how to play tchaikovsky in the style of the punk cabaret.

i can’t honestly tell you why i decided to do this.
i think my initial thought was: “hoh, shit. i’m playing the boston pops again…i should really do something classical and force myself to sit down and practice.” =
i never, ever practice the piano. i fucking hate it. i hate. hate. hate practicing the piano. HATE IT. REALLY HATE IT.

for real: that is why i wound up with this job, dude.

when i was a teenager, my mother bribed me to take classical lessons. seriously. she offered to raise my allowance by a couple dollars a week if i would do it.
thanks, mom, for caring. i probably would have tried the same thing.

but i was a stubborn, stubborn, little twit.

i would sit there in the lessons, looking blankly at the weird squiggly notes on the page in front of me, and i would simply CHEAT during the lessons and watch the teacher playing the part.
I would try to capture it in my mind and then play it by ear. i refused to look at the sheet music, and when i was supposed to tote this music home, i simply WOULDN’T. i just didn’t practice.
I HATED IT. is this clear?

i remember one time a teacher told my mother to buy me a metronome to keep by the piano.
i was told i had to practice with the metronome.

i was not an extremely violent child. i think i was normal-violent. you know, typical sister hair-pulling and stuff.
i did not throw things or hurt people (very much) or have massive temper tantrums (well, after the age of 4 or so).
i was relatively mellow.

but i swear to god, that fucking metronome made me want to wage war on the entire planet, with nuclear power.
it’s tick tick ticking in my ear was the equivalent of someone laying your hung-over head on a metal plate while hitting it repeatedly with an anvil.
so one day, when i was sitting in the living room at the piano and supposed to be practicing something-or-other, and the metronome was just tick-tick-ticking it’s relentless tick-tick-tick of doom, i grabbed it and flung it across the room. it smashed against the empty fireplace and never tick-tick-ticked again.
i felt really, really guilty, but also shame-free, like i’d been taken over by an alien force.
as far as i was concerned, that olive-colored metronome was a Tool of the Devil and i’d done a Good Thing.
i don’t even remember my mother getting angry. i think maybe she gave up after that.

when i got to college (and at this point, i was pretty determined to be a musician when i grew up), i developed a catholic guilt about the fact that i was so lazy and i decided to take up classcial lessons while i was there. i tried. i really did. i tried to practice, i forced myself into a basement practice room a few times a week and turned beethoven’s “pathetique” into a long classical whip with which i destroyed my laziness. but still, i hated it. i liked having this powerhouse piece of classical music under my belt and i liked playing it, but i also had this deep sense of unsettled “why the fuck am i doing this? to prove what?”
i would count those lines ad infinitum and try to make sense of the squiggles. to this day, you will hear me muttering “every good boy deserves….” as i try to deduce what note is what when looking at a treble clef.
i’m just retarded. do not ask me why i cannot rememebr that B is in the middle of that music staff. i just can’t. i can listen to any song of the fucking radio and immediatly play it by ear but i cannot remember that that little note in the middle of that little staff is a fucking B. oliver sacks could probably tell you why.

anyway, in college i would go off onto massive tangents of improvisation during my supposed practice time, but i was finding it difficult to write any songs in those years.
after i graduated, i never gave another thought to learning or playing a classical piece, until this last year.

something in me stirred and i decided to re-discipline myself. at the london show this past summer (the union chapel one), i kicked my own ass to play a little bach piece.
i’ll dig that up and tweet it.

and for the pops, i simply wrote them an email saying “i want to play a concerto”. keith wrote back with a bunch of suggestions from mozart to rachmaninoff to tchaikovsky, and i listened to everything and tried to determine what the easiest and most bang-for-the-buck would be.

i got the music and started practicing in early december. neil and i were holed up for a week and i tried to practice a couple hours a day.
i had hooked up with my piano-playing friend, murray barg, in boston, and he had helped me slog through the sheet music to make sure i wasn’t getting any notes wrong.
and for the tempo, i simply watched youtube clips of van cliburn kicking the shit out of it.

i soon realized that in order to play this piece (tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto), i would have needed to start rehearsing in 2008.
there was just no fucking way.
no way.

i thought for a second about calling the pops and having them pull it from the program (they really wouldn’t have cared, the symphony doesn’t rehearse that shit until THE DAY OF THE SHOW. FOR REAL).
but i couldn’t stomach it. i felt like a complete loser.

i looked back at the piece realistically and decided that i could probably master the first few minutes, and even then it wouldn’t be at tempo, and it would be sloppy as fuck, and i would have to push and pull the tempos.
but even then, i decided to do it.

i called my friend lance horne and asked him to learn the rest of the piece. (thank cthulhu for lance).

beth planted the obnoxious cell phone and created the velcro tear-away windbreaker of garish doom. (thank cthulhu for beth).

and then i simply spent a few hours a day in my apartment in boston, for the rest of december, practicing that shit.
i don’t think i’ve ever, ever in my life practiced something so much.
at the end of the day it wasn’t even about the performance anymore. the performance became an afterthought.
it was more like a test of my own will.

…drum roll….

the result, ladies and gentlemen (and thank god someone caught it & posted it, whoever you are….thank cthulhu for you too).

the result is what i would call pure, unadultered punk fucking cabaret.

fake it til you make it, people.
nobody’s keeping score.


p.s. about to hop on a train with the evelyn twins and jason. we’re taking them to THE BIG CITY for their mini-show next tuesday and for endless business meetings. i just posted about a twitter ticket-giveaway for TWENTY PEOPLE so if you wanna come, check out the details HERE.
then i’m off to LA for the golden globes, where i’ve been informed i will actually, no fucking shit, be walking the red carpet with himself.
i am not sure how much i am supposed to care about what i cam wearing so i am bringing two pairs of pants in case one gets dirty. seriously, whats the deal with shit like this?
i need to ask my sister, who, even though she lives in EUROPE, still reads US magazine. she’ll know. nobody’s found bjork’s email. swan dress, not likely.

Cross-posted at MySpace

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