While on tour in North Carolina earlier this month, we caught up with pianist Verina Chen for a short interview. Verina is writing her dissertation on YouTube’s uses in performance and private teaching to fulfill her DMA in piano performance at the University of Utah. In short, she’s amazing. Check it out!
We're on the cover of this month's "Clavier Companion." The corresponding article is spot-on: Nick Romeo (the author) actually "gets" us, our mission, and our artistic pursuits, and he swirls it all together into a mighty read! Kudos to Nick!
In a few hours, Greg and Liz were shooting footage for a music video of their two-piano paraphrase of the Bee Gees song Stayin’ Alive.
... Greg and Liz take an iconoclastic pleasure in smashing through the stereotype of classical music as a tame and harmless anachronism. They want audiences to have powerful, visceral reactions to their music. After hearing their exuberantly virtuosic take on Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz at a concert in Oregon, one woman in the audience leapt to her feet and shouted “Now that’s a waltz!”
After reading Liz's thorough blog recollecting all the humorous incidents from our last video shoot (see the video posted below), I'm not sure what I could add, but I'll give it a shot.
I'm proud of Liz. She purchased a "Hello Kitty" lunch box, pretty pink bows, and the tackiest dress you-ever-did-see with admirable courage, but she deserves an apology from me. Liz, I'm sorry I didn't help. I'm sorry I stood five feet from the cash register, pointed my finger and laughed hysterically.
Of course, Liz found herself in even more compromising situations. She spent a good 20 minutes dashing about the New Haven train station while flailing her arms and shouting, "Seriously, this is not a chain letter! It really works!" "Seriously" people, does it really work? Have any of you actually seen your crush's name appear on the screen after pasting the message into three comments?
One of my favorite scenes was the one in which Liz sat at a piano and sweetly instructed Rubinstein to put more feeling in his fingers. There was something about being there in the same room that nearly made me wet my pants. Finding myself completely unable to withhold my laughter, I silently began to pant and wheeze my way into the back room. (I didn't want to disturb her concentration or ruin the shoot!) Unfortunately, en route, Liz started to demonstrate what it meant to "play with one's fingers," playing the Moonlight sonata as if she had never seen a piano before. It was the final straw; I completely exploded. This is only one of several such examples.
A rather embarrassing situation of my own: portraying a split personality (an extremely flamboyant homosexual and a curse-laden scumbucket) in front of streams of passersby. Thankfully, we were in New York City, and very few people seemed to notice anything out of the ordinary.
Alas! The things we do for our art.
I’m going to go tend to my battle wounds - that bench in Riverside park really left a scar!
Hello, everyone! It's Liz here to report on some of the more laughable moments we encountered while producing this video. (WATCH the video in the post below).
This video was by far the wackiest to create. We conjured up a variety of costumes, hairstyles, accents, accessories, and locations just to add some "color" to the comments. (In hindsight, most of the comments were incredible enough to stand on their own!) Knowing that this video might be regarded as controversial, we had no pretensions of portraying anyone specific; the characterizations were meant to be broad and even caricature-like in order to emphasize the over-the-top nature of the commentary.
This isn't to say that we didn't suffer for our art, however: for example, Greg actually injured himself badly during a scene (his unscripted fall is actually included in the video, if you watch closely enough!), and I had to endure stares from the constantly-streaming crowds and busy traffic at Columbus Circle as I vapidly vamped for the camera. Greg and I inserted lots of amusing and import-laden details which you may have already noticed: a wind-up Beethoven toy that plays the "Moonlight" Sonata, my own tattered Beethoven scores, a "Hello Kitty" lunchbox, a T-shirt featuring the periodic table of elements, a copy of the Village Voice tucked under my arm, our "simultaneous" appearance onscreen and on the computer screen (incidentally, the background music is a composite of our own renditions), a purposeful allusion to Peter Jackson's brilliant Lord of the Rings, and much more...
Although the comments themselves were directly quoted—with grammatical errors intact—we often ad-libbed to get ourselves into character. My personal faves to play were the Minnesotan couple (check out a selection of improv bloopers at the end of the video) and the business woman (I admit, it was liberating to escape my mild-mannered disposition and act short-tempered for once!). And of course, we had the best time making fun of the Anderson & Roe Piano Duo in a particular scene.
Was all this nonsense worth it? Well, if viewers like you get a kick out of it, then we're satisfied!
This summer, we spent three weeks preparing to record our upcoming CD. This was all quite serious and intense, so we decided to spice things up and film a new music video. There was never a dull moment--in general, when the two of us start throwing ideas around, mischief inevitably ensues. We threw caution--and our dignity--to the wind, and we had great fun spoofing the YouTube culture that we've grown to love. (Watch the video below!)
The music: The "Moonlight" Sonata, Op. 27, No. 2, by Ludwig van Beethoven
The location: Yale University, Greg's apartment, Liz's apartment, the New Haven train station, and NYC (112th and Broadway, Riverside Park, Columbus Circle, 110th and Broadway subway stop)
Greg in grey, Liz in black:
There is a new brand of music critic thriving in today's technological world, out in full force on the millions of comment boards littering the Internet. These informative sages are changing the way we listen to music with their critical observations of some of the world's best pianists. In this video, Liz and I dramatized actual comments posted on the YouTube website by just a few of these critics, offering their valuable advice to legendary pianists such as Artur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Alfred Brendel, and Wilhelm Kempff. (Yes, a YouTube user did tell Rubinstein that he should play slower ... I mean, I'm sure Rubinstein cares ... we can just see him sitting at his computer taking notes ...)
Now don't take us wrong. We think user interaction is fantastic (see our website if you don't believe us). We just happen to find many of the comments on the YouTube website really, really funny, and at times, completely inappropriate.
Of course, it wouldn't hurt if more people would to listen to others (and interact with others) with an open mind. All performers bring something unique to the table. Is it not possible to lack judgment, postpone criticism, and simply enjoy the wonderful differences in interpretation? Listen for what you love, not what you hate.
That said, here's the video:
P.S. The video originally began with a mockery of my solo videos (my Ligeti and Bach videos) in which I rather dramatically instructed the viewer to "Imagine: You're outside and the moon is out." It was really funny (and pretty embarrassing), but only to people who had seen my other videos. Along with a number of other scenes, it ultimately got the chop.