Polishookpiano from Hong Kong


Mark Polishook — Polishookpiano

For a variety of reasons the Polishookpiano blog has been quiet. But that’s going to change beginning with this post. Expect regular Polishookpiano blogs posts with content of interest for pianists. Moreover, if there’s something you’d like me to write about or otherwise address, just let me know. Drop me an email or leave a comment.

Teaching and Polishookpiano

Polishookpiano, my teaching studio, has been quietly growing. I work with two groups of students. One group is through the miracles of Skype and Facetime, around the world. The other group visits me and my studio in Leicester.

Polishookpiano has been everywhere

Well, not entirely true. Some last frontiers include the International Space Station and Antarctica. In any case …

I wrote about my Skype experience here—all details of how, why, what, and when are there. To paraphrase, I’ve had Skype days where I began in Iran, went to Australia, and then visited America to lead a group class on harmony. Sometimes visits have only been as far as London or France.

I’ve been to Hong Kong, India, and South Africa. In my Skype-induced I’ve been everywhere state-of-mind I feel a little like Hank Snow, hence the subtitle above. Although Hank Snow had the tougher schedule—no doubt about that.

Actually, as I write this I’m in Hong Kong rather than my home base of Leicester in the UK. But that’s part of a different story for future posts.

Polishookpiano in Leicestershire

In Leicestershire, I’ve been working with a diverse and talented group of students whom I feel fortunate to have met. Many of them have taken amazing strides in their pianism, some very serious and tangible Giant Steps so to speak.

Example of such steps are acquiring the technique needed to play a new piece, growing more comfortable with the the piano and pianism—a huge and amazing step for some, and acquiring a swing feel in jazz.

Or connecting gamelan to an interesting chord that Jaki Byard introduced to all of his students, which was, in the left hand C, E, G, B and in the right hand, D, F#, A, and C#.

Method? No method?

Whether on Skype or in person I don’t teach from or with a set method. However, I do create a program of study that’s unique to every individual. What’s important is where everything student wants to go—each of them individually, as pianists and individuals.

If there’s one principle that I always hold to, it’s we will all of us practice what we like to practice. Our own goals are therefore the best goals.


If there are three things I look to impart when teaching, they’re

  1. play with an efficient, relaxed technique
  2. learn about and be aware of your own patterns of learning and build on and from them.
  3. playing the piano is a long game. Remain patient in the now while accumulating knowledge and experience that appears as if by magic in the future. It will appear if the now is solid.

What it comes down to is amazing gains are possible with time and reasonable expectations.

Concert @Chinese University of Hong Kong

I presented a solo piano concert last Friday, 9/12/16 followed by a master class on improvisation at The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The audience, mostly university students, was wonderful. So was the student team in the Cultural Management programme who set up and publicised the event.

The master class aftwards was fascinating for me and hopefully for the students who attended. We had a wonderful discussion about what I’d have to describe as style and idea. Even as I write that phrase, I recall and admit just how influential the music and teaching of Arnold Schoenberg has been for me.

That discussion included three intrepid pianists who did indeed shed style for idea as they played in the master class. That’s an interesting phrase—style and idea—because not only did it come from Schoenberg but perhaps John Cage, his student, picked it up from him?

Anyway, I was hoping to Livestream the performance on Facebook. But whether by someone’s choice or accident, it was impossible to get cellular service and and there was no wifi. In our digital times that might sound like a complaint. But it’s not!

No mobile service or internet access means no need to worry about errant phones, etc.—very old skool in that respect: an audience, a performer, an onstage instrument, and a concert.


And now I call upon the ideas or the style of John Cage?


Something new I relied on for thee concert was using the i-Ching to influence what and how I play. Did I mention the entire concert was improvised?

There’s nothing new about improvisation or applying the i-Ching in the world of music. It’s a practice John Cage used for many of his compositions. He wasn’t the first in that practice.

My path to the i-Ching for the last several years has been through an iPad app loaded with 6 or 7 translations. But I’m far from an experienced or sophisticated i-Ching user.

Best as I can tell, the point is to simply to use it. And I wanted to do something special for the concert that reflected my understanding of where I was.

Of course there are levels of knowledge and there are levels of knowledge and all kinds of way to build interpretations from the i-Ching commentaries. So that’s a large part of the art—figuring out an approach to the i-Ching, something with personal meaning.

It’s good reason therefore to use a few or several translations, in the sense that translation is never exact. At bests translation is a point of view where some things are emphasised, other things are downplayed, and some things are mentioned not at all.

Ask questions

Anyway I posed a few questions to the i-Ching about how to put the concert together. It gave me commentary—from the translations in the app. I proceeded from there.

Whether or not that’s ideal, I don’t know. But that was my process and it helped me. The thing with commentary is, it’s not the commentary itself that counts. Much more important is what we do with it.

To be absolutely clear, neither my iPad app more the i-Ching predict the future nor do they explain the present. But, as I’ve described, they do provide commentary on ideas that are worth thinking about.

Roli Blocks & ruler

To the piano for the concert I added a set of Roli blocks that controlled an app on my iPhone which in turn sent sound out through a Bluetooth speaker. The speaker went inside of the piano. Then I added the low-tech technology of a ruler into the mix—to go further inside of the piano to dampen strings of interest.

Mark Polishook playing at Chinese University of Hong Kong

Taking chances & the audience

Taking a chance is a good thing. With luck I’ll post some video in the near future on—well, where else but the Polishookpiano web site?—to show the results of my choices at the concert.

Should I be say choices rather than chances?

Between the fascinating texts of the i-Ching, the Roli Blocks with Bluetooth speaker inside the piano, a small metal ruler with which I coaxed sounds from the piano, and choice and chance, let it be said, with the aid of a FABULOUS AUDIENCE I pulled sonorities from the piano I might not have otherwise found.

One thing to mention one more time for emphasis: So much of the success of a concert is tied to the audience. It’s an arrangement of partnership between audience and performer.

That partnership has to be respected, honoured, and nurtured. Here I’m not waxing philosophical. Rather, I’ve seen and heard many fabulous musicians who do all just described in their own gracious ways.


I would be remiss, if I didn’t thank Anna Chan and Wenyan. They and their colleagues in the Cultural Management Programme very graciously and with much humour assisted and accommodated me in a million helpful ways.

What’s next

More upcoming events including a 3-day workshop in March at Jackdaws and a trip, also in March, to the US to give master classes and a concert at a university at which I once taught. And more thoughts coming about the piano with Roli Blocks, etc.


You may have noticed in the image at the beginning of the post I”m described as “British jazz pianist.” Well, I’ve lived in the UK for 6.5 years and my partner and I will apply for British citizenship in the coming year or so ….. So it’s an honour we look forward to…