Friday, November 22, 2019

Return to the Old Stomping Grounds


The following article first appeared in the November "Spire," the monthly newsletter of Third Presbyterian Church in Pittsburgh, PA:


You don’t often get a chance to go back and revisit another time of your life, see old friends, and enjoy making music with them as if stepping through a window into the past. But this past week, I was in Illinois, playing a concert with the community choir known as The Chorale, with chorus and orchestra and our guest conductor Dr. Craig Jessop.

The group formed almost accidentally in 1982 in order to sing Christmas carols at the local mall. Then they began to meet regularly and grew in size until their 70 voice ensemble was practicing every Sunday night from September through May and singing at least three concerts a year. I became their accompanist in 2009 and played for them until we left Illinois in 2016. At that time the group’s schedule included a “Celebration of Life” concert the first weekend of November, and a New Year’s Eve concert at the restored vaudeville theater. I would warm up the crowd by playing the Mighty Wurlitzer and then spend the next two hours bobbing up and down from the stage to the pit. It was a fun and exhausting evening. In the spring the final concert would feature winners of the Chorale’s college scholarships.

Every 18 months a guest would come and we would have a festival concert, usually adding around 30 singers and an orchestra. My first time at one of these I wondered how I was going to be able to get through that throng of singers to the piano! Another time I remember being able to feel the folders of the altos against the back of my head.

Dr. Jessop became our favorite clinician, and has returned to lead us about 7 times (this was number 8). He is a former conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and leads huge choir festivals around the country. The Chorale sang with him in Utah and Washington D. C. as well as going on our own international tours. I joked that with our mere 100 singers and 20 piece orchestra we were his chamber group. What is it about our group that had him coming back each time?

After 37 years, founding director Julie Beyler prepared the group for its final concert. Some of its members have already passed on, including the lady who organized the parties at the end of every semester full of food and song parodies. The group enjoyed getting together to have fun when the maestro wasn’t working them so hard that every so often a group of regular folks from small town Illinois could sound like a top-tier professional choir. It hardly seems possible, but it did come at the price of long rehearsals.

That phase of my life ended three years ago. Usually it is just in literature that a character is able to go back and visit the past, but in a couple of weeks it will be as if a switch had been thrown and a wish was granted, to see the people doing their thing one more time, a last hurrah, a fitting coda to a special time with some special people.

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on the mother ship, www.pianonoise.com, we're celebrating Scott Joplin's birthday and trying to be thankful for everything.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Diversity in Adversity

Life happens, to composers as it does to everyone else. Sometimes it isn't that pretty.

I didn't set out to depress everyone when I decided to teach "Composers in Exile: Music in Adversity," a five week OSHER course that included the music and life stories of a number of persons making music in difficult circumstances. Those circumstances included voluntary and involuntary exile, imprisonment, isolation, societal shunning, war, the threat of execution, mental illness, racism, sexism, and depression.

On the other hand, it would be facile to see in all of those stories of composers who went on creating their art in the midst of trying circumstances a triumph of the human spirit. Not just because some of those spirits broke down in the end but because it is easy for those not in the midst of those trials to use the suffering of others as feel-good entertainment. We like movies in which the heroes struggle as long as they win in the end. Well, some of us do. There are also those who don't even like to confront life's ugliness long enough to make it a plot point.

Given my usual propensity to inject wit into the proceedings, as well as the music's frequently cheerful tone, the class was not the funeral procession you might think if you were not in attendance. Before last week's litany of woman barred from public performance, composition, and even teaching by the attitudes of the men who controlled their decisions, I strode to the piano holding my three-ring binder filled with music aloft and proclaimed "this is my binder full of women." Several people laughed, which was a good release since the next half-hour was more likely to make them angry or depressed.

The music, though, was frequently beautiful. It has been one of the sub-themes running through the course that you cannot tell the composer's circumstances from the music they write. Sometimes the most bubbly, exuberant music will emanate from a composer in the most trying circumstances. Sometimes I have played music from before the composer ran into the difficulties described, and the music sounds if anything like a prophet of doom in the face of later events. But those who think that the composer is always keeping a sonic diary will, I hope, have had their minds changed on this. Even though no less than John Kirkpatrick suggested that very thing about the music of Scarlatti, and it certainly sounds plausible. Schumann's Carnaval also lent itself to a good deal of biographical connection. But who really knows to what degree? In any case the relation between the music and the life is individually determined, complicated, and frequently unknown.

