The Mambo!

Musical Mixology is back with a fun and festive Caribbean cocktail in honor of Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday (this Saturday, August 25, 2018)! A zesty twist on a classic rum punch, we crafted The Mambo's big flavors to match the bold rhythms and sassy kick of the "Mambo" from Lennie's West Side Story.

The sweetness of fresh tropical juices reside at the forefront of this cheery tribute, and they're perfectly balanced by the subtle heat of homemade ginger syrup and Puerto Rican spice. Whether you're looking for a little liquid courage (to help make your way to the dance floor!) or extra pep in your step, a couple quick shots are the perfect accompaniment to your favorite rendition of Bernstein's "Mambo."

THE MAMBO!

Yield: 1 full cocktail (or 3-4 small “shooters”)
 

Ingredients

  • 2 oz Bacardi White Rum (or another Puerto Rican white rum)
  • 1.5 oz orange juice
  • 1.5 oz pineapple juice
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.5 oz ginger syrup (see below)
  • dash grenadine
  • pinch adobo seasoning (Puerto Rican spice blend)
     

Instructions

Combine the liquid ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake until well chilled. Strain into an ice-filled glass (or shot glasses, if making shooters!) and sprinkle with a pinch of adobo seasoning. A store-bought bottle of this Puerto Rican spice blend provides plenty of punch, but you can also easily whip up a homemade blend from equal parts of these common ingredients: black pepper, onion powder, oregano, cumin, coriander, and turmeric.
 

Ginger syrup recipe

Add 1/2 cup fresh ginger juice with 1 cup superfine sugar to a blender and blend until sugar is dissolved. Make fresh ginger juice with a juicer or by finely grating fresh ginger, wrapping it in a thin cotton towel or cheesecloth, and squeezing out the juice.

This is the perfect recipe for summer entertaining! It's a breeze to prepare in a big batch for parties and is also delicious as a family-friendly virgin cocktail. By simply replacing the rum with coconut water, you can craft a zippy juice cocktail that everyone can enjoy.

Bottoms up!

-Greg

Making the Video, "DIY"-style

Our imaginations are running wild, conjuring up new worlds inspired by your outstanding New Music New Video composition competition submissions! Keep them coming! (The deadline for submissions is September 1, 2018.)

The creative process is one of our favorite aspects of video-making, and we look forward to collaborating on this with the winner of the New Music New Video competition. Our budget is is usually very small (we're musicians, after all!), and so most everything we do fits within the realm of "Do It Yourself," or "DIY." We turn our dreams into reality by finding creative solutions to the seemingly endless set of limitations that shape our productions. While we've created some wild effects through meticulous editing in post-production, our most beloved music video moments often stem from utilizing unusual techniques and props on set.

The most common filmmaking challenge we face with our tiny budget: the limitations of our venue. We can't afford Hollywood-style sound stages (yet 😉), so we've filmed everywhere from our own homes to our friend's backyards. To transform our less-than-glamorous venues into MTV music video-style sets, we often place a strong light immediately behind us at the piano; the backlighting is super dramatic (yaaas!) and it disguises whatever mess may be hiding in the background. Fog machines can also turn a dour bedroom into a heavenly vision. (Speaking of fog machines, we've used these multipurpose devices to create radiant shafts of morning light!) And in making our Contrapunctus music video, we simply hung black & white bed sheets from the walls to create a high budget, high contrast look.

Another common, recurring filmmaking challenge we encounter: how do we create sweeping shots without the use of super expensive camera trains, cranes, and stabilizing rigs? Our solution has been to recreate the effects by situating our camera crew on roller skates and wheel chairs. In a few instances we affixed the camera to a long monopod and waved the contraption above the pianos. And in a recent shoot, we asked a professional dancer to literally dance with the camera in hand, ultimately giving our viewers the sensation that they are dancing along with our performances. 

We love playing with "time" during our video shoots. In our video of Gluck's "Dance of the Blessed Spirits," we tested our pianistic abilities by playing the piece extremely fast—nearly five times fast, in fact. We then slowed down the resulting footage (nearly five times) so that our hands appeared to be playing the music at the correct tempo, but in a dreamy, almost ghostly manner. Similarly, in a few sections of our Rite of Spring music film, we learned our parts backward (an utterly nasty challenge!). We dipped our fingers in paint before filming, and then, with the cameras rolling, we performed the passages (backwards) as our fingers covered the keys in paint. Later while editing, we reversed the footage so that our hands appeared to be playing the passage correctly (i.e. not backwards!) while giving the illusion that the paint was coming off the keys as we played.

Sometimes we go all out with over-the-top, crafty filmmaking effects, like by making use of bugs and bubbles. For a mind-bending look, we've found that we can focus our camera into a flexible mirror and artfully distort the image by warping the mirror. For a hair-raisingly spooky scene, we once used the static electricity from a balloon to make Liz's hair stand on end. (Thank you, grade-school science class. 🤓) And in one extra challenging film shoot, we turned out the lights, donned L.E.D. gloves, and attempted to perform from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring."

In every case of creative DIY filmmaking, our mission has been to enhance the spirit of the music—to accentuate the music's dreaminess, to illustrate the music's decay, to add potent visual punch to the music's most dramatic moments. We reap inspiration from the generous imagination already latent in the music.

The beautiful, surprising, and weird pieces submitted to our New Music New Video composition competition so far all have exciting boundary-pushing potential! There's still time to submit a piece—the deadline for submission is September 1, 2018. We're so eager to see what unusual visuals we can come up with when we put our heads together with the winning composer.

