Eric Hirsh

pianist, composer, producer

Zenph website relaunch and live show

November 9, 2010 by Eric | 0 comments

Greetings all, I am back after another blog hiatus to bring you exciting news as the year accelerates to an end.  I have wonderful things to share from each of my musical endeavors and from Zenph Sound Innovations, where I am on the R&D team.

For starters, the new Zenph website has just launched, and I invite all of you to explore it.  We are debuting a new logo, a new color scheme, and refreshed content about our mission, our technology, samples of our music, and much more.  We also have a storefront for our albums and eventually our software products.  In a week or so, I will begin writing for the company blog with a string of posts about the effect of technology on “liveness” so please check back here for that launch date.  Zenph also has a super-awesome social media coordinator, so please get involved in discussion with our Facebook presence if that suits your fancy.

Secondly, do you remember when I co-wrote and co-produced a show at the Apollo Theater in Harlem?  Well, Zenph is proud to announce a second run of that show, “Art Tatum: Piano Starts Here” in Raleigh, NC this coming December.  We’ve revamped the show with a new cast and crew, and are presenting it in an intimate black box theater at the Progress Energy Center.  Check out the Zenph show page and Facebook for information and tickets.  You won’t want to miss this compelling historical narrative interleaved with exquisite live performances from Art Tatum himself.

Listen to a track from Silence Fiction, The Beast’s debut album

September 14, 2009 by Eric | 0 comments

Silence Fiction cover

I am thrilled to announce the release of The Beast’s self-produced debut album, Silence Fiction, on October 16th, 2009 with a killer release party at Duke Coffeehouse in Durham that same day.  Here is a link to the press release about the album.  I feel like I’m having my first baby (except that it’s a 4-way collaborative birthing process, and it did take nine months from rehearsing/tracking to mastering/album art).  Silence Fiction is my first experience co-producing and releasing a full-length album on a significant scale (indie budget, professional studios, robust sales plan, etc.) and as such I will post a few articles over the coming weeks reflecting on what I’ve learned in the process and what you can expect to hear when you purchase the album.

As a teaser, here is “Translation,” the lead single from Silence Fiction.  Featured on the track is my other major project, Orquesta GarDel.  Pierce’s lyrics are inspired by the true story of when he took Raphael Saadiq to see a GarDel show after his own concert at DPAC.  Methinks there are more hip hop/salsa collaborations in my future…

I hope you enjoy the track, let me know what you think!

Getting back in touch with the Earth: playing at Shakori Hills this weekend

April 15, 2009 by Eric | 0 comments

orquestra gardel

GarDel at Spring Shakori '08; photo credit Jeff Fowler

I feel like my life has been on fast forward with no pause to breathe over these past three weeks.  Upon returning from the Kennedy Center residency and concerts, I dove into rehearsals for Orquesta GarDel and The Beast,  founded and performed with a dream project of mine, a live electronica quartet (great first show, guys! let’s do it again soon!), as well as helped Zenph Studios finish up our third album (Rachmaninoff), annnnnd filed the dreaded income taxes.

But it is all worth it because this weekend is the Shakori Hills Grassroots Festival of Music and Dance.  Every time I come to this festival as a performer, I am energized by the positive, appreciative vibe of the attendees, campers, and volunteers.  Being surrounded by woods with no internet is also invigorating, of course.  This festival marks some firsts for me:

1. Orquesta GarDel will be unveiling an original song (one of many to come) as well as a re-vamped stage show (Thursday 10:45pm Dance Tent)

2. Not only will The Beast be playing (Saturday 5:20pm Meadow Stage), but also giving two workshops about harnessing the power of creativity through understanding the story of African-American music, as well as hosting a jam session for teenagers.  I am really looking forward to seeing who shows up and contributes to these experiences.

3. This is the first Beast show to feature a live horn section (featuring my great friends, Andy Kleindienst and Tim Smith, both also in GarDel).  I wrote the charts late last night, we rehearsed today, it really gives a new element to the show.

4. Lauren (my fiancée, I will do a separate post about how awesome and wonderful and amazing she is and how we are totally pumped that we’ve got a wedding date on the calendar) and I are camping overnight.  So long taxes, hello vegan food, campfires, ponchos, and hula hoopers!

Day and weekend passes are still available at the Shakori website.  Come find me and say hello!

