Classics in the Cinema Quiz

Cymascope: Music Made Visible

12 Piano notes made visible for the first time

Shannon Novak, a New Zealand-born fine artist, commissioned us to image 12 piano notes as inspiration for a series of 12 musical canvases. We decided to image the notes in video mode because when we observed the 'A1' note we discovered, surprisingly, that the energy envelope changes over time as the string's harmonics mix in the piano's wooden bridge.

Instead of the envelope being fairly stable, as we had imagined, the harmonics actually cause the CymaGlyphs to be wonderfully dynamic. Our ears can easily detect the changes in the harmonics and the CymaScope now reveals them--probably a first in acoustic physics.
Capturing the dynamics was only possible with HD video but taming the dynamics of the piano's first strike, followed by the short plateau and long decay phase, was tricky. We achieved the result with the help of a professional audio compressor operating in real time.

Shannon was delighted with the results. He commented:

"I have always been fascinated with the translation of that which is invisible, into something visible that individuals can relate to, in particular, the representation of sound through colour and geometric form. I saw the use of cymatic technology as one method of such representation and a unique and compelling way of educating individuals about the link between sound, colour, and geometric form".

Piano notes made visible on the CymaScope

For the first time in history individual piano notes have been made visible using the CymaScope instrument.

The piano notes were painstakingly recorded by Evy King and then fed into the CymaScope one by one and the results recorded in high definition video.

Play and SEE Music Notes

Music, in the absolute sense, is the invisible geometry of the cosmos, a delicate tracery of frequencies that harmonise with each other and from which all matter manifests.

The conductor of this sublime symphony is the Creative Force of the cosmos, some people prefer to say: God.

Music, as sensed by humans, is a delicate tracery of audible frequencies that harmonise with each other and generally please our emotions.

What is not commonly known is that music has the almost magical power to create form from formlessness. If the reader doubts this, click the arrow below to view water under the influence of music, revealing the invisible geometry of music.

MMV technology is still under development but as this excerpt from Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine" shows, an exciting future lies ahead when all music can be transcribed to MusicMadeVisible. See Music Made Visible

Almost all audible sounds are bubble-like in nature, not wave-like as is commonly believed.

If our eyes could see music they would be bathed in scintillating kaleidoscope-like patterns.

The Cymascope is an instrument that makes sound or music visible, creating detailed 3D impressions of sound or music vibrations.

Here the rapidly expanding sphere is captured in a frozen moment. The interior reveals a beautiful and complex structure representing the rich harmonic nature of violin music.


Images can be thought of as analogs of music because the geometry they contain is a mathematical correlate of the musical pitches and intervals that caused the pattern to form on the Cymascope membrane.

Copyright 2011

Lang Lang and his protege Derek Wang - Chopin Fantasie Impromptu

Derek, Anna Larsen (LarsenPiano), and Charlie Liu (coffeetea) performed in NYC's Town Hall at the opening concert of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation on October 20, 2008. Lang Lang established this foundation to expand young classical music audiences and inspire the next generation of classical musicians. Derek made this video from clips recorded during this event, including his warm-up at the GRAMMY Recording Academy.


Lesson with Lang Lang and his protege Anna Larsen (part 2)

The is the next segment of the lesson, as promised. The emphasis in this part (and later parts) is articulation and character. Lang Lang recommends slower practice. For those just joining in, this is the third movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto No 23 in A major.

Lesson with Lang Lang and his protege Anna Larsen (Part 1)

Anna was a scholarship winner from the Lang Lang Foundation (

.Anna worked on the third movement of Mozart's Piano Concerto 23 in A major. Anna was a little nervous at first, and you can see her absolute focus at the end of this clip when he wanted her to stop! Lang Lang was able to help her relax, and helped her make the piano sing in a way I have never heard from her before. He was extremely helpful, insightful, and very good talking and relating to kids. His teaching style was very friendly and very intense, and his advice was very frank in a good constructive way.

Chinese pianist Lang Lang inspires Chicago youngsters with music

CHICAGO, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Chinese pianist Lang Lang performed at a classical music show in the Chicago Cultural Center on Friday evening to ignite youngsters' passion for music.

