of a frankly adult nature.

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #4 

The fifth in c# minor marked Agitato is indeed a kind of nobly agitated theme with contrasted to that a theme that's tenderness itself. As always, this piece is hazardous to interpret but Cameron Wilkins has succeeded.

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #5 

The sixth mazurka in F# marked Allegro tells some quaint tale about some folksy gathering perhaps outside during warm sunny weather as spirits rise and dancing gets quite joyous. It's not without the insinuations of that which might be the opposite of all this, but it actually causes what's represented to hold more emotional depth thereby. Michal Direr plays it on some fairly ancient piano which still manages to hold a tune. 

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #6 

The seventh mazurka in f# minor reverts to a gloomier atmosphere and a yearning pleading element is added and this is contrasted with something a whole lot more confident and emphatic. Much of it owes structural and harmonic ideas to Chopin, but as it were extended into far more exotic places with deeper emotional intentions always implied. My, does François Chaplin ever get this one! 

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #7
Played by Sergei Dreznin and includes Op 25 #8 as well.

The eighth was the least played in our survey. It's in B marked Moderato. It's another contemplative naturalistic and quaint piece. Again, the subtlest inferences with something always more significant and touching are always implied. The contrasting theme is right out of Chopin.

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #8
includes Op 25 #7 as well.

The last one in e flat minor marked Mesto could be played as a kind of contemplative dirge, Sergei Dreznin likes to play it very slow. It kind of melts around when played this slow too.

Scriabin Mazurka Op 25 #9 
Played by Sergei Dreznin

Now to complete our survey, here's a rendering of the last mazurka using what sounds like a kind of electronic orchestra or vast theatre organ.

Opus 25. No. 9, composed by: Alexander Scriabin.
"Steampunk" rendition Arranged, and produced by: Repent In Reprise.

I encourage as many pianists as possible to take up these works, maybe not all of them, because they are subtly rather difficult, but to strive to get some under your hands and into your hearts and minds too.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Busoni Elegies

As we ourselves are part of nature itself and all things have their comings and their goings, so is this magical music of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) a composer more pianists could know more about.  For many reasons, the heart and soul of Busoni's gifts as a composer are his elegies, which first appeared in 1908 making them 20th century music. 

These seven pieces of reflection, may sometimes be associated with the death of someone or something, that's one way of looking at them, but the other is as a means of approaching a virtual transcendence.  We hope and trust that most of our pianist friends out there understand the idea of pianism as a vehicle for virtual transcendence, not just for ourselves, but for our audiences as well.  As you may listen to any of these wonderful pieces, imagine just how you might play them.  More people who can might try.  They are all in the public domain.

I present here a few links: the first one for a complete live performance that took place in 2012 in Bergamo, Italy at the Bergamo International Festival.  Carlo Grante of course is wonderful, as is anyone capable of playing any of these to satisfaction.  They all require sheer passion.  If you have that as a pianist, you might actually get to climb these summits and get your audiences to experience them too.  

Busoni Elegies Complete - Carlo Grante 

Now, for those who want to take the bait and hear more performances of the same music.  Here are links for each, with some comment.

1. After the Turning - This could certainly reference either a death or a sudden change of any possible kind or dimension.

2. To Italy - Yes, we can hear some things in it that are idiomatically Italian, but there is so much more going on in this piece than anything having merely local colour.

3. “My soul trembles and hopes of thee,” a Chorale Prelude – This means that there's some hymn it's based on, but again this is far more than what it seems.

4. Turandot's Intermezzo – This is Greensleaves as it was never imagined before. Many different styles of pianism are exploited here, including one of Busoni's false ends where the piece ends ... in a different harmonic key.

5. Nocturnal Waltz – Your ultimate dance by the light of the Moon with many extra dimensional allusions throughout.

6. Visitation Nocturne – Something happened and or is about to happen.

7. Lullaby - The lulling to sleep, not just personally but universally, the putting to sleep of an entire people, an entire period in time.

