Musical Day is almost here!!!!
My family and I like to create our own holidays, in a desperate effort to be individual, original, and sassy baby...
So, a couple of months ago, I came up with Musical Day, which is Jan. 2nd.
What do you do? You break out in song every hour of the day, getting the whole family involved. How do I know it will work?
1) I sing every hour already.
2) The other day, I got a whole bunch of people randomly involved in a musical of my own. I started to snap my fingers and sing, "I went to the restroom, yesterday, and my toothpaste fell in toilet." Then, I sang it again and told the people to repeat me, and they did. Then I told my brother to snap his fingers along with me and before I knew it, 8 people were involved in my song. "I went to the restroom, yesterday, and my toothpaste fell in the toileeeeet."
"What did you do, girrrrl?" (The chorus)
"I got a fork from the kitchen sink and I fished for it..."
Anyways, our ending was pretty bad, but I think the beginning made for a great musical.
So, what does musical day do for us?
1) It brings the family closer together, since all of us take part in eachother's musical, laughing and prancin around like fools.
2) We promote the spontaneous improvisation and composition of music.
3) And the winner who sings on the hour every hour who is able to start and complete a song through out the day successfully (that even means, singing if your at the grocery store) will get a prize. There can be more than one winner. (I already told my mom I wanted Simon Fischer, "Basics." My brother wants money.)
I can't wait to get my "Basics."
During tonight's practice, I picked up Wienaski's Legende again. I tried to play it a couple of years ago and failed miserably. My vibrato and sound just wasn't mature enough to tackle it.
Well, tonight when I played it, as I seeped into the notes, something strange happened.
When I first started playing the violin five years ago, I remember finding a square, red basket, just big enough to hold my music. Everytime, I'd buy sheet music or receive a new piece from my teacher, I'd throw it into that basket like a child drops a prized penny into piggy bank. It came to the point where the basket started to overflow only after two years. I had 80% violin sheet music and 20% percent viola. My teacher had talked me into playing viola because the orchestra needed it and she sincerely believed I was more gifted at the violin than the viola because of my slow bow arm (whatever that meant--I think she was just tryin' to flatter me). Anyways, everytime I'd practice I'd take pride in the amount of strength it took for me to lift my small red basket.
I remember days, standing in the sun, it rays glaring down on me, my skin turning darker, while I waited for the bus to come and take me to my lessons. I had my violin and viola case with me, plus my backpack for school and several other needed cases. And as I lugged my stuff onto the bus, the bus driver's stare of impatience shooting through me and the laughs of the passengers piercing my back, a smile never left my face, for knowing I was going to a violin/viola lesson. And when I came home to add another piece of music to the basket, I'd always say to myself, "It is so worth it." So, when mom would cry in the privacy of her room, her sobs filling my room through our conjoined walls, I'd glance at my little red basket and hope that someday, something, through trials and tribulation, would make her as happy as that little red basket made me.
And it was like a best friend that the basket continued to be a symbolic joy for me. I remember packing all of our stuff into black bags and my mom's worried, frantic movements throughout the house, trying to contemplate where we were going to stay. My brother looking at all of our animals, the rats, the tarantula, the snake, the dog, the water dragon, his small face questioning mom, "Are we just going to leave them? Will the pet store kill them? Or will the pound kill our dog?" To the very last moment when we sat in the car, driving in circles around the city we use to have a home in, trying to find a shelter and a place for our rottie, I clutched my little red basket on my lap. Even the moment, when we drove miles to stay in a nearly abandoned motel in the middle of the desert, the only people were druggies and a blind woman with her children, running away from an abusive husband, I was comforted by the little red basket on the side of our twin bed, which we all squeezed into that night in a unheated room of 10 degrees, our bodies shocked by the change, our minds plagued with despair, longing, and dejavu.
Of course, God, my actual violin, my mom and brother, also helped me through this horrible segment of our lives, but it was tonight when I glanced into every corner of my new room and saw that my little red basket was nowhere to be found, that somewhere in the course of homelessness, home found, many trials and goodtimes, I had lost track of my little red basket, that I stopped my bow (I was just finishing the Legende), placed my violin on my bed, bowed my head and began to cry. I started to wonder, Was it in dumpster yard somewhere, sitting on top of rotten bananas and rusting car parts, feeling betrayed? Was it left in that nasty motel with cigarettes now overflowing in its belly, instead of music? And if so, would I ever be reunited with it again? The worst feeling is not knowing where something you love is, I guess.
On a happier note, my mom came into my room and said that that was the best she ever heard me play. Well the strange thing that happened was I had totally zoned out during the piece and did not hear a thing(you know, thinking about the above), so I wish my mom could have recorded me, because if there was ever an example of someone playing with heart, becoming one with the music, letting the music overtake the senses, the mind loosing itself in measures and bars, I surely did it tonight.
On another happy note, during finals week, my mom's friend sent me a box filled with all my music.
Also, on an even more happier note, I'd like to welcome Joe S. to the Bro-SisHood of blogging on v.com! And Congrats to Ruth Kuefler on her great year!
So, anyways, just a moment of reflection.
After reading Albert Justice's blog, Big Sound, Small Sound, www.violinist.com/blog/zeagle79/, I thought back to my last recital. I was first violin, but my teacher had me stand on the opposite side, my f-holes facing the fire place, not the audience, because she said I play extremely loud.