The music show, entitled "Lang Lang & Friends Live", as part of his efforts to popularize music education, was well received by a full house of young spectators.

Lang Lang, described by The New York Times as "the hottest artist on the classical music planet," has devoted himself to music education over the past 10 years, and established Lang Lang International Music Foundation in 2008.

Through the Foundation's Young Scholar Program, Lang Lang has selected and mentored talented young pianists from all over the world and created opportunities for them to inspire other kids through live classical music performances.

In the Friday show, Lang Lang introduced his three young proteges, Anna Larsen, Charlie Liu and Derek Wang, who performed works by Prokofiev, Chopin, Bach and an original composition by Larsen. Their spectacular performances won rounds of applause.

Ever since the three were selected from a large pool of applicants, they have been enjoying a thrilling ride with Lang Lang, such as performing on Oprah Show and at Carnegie Hall.

Mingyi Liu, father of Charlie Liu, told Xinhua, "Being a Young Scholar really motivated Charlie to work harder."

Editor: Zhang Xiang

Maria Callas: Voice Of Perfect Imperfection

Listen to Full Story and Callas Sing on NPR


Maria Callas defined diva, and she remains one of the towering figures of opera. But Callas began having vocal problems at a relatively young age.

As part of NPRs year-long series, 50 Great Voices, NPRs Lynn Neary explores what made her voice both exhilarating and controversial.

LYNN NEARY: The year was 1952. Maria Callas was performing what would become one of her legendary roles Norma at Londons Covent Garden. Opera critic John Steane was in the audience. Steane says there were high expectations about Callas appearance, but what he remembers vividly was the operas most challenging aria, Casta Diva, and the feeling he had that Callas might not hit the highest notes.

Mr. JOHN STEANE (Opera Critic): You felt that any miscalculation, just the tiniest degree of miscalculation - the thread might break, disaster might come. Now, it didnt happen. But there was a certain tension in the air.

(Soundbite of aria, Casta Diva from Norma)

Ms. MARIA CALLAS (Greek Soprano; Opera Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

NEARY: Just a few years earlier in Venice, Callas had stunned the opera world with the extraordinary range of her voice. She was performing Brunnhilde in Wagners Die Walkure, a heavy, challenging role that played to her strengths. Then, on very short notice, she was asked to step into the part of Elvira in I Puritani. James Jorden, editor of, says no one thought a dramatic soprano like Callas could sing the role of Elvira.

(Soundbite of aria, Vien diletto from I Puritani)

Ms. CALLAS: (Singing in foreign language)

Mr. JAMES JORDEN (Editor, It showed off an extremely high range. It also showed an ability to sing coloratura, which is a fast, fluid way of singing music that is ordinarily not that easy for the more dramatic singers. So people were looking and saying, shes the most astonishing singer anyones ever heard of, and yet no one had ever heard of her.

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Evgeny Kissin Interview - A Servant of Music

Born in Moscow in 1971, Kissin began playing the piano at the age of two. He entered the Moscow Gnessin School of Music when he was six and came to international recognition at the age of 12, performing Chopin’s piano concertos in the Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory with the Moscow State Philharmonic, under the baton of Dmitri Kitaenko.

