Wednesday, October 6, 2010

October 3, 2010

Admittedly, it took a long time for me to get back to my blog – the last time I wrote here was a mere four months ago. I guess there are few reasons for this delay. First, it took me a while to become clearer about what belongs in this public blog, which is more associated with my musical career, versus in a diary or an autobiographic book which are more connected to one’s personal life. The initial ideal of unifying all writings into one truthful literal form seems now immature, unpractical and undesirable. It could be an immense experience to strive for complete truthfulness and honesty in a public blog, but I realize that this is not my intention or desire.

Being honest means that every time the thought crosses your mind to not say or not write something, you make a conscious effort and attempt to do so, to express your ever unfolding truth, unless you find a concrete reason to hold back and not share your evolving feelings or thoughts. I love these moments, and they occur every day, when I’m talking with someone, and suddenly I want to say something but immediately hesitate. Then I think to myself “sure, I can say this, why not” and I do so. However, in different social environments we choose to be more open and in others more closed. With certain people we are naturally more revealing and with others less. With a true friend, it is wonderful how we can opt for honesty whenever we think “should I say this or not”? That honesty leads to human growth. It strengthens the friendship and helps us to better know ourselves.

Another reason for my illustrious procrastination with regards to writing this blog is my clinging to the present. I always feel that writing something terns it from being the present into being the past. In a brutal way of saying it, writing an experience kills it. It becomes something else – a memory. Everything I write is always in one form or another a diary, since I think that life is interesting enough as it is and I don’t have the need to invent fictional events or characters, but wish to focus on understanding what is already there and really happening. But once I describe my experience in writing, the act itself of writing feels like a confession that now that experience had become a memory; and a memory is always of something that had passed. Instead of experiencing the moment itself, by writing it I make it into a thing of the past. And while the present can be so joyful - its pure bliss tainted only by the fear of its nearing end, when it also will become a past - the memory of the past is always intertwined with some sadness because of the simple fact that it had passed.

We are historians of our lives, theoreticians of our compositions. I keep telling my students that the way we work on music is like looking at a single frame of a film before running the film again. The ability to isolate a single musical element and master it independently before putting it back into the context of the whole piece leads to virtuosity. More so, the ability to observe a single moment in life in depth leads to greater personal happiness and peacefulness. In the future, the present will become the past. Then it will be time to remember it and learn.

Monday, May 31, 2010

May 30, 2010

Today I found myself wondering about my personal and public identity. Many questions rose: what to keep to myself and what to share? Do I share my creative process, such as preparing a piece and practicing it, or only the final outcome, such as a recording or public performance? Is there a line between the two, the creative process and its outcome? Are we all interested in the so called final artwork, or in the entire process which leads to its creation?

To be honest, I have my answer to these questions. I don’t think there is a line between creating and a creation. An artwork, as masterful as it may be, is never finished. What you see in a concert and on the stage or hear on a recording, is just another practice session, only that this time it is in front of the public.

I have been using the internet to explore my boundaries in regard to personal versus public, posting video clips documenting my creative process, and sharing it with viewers who were supportive and made interesting comments and suggestions. I also have been writing this online diary. But all along I am also feeling apprehensive about it. Is it effective to share more than just the finished product? Is it the “right thing” to do to share the process with others? Why is it quite uncommon? And is it productive or counterproductive? Should one cater to people’s tendency to admire “greatness” or fight that tendency? The more I think about it, I realize that all of these doubts are my fears, and that the desire to share and the belief in the value of sharing, while respecting the privacy of others and myself, is real.

Early on, I realized that writing an open diary is very different than writing a personal one, and I can’t see how one can replace the other. The real reason for writing a diary is that it wonderfully serves one’s human growth. Once the diary is public, a lot of attention is given to the question of what can and can not be comfortably shared. When you write a private diary, you can commit yourself to the process of exploring your truth without having to be so sensitive to issues of privacy concerning yourself and others.

What is interesting to see is that the sense of boundaries regarding what can be comfortably made public and what is enjoyed kept personal was realized within myself and not imposed on me by any other entity, such as my readers or listeners. It reminded me how a few years ago I was playing with a child of a friend. The child was throwing things in the room, testing his boundaries. He expected me to stop him and forbid him to keep throwing. But to his surprise, I instead started also throwing things in the room with him, even more vigorously than him. That way I allowed him to experience his own boundaries. He stopped throwing the objects out of his own will, and felt empowered to make the decision to impose his own boundaries. For me this was an educational triumph.

