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Want to know what life is like as an ANAM musician?  In Between the Lines is a blog post written by one of ANAM’s first year students.

Black and White: Part 1 

After the crazy fun of two amazing Finnish musicians sharing their joy with us, I really thought that there wouldn’t be such amazing projects ever again this year. But one has to have all sorts of little highlights, big highlights, some not as exciting times and also (I believe) experience the bad to know what all these levels of enjoyment are.

I doubt that there are going to be any truly bad projects this year. I’m sure you would agree that not all musics resonate with you at all times. For example (and I know, this borders on the unmentionable, as a pianist), I do not really understand Prokofiev or Liszt at all. I haven’t played any Prokofiev and can’t imagine doing so in the near future. And I know, Liszt was one of the greatest pianists and he wrote so much piano music of distinction, but with the exception of a few pieces (such as transcriptions of Schubert songs, and some of his arrangmenets and workings of opera overtures, to name a few), I would rather pick something else over Liszt. There, I said it. Sorry…..

Anyway. Back to the idea of having all sorts of experiences.

Following Pekka Kuusisto and Iiro Rantala is a really tough gig. Seriously tough. There was so much energy in the air during their residency week that felt like a serious hangover of excitement and adrenaline. Next on the programme was an Australian Voices concert featuring the music of Peggy Glanville-Hicks (PGH), curated by the Australian harpist, Marshall Maguire. PGH was unique in that there were no female composers around her time in Australia so I suppose you could call her a pioneer. She went to New York and hung out with all these composers, artists and influential people in the scene there and was in with that crowd that considered themselves to be the intellectuals and witty. Her piece Thomsoniana is a collection of songs for soprano, flute, horn, two violins, viola, cello and piano. The text is taken from reviews of various artists by Virgil Thomson. The language is so colourful and descriptive – we are so boring in our use of language these days! PGH’s music reflects the styles in which these composers/performers presented themselves; for example, the music for Stravinsky is ‘Neoclassical’ while Schoenberg is atonal and awkward. Clifford Curzon incisively dictates while Satie’s and Ansermet’s is floaty and full of subtle harmonies. The entire work is quite light-hearted and at times, tongue-in-cheek. Again, the Salon at the Melbourne Recital Centre was a beautiful venue to play in and the audience seemed to enjoy the concert.

That concert over, it was time to gear up for one of the biggest weeks (for pianists, at least!) of the year: the 2011 Piano! Festival. This was a week of intense learning, much sharing, music-making galore and merriment. The four pianists at ANAM (three students, one teacher) were joined by another seven students from around the country and artists from around Australia and the world.

The week started on Sunday with an introduction to the week from Tim Young and introducing each other. Some people had only flown in that morning so were a little hazy on it. Good thing we didn’t start rehearsals! We had an introductory session to Alexander Technique from ANAM’s regular, Penny McDonald. I have to say that before I came to ANAM I was a little skeptical of Alexander Technique; probably because other people couldn’t articulate to me how it could be useful nor could they tell me how they had benefited. I think it’s one of those things that you just have to give it a shot. Even if it’s completely outside of our comfort zone and you mightn’t actually end up doing it, it’s worth it to at least try it. If there’s one idea or belief that I’m forming quite strongly, it is that one has to be open to stuff. To at least try it and then if it doesn’t work, to discard it and do something else. But at least to have active choices; this is what makes us human, right? We have been given choices and brains to make decisions for ourselves. So it was interesting, because most of us in the room had really never done anything of the sort, and I think that this session, along with the one the next day really was helpful for those who rescinded previously-held ideas and control just to try it out and see whether it could make playing more productive and easier.

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