My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Making heads or tails out of Twitter

Photo by Lordnikon, from Wikipedia Commons
First I want to insert a brief explanation for why I'm writing all these posts about twitter.  It's pretty simple, really.  There are a few individuals in my life that I would really like to start using twitter, partly for selfish reasons but also because I think they'd really like it.  I think these dear people are scared and intimidated by the whole twitter thing, understandably so.  So to those friends and family members, this post is for you ;-)  

In my previous posts I have shared why I love twitter and how I started figuring it all out. In this post, I thought it would be helpful to share some other things about twitter that I have learned to help demystify the experience a bit more.  

Twitter terminology and symbols:
  • Follower – someone that is interested in your tweets
  • @ - the @ sign before a person’s name creates a link to their account. That particular tweet will show up in their “mentions” column which means they will easily see that you have mentioned them, are asking them a question or wanting to interact with them in a public way. Don’t want it to be public? Then Direct Message them (DM them.)
  • Mention – you actually don’t see this word very much but it’s there and it’s the name for when someone mentions another person in a tweet. Some people call them “shout-outs.”
  • DM – stands for Direct Message and is like a personal e-mail within twitter. Some twitterers do not respond to DMs because they don’t believe in DMs; they believe that twitter should be a public form of communication. I don’t feel this way, myself, but it’s good to know that others do and to be sensitive to that.
  • RT – stands for Retweet. People often retweet a tweet that they like and want their own followers to see. Sometimes I RT a tweet but opt to edit it so that I can add my own comment on to the original tweet. You can also RT a tweet when responding to a question from someone in order to cut down on the confusion on what you’re responding to. This can be tricky though because of the 140 character limit.
  • # - this is a hashtag. See the next point for an explanation of hashtags.
  • #FF – stands for Follow Friday. There is a tradition for folks to recommend twitterers to follow. Not everyone does this but it can certainly be nice to be mentioned in this way. If you choose to do a FF, it can be especially nice when doing so to mention why it is you recommend a certain person. It is also very encouraging to the person you’re recommending – a sort of affirmation that is very welcome in twitterville since politeness, courtesy, and encouragement are keys to unlocking twitter, at least in my neck of the woods.
  • #MM – Music Monday – Another tradition in twitterville. On Mondays, if someone wants to recommend some music to listen to, they often do it on Mondays, with the hashtag #MM.
  • Tweeps – a term used for people with whom you tweet; generally these are your followers and those you follow.

#s, aka “hashtags”
What’s a hashtag? They’re everywhere in twitterville so it’s good to know what they are. People use hashtags for at least two different purposes. They can be used as a sort of tag, to help folks keep track of a certain line of conversation. For instance, one day, a group of twitterers initiated a day long conversation in which conductors tweeted one another about various topics of interest and other folks, musicians and non-musicians, tweeted in questions for the conductors to respond to. The hashtag for this event was #askaconductor.

People also use hashtags as a form of humor, cleverness and commentary. It’s hard to explain, but keep your eyes open for them. People can be very wry with their hashtags and they can really be quite entertaining.

Etiquette (Tweetiquette)
At least among the tweeps I hang out with, the standard practice in twitterville is to be polite and generally to follow the golden rule. If someone mentions me or retweets one of my tweets, a simple “thank you” is the norm. If someone asks me a question and I can answer it, then I do that to the best of my ability. If I quote someone or mention a link or idea I got from someone else, I am sure to mention him or her in the tweet.

The importance of being honest
It is amazing how much one can learn about another through their tweets. It is pretty easy to figure out who is being themselves and who is trying to be someone they’re not. And what I’ve discovered is that people value honesty, transparency, humor, and genuineness.

Creating lists in twitter has been a lifesaver for me. As soon as I had more than 100 people that I was following I started creating different lists as a way to organize my timeline. I divided them by the obvious…pianists, writers/critics, instrumentalists, singers, etc…but I also created one list that is made up of the folks I find really wonderful to follow, for whatever reason. I go to the timeline created by these folks first.

It can also be helpful to look at other tweep’s lists in order to find interesting people to follow. For instance, if I see that someone has a list of pianists, I’ll sometimes look through that list to see if there’s anyone in there that I have missed.

Organizing it all
Twitter can become overwhelming pretty quickly. Early on I downloaded an application called “Tweetdeck” to help organize my twitter life. I’m definitely grateful for its existence and highly recommend it or something like it. There are some other applications out there that others use but I’m not an expert since I’m a tweetdeck junkie.

It can be quite easy to be consumed by twitter, especially when people start noticing you and when conversations start to become a normal activity in your twitter life. I’ve found it’s important to remember to relax and to not worry too much about tweeting mistakes. There are so many tweets tweeted each minute of the day that mistakes and foot-in-mouth situations flow in and out of the twitter timeline quite rapidly. And like I said, twitterville is a forgiving place. As long as I stay honest and carry out my twitter life, missteps are quickly forgotten. When I get overwhelmed, I simply back off for a while. A break now and then does wonders for me.

To read other posts on Twitter, check out:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What to do with this thing called Twitter

I've already written here about my slight addiction to Twitter and I got so many responses from people that either feel the same way or who are curious enough to want to give it all a try.  But I’ll never forget my first few days and weeks on Twitter. Well, ok, the first few months. I am the first to admit that Twitter isn’t the most intuitive form of social media, at least it wasn’t for me. I thought it might help if I write down a rough re-enactment of my very first encounter and to give folks a few directions to twitterville and what to do upon arrival.

