Friday, December 23, 2011

The Davytude video turns ten

On December 23, 2001, Amy drove from her parents' home in Canterbury, New Hampshire to Brandeis, to play some of these étude thingies for me (on Brandeis's own Steinway D, which we called Tubby) that she was planning to record half a year hence. I had just pulled the trigger on a purchase of a Sony camcorder to make vidoes of these pieces — because Martler had looked so cool when Marilyn premiered it, even moreso when Amy did it in Chicago — and I was getting my first experience ever as Camera Guy. Amy was only too happy to be filmed playing these things. It wasn't as if maybe in ten years time anyone with an internet connection anywhere in the world would be able to watch these movies, or link to them on their own sites.

And every one of them is spantarific.

The sound from the camcorder was about forty percent camera motor noise, so I also brought along a Sony DATman to make parallel digital sound recordings. iMovie, which was pretty new at the time, made it fairly easy to take the DATman's sound and substitute it for the camera's sound of unusual noisefulness — though it took some doing, and patience, with a MOTU 838 and a Sony DAT to get the digital sound into the computer.

And history was made. As far as history goes, that's what making it was done by. On that day, we recorded the movies below in Slosberg Hall at Brandeis, and there is Amy's mom, in the front row, following along.

As I detailed here and here, I had made the plunge of buying a camcorder just to get that Martler movie. Amy had put Martler (and the other three she had performed seven months earlier) aside in order to learn eighteen others to fill the CD. She hadn't brought her performing score of Martler with her, so I retrieved two étude collections from my Brandeis office, thus giving her four pages (out of eleven) to perform from, pretty much on spec and by ancient muscle memory. Here's how going was done by it (note pervasive camera motor noise).

iMovie also let me do really silly things to the video, like this.

Plans were also afoot at this time to record a second CD — since the thirty-four existing ones wouldn't fit on one CD — and to fill the second one I'd have to write more études! When I first met Amy, I'd written thirty-four, and we needed at least forty — maybe forty-five — to fill two CDs. Ahead forged I. Forging ahead was done by me. Le forging-ahead guy, c'etait moi. Many of the new ones were written to Amy's specs — sharp-9 chord? stride? Bach C minor prélude? Yeah, I can do that.

So if I hadn't met Amy, I might be considering writing my fiftieth étude or so, which would extend my record for piano études written by those of Polish extraction.

A large number of other pianists who have played the études said they were convinced by Amy's movies that they 1) existed, 2) were playable, and 3) were totally bitchin. And as we found out here, Amy kept pushing me beyond what was comfortable compositionally for me, and that made me a better composer.

I have now also written a piano concerto for her (we will call it the "French" concerto). We've had the sort of long-term professional relationship that people make movies about, and not just of the YouTube variety. So why aren't they? Is it my hair?