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Top BlogsBy Jonathan Hai
September 23, 2012 13:37
Post No. 22
There are lots of things I didn’t know about violins before my husband became a violin maker. One of the most bizarre of them is that sometimes violins, violas and cellos get tanned before they are varnished. Yes – tanned as in a tanning salon.
But let me take a step back and give you an update on where we are with the Quartet: the bodies (or "casse" in Italian) of all four instruments have been closed, which is an important and exciting step. But as Yonatan explained to me yesterday over dinner, "there are phases in the violin-making process, in which it's hard to see that real progress is made, but nonetheless a lot of work is required".
"OK", I thought to myself, "now he's beginning to sound like a Zen-Buddhist…" out loud I looked at him and said "say WHAT?".
"Well", he said, "for example, after I close the body of an instrument, it would seem that work on it is finished. But actually there is still a lot of work to be done on the finishing touches that really create the perfectly-flowing, curvy lines of the hand-made instrument. I redo the "sguscia" (the indented line above the purfling all around the instrument's contour), and shave very fine slivers off the instrument's borders, rounding them further and making them more symmetrical and perfect still". This, by the way, is not done with sandpaper – oh NO!! As I mentioned in an earlier post, sanding would scratch the surface of the instrument. So the entire, exact work of finishing the last details is done with a special, extremely sharp, gauge and with the scraper – one tenth of a millimeter (or less) at a time.
When the final touches on each instrument were completed, it went into the tanning closet. It's like this – Yonatan had built a special, perfectly light-proof closet in his workshop, and placed extremely powerful ultra-violet lights in it. He hangs each instrument perfectly in mid-air, so that the lights can tan it evenly all around. It takes a number of days, but after tanning like this, the instruments' wood acquires a beautiful golden color. This color will then serve as the background (or "ground") for the varnishing process.
The instruments were placed in the tanning closet one after the other from mid-August onwards - first the cello, then the viola, then the first-violin, and finally, today, the second-violin. If you have ever had the misfortune to be in Israel during that time of year, you know it's over 35 degrees Celsius most of the day, maybe dropping to a low of 30 at night (for all you Americans, that's between 100 and 85 Fahrenheit…) with the sun beating on you like a hammer. So when I was tanning in the summer heat with the kids on the beach, the instruments had the ultra-violet light to tan them :) Actually, this is exactly why the ultra-violet closet is used in the climate-controlled studio – the real sun around here is just too damn hot for the instruments. Boy, do I sympathize…
Cello and viola ready:
All four instruments prepared:
Pretty cool, ha?
September 23, 2012 11:34
I returned to my wife and dog in Pasadena last night, after a whirlwind week at the Artistworks studio in Napa, CA. We were able to film my whole curriculum for the Violin School during the 7 days in the studio, with the exception of 5 or 6 of the Dont and Kreutzer etudes. Sorry Jacob and Rodolphe! We were down to the last hour, with the bus ready to take me to the airport, and I was pleading, "I have to get a good take of Dont #1 at least!" The crew was great and kept my spirits up when my energy started to flag. They had to keep track of 3 cameras at all times, up to 5 for certain pieces, plus levels for the voice, violin and piano. They also had to keep my face powdered so that I looked a little less like I'd stepped out into the light of day for the first time in a month!
Here's a "behind-the scenes" video that co-founder Patricia Butler took on her iPhone during one of our takes. Here, pianist Hugh Sung (inventor of the Air Turn wireless pedal page-turning system, no less!) plays the part of the orchestra for Smetana's Bartered Bride Overture. He was a sport for putting together orchestral reductions for all 69 of our excerpts!
By Tyrone Wilkins
September 21, 2012 20:55
Tonight at my school we had a show called 'Broadway Night'. Students performed musical numbers and dances from their favorite musicals. Everyone did an amazing job but one performance stood out more than the others. My new friend Rachael sang 'Til I hear you sing' from 'Love Never Dies' Now I've heard some great voices in my life but something is different about hers. So smooth and connected. Every note,every word,every I eye closing moment...I felt it in my heart,and all over actually. I immediately thought of the musical possibilities,so many different emotions that can come from One. Single.Voice. Could it be possible to imitate a voice like hers on the violin? I know this is off from my normal posts but her performance was the most inspiring thing I've seen in a long time. I know she has a great future ahead of her and I'm really looking forward to working with her...possibly forming a group? Only time will tell,but her voice....is timeless.
