October 2015

Why do I Music?

October 26, 2015 11:56

Before I begin with this post proper, I just wanted to say that my first term in college (with finals next week) is coming to a close. I've certainly had ups and downs all term what with stress and whatnot, and I've been grappling a little with the tone of my violin a little bit... It's improving, and I've been getting inspired to really work at it... But right now, while I'm at a high time, I just wanted to write this post to hopefully inspire both myself in the Future at a "low" and, of course, all of you reading! This will also be a post like a couple times I've posted in the past.

I think a question I have always internally asked myself is, "Why Music?". Throughout these past ten weeks at college, I've analyzed it, memorized it, played it, performed it, composed it, fell in love with it, hated it, shared it with friends... But I've never really questioned WHY I do any of it. Why am I in the Augustana Symphony Orchestra? Well, in rehearsal Monday and Thursday evenings, after warming up in a practice room, I sit down, open my case, get out my violin, and begin warming up on some of the music we've been given. When 7:30pm hits, we begin working, and I'm sometimes so enthralled with getting the notes right in my part I don't really listen to the other instruments. Sometimes, I do listen, and hear the gloriousness of harp glissandos and horn moments, as I've mentioned in previous posts. (Hopefully I can hear all of that at tonight's rehearsal!) I keep telling myself how amazing this is, that I am part of the violin section in a full symphony orchestra. This may be an opportunity I will not have as I get older. But the question still stands: why do I do it?

Well, playing music should be first and foremost something fun. Should it, though? I've certainly spent many times slamming the piano out of frustration I couldn't get something right, or needing to pause and wonder why my violin is squeaking and scratching - where I just need to take a breath and focus on relaxing my bow arm. However, in the end, when you get out into the concert hall, playing something you've worked on for months, or even with my recent composition premieres I've had throughout the year of 2015 - and I'm playing my "Minuet for Piano" tomorrow evening - you are proud of the work you've put into the music. I love discussing all sorts of music in Musicianship class, as well as orchestra, and being exposed to new types of music I've never thought of before (we're currently studying Reich and minimalism, which is very fascinating). It's fun to just sit and listen to music for me, or, like I did yesterday morning, just compose something new for three hours on my walk. That's what truly made me feel very happy about music. Not practicing my instruments, but composing and listening. And I'm sure we all have a completely different aspect of music that we like - some may love the acoustics side, and the mathematical edge to how music is put together, or how the sine waves function in sound, as I have been looking at graphs for my math class. But some may be the opposite of me - they love the process of putting a piece together in terms of practicing, and they enjoy trying to make every little nuance better. I know that for me, practicing is just another thing I roll with, but maybe, if I were to just truly LISTEN, to analyze exactly what went wrong in my piano-playing, to see what incorrect string-crossing I made to make the violin squeak, maybe I'd feel better.

I was reading a Web page for my math class, and it was talking about a physicist who looked through a microscope at how the particles in the wood of the top plate of the violin responded - and the particles were excited! Your violin wants to sing beautifully before you even take it out of its case! Violinists can tell, then, when they miss days of practice, or even when they don't practice as well. The violin will sing beautifully... if you would just let it.

