Not so long ago, I was convinced that professional (and excellent) productions were necessarily expensive ones involving a lot of highly capable people with fancy gears. I was absolutely sure the only way to get high quality work was throwing money in every direction to get the “best”.
But the “best” of what? Even if the contrary used to be heavily marketed at some point, more expensive doesn’t always equal better quality.
In the filmmaking world, von Trier and Vinterberg tried to prove it with Dogme 95 : creativity, quality and budgets aren’t related.
I tend to agree with that too: I made some (not commercially available ) recordings on a very tight budget, on location with relatively cheap gears a decade ago. But I had a nice piano, a good room, a serious amount of ideas and plenty of time to record, edit and master them. It turns out that nearly ten years after, I still find them very interesting and of high quality. Even if the total budget was lower than $1000 (gears included).
Of course, with a higher budget, it would have been certainly quicker and easier, but I wouldn’t have learned everything I learned through this process.
So no, budgets don’t define quality. You do. Especially in this digital era where knowledge is so easily accessible and equipment costs a mere fraction of what it cost in the 90’s.
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Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont, pianist. Get in touch with Pierre-Arnaud on Twitter, Facebook or Google +. Help him and purchase his latest album Introducing Pierre-Arnaud Dablemont on main online stores.
I literally have dozens of interpretations of these Diabelli Variations. This is of course a masterpiece and Beethoven’s last large-scale piece for piano. Only a genius like Beethoven could turn this banal Waltz by Diabelli in a breathtaking piece like this.
It took me three solid years to fancy his new version of these variations. I didn’t know the 1968 version so I wasn’t expecting anything from this one, and frankly, my first thought when listening to it was: What the heck happened to him? And the album went back to its box. I probably put it in the player once a year, with always the same strange feeling.
Not so long ago, I made one more trial, I got one of these aha moments, and it suddenly made sense to my hears. So far, my listening with these variations had been so very uptight and conservative that it kind of ruined the whole thing. My views on Beethoven have changed a lot during the last years, and I certainly needed this maturation period to appreciate it
Truth is that it won’t probably please people who like a classical, very conservative and almost religious approach of Beethoven. Nevertheless, I’m glad I could find the right time for me to listen to this recording and it has become now one of my favorite versions! Happy listening!
I am always curious about practice spaces and I noticed that people often talk about the instrument they own and how carefully they chose it and absolutely never, never speak about the space they put it in.
However, no matter how carefully you choose a piano, you can’t fully predict how it will sound in your own room. And the room acoustics have a tremendous effect on how you play and how you practice. (IRCAM made several experiments with pianists about that in Espace de projection – a variable acoustics hall – sadly unpublished, but results were funny!)
After practicing quite a while in an overly reverberative room, I had to record in a very dry studio. I played like in the practice room and, well, it sounded like … crap. What sounded very precise, elegant and clear in the practice room was muddy and sloppy in the studio.
Of course, these were extreme conditions and fortunately I was experienced enough to adapt to the dry environment quite quickly. But my point is that practicing in an acoustically speaking “bad” environment altered my playing as I couldn’t hear what was really going on (an environment with a lot of reverberation tends to hide problems and make all sound “better”). I didn’t practice well, felt satisfied with something that was well under my standards of precision and developed a few bad habits it took me a while to get rid of.
Conclusion: The room acoustics affect your practice much more than you think: at least as much as the piano you’re practicing on. Try to practice in a relatively dry room to avoid surprises (acoustic treatments are your friends).
Does not exist.
Everyone wishes the opposite, it would be so convenient. Recipe, cooking and voilà, success for everyone!
But people have different goals, different stories and success has many definitions.
Every musician has her/his own audience with its own characteristics and its own behavior on social media.
It’s your task to write the ultimate guide to your success, nobody can do it for you.
Just be yourself, it’s the best way to keep it interesting and coherent.
For years, I have been avoiding Mozart. Playing it as well as listening to it. Although I played a few of his works, I am not very familiar with his production. I know well some of the sonatas, some concerti, some symphonies, a couple of operas and the piano quartets (because I played them!). But I have to admit that I am a Mozart ignorant.
