I hope this issue of Pianotes finds you well! As I write this, I am sitting on my week-old hip and feeling very amazed by how well this has all gone! I was in the hospital here in Florence for just one night, back home a little before noon last Tuesday. I had my first physical therapy appointment yesterday morning (7/31), and all is going well. My PT expects me to be fully healed in about six weeks as long as I do the exercises and keep my appointments, which I fully intend to do! I have so appreciated the outpouring of well-wishes on Facebook and Messenger as well as emails, so many thanks to those who reached out! I'll tell some more of the story below, but let's cover some of the monthly features first!
The late Thelonious Monk’s (1917-1982) wife often playfully referred to him as "Melodious Thunk."
The term “Lisztomania” was used to describe the mass hysteria surrounding Franz Liszt in the 1840’s. Women sought cuttings of his hair, German girls wore bracelets made of the piano strings that he broke; some females carried glass containers that contained his coffee dregs while others collected his cigar butts and hid them in their cleavages.
In Germany, nineteenth century music conservatories did not provide practice facilities - students were responsible for their own pianos. Finding appropriate lodging and a good piano proved to be the principal headaches of being a music student.
I was able to get quite a few reviews done during July, but obviously none in the past week. The reviews I got done are quite an interesting mix again, so there should be something for just about everyone. I also reviewed two of James Michael Stevens' latest sheet music books. Here's the link to all of the newest reviews
I tried to get completely caught up on reviewing before my surgery, but didn't quite get them all done - especially those albums and singles that came in during July. If I owe you a review, please know that I will get it done ASAP. I plan to start reviewing again in the next couple of days. The pain meds have made my typing rather creative, so please be patient!
At the end of the eighteenth century when the piano was clearly driving the harpsichord into oblivion, the title pages of keyboard music regularly stated that the works were suitable for either piano or harpsichord.
The world’s second most-expensive piano was sold to an anonymous bidder for $3.22 million at an auction. The Heintzman Crystal Piano was crafted by Canadian piano manufacturer Heintzman Pianos. Built exclusively for really big public performances, this piano was introduced to the public when Chinese pianist Lang Lang played it to a global audience of almost a billion people during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008. To see a photo, click here
The second most-expensive upright piano ever sold, a Steinway upright model Z, was originally purchased by former Beatle John Lennon in December 1970, and delivered to the studio at his home in Berkshire, England. Lennon composed and recorded the song “Imagine” on it, and was filmed playing the song for the first time to his wife, Yoko Ono, and the Plastic Ono Band. Believed to be a piece of British history by many, the most expensive piano in the world sold at auction in 2000 for £1.45 million (about $2.37 million dollars) to British pop singer George Michael after a “who’s who” bidding war that included several other British celebrities. After using the piano to record songs for an album, George Michael returned the piano to the Liverpool museum that housed it prior to his ownership. He stated that “the piano was not the type of thing that should be in storage somewhere or being protected, it should be seen by people.”
New Interviews and Article:
It's not often that I've been able to do three interviews in a month, but I did in July - and what a fascinating trio of artists! Tobin Mueller, Michael Whalen, and Peter Calandra are all musical jacks-of-all-trades in their own unique ways, and it was such a pleasure to catch up with all three. They have all recently released new albums, so we talked about those as well as what else they have been up to. Steve Yip also wrote a new article called "A Non-Deadhead’s Take Upon Attending a Dead & Company Concert" that is a lot of fun to read! There are links to all of these right here
The late pianist/comedian Victor Borge was knighted by all five of the Scandinavian countries.
It is possible that the distinctive and powerful tone of Steinway pianos is due to the fact that Steinway and his sons all had hearing problems. They might have been designing pianos that they could hear well.
In 1910, the US manufactured 360,000 pianos; Germany made 150,000; Britain made 75,000; and France made 25,000. This is considered to be the peak of the piano’s popularity.
So, How Did I Come to Need a Hip Replacement? Don't worry, I'm not going to get very graphic here, but I think it is well worth telling this story in case it can help someone else. And I think it's a pretty interesting story, anyway.
My right hip started bothering me off and on back in the 1990's. I started teaching piano in 1981, and, for awhile, all of my students were beginners. After a few years of teaching, I realized that I would need to learn and re-learn a lot of music so that I could offer a wide variety of music for students to learn and to practice. I had also developed a passion for ragtime piano, which can be pretty strenuous. In a nutshell, I was putting in a couple of hours of practice time almost every day, and then going out and teaching. I was teaching piano six days a week for many years and kept a roster of 40-46 students with 45-60 minute lessons each. Sometime in there, my right leg started bothering me to the point that I took Advil or Tylenol with me when I went out on my morning walks with my dogs, and I didn't think any more about it. Over the next couple of decades, my hip, leg and back bothered me off and on, but never really to the point where I needed help with it.
