January 5, 2013

The Amateur in Music

This website exhibits recordings and music in the classical tradition from an amateur pianist and composer, myself. I composed, performed and recorded, and publishing these pieces for three reasons.

First, when I recorded these performances I knew that I was playing the best that I will ever play: these are vain snapshots of the zenith of my life's work in pianism.

Second, as fans we express our appreciation as criticism, financial support, or creation in tribute. I think that composing or performing, inspired by someone's work, is the sincerest and most lasting expression of appreciation. I share my love of the classical tradition to sympathetic listener.

Third, I believe that virtuosity is not prerequisite to integrity. That a musical utterance is worthwhile if it demonstrates integrity. That we amateurs can achieve a worthwhile degree of musical integrity if we think like craftsmen. That amateur expression is essential to the vitality of the classical tradition. I hope that the recordings here are simple, honest, and useful, like a good chair. The recordings lack the alluring spectacle of virtuosity, but give pleasure with their honest craftsmanship. So lastly, this work is a proposal, by example, for how amateurs can participate in the classical music tradition through modest tempos, earnest craftsmanship, and self publishing.

Filed under Essays, Piano, Composing
August 18, 2005

Adagio in A Minor for Piano and Violin, Opus 9.

4 minute recording · Full Score · Violin Part

As of August 2005, I consider this my finest composition in terms of emotional intensity and directness of expression.

In January of 2005, I began taking lessons from the composer and professor Larry Bell at the New England Conservator of Music. For the first three months, each lesson was the highlight of my week. I worked every evening composing into the night preparing for the next lesson. For the first few pieces, he provided strict restrictions to ease the composition process. This piece was the first I composed without the aid of his finely designed frameworks. I composed this to express longing.

Composed in May 2005.

Recorded live on 5 June 2005 at the New England Conservatory of Music with Anna Anderson on the violin and me on the piano.

Filed under Piano, Composing
April 1, 2005

Prelude in A Minor for solo piano, Opus 8.

Piano score

Lacking experience in larger forms, I drafted an abbreviated version of the Adagio for piano only.

Composed in April 2005.

Filed under Composing
February 1, 2005

A Chromatic Interlude for solo clarinet. Opus 5.

Piano score

Lacking experience in larger forms, I drafted an abbreviated version of the Adagio for piano only.

Composed in April 2005.

Filed under Composing
February 1, 2005

Nocturne in F Major for solo piano. Opus 7.


In this conventionally tonal piece, the note middle C is never allowed to stop sounding. I find it the piece conservative but not without charm.

Composed on 1 February 2005.

Filed under Composing
February 14, 2002

Thoughts on Beethoven. Opus 4. An improvisation.

1 minute 30 second recording.

It took me seven takes to make my recording of Beethoven's first sonata. After completing that seventh take, I sat at the piano ruminating about the performance trying to decide if I needed to do another take. I played this improvisation in the midst of those thoughts.

I often find many of my improvisations become trite upon repeated listening. Often, I begin to discern the technique I used and it loses its mystery for me. This one, however; has resisted that fate. After playing this, I decided I was too tired to do another take.

Recorded in the studio on 14 February 2002.

Filed under Piano, Composing
July 1, 1999

I Didn't Think That! Opus 3.

Score · Recording

After the completion of my first Piano Sonata, I organized a concert to present my music in July of 1999. I invited the Chinese community at Microsoft as well as my friends, anticipating a small group of friends to come. To my surprise and great gratitude, many people came to support me.

I decided to compose more music for the occasion and wrote this and the Wind Quintet. Before discovering "serious music", I loved jazz exclusively. I wrote this piece to remember that time in my life.

The recording is a mix of a recording of my Yamaha console piano and a GigaSampler bass.

Composed in July 1999.

Filed under Piano, Composing
January 1, 1999

Piano Sonata No. 1. Opus 1.


I find it painful to listen to my older pieces. The passage of time makes what I thought was daring seem prosaic now. What I felt was the height of severity now seems only conservative, what was my most violent expression now comes across only as an emphatic gesture.

Still, composing this sonata was a milestone achievement for me. With my father dying in the hospital with aortic aneurysm, I decided to begin to work towards what I hoped to achieve in my life. I wanted to create beauty and so I began to learn at a feverish pace.

I studied Beethoven's piano sonatas. I studied photography and painting. I composed and photographed. I began to learn what I valued most in life.

A year later, I had my first sonata and a few good photographs.

Composed from January 1998 to January 1999.

Filed under Composing