I feel a little bit like that child now, questioning my own boundaries regarding what to share or not share online. But still, I feel that many times we are too apprehensive about privacy. If there is a benefit to more than ourselves in our sharing our knowledge and creative experience with others, we should do so.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 26, 2010

It’s almost 11:30 pm. There are a few important things that I could be doing now, but I’m too tired to do anything, and the only thing that I feel like doing is writing a few words in this ongoing diary experiment.

The exciting news of the day: A 4 night upcoming Las Vegas vacation at the Luxor hotel was booked earlier this morning. Magnificent buffets – here I come!!

On a more spiritual side: last night was a night of vivid and soul opening dreams. I woke up very early and wanted to write them down, but was too sleepy to actually do so. In those moments physical awaking and psychological awakening, I wish there was a way to just think these thoughts and have them written down by the force of the mind, without any need to move or even speak. I’m sure the day will come when you can write on a computer or other devise by thinking. At these moments, even whispering seems to interfere with the gentle state of consciousness, even though I was fully awake at the time of desiring to write my post dreaming thoughts down. Instead, I fell back to sleep…

But I do remember the two dreams: in one, I dreamt that my mother was flying planes in the skies of Tel-Aviv as a young woman. I’m holding above my head a sheet of nylon, trying to understand how she managed to fly holding this piece like a parachute above her head. She then appears and demonstrates how she puts it on, wearing it more like one would wear a safety vest which road workers put on so that they are seen by traffic. While I was actually trying to hold the nylon sheet above my head in order to fly, she is wearing it on. In the second dream, which was connected to the first, I am seated to a long table at an Israeli large meal event, and I’m singing with a microphone a song. I remember clearly its title. It was Crashing on the Moon. I become quite emotional while singing it and my voice cracks. It is a revelation, and everyone is responding with great enthusiasm. I wanted to write down the melody at that time as I was waking up, but as I said, didn’t raise myself out of slumber to do so.

Bobby (Barbara) Altman, my former student who recently passed away and who I mentioned in a previous entry, is definitely connected to the first dream, because she was a pilot. Her greatest passion in life was flying small plans, and she was proudly involved with constructing a historical plan according to its original plans. Her and her teammates took years to complete it, but they did fly it in the end.

Crashing on the Moon is very symbolic. I sense how truthful this metaphor is yet would have to think about it more in order to see if I can understand its possible meanings. I don’t think anyone ever crashed on the moon, or at least I’m not familiar with such event. While you expect a crashing object to fall from the sky onto earth, crashing on the moon is in a way absurd and seems to have a very different meaning. I also remember that in the dream, crashing on the moon related to my mother, and I think that Bobby replaced her at the end. I remember her standing at the entrance to my parent’s house in Tel-Aviv wearing a brown leather pilot jacket with a zipper at the end of my dream.

Many times I realize that dreams have a purpose of warning, not so much in the sense that something bad is bound to happen and they predict it, but more in the sense of raising our awareness level by presenting metaphoric images of scenes that reflect on the dynamics of our lives. Interpreting these metaphors seems to help me understand my life better, and subsequently to steer away from possible icebergs I may be heading towards. That is why I think is very important to stay in tune with oneself and with the development of one’s consciousness.

I had no idea I was going to write about dreams. It’s wonderful how the writing just takes over and leads to wherever it does. Well, good night for now.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May 23, 2010

It’s an unusually early time for writing – 5:30 on Sunday morning. But I woke up, and the urge to write was already there from a few days ago.

Another busy weekend filled with music and good food: on Friday I played at Boston University for their end of the year event. That day I spent the evening with Israeli friends celebrating the Shavuot holiday. The food was amazing. Yesterday, Saturday, we had a celebratory concert of the NEC Preparatory School and School of Continuation Education at The Center for the Arts in Natick (TCAN) and that was a great event filled with wonderful music from students and faculty alike, and characterized by a strong sense of community. I’ve been teaching at the NEC Prep&SCE Schools for 14 years, and know many of the former students-performers since they were partially kids... And today I’m back at Futura Productions, for more recordings with the students I’m working with. There is so much musical passion and talent around that it’s truly mind boggling!

Another piece of good news is that finally, after a somewhat longer than usual search, we found an apartment in Israel for the summer. So my big To Do list is shortening every day, which allows me to have one less thing to think about or get ready for and the ability to concentrate more on the things that are left to do.

