Lydia Schimmer at the Dubois organ

Today’s menu contained a couple of pieces she played exactly six years ago, plus a couple of others. I was exited by two pieces I’m also working on, which is the Passacaglia of Buxtehude and the pièce of Böhm. Surprisingly, she used a Diapason 8 for the solo voice in the latter pièce instead of a solo voice (like Cornet, Tierce, Voix humaine etc.).

Here’s the track listing:

  • Georg Muffat (1653-1704) – Apparatus musico organisticus – Toccata Prima
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Leipziger Choräle – Nun danket alle Gott (BWV 657)
  • Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1707) – Passacaglia in d (BuxWV 161)
  • Georg Boehm (1661-1733) – Vater unser im Himmelreich
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) – Adagio pour harmonica de verre
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Hymne Veni Creator – Veni Creator en taille à 5
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Hymne Veni Creator – Fugue à 5
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Hymne Veni Creator – Duo
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Hymne Veni Creator – Récit de cromorne
  • Nicolas de Grigny (1672-1703) – Hymne Veni Creator – Dialogue sur les grands jeux

Nextcloud – so as to fill the space available

I ran out of disk space on my server, which mainly hosts a nextcloud instance. Surprisingly I found tons of files I deleted ages ago in
nextcloud/data/username/files_trashbin/files/

It turned out my config.php was missing an entry for trashbin_retention_obligation, which as a consequence defauls to auto. I’ve now added the following line to configure a minimum and maximum amount of days that deleted files are kept:
'trashbin_retention_obligation' => '1, 7',

BTW: I think the default behaviour at least raises a data privacy issue.

Jürgen Essl am Weißenburger Instrument

Ausgerechnet heute wurde das Baustellenzelt auf der Rheinbrücke abgebaut. Es stand daher nach Westen lediglich ein Fahrstreifen zur Verfügung. Der Rückstau reichte bis zum Westbahnhof. Da zusätzlich in Schaidt das alljährliche Volksfest nebst entsprechender Umleitung stattfand, kam ich leider erst etwa zur Mitte des Programmes zum Konzert. Ausnahmsweise gab es heute eine Übertragung vom Spieltisch auf Großbildleinwand.

Ich bin froh, im Stau nicht umgedreht und zurückgefahren zu sein, denn über die Passacaglia und Fuge in c-Moll habe ich mich sehr gefreut. Das Werk ist mit rund 15 Minuten recht lang. Essl registriert angenehm sparsam und trägt nicht zu dick auf. Selbst ich hätte aufgrund der Länge wahrscheinlich mehr Registerwechsel eingebaut.

Hier das komplette Programm:

  • Georg Muffat (1653-1704) – Toccata VI
  • Georg Muffat (1653-1704) – Nova Cyclopeias Harmonica
  • Isfrid Kayser (1712-1771) – Concerto
  • Isfrid Kayser (1712-1771) – Passepied
  • Isfrid Kayser (1712-1771) – Gigue
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Præludium und Fuge d-Moll (BWV 539)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (BWV 654)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Passacaglia und Fuge c-Moll (BWV 582)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Liebster Jesu wir sind hier (BWV 731)
  • Jürgen Essl – Improvisation “Litanei”

Thomas Deserranno eröffnet die diesjährigen Vésperales am Weißenburger Instrument

Die diesjährige Konzertsaison wurde heute von Thomas Deserranno eröffnet, der bereits am 25. August 2013 zu hören war. Hatte er sich seinerzeit noch auf barocke Komponisten beschränkt, brachte er heute auch deutlich jüngere Literatur mit. Hier das Programm:

  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) – Suite in C – Ouverture (KV 399)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – Jagdkantate – Aria »Schafe können sicher weiden« (BWV 208)
  • Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) – Extrait de Dardamus – Rigaudon
  • Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) – Extraits d’Hippolyte et Aricide – Tambourins
  • Guy Bovet (née 1942) – Trois préludes hambourgeois – Salamanca
  • Bjarne Sløgedal (1927-2014) – Variations sur un air folklorique norvégien
  • Gunnar Idenstam (née 1961) – Cathedral Music – Aria
  • Unbekannt – Zugabe

Deserranno spielt beeindruckend. Es zeichnet sich durch gute Spieltechnik und -sicherheit, durchlaufenden Puls und saubere Rhythmik, vor allem aber durch ein enormes Einfühlungsvermögen für die gespielten Stücke und deren Interpretation aus. Außergewöhnlich fand ich zudem die Komposition von Bjarne Sløgedal.