One thing that amazed me was how many commonalities emerged from such a disparate wealth of material. I mentioned to the students in week three that they were getting a healthy musical diet, since the first week's program featured the Romantic Era (19th century), the second week the 20th century, and the third week the Baroque and Classical Eras. We heard music from France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, and America. The composers were often under pressure from without, either from societal attitudes (the women) or political regimes (Stalinist Russia). But they were often under pressure from within, as well. On the question of censorship, some composers had music condemned because it did not suit the regime (like Shostakovich). Others might censor themselves because they feared their employers wouldn't like it (Haydn, for example). Still others became dissatisfied with their own style and forged a new artistic style. Whether the composer was Prokofiev, repenting after official denunciation and declaring that from now on he would pursue a simpler style, or Arvo Part deciding the complex, atonal music of his early years no longer had any meaning and pursuing so-called "Holy Minimalism," in each case, the question is about simplicity, or directness of musical expression. But complexity has its rewards, too. That same Prokofiev won a Stalin prize for his complex Seventh Piano Sonata, and I note the student's approval of much music that was loud, fast, and filled with notes.

Whether it was a composer forced to make his living by performing (and grumbling about it all the way) or a composer who really wanted to be a performer but her husband wouldn't permit it, or someone segregated to the teaching studio, or making major contributions there, the variety of ways in which these people dealt with life and earned a living is vast. It can show us, if we like to be inspired, that there is no single right way to do music. But in each case, it was the composer's failure to control a situation which was larger than themselves that led to the different solutions. They were all partial solutions; nobody quite got what they wanted. Yet they left music for us, the lucky listeners, echoes from times and spaces distant from our own experiences, full of the richness of human experience.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Don't bother your pretty little head about it

The first woman who ran the Boston Marathon was told that just wasn't possible. Women were just not capable of that kind of athletic feet. Their bodies wouldn't hold up. You know, nothing personal. We don't have a problem with it really, it's just a scientific fact.

It hadn't been proven, of course. When she actually ran the Boston Marathon a man charged onto the course and tried to physically take her out! That, she told us before a different marathon a few years back, made her "a radical."

That's the first thing to note about prejudice. First it argues what it claims are just facts, and then, not content to stand back and watch them in action, like watching women try and fail to run marathons and then say "I told you it wouldn't work" it intervenes and resorts to sabotage instead, which sounds very much like we aren't nearly so certain of what we claimed to be certain of. Also, prejudice is very polite until it is challenged, and then not so much.

Prejudice is able to think fast on its feet. At base it is an irrational gut fear. But on the surface it is full of reasoning skills. Typically, when people have been told that a particular right or something involving equal treatment is not going to be allowed, it is said to be for their own good, not detriment. You wouldn't want those rights anyway, they say. Voting is a nasty business, you should be glad you aren't a man so you don't have to be part of the dirty world of politics (and power), or You are much happier being a slave, lucky you!

Yesterday I played music written by a half dozen women from the 19th and 20th centuries. Their stories were pretty much the same. They started as child prodigies, then were married off to men they didn't love but their fathers loved the men's finances. Usually they were decades older. Then they were forced to stop that nonsense with the public music making because it was unseemly for a woman, and composing was often viewed the same way. One was even forbidden teaching because it would look like she needed to money, and of course that would make her husband look like he couldn't provide.

Before playing a piece by Fanny Mendelssohn I explained that some of her piano pieces had gotten published, but under her brother's name. Naturally Felix had a good explanation for this:


From my knowledge of Fanny I should say that she has neither inclination nor vocation for authorship. She is too much all that a woman ought to be for this. She regulates her house, and neither thinks of the public nor of the musical world, nor even of music at all, until her first duties are fulfilled. Publishing would only disturb her in these, and I cannot say that I approve of it.

Isn't that nice of him? My students didn't seem to be impressed, though. The idea that she didn't want to be recognized as the author of her own music does seem pretty high on the bullshit meter, does it not? And then to have it explained that she was much to busy being a housewife to even think about publishing, or even musical contacts.

These days there are plenty of women raising families and having careers. But you might trip over the argument that a woman in the 19th century might not have time for music and her wifely duties.

After all, she only managed to write about 460 pieces of music. But don't worry, that was never the point anyway.

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if you were wondering, Felix's output consists of around 150 publications and 40 which were not published, several of which contain multiple pieces and a few of which are very large works, so without taking the time to count everything up (and being unable to find a number online) let's just say that she seems to have been just about as prolific as he was. Or if not (let's say he wrote enough opus numbers with 5 or more items to easily surpass her total) that having found time to write nearly 500 pieces of music still exposes his argument that she is too busy to soil herself with musical things to be the pile of crap that it is.
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Don't forget, www.pianonoise.com is new every Friday. This week there is a new article on Robert Schumann, a new recording from a concert at Trinity Cathedral, and the pianonoise radio program is all about sets of three.


Friday, November 1, 2019

Undisturbed development

In the age of clickbait, questions are posed online that run something like this:

If I offered you a million dollars but you had to swear off chocolate for the rest of your life, would you take it?

Seems like a silly question. I've never heard of anyone offering a million dollars to someone randomly if they will forswear chocolate or coffee or whatever makes it difficult.

But suppose you are a great composer and I tell you I have a really nice gig for you. It involves steady employment for life, living in a castle, employed by a prince, with your own orchestra, and you get to give a hundred concerts a year of your own music for the entertainment of a cultured monarch. Those are your only duties, beside occasional travel between castles when the prince wants to go fox hunting.

Or suppose I said you could spend your days writing harpsichord sonatas and your only duty would be to give lessons to the queen of Spain. Same living accommodations as before, and only the best harpsichords at your disposal. Would you be interested? But you can't leave. And it's not on the beaten path. Might get a bit lonely.

These are the sorts of deals that Joseph Haydn and Domenico Scarlatti seem to have made with life. They were on yesterday's program for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute course I'm offering on Composers In Exile. Only Scarlatti was in truly foreign territory: born in Italy, he worked for the Spanish court, part of that great influx of Italian musicians to nearly every court in Europe. Both of them seemed to lead isolated lives. Haydn, in particular, spent his days in a castle pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and the summer home of the prince was even more nowhere than that. He built it on a swamp, no less.

Haydn appears to have been rather lonely. He poured out his feelings in several letters, this one from February of 1790:

Well, here I sit in my wilderness; forsaken, like some poor orphan, almost without human society, melancholy, dwelling on the memory of past glorious days. Yes, past, alas! And who can tell when those happy hours may return.

Sounds rather unhappy about it, doesn't he? And the music I chose to play, although plenty jovial much of the time, does take some rather dark turns, and is just as introspective and melancholy is it is ebullient. In fact, both composers inhabit much deeper emotional worlds than they are often given credit for.

This touches on the issue of a composer's development. While most composers live in large cities, hearing and being influenced by the work of their colleagues, studying the work of their illustrious predecessors, and so on, these gentlemen seem to have been largely unable to do that. Occasionally a gifted instrumentalist might visit Eszterhaza castle, and no doubt Scarlatti got to work with some fresh blood too once in a while, but physical isolation can lead to stunted growth in other areas, too. Haydn spun this turn of events positively, however, and said that he was "forced to become original."

Scarlatti, too, was a restless experimenter who wrote 555 keyboard sonatas which follow largely the same architectural plan, and yet explore new territory each time.

Which brings to mind a quotation from the poet Maria Rainer Rilke which a teacher of mine had posted on her door at Peabody. It is from a collection called "letters to a young poet" in which the man answered a letter from an admirer asking for criticism of his poetry.

"Allow your judgments their own quiet, undisturbed development, which like all progress must come from deep within you and cannot be forced or hastened by anything. The whole thing is to carry the full time and then give birth; to let every impression and every germ of a feeling consummate itself entirely within itself, in that which is dark, inexpressible, unconscious and unattainable by your own intelligence, and to await the hour of the delivery of a new clearness of vision. That alone is to live an artistic life, in understanding, as in creating.


In that there is no measuring with time; no year is of any value and ten years are as nothing. To be an artist is this: not to count or to reckon: to ripen like a tree which does not force its sap, but in the storms of spring stands confident without being afraid that afterwards no summer may come. The summer comes all right. But it only comes to the patient, to those who are there as carefree and quiet and immense, as if eternity lay before them. Daily I learn, learn it through my sufferings [to which I am grateful] that patience is everything."