Well, I like having a big sound in all situations, more power to me. But I guess in chamber music, you would need to know how to regulate such things more. I play a lot of chamber music and I do not want to overpower, in sound, the other musicians because that is not what chamber music is about. But I have a heavy arm. I kind of play like Sarah Chang, not in sound or technique (I am in no way comparing my ability to Sarah Chang), but in the sense that she uses her strong forearm to move her bow, which creates a heavy, loud sound. I do the same thing. I try to use my wrist but that fails, and I feel uncomfortable. I bring my right elbow up really high on the G and D string which forces the weight of my shoulder into the strings. So, what should I do to be a better chamber musician?
Anyways, kinda random, but significant.
So, I went upstairs and took out my violin to apply what some of my comrades on v.com said on scales. I have a very even bow, speed, pressure sounding point, all good, especially when played slowly. My higher register sound is a little iffy because I tend to play too close to the bridge (as seen in the mirror). I can even keep the same sounding point when not looking or closing my eyes as confirmed by mother.
Oh, let me tell you! My mom came into my room while I practiced. I think she was trying to do that whole mom, daughter bonding thing. I stopped, "What is it?" I asked.
"Nothing, just comin' to see what you doin'," She replied. "Can I lay down on your bed?"
"Sure, whatever," I huffed under my breath. As she walked over to the bed, I commenced playing again, starting on the 3rd finger A on the E string. My mom winced. I stopped abruptly and gruffed," What was that for?"
"Huh," she looked around, in front and in back of her as if she had not done a thing.
She sat on my bed. I began playing Csardas again. I tapped my foot slightly to keep rhythm. At some point on the fast sautille part, I heard a counter rhythm which was not going with my own foot. So, I turned and glanced at my mom and she was bouncing on my bed.
"Your bed is like cardboard, Jasmine! Wow, feel this. It's so hard," She exclaimed.
"Mom, you mentioned that a couple of weeks ago. Can I practice?"
"Oh, sorry baby."
I picked up on the double stop part, placing each finger down in their respective spots before playing. I drew the bow slowly across the strings, but the f-sharp was out of tune. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my mom fiddling with my recorder which had been sitting on my desk, playing and stopping it. No wonder the stupid F-sharp was out-of-tune! I looked up to the heavens, or my bedroom ceiling, which felt like the heavens at that moment, and I respectively took the recorder from my mother's hand, and commenced practicing. She giggled a little, and then I was on to her. Her whole mission for being in my room was to annoy me. So, I promised myself I would not get mad or frustrated or give in to her little child's play. My first finger dropped on the D to play the harmonic part. The first note screeched a little, so I placed my bow near the bridge and vowed to play with a faster bow the next time around. Then, I heard a shaking sound. "Jasmine, is this candy?" My mom asked.
I turned to face her and I saw in her hand my green rosin case and her shaking it and listening to what was happening inside.
"Okay, mother, go, leave, vacate the premises, exit, uninvited, bye, goodbye, goodmorrow, oyasumi nasai, goodnight, go to bed!"
She started to laugh. "I am sorry; it will not happen again."
Huffing and puffing, I skipped to the last part of the Csardas. As I neared the end, I saw my mother pushing all the keys on my radio. I smashed my bow on the last three notes: D!--A!--D!... "I'm done. You can leave now."
She laughed and walked out my room. I followed her and tucked her into bed. Hehehe, I stuffed each side of her cover into the crevice of her bed and then tied the end to the bottom post of the bed. She later yelled, "Jasmine! Let me out!"
So, tomorrow I have a couple of goals in mind for my practice session as discovered by my scale evaluation: Higher register sounding point search and down shifts.
I love reading music. The sights and sounds manifested within my head excite me like any piece of literature. The husband, the low D, is angry at his wife, the high D, for some reason. They are screaming back and forth at eachother in fortissimos of euphoric oblivion. The wife glissandos to a screeching, yet beautiful, high natural harmonic E on the E string. The husband decrescendos into a b flat of sorrowful, remorseful pianissimo.
I can sit down in my room with a score or piece of sheet music and create stories, just like the one above. No need to play it to feel a sense of joy when I can just glance through the music for that.
Well, I say the above because the other day I went tubing, for the first time. The snow came down hard that day, and I was cold, but I ascended to the top of mountain, my excitement crescendoing to a whopping High E on the E string. When I reached the peak of the hill, I heard my teeth chatter, tremelo, probably a g-flat. Then, when I finally jumped into the tube and slid down the mountain, all I heard was the down chromatic scream of my voice, like in Carmen Fantasy for Violin, until I reached the bottom in a relieved A on the G string.
Great day of Tubing!
Okay, so with starting the Rondo Capricioso and Concerto by Saint Saens in the Spring Semester and also in light of Buri's advice that technical exercises should not be the highlight of a practice session, I have some serious cutting to do.
