Violinist.com members may keep personal journals on the website. Violinist.com's editor selects the best entries for the column below. Links to all other recent blog posts may be found in the column on the right.
By The Weekend Vote
March 24, 2013 17:23
I find that an audience enjoys hearing about my fiddle, as much as I enjoy telling them about it. It's about 200 years old, so I like speculating that maybe the piece I'm about to play (if it's an old classic) is something that was played on the fiddle before I was even born!
People seemed equally curious about my 20th c. violin as well; as it was made in Montana, had some amber in the varnish, etc. I actually knew much more about it, because the maker was living.
From what century is your primary fiddle? (Remember, if it was made in 1950, it's a 20th-century violin, if it was made in 1789, it's an 18th century violin, etc.)
By Bram Heemskerk
March 24, 2013 10:49
2 pieces of Ysaye + Wieniawski with both piano and orchestra accompaniment.
By Cesar AViles
March 24, 2013 05:20
If you haven’t heard the piece please YouTube it, you’ll love it. The Lark Ascending is a short piece for violin and orchestra written by the master of masters Ralph Vaughan Williams.
I personally had a great time with this work. The first time I listened to the work I knew I had to learn it. Soon after, I had the opportunity to perform it with orchestra, but it was not until the following year that The Lark Ascending became my piece.
Grad school started and I re-learned it and competed with it getting second place and the chance to play it once again with orchestra. At the moment I felt I was the perfect medium for it, like I knew how to express what the composer had to say. I felt The Lark.
The piece got me various gigs as well. I was known as the Lark guy. Every time the name of the piece popped out of somewhere my name usually followed (in the area where I was studying, of course). I played it in churches, private parties, funerals and concert halls. With orchestra, with piano, without piano (solo violin), with reductions. In the end, I owned it.
From all these wonderful experiences with The Lark Ascending, there was one that captivated and really gave me something unique. And it was soon after the competition, where I found out that someone was looking for a violinist to perform the Lark. The piece was still fresh in my head. It turned out that a very special lady from the school administration was looking specifically for The Lark Ascending. Her relative, who recently passed away, loved this particular violin piece and considered it among his favorites.
It was an honor.
Vaughan William’s piece and its subtle mood can take your emotions through a peaceful journey. It’s a work of art that can touch anyone's soul in a matter of seconds. And for this particular occasion, the music was going to bring just the perfect atmosphere. One that invokes reflection and peacefulness.
That day at the funeral I played The Lark. The family expressed their gratitude and friends, as usual, came to me saying how the music had touched them.
I felt that as I played, every single note was heard by the people there. But not only heard, it was also felt with tenderness. Everybody was listening and feeling.
What else can a musician ask?
If you think about it, we musicians practice tons of hours to “impress people”. We want to hear them say good thing about our performance. We give our best and try to touch them, change them somehow.
That day I changed more people than I would’ve in any concert hall.
Think about it.
Of course, the circumstances helped the meaning of the piece—but either way, I made a positive impact and achieved my objective as a musician.
When I was leaving I invited them to the “real performance”. The one with orchestra and in a concert hall.
You can imagine! They said, “Oh, we’ll be there”.
After playing the “real performance” I achieved another moment of fantasy with the piece—but I’m sure I didn’t change as many people as I changed in the funeral—and that is to be expected.
At the end of the concert, the lady came to me with her sister. Very consumed with the music they expressed their feelings and how they really connected with my performance.
The Lark Ascending changed my life in many different ways—but that performance at the funeral made me feel complete as a classical musician, as an interpreter and as a person.
Moments like that make you realize the huge power of music and how lucky you are to be in this profession.
If you never heard it I recommend/like Hilary Hahn's interpretation.
If I were to describe this piece I would say: It’s the aura of the piece, the beginning, the cadenzas, the harmonies. The piece it’s so unique I am proud to have interpreted it in so many different ways.
If you have any feelings or want to share any experiences please leave a comment and/or follow me at Tips for Classical Musicians.
By Kim Vawter
March 23, 2013 14:59
I got the book "The Violin a Social History..." by David Schoenbaum yesterday. It is hard not to skip around and skim the index first. I have dutifully read the Acknowledgement, Introduction and am 1/3 of the way through Book One: Making it."
By Nate Robinson
March 23, 2013 12:59
This is a 1990 recital/lecture Fodor gave at a university in Hawaii. The Paganini Moses is especially mind blowing at 29:00 in. Lots of great stuff, I hope you like it!
By Zlata Brouwer
March 23, 2013 01:28
Even though there is an overload of information and offers on the internet, lots of people find it very difficult to find themselves a payable and playable violin, viola or cello. Certainly when it's your first instrument and you are not very experienced with bowed instruments, it seems like a big leap to select your first musical friend.
I have made a video series to make it easier for you. In this video series I compare a € 40 violin to a € 499 violin, explain the difference and give you tips to select your ideal instrument yourself.
In this video I explain how to look at common characteristics given on the internet in instrument descriptions (wood types, massive or not massive etc). This video is all about the body of the violin, viola or cello.
I hope this video is useful to you. If yes, please leave a comment below!
Have a beautiful musical weekend!
By Kate Little
March 22, 2013 21:57
Once upon a time, a very, very long time ago, before you could compose an essay, before you could write a sentence, before you could read a book, before you could speak a word, before you could babble sounds, before you could really even vocalize, other than cry, a face would appear in front of you with a high, melodic voice cooing and oohing pleasantly. This was probably your mother.
Attracted by the sound, you would watch her intently, and as your eyes learned to bring her face into focus, unconsciously your lips began to imitate the motions in her face. And even when she disappeared, you would continue to smoosh and moosh about, gradually increasing your range of facial motion, as well as control over it. The same process with vocal sounds also occurred. Imitating and experimenting, you would try out sounds, seeing what response they brought. With time the sounds evolved into recognizable syllables, then words, then phrases and sentences and on and on. Layer upon layer of skills built up over the years until you could indeed read a book and compose an essay.
I emulate this process of language acquisition as I practice and learn to play violin. Rather than start with printed music and attempts to learn a tune, I begin every practice working on the most fundamental aspect possible: creating an alluring sound by bowing open strings with smooth, even motions. Building up through short and long bows, legato and martele strokes, soft and loud dynamic, single and double stops, tip and frog string crossings, I experiment my way through every possible kind of bow stroke that I can imagine, imitating the violin sounds I hear in concerts, working to develop even, reliable, ringing tones that could carry a song.
After a while, I add slow simple finger patterns to the process, concurrently working to maintain the quality of sound developed on the open strings. The patterns evolve into a scale, and then to a scale with rhythms. At which time, after about two hours of foundational practice, I am ready to begin working on phrases of a melody, the most recently assigned piece.
Is this process tiresome? Boring? If I think like an infant, no, it is not. Instead, it is experiential and rewarding. It leads to resonant tone created with reliable technique: timber and hue that can be kneaded into a piece from the beginning, rather than learning the notes and then trying to get them to sound pretty.
I like to learn this way: beginning each practice as elementally as possible, and slowly building up to more and more complex tasks. These are the lessons I like to remember from infancy and apply to daily violin practice: start with the basics; imitate and experiment; layer the tasks.
March 22, 2013 19:35
I do not have a recording label or professional management, but I would like to have my own website to increase awareness of my existence and give myself a more professional image. Does anybody have suggestions as to people that could manage a website for a professional violinist and teacher for fairly cheap? I appreciate any and all positive feedback. Thanks!Tweet
By Laurie Niles
March 22, 2013 13:40
Who knew that violin makers could be so collegial and cooperative?
Sure, they spend long hours alone at the bench, engaged in the solitary and painstaking work of carving a scroll, planing the plates of a fiddle or laying purfling along its curvy perimeter. But when they get together? These people can collaborate! Case in point: Some 50 luthiers worked together to make a copy of the 1704 Betts Stradivari. This spring, their copy, completed in 2011 at Oberlin College, will join the original in the Library of Congress' historical instrument collection in Washington D.C., thanks to a donation by William and Judy Sloan of Los Angeles.
The interior of the 2011 Betts copy, "Stradivarius Oberlinenfis," is signed along the ribs by some 50 luthiers who made it.
How did a group of violin makers -- historically known for guarding their secrets, cheating their rivals and working in isolation -- undergo such a change in professional culture?
It has to do with the Violin Society of America's (VSA) summer workshop at Oberlin College, an annual event that has attracted violin makers, and more recently, bow makers, from some 50 countries around the world since 1986.
"It has come a long way," said luthier Christopher Germain, who has run the program since 1997. "I ask that for two weeks during the year, everyone tries to have a spirit of sharing, to be nice and friendly to your competitors. Then the other 50 weeks, you can go back to normal!"
"Violinmakers, bowmakers -- a lot of us work very independently, and we need to get feedback and continue to grow professionally," Germain said. "For hundreds of years, makers very jealously guarded these secrets. As a result, the standard of the work didn't improve. This (kind of openness and sharing) is more of an American view, not so Euro-centric. Everybody has specific information and knowledge, and if everybody shares what they know with the rest of the group, that just raises the standard of our craft that much higher. That's really what Oberlin is all about."
Every summer for two weeks, the luthiers work on a special project or theme, which serves as the focus that unites the group on a daily basis. For the last few years, the project has been to replicate the Betts Strad.
"We wanted to find one of the finest examples of Stradivari's work, and as you can imagine, most of the very best examples are not in the hands of musicians; they're in the museum, and some are privately held," Germain said. "In order to get something of that caliber -- one of the 10 finest Strads in the world -- we reached out to the Library of Congress," which granted the VSA permission to take out the Betts. The VSA had worked with the Library of Congress before, on a show called The American Violin in 2006, "so there was some history of working with the Library of Congress."
The Betts' little two-week vacation to Oberlin, Ohio in 2011 was actually a very big deal: the violin came with armed guards, a special vault and security -- "and everybody wore white gloves," Germain said. "We made sure everything was as carefully kept and done as possible. We locked it up at night, and took accurate measurements."
Radiologist Steve Sirr joined the group, to study the Strad. "He's been doing CT scans of stringed instruments for about 20 years now, and that's an art in itself," Germain said. "You can't just take a violin, do a CT scan and expect good results. You have to know how to set the controls and to get it calibrated correctly so that you can actually get an accurate picture."
The CT scans gave the violin makers a whole new window into Stradivari's work. "Through the CT scan, we're able to see stuff that nobody had ever known before," Germain said. "You can get the density of the wood: the top plate, the back plate. For instance, we learned that the top of the Betts Stradivari was a very dense piece of wood, which you would never expect, as a violin maker. We generally look for lightweight but strong tops, not heavy ones. So we learned from that."
They also learned that even Stradivari's work was not completely perfect. "You expected Stradivari was a meticulous craftsman and never made any mistakes, but even Stradivari (made mistakes) -- the purfling didn't always go down to the bottom of the channel, and there were air gaps and glue -- you could never see any of this stuff without the aid of technology," Germain said.
Their mission was to use traditional crafts, aided by the most modern technology, and make two instruments: one copy that made major use of modern technology; and another copy using all traditional methods. They used the modern method first to create the now-complete instrument that is being donated to the Library of Congress.
"That was made by a process where we took the CT scan information, digitized it, and had the parts reproduced on a CNC machine," Germain said. "That got us to a very close dimension, and then we finished all that work by hand."
Wait, back up, a "what" machine?
"CNC stands for Computer Numerical Control, and they're very commonly used in industry now. You've probably heard the term 3D printing. It's similar to that, where you can take a scan of an object and, based upon that scan, you can digitize it then have the machine reproduce the shape, quite accurately. So we started with that for the first project and finished that two years ago in the white. Then last summer two members of the group, Jeff Phillips with Antoine Nédélec, did the varnish work and we set it up."
William and Judy Sloan bought the instrument to donate to the Library of Congress, and the proceeds will go to the Oberlin program, to be used for future projects.
Left, Dr. William Sloan holds the 1704 Betts Stradivari; right, Christopher Germain holds the 2011 Oberlin copy
How did the instrument actually sound? "It sounded terrific," Germain said. "I would say that instrument was extremely successful in every regard: tonally, aesthetically -- it was quite gratifying."
If you are curious, though, both instruments will be played at a special event
By Lora Staples
March 22, 2013 12:33
Do you suffer from performance anxiety? Have you wondered about taking beta blockers for stage fright? Do you wish you could perform as well as you play in your practice room?
Dr. Noa Kageyama is a Juilliard-trained violinist who, due to a brush with fate, decided to pursue his doctorate in psychology with an emphasis in performance anxiety. What is exciting about Dr. Kageyama is that he is able to combine first-hand experience as a performer with his training and expertise as a psychologist, giving him an informed approach in helping other performers.
He has a blog, bulletproofmusician.com, which has extremely thought-provoking articles on overcoming those demons. I spoke with him about stage fright, how to overcome it, and also something about a raisin. Check it out!
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