What can I say about John Cage’s 4′33″? Pretty much anyone can play this anytime.
It consists of the pianist going to the piano, and not hitting any keys for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. (He uses a stopwatch to time this.) In other words, the entire piece consists of silence or rests.
On the one hand, as a musical piece, 4’33” leaves almost no room for the pianist’s interpretation: as long as he watches the stopwatch, he can’t play it too fast or too slow; he can’t hit the wrong keys; he can’t play it too loud, or too melodramatically, or too subduedly.
On the other hand, what you hear when you listen to 4’33” is more a matter of chance than with any other piece of music — nothing of what you hear is anything the composer wrote.
With orchestra and soloist
Next time you come to a lesson and haven’t practiced, just tell me you’re playing Cage’s 4’33”!
Happy Birthday is a song that I like to have each of my students learn at various levels appropriate to their level. When a friend or family member has a birthday, it’s great to be able to sit down and play.
It’s only been fairly recently that piano students could have this music in their books.
“Happy Birthday to You”, more commonly known as simply “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow”.
The melody, or part you sing, of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which has traditionally been attributed to American sisters Patty and Mildred J. Hill in 1893, although the claim that the sisters composed the tune is disputed.
Patty Hill was a kindergarten principal and her sister Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters used “Good Morning to All” as a song that young children would find easy to sing. The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.
“Happy Birthday” in the style of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Chopin, Liszt, Dvorak, and Stravinsky. Find the melody!
Lots of legal stuff below which you can skip…
None of the early appearances of the “Happy Birthday to You” lyrics included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered a copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R. R. Forman. In 1988, Warner/Chappell Music purchased the company owning the copyright for US$25 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at US$5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claimed that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are illegal unless royalties are paid to Warner. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to US$700. By one estimate, the song is the highest-earning single song in history, with estimated earnings since its creation of US$50 million.In the European Union, the copyright for the song expired on January 1, 2017.
The American copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion. American law professor Robert Brauneis, who extensively researched the song, concluded in 2010 that “It is almost certainly no longer under copyright.”
In 2013, based in large part on Brauneis’s research, Good Morning to You Productions, a company producing a documentary about “Good Morning to All”, sued Warner/Chappell for falsely claiming copyright to the song. In September 2015, a federal judge declared that the Warner/Chappell copyright claim was invalid, ruling that the copyright registration applied only to a specific piano arrangement of the song, and not to its lyrics and melody.
In 2016, Warner/Chappell settled for US $14 million, and the court declared that “Happy Birthday to You” was in the public domain.
Legal stuff is finished and people can now sing and play “Happy Birthday to You” whenever and wherever they want.
One of my all-time versions of Happy Birthday, in duet form – and I have the music if you want to tackle it.
I’m sure many have you have learned Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by now. Did you know its’ the same melody as the ABC Song? You know…
Don’t believe it? Sing them both in your head or out loud.
The French melody first appeared in 1761, and has been used for many children’s songs, such as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” and the “Alphabet Song”.
This is one of the first pieces a student learns in piano methods, since it has them reach just a bit outside their accustomed hand position on the word “little”.
I try to remember to let students know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed a set of twelve variations on the theme “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman” for the piano and it started as the same basic Twinkle tune.
The sheet music is available at the O’Connor Music Studio if you want to borrow it or download it here about 1/3 of the way down the page under “Scores”.
I always enjoy these graphical scores. Watch the colors as the melody gets more and more complex:
Who knew? There’s an accordion version.
Have a great day!
Today, we start with Spring from the Four Seasons by Vivaldi. Many OCMS students have played this already in one of their Piano Pronto books. It’s also available in Piano Maestro.
If you have it in your piano book, today would be a great day to review it. (HINT – there might be a quick review at your next lesson!)
Vivaldi was born in Venice, Italy, March 4, 1678 and spent most of his life there. His father taught him to play the violin, and the two would often perform together.
He taught at an orphanage for girls and wrote a lot of music for the girls to play. People came from miles around to hear Vivaldi’s talented students perform the beautiful music he had written.
Many people think Vivaldi was the best Italian composer of his time. He wrote concertos, operas, church music and many other compositions. In all, Antonio wrote over 500 concertos.
His most famous set of concertos is The Four Seasons which is a group of four violin concerti. Each of which gives a musical expression to a season of the year. They were written about 1721 and were published in 1725 in Amsterdam.
Here’s a piano version similar to the one in Movement 1 but in a different key.
And the original with Itzhak Perlman playing and conducting!
Want to play a version of this but aren’t using these books? Just ask!
This summer, I’ve decided to add a new feature to piano lessons. I know that many families travel during the summer months and it’s sometimes difficult to practice.
These daily assignments, June through August will help you and your students learn a bit more about the pieces they’re learning during the year – or maybe give ideas for something that they’d like to learn.
Each piece has a bit of composer info and several different interpretations, some of which are very humorous. Some of the assignments appear in Piano Maestro so be sure to have that handy, if your student uses that.
Some days give hints that the assignment of the day may be played (or reviewed) at the next lesson so please be sure that your student takes note of that (no pun intended!)
Find them here, under Daily Listening Assignment starting June 1 at 9:00 am.
Have a safe and musical summer!
Each year on May 22 we observe National Buy a Musical Instrument Day. The day is all about playing music. If you are a musician, it might be time for a new instrument. Maybe you can learn to play a second or third one. If you have never played an instrument before, National Buy A Musical Instrument Day might be the motivation you need to start.
Naturally, here at the O’Connor Music Studio, a piano, keyboard with weighted keys (and 88 of them!) or organ is recommended but this day is for all types of instruments and is for people of all ages. Grandpa can play his ukulele while the grandkids play the drums, trombone, and flute. Together they can all make terrific music!
7 reasons why bi-weekly lessons do not work…
Now and then, our studio gets asked if we offer bi-weekly lessons. I mean, doesn’t it make sense that if you take lessons every other week, you have half the number of trips into the studio, you have double the amount of time to practice, and you can save some money, right?
Aside from the fact that it is a scheduling nightmare for the teacher and studio, I want to outline a few reasons why (in most cases) bi-weekly lessons do not work.