Had Haydn died at 35 as Mozart did, we probably wouldn't remember him. Scarlatti also had a long life, living to be nearly 72 (Haydn was 77). For the time those were pretty long lives. And with Scarlatti it is hard to know just how he developed because the chronology of his works is in doubt. But with Haydn you can see the music becoming richer with age, even with melancholy.

It may be difficult to imagine pain and suffering and patience being major ingredients in the furnace of art, but for these two that seems to have been of vital importance. Out of the isolation, out of the daily application and service to their art, something wonderful happened.

And we are the beneficiaries.


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Scary organ music is up for a few more days at www.pianonoise.com, as are more articles about Scarlatti and Haydn, and of course it's All Saints Day.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Enemy of the People

Dmitri Shostakovich has to be one of the most endangered composers in history, and certainly the most famous of them. While other well-known composers were getting out of Russia in 1917, like Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev (who inexplicably returned later), Igor Stravinsky, and a host of others less famous, Shostakovitch stayed. He doesn't seem to have considered leaving.

Shostakovich managed to have a decorated career. He wrote a lot of music, achieved an international reputation, and was praised for some of it in his own country. But always there was the extreme difficulty of trying to function artistically in Joseph Stalin's Russia.

This wasn't just a matter of artistic patronage. Stalin was an absolute dictator, and if he didn't like something he could have you exiled or killed. Between the Second World War and his own "purges" it is estimated that he is responsible for the deaths of about 20 million human beings.

Dmitri Shostakovich got off to a brilliant start. His First Symphony was a huge success and got him noticed internationally. His opera, Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, was  wildly popular for two years.

Then he had his first real taste of Joseph Stalin.

The dictator attended his opera, decided he didn't like it, and shortly afterward there appeared an article in the official state newspaper, "The Truth" called 'Muddle Instead of Music' which attacked the opera in no uncertain terms. This was in January 1936. Only 10 days later another article appeared attacking a ballet of his. The composer thought he was finished. He had become, in one of Stalin's favorite phrases, an "enemy of the people."

"I was called an enemy of the people quietly and out loud and from podiums. One paper made the following announcement of my concert: 'Today there is a concert by enemy of the people Shostakovich....I was swamped with anonymous letters saying in effect that I, enemy of the people, did not have long to tread on Soviet soils, that my ass's ears would be chopped off--along with my head."

The composer believed that Stalin had written the article himself, particularly because of some of the phrases which echoed the ones that seemed forever stuck inside the dictator's head that he would repeat ad naseum and that didn't really mean anything. After all, Stalin could make up his own language, couldn't he? In any case, the article was anonymous, which meant The Party had directed it. Which meant there was no arguing. Shostakovich's friends wouldn't have anything to do with him for a while.

Yet somehow Shostakovich survived that nightmare, even though many of his friends and associates did not. One of them was his friend Meyerhold. "It's impossible to imagine now how popular Meyerhold was. Everyone knew him....And then the man disappeared, he just disappeared and that was it. As though he never existed."

Many musicians and artists disappeared in those traumatic times. Near the end of his life, the composer sat for secret interviews with a man who took notes on what Shostakovitch said, got the pages approved, and smuggled them into the west, only publishing them after the composer's death. the result was "Testimony," from which these quotations are taken. In it, the man recalls many incidents from his life and talks mostly about the people around him. And he chronicles the disappearances of so many of them.

Survival was never certain in Stalin's Russia. Holding Western ideas or being in any way critical of the party or of Stalin was sure to get you executed of course, but sometimes trying too hard to be doctrinally pure could get you in trouble as well. And sometimes what the party favored changed rapidly, and you could get caught being associated with something or someone that was no longer in favor. Some people referred to it as a lottery. One thing was sure: the moment someone disappeared you had to make sure you were in no way connected with them, and had better obliterate any traces of their friendship; correspondence, artifacts, everything. Help the state make sure they never existed.

In 1948 there was another shake-up, and Shostakovitch was again reprimanded along with several other Soviet artists. The usual accusation was that they were promoting Western ideas. They would be called "formalists" which was a deliberately meaningless word for "not Soviet enough." Stalin's whim set the tone for that.

And his whim could also lift a composer up as well as bring him down. There was a special prize for excellence in Soviet art in that period, known as the Stalin prize (naturally). Shostakovich won a few of those. His music was still periodically praised. Official denunciations and recognition could follow one another in a dizzying whirl. Once Stalin needed Shostakovich to go to America for propaganda purposes. He telephoned the composer who mentioned that he was currently officially banned so he couldn't go. Stalin acted surprised, and countermanded his censure, forcing Shostakovitch to go and help spread the fiction so many  American leftists were more than willing to swallow about how wonderful things were in the USSR.

