A Perspective on Recording

I made the decision a couple years ago to record some solo piano works mostly for my own edification.  Before coming to this decision, I spent a lot of time thinking about reasons to do this and had shelved the idea. I rationalized that a middle-aged pianist in mid-career should have already recorded. When people ask me why I have not recorded, I like to say

 Why would someone want to hear my recording of a Beethoven sonata when so many great recordings are available?

 That pretty much sums up the attitude I had for a long time. Until one day, a dear friend in London responded by saying,

 Well, are you not interested in contributing to the whole, of leaving something behind?

He surprised me with the whole legacy perspective. Here was someone who knew my playing as a listener suggesting that I might have something to offer to those coming after me. The idea gave me pause.

Once I decided to proceed, I made a list of repertoire that I thought I would like to record.  Not as easy as it sounds.  That list could easily fill 10 CDs of time. Further, there was the issue of what CAN I play well enough to record.  The microphone does not lie and well . . . . .we always want to put our best foot forward. Yes?

Once the decision and list were made, the devil was in the details. I had to get down to the process of learning or re-learning the music. And, I had to get my piano re-hammered and voiced. I really wanted the best sound that my piano could offer to work with. And of course, there was the need for a recording engineer.

This past weekend was my first of several recording sessions toward realizing my goals.

The experience was exhilarating! I felt emotional tension and anxiety like I had not felt for years!  Despite the fact that I perform 25-30 concerts per year of newly learned repertoire, I rarely have nerves like I did in this recording session. My fingers felt heavy and thick. Just the night before in rehearsal, my technique felt fluid and flowing.  I couldn’t focus. My mind was thinking about absolutely anything but making music:

  • It’s so hot in here.
  • Stop! Can’t use this. Just too messy.
  • Was that a car that just went by?
  • Oh no, I forgot to turn off my Iphone? What if it rings? I’ll have to start over.
  • I wish I had woodshed this part better.
  • I’m playing more aggressively than normal.  Why is that?
  • Wow! This feel great.  I’m finally getting some record of my sound.
  • I wonder if those birds outside the window will get on the recording.  Maybe that would be nice?
  • These nerves feel similar to when I was a young performer. I would get nervous and my fingers would feel thick and I would worry if I was “doing” it right or what my teacher would think about it, and . . . and . . . and . . .   
  • Ah, that sounded like me. 
  • I wish I could have recorded this last night; it was going so well then.
  • I’m not in a state of flow!  What’s stopping me?
  • I’m feeling self conscious and young.
  • This is invigorating. 
  • My mind feels sluggish. Do I need a cup of coffee? 

I thought about anything, absolutely anything but the music!

My fear of the precision and clarity required to record is awesome {for reasons I will write about later}.  I did manage to record about 75% of my planned material for this first outing and have a lot of work to do listening to what I did for choices. And, there is other work to do as well.  I learned that some of the music is not quite ready for recording.  I plan to practice recording with live microphones in the same way that I practice performance with people present.  Experience tells me that improvement will come with practice and time.

Much of the above may sound negative to you but for me it is very positive. I was reminded of the energy, that natural “high”, that I used to get regularly as a young, developing pianist. I remember the same exhilaration when after performing a 2-hour concert from memory; I realized that I had no active memory of being on stage except for the applause. It was mysterious then and still is today for me that 48 hours later, I am still feeling fresh and youthful which I attribute to the awesome transformative power of pursuing ones goals.  Perhaps it really is the journey, after all, that matters most in the end!

 

3 Comments

  1. For those of us who live beyond the reach of your concerts, it will be a privilege to finally purchase your recorded music to feel closer to you as a performer … I can’t wait … and I’m anxious to read your next blog!

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