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11 Jun 2019

David Cuff: the Mood of Happiness

I didn't start composing until my late 50s; having spent a lifetime in logistics management, I found that I was good at something completely different. This discovery proved totally refreshing and inspirational for me.

Originally from the UK, I lived in Western Australia between 2006 and 2018. A few years ago, I visited my recently deceased mother's home in a Perth suburb. My mother was a very creative and inspirational person. Driving home, a powerful image grew in my mind, and the next day I bought a keyboard, and obtained music notation software. My creative journey continued and grew from there. I’ve now “had quite enough” of managing people, have given that up after nearly 40 years, and now plan to spend much more time creating beautiful music.

My style is broadly classical, but with some experimentation. Most of my scores are short pieces for solo piano, but I have also composed duets for piano / oboe, or flute. I have also published one larger piece for full orchestra - more on that later - and have many other pieces in my unpublished repertoire. My music is, simply, targeted for anyone who wishes to enjoy it. All the published pieces so far should be fairly easy to play, so would suit learners / intermediate players, but also those who enjoy playing and listening to them in their own right.

There are many problems in the world today, so I try to write joyous, uplifting music as a balance. I hope that most of my pieces will convey this mood to the listener, and give them the chance when playing it to finish the piece a little happier than when they started. In creating a work, I try to follow the principle that, if it sounds good to me and delivers the intended mood of happiness, then others will also enjoy playing and listening to it.

I have been influenced and inspired by a wide range of classical composers, but particularly enjoy exploring the music of composers whose style strays away from the mainstream (see the score “Scharabaj” on my Musicaneo site). I plan to further develop my own style, and write longer pieces, and more which are scored for fuller orchestras.

In 2016 I wrote a piece entitled “16 Million Souls” (score available for download at no cost on my site) which is a bit different. It is in memory of those killed in both World Wars, timed as it was during a range of WW1 commemorations. I consider this as an achievement, to write a piece about a subject which has always mattered to me.

As I mentioned earlier, I have a keyboard which I enjoy playing, and find this greatly helps my personal relaxation. I am not as yet a good enough player to be able to play my own pieces fluently. So I use notation / playback software to assist. It seems to me that (whatever your views may be on such software) the methods available to composers have been transformed in recent years. It is the music, synthesized by this software, which you can hear in the samples saved on my site; I have placed them there as an aid for you, to give just an idea what the music might sound like when played on “real” instruments.

I hope my music is enjoyable.

03 Apr 2019

Cheese Gets Milder with Mozart


This is the official conclusion of the Swiss experts from ZHAW Food Perception Research Group, and yes, it’s real news.

You must have heard a lot about the powerful influence of classical music played to the embryos but who would have thought that dairy products can also be affected in a tangible way.

It was the initiative of Beat Wampfler, a cheesemaker from Switzerland, to couple with Bern University of Arts and carry out a 6-months experiment on the well-known Emmental cheese. During this time, the three main cheese samples were exposed to classical music (The Magic Flute by Mozart), hip-hop (We Got It from Here) and rock (Stairway to Heaven). There were other options too – ‘listening’ to UV by Vril, Monolith by Yellow, to low-, medium- and high-frequency soundwaves and one of the samples lay in complete silence.

All of the sounds were transmitted directly into the cheese wheels and resonated inside them 24/7.

In half a year, as a result of a few blind testing rounds, technologists, scientists and renowned cheese specialists made their conclusions. It was commonly agreed that the music-exposed cheese in general had a completely different texture, looks and taste compared to the ‘silent’ one. As for the genres, Mozart made its Emmental clearly milder in taste, while the hip-hop lead to a strong fruity flavour. It is now planned to continue the research by playing other types of music to the cheeses. Who knows, maybe a third success ingredient will be added to the milk and bacteria duet sooner than we think.

28 Mar 2019

Love for Shallow

Now that the Oscars and all major ceremonies are over, when all the prizes have been awarded and all the emotions have settled a bit, when all wows were exclaimed and the winners cherished – it’s time to look at the compositions that stirred up so many emotions during the shows with a cool heart and a sober eye. “Shallow”, a love song about abandoning the fears and diving deeper into the relationship, is obviously among the pieces that have recently earned much praise and accolade. 

How often do we hear that a certain song is so widely loved by the public? What does this phrase actually comprise? Is it about climbing up the charts and being played at the radio stations? What is it to ‘love’ a piece of music so much that it shifts into that ‘widely-loved’ category? 

The Oscars became a win-win for both Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Their spontaneous soulful duet performance of the ballad “Shallow” on stage proved once again why it is the kind of popular music that deserves the public affection. Trying to track the birth of that love for the song, it appears the reasons lie in a number of aspects that were meant to become the basis of the entire success story. 

As Gaga highlights in all of her interviews, it’s always about really hard work. On one side, we have a highly productive woman named Stefani Germanotta who learned to play piano by ear at the age of 4, and despite all the hatred and peers’ disbelief received in her earlier years, managed to path her way as an artist all the way throughout to the well-deserved Oscar and a few entries in the Guinness Records Book. 

Then we have a talented yet humble actor, director, and musician who showed himself as a scrupulous film director of "A Star Is Born" and the man who meticulously planned not just the movie but also every second of the live performance taking millions of viewers off guard, which was the final drop in convincing us. It was Cooper who silently directed beyond-the-standard scenario of the staged show and created the vision of epic chemistry and ideal harmony between him and Gaga singing the love song together. Tiny details such as postures, moves, looks, is what made it work for each one of those who were watching it. 