Stalin needed artists as part of his program to mold the minds of the Soviets, just as rulers have long done. Shostakovitch was clearly one of his country's most gifted composers. But Stalin was not one to forgive errors. How did Shostakovich live through two periods of official condemnation?

A Shostakovich biography calls him a yuródivyy, a Holy Fool, one who tells the truth to the king and isn't killed, usually because his guise as a fool protects him as others are not.  Shostakovich was clearly no idiot. He did write quite a lot of movie music; this was Stalin's favorite entertainment, and it probably bought him a lot of good will, even while the composer considered it largely a waste of time. And he was known in the West, particularly during WWII, when the Soviets and the Americans fought against Hitler. The composer's Seventh Symphony became a powerful political statement against fascism--at least, that's how Stalin saw it. During the war, Soviet composers could compose music that was more morose, and get away with it, because it was assumed to represent the struggle against Germany, rather than a complaint against the system at home. These things may have helped Shostakovitch to stay alive, although we don't know just how close he may have come to a premature end.

In "Testimony" the composer displays little patience with those who think his music wasn't a protest of the Soviet system. Writing of his famous Fifth Symphony, the one written just after his first period of official denunciation, which helped rehabilitate him with the state, he writes "I think it is clear to everyone what happens in the Fifth. The rejoicing [at the piece's conclusion] is forced, created under threat....It's as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying, 'your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing.' and you rise, shakily, and go marching off, muttering, 'Our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.' What kind of apotheosis is that? You have to be a complete oaf not to hear it." Many in the Soviet Union chose to hear triumph in those closing bars. They may have been idiots, but their misapprehension may have helped save the composer's life several times. In instrumental music, just what is going on, anyhow? Whose ears make that determination?

People have heard all sorts of things in the music of Dmitri Shostakovich, and have argued violently about what they have heard. If "Testimony" is both accurate in terms of the word of the writer, who did not record Shostakovich except on paper, and in terms of the memory of an old man about a past he may or may not have remembered accurately, then the picture that emerges is one of an artist who meant his music to serve as a protest, and somehow, perhaps because it was in music, and the authorities often heard acquiescence instead of anger, or felt if they kept him alive they could yet mold them to their ends, he continued to use his symphonic voice to the end.

"I know that many will not agree with me and will point out other, more noble aims of art. They'll talk about beauty, grace, and other high qualities. But you won't catch me with that bait....I've always protested harshly against this point of view and I strove for the reverse. I always wanted music to be an active force. That is the Russian tradition."

Friday, October 18, 2019

The Gloves Come Off

Louis Moreau Gottschalk didn't just take off his gloves. He TOOK OFF....HIS GLOVES. Let's let a pianist who traveled with him explain:


“It was the fashion of the time to always wear white gloves with evening dress, and his manner of taking them off, after seating himself at the piano, was often a very amusing spectacle. His deliberation, his perfect indifference to the waiting audience was thoroughly manifest, as he slowly drew them off one finger at a time, bowing and smiling meanwhile to the familiar faces in the front rows. Finally disposing of them, he would manipulate his hands until they were quite limber, then preludize until his mood prompted him to begin his selection on the programme.”


I left my white gloves home yesterday, which is just as well, as we were running behind on time and I needn't have wasted five minutes with those silly gloves. It might have been amusing, though...

Yesterday was the first of five lecture recitals in the series I'm giving for OLLI/UPITT. The subject is composers of various times and places making music in difficult conditions. Chopin was on the first half, and Gottschalk on the second. Chopin left his native Poland at 20, not realizing he would never return. A political uprising which was crushed by Russia, resulting in the basic non-existence of an independent Poland for yet another episode in their sad history, made it difficult for him to return, so he made a life in Paris among the Polish community there, living in exile, and writing music in a pianistic style all his own. He redefined national Polish dances, recreated old genres, and fostered some new ones, such as the Ballade, of which he wrote four.

There really were no rules for the Ballade: even the world, which suggests both "ballata" (a dance) and the Medieval Ballad (or narrative romance) hadn't been used as the title of a piano composition before, to say nothing of the rules of the form. In Chopin's hands, each is an adventure, the end a mystery until it unfolds before us. Four fascinating musical journeys, which pianists treat as the gold standard of their repertoire. These I played on the first half of our session.

