How to make music special again

Dark Spotify Logo
Spotify Logo

Back in the day music was something special, something you looked forward to listening to. Long before the days of TV, the internet and non-stop music in supermarkets, travelling minstrels toured the country going from town to village to manor house. In the absence of any other entertainment the event gave people occasional and much appreciated relief from their otherwise difficult and hard lives. Now that we have music on tap, at the touch of a screen or button, has music lost its special place in our hearts?

The Lute: A Medieval Guitar-Like Instrument played by a troubadour
A Troubadour playing a Lute

At AMH Pianos we are all about the music, and respect for the craft is what made me get interested to do what I do best! This is why it sometimes saddens me to see many a talented musician struggle to make ends meet. We have a lot of music that feels rather ubiquitous wherever we go. And yet, people complain about the quality of the music, the variety and genres of music on offer, and even the price of music. With a rise in music streaming services, we do not even care to own our favourite tunes anymore. Somehow, in an era where musicians have so many avenues to contact the fans and reach out to us of their own accord, it feels like something, or someone, is taking over our music, putting musicians out of business, and even adversely affecting the craftsmen who look after the musicians.

Travelling Minstrels
Travelling Minstrels

As we stand here in 2016, it is absolutely vital to take evasive action now, to prevent a decline in the importance of music in the post iPod age. For starters, we could do more to encourage our children to take up music and musical instruments at a young age. We could better educate our music teachers at PGCE level, to help them train the next Mozart, Beethovan or Elgar. We could encourage the streaming companies to give back more fairly and generously to the musicians that we love, rather than just the big names. We could provide a more technical and well-rounded level of education to breed the next generation of men and women who dedicate their lives servicing, repairing and even transporting the large aray of instruments between venues. We could make the top rated arts and music more affordable and easily accessible to the people from non-traditional backgrounds, especially outside London’s M25 boundaries. We could refuse to support piracy. And finally, we could encourage our elected leaders to encourage greater investment into the creative arts, to ensure that we have a brighter, ney, a better sounding future!!

A Spanish Musical Quartet
Cuarta de Musica

A Summer of Seismic Changes

Formar Home Secretary Theresa May becomes UK PM
Theresa May UK Prime Minister

Over the past month events in the UK and around the World have been a bit of a game changer, causing uncertainty, intreague and plenty of heated discussion across London. From Whitehall to Hackney, Golders Green to Bexley Heath, the conversation seems to have moved on to what the latest events in Westminster might entail for the country as a whole rather than the latest gossip around Big Brother and the X Factor. In many ways, whilst I carry out piano tuning, I seem to notice myself surrounded by highly opinionated conversations concerning Brexit, a new Prime Minister and potential predictions about the future.

Map of the European Union as of Oct. 2013
Map of the 28 EU states

Throughout London we have experienced ample sunshine and much higher temperatures that somehow seem to be keeping pace with the heated political climate. Things however, appear much more civilised around the UK compared to the unfortunate attacks in mainland Europe, such as the attempted coup in Turkey, the death of 84 people in Nice and the more recent spate of bizarre attacks across Germany. Incidents like these appeal to my British sense of being and I sometimes wonder whether or not we really can resolve arguments and problems just by enjoying a nice cup of tea.

A Perfectly brewed Cup of Tea
A Perfect Cup of Tea

 

I feel fortunate to be in a profession that brings the gift of music to people from all backgrounds and walks of life, bringing them together through music. Time spent servicing or transporting a piano, for me personally, equates to bringing the gifts of creativity, harmony and the celebration of life. The brilliant sunny weather during these uncertain times symbolises the hope that we as a nation will have a bright future no matter what it brings. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with AMH Pianos to find out for yourself the magic of great sound and excellent customer service.

