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 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 :) .

Replacing footwear

Several shoes I bought a couple of years ago needed a replacement. Meanwhile I preferred brown color over black, Derbies over Blüchers, and instead of plein models I was brave enough to go for some brogues. The shoes are less formal than the previous ones, which usually is not a problem in the IT business. Actually, I’m still overdressed at most occasions, regardless of the hierarchical level involved. All models are Derbies, except for the loafer.

The first one consists of suede leather, the second of box calf. Both derbies are decorated by winged brogues.

Some would call this one a »Budapester« or »Karlsbader«. I’m not that convinced, since the Budapest shoe consists of futher attributes, e.g. the tip of the shoe almost is kept perpendicular to the ground.

Here’s a plein derby. As with the former two, its color is called »Testa di moro« (TdM).

A further Derby, this time in »captoe« style.

And one more, this time as a quarter brogue with captoe.

A traditional penny loafer in style of a Wildsmith Loafer. The front portion is designed in the style of a Norway. This shoe in this shape and color just looks that fantastic that I could not resist adding it to my collection.

Quick read – Lateral Leadership by Tim Herbig

In his »practical guide for agile product managers« Tim sheds some light on a weak point of product managers – the soft skills required to succeed in nowadays mainly agile working environments. More often than not I wholeheartedly agree in what he’s writing. In the projects I’ve done so far, I seldom have seen a product owner respectively manager who really was able to do leadership. Instead their behaviour often leads to conflict, especially in case they do not respect agile values and principles.

The book is quite short and can be read during one single eve. I recommend it to any manager responsible for creating working environments where people can do the best job they can, to product owners respectively managers who are still struggling with agile setups, and to scrum masters who want to improve their coaching service for their product owners.

Syncing Nextcloud contacts with macOS Mojave

The sync of Nextcloud contacts with macOS worked at least until Lion (aka 10.7), but got broken some day. At least with Mojave (aka 10.14) it is possible to configure it sucessfully. A posting on Github provides the information how to accomplish that. Here’s a replication:

  • Start the contacts app.
  • From the contacts menu, choose »Add Account«.
  • Choose »Other Contacts Account«.
  • Account Type: Advanced.
  • CardDAV.
  • Server Address:
  • Server Path (in case your nextcloud installation resides in a subdirectory): /nextcloud/remote.php/dav/principals/users/yournextcloudusername/
  • Port: 443
  • Use SSL: checked

That’s it, enjoy.