Practice Thoughts: Transitions and Renewals

Spring is often a time of renewal…and for good reason. Seeing the world around us wake up and become green again is nothing short of miraculous. For those of us whose lives are tied to the academic musical calendar, however, autumn can also bring renewed attention to artistic goals and methods and, as is certainly the case for me, the art and science of practicing.

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Rick Ferguson
Mr Ericourt and the Theory of the Half Circle

I LOVE French music — especially that which is written for the piano. Mr Ericourt and the Theory of the Half Circle sounds like the title of an Agatha Christie novel. No, it’s a concept of how we might deal with the shaping of music sound — a concept which eluded me for YEARS. More on that later. During my first two years of college I had the great good fortune to study with French pianist Daniel Ericourt (1903-1998).

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Rick Ferguson
Notre Dame, the Paris School and Beyond

The recent tragic fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris reminded me of the importance of this place in the history of western music. Notre Dame has served as a hot-bed of musical experimentation and growth, as far back as the 12th Century during the formation of the Paris School. Two notable composers drove the development of choral music during this time: Leonin (fl. 1150’s until his death ca 1201) and his student Perotin (ca. 1160 - ca. 1230).

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The Tradition of the Schubertiade

Music is such a profound means of building community and social connections. The blossoming of the salon in 19th Century Europe is a great example of creating social circles in support of art in general and various composers and musicians in particular. Art, poetry and music lovers would host social gatherings in their home “salons” and invite a large mix of arts supporters

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Rick Fergusonschubertiade
Undeniable Spirit

Inspirational note: My teacher, Abbey Simon, is now 96. In 2015, he and his wife were struck by a car and Mr Simon suffered a broken wrist and two broken fingers in his right hand. In his mid-nineties, Mr Simon re-taught himself how to play. When asked why, he simply replied "It's who I am. I wouldn't know what to do with myself otherwise." Stunning.

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Rick Ferguson
Models and Inspiration

Both as pianist and composer, I have rather wide-ranging tastes in music. However, I invariably find myself returning time and again to a handful of composers who have always served as both models and inspiration for me. I think of them in different categories, as each composer represents various aspects of my own music making and thinking about music:

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Rick Ferguson
Dystopian Magic

Upon completion of my Concerto Grosso on Dystopian Themes, I’m aware as never before of the magic that can accompany the marriage of music and story. The excitement generated by the students of Chute Middle School, Evanston, Illinois, around this project is palpable. The student-written dystopian short story

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Rick Ferguson
The Dystopian Landscape

As a continuation of my years-long commitment to bringing innovative (and did I mention fun?) collaborative multi-disciplinary projects to our local District 65 elementary and middle schools, Evanston/Skokie, Illinois, I’ve created a concept that’s really floating my composition-oriented boat this academic year.

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Rick Ferguson
The End of Time

I believe that we each have a musical soundtrack that accompanies us throughout our lives–highlighting particular events, relationships, passions and projects. My personal soundtrack has paralleled my own growth and life changes. Many pieces and songs come and go–including those that I’ve studied, performed and written.

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Rick Ferguson
The Myth of the Eternal Child

As I prepare for an upcoming lecture-recital presentation on the very young Mozart, specifically how his formative musical experiences happened to a great extent during the three-plus years of travel that his family undertook between 1763-1765 through much of Europe

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Rick Ferguson