Roatan is the Place That Gave Rise to My Roatan Suite.
Here are a dozen descriptive piano pieces that I wrote in the Summer of 2000. I was part of a theatrical troupe that toured the island. Wife, Sharon Ohrenstein, was one of the entertainers. We played at 3 different hotels. It is located off of the coast of Honduras.on the Gulf of Mexico. One of my piano students inspired me compose “something that kids could play.” This exotic island was the perfect setting.
Story for each Selection of the Roatan Suite
Roatan Rhumba: Offers a sense of the Latin rhythms and melodies heard the island by local bands.
Island Dreams: For natives, the main avenue to better life was being a “diving captain” for tourists. Pay was excellent. Another avenue was working on a ship.They all wished and aspired to improve their position.
The Iguana Farm isa life altering experience. Hundreds of giant iguanas running around while a 5 year old was feeding them. Thank heavens iguanas are vegetarians.
My Roatan Suite features the Iguana Farm in the music of the same title. Every student of piano wants to learn it, regardless of age. In plain English, its “too cool.”
4. Children on the Beach: Who can have more fun than children on the beach splashing and playing in the sand.
5. Crazy Taxis on the Island: There’s really nowhere to go but the drivers ride like every trip is an emergency. Their small cars usually stuffed atleast 10 to 15 people.
6. Sunrise Worker With Machete: My wife and I were out early walking. What seemed like an army came toward us with drawn machetes. We thought we were as good as dead; however, they are very peaceful. Cutting grass on the mountain sides is how they make their living. In their other hand they held a large jug of water. My music suggests the swishing sound of their blades.
7. Sauntering on the West End. Wow! You haven’t experienced life until you’ve done this. It is a beautiful stretch of art galleries by local artists, dining done right on docked ships, fortune tellers, fun, fun, fun.,,etc
8. Fishng Fleet Expedition: A dozen large fishing ships left harbor in full gear. The island fishers provide fish to many American markets and major chains.
9. Deep Sea Diving: Natives and tourists relish the beautiful coral reefs and colorful aquatic life in the depths of the Gulf. There is an early morning dive and evening dive. Yes, they have whale sharks! They also are said to be vegetarians.
10. Town of Coxen Hole: Coxen was the pirate that first landed on the island with his cutthroat crew. The “Hole” is a term for where the pirates would drink. They didn’t drink milk! Roatan is famous for rum.
11. Stroll on the Beach: Was written while my wife and I were strolling on the beach. The vista was vast, peaceful and beautiful.
12. Shimmering Water on the Gulf: The waves of the ocean are depticted by the arpeggios that run up and down the piano keyboard. I think this piece would even offer any concert virtuoso a challenge. Below is a dolphin communicating the latest sea news to folks at the local station.
Off season, I, David Ohrenstein, offer piano lessons in Sarasota and a chance for you to try to master the Roatan Suite. Especially the Iguana Farm. The recording will available for purchase on DSOworks,com
Audition on the piano youtube. Enjoy six typical selections for free. Time for all 6 is 13.48 minutes. Most important factor: The two-note phrase. For auditions the proof of the pudding is in the tasting. What does tasting pudding have to do with piano playing? A well played two note phrase is the highest piano art. More on this in a moment. Piano makes dining more pleasurable. This only holds if the piano is played with a beautiful touch.
AUDITION – MASTERING THE TWO NOTE PHRASE KEEPS YOU IN THE RUNNING
Be it Bach, Beethoven or Brahms- the two note phrase is key. In this regard the size or quantity of what you know, speed and power mean little. This phrase is the smallest increment of piano playing. My own teacher was Mischa Kottler. He was a stickler about this tool. It took me a year and a half to master it. That was only under his constant supervision. Mischa studied in Paris and Vienna in the 1920’s. His teachers were direct descendants of Liszt and Chopin. They were Emil von Sauer and Alfred Cortot.
Many, if not all compositions, are only played properly with a plethora of such phrases. This is especially true on the piano. My own youtube sample is below. I do my best to demonstrate its effectiveness. Keys to long term employment as a pianist include beautiful tone production and such phrases. Unfortunately, too many students have turned piano playing into an athletic event. As Mischa would say about such crudely undetailed pianists. “They play like pigs.” This, of course, was in his fiery Russian accent.
