In Praise of Anderson and Roe – Forrest Kinney

88 Creative Keys is thrilled and honored to welcome Forrest Kinney!

two2The MTNA jazz/pop track made lasting connections; one of them? a wonderful new friendship with Forrest Kinney. As he continues his efforts towards the cause of creativity, and speaks and writes with such eloquence, it seemed logical that he contribute to 88 Creative Keys.  Here’s Forrest’s reaction to the Anderson and Roe concert on Tuesday evening at the MTNA Conference.

Last night I attended a piano concert given by the duo of Anderson and Roe at the annual MTNA national conference.  It was one of the most enjoyable, energetic, and historically significant piano concerts I’ve ever experienced. What do I mean by historically significant?

I’m not referring to the obvious point that these masterful and attractive young performers lend classical music a new “cool” factor.  No, they did something last night that I haven’t seen in my lifetime, something that hasn’t been done much since Franz Liszt toured Europe in the mid 19th Century, creating astonishment and gossip wherever he went, and placing the piano on a special pedestal from which it has never fallen.

When Liszt gave the first solo piano recital in 1839, he did not play Beethoven Sonatas or Bach fugues. He only played a few of his own short compositions.  Well then, what else did he play? What most performers of the time were playing: arrangements and improvisations.  Liszt opened the famous 1839 concert with his arrangement of the William Tell Overture.  On his tours, he would see what was playing at the local opera house, and then include a long improvisatory “fantasy” on its themes in that night’s concert.   He would conclude his concerts with long improvisations on themes suggested by audience members.  That had been common practice in concerts for many years. The emphasis in such concerts was on displaying the personal creativity and abilities of the performer, as well as ensuring the enjoyment of the audience.

I often talk about how the future of music education (and in particular, piano instruction) will return to teaching and exploring the four main arts of music: improvising (like talking with tones), arranging (like retelling the stories and themes of the culture), composing (writing essays), and interpreting (reciting and performing scripts). Modern music education is usually focused on one art (interpretation) to the neglect and even exclusion of the others.  In the future, pedagogy will encourage piano students to become whole musicians who can freely practice all four arts.

Last night, Anderson and Roe played the most Lisztian piano concert I have ever heard. Every piece they played except Mozart’s D Major Sonata was an arrangement.  And every arrangements but Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring was an original created by the performers. (Before 1850, this kind of creativity was expected, while in classical concerts today it is literally unheard of.)  Their arrangements were as pianistic as you can get, dazzling at times, and yet they never descended into trashy showmanship. Every musical tone felt justified by musical necessary, and this is something that Liszt reportedly did not always achieve!

The duo’s wonderful arrangements are capable of satisfying high brow and low brow tastes simultaneously. One could say their arrangements were “all brow.”  This return to older ways of making music, this celebration of the creative capacity of the performers, this making of music that is able to please an audience on many levels simultaneously–this is what classical music needs in order to bring it back to life! Such a concert pushes our tradition out of the museum into a bright future.

After the concert, I asked Mr. Anderson if he improvised. He said no, and seemed rather apologetic about it, apparently recognizing that he was lacking the essential musical ability shared by all the greatest masters.  And the duo presented no pure compositions in their concert.  Yet, while Anderson and Roe are still far from modeling the whole musician who can do anything and everything, they have made a major step forward by practicing and sharing two arts (interpreting and arranging) in a single concert.

On the morning after their performance, I write these words to thank Anderson and Roe for inspiring me, and for giving both me and my beloved classical music tradition a tremendous infusion of Lisztian life.

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Forrest Kinney believes that creativity is one of the keys to happiness. He has written and published 19 books: ten Pattern Play books on musical improvisation, two books on creativity, two books of art songs, and five Chord Play books on the art of arranging at the piano (Books 4 and 5 will be available in March, 2013). Here’s a MusicMatters blog providing an in-depth look at Forrest’s approach. Forrest is a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music (NCTM) who has given hundreds of presentations to fellow music teachers in 23 states and 5 Canadian provinces over the past five years. He has been the Conference clinician, Conference Artist, or Guest Artist at a number of State Music Teacher Conferences. He has given solo concerts of his own compositions, has performed at many events hosted by the Seattle Symphony, and played twenty times at the home of Bill Gates. Forrest was just awarded a U.S. Patent for a new kind of computer keyboard that will allow us to type all the letters of a word at once, just like playing chords on a piano.

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