Right now, my practice session, which I have been doing consistenly, consists of these books and pieces:
1) Play all my major and minor scales, plus the arpeggios. Then the thirds, sixths and octaves. (This takes me about 30 minutes)
2) I move on to Schradieck. I play the whole book during one practice session, moving through each etude and quickly correcting spots where I mess up or have trouble. (40 minutes)
3) Carl Flesch. (All the number 1 and 2 exercises for each scale. 30 minutes)
4) Sevcik Op. 7 (10 minutes)
5) Sevcik Op. 8 (30 minutes)
6) Sevcik, the bowing book. (20 minutes)
7) Kreutzer (20 minutes)
8) Bach Movement of one sonata or partita, right now focusin on the movement before the Chaccone in the d minor partita. (40 minutes)
9) Czardas (1 hour)
10) Kreisler Prealudium and Allegro (1 hour)
11) Mozart No. 3 Francko cadenzas (30 minutes)
12) Orchestra Music: Schubert Unfinished, James Bond, Phantom of the Opera, Pirates of the Carribean. More, TBA... (1 Hour)
For the most part, I usually practice all that stuff in one practice session unless I am too tired, like I was during finals week. Wow, it never seemed like so much until I wrote it out just now...
Okay, so my new and improved practice session will be:
1) Scales. Maybe focus on one scale, one minor, and one arpeggio for each day, instead of doing all of them in one day.
2) Kreutzer, or Rode. Or both. :))
3) Simon Fischer Basics, or Drew Lecher's book, or both!
4) Saint-Saens Intro Rondo/ Concerto.
5) Orchestra Music.
Next semester, my practice regimen will actually be a little different. I have a job and some of my classes will conflict with my already planned out regimen, so the new one:
M-F 6am, practice 2 hours until class starts at 8:20am. 7pm-10pm practice again, or I can do an afternoon session on some days.
Saturday and Sunday, I decided I will force myself to only practice one hour instead of 6 like I sometimes do on the weekends since I have time on my hands. (Well, no, really I should use that time to study, but I get lost in my practicing.)
And for Tom Holzman, I have reserved 10 hours out of the week for recreation other than violin!
Also, I found this beautiful, black spaghetti strapp dress in my mom's closet the other day. I will wear it for the concert in April!
The saddest break-up in history--Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. I am still crying and I read it three years ago.
May none of you be dumped this week!
The other day, a snowy day, my mother almost slid into the police station while making a turn at a busy intersection. Everyone started honking at her, in which my mom became quite incensed and yelled, "Hey, don't you see the Southern California license plate?!"
I saw snow for the first time, when I came to school in New York last year...
“We seem compelled to scrawl our words on the mute, impervious world.” Scott Russell Sanders, Secrets of the Universe, “Signs.”
In the above mentioned essay, Sanders tells of how the human race instinctively communicates even in the silliest ways through words such as our need to place signs upon every known curve of the Earth that we dare to find and claim our own. We can not keep words, expressions, emotions inside; they must come out in some way or form. As a writer, I can understand such an emotion as afore mentioned. Whether the world be mute, deaf as to give an answer, I will still push forward writing and impressing up on all of my mental and physical corners words of feeling as if to remind me that I am alive. As a musician, I cannot agree with the above statement as to even make an analysis. Music is a form of expression is it not! I hear music in the supposed “mute, impervious world” all the time. The wind soaring through the leaves of maple trees in the Fall in upstate New York is the greatest tone poem ever composed. The waves crashing on the Zuma Beach shore in Southern California while dolphins tease the sand with ebullient whimpers of mischief deserves many standing ovations and we would be blessed to receive an encore. For a musician, whether playing in our rooms as a hobby or standing in front of an audience of thousands of people, our expressions never go unheard or unanswered. We add to the life that already existed and invented music before we were granted the opportunity to live on the Earth!
Otherwise, no offense to Scott Sanders, love all his essays, and I think he is a brilliant writer…
During my freshman year at Alfred University, I took an FYE (First Year Experience) class called Music Appreciation. We had 8 students in our class. As you can imagine such a small class gave birth to moments of drop-dead amusement and laughter.
One class session, our professor assigned interesting dorm-work. We were told to listen to the Beethoven Symphony #9, then write an account on the sensations we felt, images we saw, the textures we tasted, and technical beauty we heard when listening to the music. I wrote a nice seven-page essay on how I traveled back in time, met Beethoven, fell in love, went through some challenges in order to obtain him, and then, of course, we were married in a nice little home on the seashore of Africa.
Thinking back to that class, I will now take this time to write an account on the following piece, explaining any images/sensations and technical aspects I hear when listening to the piece.
Elgar Salut D’Amor
Violinist, Kyung Wha Chung
The piano waltzes in and I automatically feel my heart conform to its rhythm and my breathing slows in delayed inhalations and exhalations of bliss. When Kyung melts in, I taste sweetness and automatically I am thrown into a honey bowl, conflicted with a slight sadness but an “oh-so-yummy” sensation lightens most of my discomfort.
But even though I am surrounded by honey, I can not help but feel an underlying sadness throughout the whole piece as if something within me is unrequited. I do not think this is a blunder on the part of the performer or composer but simply a love song which hints at untold anguish. But I guess love is like that, honey and bitterness all mixed into the same dish.
On to what I see. Bees buzzing baffled in Bearland upon the bare honey lakes of beaver… Just kidding. Actually, I see…a town…within a…glass globe and people…walking in—honey. A postal man’s hand pushes through the air to grasp the handle of the mailbox door, and he pulls the door open to insert the mail, all at a slug’s pace or as if he were in space. He smiles throughout his task, a handsome face with bright teeth. Small children play and fight in the schoolyard, jumping off jungle gyms and hitting the ground minutes later, licking their tongues through the honey tainted air all the while—the girl’s faces blush with smiles at little cool boys who wish to put on such a pretense.
