Tineke Steenbrink | J.S. Bach Prelude and Fugue from WTC I BWV 851 by Chris Foley

After 7 and a half hours of teaching, I just realized that I’m a full day late in celebrating the birthday of J.S. Bach. This recording of Tineke Steenbrink playing the D minor Prelude and Fugue from Book I of the WTC is part of the Netherlands Bach Society’s All of Bach project. If you would like to consider donating to help continue the project, check out this link.

I like the way that the videography emphasizes the simplicity of the studio (Ikea shelving! Tons of books!) as much as Tineke’s perceptive and elegant playing. Note the very happy audience member at 2:24.

One Productivity Tip to Rule Them All by Chris Foley

Vince Coley’s Productive With a Purpose is developing into one of the most unconventional and useful new productivity blogs I’ve seen in a while. His most recent post arises from a project to encapsulate the entirety of productivity information from the internet (anyone else been down that rabbit hole?) into simple categories:

My first big ah ha moment struck when I realized that every Productivity Tip I came across fell into one of three buckets.  I call these “The Three Buckets of Productivity”:

- Care for your MIND & BODY (… so you can experience intense Clarity)

- Establish a TRUSTED PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEM (… so you can enjoy endless Focus)

- Prioritize what’s TRULY IMPORTANT (… so you can make a lasting Impact)

Vince’s next step was to encapsulate all three buckets into one über-statement:

When you wake up in the morning: drink a glass of water (clarity), plan your day (focus) and do the most important thing first (impact).

What I find particularly notable (and trustworthy!) about Productive With a Purpose is that Vince doesn’t appear to be selling a product, but merely documenting his productivity journey and systems. My favorite post is Be a Pebble Snatching, Productivity Fu Master, which outlines the best GTD implementation of Things 3 that I’ve seen.

Sandra Mogensen's En Pleine Lumière: Shining a Light on 19th-Century Women Composers by Chris Foley

An upcoming project of Copenhagen-based pianist Sandra Mogensen is to perform and record the piano works of 19th-century women composers. Starting with concerts in southern Ontario, the project will culminate in a recording session at the Immanuelskirche in Wuppertal this June. Composers represented include Valborg Aulin, Amy Beach, Mel Bonis, Cécile Chaminade, Helen Hopekirk, Luise Adolpha LeBeau, Inga Laerum-Liebig, Sophie Menter, and Laura Netzel.

Sandra on how the project took shape and where its next steps will lead:

Although it was only a few weeks ago, I barely remember how the idea came to me to do a recording of piano music by women of the 19th century. It has been full-on researching and practising ever since though, and I am smitten by each and every composer that comprises this program! The time has come for this music to be heard far and wide, and I aim to do my part to shine some light on these undeservedly overlooked gorgeous gems. That’s where the project’s title comes from: “en pleine lumière” (in full light).

This idea to do a recording has actually been steadily (daily!) evolving, such that the scope of the project will turn into more of a life’s mission. The focus on solo piano repertoire will expand into song repertoire and chamber music involving the piano, beginning with the 19th century and progressing through to present day. My vision is that through recordings, live performances, video projects and podcasts, I can help to bring these deserving artists to a wider audience. But more about all of that later...for now it is time to focus on Phase One, which is this “Volume One” recording and concerts featuring music composed by women born in the mid-1800s.

Sandra playing Luisa Adolpha LeBeau’s Prelude:

En plein lumière is available to pre-order for those interested in becoming an early backer of this project. If you’re in the Sarnia area, you can check out her performance of the program at the Sarnia Library Theatre this Saturday.

The Gryphon Trio Play Rebecca Clarke by Chris Foley

This has been a big week for the Gryphon Trio, who just won a Juno award for best Classical Album, Solo or Chamber. These occasions are above all an opportunity to put the spotlight on the music itself, and the Gryphon Trio’s End of Flowers album features a piano trio by the long-neglected British-American composer Rebecca Clarke. Here’s the first movement:

The Rebecca Clarke Society has more information and news about Clarke’s life, works, and upcoming events.

The Gryphon Trio are:

Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin
Roman Borys, cello
James Parker, piano

On a side note, Jamie may or may not have thanked violists for their unwavering support at their acceptance speech at the Juno awards ceremony.

