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On Friday Aug 22, out of the blue, Maurice Ravel’s masterpiece “Bolero” entered my consciousness through the Third Ear.  The impact was so powerful that I felt compelled to play it right away. I even recorded that first rudimentary version (http://wp.me/p1jFeo-OP) even though I had never played this piece before. At least not in this lifetime.

Since that time, “Bolero” has gotten under my skin like a worm, or an obsession.  I keep hearing this music during all my waking hours.

“Bolero” was even with me when I moved that 250-pound bench from one hill to another (BENCH CHALLENGE: THE DAY “MISSION IMPOSSIBLE” BECAME REALITY).   And “Bolero” was playing the entire time I was hauling yesterday the heavy coconut palm fronds (SPIKELESS COCONUT HARVEST SAVES PALMS).

“Bolero” was also the lullaby that whisked me off to sleep every night this week. And it was the first thing I heard upon waking up every morning.  Ravel’s music has evolved to the point that I could hear every quarter note of every instrument in this richly orchestrated piece, usually played by symphonies with 100 or more instruments.IMG_2208

You can see my hand-scratched notes for my own orchestration in that shot – right.  I almost never do that kind of thing. I usually just play my music and improvise every time.  The only other time I did something like that was with the “Blue Danube” in May of last year.

In short, since that fateful Friday a week ago, I have been playing nothing but “Bolero.”

Today, I asked Elizabeth if she was getting sick of hearing “Bolero” over and over ago. She said she was not, that she was enjoying the music even more the longer she listened.  Indeed, music like that tends to grow on you.

“Blue Danube” and “Bolero” – Two Peas in a Pod?

The only other time a piece of music had possessed me so completely was last May in Arizona.  That’s when Johann Strauss’ “Blue Danube” also overpowered all other musical sounds. Until I finally recorded it at the end of June in Maui [you can also see and hear the Clavinova version of it at the end of this story].

As a result, out of the 35 music videos I made last year, the “Blue Danube” ended up my “song of 2013.” And it looks like “Bolero” may end up as my “song of 2014,” even though I have already made 32 music videos to-date this year.


“Bolero” Also Helped My Music  Composition Skills

Furthermore, “Bolero” also helped me learn a wonderful feature of the Clavinova. I did not have all the sheet music for this piece. So I played some of the parts by ear. But I still wanted to be able to write down these improvisations.

I tried doing it the old “pedestrian” way – by hand. But I found out I was quite rusty. And very slow, not having written any such music in probably five decades.

So I decided to explore the Clavinova technology. And lo and behold, with the help of some Yamaha advisors, I was able to not just to have Clavinova transcribe my playing into sheet music, but was also able to actually print it. So now I have it on paper, not just in the instrument’s memory. 🙂

Bob 8-30-14

So today, I realized that the only way to loosen the grip of “Bolero” on my consciousness is to record it. To get it out of my system. And this morning, I felt I was finally ready to do it again. This time properly –  as perfect as I can make it as this stage. Which means this is a full 9-minute orchestral version – 11 variations, 2 intermezzos and a grand finale.

This recording also includes some innovations that Ravel did not write.  One of them is the use of Tibetan Singing Bowls which join the symphony orchestra in the grand finale. But there are a couple of others that connoisseurs of this masterpiece will recognize.


“Bolero” with full orchestra and Tibetan singing bowls – recorded by ALTZAR on a Clavinova at the Rainbow Shower in Maui, Hawaii – a film by Bob Altzar Djurdjevic – Aug 31, 2014

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