Many of you will sense something about Busoni's tonal palate that's similar to Scriabin's. But a transcendental melodic line, even a simple one still seems important to Busoni in ways it never was in Scriabin. Anyway, I have always liked these pieces and as for the rest of Busoni's contributions, well, one would be fortunate to be one who other than playing this sort of music might all the while prefer to be playing Bach.


Oh, and yes of course Busoni is usually considered a "romantic" composer, the end of it anyway, but again as we have reiterated on this blog from the beginning, romanticism is really emotional realism and it's very powerful stuff.  You can drive someone mad with it, cause them to laugh or drive them to break down in tears, or yearn for love.  It had nothing to do with mere "fiction" or any fictional stories.  It was and ever is from the outset about emotional realism and those that approach this music or any other from this vantage point have a better chance of connecting with the essential message of that music.  


Sunday, November 15, 2015

Carl Demler RIP

Just returned from NYC on Thursday. Must report a great loss to many of us. Carl Demler of Beethoven Pianos in NYC has passed suddenly at 79. I will remember the kindest set of brown eyes I shall never see again. I counted Carl a good friend. He is missed already. Many of his staff have considered collecting their memories and reminiscences concerning him into some kind of book. I hope they do. I would be willing to help in its technical editing and design.

His family and staff are continuing Beethoven Pianos and while there I played their Hamburg Steinway D - a piano of great character, perhaps too bright for some, but not irritatingly bright. After all, it's a Steinway D. I also played a Sauter concert grand, one of their uprights and a remarkable Grotrian upright that actually beat out another excellent Steinway B they had there. This Grotrian upright actually had the best action of those I played with the exception of their Steinway D in the concert area.

Those who might think me crass for promoting pianos at the same time I announce the passing of the master of the store perhaps wont get it: Beethoven's needs to continue. It has a unique place among its worthy competition on New York's piano row. It's craftsmen are incredible artists and technicians who make these great pianos perform as they do. The Sauter concert grand was a beautiful piano with a nice firm touch and warm sound. Rather than the usual black, this piano perhaps mahogany or some darker wood If you are in the market for an incredible concert piano or your own practice piano, please consider Beethoven Pianos

Carl Demler's Obituary Notice in the New York Times

Carl standing next to the outstanding Grotrian-Steinweg parlour grand formerly owned by Imelda Marcos
Carl at the front of the beloved old store which used to be across the street from Beethoven Pianos' present location on W. 58th St. in New York City.

Carl standing next to a stack of golden age era plates for various grand pianos, mostly Steinway, at Beethoven Pianos' factory.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cunningham Piano Company

There are still things that I am passionate about and one of them is pianos.  I have been fortunate enough to have visited many modern piano restoration shops which form the current heart and soul of the business.  I actively promote the businesses that I have actually visited.  One that I have not yet visited nevertheless deserves my consideration and yours if you are in the market for a good piano.  Rich Galassini of Cunningham, who I have communicated with through the Piano World Piano Forums and via e-mail and by phone, just sent me a link to this excellent little video up on YouTube which describes his business.  I think he needs to do another spotlighting the unique qualities of his line of Cunningham pianos.  In its day the original Cunningham piano was one of the finest ever made and this is no doubt still the case.  I believe we should all be glad that some great enterprises have managed to survive into our own time and continue to represent what is finest in the art of the piano.  I have placed more links to this company on the Sources for Good Pianos page.        

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lea's Story - Update

UPDATED 10/9/15
Lea's Story Original Post

This pic is of a piece of paper Lea had typed for her, which explains the crux of her story.

She had a daughter (now grown to adulthood) who grew up with some people, the Skinners in Chico, California. These people sued Lea for back child support and the court fixed it as $500 per month which she could not afford. Lea is mentally and linguistically dyslexic. She can drive a vehicle but can't get her thoughts in order or write anything coherent. Besides this, her right shoulder was badly injured and re-injured by police who threw her out of a public building where she went to get help, so now she can only write with her left hand and she's right handed. The only thing she could do was sell olive oil at a flea market / farmers' market. 

There are lots of people out there like Lea whom society would like to ignore because our mainstream media focus -including on the internet- is on the successful and rich not the poor and barely making it. So since she could not pay the required child support, the court took her drivers' license away! Does this make any sense? Of course not. So where does she live with the seasons changing and in need of warmth? In an abandoned school bus! Oh, it can still run maybe, but who knows? Where? In Oregon somewhere near Eugene.