Stretching The Human Tuned Notes

We have just celebrated Father’s Day, and are about to experience the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. Since we have had a reasonably bright summer, with long sunny spells, hot temperatures and humid days, before the dreaded rain made its all too inevitable return, a strange thought has plagued my mind: are human limits and limitations, irreversible unlike any other inanimate object in our universe? Furthermore, do the change in our surroundings, conditions and moods depend on our exposure to whatever takes place around us? I ask this since we had been longing for good weather across London and just as soon as the Mercury climbed a bit, we decided to complain about the weather again, rather than trying to enjoy ourselves over in St James‘s Park or Greenwich. Does this culturally induced modus operandi also tell us that we are accustomed to long for the dreadful cold weather in spite of our protests?

AFamilyWalkingOnTheMillenniumBridgeInLondonOnFathersDay

It is no surprise to admit that we all need and deserve a little bit of a change sometime. That is exactly why we all have holidays, vacations and the occasional fun night out, a human tune-up if you will. Yet while objects have an instantaneous tendency to reset following servicing, you often hear people talk about not winding down till the end of their holidays, or needing a vacation away from a vacation. We often talk about getting that same level of restoration as, say a piano, and yet the temptation to share pictures of one’s lunch or drinks on Facebook or the next random memory on Twitter is often too hard to resist when there is no reason whatsoever to repeatedly stab our phones during our time off. Using the concept of cadence, could it be that modern humans are just not designed to attain satisfaction at either ends of the note that is our existence without an expert psychologist involved? And does this less than 100% human harmonic rhythm reflect anything on the order that we crave out of our own energetic chaos?

Metronome

There is ample semblance in the human body: the beating of the heart, the flow of blood, the way our lungs operate, and even the seven year cycle that our skin follows to replace each and every cell with a brand new one. We put routines in the way we work, sleep and adhere to conventions, laws and the year round calendar. So perhaps, it might be time that to perform like clockwork, we have to allow ourselves to be more observant of our own beings, and schedule time with our own thoughts and serendipity with some regularity. Even if we as humans, are unable to reach our theoretical limits, we can at least try to be the best at what we do best.

CalendarWithAScheduleOfEvents

What do you think about the concept of a fully reversible human experience? Can we modulate our own frequencies? And does our energy have any connection with the seasons and the calendar of holidays and important dates? Please feel free to get in touch.

May’s Daze

It’s the beginning of what we may regard as the only summer we are going to probably get in the Capital, possibly in the UK. We have been blessed with exceptional weather as of late, which means that it is time to go have a picnic in Hyde Park, chill out at lunch at St. James’s Park, or do a bit of Window shopping around Oxford Street. On a good day at the weekend, one may even fancy a boat ride, departing from Embankment, Westminster or Tower Hill piers. It is also the final stretch for the universities, after which hard working students will get a break for summer. All this amounts to tourists, bustling activity or nights out near near Soho, or a gig or two at the O2 Arena near North Greenwich. Music, Wimbledon and longer hours of daylight are what we have to look forward to in our fine city. Life is good for everyone, just like it always has been since the dawn of time, right? :D

Wimbledon Ticket Queue

May 1st is the Maypole, or Maple Day. Across Europe, the day is marked with celebrations of Pagan and Christian traditional festivals. May 1st is the official mark of the Pagan Spring, and marks roughly the mid-point between the Vernal Equinox (March 21st) and Summer Solstice (June 21st). This means there are plenty of reasons for you to have your piano tuned, and AMH Pianos is here to help with anything and everything relating to pianos. Over time, the Roman Republic has celebrated Floralia, the festival of flora, whilst Christian Europe has celebrated Beltane, the festival of fertility, and the Walpurgis Night, the Christian Reformation of the Germanic region to coincide on the day.

MaypoleDayFestival ChildrenDancingWithInstructor

In cosmopolitan London, we had bonfires, Maypole Dancing and even some spectacular flower displays. I even learnt that in Northern Europe, it is a day when women would leave a rose on their admirer’s doorstep, where they may/may not reveal their own identity to the object of their affections.

May day Demonstration

Over time though, this day has become more synonymous with the labour movement, and symbolises the struggle for many workers to have better working conditions, fair pay, reasonable working hours and a two day weekend. We should not forget the fact that many people lost their lives and suffered wrongful imprisonment or unfair treatment for the struggle for human rights and a consequent increase in life expectancy. I am personally thankful to those improvements, which have allowed me to set up my business, get assistance with difficult tasks, and therefore expand my services to include piano removals, repairs and servicing. We should never forget the need for a fairer world.

