No Words Necessary Review

Writers, composers, musicians, and almost anyone in the arts, tend to wait with bated breath after the completion and release of their latest achievement. Will anyone actually like it? And more pertinently, what will the critics say? Never is this more true than when publishing compositions, because our tastes in music, particularly educational music, are all very different. Therefore, I was really delighted to read this lovely review of my new piano pieces, No Words Necessary, written and published earlier this week by writer and reviewer, Andrew Eales, who owns the Pianodao blog. I’ve published Andrew’s complete article below, but you can read the original, here. For more information about the pieces, and to purchase No Words Necessary, please click, here. Over to Andrew…


Lots of piano players enjoy the contemporary stylings of popular composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Yirumi and David Lanz, but it’s not so easy to find really good arrangements of their music that are accessible to intermediate players, and which manage to be both concise and accurate distillations of the post-minimal piano style.

The search for an educationally sound and musically engaging alternative just got easier with the publication by Schott Music of No Words Necessary, an excellent collection of 12 new pieces composed by Melanie Spanswick.

These interesting and enjoyable pieces will certainly satisfy those looking for approachable contemporary piano solos, and they further confirm Melanie as an imaginative and engaging composer.

So let’s check it out …

Concept and Recordings

Ever since it was established in 1770, Schott Music has been open to current trends and new development in music, seeking to represent a broad and colourful spectrum of new music. At present, they seem to be going through something of a golden age, with a succession of brilliant new publications in 2018, and much more scheduled for the coming months.

No Words Necessary joins their releases for this Autumn and brings well-known teacher, writer and adjudicator Melanie Spanswick to Schott’s roster of contemporary educational composers. Spanswick may be known to readers as the author/compiler of the outstanding Play it Again: Piano series, which I reviewed here last year.

According to Spanswick, No Words Necessary is:

“… a collection of 12 piano pieces intended for those who are approximately intermediate level, Grades 3-6. Consisting of melodious tunes and poignant harmonies, they are reminiscent of the Minimalist style…
Easy to learn and comfortable to play, they are equally well suited to the younger or more mature learner, and perfect for either concert performances or playing for pleasure. The collection will hopefully unleash the imagination and make piano playing an immensely rewarding experience.”

The Pieces

While reading on, you can start to discover the pieces for yourself using the composer’s own video recordings of them:

If the music isn’t your cup of tea, we’re done for today (you can discover more intermediate music here though!)

Otherwise read on for my thoughts…

The pieces appear loosely in order of difficulty, with the beautifully serene Lost in Thought providing a wonderfully contemplative opener. Inflections particularly reminds me of Philip Glass, while in Dancing Through the Daffodils there are echoes of Bach and Clementi, their motifs refreshed for the present day.

Spanswick’s melodic sensibility is more to the fore in the swaying Pendulum, the lyrical Walking in the Woods (my personal favourite here) and delightful China Doll. Other highlights for me include the restrained Voices in my Head, exotic Phantom Whisperer, and Beneath, which conjures a superb sense of hushed wonder. All these pieces are in my view well worth a look.

In terms of level, I would say most are accessible at the lower end of the advertised range; the book is ideal for the Grade 4 player wanting to explore fresh new music.

A feature of the contemporary post-minimal piano style is the emphasis given to organic flow rather than single gestures; often such music includes little in terms of suggested articulation, phrasing, and only a block outline of dynamics. Teachers will be pleased that Spanswick gives more detail here, including indications of balance between hands using a different dynamic for each.

The Publication

For the book itself, Schott have used their generic plain cover, which is a little disappointing given the target audience and imagination of the music within.

Spanswick-No-Words-Necessary

Inside though, Schott’s house style is as welcome as ever: with quality cream paper, crystal clear notation engraving and well spaced layout, the presentation is a cut above that sometimes found elsewhere. The amount and suitability of suggesting fingering throughout the collection is also, I think, spot on.

The premium quality Schott bring certainly adds to the ease and enjoyment of exploring the music itself.

Conclusion

It’s been a busy year for new piano music, but this latest publication certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

These are pieces which I believe could easily find their place in the intermediate player’s heart, combining easy-to-master patterns, melodic charm, and simple structural cohesion. They give players a vehicle through which to develop expressive, engaged playing.

And with plenty of variety on offer, too, the collection offers good value. If you’re looking for a fresh collection of accessible contemporary pieces, do give this a try!

WARMLY RECOMMENDED


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Weekend Competition: Piano Gallery

The first competition of 2018 features an innovative, attractive volume penned by renowned composer Pamela Wedgwood. Piano Gallery  (published in November 2017 by Faber Music) is a collection of 14 piano pieces which, as the title suggests, have all been inspired by great works of art. Each piece corresponds to a particular painting, and these paintings have been beautifully printed and included as a pull-out (in the middle of the publication) alongside the music.

‘I’ve relished writing this music that responds to the mood, colour, style, story and even humour behind each painting.’