Ein phantastisches Konzert von einem Ausnahmeorganisten.

Muscle Memory – Mastering a piece of music applying new techniques

Since last year I learned new techniques to master the music I play. I first applied them to some pieces I was already playing, so that this year’s performance went quite well. After almost one year I thought it was time to apply them to learning a new piece.

As Jon Laukvik writes in his book:

Der Übeprozeß führt, spieltechnisch gesehen, vom bewußten Tun zum unbewussten Geschehenlassen.

Freely translated:

From a playing perspective, practising leads from conscious doing to let it happen unconsciously.

The key to it is muscle memoryProzedurales Gedächtnis« in german). To train it, I do repetition a lot. To gain the required motivation to do so, I had to learn that playing a piece of music is a totally different thing than practising it. Besides many other sources I used, I can recommend the TEDx talks of Jocelyn Swigger and Claire Tueller.

The new piece I’m currently applying it to is a Fantasia (e minor) of Abraham van den Kerckhoven. Here’s the approach I’ve chosen.

Prepare interpretation

The interpretation I intend has some impact on the fingering. E.g. if I want to play a couple of notes in legato style, I may use another fingering as if I want to play staccato. The difficulty is that I do not yet have a clear picture concerning the interpretation, since this will develop as I learn the piece. But anyway, sometimes I already have some ideas how to interpret some bars, and most often I already have an idea how not to interpret some bars. I do this by learning more about the context in which the piece was written (composer, time, location) and by listening to interpretations of other musicians.

Develop fingering

Muscle memory is trained by repeatedly doing the same motions. This requires to play each individual note of the piece with the very same finger each time. I do not write down the number of the finger for each individual note. But I apply enough numbers so that the fingering is absolutely non-ambiguous.

This can become a very frustrating process. I have to “somehow” play the piece while considering how I could do the fingering and writing it to the sheet music. Often there are passages where I have no clue yet how the fingering should look like, but I must decide for one before I can practise it. Some things I do:

  • When I found some fingering but dislike it, I start practising whith it anyway. It may well happen that I change it at some later time, when I learned more how I want to interpret the piece. This means that I will need to re-learn the new fingering. But if I have no better clue right now, I accept this possibly additional work.
  • I try to avoid fingerings where I have to jump with the very same finger from note to note. But sometimes it turns out later on that there either is no better solution, or that the jumping fits the interpretation rather well.
  • Sometimes it is difficult to find a good fingering playing the notes forward, e.g. because I want to reach a later note with a certain finger. In such cases, I develop the fingering backwards, playing from right to left.

At the end of the process, the sheet music is quite populated by a lot of magic digits, which is the base for training the muscle memory.

Define fragments

The next step is to divide the piece in relatively short fragments which I can practise independently. I apply numbered markers to the sheet music. The length of the fragments depends on a couple of parameters, e.g. the structure and difficulty of the piece. Sometimes a fragment is just one or two bars, sometimes approximately one line. Sometimes I start with short fragments and I make them longer at a later point in time – or the other way around in case it turns out a passage is more difficult to learn as expected.

Practise fragments

Practising is the process which absolutely consumes the most time while learning a piece. As a consequence, I apply several techniques to succeed.

