Welcome to

   Pianonoise!

Itís because I have no choice, and I think a true artist should always have that as an answer. If you know why you paint, well, maybe youíre not driven by painting and waking up and hav[ing] to face the empty canvas. If you donít know, itís much better than if you know.

--Phillipe Petitt, tightrope artist, asked why he does what he does

 
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The About page(s)

Welcome! Have a look around. Pianonoise is the creation of webmaestro/pianist/organist/composer/teacher/person Michael Hammer, and contains about 100 pages of a variety of musical and non-musical content. It is designed to share the music and the thoughts of the author as well as all of the people whose music is being played and discussed. Parts of it will (hopefully) be entertaining, relaxing, inspiring, but it was also created in the hope that you will listen to music you haven't heard before, read the thoughts of persons you haven't encountered, and be changed a little in the experience. In other words, it's meant to be art. Since I am a pianist and organist, there are portions of the site devoted to concert music (mostly so-called classical but not entirely), music I play in the church I serve, and a lot of other sections as serious as religion and politics, or as weird as ballpark hotdog reviews. If you knew that I was a humor writer in school as well as an 8-year old computer programmer, that I like football games and symphony concerts, that I read books on theology and watch old star trek episodes (among other things) some of this would make sense to you. Instead, you'll have to get the thumbnail version. Or you could just have a look around. Pianonoise doesn't seem to be quite like anything else on the internet, as far as I know.

Some items which are not found on Pianonoise: Although I am just as interested in the music of our own century as that of, say, 400 years ago, and also play in a rock band on weekends, most of that music is under copyright, so I can't (legally) post it (although I will see what can be done about that when I get the time). Also, since content is being continually added to Pianonoise (when I can manage it), there may be an imbalance or bias toward certain music or commentary as I try to follow whatever interests me at the time while balancing that against my obligation to my employers and other friends.

If you want a better look at what goes on here, keep reading. If you are the type of person who doesn't like to read the manual, may I suggest going to the mp3index for a list of the music to be found here, or the site index to see the kinds of written content you are up against. The sidebar on the home page is designed to alert you to the latest update in each area so if you return for a visit every week or two you won't miss anything.

 

Some things Pianonoise isn't:

1) designed to market an artist to the public. I understand the need for artists to do this; many people think art ought to be free, and that would be terrific if the bank would give us free houses and the utility companies would give us free gas and electric, etc., but since most of us have bills to pay and want to build some kind of career, the usual sorts of promotional materials are in order. Despite being trained as a classical concert pianist in school, at present I am making a living as a local musician (for which I am thankful every time I do travel: it's always fun, but by the third hotel in as many days, not even being able to remember how the key works in the door reminds me how I am much better off not travelling all the time!). The upshot of this is that there are no press clippings, no testimonials from satisfied customers, no bio telling how astonishingly gifted I am, just music and commentary which I wish to share with you for free. (There is always the possibility that I will eventually sell items on my site: it is a dot com, after all, but at present everything on it is free. And at least 95% of it will stay that way.)

2) A clearinghouse for composers, pianists, or other musicians. There are a lot of recordings on this site (or will be) and all of them are the work of one person, yours truly, the webmaestro (aka Michael Hammer). There are a few exceptions, mostly in the case of collaborations (and all noted).  Otherwise, everything you see or hear is the work of one person. If that person seems astonishingly busy, keep this in mind: 1) yes, he is, and 2) he spends most of his time in the 3-dimensional world. The 100 or so pages you see here are what can happen when you manage to post an item or two every month or so for 10 years.

So what is it? Mostly a place of music and commentary, designed to share with you music and thoughts about music (and a variety of other topics in other places). It is partially an electronic extension of who I am and what I value, hoping to have a useful impact on whomever views/listens to its contents. There are more recordings than on most musical artist promotions sites and fewer than on mass uploaded community sites (like all things classical for instance). These recordings and writings also reflect a wide variety of interests and tendencies. I don't know where else you can listen to Scott Joplin and Michael Praetorius on the same website--or at least here them played by the same person! It is the only site I know of where the performer both uploads his/her own recording and provides commentary about it. AS I learn, as I read, as I practice, as I think about what I'm doing (hopefully), I will share these things with you. In some respects, it is an attempt to share what it is like to be a musician with people who are not. It is not, however, in many important ways, the work of one individual.