When Mom and I moved up here, we walked the beach every morning for a LOT of years, which got to be more and more painful. In 2012, I talked to my doctor about it, and he thought it was sciatica, so he had me do PT for a month or so, which didn't help much. I had pulled out a LOT of salal (a plant that grows everywhere up here on the Oregon Coast, and sends out underground roots that can go on forever!) in our yards, and I figured I had seriously pulled a muscle or pinched a nerve from that. Well, it didn't get better, and walking the beach became too painful a few years ago, so I started walking a couple of miles a day most mornings with a group of friends/neighbors. Although I stopped teaching when Covid hit, it got to the point where I could only play the piano for about an hour before the pain in my back got to be too much. Time to get serious!
In January, my insurance provider sent out their home-visit nurse for my annual evaluation, and we got to talking about my piano. She asked me to go get something in the back of the house, and commented that I had quite a limp. She suspected that it was at least partly due to all of the pedaling over the years and suggested that I try pedaling with my left foot instead of my right. BINGO! It still took several months to get my primary care provider to order x-rays, but as soon as he got them back, he FINALLY referred me to Orthopedics. That doctor said he didn't know how I was standing on the leg, let alone walking on it, and highly recommended replacement surgery since it was too late for less-drastic measures - shots, focused exercises, etc. So here I am! Since the diagnosis, I have heard from several other piano teachers that have had similar experiences. I had heard of arm, hand and back injuries from overuse at the piano, but not hip problems. So, I'm passing along that experience and will update you with how it's going next month. Or feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions about it.
Oh, and the surgeon says I can go back to pedaling with my right foot - it will be excellent PT!
When a leg of Margaret Truman’s grand piano broke through the floor of her room at the White House, her father knew it was time to move out. For the next four years, President Truman and his family lived elsewhere while the White House went through a top-to-bottom renovation.
In what has to be one of the stranger uses of a piano, Swiss sculptor Jean Tinguely created his "Homage to New York" from an old piano and other junk. It was meant to satirize modern technological civilization, and blew itself up at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1960. It obviously didn't operate as planned, and caused a fire at the museum to the horror of many distinguished guests and patrons.
Yamaha started exporting pianos to The US in the late 1950's. Many of them literally fell apart until the Japanese manufacturers were able to develop glues and other materials that would hold up in US climates.
August Birthdays: Here is a partial list of musical August birthdays:
1 - Pete Calandra & Annie Locke
4 - Jeanette Alexander
5 - Marshall Barnhouse
6 - Derek Mount
8 - Tom Carleno
9 - Elias Haddad
10 - Valerie Romanoff
11 - Lawrence Blatt
12 - Ryan Marvel
13 - Edmond Paul Nicodemi
14 - Tim Glemser
15 - Pam Asberry, George Skaroulis, Rupam Sarmah & Steve Benjamins
17 - Kate Moody
18 - Jim Wilson
20 - Shoshana Michel & Beth Hilton
22 - James Woolwine
23 - Sherry Finzer
26 - Marc Enfroy
27 - Paul Adams, Suzanne Doucet & Richard Carr
28 - Michael Hoppe´ & Ken Elkinson
30 - Wendel Werner
Happy Birthday, one and all!
The Chickering Piano Factory, which was completed after Jonas Chickering's death in 1853, was the second largest building in America at the time. (The White House was the biggest.)
The 1900 Sears, Roebuck, and Co. catalog offered violins for $2.50-9.60; guitars for $2.70-10.80; and banjos for $1.75-25. They also offered one model of a piano for $98 plus shipping.
The Wheeler and Wilson Co. of Connecticut experimented with a combination sewing machine and miniature organ. A woman was supposed to be able to sew and play music at the same time.
August Music Holidays and Celebrations:
Elvis Week - August 10-16, 2023
1st: Rounds Resounding Day
9th: National Polka Day
10th: National Duran Duran Appreciation Day
11th: Hip Hop Day
12th: National Vinyl Record Day
18th: Green Man Festival
20th: National Radio Day
24th: International Strange Music Day
26th: Musical Yoga Day
28th: Radio Commercial Day
29th: Record Store Day
The piano is the only instrument ever made whose physical appearance is often more important to the owner than its musical qualities.
The first American piano builder was John Behrent of Philadelphia. He built his first piano in 1775.
The piano stool that changes height when turned appeared by the end of the eighteenth century and can be considered an important landmark in the ergonomic design of furniture. If anything, it is too well adapted to children, who have always preferred spinning around on it to sitting on it to practice!
Hey! I got the newsletter done and only a day late. Not bad, if I do say so myself! Please excuse any typos - I tried to catch them all, but no promises. I plan to start reviewing again in the next couple of days, so check back to see what's new for August. This month's photos are from around our yards. Enjoy!
To the best of my knowledge, the "trivia" items are true, but I can't guarantee it.