  • Remove any distraction. I never sit down to the instrument as long as any other stuff occupies my mind. I write down any other ToDos so as to avoid that they pop up during practising. I ensure noone else is listening, e.g. by using an electronic instrument and headphones, since otherwise I am not really free in focussing on the music.
  • Limit session time. Some people use a timer to limit the sessions. I do not. Instead, I define the scope, e.g. the amount of fragments I want to practise. For shorter pieces, this may well read as ”Practise each fragment at least twice”.
  • Prefer multiple shorter sessions over one long. It is being said the brain learns in the time between the sessions. Thus I practise for about 20 minutes up to an hour, then I do anything different, and return to the instrument after an hour or so.
  • Practise in slow motion. To train muscle memory, I play the fragments in ultra slow motion. This may be half of the target speed. For me it is difficult to resist the temptation to speed up. But I know doing so is counter-productive. I keep the speed constant at least during one session.
  • Use a metronome. I often listen to organ music which is played with little rhythmical structure respectively missing pulse. For me it is absolutely key to exactly know the rhythm of each individual fragment. The metronome has a further side effect – it prevents me from raising the speed during the session. As we are at it – I found that many many metronome apps for Android are not running precisely. Use one with proper timing. I built a spike for my own which I’m constantly using, but it’s only available as source code, not via the play store.
  • Limit repetitions. As a rule of thumb, I notice my concentration for each fragment already decreases after a couple of repetitions, e.g. three to four. As a consequence, I usually do not repeat a fragment more often. However, I sometimes break this rule, especially with new fragments my fingers aren’t used to yet at all. It may well happen I then repeat them up to ten times.
  • Focus on playing it right. Training the muscle memory best works in case the motion absolutely is identical each time. In case I notice my fingers prefer another motion over the fingering I developed, I sometimes change the fingering to reflect that.
  • Practise fragments in random order. The goal is to avoid that the brain learns it can rely on the sheet music. I thus practise them in random order.
  • Practise fragments at the end of the piece first. Pieces sometimes become more complicated to play towards the end, and even if not, chances are given I did practise the fragments at the beginning of a piece more often than the later ones, resulting in the fact that I can play the beginning of the piece better than the end.
  • Practise fragments difficult to play the most. In case I won’t master those, any other effort to learn the piece is useless.
  • Practise on different instruments. Different instruments provide different key sizes, key action, key weight and so on. I use this technique to gain reliability. Fortunately the Kerckhoven piece lacks a pedal voice, so I can just practise it on a piano.
  • Practise with dynamic sounds. I’ve chosen a synthesizer sound on my digital piano which provides lots of dynamics. This way I can easily detect notes I depress with less precision than others. Those notes require additional attention, since they indicate weak fingering.
  • Do not play the complete piece too early. This is an temptation I do not resist very well, since it helps to develop my interpretation, which in turn can lead to changed fingering. So I do play the piece every now and then. But at least I try to pay attention to the next point.
  • Clearly separate playing from practising. Since the brain learns during the rests, I never play the piece the day I practised. If I want to play and practise the very same day, I always do the playing first.

Conclusion

I know about a couple of further, more advanced techniques, which I apply every now and then. But the abovementioned points meanwhile became essential to me and allowed me to make significant progress within a couple of weeks while learning Kerckhoven’s piece.

I wrote this posting due to the fact that I found rather little information concerning this topic, though it is important to so many people who play instruments either professionally or as an amateur. If you know about similar documents, please let me know.

Coping with a piece of Kerckhoven

Until recently, I perceived the works of Abraham van den Kerckhoven as less complicated to understand and learn as pieces of other composers I play. But currently, I’m working on a Fantasia in e minor, which is known as #355 of the Cocquiel manuscript (Royal Library Albert I, Brussels, Music Dept. – Manuscript II 3326 1741). Unfortunately little information is available online concerning this work. I knew it from the gramophone record (something similar to a Clay tablet, but intended for preserving music) Orgues Historiques De Thorembais-les-Beguines by Etienne Leuridan. He plays it with reed pipes (Grands Jeux) and makes extreme use of Notes Inégales (“piqué”). I found another recording of François Houtart, but since he’s using neither of them, I still prefer Leuridan’s edition.

As a consequence of last year’s performance, I had to completely change my practicing techniques. I did it first for the repertoire I’m already playing, and it helped to do much better this year. The Fantasia in e minor of Kerckhoven is the very first piece which I approach completely from scratch using the new techniques. Here’s what I did:

  • First I need to find a piece I really want to master. I listen to recordings of other musicians, and while doing so, I already try to imagine what I want to adopt and what I want to do differently.
  • I search for sheet music. Most often, I’m using the imslp.org database. Sometimes I’m not content with the scores I find, so I typeset them using Musescore.
  • The next step, at least for me, is the most annoying, while very important – do the fingering. I print the sheets to paper and use a pencil for that. Then I try to somehow “play” the piece as good as I can while trying several fingerings. As soon I am content with the results, I write them into the PDF using macOS’ Preview application. I do this at home using a digital pipe organ emulation. The advantage is that I can use headphones so as to not disturb others. And due to that, I find the energy to actually walking through this frustrating and time consuming process. For the abovementioned work, I almost gave up whilst in the middle of the work. Now I have the fingering, and there are some bars where I need to play subsequent notes with the very same finger. Maybe historical fingering was helpful, but I have little clue concerning this technique. On the other hand, this piece actually requires less legato and a more stepped approach while playing (otherwise it will sound “muddy”, expecially when playing it with a Grands Jeux registration in a huge cathedral). I learned this while learning the Passacaille of Lully.
  • The next step is to identify fragments which I can practice autonomously. I tend to make fragments the size of about one to two lines respectively six to eight bars, depending on the piece.
  • Now I can finally start with the actual practicing work, the ruminant playing in slow motion of the fragments. I start with the fragments at the end of the piece and then move to the beginning, fragment by fragment. Sometimes I also use a random apprach for selecting the fragments, so I do not play them in the order they appear in the piece. I additionally use a metronome app and about half the intended final speed. This way I can avoid rhythmical failures early. I try not to repeat a fragment too often, e.g. 3 to 5 times is enough. If I do more often, I observe distraction. The metronome has one forther advantage – it avoids acceleration. No, I do not accelerate. I learned that practicing slowly really helps to avoid slipshod work. If I really can play a piece, I can also play it properly in slow motion. If I find it difficult to play a piece in slow motion, it just means I didn’t master it yet.