Just around the corner down on Sweetdripping Lane, Mary Caster waters her flowers with a look of gloom when from behind, her love calls her name and she turns at an annoyingly slow rate to behold the man with the familiar voice. She drops her watering bottle which does not hit the ground until she has collided with her love’s body in a clutch of tearful excitement and love and all that jazz.
And through this vision, I have identified my own underlying sadness. Although, the circumstances of a town plagued by slow movement is not as tragic as John Keats’ poem, “Ode to a Grecian Urn,” in which lovers in a piece of art are frozen in the peak of their desires, lips puckered to kiss, and will never have them fulfilled since they are—well, maybe not frozen, because they will never be thawed, so a better word or phrase is probably, forever-stationary, I feel hopeless—irritating impatience—for everyone in my honey town. The postal man’s work day is extended to hours upon minutes of endless work for just one envelope. The children will never learn the lesson of all play and no work. And Mary Caster must have waited eons for her dear lover to return to her. And even when he did show, it took her some time to receive the touch which already in imagination had bore great feeling.
As far as technicality goes, Kyung creates a beautiful honey town with her syrupy tone and perfectly timed rubato. When she and the piano slow down to accent a particular part, I feel suffocated and after the piece goes off, has finished, made its way to the end, I take in a large breath, sigh, then stubbornly release myself back on to the normal cycles of body and mind, breathing to uniformly and thinking too much…
My mom's meals satisfy in ways only a gifted cook's food could fulfill, and my family was under its spell the night of December 21st.
I finished practicing and brought down a recording of myself to my mom. I played it for her and at the end she laughed when the recorder whispered, "Well, that sucked." My brother sat down on our new couch, playing his new PSP. "Get off of that thing and let's play UNO," I said.
"Alright, alright," he sighed, pleasure and euphoric addiction leaving his face and reintroducing the familiar scowl that we are all used to as is normal for a teenage boy, I guess.
I ran upstairs to fetch the UNO cards. I knocked on Megumi's door (My best friend and International student from Japan, staying in my house for the break) to invite her to play. She hastily excepted and we tripped down the stairs in a bundle of laughter.
But here is where the intensity starts. Everything was fine until Megumi said, "If I win you do the dishes tonight."
"I'm out," my brother yelled. "You guys just made this fun game boring."
Well, I lost and I have to wash dishes for the next couple of days. However, and I do not know where it came from, I yelled out, "Let's play one more time! If I win.... I get the living room for a ten hour practice session--NO Complaints, no interruptions."
Have you ever watched a movie where the main character says something really serious and everyone looks at him or her as if the world just stopped? Well, let's just say, my family ceased and so did time. The only motion was my mom's faint trembling, my brothers blinking eyes of sad astonishment, and Megumi's twisting mouth inwardly asking,"What did she just say?"
"No way. First of all, you could not practice that long, and secondly you'd kill us," my brother chimed in.
"First of all, I could practice that long, and secondly what the heck do you mean I would kill everybody?" I stared my brother in his eyes, daring him to give the wrong answer.
"I'm in. Mom, don't worry, I'll save us," he said. Not the right answer, but I did not feel the need to slap him, so he did good.
To my chagrin, my best friend, the one who I share my secrets with, the one who I can cry on in times of violin failure, said, " I will play too. I am sorry Jasmine, but ten hours, my goodness."
"Megumi, how could you?" I asked, a tear trickling down my cheek and on to the heart strings of--the floor. "Well, mom, you in too?"
"No, I'll watch," she said, licking her lips and glancing at my brother for assurance and--hope.
I took the deck of cards into my hand and shuffled them several times. Megumi yelled, "Hurry up," and I placed three piles of seven cards on the table. My brother picked his stack first. Megumi and I selected the remaining two simultaneously. My brother spread the cards, rainbow-shaped, in his hands and then smile once after his eyes slowly moved across each thin sheet of square paper in his hand. Megumi just smiled as she usually does and said, "Okay let's go." Well, I was pretty happy since I had a draw 4 WILD, draw two, reverse, skip, skip, and WILD card in my hand. I turned over the first card in the "pull" deck, a yellow 8. "Megumi, you go first." She put down a draw two. My brother muttered under his breath as he snatched two cards from the "pull" deck. I looked at my opponents to see if I could decipher form their faces what would be best to place down. I did not want to use the draw 4 because--well it has it uses. So, I put down my draw two to get vengence for my little brother. Megumi picked up two cards and my brother smiled deviously. "Jasmine, draw 2 please," he smiled demonically.
"I will never help you again, my dear brother," I glared at him.
From that moment on, it was every WO-MAN for himsheself. My mother went into the kitchen for an occasional cup of water when the bickering became too much for her already damaged ears (compliments to my violin). She'd come around and give my brother an encouraging pat on the back. I felt a tickle of jealousy on the part of my spine which stiffened against the cushion of the couch. Why did she not want me to play my violin for ten hours? Come one...that never hurt anyone...
The situation, I was down to 3 cards, Megumi 15, my brother 8. A couple of times earlier in the game Megumi had called Uno so I used my draw 4 card to shove her back on track (hehehe).