Has she been able to resolve this? Not for at least 8 years! She has been without a drivers license for 4 of those years. She has asked the Skinners to withdraw their suit, but for whatever reasons, they have decided not to do so. Obviously, she needs her drivers' license back. How can anyone be expected to make any kind of back payments when they are nearly 65 and not capable of holding the simplest regular job and now are not able to drive? The system has clearly failed people like Lea and now society at large is led to believe that the Leas of this world should just ... go off somewhere and die quietly and not bother anyone else, etc. ... unless of course they are able to do the impossible, pay what they cannot even earn. How many people are eventually going to end up just like Lea?

If one were established, people like Lea could get help in a real alternative money system. How would Lea's life be different if she could survive without their money? She would get a subsistence that her friends and neighbours in Oregon deemed appropriate for her and she could live somewhere other than out of an abandoned bus. We know that Lea is actually lucky. Other people caught in the system may be homeless living under bridges, hungry living out of restaurant or grocery store dumpsters (if they haven't deliberately poisoned them with bleach, etc.) and of course they are unemployable in today's globalist nightmare.

But our concern is with Lea. The Skinners should know better and must withdraw their suit. Lea should be given her drivers' license back right now! She is probably entitled to many state and federal grants in aid, but guess what folks, she is basically too proud and self reliant to want any of that from them! How many out there are like her? All they have left is their self-respect.  But she needs the help or she'll just ... die. Is that the message? If you have nothing left but your self respect, are you to fork over even that to a state so that you must live at their mercy for the rest of your life? It certainly looks like it. Is that freedom? Is that dignified? Do those who actually work for their living actually live lives of freedom or dignity? Just what is this country (or any of the advanced nations on earth) based on anyway? We know: They're based on money loaned at interest, the interest having never been created, and yet people live passively with this con game and some even do well at it; those who accept the cons and are better at conning others than most. Rewarded for conning others makes more money than just buying and selling olive oil at some flea market / farmers' market. A system designed and built by racketeers that has taken over the entire financial world has no concern for a poor woman like Lea.

At this point we are calling on all and anyone concerned (especially in Oregon and Northern California) to take up Lea's Story and spread it all over the internet, into any and every alternative news channel available until Lea gets her license back and is able to get this case dropped. She deserves that much. Anyone wishing to try and make contact with Lea can do so through me.

David Burton

PS from Lea:  "
Two days before the deadline to have my vehicle moved, it all fell apart. Well by Saturday night (only one day after the deadline) I scrambled and got it moved into Eugene to a safe but temporary spot. Boy oh boy what stress can do -- I slept all day Sunday! Having no drivers license just makes life ridiculous what is the point." 

[10/9/15: Well, I really relate to Lea's story, Two weeks after I had been in the hospital with a blood transfusion of 5 units of blood, I had an internal bleeding problem that was not diagnosed for years. I was just out of a week long stay at the hospital, where I was given an endoscopy and also had to swallow a huge pill with a camera that took pictures as it went down called a capsolosopy. I was very weak. This had been my second one of these pill swallowing deals and my 6th time for a blood transfusion. Extreme anaemia was common for me then. I had white skin, no energy, lack of breath because oxygen is carried in the blood. I felt like I would fall over, pass out or just have a heart attack, I spent most of my time in bed. I was not able to work. I prayed for relief. The month previously, I had sold my gold wedding ring to a pawn shop for rent, and I did some ebay, and as a substitute teacher I had to leave a post due to this deep illness. I was barely dragging myself around, my meals were cans of food I'd gotten at the local free food center for the poor.

I could hardly shift my truck into gear and drive, and could not walk far, I lacked strength. Finally at night, late, around 9:30 pm, my landlord knocks on the door of my run down apartment behind a restaurant with a 3 day decease order, for me to get out in 3 days or he had the right to have policeman drag my stuff out and put it in the street. I called on friends to help me get my stuff into a storage unit where it remained for over a year. This meant that I was stuck with the few clothes I had with me and the rest were lost in storage.

