A Few Updates

I logged into my blog just now to make another Twitter thread post, and checked to see when I’d last updated this blog (“It’s been a while, maybe two months?”). To my mild horror, I found that my last post was on January 8.

That was a whole era ago—a different, simpler time before a global pandemic hit a woefully unprepared America, before hundreds of thousands of people died, before several waves of panic-buying and lockdowns, before several industries (including the arts) were forced to face the threat of nonexistence, before a national-and-then-international reckoning with racial inequities and the generational legacy of violence, before massive job losses and medical equipment shortages and viral hotspots, and before countless other cracks, visible and invisible, appeared in the structure of society, and we learned that nothing is certain, and everything is frightening.

Against the backdrop of all of this, my own little life has been quietly chugging along, and 2020 has served up a truly mixed bag, career-wise: a few steps forward, a few steps GONE. Poof.

The important thing though, is that I am okay. I have a roof over my head and food in the fridge. I hope you’re okay too, and if you’re able to I hope you’re doing what you can to support others around you, whether that’s supporting a small local business, tipping delivery workers generously, or donating to food banks and mutual aid funds. (I’ve been doing my best to do all of the above.)

With that, here are some updates on what I’ve been doing this year, for those of you who still follow my blog but not social media (I know you exist! I see you!)

  • I released two recordings this year. They’re both short, sweet singles, and you should absolutely listen to them on your streaming service of choice, so I can earn a few pennies. (The links below allow you to choose your streaming service, FYI.)
  • To accompany the first release and celebrate Louise Farrenc, I put together a gender-balanced playlist featuring my new recording as well as other gorgeous pieces of solo piano Romantic music. (I still listen to it; it’s a good playlist, dammit.)
  • I did a couple of interviews in which I discuss my own musical journey, these lesser-played composers I love so much, my take on success and the music world, the Uncertain Times the music industry is in, etc.
  • I started, then stalled on, a new outlet for my writing on Substack. At the beginning of the year I gave into peer pressure joined several of my colleagues by setting up a Substack, with the intention of publishing once a month. I hit it out of the park, if I do say so myself, with my first post, a take on the double standards in classical music that set the scene for dumbest controversy ever, and was all set to keep the momentum going once a month. Then the pandemic hit the US, devastating, well, everything, and suddenly the posts I had in the can seemed tone-deaf and inappropriate. I haven’t updated since, but I think I’m ready to have another go soon.
  • I’m still writing and posting practice videos over on Patreon. This is the one platform on which I’m still posting consistently, because as it turns out, the existence of steady pay, however little, is the key to consistent output—who knew? I feel a little weird promoting it at a time when your money can do so much good going elsewhere, but if you have $5-$20 a month to spare, and want to keep up with what I’m doing, this is how I fund my recording projects. (For real, the Patreon money goes straight into a business account that is used for me to write checks to the recording studio I work with, and any expenses I pay out of it have to be justified to an accountant and the IRS, so you can rest assured that none of it goes toward my macaron addiction or scented candle collection.)
    • P.S. The reward for the top-tier support level—$20 a month—is that I send you mail once a month, and this has become one of my favorite activities in lockdown: writing letters/cards, decorating the envelopes, picking out my favorite stamps. Cannot recommend highly enough how soothing of an activity this is in a time of isolation.
  • I updated my website (finally) to reflect the projects I’ve done and the platforms I’m on. My website at the beginning of the year had no place for me to show the recording or writing I’ve been doing, or the places I’ve been mentioned/featured/promoted. I overhauled it and it now has all these handy pages (recordings! press! writing! a whole page just for social media!) where the stuff I’m listing in this blog post actually has an official home.
  • I started some hobby accounts just for myself. As my personal social media accounts have started tilting in the direction of being semi-professional, I’ve felt weirdly self-conscious about spamming Twitter and Instagram with random things I love. So I created an Instagram account to log my 2020 reading where I write a little mini-review of every new book I finish, and, in classic Millennial fashion, an Instagram for my cat. (Oh yeah, I got a cat. She’s the best quarantine buddy in the world.)