For bookings I go through Jay Goodley Associates Inc. in Sarasota, Fl. (941 480-9600). They are wonderful to work with both as an employee and for you as an employer. Also, I am available for piano lessons in Sarasota- especially off season.
Keys to the Great Pyramid are on the Piano. Black and white keys form an interesting pattern. Within the scope of an octave are 5 black keys and 8 whites. Let’s use the pattern of one “C” to the next. Look at the featured picture. “C’s” are immediately to the left of the 2 black ones. Count the white keys from one “C” to the next. There are eight. Now count the first black set. We see one pattern of two. The next pattern with the octave has three. Thus, 2 + 3 = 5. The basic ratio of white to black within the octave is 5 to 8. That describes the ratio of the base to the height of the Great Pyramid. Also, white key “A” vibrates 440 times per second. Count the white tones from the “C” under the “M” on the name, Yamaha. “A” is the 6th one from middle “C”. In doing this, count the middle “C” as the first note. 440 is an essential Great Pyramid number. Keep reading.
KEYS ON THE PIANO DUPLICATE THE ESSENTIAL FEATURES OF THE GREAT PYRAMID OF EGYPT
Now, what are the ways in which this magnificent structure duplicates the standard piano keyboard?
A Great Cubit is 55 smaller cubits of 1.71818…feet. The Great Pyramid has a height of the Great Pyramid is 5 Great Cubits. That numbers the octave’s black keys.
The length of a side of the base is 8 Great cubits. Its 8 to 5 ratio becomes apparent. The piano has 8 white keys for every five black within the octave.
The height of the Great Pyramid is 275 shorter cubits of 1.71818..feet. The lowest note on the piano, an “A”, vibrates 27.5 times per second.
The standard piano keyboard has 88 keys. 1st of all, Thoth, the Egyptian god associated with Mercury, is connected with number 88. This is thru what was called gematria. This is the ancient equation of numbers and letters. They shared the same symbols.
Second, Mercury completes an orbit around the Sun in 88 earth days. Play every black and white key on the piano. One note = one day of Mercury’s orbit.
Finally, “A” is tuned to 440 vibrations per second. This is especially true of older cultures. They used the diatonic scale. Each side of the Great Pyramid measures 440 cubits of 1.71818…feet.
Conclusion: Playing the piano should give you the same essential qualities and feelings as the Great Pyramid. In addition, playing music on the piano can take you to to distant times, lands and places. So, enjoy life. Take the time to play music!
Revival of J.S. Bach by the Romantics Will Re-occur once more. A new era comes in opposition to an old. Such was the newer classical era to the baroque. The counterpoint of the baroque was replaced by melody-accompaniment of the classical era. Time passes. The next era sought to revive the baroque. J.S. Bach culminated the baroque era. He was the idol of the newer Romantics. The Romantic era lasted approx. 1820-1920. Off course, there are always cross currents in any era. These can be called, “avant- garde.” Almost every Romantic composer had a relationship to the music of Bach.
Here is a key and interesting fact: BACH, the name was taken by romantics as 4 musical tones: They were b,a,c, and “h” (which was thought of as Bb). They place these tones into their music.
Specific Baroque Revival Techniques of the Romantics
J.S. Bach was uprooted from the church. He was transplanted in the concert hall.
Only Berlioz and a few other composers were not influenced by Bach. He used counterpoint for parody purposes. This is found in his “Amen Fugue”. The Fugue is in the 2nd part of his The Damnation of Faust.
Felix Mendelssohn wrote Six Preludes and Fugues in 1837.
Schumann wrote a cycle of 6 fugues on the name BACH for organ
Franz Liszt wrote a Prelude and Fugue on BACH for organ in 1855.
Brahms used counterpoint in a more subtle way. He would hide the melody among other tones. My piano teacher, Mischa Kottler, studied under Emil von Sauer. Sauer edited the complete works of Brahms. He insisted that I use the von Sauer editions of Brahms. What is most interesting is: Kottler circled every note that Brahms wished for counterpoint. Without his guidance, I never would have found them. Kottler has a few youtube recordings. Hear for yourself what an amazing virtuoso Kottler was. In my off season I am offering piano lessons in Sarasota. Be amazed by Mischa’s “Minute”.