FridayThe13thHorrorQuotes

Whilst in the month of May, we also encountered Friday the 13th last week. The concept of bad luck originated with the French Army, whose troops marched over a hanging bridge in unison, causing the bridge to collapse at resonant frequency. However, we have now attributed the day to all things bad luck, scary or even intensely creepy. Whilst luck is important, my final thoughts in this piece are that it takes a lot more than luck to succeed in life, or at whatever you do. Hard work, resilliance, honesty, a positive and friendly attitude, and a commitment to improvement, are all qualities more akin to Maypole day than Friday the 13th.

KeepCalm&GoodLuck

Have you got any of your own stories from the bank holiday? Did you face any bad luck, or even good luck, contrary to the expected trends of Friday the 13th? Do you have any favourite melodies for the month of May? Please feel free to discuss in the comments. And from AMH Pianos, I wish you lots of good luck!

The Marathon Circle Of Life

Personally, I really did not know what to call this piece. I felt a sea of emotions over the last couple of weeks, from elation, to sadness, to pride, and everything in between. Watching yet another month pass into our history books, I would like to take some time to just contemplate as to what really happened in the capital in addition to my work. This is important, because what happened, will have an ever-lasting impact in the whole world. Let’s tackle each emotion, and feeling one at a time.

Queen's 90th Birthday

First off, let’s talk about pride. Saturday 23rd April was of course St. George’s Day. The man, most widely known as the Patron Saint of England, can still inspire the best among all of us; a sense of real pride to be English, and British. From Oxford Street and Picadily Circus to Westminster, Whitehall and the entire boroughs of Southwark and Greenwich, it felt like I was living in perhaps the greatest city on the planet, at the heart of the greatest country on Earth. Couple this with the Queen’s Birthday, and Barak Obama’s historic visit, there were troops seen marching near Hyde Park, St James’s Park and near Buckingham Palace. There were men and women with Union Jacks milling about. There was definitely a greater buzz on the streets of Hammersmith and Fulham, around Knightsbridge, and it seemed like even my lovely customers were getting into the national spirit as I visited them to carry out tuning and maintenance jobs on their pianos. I just could not help but think of how many pianos have been manufactured in, and sold by, Britain, as a sense of joy flowed through my veins that whole week.

LondonMarathon2016RunnerDressedAsAGiantShoe

Next up, came the London Marathon. As I mentioned in my last blog entry, this was a record year for the London event, where over 247,000 applicants put their names forward to take part in the event, which finally totalled a very cool 36,000 runners. I guess pride and elation would both go hand in hand here, since it was none other than Major Tim Peake who provided the countdown to the start of the race, right from his International Space Station hangout. While so many people ran a great race, including an actual giant shoe, I felt partly disappointed not to be able to run it myself due to some niggles. Still, there is always 2017, and I certainly hope to run the event, and would really like to thank Metro Blind Sports for their support throughout my campaign. Finally, my condolances to the family of the late Army Captain David Seath, who lost his life during the Marathon, and a well done to so many of you who battled adversity to show your strength and determination in reaching the pinnacle of human endurance as you crossed the finish line near the Embankment.

DJ Derek

This conveniently brings me to the one emotion we dread as human beings: sadness, caused by irreversible loss. As news about DJ Derek from my old haunts around Bristol filtered through, about his funeral last Friday, and the details of his mysterious yet tragic death kept becoming clearer, I could not help but mourn the loss of a West Country icon that stood for diversity and cross-cultural integration, in an era where there was none of it. The following few days then further brought bad news for the Arts. First, we lost the extremely versatile and talented Victoria Wood due to cancer, at the not-so-old age of 62. Then, as if that news had not quite sunk in, we lost Prince. This one was of particular sadness to me. Not only was he extremely innovative as a musician and an artist, he was also just 57, and from the time where in order to succeed, you did not always have electrickery at your disposal; a great voice and all round talent had to be your instruments. From the amazing patriotic highs, to the extreme lows of sadness and bereavement of some of the most iconic figures of their generation, gone in an instant within the space of a week.

