Monday, February 16, 2009

A Great Piano Puzzler

I mentioned this past summer that I'd just discovered the fantastic Piano Puzzler podcasts from American Public Radio's Performance Today, a program which isn't available in the Boston area. I realize there must be many fans of Bruce Adolphe's piano puzzles out there since the feature has been around for 6-7 years, but I haven't found them discussed much (or at all) in the 'ol blogosphere, which is too bad. Almost all of Adolphe's creations are nice jumping off points for discussions about composers' styles - and, more importantly, they're lots of fun. In fact, I've recently found that my nine-year-old daughter loves listening to them, even though she often knows neither the tune that's being hidden nor the compositional style in which it's hidden. (She did catch "Greensleeves" submerged in a fairly tricky context, which made me very proud.)

It's difficult to tell from the various online Piano Puzzler archives just how many of these miniatures Adolphe has written, but clearly there are many dozens at least, maybe more than a hundred, so it's not meant as any slight to him to say that some work better than others. They are almost always clever on some level, even if the results sometimes come out oddly, but every now and then one runs across something special. The podcast dated February 11 (it may be a rebroadcast; it's hard to tell) is my favorite to date. I figured out the composer almost right away (for reasons described after the jump), but I'll admit I wasn't able to ID the tune on the two run-throughs before it was revealed. It is exceptionally well-hidden.

I have other thoughts about the pairing, but perhaps you should listen first and see how you do. It's also available on iTunes, and probably elsewhere.

Read more (with spoilers)

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