It’s half the tracks of Péchés d’âge moyen, which was not my original intent. I’d hoped to record at least another ten, but with time dwindling, I opted instead to record the five pieces I wrote the week of 14-18 March 2022.
I managed to compose one piece each day that week, and it was an eventful one: Pi Day (14 March), The Ides of March (15 March), and Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March) all fell within days of one another.
As one of the chosen subscribers, I recommended a topic for a poem: my hilarious little release Péchés d’âge moyen, a short collection of twelve original piano miniatures. Son—as always—delivered the goods.
After releasing Péchés d’âge moyen, my short collection of twelve original piano miniatures, I took a short break from composing to take care of some other items. Now that my insane two-or-three weeks of work have subsided into what is (hopefully) a quieter week—the eye of the storm—I’ve jumped back into composing by hand.
At the time of writing, I’ve composed six more short miniatures 11-14 March 2022. In order of composition they are as follows: “Diminished Minuet,” “Another L’il Divertimento in G major,” Three Rhapsodies in G major and Bb minor (consisting of “Largo in G minor,” “Poco allegretto in Bb major,” and “Adagio for a Rainy Day”), and “Pi Day.” To match Péchés d’âge moyen, I’ll compose at least six more pieces, with a goal of releasing more lo-fi recordings by the next Bandcamp Friday (1 April 2022—a fitting date, indeed!).
Yep, Portly readers: it’s one of those blog posts: a general update on the latest with yours portly because I’m out of both ideas and energy. Sure, I should be writing about the war in the Ukraine or something important like that (instead of silly paintings and piano pieces), but, again—I’m more low-energy than JEB! at the moment. Or, at the very least, my pantheric intensity has to be focused towards more pressing matters than this humble blog.
Early March is always a time when everything comes to a head at once. Last week was the final week of third quarter, and was chock-a-block with various school events. That saw me scrambling around all over campus during my precious planning periods performing various feats of technical wizardry (but all of the standard hedge-mage variety; the really powerful audio/visual spells won’t be cast for another month). Incredibly, I managed to record all of Péchés d’âge moyen last week (give it a listen if you haven’t already—it’s less then seven minutes to listen to the entire album!).
Naturally, that meant a backlog of grading and comment-writing for report cards, which had to be completed over the weekend. I’m grateful to Pontiac Dream 39/Always a Kid for Today for his movie review Monday, because that saved me some valuable time Sunday (it’s also an excellent review—you should go read it!).
I’d hoped that in the few weeks I had between announcing the project and releasing it I’d be able to set up a more sophisticated recording rig. Instead, I recorded the twelve tracks in a white heat, using my iPhone SE’s voice memo app, and placing the phone on the old Baldwin Acrosonic piano in my school’s Music Room.
These made for less-than-ideal recording conditions, but in listening back to the album, it worked better than I thought.
The total recording clocks in at just six minutes and thirty-five seconds, but I’ve jam-packed this release with bonus features: videos, original manuscripts of each piece, and a PDF booklet detailing the origins of the project. It’s not bad for $5 (although that comes out to approximately $1.43 per minute if you just listen to the album once).
I also had a blast putting this recording together. The feel of putting pen to paper is just so satisfying, and each little bit of written music is like its own little work of art. One reason I included the manuscripts with the recording is because they’re beautiful to look at—even with my poor penmanship.
This weekend’s edition of SubscribeStar Saturday will be a bit of a video and document dump, as I’m giving subscribers a sneak peek of my collection of piano miniatures, Péchés d’âge moyen. I’m hoping to have the whole collection available by this Friday, 4 March 2022 on Bandcamp, but there are some technical considerations I need to work out first—namely, how to get a good quality recording of each piece, rather than videos taken on my phone at school while kids shoot hoops outside of the Music Room (which, sadly, opens onto the gym).
Of course, I may just end up extracting the audio from the attached MP4s and call it a day—ha!
Regardless, today I’m uploading every video I’ve recorded so far, as well as every manuscript of the pieces I’ve put together so far. I’ll also briefly discuss my composing method, and how it’s changed slightly over the course of the project.
For the past six weeks, I’ve been writing about the six tracks from my 2015 release Contest Winner EP, the only recording of my original songs I’ve ever released. I’ve released several other albums and singles, but I’ve written a lot of other songs that I have not recorded. Indeed, I plan on doing some simple cellphone videos of some of those unreleased tunes for subscribers in the coming weeks.
One reason I have not written another album is because I hit a songwriting drought somewhere around 2015. Sitting down and writing songs is difficult and time-consuming, and while I love it, my schedule grew increasingly hectic around that time. I began teaching very late nights at a local technical college (I could only keep it up for a year—even I can’t work that much), and the Artsville Songwriting Competition, which gave me the incentive to write regularly, folded.
Still, I have managed to write a few more tunes in the intervening years—maybe not enough for a proper album, but certainly enough for another EP. But that leads to the other reason I have not released a second album: the recording process is tedious and expensive.
It is also super fun, despite the long hours and late nights in the studio.
Today, I’m going to give a brief overview of the recording process, way back in 2014 (yep, it took me over a year before I finally released the album).
During the last eleven years of his life, the great composer of Italian opera Gioachino Rossini, enjoying a sumptuous retirement after a successful career, composed a collection of 150 pieces. He dubbed these pieces—intended for intimate and private performances in his home—Péchés de vieillesse, or “Sins of Old Age” (that title is actually affixed to only two of the fourteen albums, but later was applied to the entire collection). The pieces are a mix of chamber, vocal, and piano music, all meant to be played in Rossini’s home.
Most readers will recognize Rossini from his memorable overtures—often written mere hours before the opening nights of his operas, much to the chagrin of theatre managers—which are probably better known to mass audiences than his operas. Here’s the most famous of them:
Rossini was so successful as a composer, he basically spent forty years in retirement. While music historians disagree on exactly why he stopped composing operas so young, I suspect it had to do with the fact that made so much money from them, he didn’t need to work anymore, and enjoyed a fun retirement (ill-health was likely a contributing factor, too). He also exited gracefully at the top of his game, avoiding the common pitfall of overstaying one’s artistic welcome amid changing times and tastes.
As such, the Péchés de vieillesse are real gems, coming as they did from a great composer who had long retired from the craft. Here’s just one example (of 150!), his “Prelude inoffensif” from Volume VII of the collection:
As readers know, I’ve been getting back into composing, and have been exploring composing by hand. It is extremely satisfying to write pieces by hand (as opposed to a computer, which is certainly more convenient, but lacking in the same tactile satisfaction). I’ve written a few short piano miniatures—some good, some desperately in need of revision—and Rossini’s “Sins” have inspired some of my own: a small project I’m dubbing Péchés d’âge moyen.