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

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 Cold Blues of London Winters

MetOfficeLogo

It has been quite an eventful winter, both for AMH Pianos as well as for the UK. The Met Office, classifies seasons either based on the Astronomical shifting of the Earth’s axes, or on the meteorological shifting of the temperature patterns. The Astronomical shifts are fairly constant, which therefore, makes the temperature shift based seasons more interesting to study. Having recently seen a Flag of London – yes there is a flag belonging to the City of London, on a very cold and rainy day, I, like my fellow Londoners, could not wait for warmer times, brighter days and sweet sunshine.

FlagOfTheCityOfLondon

According to the Met Office, the end of the Winter is scheduled to be on the 29th of Feb. Now that we have passed Christmas, welcomed 2016 in Conventional, Orthodox and Chinese varieties, and even experienced the full force of love on Valentine’s Day, it is time for outdoor fun, be it picnics in Hyde Park, a trip to Kew Gardens, or even some shopping around Shepherd’s Bush. The longer days also mean more tourists, more running and more outdoor musical events. Yet, one cannot feel a tinge of sadness at the passing of perhaps the season that the UK is designed for.

LordsCricketGround St.JohnsWood

We celebrate the spring and summer in so many extravagant ways: most of our sports, school holidays, events such as the Chelsea Flower Show, the Proms, or the Notting Hill Carnival,are all geared to appreciate weather that Britain is just not programmed for. Whatever the weather men say, we are still a cold country, where we build snow figures, wear anoraks and carry umbrellas, long for a hot bath, whilst cuddling up in our warm duvets by the fire at night. Any one of these activities is quite easily referred to by our culture as creature comforts. Yet as people, there must be something missing in the bleak mid winter that the woolly jumpers, winter warmers and season of Santa Claus just doesn’t generate the same excitement.

SomeToolsNeededForPianoTuning

So as I walk with my tuning tools, I would spare one last thought for the wonderful, comfortable winter. I will do that extra yard of warm-up exercise, shield myself from that cold that one last time, and adorn my warm jumper with pride, while sparing a thought to the leap year day, when the seasonal blues end. I say to you oh glorious winter: thanks for the memories, and see you again soon!

Piano Tuning in the Magic Kingdom

On one of my regular Piano Tuning gigs, I passed through the barriers at what is now known as Kings Cross International. Nothing much unusual about this journey, since I use the station routinely.

However, in my day-to-day coverage across London, it does not even occur to me that close to the Disabled Access Point, our favourite friends Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione had boarded the Hogwarts Express. From the station’s interior, right along Euston Road, the magnificent Victorian infrustructure has many sights to admire, and includes plenty of locations where the various films have been shot. This is also the location where J.K. Rowling’s parents had first met.

Kings Cross St Pancras Station

Strangers walked past me, carrying goodies and even wearing hoodies, from the Harry Potter Shop, and I did wonder, if only for a moment, as to what it might have been like servicing instruments in the magic kingdom. No people! I am not talking about Harry Potter World, which you can actually get to from Kings Cross on the train. I meant all the places where the film locations exist, such as the real Diagon Alley near Temple, or the iconic Craven Street: the street that inspired Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (Cannon Street, or even the walk from the Lambeth Bridge to the Westminster Underground. Bringing the gift of music to so many, even for a brief moment, seemed full of mystery and intrigue, and who knew that London allows you so many chances to even go on a little treasure hunt without putting your hand in your pocket.

HarryPotterWorld

Now that the day of the London Marathon is approaching, it occurs to me, whether or not, I might be able to do a treasure run, whereby I could enjoy a popular trail whilst getting fit and ready at the same time. Where should I start? I mean, what would be the safest, most interesting route from, say Greenwich, which ends at the famous Sherlock Holmes Pub? Please let me know your ideas in the comments.

LondonMarathonFinishLine

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.

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!

The Christmas-filled Winter Tones

It’s the run up to Christmas and the streets of London have a busy feel around them. Everywhere you see happy shoppers, excited kids and equally excited grown men dressed up 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 summit 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. A simple question: what next?

Whilst one cannot criticise shifting tastes and human creativity, I feel somewhat aggrieved that the simple magical stylings, so rich in creativity appear largely absent from the Christmas soundscape as happy 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? More pertinently, why have recording artists not been capitalising on this rather glaring omission?

Call me old-fashioned, or perhaps not quite down with the kids, 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 two decades and still going strong. I am just trying to make a simple point about the perennial lack of new music and innovation around this joyous and festive time. Furthermore, 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. It’s the good 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 hammered out on a lovely grand piano.

Have you listened to a good Christmas tune lately? What are your favourite Christmas memories or melodies? 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.

http://www.itv.com/xfactor
Merry Christmas from AMH Pianos