I realize I've digressed to a topic about practicing violin (I never really proofread this posts as I probably should for organization...), and should get back to the topic at hand: "Why Music?" It could be a Socrates question, something we want to get at answering. And this question must be answered by each individual, shouldn't it? For me, the way I view music, I think I spend more looking at how the ink on the page is done practically, rather than how it sounds. I'm more of an architect when I compose my own music, although I can get swells of emotion if I wrote down something I think is really beautiful, like I did this summer with a part of the third movement of my string quartet. I look at the sheet music in front of me - like Ravel's "Jeux d'eau" - and I wonder how it is put together. Only after do I listen again and hear the water trickling up and down the fountain. So why do I Music? I want to play my violin in the orchestra and discover when we're heading into a new section of the piece, and discover the different expectations by every composer we play. I want to Music because it's really an enjoyable experience not only to listen to a piece passively, but to enjoy the feeling of understanding why this chord resolved like that - or didn't. I want Music to surprise me. I want to be exposed to as much of it as I can - partly why I don't always like practicing, I don't always enjoy sitting still on one piece, although if it's a piece I absolutely love, of course I would practice it all night long. I Music because I love it. I love it because I love its sounds; the way it's been integrated into our culture; the wide variety of different styles I can play on my single object of my violin; the people who all hear it completely differently than me; how much I have yet to learn about it, and how much I will never learn about it; how it has taken over my life as my main passion; how it seems to seep into almost every aspect of what I do; how natural it can be, as if Nature herself provided us humans with the tool to make it; how I could talk about it for years and never ever get bored of it; and how easy it is to create it for me. I love being able to watch clips of the BBC Proms concerts every summer, with hopes to travel to London someday to listen myself. I love looking at the history of different composers, and hearing how music changes and collides with others on its way. For me, and probably for many of you as well, Music has become so much a passion in my life, regardless of how upset I may be at my instruments one day, or how much I may dislike a piece I wrote, all I have to do is take a beat, turn on a composer I absolutely love, and all is right in the world again. And I try again, never wanting to give up, never wanting to let the Music leave me. I know that Music will ALWAYS be a part of me. I just have to write it and play it so others can enjoy listening to it. Why do I Music? The question ought to be why do I Life!

Sorry for this long and crazy post. It took me about half an hour to write it, my goodness how the time flies! I do want it to be an inspiration to others, and if you have any reasons for why YOU Music (and I know my opinion of music will probably change throughout the coming years, this is only a snapshot of my life today!), write them in the comments! Until next time.

9:50pm UPDATE: And today during rehearsal, apart from some string crossing fingerings and tone ideas I haven't covered in my practice sessions yet, I just feel really happy as I put my small instrument up onto my shoulder, and I think I really did pull off a gorgeous tone for the Elgar Variations, especially in the IX. It was a lot of fun tonight, and our next rehearsal won't be until after our Fall Break.

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Future projects; new orchestra "season...?"

October 22, 2015 19:06

We're moving into the Romantic era slowly for our orchestra repertoire. For our Winter Concert in February, we're playing Brahms' "Tragic Overture", and Elgar's "Serenade for Strings" (I believe). For the Christmas concert, where we have a larger orchestra than usual (with harp for one piece!), we're playing Elgar's "Enigma Variations" (lots from the English composer!), movements VIII and XI, the latter of which is very beautiful, and a couple of modern pieces. I'm very excited with all of this new music we're going to be working with for the next couple of months. I'm sitting right in the middle of the orchestra, in the back (second row) of the second violins, so I'm able to hear a lot more of the winds and brass (and harp glissandos along with violin pizzicatos I play!) than I could before. It's been a lot of fun playing for our first concert, so I'm very excited to continue working.

I'm performing my "Minuet" for piano (although I may be renaming it...) for a recital next week, and Dr. Bancks said he loved how there was Ravel in it, but there was also so much he wouldn't do, that doesn't sound weird... because I did it! I'm taking a small break from my chamber piece, although I'm hoping to get parts out before Fall Break, so I'll have that as something else to practice when I'm back at home... which will be so weird! I've also thought up an idea for a brand-new composition - a "mini-Daphnis", so to speak (Daphnis et Chloe). I'm basing the story off a play I wrote in May 2013 in my Creative Writing class, because as I reread the play I noticed it felt like a film, and like I was writing film music in it. For the time being, I'm just going to sketch motifs, and then I'll wait and see what'll happen with it. If I do decide to work on it throughout the winter, I'm hoping it won't be too long, and I can really focus on precision, like Ravel, that "Swiss watchmaker", as Stravinsky told him. :)

Finally, here is a video I made last week of the Ravel "Berceuse" on violin, which I promised you in my last post. Enjoy! I've been working a lot in the practice room on really producing a good tone I can take with me into rehearsal, but it's been pretty good. I'm also working on a few of the Bartók violin duos I "rediscovered" during my Musicianship class. Each one of them is like a little piece of dark chocolate for the violin. Hopefully I can do a video of me playing through them. In any case, maybe you'll look forward to all these projects to come, as I have quite a bunch of them planned!