Nocturnes by Chopin are still Highly Cutting Edge in Novelty . This is true even by today’s standards. One of the nocturnes written by Chopin will serve for today’s blog: It is Opus 37, No. 2. Chopin goes from one key signature to the next, quickly. Like a great painter,constantly changing he colors. Yet the entire work holds together beautifully. This opus is like a musical kaleidoscope of harmonies. They shift continually. Chopin was highly experimental. No matter what key this nocturne goes into, he changes the sharps and flats- not the key signature. Throughout the entire score, you see the “F#”, which here denotes the key of G major. In most music, same key signature with continual modulations by “accidentals” rarely happens. As I fascinatingly practice this work, the continual “F#” really stands out against, say, six flats. Yet, the work hangs together for an unforgettable aesthetic experience.
All About Nocturnes
Generally they have a calm feeling. Surprisingly, an Irishman, John Field (1792-1837), is said to have originated the form. Today the Nocturne’s lingering melodies are almost totally abandoned in favor of music that has short rhythmic outbursts. A fairly recent exception is the Harlem Nocturne. The Duke can thank the Irish fellow and Polish fellow for the form title. They have long melodic lines with ornaments. Often they are played with rhythmic freedom. The nocturne was even favored a century early by composers. It was called the notturno. It spelled out nighttime entertainment. The pieces were generally light, short, and meant to be played outdoors. The Moon, of course, was the featured background. Even Haydn wrote a set of notturnos for the king of Naples in 1790.
My Prediction for Nocturnes
Long melodic lines have been on the “outs” for decades. Everything is cyclic. They will return sooner rather than later as an art form. Beautiful is coming back. Take heart. The cycle of beautiful is only about 50 years overdue. Right now I am offering piano lessons in Sarasota. Here is an update: Beginning Dec 20th 2017 I will play 6 days weekly on their new reburbished 1924 Steinway Grand. It has the sweetest sound of any piano on Earth! Thank you master technician Larry Keckler for rebuilidng the piano!
Phrases: How the Romantic Pianists Played Two Note Phrases. Two note phrases have an easy ring. After all, it’s just two notes. But easy, it isn’t. Often learning to apply the technique in practice can take a full year. That’s why I’ve provided this tutorial entitled “The Paris Piano Connection.” It contains seven essential piano techniques. All examples are excerpts from my own compositions. The music was created just for this purpose. A full manuscript of music will be available shortly as a product on DSOworks.com. The reason for the title: My instructor studied in Paris in the 1920’s under Alfred Cortot.
For the blogs, I present the techniques in distinct 7 sections. Then I feature them together in one number that I call, Twilight in A minor. This particular number I later lengthened. It is now featured as “Moonlight on the Lake:” See my numerous thumbnails on DSO.com. All presentations there are free. Each one has a full realization in the actual music. They will be available for purchase in the future. In the complete youtube video, I play 7 sections. Different techniques follow in the “two note phrases” youtube”. However, the technique in consideration is less than a minute. That’s all you need to watch. Each technique will eventually have its own blog. I offer piano lessons in Sarasota.
My Piano Technique and the Voluptuous Two Note Phrases Have Been Enjoyed At the Gasparilla Inn for the 7th Straight Year
The proof of the pudding is in the tasting. I play for United States Presidents and heads of state in the winter season at the Gasparilla Inn on the isle Boca Grande. I’ve just completed my 7th year. My instructor, Mischa Kottler, prepared me for a life time career. He studied in Paris in the 1920’s. That is the reason for the Paris Piano Connection. Then he went on to study with Emil von Sauer in Austria. Sauer edited all of Brahms’s piano music. He also was a pupil of Franz Liszt. Mischa Kottler soloed with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra well into his nineties. On you tube, you can hear him play Chopin’s Minute Waltz like nobody can: He plays it with double notes!
