About the blog

This blog is about both scientific, societal/political, and yoga-related issues - individually and considered as different aspects of the same problem/solution. A longer description is found in the first blog entry, and all old posts are found in a structured way here. The blog is an extension of my main home pages and Twitter: @gunnarcedersund

A new treasure found in SVT's archive: "Två och en flygel" with Cornelis Vreeswijk

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Aug 09, 2013 17:59

SVT, the Swedish Television, are gradually opening up more and more of their archives to the general public, published on their home page Their are already many treasures to be found, and I am going therein to explore from time to time. And today, after just a little while of such exploring I found the programme "Två och en flygel" (eng: Two and a grand piano), which seems to be an excellent programme with a whole hour long interviews with music personalities, and where the athmosphere is open and the guest is allowed to talk openly about his life and his music, and also play a lot together with the host, who is himself an excellent jazz pianist.

In the programme linked above, the guest is Cornelis Vreeswijk. He is not that famous outside of Sweden, which probably is due to him writing mostly in Swedish. In any case, he has for many years been a fascination for me. He came to Sweden as a teenager, but anyway masters the Swedish language like few others. He also has a kind of composition style which just seem to pour effortlessly out of him - a bit like Emily Bear, and Mozart and other really great composers (this effortlessness is a common sign of a high quality). He writes on all themes: ranging from political satire, to comical funny stories, to beautiful depictions of love, to erotic pieces, etc etc. One of my personal favourite themes of his is when he writes about the downtrodden people, the homeless, the drunks. The reason for this is that he - again a bit like Mozart, in his operas - manages to make their seemingly miserable existances seen from a higher empathic perspective, where you can identify and like these characters. One of my favourite examples of this is the clip below, about Fredrik Åkare, who just has become homeless and now walks around on the streets, but where, as he says, "now nothing can touch him, and he is free". In the clip below that one, you find the same character, Fredrik Åkare, when he meets a beautiful younger girl, in a wonderful depiction of the attraction and instant love that you sometimes find on the dance floor, and which has fascinated me for so many years.

This second clip is the perhaps most well-known and beautiful song that he has written, which also can be listened to without understanding the lyrics (the lyrics is absolutely incredible, though). In the 1h interview above, he reveals that this Fredrik Åkare fellow actually is a real person, who has several of the characters in common with the character in the songs.

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My new crush: a full-size Steinway :)

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Jun 26, 2013 00:49

A picture of my new lover. As you can see it is much longer than a normal grand piano, as you find them in churches, etc. This is a full-size version, which you normally only find in big concert halls.


As I wrote in the last post, I have started to play more piano now, since the summer period has started (I am not on vacation, but work is nevertheless much more relaxed during the summer, and I therefore usually increase my playing from 1-2h/day to perhaps 2-5h/day). This has led me to start dreaming about better pianos: most importantly in the place where I give my lunch concerts, but also in general. Yesterday, this dreaming started to manifest itself – big time!

By a chance, I yesterday met the old piano tuner emeritus here in Linköping, Harry Olsson. It turned that he had been involved in the acquirement of a new grand piano - a full-size grand Steinway! – in Wallenbergsalen, which is the main chamber music hall here in Linköping. This piano will be formally opened to the public in August, during Östergötlands musikdagar, but it is already at place. And – most importantly – Harry said that somebody needs to play on it during the summer, so that it becomes more stable, and “played in”. I of course directly volunteered as such a person, and as of today, I (as the only pianist) have a formal permission, even an encouragement, to play at this piano – as often as I can!

I sat for about 2 hours earlier today, before going to Stockholm over the evening, and it was truly an experience. It is completely new, and truly a master piece. In a way, it is almost like a super-advanced space ship I heard of once in a book by Isaac Asimov: it feels like it can read my mind. It can catch the slightest differences in intention, and manifests them perfectly. This is of course amazing, but it is also very revealing – if something doesn’t sound quite as I like it, I have to look at my mind, and see what it is I really am seeking to manifest. I can now see my thoughts manifested in the music around me, more clearly than ever before.

This is a bit like my life, nowadays, actually. But that’s another story! :)

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Preliminary programme for 2020

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Jun 23, 2013 00:57

As you might have seen already, I am in the middle of a big project regarding my piano career: to play through all the 32 Beethoven sonatas. These sonatas are sometimes referred to as the New Testament of piano (where Bach's Well temperierte klavier is the Old Testament), and they are truly an amazing body of music. An enjoyable approach to these sonatas is to see how those (relatively few) pianists that have come through all of them have interpreted them, and in the above video you see one such interpretation: a live recording series by Daniel Barenboim, who go through all of them in a series of 8 concerts.