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Ravel - Mother Goose Suite - Violin Recording

October 12, 2015 20:07

Just a quick little entry, here is a short video of me playing the beautiful violin solo in the middle of Ravel's orchestration for his "Mother Goose" suite, the fifth movement, "The Fairy Garden". I just recorded this in the practice room before dinner, and thought it would be nice for while I'm at college to upload short little videos of sections of pieces, just to be putting more videos of me playing this beloved instrument on my channel. Since I don't have orchestra this week, I may take this time (since I'm not currently taking lessons on violin, just piano at the moment) to record at least one other piece, something I can really practice and make sound good, so I'll post that here later this week if I do anything. For now, enjoy this video below! I really think it sounds quite good on my violin; I'm able to achieve a very good sound, even if I could warm it up with more practice and experimentation.

Click here to watch my video.

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Fall Augustana concert; new composition; Ravel book

October 11, 2015 13:36

I've had quite the musical weekend - I've (very roughly) finished my newest composition, a chamber piece in one movement - but perhaps more excitingly, I had my first concert playing in the Augustana Symphony! We played the Mendelssohn Reformation and the Mozart Clarinet Concerto, and it was a lot of fun throughout! Except for the slow movements, where the second violins were not doing very much... Oh well. I didn't quite nail all of the rapid-note passages, but I did a lot better than when we first got this music. It was cool being able to play in the entire hour-long concert, and playing orchestral music, especially in a full symphony, is so much fun, especially when I noticed some moments like in the third movement of the Mozart where the violins and horns line up, or something like that. We have a week before our next rehearsal, where we are going to be playing Christmas music and music for our Winter concert in February, I believe.

My chamber piece has been a roller-coaster to write. I've managed to get it down to 8 minutes of continuous music, albeit there are probably still some sections I need to smooth out with transitions. It was really fun yesterday before the concert because I got to play through the piece with my harpist friend, and got to work one-on-one with her through my glissandos and other harp effects I'd included in the piece. I had never really seen a harp quite up close until today, so it was really a fantastic experience, as I've been totally enthralled with the harp ever since Ravel's Introduction, and I guess even before when I included harp-writing in my early symphonic works. It's just been fantastic seeing the beautiful autumn mornings and getting inspired by the pretty colors and open blue skies, and seeing all the trees and fountains and everything. Autumn is my favorite season, so I've been able to write hopefully some pretty great music. I know this piece will probably be what I focus on for at least the rest of the term, and then perhaps I'll be able to play it with my chamber group for a future recital. I can't wait to share it with all of you!

Finally, the orchestration of my "Minuet for Piano" is going very slowly, but I'll be playing the piano piece for a recital at the end of the month. I can also mention that early last month I checked out a book from the library called "The Ravel Reader", which is a fantastic collection of Ravel's life through his letters he's received or sent through the mail, as well as interviews and articles conducted and written during that time. It's so neat being able to read about his plans for writing pieces of music, or for saying certain projects are coming quickly or going slowly, and to see him move from Paris to the War and even discussing other composers like Debussy or Stravinsky, and Ravel's fascination with Mozart. It's a really great book discussing my favorite composer, and whenever I come across the Sonata for Violin and Cello or his discussions of both of his Violin Sonatas, all of which I pull out of my binder to play on my own violin at times in the practice room, I of course get really excited to see where that inspiration came from, just as when I was working on playing my own violin concerto last year, "Little Snow-White". I think I'm going to leave it there, so hope you have a nice day!

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More entries: September 2015

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