piano musings

Art Installation Music

I received word today of this short film by Steven Liang, of an art installation by Beili Liu. You can go to her site to see more pictures of this particular installation, Lure #1. He chose to use one of my favorite piano improvisations, An Elusive Sweetness, for the soundtrack. Check it out, it's a gorgeous piece of art.

All Over The Place

A gentleman named "Captain Pat" wrote me a while back asking permission to use one of my piano musings in a project of his. The completed project is available now - an experimental comedy shown on community television in Australia, parts of it shot on location in Bangkok! My music "Old Toy Soldier" is on whenever "The Presenter" is speaking and I'm in the credits at the end. You can also read more about the show.

Online Videos by Veoh.com

Art Musings - Glass and Steel

Another Kasey Baker painting, in response to my piano musings.

Glass and Steel is about a particularly tragic automobile accident.

Glass and Steel

"There is a stillness after destruction that is peaceful and stunning."

Australian Community Television

Another example of how the Creative Commons is cool - I heard from a "Captain" Pat McGeown, who is producing a community television show in Sydney, Australia. He'll be using one of my piano musings, Old Toy Soldier as part of a soundtrack for one of his episodes. There's a brief article about it here, and in a few weeks the episode will be up online and I'll have it here.

Podsafe Piano Musings

All of my Piano Musings are podsafe, which means that podcasters can grab them and use them as background music for their podcasts, as long as I'm credited, etc.

There is a site called Podsafe Audio that specializes in categorizing this kind of music. I just created a page specifically for the piano musings, and you can find it here.

Art Musings - Metal Knotted

Another Kasey Baker painting, in response to my piano musings.

Metal Knotted came from a discussion about the nature of anxiety and what it feels like when it dissipates. I didn't actually know that is what I was feeling when I improvised the piece, but Kasey captured it afterwards by coming up with this artwork in reaction.

Metal Knotted

"Start with a loose tangle. Find two ends, and start pulling them in opposite directions. Make them want different things. Force through the tangle, fight against it. Turn it into a knot, make it harder, as hard as metal. Then remember, how could metal ever become a knot? To untangle, remember where it started. With softness."

Art Musings - Dancing About Architecture

Another Kasey Baker painting, in response to my piano musings.

Dancing About Architecture corresponded to a time when Kasey and I were just getting to know each other - she told me she was an architect and I was challenged to come up with something that represented architecture in my mind - simple structures that vary with time and effort. I couldn't get as complicated as I wanted since I was making it up as I went along, but I felt that I got the idea down. Kasey then responded with this work.

Dancing About Architecture

"It's a strange structure, new. She moves around it tentatively, slowly assembling the pieces in her understanding and movements. It's a careful embrace, but ultimately whole and secure."

Art Musings - Busted Lemonade Stand

Another Kasey Baker painting, in response to my piano musings.

Busted Lemonade Stand came from a random memory of a friend telling me about her attempts to sell lemonade when she was a kid. Her and her friend didn't tell their moms what they were doing, so they kind of improvised.

Busted Lemonade Stand

"Lemonade stands always sound like such a good idea. Although sometimes there's splinters in the plywood, or the ice melts too fast, or you realize you don't have enough dixie cups, so you start reusing them. And the day stretches on."

Site Directions

Well, it's been almost four months since I've launched this site. I've wanted the site to become something akin to a framework, workflow, and representation of my efforts as a musician. I think I've succeeded there. Whenever I create or accomplish something musically, I have a place to put it. So now (and perhaps this is partially because of how me having a cold affects my brain), I'm moved to review and think about how it's all working.

"A place to put it" is interesting. Because if I were to merely keep these things in my head, in iTunes, on a scratch piece of staff paper - they'd still exist, I suppose, but it doesn't feel like any of them have life until I put them somewhere where there's a chance other people might experience them, or perhaps enjoy them.

But everything has a home right now. I have a place for my song drafts. A place for my improvised piano pieces. A place for my jazz standards (although a password is needed there). A place where I can write about what I'm doing, a mailing list where people can sign up, which gives an excuse to summarize my own progress to give myself benchmarks.

