RCM and ConCan on Youtube

Students - did you know that the Royal Conservatory of Music and Conservatory Canada have their own Youtube Channels? Check out tips, great performances, repertoire demos and interviews with musicians past and present. Conservatory Canada Youtube Channel

Royal Conservatory of Music Youtube Channel

Virtual Choir 4.0 Announced

Last week, Grammy-winning composer/conductor Eric Whitacre announced the next Virtual Choir Project: "Bliss". This piece is from his 2010 West End musical entitled Paradise Lost. It is quite the departure from previous virtual choir projects. An exciting one. Some choristers may grumble, but I personally think that this will introduce a new group of singers to the beauty of choral music. "Bliss" is a fusion of classical, techno and something else that I'm still trying to put my finger one. Another difference between VC4 and previous projects is the need for a Kickstarter campaign. As Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir continues to grow, so do the expenses. VC3: Water Night cost over $100,000 to create. Hence, the Kickstarter campaign. Since it's launch last weekend, the VC4 kickstarter project has raised over $18,000. Not too shabby. Without further ado, here's Eric Whitacre on the VC4 project: In light of the tragedies from last week, any opportunity to come together as a global community in the name of peace, is a welcome one.

Why Can't Musicians Wear Progressives for Music?

My Musicians and Progressives experiment wrapped up just over a week ago. I'm eagerly awaiting my snazzy purple frames, which will return to me as "normal" eyeglasses. Part of me has been mulling over exactly why so many musicians say that that it is impossible to use progressives for music and also, why I am in that 5 - 10% of people who had an adverse reaction to progressive lenses.

To answer that, I reviewed one of my clips from last week. In the span of of 70 seconds, my eyes flitted rapidly back and forth, up and down, left and right 70 times. In those 70 seconds, my eyes were looking at the music and the choir director from all regions of the lenses - top, middle, bottom, the far right and the far left. Peripheral vision was used just as much as looking at my subject head-on.

To do that with progressives resulted in my eyes looking through the long-range, intermediate and up-close reading range and well as the sides of the lenses that are essentially dead space repeatedly. Visual distortion occurred every time I moved my eyes, which is exactly what happened here:

With such rapid eye movement meeting with visual distortion, it's no wonder I got nauseous. Later in this clip, I tried moving my head as many times as my eyes would move normally in the span of a minute. Moving one's head that often in the span of a minute is also a recipe for nausea (and extremely impractical for a musician). I'd say it's also a recipe for whiplash and inexcusably sloppy playing.

That clip was just over one-minute. Ensemble rehearsals run anywhere between 90 minutes to three hours. To extrapolate, a musician's eyes may move rapidly at least 10,800 times in a three-hour rehearsal. Why was my nausea far worse than my music colleagues who have met with some success wearing their progressives in non-musical situations? I think it's because I use my eyes in a similar fashion when doing non-musical things. If I look at my main tasks in a given day, we can extrapolate how often my eyes rapidly flit around:

  1. If my eyes shift 70 times in the span of 70 seconds, we can extrapolate that if read and play music for 60 minutes (my desired minimum, my max seems to be four hours), my eyes will shift 3,600 times in that hour.
  2. I use my eyes in a similar fashion when I work on the computer, doing office studio work, writing, researching, transcribing or editing (text, audio and video). I work on the computer anywhere between three to seven hours a day. If I'm on the computer for five hours a day (my average), my eyes will shift 18, 000 times.
  3. I use my eyes in a similar fashion when I drive. I drive between one to three hours a day. If I drive three hours in day, then my eyes will shift at least 10,800 times.
  4. On average, I teach four hours a day. My vision usage is similar to the aforementioned situations.  My eyes would then shift rapidly 14,400 times in that time span.

By my count, my eyes flit quickly - using all areas of my single-vision lenses and contacts an average of 46,800 times a day. This doesn't even include watching shows or operas with subtitles or playing a video game!

It's no wonder my nausea worsened as I forced myself to wear the progressives for longer periods at a time. It's no wonder I couldn't last a week. However, some of my music friends and colleagues wondered how I lasted as long as I did.

Calgary August Music Festivals 2012

There are quite a few summer music festivals coming up in August, here in Calgary. Here is just a sampling of what's ahead:
Inglewood Sunfest (August 4):  This annual event in Calgary's historic Inglewood is free. You can listen and watch various street performers, check out the local vendors and enjoy some great food. 
Afrikadey (August 5 - 11): This annual festival celebrates the culture, traditions and music of Africa. This year's event features performances by Alpha Yaya Diallo, Emmanuel Jal, MFive and more. Tickets are available on the Afrikadey website.
Calgary ReggaeFest (August 15 - 18): In addition to live music by international Reggae musicians, attendees can enjoy food, arts and crafts and the beer garden. There are also plenty activities for children and youth, including basketball, sand magic and face painting. Featured artists include Amoy, Bryan Art, Cherine Anderson, Chester Miller, Hawkeye, Jermaine Cowan, J.k. & the Relays, Makeshift Innocence, New Kingston, Redeye Empire, Roots Syndicate, Souljah Fyah, and Ultimate Crew. Tickets are available for purchase from the event website.
Other festivals worth checking out include the Marda Gras (August 12), GlobalFest (August 16 - 26), and ExpoLatino (Aug. 24 - 26) . You can be sure there will be some live music to enjoy!
Special Note from Maestro: Fellow canines, be sure to check out Marda Gras! I scored lots of swag the last time I went. I also listened to some great jazz.
© 2012 by Musespeak. All rights reserved.

Calgary Summer Music Festivals 2012

One of the many great things about summer is that it's festival season. There are countless opportunities to explore different styles of music while relaxing with family, friends and pets.
Here are some music festivals worth checking out this month:
Fiestaval Latin Festival (July 21 & 22):Come out and listen to Quinteto Alegria (International Latin Jazz), Colombia Ramiro Padilla y su Tropa Vallenata, Orquesta "The Latin Combo" and more at this free multicultural arts and entertainment festival.
Calgary Folk Music Festival(July 26 - 29): "Folk" music encompasses such a wide range of music. Check out the Latin jazz of Renato Borghetti,  the "alternative indie pop rock" strains of Jeff Stuart & the Hearts and the "electric, indie, pop" sound of Little Scream. Headliners include Chris Isaak and Mary Chapin Carpenter.


Calgary International Blues Festival (July 30 - August 5): Enjoy the exciting Afro-Cuban rhythms by Eddie 'Devil Boy' Turner, the rock-jazz-classical fusion of Lighthouse, award-winning artist Shirley Jackson & the Good Rockin' Daddys and many more.
Maestro's one piece of advice for four-legged music aficionados: Most festivals don't allow pets on-site. However, the nice thing about music is that sound carries, so he joins other furries in listening from the other side of the fence.
© 2012 by Musespeak™. All rights reserved. 

The Truth About Piano Lessons

"The Truth About Piano Lessons" takes a  good, hard look at what music lessons entails - for the student and his/her family. The benefits of music education, learning piano and modern parenting, the process of practicing and learning piano and what parents can do to help are addressed.

Concert Review of CJO's An Evening of Romance

Quick post - I finally got my review of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra's Feb. 12 concert "An Evening of Romance" up (hip hip hooray). It featured big band music made famous by Billie Holiday and Chet Baker.
You know, if they ever do a CD, I hope they put "My Funny Valentine" on it.  That was the BEST VERSION EVER!