I had a red 8, blue 9 and a blue skip card left. My brother watched my every move, yelling, "She doesn't have red," to Megumi whenever I had to pull from the "pull deck."
But I knew what I was doing, sometimes I would pull on purpose just to make him believe I did not have a certain card. Before they knew it, I yelled, "Uno." Megumi, My brother, and my mom looked my mom, sweat dripping down their eyebrows. "Concentrate, son," my mom chanted. He looked at me as Megumi placed down a blue 7. I had a blue 9. I muttered, "Oh, shoot," with as much sincerity as possible, and my brother thinking he had me, placed down a blue and said, "Pull, Jasmine." Well, to humor him and intensify his impending disappointment, I slowly moved my hand towards the pull deck, "Oh, Jezzy. You got me--NOT!!!" I laughed as I slapped down my blue 9 sendng the UNO cards flying all over the living room. My brother rested his face in his hands, Megumi cried out in indignation, and my mother quietly announced, "Welp, I am off to bed. Goodnight."
And so, sometime next week, I will living room practice access for ten hours...
Sounds good to me.
I failed to write in my blog for a few days, but I must say when you do not have a computer...
My mom moved to another home the other day, within the same city. So, I arrived home on Friday night and then helped my mom pack up to go to another home the next day. I have moved three times in four months. As much as I would love to say that my family consists of intelligent spies or we are in some kind of witness protection program being sheltered from the likes of all evil, the boring truth is that every house we have been in for the last few years has had a major problem, that resulted in our vacating the premises.
Five years ago, my mom rented a cozy, quaint little house on the hill in the suburbs of L.A. A couple years passed, gained some friends, acheived academic and career success, lost it, gained a little bit back, and the roof to the house caves in due to faulty pipes and what not. So, we were left pretty much homeless since this unfortunate event leads to a prideful landlord and a prejudiced judge, and three black people with no money, plus one of those who was a mom who just had a 6 pound tumor removed from her stomach... I spent my whole senior year of highschool and college, age 16, in motels, a Ford Escort, and many buses...
Anyways, every house since then has had a similiar problem, even one of the motels we stayed in, we had to vacate because the septic tank crashed. And these are major water problems!!! I do not believe in curses, but my goodness. So, my mom gets to New York and the first house she arrives to is in horrible condition, mold everywhere, the carpets smell like cat urine and whatnot, so on and so forth...
So, she goes to another house, but not knowing much about SNOW and COLD, she chooses a house with bad insulation and, oh yeah, MOLD everywhere...
So, now we are in this new home which is simple, small, no mold, and great heat...
That is a really long story made short. I am going to publish a book of essays called, "Rottweilers and Violins" possibly next year, so be on the lookout... It goes through all of what I just said above in greater detail and in more of a proper story, englishy major form...
So far, everything is lovely. The house is way more cheap than if we were in California, which makes my mom happy. My violin sounds great in my new bedroom. Oh my gosh! My bedroom is the perfect writing room. It reminds me of a room Emily Dickinson, the Bronte sisters, or Helen Keller would have written in. It has a cute little bed with a small writing desk,accompanied with a old style wooden chair and a desk lamp. I have a old victorian style dresser and mini dresser. My window provides a beautiful view of a snow-covered field of maple trees and small homes.
So, now on to business:
Practice is irritating and great at the same time. 80% great, 20% annoying.
I am still having trouble with my stupid bow speed and I listened to a recording of myself which enlightened me to the fact that my playing is not connected. I mean the notes do not connect. You can hear every note distinctly with a slight pause in between each. Also, when I have big shifts I pause more noticeably and therefore the music seems stunted. When I finally place my finger on the note after the long pause which gives me an accurate shift, I excitedly pull the bow too fast causing two problems: a scatchy martele start and a fast then slow bow speed resulting in a nasty swell...
I hate it; I hate it; I hate it! Otherwise, everything is all good.
So, I told my teacher today that I wanted to play Lark Ascending and she responded, "I hate that piece- it goes on and on…I call it Buzzards Descending!" I know some of you will raise your eyebrows to such an attitude, but she really is quite charming. And seeing as she has been in the presence of masterful giants her whole life, she has every right to believe she's heard better!
She suggested instead that I play either of three pieces all of which are Saint-Saens' compositions: Havanaise, Introduction Rondo and Capriccioso, or Concerto No. 3.
Well, my teacher seems to think I have an extreme case of repertoire ADD because I am always trying coax her into letting me play pieces way beyond my years, way before I have finished studying the piece that I am working on. So, she will often give in to my antics in order to appease me, since I can be very melodramatic and play the part of depressed swan so well. But today, I declared, "No, I must start to be patient with myself, dear maestra. It is only for my benefit that I stick to an assignment. And, of course, I always feel so much better when you reward me with a new piece, instead of me convincing you to give me a new one. And no matter how much of a fit I throw, you must stay firm to your convictions because you are my priceless teacher and I am your student who is privileged enough to learn from you."
I know the above makes me seem--hard, but I am a good student. I listen attentively; I respect my teacher; I practice as to not waste my maestra's time in a useless lesson; I walk her dog! I also ask many challenging questions, which keeps her occupied--on top of her busy schedule. ;)
The whole point for my above rambling was to make the point that as I have aged so much--19--I have become more patient with my violin and its horrid stubbornness to not submit to my every will! Sorry...dramatic moment. Let me collect myself in soothing, slow exhalations. What I mean to say is, I understand that in order to be a master, one must be patient and enjoy the process of becoming one.