So far it's a good experiment - all combined, I've interacted with this site in some way every day since then. It kind of gives me something to react to, which helps me take music more seriously in a way that feels natural rather than disciplined. It's having good results too - I thought up, wrote, and learned I Have A Cold in about three hours. It's a stupid silly song, and I was completely punchy - laughing about it while hopped up on cold medicines - the sort of thing where the mood that drove the creation of the song would have passed in a few hours. Six months ago I would not have been able to capture that complete song in time. (Which, in the case of that particular song, might have been a good thing! :) ) But it's a cool feeling to feel that I am starting to have a more direct pipeline into whatever it is that enables us to write cohesive songs.

I've started to look at the site as a marketing vehicle, too. Not that I have anything to sell at this point, but I have liked the idea of the site gradually attracting readership/listenership. I'm going to use a bad word here. I am currently what is known as a "hack". :) The real definition of a hack is someone who gets their support by people already known to them. I'm basically tracking my "hack quotient" by keeping track of who is on my mailing list. Right now, almost everyone on my mailing list is someone that I already know - family and friends. If I divide the number of People I Know by the number of People On The List, then that means I have a "hack quotient" of somewhere between 91.3% and 95.6%. I am hoping that number decreases over time! I do notice that viewership is increasing a bit, which is encouraging. Some from a couple of links I create, like my sig at an unrelated discussion board I frequent, or a couple of comments I've left over at jonathancoulton.com (my unwitting mentor), but I'm also noticing an increasing number of google searches for "curt siffert" and also for Balancing Above The Air.

The question is what to do next. It's fun to think about what level of success one can get just by focusing on the online end, but I really don't want to limit myself to that. There are several challenges and possible directions here.

I'd like to play out. I haven't performed for too many months now, although performing for my recorder does at least help a little. The problem is basically repertoire and instrumentation. I'm not a guitarist, so I am not as flexible as a guitarist singer/songwriter. I now have two songs that I can perform as a solo singer/pianist, but they're both what I like to think of as "contrast songs". I need more meat and potatoes songs. I also have two songs that can be performed as a group with a guitarist, although Together would require some thought on how to arrange it. Basically I just need to create more rep.

I do have an instrumentation - I know both a good drummer and bass player who would be psyched to play out with me once we have material. I love the idea of doing some Jamie Cullum crossed with Ben Folds type stuff. And my band Deja Nu is also interested in performing some three-horn arrangements of my stuff too as I write it. So I've definitely got options. It's basically up to me to come up with material.

There's also the option of me pursuing new age piano stuff, although it doesn't particularly thrill me to consider being a new age live performer. But I am currently in the midst of producing a cd of some of the better tracks. It'll be a short run for now, just to get things up and sellable on iTunes.

Beyond that it's about just creating more songs and seeing what opportunities and brainstorms happen. I'm also thinking about whether it makes sense to keep uploading rough drafts of material here. There's kind of a quality point material needs to be at before you'll start attracting the kind of attention that will lower the "hack quotient". :) But for now, I'm happy with the way things are.

Creative Commons License

So, after doing a bunch of research, I've finally figured out how to apply the creative commons licenses to my works here.

All my piano musings have a by-nc-sa license applied to them. That means that you can, without having to contact me and ask, download the pieces, and share them provided my name stays attached. You can also adapt them into your own works provided you apply a similar noncommercial license to the resultant work, and again give me attribution.

All my songs have a by-nc-nd license. That means that you can, without contacting me to ask, download and share my songs provided you keep my name attached. nd stands for "No Derivatives", meaning you can't adapt them into your own works. So it's a slightly more restrictive license.

You can of course feel free to contact me for more permissions on any of them, though. Some of the art musings have already had extra permissions granted to them (even though they are connected to my tunes, I let the artist have commercial purposes for the resultant art). Just contact me, I love to collaborate.

It was fun figuring out the technical end - in addition to each page having a creative commons badge, I was also able to give each song a friendly page name, such as http://curtsiffert.com/phoenixgrace for Phoenix Grace, and even embed the copyright information into the mp3 for each song. That means that as these songs propagate to file-sharing networks, the url for the song home will be spread out there as well, so people will be able to find me.

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© 2007 Curt Siffert. Some audio protected with a Creative Commons license.
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