47 episodes

In "Improvisations on the Ledge," award-winning composer-pianist Peter Saltzman searches for universal truths by stumbling upon them—both with words and music. The basic premise is simple: he improvises on the piano, then talks about what the music tells him. Then makes music about what the talking tells him. Then...well, it goes on like this. Droll, funny, dramatic, musical, short.

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Improvisations on The Ledge Salt Muse Inc.

    • Education
    • 5.0 • 20 Ratings

In "Improvisations on the Ledge," award-winning composer-pianist Peter Saltzman searches for universal truths by stumbling upon them—both with words and music. The basic premise is simple: he improvises on the piano, then talks about what the music tells him. Then makes music about what the talking tells him. Then...well, it goes on like this. Droll, funny, dramatic, musical, short.

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    Themes Alive: Musical Structure From a Single Note!

    Themes Alive: Musical Structure From a Single Note!

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    The moment a theme is stated, it wants to do something. What? Like all lifeforms, it wants to replicate, mutate, transform…become something. That something is musical structure.

    How we get from a single note to a theme (motif), to a full-blown musical structure (song, free improvisation, symphony) is seemingly a mystery. And yet it's not.

    Due to a naturally occurring acoustical phenomenon known as the overtone series, one note is not actually one note—there are in fact many notes vibrating above the single note (the fundamental) we think we're hearing exclusively.

    But consciously or not, we have an innate awareness of those other notes, the overtones that ring out from the fundamental. And that awareness, at some point in human history, led us to pluck those notes out of the air, string them together into themes.

    And then what did we do? We repeated those motifs, and they become something larger. First simple melodies. Then, as we repeated, we varied: shifted a pitch here, altered the rhythm there, played the motivic idea from another starting point in the scale.

    In no time (though nobody knows how many centuries or millennia "no time" took to unfold) we had the beginnings of musical structure.
    Music exists in time, evolves in time. As soon as you repeat something over time, and then vary it, you are effectively creating an incipient structure—whether you intend to or not.

    At some point in musical history, humans began to mean it—to order notes intentionally. But that intention always leads back to one note which has within it the potential to become all notes—themes, melodies, songs, and larger structures.

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    • 33 min
    The Theme Dream Machine

    The Theme Dream Machine

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    Musical themes seem to emerge from the sonic abyss almost by their own volition. But where do they come from?

    Are they elusive attempts to describe the moment? State of musical mind? Emotion translated into sound? Or are they just, as I discussed in the previous episode, a form of musical memory (and forgetting.)
    After working through this episode, I must admit that while the provenance of musical themes seems to be some combination of all of the above, in the end, they remain somewhat elusive. Melodic ghosts in the machine of our minds.

    What I do know is that musical themes want to emerge from the sonic abyss. Like everything else in the universe, order wants to emerge from chaos. This is how life happens. And music.
    Which leads me to my next episode: how do musical structures naturally emerge from themes?

    Music Performed or Referenced:

    Que Sera, Sera
    Fly Me to Moon
    Suite for Jazz Quartet Live (midroll and tag music): https://petersaltzman.bandcamp.com/album/tre-jazz-quartet-live-1999

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    Contact: info@petersaltzman.com

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    • 29 min
    The Many Layers of Musical Memory—and Forgetting (S3:E2)

    The Many Layers of Musical Memory—and Forgetting (S3:E2)

    "The Many Layers of Musical Memory—and Forgetting" is an episode about how listening to music, and performing it, are really acts of thematic memory—and forgetting.

    And sometimes the forgetting is part of the creative process. Or maybe it's just forgetting. In any case, I take a deep dive into the many layers of musical memory that go into improvising or composing. But also into the listener's experience of any given piece of music. There is the short-term memory of what happened earlier in a piece of music, but also the long-term, cultural memory that informs every performing/listening experience.

    And whether short or long term, there is plenty of forgetting involved...

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    Contact: info@petersaltzman.com

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    • 26 min
    Theme is the Theme (S3:E1)

    Theme is the Theme (S3:E1)

    After an extended layoff, I've decided to get back to Improvisations On the Ledge by sticking to the theme—literally. The entire season—including this episode—is devoted to musical theme: how we create, perceive it, and make music out of it.

    In the pilot episode for season three, I randomly stumble upon a couple of themes, including "My Funny Valentine" and "Money, Money, Money", then proceed to create a show out of them.

    Along the way, I delve into what a "theme" is in musical terms. Is it like the theme of a story? Yes and no. In music, themes, as I discover in this episode, are far more fungible than their literary or dramatic counterpoints. They can magically transform into other themes; themes can generate new themes; musical elements that don't seem on the surface to be thematic can become so by their repeated use.

    In short, just about any sonic event can become thematic. This is what makes music special.
    As we'll find out in season three!

    Music Mentioned

    My Funny Valentine
    Money, Money, Money, Money


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    Podcast Home Page
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    Bandcamp Page
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    Peter Saltzman Website
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    Contact: info@petersaltzman.com

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    • 26 min
    Rearview Mirror

    Rearview Mirror

    Using jazz educator David Bloom's metaphor, musicians need to look in the rearview mirror and remember the theme if they wish to move forward. But when you look back, you are not just remembering what you played at the beginning of an improvisation—you're remembering all of that music that got you to the point of even being able to look back in the first place.

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    • 40 min
    Planned Chance

    Planned Chance

    My intent was to dive into Part 2 of my “End of Melody Episode,“ but by planned chance, I rolled the dice and came up with something completely different. Unplanned, but fated to be this way? Possibly.

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    • 19 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
20 Ratings

20 Ratings

Kenneth Acoff, Jr. ,

Creative Genius!

Peter is a master at what he does. I absolutely look forward to each episode and how he translates music into life. What a delightful listen every single time!

Sir Swizzle Stick ,

I tried it... I liked it!

If you like music, wonder how it comes about, where’s it’s from, but can’t play a note of any of it... but still want to know the origins of any type of music then this will be of interest to you. Thank you Mr Saltzman for giving me something very inspirational to listen to across the many long road miles of the West and Air Miles of the Sky. Lovely!

Dame Ethel ,

WOW! Not at musician but this is fascinating

I stumbled on this podcast not certain what it was and I don’t play any instruments. You’re inside the head of this awesome pianist who can riff, both musically and verbally, with such ease. I’ve learned so much about music’s elements and the player/composers relationship to the work. A unique podcast that’s showing me new ways to listen to all the music I love.

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