Saturday, March 7, 2009

Piano Hero: Level 3 Complete

Well, we survived Level Three of Piano Hero on Wednesday - survived is a good word because, 1) the "Eroica" is one long symphony, and 2) we had our Monday rehearsal snowed out, so we had only an abbreviated rehearsal Wednesday morning. Wednesday morning was also quite frenetic for me, as I was running around getting the projector set up and working properly. I was still setting up the audio and video recorders less than five minutes before we started. There were more than a few pages in the actual performance where we were quite literally sight-reading.

Since this was our first foray into a two-piano arrangement, I'd also spent some kooky hours on Tuesday experimenting with ways to run two widescreen monitors from one laptop, the hope being that we'd each be able to see two portrait-oriented pages at a time, all changed by a single Airturn pedal. It's certainly doable, but without a good VGA-extender box or a more powerful laptop than I had on hand, it was going to be too much trouble. (It also would have helped if my two widescreen monitors had the same screen resolution, not to mention that I determined my old 20-inch flatscreen is probably too heavy to put on a piano.)

In the end, I played from my Tablet PC, viewing a single page at a time, and Nathan used something called paper. He actually had to reach up and physically flip the pages over. In fairness, I had a few snags with my page-turning because the scanned file that we were using was larger than ideal, meaning the turns were slow. (This is the first time I've found myself wishing I'd invested in the Music Reader software, which eliminates the slow turn problem.) There were a few times when I'd feared the turn hadn't taken, so I panicked and pedaled again, thus ending up a page ahead and having to scramble to get back on track. It's fun to listen to those moments on the recording - much more like chaos than what Haydn depicted in The Creation.

Still, I think it was a success, and the audience seemed really to enjoy the projected score. (In the ideal world, those pages would've been turned by my Airturn, but in this case we had a helper running the projector from a separate laptop.) In a 50-minute piece, it can be nice to have such a directed visual for the listener, although the brightly lit recital hall meant that the projections didn't show up as well as we would have liked. (In the video above, I pasted in a separate image of the score to make it sort of readable - the projections didn't show up at all on the original video. The pasted-in score also has the advantage of covering up an annoying microphone hanging from the ceiling.)

Also, as a special surprise, we had a couple of horn players hiding in the organ loft who joined in for the trio of the scherzo. We didn't rehearse that at all, so that was exciting, but they did a great job and it added to the general festivity. And, this is rather obvious, but what a great piece the "Eroica" is. I think because the first and last movements have such silly and seemingly unpromising themes, I tend to forget the miracles Beethoven works with them until the score is underway. I may post more recordings later. The third and fourth movements are especially fun on the piano.

1 comment:

dfan said...

I found this blog via Alex Ross's, and this is pretty neat!

Incidentally, I'm one of the original guys behind Guitar Hero, and I also love sight-reading 4-hand piano music (especially arrangements of pieces you already know, so you have more of a clue what you're doing).