Monday, February 2, 2015

FAQ about the web archive

On the off chance that you are curious about the currently over 400 files available for listening at, I thought I'd take you on a quick tour. The collection consists of music for piano and for organ.

What the oldest piece of music on the site?
I've got plans to record selections from the '"Robertsbridge Codex" a manuscript of the earliest surviving keyboard music, which dates to around 1360. The piano was invented around 1700, so there is quite a bit of organ music that predates anything on that side. That will happen sometime this spring when time permits. As of February 2015, the oldest music on the site is probably either the group of pieces by Antonio Cabezon (1510-66) or the single piece by John Redford (died 1547; that's all we know). There is also piece of 21st century piano music ("O ignee Spiritus" by Marteau) based on a hymn chant written by Hildegard of Bingen which is itself from the 10th century.

What's the newest piece of music on the site?
"Cocheareu's Nightmare" is an improvisation from January 2015. Just like the oldest music, I have plans to keep expanding the boundaries here also. The newest thing I play at my church every week is when I improvise, and/or when I've just written something for the occasion. I'll be posting new compositions and improvisations regularly.

Seven centuries of music! That's a lot of temporal variety!

What different styles can I find there?
A lot of it gets called classical, a term I don't like. For starters, that term includes music written all over Europe and parts of Asia and the United States (at the very least) and covers over four centuries (at least). It also includes conflicting styles. More specifally, classicism and romanticism in music are really opposites. But both classical music (dominant in the 18th century) and Romantic music (dominant in the 19th) are given the umbrella term Classical. Then there's Baroque music (17th and 18th centuries) and all the various types of music from the 20th century--impressionism, minimalism, serialism, aleatoric music, neo-baroque, neo-classical, and neo-romantic music, and a lot of combinations of these. What all these different musics have in common is that on this site they are mostly played on solo piano or organ, and they tend not to be as repetitive and predictable as popular musical styles. And they have no words.

In addition , there is some ragtime, various kinds of jazz and blues, a bit of gospel, a smidge of minimalism and a touch of new age. And there will be more of those no doubt as I keep adding things. When you have a passion to understand, you tend not to ignore even styles you don't care for as much, so there is a good bit of eclecticism in the catalog as a result. I don't post things by category, however. You get to find those interesting byways the same way I do; by continuous exploration!

That's pretty diverse, huh?
Well, it is and it isn't. Most of the catalog is music in the public domain because I can't get copyright clearance for a lot of things, though some composers who themselves have copyright have generously agreed to let me post their music. So there are some living composers, just not enough. Virtually all of them are men; I'm trying to work on that, too (I think only 2 are women right now.) So, most of the music is from the early 20th century or before. And most of it is from Europe or America. But I've posted a few pieces from China and South America, and would like to continue to post pieces from different cultures. If you know of some interesting piano music from more "Eastern" cultures, particularly if it is public domain, or under a Creative Commons License, or you wrote it and can give me copyright permission, let me know!

There isn't as much of the "standard classical repertoire" as I'd like, but there are some nice rarities, and I'll keep posting those as well. I'd like as many important musical voices to be represented as possible. Some of the pieces are rather profound; others are lighter and more "listener friendly." I'm going to try to add more of these in the coming months as well.

How will I be able to find the music that I like?
That's the catch--in the index, you won't, unless you already know the music or the composer. You'll just have to explore (horrors!). However, in many ways the index page is a portal to the rest of the site. There are, for instance, articles about composers, and various music topics on the site, and there I've gathered relevant pieces of music. In that case you'll have some ideas about what kinds of pieces are there before you listen. The index is really a way for me to keep track of every single piece no matter where it is 'located' throughout the 100 page website or referenced in hundreds of blog articles. It is a useful way to listen to everything, but you can also explore the site and listen to those pieces in a different context. Eventually, there will be a lot more cross-indexing than there is now. But, alas, many of my other ideas are still in embryo.

Such as....?
As I write blogs about the various pieces I've recorded, I'm going to start inserting little links next to those pieces in the index so you can read more about those pieces if you are curious about them. They may contain factual information, or, more likely, my thoughts and experiences when playing them, or what to listen for to make the piece come alive for you. I'm also working on a "Meditation Garden" which will serve as a kind of musical therapy for those wishing music that serves their current emotional needs. That's an idea that's still just in my head. But it'll make its way to the internet some time next year.

How many composers are currently represented in the archive?
72 at the moment.

How long would it take to listen to everything there?
By the end of the year (July) it should be up over 24 hours. Right now it is just under 22.

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