In My Set of 7 Etudes Entitled the Paris Piano Connection, I Demonstrate Classical Two Note Phrases
Numerical Kin at the Great Pyramid & Piano Keys. The numerical kin are numbers 8 and 5. Animating numbers is an ancient concept. Today, many find animating numbers as archaic– in a negative sense. I almost hate to think about how the ancients would think of our “civilization.” Here is the ancient view of how 8 and 5 are numerical kin:
Both 5 and 8 are in the Fibonacci numbers. They are actually “kissin’ kouzins”. They are adjacent numbers in the series: 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34.. etc. Each number, after 1,1, is the sum of the previous two numbers. From large to small, nature uses this series. See Fascinating Fibonaccis: Mystery and Magic in Numbers. It is written by Trudi Hammel Garland.
Ratio of the height of the Great Pyramid to the base is 5 to 8, respectively. The height, in shorter Egyptian cubits (1.71818…ft) is 275. The length of any side of the square base is 440 . See John Michell’s The New View Over Atlantis.
The Great Cubit of 55 cubits also measures the Great Pyramid: 440/275 = 8/5.
5 to 8 as Numerical Kin on the Piano Keyboard
When you play a keyboard, you activate the power of the Great Pyramid. Here’s how:
Its 8 to 5 ratio is found in the ratio of white keys to black in the octave.
As “5” represents the height of the Great Pyramid, there are 5 elevated black keys within the c to c’ octave.
As 8 is the number of the base; the 8 white keys are the foundation from which the 5 black rise.
The side of a square base of the Great pyramid measures 440 cubits. We, in the U.S. and England, tune to “A” 440. It is one of the white keys.
Please keep checking the blogs. Very soon I will reveal one of the fundamental forgotten principles of the Great Pyramid. It has been has been long buried.
Finally, I have just finished my “labor of love” as the pianist on the isle of Boca Grande at the Gasparilla Inn. I’ll be available for a while as a piano teacher in Sarasota.
I had the goal of finding a significant model for the theme of “balance”. I thought it was the 5 regular “Platonic solids”. They are totally regular and balanced anyway you look at them. To accomplish this, Buckminister Fuller’s Synergetics was on my “to read” list. The book, however, is like a long lasting sucker: It is so big and intense, that you can only take one lick at the time. Then, I had a dream about a humming bird. Shortly afterward, we went to Oquaga Lake’s setting in the Catskills. There, I met the Oquaga Spirit, as she called herself.
The Humming Bird of my Dream Makes Itself Known on Oquaga Lake
Our family started going to New York’s Catskills for five months; from May to October. My wife, Sharon, and I, did our featured shows twice weekly. I was also the house pianist. Spring fed Oquaga Lake has a spiritual presence. On the products page on DSOworks.com, I have my book of poetry:T he Oquaga Spirit Speaks. The spirit was originally a female from the matriarchal Lennie Lenope tribe. The tribe is a branch of the Algonquins. There is still some controversy over the meaning of Oquaga. Most recently an e-mail contact told me that Oquaga is a Mohawk word. It means “land of the wild grape.”
The resulting 100 page poetry book has poetry with pictures. It is available through DSOworks.com for $2.99. I priced it that way to make the spirit’s words affordable. Shortly I will post on youtube samples of me reciting the poetry. This excerpt below is called “The Oquaga Spirit”.
Doris and Scotty called
With an invite to Lake Oquaga
I met the spirit on walks
That lead to the words of this saga.
I played the piano at night
And afternoons on the boat.
But in the mornings I’d stroll,
And the Spirit would be afloat.
The poetry has several references to the humming bird including,”Ivy Towers.”
They perch on the porch
Hidden in the flowers;
Gazing down at us
From their ivy towers.
Of every size
From the humming bird
To the owl so wise.
Maximum stretch for the piano is essential. There seems to be very few ideally sized hands. Short fingers make wide stretches on the piano difficult. Playing closely with stubby fingers is difficult. Wide palms slow down tucking the thumb under for scales or arpeggios. My instructions through piano lessons has helped many of my students understand how to get the most out of their reach.