Now during the summer, I am celebrating some extra free time, by playing more piano. Right now I am practicing some new Beethoven sonatas (op 2:2,3, op 10:1, and op 111), and the remaining two Ballades by Chopin (nr 2 and 3). Apart from that I think that I also will do some recordings of things I have played (and of some new Emily Bear pieces, I just received over the mail), which might also include some videos that I will put on youtube. So look out for that!

For now, however, I just want to give my intended program for a Beethoven series in 2020, which will be the first anniversary, and an important milestone in my Beethoven project.

Op 2 (3 sonatas, including the first)

Op 10 (3 sonatas)

Op 13 Pathetique

Op 26 (1 sonata)

Op 27 (2 sonatas, including Moonlight)

Op 31 (3 sonatas, including Sturm)

Op 53 Waldstein

Op 57 Appassionata

Op 81 Les adieux

Op 106 Hammarklaver

Op 109-111 The last three

That will allow me to cover all the most important ones (including the most difficult ones, and the ones with names), so that I already then can mentally cover all of them, and digest them all thoroughly until 2027, which is the second anniversary of Beethoven, and the main climax of this project. If the above programme would turn out to be too ambitious already by 2020, I will probably replace two of the sonatas with op 49:1-2, which are the two easiest ones.

Wish me luck! :)

Even though I think that Barenboim is a talented and important pianist, I think that his most important and impressive features come through when he talks about music. In this second clip, which is a part of the same DVD-edition as the concert series above, he talks about the Beethoven sonatas together with some other extremely talented but much younger pianists, whom he teaches in a series of master classes. I think that listening to these master classes is another very valuable way to learn about these sonatas - and about music and piano playing in general.

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Immigrant integration through singing

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Apr 09, 2013 09:40
Many nations, especially in the west, are having active and quite heated immigration debates, where the levels of allowed immigration are intensly debated. A common factor in the arguments regarding where those levels should lie concern integration. "If we cannot improve integration, we cannot keep letting more and more people in", is a common statement. And most people seem to agree on that: the level of integration - i.e. how easily new people can become an integrated and harmonious part of our society - is an utterly important factor for determining how much immigration we can cope with.

Despite this, there are very seldom any debates on *how* this improved integration should be achieved, and there are even more seldom reports of *positive examples* of well-functioning integration.

In this radio clip (in Swedish) they show such a positive example. In one of the most immigration dense suburbs of Stockholm, they have started a female choir, which is intended for women who are home and isolated, so that they should have a place to go to; a place to have fun, and a place to learn Swedish.
In other words, here they sing together, spend time together, and almost automatically learn about Sweden, its culture, and the Swedish language. I used to sing a lot during some years of my life, and I can certainly testify that it has many positive effects: you easily feel a sense of community with the other people in your choir, and the act of (non-abashed) singing almost automatically releases big chunks of joy into your body.

More such examples are needed. Kudos to "Studio ett" for bringing it up!

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Short recording from today's lunch concert

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Feb 26, 2013 02:01
So, today it was at last time for the lunch concert that I had prepared for for over a year: when I was supposed to play Beethoven's op 111 for the first time! As with all such deep and profound pieces, it takes not only a lot of practice on your own, but also some experience with performing in front of an audience, before you really start to master the piece. Or to quote Vladimir Horowitz: "I practice on my own, and learn the technique as good as I can. But it is only when I play it in front of an audience that I really learn the piece". And it is something quite special to play music for others. Your perceptions and awareness becomes much much increased, and your presence increases a lot. Suddenly you start to hear the piece, and you start to communicate with it - simply because you are using the piece to communicate with the people who are listening. Performing is therefore for sure much associated to the kind of in-the-zone states that you search for in yoga.

In other words, when I have played it a few times more in public, I will make a recording of the piece, and upload it here. But for now, I at least want to give you the first few bars from today's concert. This little clip is actually from when I was introducing the piece, in the beginning of the concert. So at the end of the clip you can here me get up, to start saying something about what comes next.

Finally, I could say that I am now in the process of preparing for a bigger journey. The last 4 days I have spent in Copenhagen, Frankfurt, Berlin (where I went on the way home to dance some tango!), and Linköping, respectively, i.e. on a little mini-journey through Europe. But the next 4 weeks, I will spend in South America! On Wednesday morning I am going down to the summer, to the dancing, and to beautiful latinas and fascinating science projects. But more about that later :)

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The reason why Beethoven's op 111 is on my top 5 list of best piano music ever written

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Feb 23, 2013 11:51

Earlier last year I used this picture as my profile picture on facebook. The reason is that it summarized two really central aspects of me: i) My basker, without which people don't really recognize me anymore ;), and ii) Beethoven's last sonata, op 111, which I have been practicing more or less regularly since January last(!) year. Now, Feb 25 - i.e. in two days! - I am at last ready to perform this piece in front of an audience. Since this piece of music is on my top 5 list of music ever written, this will be a day to celebrate!