Of course the six concerts in Europe in July are requiring the most preparation. I am playing different programs in most of these concerts so many pieces need to be prepared. On July 3, I am playing with Andrei at the Wilhelm Schimmel Pianofortefabrik in Braunschweig. I’m looking forward to playing on their phenomenal pianos which they kindly let me try when I visited there last year. I have a special affinity with Schimmel pianos, as my first piano as a child was a Schimmel and I loved it dearly. I will play what we call a Mini Recital of Gershwin tunes and than our arrangement of Pictures at an Exhibition together with Andrei.

In Germany, I will stay with Gerhard and Bettina, and I’m so much looking forward to visiting with them again. They have crated a loving home which is welcoming to all and deeply inspiring. Staying with them always feels like healing and recovering in the comfort of true friends. I will write more about Gerhard and Bettina in the future, but it would suffice to say now that I feel enormously lucky to have met them.

The following day, Andrei and I will play longer individual programs at the Hummers Kultursalon in Sossmar, and for this concert I would like to revisit solo favorites and to present new ones. July 5 is my birthday, and I will spend it with Gerhard and Bettina and their family. I’m sure some fabulous ice-cream is in order! On the 9th I will fly to Rome and meet there with my friend Vince. The first concert in Rome is at the Casina delle Civette (The Owls’ Cottage). It is on the Villa Torlonia compound, which was the state residence of Mussolini since 1920. I will play a program of favorite solo pieces at that concert, including some from the second concert in Germany. The following day, at the romantic outdoors Teatro di Marcello, I am playing again a program that is all Gershwin. It will include all the pieces from the first concert in Germany plus additional ones. On the 13, Vince will fly to Israel and I will go to Scarborough, England to meet again with Gerhard and Bettina and Andrei. On the 15 we will play at the Saint Joseph Theatre in the Round the same program we play at Schimmel. And then on the 19th we play again a final concert that will include pieces from all the previous concerts.

So practicing for all of these wonderful concerts is challenging, especially given my self imposed rule to not practice more than 3 different pieces in one singe day, which was designed to help me stay focused in my practicing and not jump between too many different things. And that’s why I’m filled with happiness every time another concert or recording is checked off my Do To list, and I can focus better on what’s left at hand.

Well, it’s shortly after 6 am: a good time, even if not typical, to start my day, or maybe just fall fall back asleep. Why did I wake up so early?!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

May 19, 2010

It’s just before 11 pm – the wonderful quiet end of the day.

I spent most of it in the studio editing the video from my concert with Andrei Ivanovitch in May last year. Our performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition is about 38 minutes long. It took from 9 in the morning to 4 pm to edit the video for 6 minutes of music, and that was a very productive and flawless day. By now, we have edited the first 16 minutes and have about 22 minutes to go. We also did today color correction, which is a process designed to make the shoots from the different camera consistent. I’m trying to finish this project before I go to Europe in July.

When I arrived to the studio in the morning I realized that I forgot at home the hard drive which has out project on it. I had to go back home to bring it and decided to jog it out of respect for the good people that were waiting for me back at studio in particular and for the Goddess of Music in general . I don’t think I ran since the early 18th century. I have something in principle against anything that is more than walking. But I was able to make it back by 9:20 and we started working. I didn’t have anything to eat, and had a brief struggle with a vending machine for lunch (a bag of pretzels). It insisted on only accepting exact change. I would have been very happy to pay a whole dollar, but it was 85 cents or no pretzels at all. In the end I found my 85 cents in loose change and obtained my desired bag of giant pretzels. I don’t remember enjoying a pretzel for quite some time like that. The moment when my hand was feeling its way though the plastic bag then realizing that the last pretzel has just been relinquished was a sad one indeed. When they were finished (it was a rather small bag) I stayed traumatically hungry for the rest of the day.

I got home quite exhausted after the editing session and slept from around 5 to 7. I only had one student at the conservatory, because all the rest were either outside of the country, had a headache, or were on their off week. The one lesson I did teach was very nice, proving to me again that it is the teacher who is often learning at least as much as the student during a lesson. I personally don’t like using these words: teacher, student and lesson. They reflect a certain hierarchy which doesn’t feel natural to me. The process of studying is a shared one where all participants contribute their knowledge and insight. My students (again, this word) are often surprised by (and seem to be pleased by) how glad I am to say that I don’t know something or that I can’t give their question a definite answer.