ROBERT SCHUMANN’S UNSUCCESSFUL SURGERY
There are ways to overcome inherent difficulties without going to extremes. An example of going to extremes involves Robert Schumann, the composer. He thought that surgery would correct an inherent difficulty: Fingers four and five work best together. It’s difficult to move 4th without the fifth finger. These two weaker fingers share a common tendon. Unfortunately, his surgery did not work.
ONE MAN TOOK A SMALLER PIANO WITH HIM
Another method to acquire maximum stretch for the piano is the piano itself. Josef Hoffman took his piano with him on concert tours. His piano was specially designed for small hands: The distance from key to key is shorter.
I, having a small to medium sized hand, invented a five finger stretch. In all my years of playing etudes, I’ve never encountered this idea. I feel this is an essential exercise for anyone who shares my hand limitation: Some composers, for example, Sergei Rachmaninoff; had hand huge hands. With small hands, that creates difficulties. I call my exercise, simply: The Five Finger Stretch. It stretches the webbing of the fingers by fifths and octaves.
HOW TO PLAY THE QUICK AND EFFECTIVE 5 FINGER STRETCH
Here is the finger sequence for the right hand by fifths and then by octaves. It ascends and then descends based on the solfeggio notes of the one octave C major scale. By fifths we have: 1-2-3-2; 1-2-3-2; etc. then 3-4-5-3, 3-4-5-3 etc; then 2-3-4-3; 2-3-4-3. The fingering up and down the scale are reversed for the left hand. Then I use the octave stretch with the following fingerings: 1-2-5-2, 1-2-5-2; and secondly, 1-3-5-3; 1-3-5-3. By note we have: c-c’-c”-c’; d-d’-d”-d’. This stretch encompasses two octaves.
The exercise is no guarantee that the small handed person will be able to play Rachmaninoff. However, it will stretch your hand to its maximum. Important: Should you experience fatigue or pain in your fingers, stop. Shake your hands and fingers out. Only play this exercise if you feel stretching without pain. How about the size of Rachmaninoff’s hand?
Look to the past to face the future with absolute confidence. The very thought has a built in paradox: How can looking backwards get you ahead? Yet, this is exactly what happened in the musical arts of France in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th centuries. In my opinion the action of looking backwards to go forward took the extremely brilliant mind of Claude Debussy as well as his contemporary composer friend, Maurice Ravel and others. I have been reading and studying L’art de Toucher Le Clavcin by Francois Couperin. It was first published in 1716. I feel that in some ways, it lays the groundwork for the impressionistic movement. Of course, the harmonies of impressionism differ dramatically from the Couperin’s earlier prototype.
Debussy is not the man who would be king:
He is the king!
One extremely important instruction that Couperin offers today’s performers of Debussy involves dynamics. That is, whether or not to play loudly or softly in a particular musical passage. Couperin writes in his musical treatise that it is up to the composer to make the music louder or softer by the notes on the page. For a louder section, he places more notes in his chord or musical passage. For softer passages, notes are be removed. Melodies were often supported by thinly realized harmonies. This helps in making subtle playing even when many notes sound at once. Old keyboards did not play louder and softer by degrees: They could only contrast loud and soft by use of a special pedal. According to Couperin, the quantity of notes that sounded at once made the volume. This kept both vulgar and excessively loud playing to a minimum. My teacher learned these techniques from Alfred Cortot in the 1920’s, and I offer piano lessons which offer these techniques.
Today’s pianists, by and large, overplay the compositions of the impressionistic composers. For the most part,the sound of the music takes care of itself by means of the extra notes that that Debussy or Ravel wrote into the musical score. I have been preparing one hour of the of Debussy’s music to be available on this website. In doing so, I have discovered a hidden technique that Debussy used. Its purpose was to tell the pianist what note or chord to emphasize. Also, the absence of the use of this device meant to play the notes or chords in a gentler manner. Since beginning this project, I have nothing but awe for the genius of Debussy. In my humble opinion, I think he was not only had a totally brilliant mind, but he was a great, great innovator with good taste. I cannot describe the wonderful feeling I have anytime I get even a tiny insight into what Debussy had in mind in his music. Stay tuned for more Debussy and Ravel blogs.