That’s it so far. I’m still working on the latter point, and this will last several weeks, if not months, depending on time available. This is hard work, and I managed to motivate me by understanding that practising is a welcome after work activity, and that playing the piece is a totally different thing. Both are worthy activities, and they serve a different purpose.

Playing the Dubois organ

As in 2016, 2017, and 2018, I once again was allowed to play a short concert for my family at the Dubois organ, Wissembourg. Since I was not content with last year’s performance, I had to completely alter my practicing practices. I’m still not where I’d like to be – weaknesses I do not notice at home quickly become audible at the historic instrument.

Here’s this year’s menu:

  • Michel Corrette – Premier Livre d’Orgue (1737) – Concert de Flûtes
  • Johann Pachelbel – Chaconne
  • Louis-Nicolas Clérambault – Premier Livre d’Orgue – Plein Jeu
  • Louis-Nicolas Clérambault – Premier Livre d’Orgue – Duo
  • Louis-Nicolas Clérambault – Premier Livre d’Orgue – Récit de Nazard
  • Jean Babtiste Lully – Armide, Acte 5, Scène 1 (LWV 71, 1686) – Passacaille

I’m still far away from performing the Passacaille (sheet music release here) as elegantly as with the linked orchestral version. But without the new practises, I even had not been able to reach what I achieved so far.

So, am I content? No. Am I uncontent? No, I’m just on track :) .

Jean Baptiste Lully – Armide, Acte 5, Scène 1 (LWV 71, 1686) – Passacaille – Sheet music release

Giovanni Battista Lulli was a french baroque composer of significant influence. I twice heard the passacaille of his opera Armide, Acte 5, Scène 1 (LWV 71, 1686) being played at the Dubois organ at Wissembourg. The first one was Roland Lopes (August 5, 2012), the second was Jürgen Essl (July 20, 2014). An orchestral version is available thanks to the Chœur de chambre de Namur (including Scène II).

I did a transcription of Scène I for organ. The archive contains a ready to use PDF (including my fingerings). Additionally it also contains the Muse Score source files. Unfortunately the latter one needs adjustments when opening it in more recent versions of Muse Score. Feel free to edit it :) .

I play it using a Grands Jeux registration, which results in a much more aggressive sound than the aforementioned orchestral version. I also play it using three keybeds.

Adding a third keybed to a digital pipe organ

I’m working on a Passacaille of Jean-Baptiste Lully for about two years now. Until recently, I played it using two keybeds only. However, works of Lully usually feature parts for string instruments, interrupted by parts for hautbois respectively flutes. The Dubois organ (which I used to practice this very afternoon), features a third keybed, though it only contains pipes for the upper two octaves (the keys of the lower two are fixed and cannot be played). Unfortunately I cannot practise at home, since my digital pipe organ emulation only features two keybeds.

As a consequence, I tried to place a Yamaha Reface DX on top of the instrument. However, it was difficult to cope with its keys which are shrinked in size. Last week, I thus ordered a Miditech “Midi Start Music 25” MIDI controller for about 70 € and placed it on top of the organ.

Firstly the drawbacks. Obviously it is placed way too high. Additionally I had to move the light as well as the stand for sheet music out of center to the left. And since it just is a MIDI controller, it does not provide additional stops (aka sounds). I can just use it to replicate the sounds of either of the existing manuals. For my organ, it would have been fantastic that the slider could be configured to send on another channel than the keybed, but that’s really a special interest feature request.

And now for the benefits.

  • Quality look and feel. The main chassis consists of black aluminium, the side panels of glossy plastics.
  • The weight hinders the device from moving while being played.
  • The keys are of standard size. Much better compared to the mini keys of the Reface.
  • The key action is rather smooth. I didn’t expect this of a controller of this price range.
  • The range of the keybed can easily be shifted to the desired position.
  • MIDI channel configurable.