Prince PicturedIn1986

So as we approach a rather cold end to April, and make our way towards the bank holiday, I wish to take a moment of introspection. And I ask that whether you had the chance to fly the flag around London Bridge, watch the London Marathon near the Cutty Sark, or pay tribute to your favourite stars of yesteryear around Brixton, there is just one truth to the matter. Life is too short! Therefore, take every opportunity to strive to be the best at whatever you do, so that your name and deeds become your ever-lasting legacy. Have a great bank holiday from AMH Pianos and be sure to pay your tributes in the comments.

VictoriaWood 1954-2016

Celebrations in 2016 go on…and on

The New Year has been and gone; fireworks, after-parties, New Year’s resolutions and good wishes all around. In fact, we have probably broken our New Year’s resolutions long ago, and cheery Christmas music and tinsel have long been replaced by the usual chart toppers; the lights are now off amid what many people may describe as the most challenging month of the year. Sounds familiar? No, not quite yet.

Tower Bridge at New Year 2016

Living in London, the Metropolitan capital of the World, is not even close to a dull affair. Just listen beneath the surface and you will notice that celebrations carry on and on. I feel extremely delighted about the fact that, no matter where I am in the City, the Christmas and New Year theme carries on throughout the month of January, meaning that there is a party to attend only a short train ride away.

Saint Sophia's Cathedral Bayswater

When most of us are finished with the 12 days of Christmas the following day heralds the arrival of the Armenian, and Greek Orthodox Christmas, followed by the New Year’s celebration around the 14th of January. Fortunately therefore, the large Greek and Armenian communities in London pull out all the stops, culminating in extremely creative, melodic sounds coupled with some of the most iconic rhythms on the planet. You just need to listen.

Martin Luther King

The month of January also happens to be Black History Month. It is not only a time to remember, and make amends for, our shameful collective past, but also a time for musical education. Be it Caribbean Calypso, African Polyrhythms, various inclinations of Jazz and Soul, there is great music beyond the UK Top 40. Again, you just need to keep your ear out whilst walking the streets of our beautiful capital.

Chinese New Year in London

Finally towards the end of the month, we gather together to welcome in the Chinese New Year. This ancient rich culture has played an important role in astrology, ancient mythology, and of course, fascinating music with a completely different perspective to the West. This New Year’s Celebrations are truly a spectacle – one of increasing importance due to the cultural and socio-economic empowerment of China, along with a growing Chinese diaspora.

With so much going on, I do wonder why anybody, especially in London would have a reason to feel depressed just yet. There are great food, fabulous costumes and a colourful vibe on display, all with the opportunity to gain cultural insight and education. One just needs to get involved in the amazing London community and there will be plenty of events at which to give and receive the best wishes for the New Year. Last but not least, wherever you may be reading this, have a great 2016 from AMH Pianos.

Christmas melodies for 2015

It’s nearly Christmas and London has a buzzing feel. The streets are thronged with happy shoppers, excited kids and equally excited grown men masquerading as Santa Claus. Whilst each year a slew of new artists and albums are released, one can’t help but wonder why the same old Christmas pop music plays everywhere year after year, with countless remakes reaching the pinnacle of the UK Top 40 Musical Charts. Certainly the style of music has evolved over the last few decades, with the classically themed 1930’s Christmas tunes giving way to Jazz in the 1950’s, Swing and Big Band in the 1960’s, which led to Rock & Roll, finally culminating in Electronic Techno by the mid to late 80’s, & the X Factor in the last few years. A simple question: what next?

Whilst one cannot criticise shifting tastes and human expression, I feel somewhat aggrieved that the simple magical stylings, so rich in creativity appear largely absent from the Christmas soundscape as engrossed shoppers surround me with their shopping bags and festive mood. Whilst new and innovative styles of music, such as Rap, R & B, DubStep and Drum & Bass, make up our yearlong listening, why do they remain largely absent from our Christmas music? In particular, why have recording artists not been capitalising on this rather glaring omission?