Beast album and WUNC “The State of Things” this Friday!

September 10, 2008 by Eric | 0 comments

Hey all, this is a big week for The Beast.  I just spent six hours at The Kitchen Mastering with sonic wizard Brent Lambert yesterday, putting the final touches on our debut CD.  As a band, we’ve decided to eschew the traditional pattern of EP –> album for a variety of reasons.  Instead we are collecting our artistry and resources around a project entitled “In The Belly of the Beast.”  This will come in three installments (I like serial deliverables!) of our own music, plus intriguing graphic art by Durham’s own Gabriel Eng-Goetz.  The first chapter is called “Belly” and will be released this coming Thursday at a free show at the Broad Street Cafe in Durham.  Besides the band, the album features an all-start cast of North Carolina’s finest jazz and soul musicians, including Nnenna Freelon, YahZarah, Mark Wells, Scott Sawyer, the See and Harvest Gospel Choir, and the Orquesta GarDel horns.  Ridiculous, right?  I had a blast arranging for and recording with each of those artists.

I’m particularly excited for the next morning when we’ll be a featured interview on NPR/WUNC’s “The State of Things.”  We’ll be talking to Frank Stasio live and also performing live in the studio.  I’ve recorded interviews for Zenph to tape but never for live broadcast, so this will be a first for me.  I’m thrilled, but a little nervous of course.

The show is at Broad Street Cafe, 1116 Broad Street, in Durham, North Carolina.  It is free and starts around 10pm.  They have a new pizza oven and lots of beers on tap, albums will be only $5, I’d love to see you there!  I’ll soon post where you can get the album at local stores, and an e-tailer will be set up soon enough.  I’ll also post a track here on my site for your listening pleasure.

To tune into “The State of Things”, set your dial to 91.5 FM at 12pm Friday 9/12, or if you aren’t local catch the online stream here.

****UPDTATE 09/12/08 4:36pm****

The show went great!  Here is the link to download the mp3.

Coming home from New York

June 25, 2008 by Eric | 0 comments

Lauren and I stayed in town for a few days after the show load-out to decompress and catch up with long-lost friends. I’ve been sleeping and taking lesiurely strolls around the city, a welcome change of pace from the intensity of the previous weeks. Today we fly home, so I am taking a moment to look back on my return to the theatre world.

The show had a great run and John Q. Walker (Zenph founder) couldn’t be happier. For such a small software company to write, hire, design, promote, and produce a show and have a strong NYC opening in only four and a half months is quite a feat; I need to take a moment to be very proud of that.

On opening night I was approached by jazz pianist Phineas Newborn Jr’s widow and son, who were both very moved (even by the live playing of Art Tatum alone) and couldn’t wait for Zenph to bring Phineas back to the stage. Sunday’s show was buttoned with a ceremony where Zenph conducted the donation of Tatum’s estate by Geraldine (Tatum’s widow) to the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, which includes not only Tatum’s suits and Grammy, but also his Steinway piano!

This is the first time I’ve managed/produced such a large project, and it turned out I was more than capable (not without a requisite amount of anxiety). I was also happy to be a theatrical sound designer again, a hat I haven’t worn since college. Although I don’t feel destined for a career as a Broadway bigshot (too much inauthenticity), the real-life (and sometimes sobering) education I received while managing this show will certainly apply to many areas as I move forward in an entertainment industry career.

But now it’s time to put down the cell phone and the business cards and return to the practice room. Learning about music administration on your feet comes at the price of time to compose, arrange, and hone your craft. For the second half of this summer I will re-center myself, return all the way to my artistic roots (perhaps for the first time), figure out what it really is that I want out of an artistic life, and go from there.

I have been blogging about Zenph and Orquesta GarDel, and soon I will introduce you to The Beast, a hip hop/jazz/soul collaborative that I have been writing and performing with since last summer.  I’ve been longing to consistently rehearse and perform with a jazz trio, a project which might finally materialize in the next few weeks. I feel long overdue for my next round of original jazz compositions, I just need a vehicle to perform them.

When I read back on what I have just written, how can I not feel an extraordinary sense of gratitude for the people, gifts, and opportunities in life?

Thanks for all the support and well-wishes over the past few weeks, and stay tuned for some new developments! Downtown Durham will be a welcoming sight.