Since his first appearance outside Russia in 1985, Kissin has played with leading orchestras and conductors, performing in the world’s greatest concert halls and winning numerous awards for his contribution to classical music.
A few days before the [a] concert in Jerusalem [in February], Kissin, who prefers written interviews to those done over the phone, responded to some questions posed by The Jerusalem Post.
You delved into the world of professional music at a very young age. How did it feel as a child to suddenly have a lot of adults around you, reacting excitedly to your performance?
It felt completely natural because playing music was my favorite activity since early childhood. I don’t think I cared much about the “excited reaction” of my listeners, but I always loved playing for other people. At my very first solo recital, which I gave at the Composers’ House in Moscow when I was 11 and a half years old, lots of seats had to be put on stage because there were only 600 seats in the hall, and many more people came. When my piano teacher, Anna Kantor, asked me afterwards whether the audience members who were sitting on stage around me were disturbing me, I immediately expressed the way I felt: “No, they were helping me!” A few years ago, when I started reflecting upon those things, I realized that my love for playing in public was caused by a natural desire to share with other people things I loved, things that were important and dear to me.
Is the audience important for you now?
Yes, they are of vital importance for me. It is for them that I do what I do. I can’t understand it when some journalists ask me, ‘When you start playing a concert, do you try to forget about the audience?’ How could I possibly and why on earth should I try to forget about the audience when it is for them that I go on stage and play?!
Has your attitude toward the audience changed over the years?
No, I haven’t noticed any changes in myself in that respect.
Was there any transition from the state of being a child prodigy to that of a mature musician?
You know, when I was a child, many of my listeners, professional musicians, used to say that the term ‘child prodigy’ didn’t fit me because I played like a mature musician.
You’ve been studying for your entire life with the same teacher, Anna Pavlovna Kantor.What is her secret?
Besides her natural talent and skills, she is a person of truly amazing integrity who has devoted her whole life to teaching piano. She never had a family of her own, but she rightly calls herself ‘a mother of many children.’
What is that thing she knows as a teacher that attracts you?
It’s not something she knows; it goes far beyond that. I think that our personalities simply matched extremely well. Thinking back, I realize how lucky I was in that respect because this is extremely important.
Aside from your teacher, what is the driving force behind your advancement in music?
Music itself.
Has there been any advancement or development in music?
Music, like all arts, is developing all the time. And this applies not only to art: If there is no development, there is no life.
How has your understanding of music, of its drama, changed since you were a child?
When I was a child, it was not really understanding but rather feeling of music – or one could say: intuitive understanding. Of course, it’s impossible to play well without the natural feeling of music at any age; but as a child grows older, feeling alone can no longer be enough.
How do your preferences in repertoire change over the years?
I don’t think they do. My tastes have always been very broad, for as long as I remember, and I have always been trying to expand my repertoire in all possible directions. On the other hand, I never bring a piece to the public unless I feel that I am able to play it well.
How do you choose new pieces?
That is very easy: from the pieces I love – of which there many! We pianists are extremely lucky: The piano repertoire is so vast, that I only hope to live long enough to learn everything I want to play.
How do you prepare a new work?
There is no special method. I just sit down and start working – and then the music itself tells me what to do. Then, at a certain stage, after I have formed my own conception and am able to execute it, I start listening to other people’s performances of the piece and learn from them. Even if I don’t like someone else’s performance, that also helps because then I know even better what I want to do.
Are the circumstances of a composer’s life a factor when you work on a new piece?
For certain pieces they are. If they had a direct influence on the piece – like Beethoven’s ‘Moonlight Sonata,’ for example. However, the most important thing is the music itself.
What is important for you to consider in a performance?
To approach the level of the music performed as closely as possible. Of course, only the greatest performance can reach it sometimes; but nevertheless, we should all try to approach it as closely as our modest capabilities allow us.
What are your interests outside music?
Life itself. Different aspects of it. Of course, some of those don’t interest me at all. As Socrates said, ‘There are so many things in the world that I don’t need.’ In my free time, I like reading, sightseeing and spending time with other people: with my friends or with people whom I may not necessarily be able to call friends but whom I like and find interesting.
Once I went to an astrologer who, having made my natal chart, said to me, ‘Of the 10 planets, you’ve got seven in the air and none on earth. That’s why you don’t care about material things at all, but you are interested in ideas and you like spending time with people who provide you with interesting ideas.’ I could not describe myself better.
I imagine that coming from an assimilated Russian-Jewish background, being Jewish was not at the center of your universe.
Yes, it was – since an early age, in spite of the fact that I, indeed, grew up in an assimilated family and knew nothing about Jewish history, let alone religion. When I was a child, I wrote a will (yes!) the content of which, I believe, reveals a lot. It read as follows: ‘When I die, bury me in a forest outside Moscow so that the stone under which my ashes will be lying would hardly be seen in the grass and look like this ...’ – and I drew a rectangle with five lines and a G clef on them and the following inscription: ‘Here lies Evgeny Kissin, a son of the Jewish people, a servant of music’ – and my life years. See, that’s how I identified myself already as a child. At that time I couldn’t imagine that I would live anywhere else than Moscow, and I didn’t know any Jewish symbols, only musical ones!
But this upcoming concert is clearly a statement. Does it mean that now you feel more identified with the Jewish people than in the past? What has caused this change?
The only thing that has changed is that I started speaking about my Jewish identity in public. I never did before. Not because I, God forbid, was ashamed of it in any way, but on the contrary, for the simple reason that it was always something extremely special for me and therefore not to be talked about in public – like love, for example (that’s, by the way, why I hate talking about music as well). But about a little over a year ago, I felt that I had to do it in order to counter the raging anti-Israel hysteria in much of the world. Since I was well known and hundreds of thousands of people all over the world were coming to my concerts and buying my recordings, I felt that I had to tell them: “If you like my art, this is who I am, who I represent and what I stand for.”
What can you, as a person, do to advance the Israeli cause?
I am trying to do what I can: putting pro- Israel material (whose authors are mainly non- Jews, many of them are Arabs) on my fan club site, giving interviews in support of Israel.
Do you believe that an individual has the power to change things in the world order?
Each one of us can only do so much. So the more good people who are active, the better.