We're all fired up. 😉

piano flames 2.gif

Musical Memeology

Are you in search of that perfect .gif??

  • ...an exploding piano .gif to celebrate your latest mic-drop Facebook comment?
  • ...a smoldering glance .gif to text your crush?
  • ...a disco-fabulous high-five to post in your group chat?
  • ...spider piano fingers to represent the struggles of that nasty Chopin etude?

We've got you covered!

Flight of the Bumblebee - Death Glare Emoji.gif

Click through the badass, off-the-wall, romantic, freaky, piano-tastic, and all-around fun categories below to find the perfect .gif for every occasion:

Check back often! We'll add new .gifs to the categories above for each new music video we release.

🤤Hungry for more? Don't miss the "29 Reasons Why Playing The Piano Together Is The Most Fun Thing Two People Could Ever Do Together" and "35 Reasons Playing the Piano Is The Most Dangerous Thing Ever" over on Buzzfeed.

We'd LOVE to see where these .gifs end up. Feel free to tag us in your social media posts or send us screenshots of your most clever and creative use of our .gifs. Ready, set, meme! 😆

RoS - piano in flames.gif

The Rachmaninoff Heartbreak

Musical Mixology is back to celebrate the lush beauty of early summer with our latest cocktail, The Rachmaninoff Heartbreak. We crafted this deeply romantic drink, in part, to celebrate the release of our latest music video, "The Night... The Love..." as well as the appearance of Rachmaninoff's gorgeous Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos on our latest album, Mother.

Pinot noir (the heartbreak grape), chocolate, apricots, and cognac come together to create this earthy and sensual drink worthy of Rachmaninoff’s romanticism. The drink is less dessert-like than the ingredient list may suggest; it's lightly sweet, juicy, smoky, and totally luxurious — perfect to pair with Rachmaninoff's sumptuous harmonies and passionate lyricism. One sip of this delightful craft concoction will send you drifting on the evening breeze like night-blooming jasmine. Drink up and get lost in:

THE RACHMANINOFF HEARTBREAK

Adapted from "Chocolate Wine" from Ryan Chetiyanwardana's Good Things to Drink
Yield: 6-7 drinks

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle pinot noir (earthy, fruit forward, not too tannic)
  • 6 oz cognac
  • 0.5 oz peaty single-malt scotch (lower-end, like Laphroaig, is fine)
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar (just less than 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs
  • 5 dried apricots
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon anise seeds
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Stir ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl
  • Cover and heat on high power in the microwave for 3 minutes (I’ve tried cooking this over a stovetop, but the flavors infused better in the microwave.) 
  • Allow to cool, then strain (Keep the apricots to serve as small hors d’oeuvres with the drink. So good!)
  • Refrigerate until cold
  • Serve in a wine glass with 2-3 cubes of ice

Helpful hint: I've made this cocktail several times and much prefer to use softer dried apricots over those that are chewy and completely dried. 

The Rachmaninoff Heartbreak is perfect for fueling a budding summer romance or soothing a broken heart. Whether sharing in passion or pathos, this cocktail is best paired with an assortment of hors d'oeuvres (think fresh and dried fruits, nuts, cheese, chocolates!) and our music video "The Night... The Love...", featuring Rachmaninoff's Suite No. 1 for Two Pianos. 😉

Enjoy!

-Greg

Penny for your thoughts?

We've finally had a long enough break between concerts to really dig into your New Music New Video composition competition entries, and we are loving everything. KUDOS to all of the entrants so far!

Amongst the social media chatter, an interesting topic came up regarding the competition: the absence of a cash prize.

"...the opportunity does not have a dollar prize for the winner... this is an example of an all-too-frequent occurrence, artists being offered 'exposure' rather than being paid for their work. Might you also consider offering some kind of prize for the winner?"

Here are our thoughts (but we're also curious to hear yours!):

Yes, in some sense, this competition is about exposure. We absolutely hope to expose wonderful new music to our large international online audience. We receive unsolicited compositions on a near daily basis (much of which is really fantastic!), and since it is impossible to perform every piece sent our way, we thought of the competition as a way to highlight at least a few of these composers’ voices.

Beyond that, having made dozens of these music videos in the past 10+ years, we see the prize as granting so much more than just exposure. It’s an opportunity for a composer to collaborate in the creativity of filmmaking, think outside the box, have fun with classical piano music, and learn from our video-making experience. 

Those who deem a cash prize to be the only suitable reward may not be the sort of collaborator we’re searching for. We began making our music videos from scratch, resourcefully using venues and equipment already available to us, and we quickly came to enjoy the thrill of the entire do-it-yourself process, from the beginning’s blank canvas to the magic of editing. We’ve discovered that the artistic joy lies in the back-and-forth exchange of ideas, the brainstorming, the imagination, the collaboration! We‘re looking for someone to join us in the process.

It should be noted that not only is there no financial compensation for the winning entry, but there is no financial compensation for any of the artists involved… no compensation for any of the other composer applicants, none for our volunteer production assistants,  none for the two of us (who will serve as the pianists, producers, videographers, directors, audio engineers, and video editors). And we will personally finance any necessary production expenses ourselves, such as piano moving, permits, insurance, props, advertising, etc. In the end, we hope to spend less than a couple thousand dollars on production, but nonetheless create a music video that would, by all industry standards, compare to a $30,000+ budget production. We’re excited to do so! We see the investment of time, skill, and money as an investment in the winning composer and in the advancement of our mission to make this music a relevant and powerful force in society.

Now you know our thoughts on the matter — care to share yours? Let us know what you think in the comments or on social media!

new music new video sign.jpg