By LUIS CLAUDIO MANFIO
September 21, 2012 16:47
I made these two small videos trying to demonstrate the "chattoyance" or "holographic effect".
As the light moves the flames in the varnish wood moves and "dances". This is known is "chattoyance" or "holographic effect", as seen in old Italian instruments, here can be seen in one of my violas.
By Corwin Slack
September 21, 2012 10:43
I went to the symphony last night. They started with Brahms Tragic Overture. It brought back a flood of memories. I recalled the first time I ever heard it. I remembered how I got the ticket, who gave me the ride, the drive home and much of the rest of the program 45 years ago with the Phoenix Symphony and conductor Guy Taylor. The memory of those two opening chords is still big and immediate.
Last night's performance was very good but I won't remember it. The German Requiem was also on the program . Also an excellent performance but I spent the time wishing for this sound here, that tempo there etc. etc.
The problem? I have heard these works so many times that it is hard to get the same level of enthusiasm I had those years ago when I owned a handful of LPs. I doubt I will follow through with deleting my tracks but I listen to recorded music less and less.
Even the greatest music cannot continue to excite when it is available on demand and played incessantly.
I resolve to make more live music and attend more live performances. I resolve to turn off the radio and the iPod more and more. If it isn't live it needs to be silent.
By The Weekend Vote
September 21, 2012 10:37
Thousands of sheets and books of violin music have finally buried Mrs. Laurie Niles alive in her studio. The situation became dire after she attempted to stuff her latest duet-book purchase from the music store into her ready-to-explode filing cabinet. The cabinet did indeed explode, which explains the books and music piled upon every possible surface in her studio, with Mrs. Niles cowering beneath.
* * *
It's only a slight exaggeration; there is NO MORE ROOM to stuff more music in my studio! No, I take that back. I still have several piles that haven't reached the ceiling; I probably could lay a few more volumes on top, provided I keep the balance and don't send everything swooshing to the floor.
The filing drawers that have accommodated my music for the last eight years have simply filled up. I like my system: a deeper-than-normal filing cabinet where I can mix books and large music, sitting upright, with hanging folders, in which I put those orchestra music practice copies and such. It can all go alphabetical by composer. Except that I've run out of room! At this point, I'm seriously considering commissioning a friend who is talented in carpentry to custom-make some file cabinets.
How do you organize your music? Please share your ideas! We can start with a little vote, to get the ball rolling:
By christian howes
September 19, 2012 12:39
Good musicians practice.
Great musicians practice better. And they gain an extra edge by using their time wisely outside the practice room.
Shedding in the practice room is important, but you can improve during "downtime" if you apply yourself in the right ways. Although I've used these tactics as a jazz violinist and jazz violin teacher, they're relevant for any musician:
-Practice on the Gig
Sometimes the gigs we play are boring and no one's paying attention. I like to take downtime moments on a throw-away gig to play in alternate positions, improvise, harmonize, and challenge myself in any way I can think of.
Record yourself every time you play. Later, while you're eating, traveling, or just chilling out, listen for tendencies in your playing you don't like that you can easily correct. Fix the things you can, whether it's intonation, rhythm, tone, phrasing, creativity, etc. Getting better at music isn't only an additive process. Eliminating bad habits is just as effective as adding to your skills; the key is in hearing what your bad habits are.
Years ago I decided that as long as I was making the commitment to teach my daughter, I might as well challenge myself during lessons. I tried accompanying her with my violin on everything. It was tricky because I needed to find ways to create the harmony, bass, and groove behind the melody.