But, how I long for it.... I remember when I was 14 years old. I played in the prelude strings. On the night of my first concert with them, the advanced Philharmonic went first. While all the other students talked or dazzied about backstage, I watched as the stage lights glowed on the orchestra and two young girls played Bach's Double in D minor. The girls were about two years older than me. I remember standing there letting the music invade my lungs. I felt as if it were too much; I could not breathe. A tear fell from my eyes--I had not cried in so long, always trying to be the strong little girl that my family needed. The fact that that moment could have such an effect on me changed my desires forever. The ability to feel emotion through music is a beauty I try to never take forgranted. I guess, that is why I have worked so hard, not wanting the moments to flee away like vanishing mist in the night. I want to take every chance to affix myself upon those notes, and go wherever they wish to take me, for as long as my heart beats to the simple rhythm of life. I yearn to give an audience such a gift as well. What better way to cure someone of grief than to take them away from it all together through gorgeous sound. The only way I could ever do that is if I became a master! Like a doctor who spends years of research to find an antidote to people's ailments.
One of the string coaches saw the longing way in which I watched the performance. I think it was obvious at that point, since I was hyperventilating. And maybe it was not the lights that lit the stage but the illumination on my face. She approached and whispered, "Do not worry, Jasmine. One day that will be you." I will never forget what she said. She said it with such sincerity to a girl who had only been playing the violin for two months. I wondered, why? She meant it, but how did she know.
Well, I think I did reach the level of those girls that I once sat admiring from behind the stage curtain. However, I see that what I've accomplished is still less than the peak on the mountain of skill and proficiency.
Some day you might see me, bawling in a backstage corner while I observe the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra, Mark O' Connor, Rachel Barton Pine, Vengerov, Hahn, Mutter, Buri or so many more of my favorites (the list would be longer than life) who affix themselves upon notes and take the whole world to their majestic destination. I will be crying and one day, I hope, someone, anyone, will come up from behind and say, "That will be you someday."
But for now, I do not mind sitting in my practice room, exploring the land of Musicatopirauderdale all by myself. :)
"Don't wanna be all by myself anymore." Celine Dion
Winter break is upon me.
Although, I cannot wait to see my family, my puppy, and get gorgeous, juicy, fulfilling amounts of food and sleep, there is one thing I dislike about long breaks.
NOT HAVING A TEACHER!!!!
Well, if I was in California, I would have my old teacher to go to, but we moved to New York, so I need to find another teacher to babysitt or walk a dog for in exchange for lessons.
Atleast, I have next August covered. :0) Gosh, it's still several months away and I am feeling nervous. What am I going to do when I am there?
Well, surely not waste anyone's time. I am going to continue to work my patooty off. That's for sure!
Anyways, got a little sidetracked. My teacher gave me a lot to work on, so I should be okay for the one month break. I am used to teaching myself.
So, Buri was right again. And it wasn't even violin-related. He said my eyesight might improve after not wearing glasses and they did.
Well, I still have to hold my exam papers 2 inches from my face, but, hey, it used to be 2 centimeters...
I wonder, what technical and musical aspects I would need to know in order to conquer Vaughn Williams Lark Ascending by Summer other than a solid foundation in playing octaves?
"Flittering into the evening sun,
notes disappear like vapor into the dimmed
light of the sky.
If only I could affix myself upon them,
and vanish into the peaceful depths of their secret flight."
The strangest dream haunted me last night. I say "haunted" because I usually have ten dreams in one night, the agony of being an English Major with an active mind. But this one lasted from the moment my mind drifted off into dreary slumber until I granted the real world with my presence once again at 8am.
I stepped off a plane into LAX (the Los Angeles Airport). Of course, some dreams skip the night and day part, do not pay much attention to time and all that jazz, and I materialzed into a rehearsal with my old youth orchestra. My old teacher was there along with the conductors who were present during my "early years." Suddenly, Maestro Lawson stepped upon the podium to announce the impending competition and its competitors. For me, the nightmare began when he smiled my way and said my name.
Me! Play a competition, without preparation, without somuchas a warning! Oh the horror, the humiliation! What will my mother say when she hears the cat imprisoned and screaming inside the f-holes of my beautiful violin?
And so the nigthmare continued, when upon my stand, out of nowhere, Dvorak's 1st Violin Concerto appeared. In reality, I have never seen the music for this particular concerto, but I think my mind did a good job of creating the black notes that surely must be all over the pages of the original sheet music.
The music was gone and I watched as a snotty little brat of a girl played her brains out on stage: Sarasate's Introduction and Tarantella. "The next contestant is..." a voiced boomed into the audienced. Thank goodness it wasn't me. At this point, in my mind, I was aware that this was a dream, but in my heart, I wanted to succeed, despite the fact that I was not prepared, oh, and yeah--this was a dream.
I glided backstage, as I usually do in all my dreams where stressful situations are at hand, and took on the impossible task of learning Dvorak's concerto in less than two hours. How did I know I had two hours? Well, I do not know; it's a dream. Keep this in mind because I will not continue to repeat myself.