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps not quite down withit, but I was rather excited when in 2003, the Darkness released a brilliant Christmas tune that nearly made the Christmas Number One. I’m certainly not criticising any of the 80’s music either, since those artists did an amazing job back at the time that has stood the test of nearly three decades and is still going strong. I am just trying to make a simple observation about the perennial lack of new melodies and innovation around this festive season. Also, it feels like there is a dilution and loss of the wonderful values and traditions that make Christmas a time for peace, love and togetherness. These are the values that create a great society and wonderful people. Whilst the underlying Christian traditions behind Christmas have been largely replaced with our society’s overemphasis on commercialisation, is there a direct correlation between the simple creativity of the seasoned professional musicians and its replacement with ‘X Factor’ like instant gratification of novices craving 15 minutes of fame? Perhaps I love a good simple melody which despite its simplicity, oozes style, warmth and creativity, and can be easily spawned on a lovely grand piano.

Have you listened to a good Christmas tune lately? What are your favourite Christmas memories or music? Please share your views and opinions in the Comments and from everyone at AMH Piano Tuning have a great Christmas and very best wishes for the Holiday & for 2016.

A Brief History Of Lewisham-WOW!

I am always fascinated by, and deeply interested in the history of places which I carry out my work of tuning pianos, restoration and repairs, and piano removals. I like to imagine what it might have been like back in time, as London which we know today developed from small villages or even a collection of properties. This is my favourite whistle stop historical account of Lewisham, a vibrant and important borough of London.

Lewisham began its humble Saxon beginnings as Oleofsa’s village. In 862 Lewisham was referred to as LIofshema Mearc, then as Lieuesham in 918 and as Levesham in the Doomsday Book In 1086. Abraham Colfe, Vicar of Lewisham (1610-1657), founded a grammar school, a primary school, and six almshouses for the inhabitants of Lewisham.

In 1816 Lewisham was described as a rural village on the banks of the Ravensbourne that could only be reached by a long coach ride. It’s hard to imagine anyone trying to cover the distance in a day without what TFL has provided us in terms of transportation these days.

In 1828 the Riverdale Mill was built and is the only one of the Ravensbourne mills still surviving today. The Riverdale Mill was initially a leather mill and then became a corn mill in the 18th century. The first railway through Lewisham, the North Kent Line to Dartford, opened in 1849 and the present Lewisham station opened in 1857. In 1897 the Lewisham Clock tower was built to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1897.

The Lewisham Street Market started in 1906 Lewisham town centre was devastated by a flying bomb in 1944, but recovered by the 1950’s. In 1977 the Lewisham Shopping Centre was built and in 1994 the High Street in the town centre was pedestrianised allowing a traffic-free street market and an open space.

Lewisham’s rich history has fed into the vibrant diverse town centre that it is today. The area is bordered by Catford, Deptford, Greenwich and Hither Green. It is a busy shopping district with a good mix of chain and independent stores and Lewisham Shopping Centre, which is one of the biggest in South East London, and Lewisham Market. The market is open seven days a week with the Monday to Saturday market selling mainly fruit, vegetables, fresh cut flowers and a small range of non-perishable goods. The Sunday market is a general market selling non-perishable goods with up to 60 stalls. There is also an annual programme of themed markets, which include, French, Polish, International and a market made up of local traders.

On Lee High Road there is an eclectic mix of independent shops which include an Italian barbers, an accordion shop, a Polish shop and fancy dress shop. At the Ladywell end of Lewisham High Street a pet store, a selection of beauty and hair dressing businesses and a wide selection of specialist food stores can be found.

