Dr Casey Handmer‎ > ‎

Music

I've always enjoyed creating music. I've played trumpet, trombone, piano and voice in many ensembles of all kinds. At Caltech I sang with the Caltech Fluid Dynamics, and in 2014 we recorded an album, including my arrangement of Imagine Dragons' Radioactive. I taught myself piano as I became more interested in keyboard music. Ultimately I reached the point where my perception of my ability decreased faster than my ability could rise to compensate, so I've plateaued somewhat.

On a rainy Saturday morning there is nothing better than to sit at the piano and contend extravagantly with some Alkan rarity, a Godowsky gem or, for the exceedingly ambitious, a Sorabji. These are my three favourite composers (with Bach, Liszt etc not far behind) and it is they I like to play as well. Their music is not often performed because it's a lot harder than it sounds. Concert pianists generally optimise in the other direction, but for me the technical difficulty is immaterial. If you can play it at all, you aren't bothered by the technical issues. The musical difficulty, on the other hand, is what draws me back into it time and time again. Sorabji's writings on music are also terrific, if you can get your hands on them.
Atlantic City Convention Hall Organ Console

I also listen to music of all sorts. But the stuff in bad taste that (almost) noone else seems to like is mainly VERY late Romantic keyboard music which takes on a symphonic texture. Keyboard instruments are like poetry in that they work within some pretty fundamental constraints, however a number of visionary composers were able to write orchestral textures for just ten fingers and sometimes two feet. I include the French romantic organ tradition (Vierne, Dupre, Franck, etc) in this list, more for emotional than structural reasons.

There are a handful of performers alive today who play this sort of music. They include on piano Marc-Andre Hamelin and Jack Gibbons, and on organ Cameron Carpenter and Kevin Bowyer. Not coincidentally these four are also quite unusually for this era highly accomplished composers as well as performers.