The structure of my dreams are quite predictable: problem, more problems, try to fix those problems, no resolution. So, when I went to my stand in the "greenroom" only to discover my music was not there, I nearly jumped off my bed in frustration. Where could it have gone? Well, it could have walked and gone shopping at a mall since...oh, I promised not to keep reiterating that--this was a dream.... A memory popped in my head and I had a vague recollection of going home and leaving my music there. My mind in its dream-state with its inexcusable ignorance of time, failed to give fair warning.
The next, few minutes, couple of hours, I don't know, since I was sleeping, encompassed the "more problems" to hunt down the left behind music. My house seemed eons away, and I met many strange creatures on the crowded streets of Hollywood, including my full-grown Xhera (rottweiler puppy) who had two heads! After a few scares and slips-down-the-stairs or up, fitting the climb of success, I arrived at an apartment complex that I have never seen in my life. But according to my mind --in its dreamstate--, the grand building located in the heart of Hollywood only a few feet down from the Chinese Palace Theatre, was my home. My feet "glided" towards a window, which led me to see a woman, who was not my mother, but my mother, combing her long, brown hair and powdering her smooth, white cheeks. Yes, I said white! What is going on?! Do not ask...
"Mom, where is my sheet music?" I yelled.
"Oh, honey, you're here. I was just preparin' myself for your competition," My "mom" said in a Southern accent. Why does this have to be so weird? I thought, aside.
"Mom, I need to get my music and I need it now," I screamed.
"Who are you talkin' to? Who am I?" Okay, now she's starting to sound like my real mom, the nightmare deepens.
"You are the mother; I am the child," I pushed the words through jaw crackingly shut teeth and rolled my eyes.
"And do not roll your eyes. I have you know that even though you are 19, you will never be too old to punish. Now go to your room," Oh gosh, kill me now.
"Mom, I love you so much. I have the most respect for you and your 'way', but this is a dream. And it is my dream, I'll have you know. And although you dictate orders in my real life, I will not have you ruining this competition for me, because it is my, my, my, my dream!" I stomped my foot with each "my" for emphasis and I wanted somehow to stomp my brain into usin' its creative power to get me out of the impending wrath of my mother who was surely to throw a fit after how I just talked to her.
I do not know if the stomping did it, but I ended up in my bedroom with the sheet music in my hands. A faint knock sounded on my door and I jumped up to go to the competition. "Mother, I need to go, no time to talk," I said, pulling open the door. Who stood in front of me? More like, what stood in front of me? Some hunk of a guy, staring into my beautiful blue eyes. Wait-a-minute, I do not have blue eyes.
"My name is William Darcy," Yeah, the guy from Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, what-of-it. "I have come to take you and your mom to tonight's competition."
"Is that all?" I whispered. "Are you sure you have not come to make a proposal, my dear?"
Hold on one second, of course he's come to make a proposal, this is my dream! Stomp, stomp, stomp. "Will you marry me, Jasmine?" he said bending on his right knee.
"Yes, my love. Now let's get a move on to that competition, I will succeed!" My British accent had disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. And my eyes had turned back to brown by-the-way.
And we were no longer in Hollywood. Mr. Darcy escorted my mom and me on the streets of Brooklyn, New York. But, my mind pays no attention to location as well, so I did not have to end up booking a flight back to Los Angeles in order to make it to the competition in time. We arrived with less than 10 minutes left before I was to be called on stage. I ran back to the green room, Mr. Darcy locked in my iron grip. I practiced Dvorak's Violin concerto which I now know was not Dvorak's Concerto after watching a youtube video of Itzhak Perlman playing. "Jasmine Reese..." A voice reverberated through out the green room and I was on stage in a blue, sapphire dress. Kind of like the one Cinderella wore, now that I think of it.
But as I warned above, my dream stuck to its structure and no resolution was provided. I woke up. Quite depressed. And dissatisfied. Incomplete like a dropped class in the middle of the semester. Downtrodden like a bride left at the alter. Failure flashing before my eyes like an "F" on a transcript. Brokenhearted like a child punished without reason.
I will never know how my marriage with Mr. Darcy turned out. I will never know if I won the competition or humiliated myself. I will never even know why my mother was white and I was most fully black. With that thought, I burst into tears. Oh, the injustice and cruelty of the mind!
So, now, despite the glasses incident, my practice gave birth to some pretty cool results.
1) Sound is a lot more solid. Dynamics distributed evenly.
2) Vibrato even/consistent.
3) Faster sightreading.
4) Shifting coming together more accurate and reasonable. For example, in Csardas I use to shift to the A on the G string with my fourth finger leading, but now I Shift with my first finger to the E and then place my fourth finger on the A in succession. SO I guess I am starting to think in amore organized and 'violinistic' way.
5) Bow SOunding point consistent.
Things about my playing that still annoys the patooty out of me:
1) My bow speed is inconsistent resulting an awkward surging sound sometimes. Usually, happens if I am playing really slow or moderately fast.
2) Bow pressure inconsistent/too much resulting in scratchy sound or a sound that is too rough in a particularly sweet passage. But when I diminish my pressure it sounds too weird becuase of my bow speed problems.
3) Inability to vary vibrato speed. Slow vibrato and fast vibrato, or wide vibrato and thin vibrato.
4) Weak trills and week sound in higher positions on A string.
So, for Winter Break I will be focusing on the above annoyances. Any ideas?
As much as I adore my puppy rottweiler, I can not wait until she is older. Strange isn't it?
