Feb 12, 2015

PyTennessee and Music

This past weekend I attended the PyTennessee conference for the first time and I had a very enjoyable time. In the past I have attended the PyOhio conference for a few years and I wanted to branch out to try another conference. They are actually very similar and I think I will continue to attend both. One thing I always try to do when visiting a new place is find some time to play some music on a piano.

At my first PyOhio I found a public piano on the second floor of the Ohio Union. Every year I take time to visit that piano while I am at the conference. I was not sure I would be able to find anything during my trip to PyTennessee. Shortly after checking in to my hotel on Friday evening I went for a drive to get some food and drive past the location of the conference. I had just pulled out of the lot for the hotel and literally in the adjacent lot to the hotel is a local Steinway piano gallery. I quickly turned into the lot for the gallery. I could clearly see they were closed but I wanted to check the hours. If I was going to stop by it would mean I would probably have to step away from the conference on Saturday for a bit.

The next day the very first talk I attended was a talk by Lars and it was a last minute decision between his talk or another which I thought might be interesting. I decided to attend his partly because I had heard him practicing his instrument earlier and I expected his talk would involve him playing music. I was also curious to hear how he would make a connection between music and programming. As it happened his talk was probably one of the best of the entire conference. Sadly his recording did not take for the entire presentation, but there is a small excerpt available.

After it was over I was standing around and began talking with another attendee who--perhaps not surprisingly given the subject of Lars talk--also shared an interest in piano. I explained to them how that I had intended to leave the conference at some point and try out some of the pianos at the Steinway gallery as this is my habit when visiting new places. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but the two of us decided to visit the piano gallery together. Lunch was about to start and with the piano gallery only a few minutes down the road it seemed as good of a time as any to sneak away for a little musical interlude.

At the gallery we introduced ourselves to the employee and explained that we were interested in spending just a few minutes playing on the pianos. After we took turns playing for a little bit on a nice grand piano in the front room the employee offered to show us into another room where the larger concert pianos were kept. I was a bit disappointed by the sound of the lower octaves on this particular piano but it was still a great experience. I am really happy I had someone to share some music with and to get to hear some of the music that they liked to play.

One of the songs I played (well just a small part of the beginning of it) was a piece by Rachmaninoff. My musical friend seemed very happy to hear me play it. Sadly I couldn't play much and even parts which I usually can play fairly well from memory I found my hands unable to recite. Sometime later I got to thinking about the connections between the music I have learned to play and enjoy over the years and the various movies or TV series or video games that may have introduced me to that particular piece of music.

Usually it is because of a previous interest in some particular movie or TV series that I happen to find a new piece of music that I want to learn to play. For example in the case of that particular Rachmaninoff song that I played for my friend I remember that the first time I heard the song was during a scene in an episode of the TV series Lost. In this particular episode there is a part where Ben plays the piano. We only hear a short bit of the song but that was enough for me to research it and determine that it was Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C# minor. I found a copy of the sheet music on the internet and began to try to play it. All that just from hearing a little part of the song in that one episode of Lost.

On the other hand there has been only one instance where I actually decided to watch a movie because I had heard music which I knew to be in the movie. The music in this case was a set of pieces by Phillip Glass. I really like his music and have learned to play a few things from his enormous body of work. Somehow I was listening to various pieces of his and found these few that I liked and I noticed they all seemed to be from something called "The Hours". Turns out this is the name of the movie that he wrote them for I guess. So since I liked so much of the music for the movie I thought I should watch this movie to see how it was.

It was interesting to watch the movie and hear the music in the context of the story because I had previously only heard the music without this context. The movie was interesting and I felt it had a similar style to the movie Cloud Atlas that I had previously seen in as much as that both movies consist of multiple parallel story lines across different periods of time. In both movies these seemingly disconnected stories in different periods of time are also somehow related to each other through something that transcends time.

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