Charles D. Kinney
Live Piano Performances
Interlude In F# Minor
I wanted to write about 20 songs, a song for each of the major and minor notes of the chromatic scale. I wanted the songs to have a “nocturne” or night music type feel to them.
This song was the first. It was inspired by Chopin’s “Prelude No.4 in E minor” and Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. From Chopin I was inspired by the simple single note melody and the subtley shifting harmonies of that Prelude. From “Moonlight Sonata” the gently broken chords which shift beneath the melody.
I never wrote any other “Interludes”. I tried, but I could not seem to come up any other songs to go along with this one. I not really sure why. I think that perhaps at the time such an ambitious undertaking was beyond my composing skills at the time(I had only written four other songs).
I did eventually write 12 short songs with a “night music” type feel to them. I ended up calling it “By The Waters Edge” however.
Play the left hand broken chords softly and evenly, the harmony shifts subtlety in the broken chords so pedal cleanly at the change of each measure so as not to obscure it. the melody is a simple. Again, the key to this song lies in subtle shifts of harmony in the left hand.
Death Of A Humpback Whale
“Death Of A Humpback Whale” is another song from the “By The Waters Edge” collection. This is one of those 12 titles that my girlfriend had given me to write songs about. I liked the title and asked why she thought of it.
She said she’s always wanted to go on one of those tours where you can swim with whales. She had been fascinated by these majestic animals for many years and was saddened by the mistreatment of them by humans
The theme for “Death Of A Humpbacked Whale” is a simple melody in repeated notes with full, supporting harmonies in the right hand and deep octaves in the left hand. The song has a feeling of sadness yet I wanted to convey stateliness and power. I have always wanted to arrange this song for full orchestra, perhaps one day I will.
This song is a requiem, so play it with a stately heaviness. This song is slow but do not make it drag. I like to really dig into the left hand octaves a bit in the A section. The brief B section modulates to E major. The B section is like a ray of light amidst the darkness of the first section, so play it with a feeling of rising hope that ultimately gives way to the return of the dark in the A section.
A Peasant’s Lament
A Peasants Lament is one of those “middle of the night melodies” where I seemed to be dreaming about this melody. I honestly got up at about three o’clock in the the morning and worked it out at my piano.
At first this melody seemed so familier that I almost swore I had heard it somewhere before. When I was pretty sure I had not heard it before and that familier feeling must have come from remembering it from a dream, I worked out the middle contrasting section.
When I play A Peasants Lament and think about the melody, I wish I could say what really inspired the this song or where it came from. I have not written a song like it since and I’m not even sure I could if I tried. It’s a constant reminder to me that as a songwriter to never be too quick to dismiss a song idea, even if that idea seems odd or does not fit in to what I’ve done before. Also to not be overly-self critical musical inspiration can take you to wonderfully unexpected places if you let it.
When someone asks me to play one of my songs, A Peasants Lament is usually the one I’ll play. This song was inspired by classical music. So play it with a flair of a classical waltz. Keep the A section tempo brisk and strict except for a bit of decelarando at the end of each phrase. The B section should be played freely. Vary the speed and intensity of the left hand chords but do not overpower the melody.
As The Evening Falls
This song was inspired by a beautiful sunset at the beach one day. This song should be played adagio, it’s important not to rush. After each phrase, pause to let the sound carry a bit as hold down the pedal.
You’re now enjoying a relaxing evening lying on the beach with someone you love as you take in the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen. You would not rush the setting sun. You would wish time could slow down so you could enjoy it as long as possible.
This song is your sound-track to that scene. Do not hurry as you play it.
“The Gift” was one of my earliest compositions. I was reading a book on music theory while eating at a restaurant one evening and the man at the table next to me noticed and asked what instrument I played. I said “the piano”.
He said “me too!” He said that he played gospel and asked me what style I played, I paused and said “well…New Age I guess”.
He said “What’s that?” I said “Well it’s kind of you know, solo piano with a classical feel but with a more modern type of sound.” He said “Oh..ok, well I would love to hear it sometime.”
Some weeks later I played some of my music for him at his house on his beautiful 6 foot grand piano. He said that him and a childhood friend of his had been writing a play, and he had written a musical score for it. He said that he had been looking for a theme song for the play’s final resolution scene and he wanted something to contrast the gospel/jazz sound of the main score.
He wanted to know if I could write a theme to accompany the scene. I was like “Well I’ll try, I’ve never actually done anything like that.” After reading the script for the play and listening to the main score, the themes for “The Gift” began to develop.
The play was named “Blind Eyes Screaming Survival.” It was about a young girl growing up in the inner city trying to lift herself out of that life. The title “The Gift” refers to a special gift that her estranged father gives to her at the end of the play.
“The Gift” is a special song to me because it is the first song I ever wrote on a commission basis. It also brought one of my most important musical influences into my life: Ron Chappell, the person I met at the restaurant that evening.
Heart Of A Sailor
“Heart Of A Sailor” is part of a collection of 12 songs called “By The Waters Edge. Each song is inspired by the sea and it’s many moods. Most of the songs in that collection are brooding and a bit dark so for “Heart Of A Sailor” I wanted something brighter and more upbeat.
All the songs from “By The Waters Edge” started simply as titles given to me by girlfriend at the time who is a amateur writer.I was never good at giving titles to my songs, so I asked her if she could think of some short phrases about the sea and ocean that would make for good song titles. She came up close to a hundred!
So we sat down one evening and spent several hours reading over the titles and the feelings and emotions each title brought to mind. We narrowed it down to about twenty. Then I narrowed down to the 12 that seemed to “speak to me” the most. I took these 12 song titles and began to write music that the titles inspired.
“Heart Of A Sailor” was one of her picks and one of her favorites of those songs.
Inspired by the brave and hearty souls who are more at home at sea than on dry land. I wrote this song in the style of a celtic ballad so play it with a buoyant feel with a bounce to it.
This song is a bit demanding technically but worth it I believe. The biggest advice would be to plan your fingering as the melody skips and covers wide intervals. The B section especially will require careful attention to the fingering.
Imagine you’re on board one of those deep sea fishing boats full of activity and energy as they make their catch for the day. This song is the soundtrack as they go about their work.
Song For Tulisha
This song was my first complete composition. The start of my journey as a songwriter. I had been trying for some time to write solo piano songs for several years. I had some melodic ideas. I had some song bits, but could never seem to put together anything cohesive.
It seemed that suddenly that all the bits came together and this song was the result. 20 years later I still play this song often though I feel I have grown much musically since then.
It reminds me that when someone tells that they wished they could write music or play piano like I do, but they just don’t have the talent. I play this song for them and tell them that before I wrote this song, I didn’t have the “talent” to do this either.
Playing the piano and writing music is a skill that can be learned and a talent for it can be developed with time, patience and practice. I’m living proof of that!
Try to keep the left hand broken chords evenly played. Be sure to keep them in the background and emphasize the melody. Try to maintain a relaxed feel. Practice the left hand until you can play almost without thinking about the left hand. This will left you focus on the melody.
The Rain Inside
This piece is one of my more unusual songs. The song centers around a single repeated note (called an inverted pedal). The key here is play the chords which surround the pedal tone with breaking the rhythm.
The pedal tone should have a relaxed rhythm slightly speeding up and slowing down and getting louder and softer to mimic the ebb and flow of falling rain.
The top notes of the chords form a simple melody. This is very internal music