Tuesday, March 2, 2010


My last post was two months old when I discovered it in the draft folder. I went ahead and posted it anyway. I recall being fired up to play again with the prospect of resuming lessons in Spring.

As it turned out, my teacher was once again overloaded with music majors and unable to take me on. That's okay. The motivation hasn't left, and in fact I've made quite a bit of progress on the pieces mentioned earlier. I'm quite a bit more fluent on the Bach C minor prelude, although I've set it aside for now.

What's weird, though, is that lately I've been spending more time on, of all things, rock and pop pieces, specifically a handful of Brian Wilson songs I've always liked. God Only Knows is a fun one to puzzle out because so much of the character of the voicing is in the bass parts (he plays fifths instead of the usual roots.) I've substituted the instrumental bridge lead with a figure that the Beach Boys used to use in their live act, which happens to be much easier on the piano (I found it on YouTube--where else!)

Caroline No is another fun one. I've been trying to figure this one out for years and I finally forced my self to sit down with the iPod and pick out the voices. It's neither minor nor really major either; the Fm7 has an Ab in the bass (again with the odd bass notes) which makes it sound like an Ab6. But it's not! I love this song--it's Brian Wilson saying goodbye to the California Girls era of his musical career, against the wishes of his bandmates who subsequently conspired to undermine him psychologically during Smile project and force him to abandon it. But I digress (frequently, apparently)

And what a segue to my next piece--one of two R.E.M. pieces I've been working on featuring interesting (to me!) piano parts. "At My Most Beautiful" was inspired by Brian Wilson, and is definitely the band at their most beautiful. I can't get this song out of my head--it has ruled my mood for the last two weeks, and I just can't NOT play it at least a couple of times a day. I'm starting to work lyrics into it as well. As is the case with so many of Stipes lines, the melody line is free form and hard to latch onto with out repeated listenings. You might say it's not exactly catchy, but that's not really the way R.E.M. works anyway.

More on this later. The main point here is that, for some reason, these pieces are coming to me much more easily all of a sudden. I seem to have been visited upon by some muse.