Lewisham Borough’s famous residents, past and present include Danny Baker (Broadcaster), Kate Bush (singer/song-writer), James Callaghan (Labour Prime Minister), Sir James Clark-Ross (polar explorer), Big Jim Connell (socialist), Ernest Dowson (poet), Alfred Titch Freeman (cricketer), Gabrielle (singer/song-writer), Sir Isaac Hayward (politician), Glenda Jackson MP (politician & actress), David Jones (painter & poet), Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen (TV presenter), Spike Milligan (comedian & writer), Mica Paris (singer/song-writer), Sybil Pheonix MBE (community worker), Terry Waite (Archbishop’s Envoy), Max Wall (comedian) and Ian Wright (footballer), just to name a few. That seems to be a fairly illustrious, star studded list if I say so myself.

I really enjoy travelling throughout this part of the city, and sometimes wonder in hundreds of years time, how will people be living, and will there be pianos to tune.

Meanwhile, if you would like some attention for your piano here in 2015, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Give thanks to www.lewisham.towntalk.co.uk
Best,

Andy M Howard (AMH Pianos)
AEWVH Dip, MABPT, MIMIT
Fully Qualified & Insured Piano Tuner Technician
(Disclosure Barring Service) Checked

Office: 020 3685 5083
Mob: 07500 661581

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Reflections on Guy Fawkes Night

The nights are drawing in & the season for pyrotechnics has begun across Britain. Starting with Halloween, it gathers pace, culminating with a bang at the New Year. Revered highly by the ancient Greeks & worshipped by the Zoroastrians fire has fascinated man since the dawn of time. The old traditions of history, like the Hindu wedding ceremony & the Olympic torch, all depict a harmonious relation between fire & music. So as I wander throughout London, I can just imagine the City’s historical grandeur consisting of gaslights, architecture & beautiful music – perhaps some of the finest works ever created.

European classical music has been created to grip, captivate & provoke thought. Could the creative purity remain unadulterated, not confined to today’s chart topping convention! Today’s instrument definitions have changed whilst fire remains constant. The contrast intrigues me. Classical music is deceptively simple in execution & creation, despite the complexities of the stories & human emotions conveyed. With our shorter attention spans, craving more extravagant visual displays, is our aesthetic appreciation rising at the expense of our musical concentration?

London fireworks
London fireworks – courtesy: Timeout

Is our changing perception evolutionary or revolutionary? Was there an event that tipped the balance to make us resonate more with transverse light than with longitudinal sound waves? Is the trend reversible? If so then what would the catalyst be? Only a few days after Guy Fawkes Night, I leave you with these thought provoking questions. Meanwhile, I am hoping for a new, more fulfilling sound leading into 2016.

Have a melodious week ahead, from everyone at AMH Tuning Pianos.

In praise of Greenwich

Thought I would offer a little insight into some of the areas in which I tune pianos throughout London.

One of the Boroughs I enjoy working in is Greenwich. I love the history of the place, and the mix of districts within Greenwich: Abbey Wood, Blackheath, Charlton, Eltham, North Greenwich, Thamesmead, Westcombe Park, to name but a few!

Each of these areas has its own personality, offering great diversity and a colourful mix throughout the Borough of Greenwich.

I really enjoy the history of Eltham, what with the quintessentially English royal Palace, and I wish so much that I could travel back in time and see what life was like there in the Fifteenth Century!

Having moved to London recently, I make the most of what the city has on offer, and you will see me going to concerts at the 02. I have also been fortunate enough to have walked over the top of the Dome, and taken the cable car across the Thames.

I really enjoy the trip aboard the Thames Clipper along the riverbank into Westminster. I especially love this trip at night time, marvelling at all the amazing buildings and bridges lit up as you make your way to Westminster Palace.

My favourite sights include St Paul’s cathedral, the amazing Shard at London Bridge, and Tower Bridge at night time. It was fascinating to discover that Tower Bridge is classed as a ship, and has a captain manning the helm at all times.

The reason I’m writing this blog about Greenwich is chiefly the result of my time spent exploring the Borough following my recent relocation to London.

Time is such an interesting concept, and I guess the Borough of Greenwich is the modern day focal point of time, “the Prime Meridian Line”.

I have so much more to say about the Borough, what with music and entertainment over the years, but for now, it is time for me to go!