Go to Easy enough.
Now what?
I have no earthly idea.
I see a stream of tweets, also known as a timeline, that makes absolutely no sense to me.
Uh huh.
Ah, I see a search box. I like search boxes.
I type in “classical music,” then enter.
Oh my. The timeline is now populated with tons and tons of tweets, some which seem to actually have something to do with classical music, some that don’t.
As I’m concentrating on the timeline, I see a message at the top of the timeline that says, “5 new tweets,” “8 new tweets,” “25 new tweets.”
You mean new tweets in general? Or new tweets about classical music? That can’t be.
I click on that constantly changing message and voila…25 new tweets…about classical music…pop up.
Oh my. I kind of wish it would stop popping up new numbers.

It was that moment that I remember thinking, this is amazing and really, really overwhelming. But I still didn’t know how to really make it all work.

I would say it took about 6 months for me to start to get the hang of it all. In an effort to encourage a few more folks who are intimidated by twitter to give it a go, here is how I proceeded in my adventure into twitterville.

Once I had a twitter account, the search box seemed like a nifty place to start. I think I started with searches like “piano,” “piano accompanying,” “piano collaborating,” “future of classical music”… After each search I glanced through the tweets, looking for interesting ones and when I found one, I clicked on the tweeter’s name to see their most recent tweets and to read their brief twitter bio. If they seemed interesting and relevant to me, I followed them, which meant that now, when I logged into twitter and looked at the twitter timeline, I would be spared the overwhelming mish-mash of tweets and only saw the tweets that had been most recently tweeted by the people I was interested in. It also meant that I could check out the folks that those I followed tweeted with. From there, it all started to snowball and it wasn’t long before I was following a large number of people who were very interesting and that offered me plenty of links to fascinating articles and videos to keep me busy for hours.

I think I could have continued in this way for quite some time but after a while, I found myself really wanting to enter into some dialogue, or at least to connect with some of the folks I was eavesdropping on. After chickening out several times, I finally gave it a go. I hit the reply symbol, typed in my comment, and pushed enter. That was terrifying. It really was but once it was done, my complete and utter fall into twitter mania ensued. It was all over

That’s not to say that I haven’t had my awkward moments in twitterville. Once I started actually interacting with others, putting my foot in my mouth, making comments that were completely misunderstood or that offended people, was inevitable but in time I learned that it was well worth that risk. I also began to tweet my own thoughts which sometimes elicited some sort of response from someone. And once that started happening, and people started learning who I am and what I’m all about, people started following me.

Wow. People actually care? People actually read my tweets?


Very, very cool.

I think I'll end this post here for now. Stay tuned and check back for another post on Twitter, with some of its terminology and for some tips that I've picked up along the way for making twitterland a wonderful place to be.

Until then, I hope to see you on in, where else? Twitterville!

To read another post on Twitter, check out:
Twitter is not just for the birds
Making heads or tails out of Twitter

Monday, January 10, 2011

Lace next to wrought-iron: Bach's E major Prelude & Fugue

Photo from Wikimedia Commons
There is something about J.S. Bach's E major Prelude and Fugue that gives me an incredible sense of peace and balance.  It might have something to do with the sunny, warm key of E major but I think it also has to do with the structures that Bach manages to build through his music.   In the prelude my ears can trace the thin, delicate strands of thread that intertwine throughout, weaving together what sounds to my ears like exquisite musical lacework.  In contrast, the fugue's main subject offers the sturdy sense of ornamental architecture offered by something like decorative wrought-iron work.  Individual voices still intertwine but in a sturdier, less fragile way.  

Photo taken by Jurgen Howaldt, from
Wikimedia Commons

Another quality about the fugue that I feel is quite unique and that seems modeled after an architectural style is the way that Bach takes his relatively simple, arch-like subject and proceeds to vary it in a number of ways throughout the middle section of the fugue.  Bach presents variations of the subject in other fugues as well but not to the extent that he does here.  After changing the rhythm and adding filler notes here and there the subject becomes almost undetectable, at least to my eyes and ears, yet underneath I still sense a feeling of order, of structure.  When the subject returns near the end, back in its original state, it feels as if the world is clicking back into place after being taken for a bit of an ornamental ride.

Lace. And wrought-iron.

Complete opposites in many ways, yet similar in that their strength and beauty come from the intricate, intertwining of some very basic elements.  And also similar in their ability to hypnotize my mind and to take me to a much more sensible world.  That is always a welcome place to be.   Why not join me?

So first, the lace:

And now the wrought-iron:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Re-living Schubert's "Winterreise" - live recording now on youtube!

I am very excited about this.  I just finished uploading the live recording of baritone David Dillard and I performing Schubert's Winterreise back in October.  At first, when I received the CD, I was as usual, hesitant to listen but I'm so glad I did because it has given me the opportunity to re-live the experience of performing this incredible song cycle.  There are some pieces that I am passionate about especially while I'm working on them but that later on, as the glow of the performance wears off, fade into just a memory.  Not so with Winterreise.  It continues to bring me to tears, tight throat and all.  I think for me, that's partially how I know that this is a key piece of music.  It is music that transcends the effect of music as entertainment and brings me some nugget of truth - that some things in life are better said through music than through words alone.  

I hope you enjoy these videos.  To listen just start with the first one that is showing here.  This is a playlist so it will proceed through the cycle without you having to do anything else.  (Amazing technology!) And if your computer is having a difficult time with this embedded version you can also go straight to this playlist in youtube.  Just click here.  I'd love to hear your impression of this song cycle as well so if any thoughts or emotions come to mind while listening, please don't hesitate to share them here.