We started with "Twinkle...," and on down the line of ALL the Suzuki tunes in books 1-8. We worked on jazz violin techniques and fiddle tunes. We'd make up songs from nothing, singing in the car, her turn then my turn, and so on.
Here are a couple videos with Camille and I performing duo recently at the Rocky Mountain Fiddle Camp. On one of the songs I use a loop pedal connected to my electric violin pickup (I strongly recommend the Yamaha VNP-1 violin pickup):
One of the videos features the Stevie Wonder tune, "Sir Duke," and the other one is "Dark Eyes":
Hours of teaching over the years have provided a cumulative opportunity for me to improve dramatically as a jazz violinist. I've used the same approach when teaching jazz violin and jazz cello students at the Berklee College of Music, during summer, fiddle camps, and traveling to give workshops for orchestra programs in schools around the world. My students learn to walk bass lines, articulate inner voices, compose counter-melodies, harmonize, strum, chop, etc., and they therefore feel ownership in the music. Since 2011, I've been including all of these teachings in video tutorials and worksheets on my online lessons site, "The Creative Strings Academy," where a few thousand string players worldwide have been digging into short, easy lessons.(Legendary Cajun fiddler Michael Ducet gives a video testimonial for my program at the bottom of this page)
I remember what it was like as a classical music student to feel "in the dark" about music before I changed my focus during practice and downtime. I was jealous of musicians who could express all the elements of a song. Now I enjoy music more and never find it boring. My aim in teaching or learning jazz violin is not necessarily about the "language" of jazz as much as it is about developing understanding, creativity, and ownership in music.
If you had a typical classical training like me, I'm guessing you may feel the same frustration I did. (Feel free to leave a comment below and let me know either way) I hope you'll try these ideas and let me know how they work for you.
And if you are seriously interested in overcoming these frustrations and transforming your musical experience, click the link here!
P.S. Here are MORE ways to practice while killing time:
-Sing stuff - try to sing all the parts of a song, or harmonize and improvise against recordings.
-Tap stuff out - practice interdependence tapping with multiple limbs, or tap with one hand against a recording, playing with subdivision groupings.
-Practice in the car - for violinists, you can practice pizzicato (guitar style) in the car, whether unaccompanied or with the radio. Sometimes in the tour bus I'll plug my headphones into my Yamaha Silent Electric Violin and use a guitar pick.
Here's that link again: http://creativestrings.christianhowes.com
What do you think? Leave a comment below, and feel free to share this!
By Jesús Fernández
September 19, 2012 03:03
Invented by Ethan Erwin at the age of 17 from Magnet Cove, Arkansas. Frees a violin player up to sing and play like a guitar player. Currently in product development for distribution through Glasser bows .
More info: An article from the River Valley and Ozark
By Terez Mertes
September 17, 2012 11:54
September, my birthday month, has its own inimitable flavor here in Northern California. There’s a golden tint to everything the warm afternoon sun touches. Morning and evening shadows have begun to lengthen, and night creeps in earlier and cooler. The Brahms Violin Concerto CD gets pulled out of my living room stash and placed in the car. I listen to my violin concertos seasonally, you see. Sibelius and Brahms and the various Bruchs until the chill and encroaching darkness of November bring out Beethoven, followed by Saint Saens.
Brahms comes to me this fall after a over-busy, vaguely unsettling summer (Von Dohnanyi, Bartók, Britten, Ravel, Debussy, Mahler). When I popped in my CD of Brahms’ Violin Concerto for the first time, ten days ago, a liquid sense of relief and pleasure washed over me like never before. Perhaps because summer tends to be the time I try and stretch my music tastes, beyond concertos, beyond the Late Romantics. In such close quarters with my thirteen-year-old son all summer long, to boot, the days and car drives incorporated much of his music, his teen boy preferences. Or perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve left the familiar world of a recently completed novel and am once again mining rough, unexplored terrain for new material.
