Practice! Practice! Practice!

November 26, 2003

By Kyle Gann

Speaking of the piano, I've been cleaning out my garage, and I found (among many, many other sentimental items you'd be grateful I'm sparing you) a cassette tape of the piano recital I gave as a high school senior, on May 18, 1973, at Skyline High School in Dallas. The program was ambitious, well over an hour, and, as you can see, studded with 20th-century American music, for which I was already a staunch advocate:

Johannes Brahms: Rhapsody in E-flat, Op. 119
Robert Muczynski: Solitude
" " : Night Rain
" " : Jubilee
George Rochberg: "Prologue" from Sonata-Fantasia (1956)
Kent Kennan: Three Preludes (1938)
John Cage: 4'33" (1952)
Kyle Gann: Commentary on Hope and Meaninglessness (1973)
" " : Impacts (1973)
William Swafford: "Ah, Ja! Ein Kleiderschrank" (1973)
Marcus McDaniel: Four Pieces (1973)
Alexander Scriabin: Etude in D# Minor, Op. 8, No.12
Aaron Copland: Piano Sonata (1939-41)
Frederick Chopin: Polonaise in A-flat Major, Op. 53

Yes, that's right, at the age of 17 I played 4'33" for my bewildered friends and their parents, though with a lengthy explanation of Cage's philosophy preceeding it, so the audience sat obediently quiet. Marcus McDaniel and William Swafford were friends of mine; Marcus subsequently went into computers for a living, but we're still in touch. Kennan and Muczynski were middle-of-the-road composers better known then than they are today. I must say, I played pretty damn well, which I no longer do today, and I won't ask you to take my word for it - out of pure vanity I've temporarily put the Scriabin Etude performance on my web site, at The thing I regret most about my life is that I didn't maintain my pianistic skills, because I get tremendous pleasure from playing: but around 1983 I started typing instead of practicing, and it took over my life. The moral here, kids, is Practice! Practice, practice, practice, and never stop!

Copyright 2003 by Kyle Gann

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