After the lesson (I’ll stop using this word soon. I would put it in quotes, but it masses up the text in the blog text box with HTML codes. That’s why I’m avoiding for now italicizing, bolding, quoting and such) I grabbed more wonderful junk food and went back to the conservatory to practice. My recent problem with practicing is that I like to start with reading Bach’s Preludes and Fugues. It’s a wonderful thing, only that what usually happens is that I don’t get to practice the pieces I need to practice for concerts and recordings. I call it Positive Procrastination – the process of delaying doing something important by doing something also important. At least it’s much better than normal procrastination, which usually involves video games, DVDs, popcorn and long phone calls to forgotten friends. My procrastination, I can say proudly, is playing Bach. By the way, procrastination is one of the words that don’t exist in Hebrew. In return, the Hebrew word Davka doesn’t exist in English. And if it is words we are talking about now: I think Love Seat is a brilliant English invention. What a wonderful way to describe a sofa for two! On the other hand I have a serious problem with the word Broth. Broth should not be a word for food, it sound really not appetizing. Instead, Broth should be the word for bad breath! Also, everyone should know that a pill in English is a medicine capsule that you swallow, but in Hebrew Pill means an elephant. And last but not least, I have a great affection to the word Barvazim in Hebrew which means Ducks. It just has a cute sound. A duck is always cute, no matter how you look at it!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

May 16, 2010 (shortly after noon time)

Like every romantic plan, the plan of seating at the beautiful Japanese garden beneath my apartment and writing an open diary soon encountered several practical obstacles. First of all, on a beautiful sunny day like this one today it is a little challenging to write on the laptop because of the reflection of the light from the screen. It seems that the more light there is, the screen becomes more like a mirror, and instead of seeing what I’m writing I seeing myself. Of course, I could write with a pencil on a paper, but then I would have to copy it to the computer. When I was working on One Time, I never wrote directly on the computer – always with a pencil on a paper, and only after editing I would copy to the computer. Writing on the computer seems to lack the immediate connection which writing with a pencil on a paper has, and I always get more inspired when hand-writing. But since it is more practical and my time these days seems somewhat limited, I resort to writing directly on the laptop now.

This brings to mind the wonderful poet Cavafy, who if I’m right, refused to use electricity in his house, and choose to write his poems to the light of candles. The poem below is a wonderful proof of the effect this choice had on his art. It is one of my favorite poems.


Days to come stand in front of us,
like a row of burning candles -
golden, warm, and vivid candles.
Days past fall behind us,
a gloomy line of burnt-out candles;
the nearest are still smoking,
cold, melted, and bent.
I don't want to look at them: their shape saddens me,
and it saddens me to remember their original light.
I look ahead at my burning candles.
I don't want to turn, don't want to see, terrified,
how quickly that dark line gets longer,
how quickly one more dead candle joins another.

Constantine P. Cavafy

One thing leads to another, and this poem brings me back to Bobby (Barbara) Altman. Bobby studied with me at NEC for about 10 years, during which she was also coping with illness. She stopped taking piano lessons about three years ago as her health condition made it increasingly difficult for her to play. We did get a chance to record a project together, in which she played the piano and I helped her produce the recording. She was about seventy years old when her first CD was completed and she repeatedly expressed to me her great joy of making this CD. She simply titled it Bobby, which was so like her. A couple weeks ago she passed away. I went to the celebration of her life event and was so pleased to see that a copy of her CD was given to all of the guests. I listened to my copy in the car already on the way there and so pleasantly remembered how good it sounds.

Bobby’s passing away inspired me. I realized that even though the person is gone, the love to them remains and even grows. We always ponder about what is the afterlife, and it suddenly occurred to me that the afterlife is simply the memories and legacy we leave behind in the minds and hearts of the people who knew us. It’s a very optimistic view, because it means that we are already living now our afterlives. Every energy we inject into this world, whether it’s a smile, an act of kindness, or a musical recording or other piece of art, is our afterlife. I like this thought because it encourages me to be good to people and to distinguish between what’s materialistic and passing and what’s spiritual and lasting. Since Bobby passed away, I found myself more willing to make an extra step for someone else.