Whatever. I only know that listening to the Brahms, a fierce tangle of emotions welled up in me and choked me. “I’ve missed you so much,” I wanted to cry out loud. I wanted to clutch at this perfect thing, roll around in it, breathing in every nuance and note. I wanted shut my eyes and freeze this moment of purity, of effortless pleasure. Since I was at the wheel of a moving vehicle, however, I opted to simply focus on driving. And listening.
I turn fifty today. I’d like to take the stance that “oh, it’s just a number” and “I feel no older than thirty-five,” but the truth is, I do feel this paradigm shift taking place in me. A waning of passion that has infused so many of my endeavors over the past decade. The understanding, now, that it might have been a finite amount of passion and energy, is sobering. Wrong word. A fifty-year old’s word. The thirty-year old in me is protesting, shouting, “no, no, this passion is what defines me and my writing, my efforts to play the violin. It’s me. I won’t give this up without a fight.”
Life, I’ve decided, is very tiring. I've developed a keener understanding of the finite nature of everything. I’ve lost loved ones. In our large, extended family, I am one of the younger ones, and there have been aging aunts and uncles who seem to be queuing up of late to take their turn at leaving this world. It’s sad. Draining. I hope the trend doesn’t continue. I hope many of them stay down here with us much longer. But of course it’s out of my hands, like so much of life.
The wonderful thing about classical music and the arts is how it can transcend rules and mortality and the grind of daily life. The Brahms comes to me, so timeless, ever magical. And if the past decade of writing and parenting has taken so much of my energy from me, leached much of the magic that youth carries with it, one thing it has given me is greater sensitivity and appreciation to music and art. Picking up nuance after nuance that had been waiting for the right time to speak to me. Sometimes the message revealed is that art is beautiful, timeless and transcendent. Other times, it’s a reminder to me that art can be fragile, as are the fires of creativity and life. Passion, happiness and pleasure are fleeting and you can’t clutch at them in your attempts to hold on to them. Instead you have to simply hold open the palm of your hand, let them come and go as they will.
I don’t particularly miss youth. The past harbors bumps and bruises I wouldn’t care to revisit. What I miss, though, is the feeling of newness, freshness, the abundance of new thoughts and feelings. Joining this online forum seven years ago exposed me to a thrilling new world and community. I’d log in constantly, tear through blogs and discussion threads, all so addictive, so interesting. I'd leap up afterward to go practice my violin, fired with enthusiasm. So much to learn, so many new thoughts and impressions for me to craft into words and essays. A blog a month. Where did the eager, ebullient words go? The hungry-to-learn musician?
I’ve missed you so much. That could apply to the flow of words, the Violinist.com community, the September violin concertos, the fire of enthusiasm for all things violin. And yet, here, today, is all of it again, resting on the open palm of my hand.
What a lovely fiftieth birthday gift.
© 2012 Terez Rose
By Laurie Niles
September 17, 2012 11:49
Happy Rosh Hashanah for the many Jewish friends among us, and to make it happier, this month Itzhak Perlman released a new recording of Jewish liturgical and traditional music, called Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul.
Perlman helped bring klezmer music to a broader audience when he recorded the soundtrack for the 1993 movie 'Schindler's List'. Ironically, perhaps, the music for "Schindler's List" was not from any kind of Jewish canon; it was written by movie music composer John Williams. To that, Perlman said in the video interview posted below, "I couldn't believe how authentic (Williams) got everything to sound." One might argue that it was Perlman who shot the music through with authenticity!
Photo by Akira Kinoshita
In any case, Perlman's latest project features traditional Jewish works, 10 tracks in all, in collaboration with Israeli-born Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, chamber orchestra and other klezmer musicians.
Perlman has said that his idea “was to do ‘Jewish comfort music’ – everything that I recognize from my childhood is in this program…There is so much history in this music. For me, every little musical groan or sob that happens is Jewish history. It makes you think.”
You can find out more about the album on Perlman's website.
Here is "Kol Nidrei" from Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul, with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot:
And for old times' sake: a live performance from 1995 of "Schindler's List Theme," with Itzhak Perlman playing and John Williams conducting.
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Confessions of a Former Suzuki Teacher by Pamela Wiley - May 2013
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