On the top right of each page is a quotation that I've come across in my reading and investigating. The one on the home page changes every month or so as I find something new; the quotes on the remaining pages are semi-permanent. This, at least, is a reminder of the thoughts of countless artists and musicians who contribute to Pianonoise with their music and their ideas. They might not like what I've done with them, but they are important sources nevertheless. And while I sometimes share my own music on this site, the majority of it was written by others. The point is neither to make this site all about me and my interests and shove these other fellows into the background or simply use them as a springboard to sound off on my own importance, nor is it to pretend that I can somehow get my own personality out of the way and shine the light of glory entirely on them. It is about our own engagement with these people and personalities, confident of our own right to be in the room, but eager to hear what they have to say as we are to share what we ourselves have to say. That, I think, may be the driving philosophy behind Pianonoise.

warning: every good website ought to come with a warning label. The views, musical interpretations, and writing style(s) may not be suitable for all viewers/listeners/readers. In particular, be aware that there are a variety of styles and ideas present on pianonoise, so unlike a site dedicated to spreading one kind of music or one ideology, you are likely, if you do much looking around, to bump into something that doesn't much resemble what was on a previous page. In particular, some of the writing employees various kinds of humor, including sarcasm and just plain silliness, which might be offensive to a professional musician or academic, who might think I'm having too much 'fun' with something that ought to be taken more seriously. A lay person might find that sort of thing right up his or her alley. On the other hand, more 'serious' parts of the site, with long articles and thicker writing styles, might make such a lay person feel inadequate. No approach is going to work for everyone, and a healthy variety is bound to offend everyone some of the time (you are welcome). I have, however, partitioned off sections dealing with my political and religious views so that it is not particularly difficult to avoid them.

a few principles:

1) I like to learn things. I am aware that there are a lot of things I don't know enough about, but I try to learn what I can. I also like to credit those from whom I've learned.
2) I don't like making mistakes. Typos, wrong notes, display errors--hey, I'm only human, so these things will happen, but I try to avoid them, and to fix them when I find them. Things on Pianonoise are subject to change without warning, either because I'm trying out a new idea or because I'm fixing something that I didn't get right the first time. Or I really have decided I can't stand that sentence fragment that I wrote, trying to be informal and friendly, but not too successfully. I second-guess myself a lot so you will have to expect a certain amount of changed content.
3) I like to experiment. You may find multiple versions of the same piece, or two pieces of writing that seem like rebuttals of each other.
4) Pianonoise is a work in progress, always changing. It only take a few seconds to get an idea (hey, I know! I'll record the complete works of Bach!) and a lot longer to make it happen. A whole lot of projects are still in the making-it-happen stage. Pianonoise is also a decade old and has seen several ideas come and go but some areas of the site that have not been updated in a while may make the experience resemble (for me, at least) an archaeological dig with various strata of ideas and personality that I don't even recognize any more!

 

About the recordings: a warning/disclaimer/owner's manual, or "for best listening experience"

The mp3/audio index is meant mostly as an organizing principle. On it, you can see the titles, and listen to the music, or everything which is otherwise scattered throughout the site's 100 or so pages, providing musical content to the articles about composers, or about music in general, or part of the archives from what I played in church last February, or whatever. The trick to that is that there is a lot of variety there, which means that there is bound to be something there you will connect with, some pieces that will seem incomprehensible, and maybe even some things that will offend you. It is a big world, and people have a lot of different things to say through music. Since the pieces are grouped alphabetically, rather than by type, or level of difficulty, or ease of listening, or age, you assume a certain amount of risk wandering among the collective musical utterances of so many different people. It is, of course, limited risk, since you can decide in a few seconds that you don't like it and can stop listening and go on to something else.

It will still be there if you want to try it again later. In fact, I hope you will try it again. Maybe something you read on Pianonoise will help you get inside the mind of whoever wrote it, or understand something about how some people put music together that you didn't before and something will make sense that didn't the last time and things will click and you will say "well...this isn't so bad after all." Or perhaps, "I sort of get it." Or at least, "I used to think this music must have been written by a homicidal maniac, but now if I were on his jury, I might have to think about it a little."

The easiest way to find out something about the music is to click on the * next to the title, which takes you to the "about the recordings" pages, which tell you everything from personal stories about making the recording to what I think I know about the music, and link to other articles having to do with the music in question, some of which might link back to the same recording.

One of my principles is to try to be consistent, though I don't adhere to it very well, for the simple reason that I am always changing my mind about things! For instance, I want to be friendly and accessible to people who aren't musicians, who have never heard of this music and might like to try it out and don't know a lot of musical buzzwords. On the other hand, as a musician myself, I like to know information about a piece, like how to track it down if I want to play it myself, or whether the piece was arranged by someone other than the original composer, things they never tell you on the radio! So here are some of my thoughts:

Translations: On the Index page, I'm going with the original titles of the pieces as the composer wrote them. That means, if the composer spoke German, the titles are in German. You might not speak German, and would probably like a translation. You can find one by clicking on the * next to the recording, which tells you all sorts of things about the recording, including the title, in English.

Those numbers next to the piece might seem like incomprehensible babble to many, but I find they are useful if the composer wrote a whole lot of pieces with the same title, like Minuet. I think it is cute when children come up to me and ask if I know how to play "Minuet" but as it happens, that is simply a type of dance popular in Europe a couple of centuries ago, and composers usually wrote a whole mess of them. Some are more famous than others, but it is not entirely obvious which one happens to be in their piano book. Catalogue numbers help you identify exactly which one. If you don't care about the numbers, just ignore them. I'm trying to be helpful to people who find them useful.

 

 

michael@pianonoise.com