After the intermission it was time to meet Mr. Gottschalk, of whom I have written several blogs, and recorded some of his music. Gottschalk had an interesting life, which I wanted to explore at least as much as the music. Touring on three continents before the age of air travel, assembling mass concerts with up to a thousand performers, a Southerner touring the northern United States during the Civil War, a pioneer in so many respects, introducing America to its own music and to the relatively newfangled idea of the piano recital, all while entertaining the troops, wearing out the rail lines, and trying not to get him and his pianos shot, or captured (by his own people). What a life! And he only lived to be 40.

Next week we'll be in 20th century Russia, meeting Sergei Rachmaninoff, Sergei Prokofiev, and Dmitri Shostakovich.

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There's more about Chopin and Gottschalk on the homepage this week at pianonoise.com. Also, the final days to listen to music for the concert at Trinity Cathedral before I post some Scary Organ Music for Halloween!

Friday, October 11, 2019

Composers in Exile

This is one of those weeks when I really could have used a secretary.

I am neck deep in piano music at the moment, and am taking a short break for the weekly blog. Other bits of my life are getting attention if they rise to the level of emergency squared, otherwise they can wait while I practice.

Next week begins a series of lecture concerts for the UPITT/Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This year's ambitious theme is "Composers in Exile: Music in Adversity" and it covers a wide range of styles and periods, playing the music and telling the story of composers who for one reason or another found themselves in difficult situations and continued making their music. I feel like I'm about two months behind in preparation (having also had half-a-dozen other concerts to prepare for this summer and fall, including several I learned about as the year unfolded), yet it does feel like there is a chance this will come off after all.

This Thursday features the music of Chopin, a Pole who spent most of his life in France. He voluntarily left his country for travel, study, and international exposure as a young man, but revolution soon after made it difficult for him to return. He kept his connection to his native country alive by writing national dances: mazurkas and polonaises, which he elevated to the status of high art. However, I'll be playing his four Ballades. Instructor's prerogative!

After the intermission, we'll sample the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk, an American, born in the south, who toured the northern United States during the Civil War. Gottschalk kept a diary and is a very entertaining correspondent, particularly in his entries from late June 1863 when his agent put him in central Pennsylvania and he nearly got himself mixed up in the Battle of Gettysburg.

That's just the first week! On the second, we'll look at the music of Rachmaninoff, Shostakovitch, and Prokofiev, three 20th century Russian composers who had to composer in the ambit of Joseph Stalin, the cruel dictator who could have you arrested and killed for anything (including art) which displeased him. Rachmaninoff left Russia shortly after the revolution began, never to return, Prokofiev left around the same time and actually went back to Russia in 1936, Shostakovitch never left, and despite two very public censures for his music, somehow avoided getting killed, even as many of his friends were.

From there, we'll visit music of the Baroque and Classical periods, and the music of Haydn and Scarlatti, two composers whose employment circumstances caused them to spend most of their lives in artistic isolation, and then listen to music by several women composers whose work was either ignored or sidelined because they were required to marry and put away those foolish artistic ideas. Exile from self will also for a motif as we examine the music of Robert Schumann and discuss the mental illness that drove him to attempt suicide.

In the final week, there will be a composer who spent time as a prisoner of war, another who avoided death in the French Revolution somehow, another who felt alienated from his time and place. And others, as time permits. There are so many stories. In some respects, composition has always been a challenge. It never pays the rent; most of history's successful composers earned their livings as performers or teachers, never through creative endeavors directly. But these composers faced additional hurdles which could make life a burden, and even the loss of it a distinct possibility.

It may sound a bit depressing, though there is plenty of room to consider it all a triumph of the human spirit if you like. The music will do most of the speaking, and it is diverse, giving many answers to what comes from struggles which are just as varied. Sometimes bold and dramatic, sometimes beautiful, innovative or reactionary, classical or romantic or modern; the problems, and the solutions, of human creativity are amazing to behold. For the next five weeks we'll do just that. Come along, will you?

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the weekly edition of Pianonoise includes a recording of a Chopin waltz and on PianonoiseRadio music for my most recent organ recital at Trinity Cathedral in downtown Pittsburgh. It's all at www.pianonoise.com