I’m rather happy with the device. It allows me to practice the required movements of arms and fingers at home, so as to prepare on-site sessions. Thanks a bunch, miditech.

Do ré mi fa sol la si

Während wir im deutschen und angelsächsischen Sprachraum Bezeichnungen für die Stammtöne verwenden, die auf dem Alphabet basieren, finden sich im romanischen Sprachraum Tonnamen, die sich aus der Solmisation entwickelt haben. Eine (tabellarische) Übersicht bietet Wikipedia. Oben abgebildet sind Tonnamen, wie sie in Frankreich Verwendung finden. Um Halbtöne auszudrücken, werden die Adjektive «dièse» für ♯ und «bémol» für ♭ verwendet.

Mittlerweile habe ich sie gelernt, habe obige Abbildung aber noch immer griffbereit in der Hosentasche.

Neuburgweier – Seltz mit dem Rad

Aufgrund des exzellenten Osterwetters bin ich schon gestern eine Strecke gefahren, die ich lange nicht gefahren bin. So auch heute. In Neuburgweier mit der Fähre übersetzen, mit Rückenwind entspannt gen Seltz, mit der Fähre «Saletio» nach Plittersdorf und mit leichtem Gegenwind zurück nach Neuburgweier.

Die Fähre in Neuburgweier hatte wohl Probleme mit den neuen Schlagbäumen. Einer der beiden blieb dauerhaft geschlossen, der andere dauerhaft geöffnet. In der Konsequenz mussten die Fahrzeuge die Fähre im Rückwärtsgang verlassen.

In Lauterbourg wurden in den vergangenen Jahren Industrieflächen erschlossen, weshalb die Streckenführung von vor ein paar Jahren unterbrochen ist. Die Daten in OpenStreetMap habe ich ensprechend korrigiert.

In Elchesheim-Illingen wird derzeit der Rheindamm ertüchtigt, weshalb sich auch hier ein paar Streckenanpassungen ergeben, deren Endergebnis allerdings vor Ort noch nicht ganz ersichtlich ist.

Früher Sommereinbruch zu Ostern

Bei Temperaturen jenseits der 22°C-Marke und gleichzeitig gesperrter Rheinbrücke bleibt ja nicht viel anderes übrig, als mit dem Rad zum Eismacher des Vertrauens in die Pfalz zu fahren :) .

Rheinbrücke gesperrt

Dieses (und das nächste) Wochenende ist die Rheinbrücke im Rahmen ihrer Sanierung für den Kraftfahrzeugverkehr voll gesperrt. Auf der Südtangente in Richtung Umleitung Brücke Germersheim waren zumindest an diesem Samstag Nachmittag keine besonderen Staus zu beobachten.

Freuen dürfte sich der Betreiber der beiden Fähren nördlich und südlich der Rheinbrücke. Er hat die Betriebszeiten bis in die späten Abendstunden verlängert.

Die Fähre zwischen Neuburg und Neuburgweiher befand sich heute Nachmittag im Dauerpendelbetrieb. Durch die Wartezeit von rund 30′ bedingt (ich hatte Schlimmeres erwartet und wäre notfalls auf die Fähre in Plitterdorf oder die Brücke in Wintersdorf ausgewichen) habe ich eine Stoppuhr mitlaufen lassen. Das Beladen dauert knapp 3′, eine einzelne Überfahrt dauert rund 2 ½’, das Entladen rund 1′. Die Fähre kann somit einen vollständigen Takt in rund 12′ leisten.

In Neuburg kann man derzeit die Wartezeit nutzen, um eine Gruppe von Biberratten beobachten, die sich auch an anderen Stellen entlang der Straße beobachten lassen.

Milder Winter, früher Frühling

Der diesjährige Winter war nicht besonders streng und die Temperaturen näherten sich schon früh der 20°-Marke. Pünktlich zur Zeitumstellung gab es heute Sonne satt und über 20°C. Da es bereits in den vergangenen Wochen für die ein oder andere Radtour gereicht hat, durfte sie heute schon etwas länger ausfallen.

Winter sale shoes – Monk and Oxford

Recently I had to replace some footwear. Due to winter sale I could not resist to afford some further basic models my wardrobe lacked, this time in flamboyant colours.

The first two are monkstraps in blue (stitched construction) and brown (Sacchetto construction). The latter two are oxfords in blue and bordeaux (welt construction). In case you have difficulties to distinguish Oxfords, Derbies and Blüchers, this video may help, especially when it comes to closed and open lacing systems.

What I’m still after is some wholecut. Eagerly waiting for an occasion :) .