Most people want their puppies to stay puppies or even buy a dog that grows but never grows like Labrador Retrievers or some little dog small enough to hold in their hands for the rest of the dog's life.
But the majesty, fear-inspiring loyality that a full-grown Rottweiler exudes into the environment is a feeling I yearn for. Maybe it is because of the past experiences I had with my recently deceased dog named Germany. She was a loyal German Rottweiler. Even when my mom, who is a single parent, could not feed her or us for that matter, she was always there to comfort everyone and protect those she loved. She could always sense when we felt threatened even if we did not know-so ourselves. And I think she knew how much we sacrificed just to keep her and not give her up to some rottweiler discriminating pound that surely would have put her to sleep.
She died at 5 with kidney failure.
Many people do not understand the relationship that a person has with their dog. And of course, a relationship between a person and a rottweiler takes on a powerful meaning in both negative and positive ways. We see the negatove more-so when some persons try to use the majesty of such a dog for fighting or other low means. But, have you ever seen a 170 pound to 250 pound rottweiler pull a dying child from a strong current in a river? To see those two grandiose components of nature working against eachother will change your views about animals in general.
One day, when Xhera is a muscle-flexing, giant, my dream is to take a picture with her. I will be dressed in a Early Victorian outfit, because I like it. I will be seated on a beautiful chair with my violin on my knee in "rest position" and Xhera on the right hand side of me. (The whole picture will be about how the impossible comes together to form a new woman. Which I guess works with the Victorian outfit since I could not have possibly been a black woman dressed so magnificently in victorian garments during the early part of Queen Victoria's reign.)
In memory of Germany Reese (June 2002-October 2007)
I walk a dog named Alfed in a town called Alfed in exchange for violin lessons. Well this is how my story begins...
Yesterday, I ran to walk Alfred the dog in Alfred the town. The sun waved an indistinct goodbye and goodnight behind gray clouds and the ground hid under blankets of unblemished snow (as it still is today). The wind slapped me with cold air. Partly, my fault since I wore peddle pushers which exposed half of my legs. I kept glancing down at them to see if the uncovered part had become frost bitten, yet. But they were okay, even if a little numb. I exited Alfred University, traveling down a steep hill, or sliding down the hill is a better word. Main street was alive with slow, impatient cars queuing in the inclement weather. I smiled at the traffic, reflecting back on my home town of Los Angeles, laughing at the thought of seeing its manifestation in the tiny town and on the slender streets of Alfred.
Of course, the snow, the traffic all should have been a sign as to what would happen next, but I am no highly analytical, genius detective who could put such trivial things together while such a large picture surrounds me. I stood across from the becoming, small white house in which Alfred the Dog resided. The cars kept coming. Agitation creased on my forehead when no car would stop to let me pass. Finally, a cute van (I view all vehicles as cute, big animals) screeched to a stand still as if it had been debating whether to let me through and had come to the decision at the very last moment. Recovering from a moment of shock that a car had actually stopped for me on that inhospitable day, I jumped into the street, when suddenly one of the lenses in my glasses popped out and found comfort in the lowest depths of the snow. Because I was in the middle of the street and the hesitant driver waited for me to pass, I could not take on the impossible task of getting-on-all-fours and fishing for it. So, I waved a polite thank you to the confused driver and walked a forlorn distance to the other-side of the street. Seconds before, I never would have thought I would be yearning to be back on the other side of the side-walks.
I started up the driveway to Alfred's house when a headache came over me. I took off my half-lazy glasses and the world became a snowy blur.
Amazingly, I made it to Miller Performing Arts center where we were to have one last rehearsal for the semester. That night, my conductor had me stand as she introduced me as the new concertmaster. I then said (my first words as concertmaster), "[John Doe] can you give the woodwinds an A please?" I was staring at [Mary Jane] the string bassist on the opposite side of the room. Some ignorant blokes laughed at my mishap. I squinched, trying to make out the image of the perpetrators.
After each section tuned, we began to play. The first piece was "Pirates of the Carribean, Jack the Pirate." I played e-f-g in eigth notes while my stand partner played the correct version of d-e-f in triplets. And the same happened in 007 and Phantom of the Opera. When the rehearsal finished, my conductor approached me and asked, "You will have your glasses next semester, right?"
Since then it has been a fight. I do not walk at night. I taught one of my more zealous students today whose mother drove through the snow just because her daughter did not want to miss lessons. Of course, the dear girl enjoyed our lesson since I missed more notes than she did and played with a Godzilla of a posture, leaning so close to the sheet music on the stand that my nose touched it. "Oh just play yourself," I yelled, admitting defeat. She giggled and played delightfully.
I then tried to practice after she left. Since my hearing is more acute, I hated my sound. And the fact that I could not see my music further frustrated me so I gave up. I walked across to the dining hall where I had special assistance in picking out food and ice cream, which I needed for depression, "Which one is chocolate?!" I asked my humble aide.
Well, here I am typing at the computer, my nose two centimeters from the monitor. I will have to practice tomorrow! I can not let this partial blindness stop me. I think I will talk to the engineer students tomorrow about braille encoded violins.
I will not be able to get an extra pair for another couple of weeks!
Finals are next week!! Then I go home to my beautiful puppy.
Little Fatty. Her Name is Xhera.
So, all is good. Thanks!
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