Today, I wanted to share with you this marvelous recording of the Piano concerto in D minor Kv 466 with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted from the piano by Murray Perahia, part of the complete piano concertos recording. I own quite a number of versions of this work, and I always come back to this one. (Or alternatively the Christian Zacharias one! )
A small difference today in Listen To This!, there is no YouTube video. As a recording artist, I am concerned with the sustainability of this industry and decided not to support unfair business models. Instead, here is a link where you can find this awesome recording (12 CD box) for almost nothing. Happy listening!
What a big question. Of course when you’re musician that’s a question you try to answer every day. And try to prove that your answer makes sense. Every day.
Well, I’m not going to unveil my answer in this blog post as I’m definitely too young and foolish to be able to synthesize it on such a short format, but genius filmmaker Andreï Tarkovsky had an interesting opinion about the purpose of Art in our world and I definitely wanted to share it with you.
If you don’t know him, here is a little quote of another unknown (!!!) filmmaker called Ingmar Bergman to set the plot: “Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [of us all], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream”.
For Tarkovsky, filmmaking was an answer to the many questions he asked the world and of course he couldn’t avoid the question we all have in mind: “What is our purpose here on Earth?” According to the director, if we believe in a definite meaning for man’s existence, art would be a way to accomplish whatever this meaning happens to be.
“The artist exists because the world is not perfect. Art would be useless if the world were perfect, as man wouldn’t look for harmony, but would simply live in it. Art is born out of an ill-designed world.”
Food for thoughts.
P.S: I recommend you his fantastic (life changing?) movie Stalker (1979).
…is clearly a bad idea, especially in the music industry, especially in 2014. If you’re in this position take this short advice: nothing never just magically happens.
Younger, I thought the career of the most famous pianists came out of nowhere: they were talented and have been “discovered”. Later I realized how wrong that idea is: they all DID something, they never waited for something to happen. Some at a younger age than others.
The experience I gathered taught me at least one thing: you get things when it feels perfectly natural to give you those things. There are no big surprises.
So if you don’t do anything for your career, don’t have any plans or projects, if you don’t take any risk, why would a presenter or a label do it? (unless you think presenters, agents and labels are philanthropic organizations!)
Your career doesn’t start with a label or an agent. Getting there means your career is already sailing. Your career starts when you finally decide to stop waiting for something to happen.
Waiting in a shelter for the duck to show up and shoot it isn’t brave. It isn’t even hard. However, what’s brave is the duck choosing not to hide but to carry on despite the presence of hunters.
Artists have always been sitting ducks for the embittered people of this world. The development of internet of course amplified the phenomenon.
And that’s fine.
Artists understand they can’t be universal and they will cross the path of people who think what they say, do or produce is awfully wrong. That’s part of our job: exposing our work to the world goes together with accepting criticism: the good, the inconsistent or the bad one.
And our best option is to find the humility to happily walk away from those “who didn’t get it”.
I like noises on recordings. Not the audience noises, but the musicians’ or the instruments’. I like a furtively squeaking chair, a bow accidentally hitting the stand, finger hitting the keys or the neck, a noisy breathing at the right moment.
Some producers, engineers and product managers really chase them and definitely want to get rid of them as much as possible. I don’t necessarily suppress all noises from my recordings.
When you think about it, in the digital age, it’s rather easy to get rid of unwanted noises: fire up the good plugin and you’re almost done. Of course, you have to know which one to use and do it without degrading the sound quality.
But before digital audio workstations, there was tapes, razor blades, glue, consoles and basic signal treatment. If you wanted to get rid of a noise already on tape, well, most of the times you had to physically cut it or get rid of the take. I guess that’s why on recordings from the 60’s or 70’s you have significantly more noises than nowadays.
I don’t mind these noises. It reminds me that beyond the binary code are humans. That the music has actually been played by someone.
Could using less surgical and sterile takes (meaning noisier to a certain extend) in recordings be one of the key of a successful and alive recording?
I’m kind of a Beethoven guy (isn’t that obvious?). Beethoven’s violin concerto is a big deal for me and I’m quite surprised I didn’t feature that piece earlier in the series. I listened to it many times, by many different violinists and conductors. And I’m not bored yet and I think it’s one of these pieces so fantastically designed that you can never be sick of it.
Here is one of my favorite performer for this concerto, Nathan Milstein. I’m a little more familiar with the 1959 recording, but here is something a little different: the 1961 version with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf (Oh, I just remembered another sweet recording with Leinsdorf and Richter. Maybe next week!)
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