Got Rhythm? — The Flight of the Bumblebee Revisited

It is impossible to ignore music.  You may say you don’t like music, but music exists in everything you do.  It exists in everything in your personal universe.  One of my novels, Beyond the Breakers, has a cover that was made from this picture:

 Indian ocean

It’s a picture of waves in the Indian Ocean.  I’ve never seen the Indian Ocean, but it looks like the same waves I swam in as a boy on Jones Beach, off of Long Island, NY.  If you stuck a long pole in the sand and measured the time it took for each peak to pass the pole in terms of the number of peaks passing it per second, it would be less than one peak per second.  Yet, as we all know, ocean waves are loud.

So, how can that be?  Our ears can’t hear sounds at frequencies as low as the frequency of the peaks of those ocean waves.  It’s because there are other waves mixed in with the big ones.  And those waves have all sorts of frequencies.  Many pass the  poll at frequencies that are in our hearing range…usually considered to be about 20 to 20,000 cycles per second.  So, there must be waves in that mix of ocean water that you hear that are passing the pole anywhere from 20 to 20,000 times each second.

I don’t want to make this too technical, so I will leave out the tiny, and in some cases not so tiny, details.

That said, I will only add that vibrations and waves run the universe.  They carry energy, both sound and radiation, everywhere.  There is one other thing that you should be told.  They interfere with each other.  In so doing, they create other waves at different frequencies.  And that will bring us back to music and ultimately to ” The Flight of the Bumblebee.”

I wrote a blog recently about my piano.  It was all writing and a couple of pictures.  You will note that I did not include a sound file.  Why didn’t I?  It would have been a natural fit.  The reason is that recordings are not as easy to make as you might think.  And one of the most difficult things to record faithfully is a piano.  It is all because of waves, what frequencies the microphones can hear, where they have to be placed in the piano, and how the wave characteristics inherent in all electronics interact with the wave characteristics of the piano.  On top of that, add the hearing characteristics of the human ear and brain.  Believe me, I’ve tried to record my piano.  It isn’t pretty, and it isn’t my specialty.

So, when you hear a recording of musical instruments, keep in mind that live music is the only type that actually sounds like live music.

What if a composer or performer has died?  Are their performances lost forever?  It would seem like it, but I have a recording of “The Flight of the Bumblebee” which, except for the fact that it is not live, is as close to the actual performance of Sergei Rachmaninoff as you can find.  And strangely enough, the recording was created by an engineer.

At this point I have to introduce you to a different kind of piano, a “recording piano.”  You know what a piano roll is.  It’s a paper record of the keys played and the timing of those keys that matches what a pianist has actually played.  What it does not do is record how loud or softly the  keys are played.  It doesn’t record how the peddles are used.  It misses a lot.  Recording pianos record all of that.  So, if you play back the “tape” made by a recording piano on another recording piano, you will hear pretty much exactly what the original pianist actually played.  If Rachmaninoff recorded his playing on a recording piano, you could play it back “exactly” as he played it even after he was dead, which unfortunately, he is.  However, he did make those recordings!

There was a restaurant in New York City that had a recording grand piano.  It may be still in business.  I don’t know.  I’ve never been there, the restaurant, not New York.  I was born in New York City, stayed there a day or so, and then was sent home to Hicksville.  Meanwhile, you could (maybe can) eat dinner in that restaurant and listen to Rachmaninoff and many other great composers play their own music as a ghost, so to speak…not that creepy actually.

So, would you like to hear a recording of Rachmaninoff playing “The Flight of the Bumblebee” by Rimsky-Korsakov and other music?  Well an engineer named Wayne Stahnke has made that possible at the highest level so far.  I have two CD’s of Rachmaninoff playing a list of classical pieces for the piano.  And for the impatient among you, they are each rather short.

OK, so I like classical music and some of you don’t.  I don’t like everything I hear, but you will be surprised when you hear some of these pieces.  “The Flight of the Bumblebee” is the third piece on the first CD below.  So, sit in front of a grand piano with nobody at the keys and listen to Rachmaninoff himself.  Like all music, some you will like and some you won’t, but you will be amazed at what that man could do!  Here’s a picture of my piano you can pull up and print if you don’t have a grand piano hanging around.  Don’t light the candle!  It is wood after all.


And here are links to the CD’s:

Enjoy the waves!

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