Diving into Periscope – interactive streaming with a musical edge

I’ve recently started playing with an app called Periscope, giving interactive music concerts at my stage piano.

My ‘cast’ (if that’s what it’s called?) includes talks on music theory, breaking down similarities in familiar tunes and of course playing the odd request – like a classical version of Michael Jackson’s ‘Human Nature’ – or a mashup between Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ and The Commodores’ ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’

It’s really fun – and my usecase seems to be a unique enough to get a mention in the Daily Telegraph‘s round up of the technology.

So, what do I get up to when I cast? you can find out on Mondays at 20:30 UK Time! At least, that’s the plan…

Essentially I’m talking about classical music theory using contemporary tunes – why is something catchy? What songs sound similar? What bits make a tune feel good? The session is mixed with live composition and conversation – content creation and audience interaction in real time.

Giving the audience access to the creative process and also a chance to communicate is pretty much exactly opposite to a traditional classical concert, where I’d be on a stage, far away from the listeners.

I believe it’s possible to demystify music without dissecting it, it’s so fun to explain what’s happening while playing some of the most memorable songs on the planet. I think this kind of informal direct broadcast is a great proving ground until I have my own big budget show where I have a huge grand piano and some notable musical guests to riff with.

Until then, viewers who make the effort to interact and contribute positively are going to shape how this cast evolves. How exciting! What works, what doesn’t, what do people want more of? I’m finding out every day. I’d hope to keep the audience interactivity if a big TV company wants to fund the huge grand piano and notable musical guests version.

For those of you reading this on Thursday 9th April 2015, there’s a replay available until 22:30 tonight, but you’ll need to download the app on an Apple device to watch at the moment. They say there’s an Android version coming. And, if you do visit, please ignore my faffing with the cables at the start, it definitely gets better.

At about 1AM this morning, I think I solved the problem of getting a decent audio feed in and listening at the same time, so Monday’s cast should have really rather good sound quality.

Oh and a final note from the technology presenter in me – streaming from mobiles has been available before – apps like Seesmic and Qik did this many years ago. But now data is cheaper, social media makes things more immediate, plus our connections are generally faster. This means the tech is ripe for mass adoption.

A notable alternative Meerkat has some big names endorsing it – Madonna released a video using this platform recently. I’ll let you know if I get a chance to try it out. And I’m sure there are other players in this area. In coming months we’ll get to see whether a single platform gains dominance, or if these apps can co-exist. It’ll inevitably play out over the next few months. Interesting interactive times!

Advertisements

Impromptu Classical Piano version of David Bowie’s “Changes”

So, I hosted a concert last month with the National Orchestra of Wales at St David’s Hall, Cardiff. It was amazing fun. After the event, I snuck onto the rather lovely grand piano to give my fingers a bit of exercise. Here’s my classical version of David Bowie ‘Changes’, a great song in any genre. Impromptu filming by Martin Daws, Young People’s Laureate for Wales on his mobile.

I do rather love taking music and giving it a classical twist – I like to call the process ‘Classifying’.

Of course this music is copyright David Bowie – you can buy the original through this link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pl3vxEudif8

Non Standard Jazz

 

Marko, one of my friends asked if I would live-compose some Jazz…

So here it is, an early morning optimistic look at the day ahead. I rather enjoy the crunchy chords! This is one of those times where it feels like I’m just listening to what another part of my brain is playing. I’m uploading it, fluffs and all!

As ever, this was composed in just one take.

I’m really enjoying live-scoring. I can’t wait to start doing more while I’m on the move!

Living with perfect pitch and Synaesthesia – what it’s really like

I was at a party last week, and a fellow dinner guest asked me what having perfect pitch was actually like. They wanted to know if it was just knowing what an ‘A’ was – and whether it could be learned. They were musical and seemed genuinely interested – so I decided for once to give them the full, no-holds-barred explanation. It’s complicated, and I get asked this a lot, hence this post.

