Like most children who learn the piano, I wasn’t always the most willing student.  I got tired of practicing, I wanted to play sports, I had moved on to other instruments.  I was eventually allowed to stop taking piano lessons after the 8th grade, something I still regret somewhat.  When I did take piano lessons, I worked my way through a series of pieces by the Italian composer Muzio Clementi.  Clementi was a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven, but you don’t hear his sonatas at the concert hall very often.  Talk to anyone who has spent some time as a piano student however, and they will probably be able to hum a few bars of the Clementi sonatinas they were forced to learn as children.  Bouncy, somewhat schematic and technical, the Clementi sonatinas have been fodder for piano teachers ever since he wrote them.  The beginning of the portrait of Chris Grant, “You Only Live Twice,” includes a faux Clementi introduction and interludes that contrast the more rock and roll verse/chorus structure.

(L: Stacey Linnartz, R: a portrait of Muzio Clementi by Aleksander Orlowski)

Last night I played the song cycle for the first time in front of an audience.  I haven’t really thought of myself as a pianist in a long time; it’s listed on the special skills section of my resume, but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when someone asks me what I do.  Yesterday though, I sat at the piano and played for about 75-80 minutes.  Well maybe half that, since the projected interviews also take up a good portion of the show.  I played everything a bit faster than I planned, which tends to happen when you add an audience and suddenly have your nerves to contend with.  But it was great to finally share the project with an audience, and for the most part I was really pleased with how it went.  I had somehow forgotten how personal the project is, and again heard afterward from people how they felt they knew me better.  So if you want a crash course in Matt Carlson, I suppose you should head to the Shubert Theater tonight at NYU.

(Winged Victory, which inspired the projections for “It’s Okay to Break”)

I slept in today, finally got groceries (there was nothing left in my cupboards), and cleaned my apartment (my parents are coming to see the show this weekend).  Seemed strange not to be editing film or rehearsing or writing lists.  I’ll probably go for a run, and then head down to the theater.  I haven’t shared the portrait of Stacey Linnartz until now because I never had a recording that I thought was good enough.  A couple days ago I recorded this demo, and I’m satisfied enough to share it with you now.  It’s become one of my favorite songs to perform.  The title is “It’s Okay to Break.”  I think my piano teacher (and hopefully Clementi) would approve.

It’s Okay to Break by Matthew Carlson

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