What do we have as a result? “Shallow” is leaving Beyoncé’s “Formation” behind in the number of wins (32) and is bumping Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” from Billboard’s Top 200. The point is – we relate to it, we wanna listen to it often, after all - we have a desire to get the sheet music and start learning to play the piece ourselves (even if we don’t play a musical instrument yet!). This is how good quality pop music is created, through hard work and details that conquer the hearts. Let’s enjoy every note of this memorable duet again.

13 Feb 2019

Valentine’s Day Classical Soundtrack

Valentine's Day

As the Love Day is almost here and the couples secretly do last-minute shopping for some lovely gifts for each other, we reflected on what the evening of February, 14 might look like. Champagne popped open, sweets unwrapped, the lights are dimed, the cuddle mode is on. The soundtrack to this long-awaited date night should be something special indeed. 

Whitney’s “I Will Always Love You” is perfectly alright, it just doesn’t need to be that every time. Those who are looking for an alternative to the sentimental pop standards by Adele, Ed Sheeran, Lionel Richie, John Mayer and alike (we have a lot of those too, though), might be amazed by what classical music can offer for this romantic occasion.

The range of music works with love-themed overtones is actually impressive. From tear-jerking melodies of the first love flush and ecstatically intense opera arias about the passion’s depth, to the catastrophically unrequited love stories and dramatically savory song endings. Love and romance, imaginary and tangible, in all their various forms, shapes and fullest spectrum – inspired some really great music to date.

So what are some of the most romantic classical music pieces ever written? (Beware, you might need to have some tissue ready at hand). Just a few examples for your attention and perhaps a soppy listen.

1. Leoš Janáček: “Intimate Letters”

Flowers for February 14? Too easy. What about composing a quartet for your sweetheart? Janáček’s second major string work is dedicated to a woman he could never be together with. Kamila Stösslová was married and 38 younger, but the two exchanged over 700 letters within their spiritual friendship. The swirling feelings and the impossibility of their embodiment are very intense in this great work that is often referred to as composer’s "manifesto on love". By the way, Kamila also inspired many of his later works.

Video: String Quartet No. 2 by Janáček

2. Joaquín Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez

It is a different form of expressing love that you’ll hear in this work. “Concierto de Aranjuez” was not dedicated to a woman but to a royal palace, focusing on the beauty of its fountains, blossoming flowers and singing birds. It was however the happy time of composer’s honeymoon, so he made this dialog of classical guitar and orchestra so lively and perfect for daydreaming about the joys of being in love. Blind from the age of 3, Rodrigo was playing piano, not guitar, but it is the guitar whose role in Spanish music he managed to elevate so brightly.

Video: Concierto de Aranjuez by Rodrigo

3. Edward Elgar: Salut d’Amour

It’s already in the title, isn’t it. 'Love's Greeting' was also a gift, an engagement gift, to be more precise. Elgar composed it for his wife-to-be Caroline Alice and subtitled it as ‘Liebesgruss’ as Caroline was pretty fluent in German. The dedication on the score said ‘à Carice’ in French (Caroline + Alice) and the woman received it right after returning from a holiday. We don’t know what that evening was like for the two but we do know that their first daughter got the name Carice soon after.

Video: Salut d’Amour by Elgar

4. Sergei Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 2

This is what decisively confirms Rachmaninoff’s fame as a brilliant concerto composer. The second movement that was premiered with composer as soloist became one of the most romantic compositions and was taken as a basis for manifold popular love songs. If this doesn’t express what the wonder of love between two people is, than what does?

Video: Piano Concerto No.2 by Rachmaninoff, Mov.2

5. Franz Liszt: Liebestraum No. 3

Love as long as you can!” begins the poem by Ferdinand Freiligrath that served the basis for Liszt’s quintessential piano piece translated as ‘Love’s Dream’. This highly romantic miniature is exceptionally pleasant to listen to but quite complicated to play, requiring proficient technical skill and zealous finger work-out. In case you find it too much for yourself to practice at the moment, there’s always Anton Rubinstein to help you out with his fabulous rendition.

Video: Liebestraum performed by Rubinstein

6. Richard Wagner: "Siegfried Idyll”

We’ve already learnt that composers love writing pieces as a present for someone. Wagner, too, decided to go beyond a box of chocolates and composed “Siegfried Idyll” for his wife Cosima’s birthday. The premiere of the work took place in a private family circle at their villa in Switzerland. It was on a Christmas morning when Cosima woke up to a beautiful trumpet solo that was part of the poem’s opening melody.

Video: Siegfried Idyll by Wagner

7. Georges Bizet: Je Crois Entendre Encore

Part of “The Pearl Fishers” opera, this aria is a breathtaking love confession of Nadir to Leila, all in a twisted story where men’s friendship is threatened by the shared feeling of love for the same woman. It’s considered to be one of the most seductive arias in French opera, that, however, was very popular among Italian tenors. Incredibly emotional and beautiful in its difficulty.

Video: Je Crois Entendre Encore by Nicolai Gedda

Hardly anything is able to express love better than music. The easiest you can do is set your playlist ready in advance and just launch it in the background when the day comes. Nevertheless, we believe that playing music for someone or have it played for you could become a very sincere experience. It is, of course, up to you what you Valentine’s Day will sound like. Will you play a Chopin waltz, a song or romance by Brahms, Faure, Schumann, try to perform a little aria by Puccini, Verdi, or Mozart? Maybe you will stick to the well-known pop pieces. Maybe your night will be spent in meaningful silence, who knows. All that matters is that you show your special someone how much you care.