Yes, having perfect pitch includes knowing whether something is an A or an A flat – that’s also the case for excellent relative pitch which is something that can be learned with time and effort. But for me perfect or absolute pitch is more than that.

With the caveat that this is my personal experience, and it might be different for fellow sufferers/carriers, this is how it feels for me to be a composer with perfect pitch.

Train from Gothenburg to Stockholm is in B Major – the trees outside are beautiful. Composing on the train is a wonderful experience. I love the sound of the train and how it interacts with the landscapes. Trees and lakes and the sea are generally in major keys so it feels uplifting and inspiring to me! This music was recorded in two takes – first the strings, then the piano sound.

 

Now, I’d like you to imagine you’re chatting with your conversation partner. But instead of speaking and hearing the words alone, each syllable they utter has a note, sometimes more than one. They speak in tunes and I can sing back their melody. Once I know them a little bit, I can play along to their words as they speak them, accompanying them on the piano as if they’re singing an operatic recitative. They drop a glass on the floor, it plays a particular melody as it hits the tiles. I’ll play that melody back – on a piano, on anything. I can accompany that melody with harmony, chords – or perhaps compose a variation on that melody – develop it into a stupendous symphony filled with strings, or play it back in the style of Chopin, Debussy or Bob Marley. That car horn beeps an F major chord, this kettle’s in A flat, some bedside lights get thrown out because they are out of tune with other appliances. I can play along to every song on the radio whether or not I’ve heard it before, the chord progressions as open to me as if I had the sheet music in front of me. I can play other songs with the same chords and fit them with the song being played. Those bath taps squeak in E, this person sneezes in E flat. That printer’s in D mostly. The microwave is in the same key as the washing machine.

 

For me perfect pitch is not knowing notes, it’s about living in a world where everyone resonates, every thing has music. Everything and everyone weaves together a fantastic audio symphony that I have no choice but to absorb. For me if there isn’t music somewhere, I’ll add it in. Say someone is walking along a station platform, I almost unconsciously compose a tune fitting into their footsteps – it’ll generally be in the same key as the resonance of the station. While I hear a piece of music I generally imagine a counter-melody to complement the existing melody everyone else hears. It was only on talking to my friend Jonathan in Boston that I found out these things are not typical.

It’s odd – though I’m a composer by nature, I also love encoding the melodies and harmonies I hear in music for other people to appreciate, for example – the sound of a sunrise – or the beautiful noise of an aeroplane at 33,000 feet in D major.

I recently live-composed some classical music for each of my friend’s children at a naming ceremony. They had very different personalities and I captured them each in a short musical piece recorded for posterity. It never fails to amaze me how many people agree with my musical perception of someone – even someone young! There must be something I pick up on that is there, intrinsically, inside everyone.

When I taste things, I also hear music, mainly chords – sugar and desserts almost always in major key and chocolate and coffee are particularly complex sounds, with overtones and harmonics. I love broccoli and cauliflower which are a cycle of fifths. Sushi tastes like power chords on an acoustic guitar. Lemon meringue pie is a concoction of A major chords and inversions, 7ths and minors. I’ve ‘played’ tastes to a bunch of very gifted musicians who agreed with my interpretation of doughnuts, eggs and the like. I love delicious food mainly because of the pleasurable sounds it generates for me. Roller coaster rides also kick my synaesthesia into overdrive, oh, the harmonies and melodies of weightlessness and acceleration, I’d love to live-compose in variable weight conditions like that!

For me every single piece of life is flooded with sound – so much so that I didn’t realise for many years that this is not the case for everyone.

Auditory is most certainly my main sense.

 

Finally a few other strange characteristics that may or may not be attributable to perfect pitch – listed below in case any fellow perfect-pitchers would like to add their comments!

Picking up a language is easy – once you hear which notes people associate with particular things, it’s generally just a question of working out which scale they are using. My grammar is almost always terrible but I’ll pick up vocabulary words quickly. Optimism and the desire to communicate take over once I’ve decoded where words begin and end. For me, a laugh is almost always in a major key – crying is almost always in a minor key, regardless of language.