Major Trove Of Classical Music Manuscripts For Sale

Listen Now

by Caroline Cooper


J.S. Bach's Cantata No. 171 is part of the Lehman Collection. The iron-gall ink Bach used to compose the piece has eroded the paper.

For music lovers, some melodies may seem priceless. But if you ever wondered what music is really worth — like the original manuscript to Maurice Ravel's Bolero? That score and about 200 more, which reside at New York's Morgan Library, are on sale for $135 million. They are part of the esteemed Lehman Collection — a group of nearly 200 scores that reads like a greatest hits of classical music. Christoph Wolff, a professor of music history at Harvard, calls it "the trophy collection."

"If you look at the list, you have Bach manuscripts, you have Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, you have Chopin, you have Debussy, Strauss, Bartok and Schoenberg. You know, there isn't anything like it, especially when it comes to the selected items that are really major works in the history of music," Wolff says.

The trove belongs to Robert Owen Lehman, a member of the famed Lehman banking family. He has collected original music manuscripts for decades, and he keeps many of them on deposit at the Morgan Library. Now he's looking to sell this collection. The $135 million price tag would make it, by one estimate, the most valuable private music manuscript collection ever sold. Much of the value is in the distinctive marks on the documents: side notes and scratch-outs from the greatest musical minds. For scholars like Anne Schreffler, chair of Harvard's music department, nothing compares to studying an original.

"Just the way a composer notates music can be significant," she says. "So even if they don't make changes, just seeing how they beam notes — whether the beam goes up or down, whether the notes are connected or separated, those kinds of things can give you insight into the musical structure. And when these pieces are published and printed, publishers have their own guidelines and rules, just as with printing of books. So certain aspects of the notation are always standardized. But in a manuscript, you can see a composer's idiosyncratic notation."

Lehman has two conditions: The collection cannot be broken up, and it must remain on display in a public institution. Thomas Venning, the director of manuscripts at Christie's in London, says it could be hard to keep the collection intact, adding that it's easier to realize value for one manuscript at a time than it is for an entire collection at a time.

Individual manuscripts have sold for large sums. Beethoven's 9th Symphony sold in 2003 for $3.4 million. Mendelssohn's "Hebrides Overture" fetched nearly $1 million at auction. But an asking price of $135 million makes the Lehman Collection a tough purchase for any one individual — or institution. So John Lubrano, the man in charge of finding the collection a new home, is pursuing a group of buyers. He's hoping they'll go in on the sale together and then donate it to a museum, library or other public institution.

Lehman hasn't announced anything, but a letter circulated to a group of wealthy New Yorkers suggests that he may use money from selling these music manuscripts to set up an organization dedicated to music education and performance.