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4 Simple Steps to Learn How to Sight Read

be49cd3cdf512015a04321593bea9172_FotorSight reading is an essential technique in learning how to play piano and it will improve your piano playing skills by leaps and bounds. Learning to sight read piano pieces will help you start to understand music theory and will improve your ability to read notes and pieces just by playing it one time. All-in-all, it will make you a more well-rounded piano player.

However, what is sight reading? Sight reading is being able to look at a piece of music and play the notes and rhythms the whole way through, without … Continue Reading

Gerontius, Elgar, and the Task of Setting a Vision to Music

Sir Edward William Elgar  (2 June 1857 – 23 February 1934)

Sir Edward William Elgar (2 June 1857 – 23 February 1934)

Edward Elgar is perhaps best known in the United States as the composer of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the tune to which our high school and college graduates regularly march on the way to the podium to receive their diplomas.

More formally, there are six “Pomp and Circumstance Marches,” and the bit used for graduations is the “Land of Hope and Glory” passage … Continue Reading

Fishing in the Depths of Benjamin Britten

Fishing in the Depths of Benjamin Britten

This year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Benjamin Britten, a great English composer and conductor who created several outstanding operas: Peter Grimes (1945), Billy Budd (1951), and The Turn of the Screw (1954) among them. [The Queen had made him a peer in 1976, and Britten died of congestive heart failure later that year.]

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Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr., R.I.P

Harvey Lavan Cliburn Jr. (12 July 1934 - 27 February 2013)

Harvey Lavan (“Van”) Cliburn, a classical pianist who has been world famous since 1958, died on February 27th of this year. We at JustSheetMusic bid him a fond farewell.

Cliburn was in a direct chain of succession from the 19th century master Franz Liszt, a chain with only two intermediate links. Van’s mother, Rildia Bee (nee O’Bryan) Cliburn, had been a student of Arthur Friedheim, who had been a student of … Continue Reading

A Composer Who Understands Fractals: Charles Peter Wuorinen


I recently read The Fractalist , a memoir of the late Benoit Mandelbrot, the great geometer who pioneered our understanding of fractals and their significance in nature and human society.

The usual way to consider fractals is to start with the Mandelbrot set, an exceedingly complicated geometrical configuration (as left) that arises from a very simple initiating formula.

As Mandelbrot himself wrote, in his groundbreaking 1982 book, The Fractal Geometry of Nature, “Clouds are not spheres, mountains are not cones, coastlines are not … Continue Reading

A Philosopher, Humanitarian, and Musician: Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer

Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), one of the exemplary inspirational figures of the early and middle decades of the 20thcentury, founded in 1913 and (with brief interruptions) for decades thereafter managed, a hospital in Lambaréné in the Central African rainforest, in the territory of what in 1960 became the independent nation of Gabon.

Yet Schweitzer was more than a humanitarian and physician. He was a distinguished scholar in both philosophy and theology. He coined the phrase “reverence for life” as his central philosophical … Continue Reading

Hector Berlioz: Bearer of Romanticism’s Torch: Part II

Hector Berlioz as child

We discussed Berlioz’ operas in the last entry. One obvious point about opera as an art form is that the music must integrate with a story. Berlioz’ career, though, makes us look at that obvious point in a not-so-obvious context.

Can music tell a story without lyrics or performers? How much narration can instrumental music alone accomplish? Can or should music tell a story sketched out in an extra0-musical way, as through a program of notes provided concert goers?

To begin … Continue Reading

A Brief Performance History of Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Simone Dinnerstein - JS Bach Goldberg Variations

The standard account of Johann Sebastian Bach’s composition of his famous ‘Goldberg Variations’ comes from a biography of Bach, by Johann Nikolaus Forkel, which first appeared in 1802. Forkel says that Bach wrote these works as an insomnia cure for a patron, Count Keyserlingk. Specifically, he wrote them for the performances of a former student of his, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, in the Count’s employment.

They seem to have worked! Goldberg would play them in the … Continue Reading

The rise of Clint Mansell

Mansell with the Sonus Quartet

If you are a movie enthusiast, the name Clint Mansell should definitely ring a bell or two in your head. There are very few people who have seen movies like ‘Black Swan’, ‘A Requeim for a Dream’, ‘The Wrestler’, ‘Moon’ and do not know Clint Mansell.

This English Music composer started off his career as the lead singer and guitarist for the band “Pop Will Eat Itself”. The young Mansell showed a lot of promise … Continue Reading

Romanticism and Beethoven: Part Two

Emperor Napoleon

Napoleon made himself “Emperor” in 1804, losing the admiration of a generation of Europe’s intellectuals and artists.

In the last entry, I discussed romanticism from a bird’s-eye view, using some sweeping definitions. But I did my best at the same time to suggest the nature of the achievement of the early years of a flesh-and-blood composer, Ludwig van Beethoven, in the late eighteenth century and at the very beginning of the nineteenth.

Heroism and Its Disappointments

In this entry, I will … Continue Reading