Other traits!

  • difficulty recognising people visually – especially if I meet them again out of the original context. I can however (given enough of a sample) recognise people by gait or voice.
  • hardly ever get motion sickness
  • great sense of direction
  • rather clumsy if I’m not paying attention
  • ultra-high scoring spatial awareness and pattern recognition skills – but also incredibly unobservant in everyday situations
  • I’m rather good at opening locks!

Hopefully I’ve given you an insight into the condition. It’s clear to me now that we all encode the world differently – and in my case very intensively and musically. Though I feel surprisingly vulnerable sharing these thoughts with the wider world, it’s also a pleasure to finally explain what it’s like to have perfect pitch.

 

Music = sometimes better than words

(cross post from my soundcloud account)

 

Right now, a few people I really like are going through some tough times. I sometimes find it comparatively difficult to express my emotions in words – even through the richness of language there are times when words are a poor substitute for music – a super-conductor of emotion and meaning.

I truly know how it feels when no-one can reach me, and I don’t want to be reached. So this is for you, and anyone else currently undergoing adversity. I think that even if you, like me, are experienced in how to deal with hardship, it doesn’t make it any easier when it happens.

This composition to me represents wordless, deep support to my friends, and also to myself. It’s reassurance that even in the most dark of situations, where it might feel bleak and desolate, grey and hopeless – after some time has passed, a glimmer of a smile, a glance of understanding, a random act of kindness from a stranger could be all that’s needed to transform that grey world into something more habitable – infusing it, finally, with much-missed slivers of light and colour.

This music was live-composed in just one take.

 

The Song that won’t record = finally recorded

There’s a composition I’ve had in my head for a while now, it refused to be recorded because I was unhappy when I made a mistake, missed the click track, couldn’t get the timing right – I gave myself many many reasons not to capture it.

However, this morning all bets are off. I woke up at 6.00am realising that if I didn’t get this down, the perfect version of this beautiful tune will just remain contained in my head. I lay in bed for a few more hours before breaking ranks, and hitting record here in my studio. So, here’s an imperfect version of the wonderful music that is never far from my world, complete with mistakes, fluffs and stuff I would like to change. Also, because the track is so complex, the MIDI is glitching in parts! The song has inspired me to get more RAM or if necessary, get a new machine.

I have decided the fluffs and mistakes make the song alive – it’s OK that we have scars, it shows we have experienced the world and it’s left its mark on us. I feel as if I have let out a huge breath I didn’t even know I was holding.

It was recorded in just one take, and I’m going to post it before I change my mind.

More than anything I want to perform my live compositions at a beautiful piano in a wonderful recital hall. I would create musical pieces and as the composition continues the music will be inspired by how the audience respond – a fabulous musical feedback loop!

tons more music at itunes.com/ljrich cdbaby.com/ljrich and stream on spotify plus loads more on soundcloud.com/ljrich

Music Live-Blogging – Classical Piano on the Fly

At a recent event, the Music Tech Fest in Boston, I took part in a 24-hour hackathon.
Ostensibly I was filming it for the show I present on, BBC Click. But as well as recording it for the programme, the experience and the people I met that weekend left a deep and lasting impression on me.

For the first time, I was surrounded by those who live comfortably in the centre of the Venn Diagram of Music and Technology – I found it to be an incredibly nourishing few days. I was able to talk openly about my synaesthesia and the very sensitive musical side of me that I don’t normally talk about during my day job. That’s since changed –  this week’s show is all about Music Technology.

Plus I finally had the guts to do some live composition in front of people I hardly knew – and their response was incredibly positive, which led me down the path of putting live-composed piano music up on the web.

 

Each piece of music was recorded live, in just one take.

For years I spent a lot of time fixing every little thing in my compositions – a bit like proof-reading a book for spelling mistakes, but here I’ve deliberately left the mistakes in, this goes up completely untouched by anything – I don’t even record to a click track. And actually, it feels kind of exposed and fantastic all at once to send this out to the world.