May 16, 2010

It’s Saturday after midnight, so practically it’s Sunday. The last couple days were busy. On Friday I spent much of the day at the Futura Productions recording studio in Roslindale, helping my students to record. It was a wonderful day: Ellie, Marti, Cece, Vesi and Meggie and Matthew made their recordings. I supervised some of them and played with others. I hope that some of these will become available also on Youtube soon, as we were running video cameras throughout the day. But first I need to figure out the easiest way to put together the video which we took during the recording session with the audio from the studio. I took the train and walked from Back Bay station on the wonderful promenade, and came back home in the evening. Then I watched the second half of “Avatar”, which is quite disturbing, and fell asleep after making some phone calls.

On Saturday, we had the final evaluations at NEC. It’s always an amazing day. To see how people have developed this year is truly exciting. There is always one person whose performance sticks in mind afterwards. This time it was a young drummer, student of Gary Fieldman. He played a rhythmic exercise with incredible musicality, virtuosity and precision. But what was really great about it was that even though this was merely a rhythmic exercise, you could sense his musical passion and his pleasant personality in the performance. I asked him to do it again, this time as we clap the beats while he was playing.

Finally, tomorrow is a free day, time to organize a little and keep moving forward down the list. I made a list of 18 concerts, recordings and gigs that are scheduled from May to July. The first three are now behind me. This week I have a performance for Boston University, our faculty concert in Natick and a recording with my student Anika at Futura. And of course it all builds up towards the concerts in Eorupe in July, two in Germany, two in Italy and two in England. A lot of preparation is required, and I’m very hopeful that as the teaching schedule ease up with the end of the spring semester I will be able to dedicate the adequate amount of time and have the necessary mind space to prepare for these concerts.

On another note, I watched this evening (Saturday) the movie "Ervinka" by Erfaim Kishon. It’s an old black and white Israeli film staring Haim Topol that was filmed in Tel-Aviv around the time of my birth. I could can see Tel-Aviv before I grew up in it, which is always a little reminiscent and heartbreaking. It is always emotional to be faced with your past. Since moving to the US some seventeen years ago, I gained appreciation and perspective of where I came from, that only once moving to a new country i was able to gain. The perspective changes when you are looking at where you came from from another place. This also has to do with family and heritage, which for me carries a bittersweet taste.

So much is being left out here, because of writing these entries in such an open format. Still, it is wonderful to be able to share what is comfortably shared. I think of my neighbor Ken from last year, who moved since to New York. He always talked about how people are too afraid of one another. Once, we were sitting on the stairs outside at the front of the building. I used to love sitting outside like that, just watching the leaves of the trees slightly moving with the wind in the darkness. Maybe I’ll do it again after finishing writing these words, if it's nice outside at this late hour. Anyhow, as I was sitting there with Ken someone was trying to park their car just in front of us. Ken was eager to help them and jumped up in order to direct them as they were reversing. The person in the car saw him approaching and took off…

Thursday, May 13, 2010

May 13, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

It was twenty years ago when I set under a magnificent tree and started writing what later would become “One Time” – an autobiographic diary which allowed me to look into myself. Twenty years have passed, but the desire to be truthful remains, and so does the understanding that writing is a most wonderful way of enriching one’s life. By simply revealing to yourself what you are going through you become more truthful, and the quality of your life improves. Many things that we go through every day and that are meaningful are left forgotten. When writing, they reappear - like remembering a dream from last night - their meaning is revealed and we learn more about ourselves and become more fulfilled.

But of course there are social filters. One can yearn to be completely truthful with oneself, but once the process of writing is open to the public like it is here, certain familiar filters are imposed on the writing. Yet, I feel very strongly that what I would like to do now is to write an open diary that would not only improve the quality of my life by attempting to be truthful with myself, but will allow me to share my experiences with others and will allow you to comment on my experiences and share yours. I also know that I don’t want each entry into this blog to be heavily edited or worked on over more than one session. Rather, I think of this writing process as free improvisation – a vehicle which allows me to document my experiences and share them with you. Those so-called social filters become what the form of a song is to an improvisation on that same song: by limiting its structure it enriches its content.

And here we are, twenty years after the first words of One-Time were written – the book which I started in 1989 and which I still haven’t finished. Today is Thursday, May 13, 2010: I went down to the wonderful Japanese garden beneath my apartment in Boston. It is a little magnificent spiritual garden with a small fish-pond hosting about twenty red-and-white fish. They are swimming in the somewhat murky water besides me, as I am seated on the wooden floor of the small terrace which is by the water, writing on my laptop. It is so wonderful to simply sit and write like this, to type away the next thought that comes to my mind, to acknowledge my existence while a wonderful breeze of air momentarily cools off this beautiful sunny day.