I found enough money through odd jobs like pet sitting to pay for my storage rent. I lived in my truck, and at friends' houses, moving from place to place until some friends took pity on me and lent me their extra room until I could figure out my problem, which were far beyond, my ability to predict. I was a walking dead, lying down, and barely making a dent on the day. Sometimes I would feel better, I would go about finding ways to bring in money, play my violin for tips, collect cans, take some of my things to flea markets, and maybe sell something on ebay here and there.

I was 59 years old when I finally applied for Social Security Disability and it took 9 months of waiting going through hoops and also being taken to the hospital for 2 more blood transfusions during that 8 month stay with my friends. Once while in the hospital the 6th time for another transfusion, the doctor told me that soon my body would begin to reject blood I'd been given and that would probably end this. I believe that it was already beginning to happen as each time I got a transfusion it was longer and longer of a time that I would feel like myself again, my own system was too strained for building red blood cells and my very bone marrow would ache it was so painful, something no one could understand how badly I ached, it hurt to be this ill. I took vitamins and iron tablets, but something inside was really wrong. I had 2 while staying with my friends. I can't imagine what might have happened to me if I had to live in my truck during those months.

Finally, because of surrendering to my situation, many of us deny that we have fallen so far, Pride is often part of why people get into such disparate situations. asking for Social Security Disability and excepting my position of neediness was difficult. I had after all worked hard for a Master of Arts degree in Educational Leadership, so why couldn't I think my way out of homelessness? And now how would I ever pay my education loans? I was stressed about it all. How would I pay for anything? Due to friendships, where I was very blessed and the Grace of God, I survived this.

I was given disability, and I was given Medicare, and once that was in place they found that I had an esophageal hiatal hernia where my stomach was lodged behind my heart, gaping open. It caused great acid erosion, ulcers and every time I moved, bent over, picked up anything, or exercised, I would bleed internally. This happened to me between the years 2007 thru 2013, when I finally had robotic surgery and they pulled the stomach back to were it belongs. They also took out my gull bladder then. I don't earn much with SSD but enough to just make it through, I also earn money by pet sitting and buying and selling antiques and collectibles, I also make tip money from playing my violin as well and being a penny pincher.

Because of all that, I am in debt up to my ears. Like Lea, I couldn't be without a car or a drivers license. I used my credit to get a huge car loan so I can drive a nice car. Before that, I was driving a dangerous van that leaked gas and made me sick every time I drove it. I also know if I needed to, I could live out of my car, which was another reason I bought it. The huge amount of money I spent on a credit card to keep that terrible van running! It seemed so dangerous and I felt that buying a used car on credit made sense, as I needed to save money on gasoline, and not get stuck somewhere. How in the world I had all this credit I don't really know, it seems clearly a direct answer to prayer, at least I could have my van fixed, unlike Lea.

I want to say that my circumstances might have been far worse if not for good friendships and people who cared about me. My sisters and brother were also very helpful in taking care of me during those really bad times.

After my stomach surgery had healed, my doctor informed me that I needed another major surgery, that would be difficult, for I had a pre-cancerous condition so absolutely it was needed. It's been two years now since my EHH surgery and a year since my cervical precancerous surgery. I am now fairly healthy but am working as much as possible to get my bills in order, make more money, lose the huge weight gain from these years of illness, my twisted aching and painful back from scoliosis slows my pace. But I am so grateful to live in a small studio cabin in the woods.

There are many more people out there like Lea, who for some reason or other have lost their position in the world or were never smart enough to make the grade. There are many who choose to live on the streets. There are many who, due to drugs and alcohol and other bad choices, are living in their cars or under bridges or away in the woods. With the mass of Baby Boomers retiring, there will be many more stories about people who just never worked enough or didn't make any plans for their elder years, or who lost everything too late to rebuild, people whom the general public will have to help, deal with or ignore. I hope that you will not judge everyone you see. Many have had hardships that you might never had endured. Most don't want pity, they just need your mercy, a small act of kindness.

Most of us want to make our own way in the world, some of us just have such big obstacles.]