Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Welcome to my new blog! Actually ... I'm still constructing and working on the design of this space. It should be all up and running by the end of November.

My name is Michael Arnowitt. I am a pianist in Montpelier, Vermont in the USA and will be sharing here my thoughts on classical and jazz music, along with, from time to time, my views on the occasional non-music topic.

These posts will hopefully give you a fly-on-the-wall view of what it's like to be a concert pianist. You'll get a sense of my journey as I prepare music for performance and then take it on the road. I'll try to relate some of the more interesting experiences that I have both on and off stage ... as they say, from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The title of my blog, Sweet Spontaneous, is from an e.e. cummings poem that I like very much. Naturally, the word "spontaneous" also refers to my growing interest in improvisation.

As a teaser, here are some of the subjects I am currently writing up to be the first few blogposts. You can also visit my web-site at www.MApiano.com where I have already posted some of my essays and articles from past years.

Upcoming blog topics

1. Musings on Mozart
I recently had the great good fortune to perform one of the very best piano concertos of all time, Mozart's Concerto no. 23 in A major, K. 488. I had learned this piece as a student, but had not performed it since my teenage years. As the summer months went by that led up to my performances this past September, I was struck by many beautiful details I missed on the first go-round, in particular in the area of orchestration: the subtle ways the piano interacts with the strings and woodwinds are a side to Mozart's genius I hadn't fully appreciated. This blog post also will discuss my practice of improvising the soloist cadenza (moments where the orchestra is completely silent), my feelings on how to do this and how not to do it, and a description of how it went over at the concerts.

2. Olivier Messiaen's World of Birds
My practice time the last few months was mainly devoted to working on two pieces by the French composer Olivier Messiaen, one a piece called "The Robin" written in 1985 and another a piece about the creation of the universe, part of his masterpiece Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jesus (20 Views on the Child-Jesus), composed in 1944, a fascinating piece depicting the big bang, spiral galaxies, thunderbolts, stalactites, carillon bells, and the kitchen sink. This blog entry will explore what I learned about the music while practicing, and how I tried to realize these interpretive ideas in performance.

3. Celebratiing the Rats?
Comments on our rush-rush society and how the live concert experience can offer an refreshing antidote, although many performers of today have an unfortunate "breathless" style that I feel is unconsciously affected by their frantic environment. I'll write here thoughts on everything from music performance philosophy to cell phones, Twitter, media, and more.

4. John Cage and the Sounds of Silence
One of the most famous pieces, or perhaps non-pieces, of the twentieth century, was John cage's 4'33". For some reason I recently was reminded of some experiences I had performing this piece about 25 years ago.

5. Painting and Music
I recently started doing some experimental performances combining my piano improvisations with the simultaneous live creation of paintings by some of my artist friends. I'll write here some thoughts I have about what might be the parallel elements in a painting canvas and a piano performance, plus a look at Paul Klee and other artists of the early twentieth century who tried to create musical elements in their artwork.