Pamela Wedgwood

The works are easily accessible and intended for the intermediate level pianist (around Grade 4 – 6 of ABRSM standard). Playing through them, I would suggest they contain a variety of styles, yet Pam’s own voice can still be clearly heard. I enjoyed Starry Night (painting by Vincent Van Gogh), Fatata te Miti (painting by Paul Gauguin) and Large Wave (painting by Hokusai).

You can discover the music and paintings behind them for yourself by taking part in my competition. I have one copy to giveaway to one lucky winner. As usual, just leave your comment in the comment box below this blog post, and I will pick the winner on Sunday evening (British time). Be sure to check the post here on this blog, to see if you’ve been selected. Good luck!

You can find out more about Piano Gallery, here.


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Weekend Competition: Christmas Piano Duets

Christmas Duets

As we find ourselves hurtling towards Christmas, today’s competition features a festive piano book. Christmas Cool Piano Duets, arranged by popular British composer Heather Hammond and published by Kevin Mayhew, contains twelve favourites, perfect for a student/teacher combination, or two students. Great for the end of term Christmas concert, or any piano party!

The pieces are approximately early intermediate level (around Grades 3 – 5), but the primo parts are generally easier than those of the secondo (which is why they would be perfect for a teacher and student). Also excellent sight-reading material for more advanced players. Included are Frosty the Snowman, Good King Wenceslas, Joy to the  World, Silent Night, Jingle Bells, and Walking in the Air.

The winner of this collection will also receive a couple of practice notebooks, written by Heather and published by Mayhew. A Practice Fun Book and a Practice Record Book; they will hopefully encourage young players to practice regularly and keep a record of their work. Each book contains useful tips and exercises.

To win, just leave your comment in the comment box at the end of this post. I will select a winner on Monday (November 9th) evening (British time). Good luck!

You can purchase Heather’s duets here, the practice record book here, and the Practice fun book here.

20151107_072417_resized


My Publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Digressions: 5 Piano Pieces

FRONT COVER MS WK

 ‘These five entertaining, beautifully written and concise pieces are little gems’

 John Lenehan, Concert Pianist, UK

 

‘Melanie Spanswick’s Digressions are compelling and accessible works to play – from the moving Bach-like ‘Chasing’ to the two hypnotically flowing ‘Moving On’ and ‘Karma’. Perfect for the intermediate level player. And I have no doubt that pianists of all tastes will enjoy learning them – in fact, I doubt they’ll want to put the music down!’

Erica Worth, Editor, Pianist magazine, UK

 

Over the past few years, I’ve become increasingly interested in writing music, originally to get to grips with Sibelius software, but eventually blossoming into a creative outlet. When publisher and composer Elena Cobb kindly asked if I’d like to write a collection of piano pieces, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

Digressions consists of 5 piano pieces; designed for those who are around Grades 4-6 standard (ABRSM level). The pieces were inspired by Minimalism and cinematic music, and lie comfortably under the hands without appearing too simple or lacking in content.

Educational piano pieces are, by necessity, succinct and brief, but  in my opinion, little pieces are mostly written with the younger learner in mind. There’s an emphasis on colourful pictures, cartoon characters, all framed by jazzy pieces with bright, cheerful tunes, which is fine if you like this genre (and many do). My goal was to write works for teenagers and adults who want an alternative to the jazz/ragtime idiom, Musical Theatre genre or ‘easy listening’ culture.

Many adult amateur pianists love performing and learning new pieces, but they would rather not endure the challenge of preparing pages of complicated, demanding music; they prefer works to be short, attractive and easy to digest. Digressions are perfect in this respect. Each piece contains a different mood or character, and could be included in a Contemporary recital programme, a festival programme, school concert, music club or meet-up group performance or just enjoyed with a glass of wine after dinner!

‘The lyricism of Karma and dramatic nature of Digression, in particular, should appeal; the pianistic writing also promotes technical development’. Pianist Magazine

‘I finally had an opportunity to sit down & play through Melanie Spanswick’s “Digressions”. WOW… I wish I had ordered more than 1 book! Each piece is so unique & incredibly well written. It’s perfect for so many various performance venues. My students will love it! Bravo!!’ – Sarah Robertson (Florida, US)

‘I love this book!! Written for intermediate level, the pieces are so well done and beautiful! I am looking forward to sharing these selections with my more advanced students as well as playing them myself because the music is so wonderful!! I highly recommend it as an addition to your music library!’ – Donna Reed (Mississippi, US)

‘I love this book very much. Not only the pieces are beautiful, they are excellent for working with various technical skills. My son is learning Karma to work on beautiful tone and phrasing, and Digression to work on arpeggios, intervals, and RH/LH melody over arpeggio accompaniment. We plan one of those pieces for 2016 National Piano Guild.’ – Irma Khouw (Ohio, US)

The pieces; Chasing, Moving On, Karma, Musing and Digression, can be played as a set or individually, and are tuneful and approachable. Also included are Piano Notes for each piece; essentially a few tips and practice ideas which I hope will be helpful. They are available as a digital download and hard copy  from Elena Cobb’s website: EVC Publications. You can listen to all 5 works here:





 


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my two-book piano course, Play it again: PIANO (Schott). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, 49 progressive pieces from approximately Grade 1 – 8 level are featured, with at least two pages of practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.