What To Do When the Creative Process Isn't Happening by Chris Foley

Julia Cameron on how to get back on track when you don’t feel like creating:

It is only by courting humility that we stand a chance as artists. When we choose to join the human condition rather than set ourselves apart from it, we begin at once to experience relief. If we stop calling our writer’s block “writer’s block” and begin using words like “resistance” and “procrastination” we are suddenly no longer in rarefied territory.

One of the greatest disservices we can do to ourselves as artists is to make our work too special and too different from everybody else’s work. To the degree to which we can normalize our day, we have a chance to be both productive and happy. Let us say, as is often the case, we are resistant to getting down to work. We have a choice. We can buy into our resistance—Writer’s block! Painter’s block!—or we can simply say, “I don’t feel like working today, and I’ll bet an awful lot of other people are in the same boat.”

The minute we identify with the rest of humankind, we are on the right track. The minute we set ourselves apart, we are in trouble. When we start thinking that as artists we are very different from other people, we start to feel marginalized and hopeless. When we realize that we are probably in pretty much the same boat as everyone else, we begin to edge toward solution. Our shared humanity is the solution. Our “specialness” is the problem.

I’ve used Julia’s Morning Pages method for several years now - this process has helped me to understand myself better, realize what types of projects I really want to be doing, and how I can work at my best. Julia’s The Artist’s Way is what I recommend as an entry point into Morning Pages, and she also has a workbook that helps you to get more deeply into the practice.

(The magnificent image above is from Pedro da Silva on Unsplash)

Root Systems by Chris Foley

Sarah J. Bray offers some insights on being a highly sensitive entrepreneur:

Isn’t it interesting how when you give a plant good nourishment at the roots, the rest takes care of itself? I’m learning that work-related growth is the same way. It’s taken me a while to truly embrace this concept (and I’m still uncovering new layers of how to do this), but the more I do, the calmer, clearer, and more effective my work becomes.

At an individual level, this means optimizing my habits and rhythms rather than chasing bigger and better projects and outcomes. This has been tremendously hard for me (hello, INFP!) because I hate doing the same thing I did yesterday and the day before and the day before that. I love obsessing over new things and letting my passion for something drive me into the ground.

But you know what I love more? Being healthy. Being confident in my ability to keep working on something and making it better over time. Having a feeling of spaciousness in my life instead of the constant feeling that I should be doing more.

Sarah’s quote above is from Part 1; also check out the second and third parts of the series.

Jeremy Dutcher and Why Indigenous Music Matters by Chris Foley

Congratulations go out to Jeremy Dutcher, whose Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa (iTunes link) won the Juno award for Best Indigenous Album last weekend. Jeremy’s process for creating the album involved transcribing and arranging songs in the Wolastoqiyik language from wax cylinders in the Canadian Museum of History.

Here’s Jeremy singing and playing Pomok Naka Poktoinskwes on CBC’s First Play Live:

A few words about Jeremy’s process from his National Music Centre residency a few years ago:

In his acceptance speech, Jeremy asked all the other nominees in the Best Indigenous Album category to stand up and be acknowledged. His words on the importance of the Indigenous genre:

All of your work changes this place, and it deserves to be considered outside of this category. Because our music is not niche. Our music is saying something.

I don’t know how many more times they’re going to let me do this, so Justin - Mr. Trudeau - a nation-to-nation relationships does not look like pipelines. A nation-to-nation relationship does not look like sending militarized police forces to unceded territory. And a nation-to-nation relationship doesn’t look like - in 2019 - our communities still on boiled water advisory. 

So, this means so much to me. I hope to continue to share and use this platform to tell truth. We can all do better…

The Space Between the Notes by Chris Foley

Rhonda Rizzo explores the ground of being called silence from which music emerges:

Actors know the power of the pregnant pause.  Artists understand the need for white space.  Some musicians play the notes; others play the space between the notes.  Masterful artists of any discipline think perhaps the notes or words or space are a way to express the silence and that sound and silence are simply mirror images of the same thing.  But then again, have any notes really ever expressed the nature of silence?  Can words or paint or sound ever do more than hint at the eternal silence that is the foundation of everything—the silence of earth and rock and empty space.  After all, the Earth is simply a spinning marble of clay in a sea of silence older than time.

Many people are surprised to learn that I rarely listen to music in my free time, and that it is most certainly not classical. In order to function as a pianist and teacher of music for up to 9 hours a day, I need periods of silence for at least part of the day so that I can emerge from a place of quiet and actually listen to the music that I’m playing and teaching.

40 Dead White Guys by Chris Foley

Meerenai Shim on what many might consider the hard problem of classical music: