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Mendy Smith

Internal Source for Expression

December 18, 2007 at 5:36 AM

Karen's latest discussion thread on internalizing dynamics got me really thinking about how I'm approaching Bruch's Romanze. Not from a technical sense (shifting exercises mostly), but from an expressive sense. I've been struggling with some of the finer aspects of applying other techniques to make this piece "to cry for".

Tonight, I sat down with the music and asked myself, what story does this piece tell. Well, it is about LOVE of course (hence the title), but what about it? The piece isn't sappy all the way through, there are moments that make me feel angry, wistful, and those that make my heart skip a beat. It is about the phases of a romance or love that we have all gone through at least once in our lives. That is when I realized that I need to really internalize this piece so that through it I can express my story of love. After relating my story of love, then trying the piece again with the story in my mind, I played it again. Everything started falling in place (with a few technical difficulties).

So here is my Romanze Story:

(Part 1) Three years ago while overseas I met someone and fell deeply in love. Though our cultures and lifestyles were dramatically different, we shared a common love of music, and we made music together - all types from classical, rock, hip-hop, and so on. This was when I explored playing some of the Bach Suites on my viola with an amp, wah-wah (VanHalen effect), a drummer and bass guitar (anyone remember Hooked on Bach?). We explored the back country and I had the most amazing, idyllic and blissful time of my life.

(Part 2) Then, my company told me that my contract was to be cut short and I was being sent back to the US. I was devastated! I knew then (though I tried to deny it), that we would be separated in a permanent way. We started the process of getting him a visa while preparing my return to the US in a mere 2 weeks. We made the most of the time left that we had together knowing we would most likely not see each other for at least 1-2 years.

(Part 3) I had a few arguments with my family about our ideas for remaining toghether. Some of those arguments made me so angry. Why couldn't everyone understand why we were so determined to do what was needed to stay together!

The day of my return to the US was the most heart-wrenching, saying goodbye. We wanted to stay together, but circumstances outside of our control made us separate. I cried for most of the fight back (2 hrs to KL, 5 hrs to HK, 13 hours to the US). Once back in the US, we spoke of the phone regularly while the visa request was processed. Finally the day came, the visa was denied.

(Part 4) I held on to a hope that there was another way for us to get back together again, but those options had a slim chance of succeeding. Two years later, we decided that we needed to accept the situation and move on. Our families were wiser than we were at the time about what we were to face trying to be back together again. The financial and emotional toll it would take on us were just too high.

I have many fond and cherished memories of those years in Malaysia that I will hold on to and try to express through my music.

The piece ends on a high A at ppp dim...


(If you play viola and have this sheet music, each "Part" refers to a "Page" of the piece.)

From Albert Justice
Posted on December 18, 2007 at 5:41 AM
Mendy!!!! That is exactly it!!!! Sheesh--I'd like to hear you play That.
From Mendy Smith
Posted on December 18, 2007 at 5:47 AM
Albert - Re-read it again, I made a few edits....

I did record this. When I got to part 3, I was so angry all over again that the chords and 32nd note runs had my fingers tripping over themselves. I will have to work on controlling those emotions somewhat :)

I'll be working on this for the next few weeks and have it recorded at the competition. If I'm not embarrassed by it, I'll post it.

From Albert Justice
Posted on December 18, 2007 at 7:57 AM
If you feel strongly about it, you should continue working on it as you pick your next repertoire--for a long long time.

I did that with Spanish Eyes, a standard, on piano, and I had that thing to a level....

And I had taught myself some Schubert from his four Impromptus that I was getting there, but it's been a long long time...

And (sorry to talk about piano so much), but the Slow Movement from the Pathetique Sonata has to be one the richest, juciest, effervescent, 'ownable' pieces ever written.

Jeez--no ,there's more-- Dang, you got me remembering.

R&B duets,--whew... I hear ya.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on December 19, 2007 at 11:44 AM
That is very brave of you to play something with that much of yourself in it for a competition. Ideally, that's how I would like to approach music, too, with all the joy and pain of life exposed and shared with the audience. I'm sure sharing this will make your playing even better than it was before.

But somehow I don't think I could do that myself as part of a competition--I'd become too emotionally invested, and not in a good way. It would make winning too important and the prospect of losing too scary/painful.

I really admire the courage with which you've taken this step!

From Mendy Smith
Posted on December 20, 2007 at 4:00 AM
Karen - I made this change in approach because my music was, well, so mechanical. It had no life to it. That was when I realized that I wasn't exposing myself through my music. When I did - WOW!

Winning is a matter personal satisfaction and reaching a self-imposed goal. My career is not on the line with this competition. I have played once before with all my emotions literally on my shoulder for all to hear and I didn't die from it. My bow arm shook like a leaf, but under the circumstances the audience was moved anyway (grandpa's funeral).

So why not expose yourself (musically speaking ofcourse) and invest you emotions if you have nothing to loose from it? We have a limited time on this earth to share with others what gifts we have. It is only right to do so with everything that you have.

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