Composer David Rakowski loves to write piano etudes. He’s created 100 of them. Etudes developed in the 19th century as short practice pieces. They help musicians focus on a technique or build strength or dexterity. Many -- like the etudes of Frederic Chopin -- were also beautiful.

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David has carried the tradition into the 21st century, writing etudes based on funk riffs and cell phone rings. And one of the pianists who helped him do it is Amy Briggs -- a Boulder-based musician who loves a challenge. She runs extreme distances in the mountains when she’s not performing or teaching.

Hear Amy play five of David Rakowski's etudes in the CPR Performance Studio: "Strident," "Cell Division," "Not," "Dorian Blue" and "Absofunkinlutely." And hear the story behind them in this episode of Centennial Sounds from CPR Classical and Colorado Public Radio.

Explore more from David Rakowski and Amy Briggs:

  • Watch Amy Briggs play “Schnozzage,” a David Rakowski etude that requires the pianist to play some notes with her nose.
  • See Amy Briggs and an ensemble that includes Eighth Blackbird and Third Coast Percussion play Steve Reich’s "Music for 18 Musicians" in Chicago’s Millennium Park.  

David Rakowski's etudes are published by, and available from, Edition Peters