As some of you know already, I am in the middle of a 16-year project: to learn all the Beethoven sonatas. My approximate schedule for this is to play a new sonata each semester, in my lunch concert series, at the university hospital in Linköping, which is where I work, and where many of my colleagues, students, and also some patients and doctors, come to listen to me. I started this in Nov of 2010, and it has grown quite popular, with a core crowd that comes more or less every time, and where it has been between 50-130 people attending every time. I am very happy about this lunch concert serie, since it fulfills one of the three factors I wanted to have fulfilled in my musical life: an attentive audience that listens to me, almost independently of what I choose to play. The other two factors are to be able to play at the level I want (i.e. the kind of pieces I want, and with the people I want), and to be able to make a comfortable living, where money is not an issue. All of these three factors are now fulfilled, and I am therefore thoroughly enjoying the musical aspect of my life at the moment, moving through one exciting musical project after the other.

And, the biggest such project as of yet is to play all these sonatas. Beethoven wrote these sonatas throughout his entire life. Interestingly, even though even his first sonatas are master pieces, he has a rapid evoluation in his music, re-inventing the sonata form, and - you can almost say - music and sound itself. Therefore, when he almost 30 years after his first sonata, has come to op 111 - his last sonata - he is in a place where nobody had been before him - and almost none have been able to follow him afterwards. This particularly concerns the second and last movement, which is the movement I will play on Monday, and which in itself is almost 20 minutes long. In this movement alone, all the features and facets of human emotions are expressed. Furthermore, these expressions are moved through in a continuous ever-changing process, where it feels like the whole movement is just one long sublime yoga-breath.

The sonata starts in almost perfect serenity and stillness, with the theme in (C major) played in chords that are almost standing still. This beautiful theme goes on for quite a long time, exploring also the counter-part (in a minor, starting at 1:22 in the above recording) with the same stillness. Then you could say that the next third of the movement is a constant filling out of these cords. In the first "variation", a perpetum mobile (constant movement, starting at 2:30) starts that places three notes in each old chord, and this is then replaced by four (at 4:25), etc, in a process that eventually also becomes more intertwined and with an almost fugue-like complexity...until it errupts in the fastest movement - which is like a jazz-piece, written 100 years before the invention of jazz (at 6:00).

Once this "jazz piece" is complete (at 7:55) the music fades down into the second phase of the sonata, which is perhaps the most remarkable phase of them all, and the one that is most characteristic and unique with this sonata. In this phase, the music is no longer about melodies, but about colouring the sound of the music. This is the phase which is depicted in the picture above, and it is the phase which has implied the majority of my practice time. I have spent endless hours at cafés just learning a few bars in this second phase of the sonata. The reason for this is that here the music in each bar is similar to the previous bar, but it is not identical. In fact, the whole piece is a long sequence of non-repetitive notes that follow each other in a way that is almost impossible to learn by heart - but that is absolute serene and beautiful in a way that almost no other music is. It sounds like it comes from another world.

This second phase eventually grows into a crescendo, that erupts in a long trill (11:30) that lies for a long time - a whole minute actually. On top of this trill, Beethoven then places various octaves, notes, and eventually - in the climax of the piece - two other trills, and a note that repeat itself in a growing and then diminishing fashion (12:00-12:10). To play three trills, and an additional repeating note, is also a thing that have had to spend quite a long time learning how to do technically.

Once the tripple-trill is over, the single trill grows into a sforzando, which then dies out into the low-point of the piece, where the stillness of the introduction re-emerges (12:30). This low-point is then built upon in a new gradual growth that lasts almost all the way to the end. However, in this second half, which could be thought of as a sort of re-capitulation, the accompaniement has completely transformed itself, and embraced this sound-exploring feature of the second phase. Therefore, even though the main theme returns again (13:36), they are now less important - they are more like a decoration that floats on top of the exploration of ever-changing sounds and chord-colouring. Towards the end, this coloring again erupts in a long trill (15:30), which after the a-minor theme has been revisited a last time (15:45-16.20), dies out and just floats away into the original serenity and simplicity that started the piece. Or to use the wonderful Beethoven analytic Arthur Schnabel's words: "the tiplets [16:35] should be played perfectly even, floating away in a region remote from earth. "

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Waking up from yoga with Emily Bear

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Feb 19, 2013 22:50
Today I did something I have never done before: end a yoga-session by playing some music.

It was after a session was over with my wonderful intermediate/advanced class, when we had just woken up from a class with unusually much meditation, and we were roaming around in the room without saying anything to each other, that I suddenly got the urge: "This moment would really benefit from some music".

So I turned on the wonderful "Once upon a wish", by Emily Bear, which is one of my favourite pieces of music, and which also starts so slowly and dreamy, that it almost feels like a musical representation of the process of waking up - at least in the beginning. was a very nice feeling - which seemed to have sent both them and me off in a very nice mode.