That’s it for now, folks. 2020 is not the year I planned for, but I’m still proud of the things I’ve been able to do, and it’s a privilege to have any accomplishments at all and to share them with you. I hope you’re okay, in whatever way “okay” means to you. Stay safe, wear a mask, and thanks for being here.

As Seen on Twitter: The Beethoven Thread (Extended Edition)

Note: This is a centralized, formatted version of a Twitter thread I wrote that ended up getting some traction. I have turned it into a blog post for easier reading and sharing.

First posted on Twitter on December 16, 2019.

It’s probably Beethoven’s birthday, so let’s talk about my dude Ludwig, things you might not know about him, and things we don’t talk about (but that we absolutely should) when we talk about the man and the music. There’s a LOT of myth surrounding Beethoven because history has deemed him a Great Man and that type of designation causes problems sometimes. My goal today is to 1) humanize the guy and 2) put his work in context, because Context is Good!

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When the Design Blogs Are Useless: a Thorough Guide to Decorating Your Musical Home

So this post has been a long time coming. My “How to Soundproof an Apartment with a Piano” post from a more innocent time (2013) is one of the top hits of this blog, and since writing said post I have learned so much more about making a home with musical instruments (and moved a whole bunch of times). “Write a better, updated post” was on the mental to-do list in the neglected back office of my brain for years.

Getting around to crossing that particular item off my to-do list was not on my list of priorities last week, and then I made a terrible life decision. I visited Apartment Therapy.

I stopped reading Apartment Therapy years ago when I realized the writing was terrible and the advice so-so, but sometimes the “I Want to Live in the West Elm Catalog” bug bites you and you will do anything to scratch that itch. I was delighted when I saw a post titled “7 Ways to Make Your Musical Instruments Feel Like an Intentional Part of Your Design Scheme.”

Just to make it clear, there is a market for articles like this. The world is full of nerds and dilettantes and, oh yeah, actual working musicians with instruments of all sizes, trying to figure out how to integrate things that produce large sound vibrations into their homes in the way that makes at least some sense. I have wrapped my brain around the placement of a grand piano and multiple keyboards in half a dozen apartments now, each time wondering why it was so difficult to solve a problem that surely other people had figured out.

https://twitter.com/doodlyroses/status/1140676462694895616

Unfortunately, the Apartment Therapy article was a nasty surprise—beyond not remotely addressing issues with acoustics, it straight up recommends ruining your instruments, as you may have seen in a Twitter thread I popped off. I will save my unpleasant opinions about Apartment Therapy’s content-churning ethos for another time and just tell you, blog reader, this: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DO NOT DO ANY OF THE THINGS IN THAT ARTICLE.

Before we go on: I hesitate to make sweeping recommendations to all people with all instruments, but I’m writing this guide because 1) my Twitter replies indicated that a lot of people could use a guide like this and 2) I’m definitely a hell of a lot more qualified than Apartment Therapy. In addition to being a professional classical pianist, I played the violin, took a course on acoustic physics in college (and then promptly forgot a lot of it; please note I am NOT an acoustics engineer), have a visual arts background, and minored in design.

Those are my “credentials”—you can make the educated decision whether or not to take my advice.

I’ve loosely organized this post into sections, based on a hierarchy of priorities:

  1. Is Your Instrument Going to Be Okay: how to not ruin your instrument; folks, this supercedes everything else.
  2. What Do You Do With All That Sound: some quick and dirty basics of acoustics and soundproofing that you should keep in mind when incorporating musical instruments into your home.
  3. Actual Tips on Actual Design With Actual Intention: with a bonus rant on what design actually is, I give actual, practical recommendations for designing your decor around your instrument.

I’ve written this as broadly as I can, and the “expertise level” basically goes up as you read; if you’re not a musician, the first two sections may be really helpful, while professional musicians can probably skip the first two sections completely. Feel free to skim or skip over things as they apply to you, and remember, this is a guide based on my own personal experience and expertise; your needs may vary.

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