I think that this urge of mine comes from a recent realization that what is the same inbetween a deep meditation-state of no-thoughts, and an inspired karma yoga state of enlightened activity is the absense of resistance. Therefore, even though it is true that there is a problem with listening to music when you want to free yourself from old thought-patterns and old emotional patterns, as you want to do in meditation (and in intensive yoga-processes/retreats), once you wake up it is a good idea to consciously choose freedom-of-resistance thoughts as the first thoughts that enter your mind. And Emily's music is one of the most light-filled thoughts I know of.

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The precious jewel hidden in the midst of each Mozart Sonata

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Feb 17, 2013 13:43

The Arkenstone, or the "Heart of the Mountain", is a precious stone appearing in the Hobbit. The stone was found hidden within the midst of the mountain, almost like if the whole mountain in a way was there to provide a protective layer around it. Picture from here.

I have just discovered some really good news: the Horowitz content on Spotify has greatly expanded!

Vladimir Horowitz has for a long time been my favourite pianist of all times. There are many reasons for that, but one of the most important things is the many colors of his playing. He has, like virtually none other, the capacity to lift out so many different layers - different instruments - from the piano. For that reason you can often be amazed by listening to e.g. just the base notes in his playing: it is like these individual notes - maybe just one note in each bar - are played by an individual cellist, who gives all his love and attention to those particular notes, and where those notes have a development of themselves in the piece, and stand in a perfectly fascinating interplay with all the other melodies in the tune. Apart from that, he of course also more generally speaking has a technique that is amazing. Sometimes this technique is so outrageously good that it just makes you laugh when you hear how he just plays around with even the most difficult piano pieces (the end of Chopins first Ballade comes to mind). Here it must be stressed, however, that this playing around never exerts itself negatively on the musicality. On the contrary, in these most difficult sections, where you hear that many of the best pianists are struggling to get around, he has usually found a way to put his personal touch on it, to lift out the musicality and character of the piece even more (again a Chopin piece comes to mind, his playing of the highly difficult 4th etude). Finally, and as always, the most important part of what makes his playing magic is simply his ability to make you - as a listener - completely absorbed by his playing. Somehow his focus his so strong, that you as a listener has no other option than to go into that absorption and concentration as well (here is an interesting anecdote by Barenboim, about when Horowitz himself talked to him about this crucial factor). And in the middle of deep concentration the Source is always found, no matter what you focus upon.

Well, now to what I really came here to talk to you about! :)

I have today listened to some of his Mozart recordings, several of which I hadn't heard earlier. (btw, I totally agree with the well tempered ear, who says that his Mozart interpretations often are forgotten) And there is a special feature of his sonatas that I always find really fascinating, almost to the point of witnessing something holy. This holy thing is, in my view, hidden in the middle (or timewise, perhaps closer to the golden mean) of his sonatas. In other words, you have heard the first movement, which usually is fast but still not show-off:y, which usually is structured in a sonata form, i.e. with its own golden moments located at its golden mean. At this point, you have also heard the exposition to the second movement (0-2:20 above) which have introduced something beautiful, and put you in a mode of being deeply focused on what the pianist has to say. All other distractions that you may still have had in your mind as you started to listen to the first movement are now completely dropped from your mind, and your mind is just open. Then the development starts and you can just feel how everything increases, how the beauty builds up (2:20-3:20) to a climax (3:20-4:10). A beauty-climax. A musical orgasm....which usually only lasts a few bars, until the development is over, and you go back (4:10-4:30) to the main theme of the second movement, to the recapitulation (4:30-end). Still holy, but now the peak has passed. Now the rest is more or less predictable. The recapitulation of the second movement is now over, and the third movement has started. It is fast and impressive, many notes, clear passages, and - since it often is shorter than the first movement - it ends pretty soon, and with some kind of climax leading up to it. So that you feel like applauding in the end.

But all the time listening there in the end you feel like all that is just a wrapping in of the precious jewel that you witnessed there in the middle of the second movement. So that this precious jewel should not be exposed to a mind that is not totally prepared, and so that you shouldn't have to go back to your life again too abrubtly after witnessing such beauty. And because too much beauty all the time often leads to cheesiness, because less is more, and because the memory of the beauty is often more beautiful, and an equally important part of the whole, as the actual experience in itself. Because some of the beauty also lies in the symmetry of the piece. Just as I have tried to immitate in this little blog post. Which will end with a little coda: again mostly focusing on showing off.

Coda: As many of you know, I am currently playing through all the Beethoven sonatas. These are in many ways more difficult than the Mozart sonatas. However, I find it quite likely that I, as did Horowitz and Rubinstein and many others, will end my life by returning to Mozart. By finding the perfect symmetry of his pieces, and the precious jewels hidden within them, simply too irresistable to not to play. And by finding that all other things you have done is simply a preparation for being able to at last do these pieces justice.

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