Here are a few of the pictures that I thought were really effective!
As promised, here are some of the pictures from my outing yesterday. It was gorgeaus weather from hiking, a bit overcast for a large portion of it but that kept the tempreture down which was nice. I think the dogs got about twice as much exercise as my friend and I did and they both were really tired by the end of it, we had to start stopping and waiting for them hehe.
Max - hiking buddy #1
Licorice aka Licky - hiking buddy #2
Rebecca, dog supplier - hiking buddy #3
view of the lake
Licky and myself
View from near the tunnel
Max en-route back
Today was not my typical Saturday spent doing homework, practicing, baking, or whatever. I woke up feeling ill yesterday and it just got worse throughout the day and by last night it was apparent that I had a bad head cold. This morning I felt pretty rotten and was not looking forward to having to call up my friend and cancel our hike that we've had planned for some time. She works, I work, I go to school, she goes to school. It's pretty hard to find a 4-5 hour window in our schedules that are free at the same time. I was feeling really disappointed about having to phone and say, "sorry, I'm sick" knowing that we likely wouldn't be able to attempt the trail again until the spring. One moment I would think, yeah, I have enough energy to go, the next I felt like I could hardly stand up. I phoned my friend and talked to her and told her my situation so we were at least going to hang out in basement and watch movies with the furry company of her dogs, Max and Licorice. She got out here and we agreed to at least start the hike (which wasn't anything too intense, it was just long) and see how it went. We got going and I began to feel better or at least less bothered by my cold and we had a great time! I took a lot of pictures as the view is absolutely amazing from up there. I'll post some of them tomorrow once I've had a chance to go through them. The weather was perfect, not too hot, not too cold and having the dogs along was great! I really miss my canine family member and not only are they great companions they made being out in the wildernress safer thanks to threat of bears, cougars etc. I just absolutely adore being outside in the great outdoors. It was an absolutely amazing time!
Well I'm starting to feel a little lightheaded and think I'll head off to bed here shortly.
"Today is the tomorrow that you worried about yesterday."
Hmm.... Today is the tomorrow that I worried about yesterday. So am I floating in space or am I perpetually living in today, tomorrow and yesterday? I guess the answer is yes. Whatever yes is.
Now that I've got that little bit of philosophical thinking out of the way for the day I will move on!
It's been 25 days today that I have practiced vibrato every single day for an average of 20 minutes a day. That's over 8 hours for anyone who cares.
For 24/25 of those days I've done at least 45 minutes of scales, many days more than an hour.
For the past 25 days my scheme of priorities have been practicing, teaching, school. Mainly practicing and teaching. I like practicing (usually) and teaching.
I hope you've all enjoyed this episode of Kelsey's blog and that your brain doesn't hurt too much.
"Driving is like playing the violin, the more you practice the better you get at it."
"You can't kill people [last time i checked] playing violin though."
That was part of the conversation my Dad and I had when he gave me my first driving lesson in a school parking lot well over a year ago. Today, 15 months after that first lesson I sat behind the wheel of a car for my 4th outing. This year I am going to learn how to drive and get rid of my big, red "L"oser sign that brands me differently from all the other veichles on the road. I want to get rid of the "L" and upgrade from loser to novice with a much prettier "N" sign. At least with the "N" I can drive independently about and be a little bit more "spontaneous" with my plans as opposed to having to worry about organizing my life around the bus or when one of my parents is able to drive. They'll be happy when I get my N. I'll be happy when I get my N. Unfortunately there's a lot of work to do yet to get there. Today I proved that I have a long ways to go to become a competent driver (no, I didn't run into anything, kill any animals or veer off the road or give anyone whiplash) and to be comfortable on my own. So what does driving and violin have to do with one another? Well my argument for them not being alike is that with driving you have to try to not kill someone where as with violin you have to try to kill someone but they both take a lot of practice to do well and to be comfortable with and no matter how much you practice you're never guarenteed that things will go as you want them to or plan them to. With the violin I've played it for so long that I am comfortable with many aspects of it but the longer I play it the more I realize just how uncomfortable I really am in some of these things that I think I'm comfortable with. I've done them so long in a certain way that I've gone into auto-matic pilot and it's not until someone points it out to me that I realize that yeah, I should be paying more attention, I can get more comfortable with that and yeah, at that concert last month something didn't quite work as well as I had hoped because something unforseen jumped into the road in front of me and I couldn't react quickly or effectively enough. The other tricky thing with driving and playing violin is that once you realize something isn't working as effectively as it could, like an addiction, you really have to want to change and work hard to change in order to change what has become natural. For me, the weakest point in my playing for a very long time has been my vibrato. I realized that and recognized that some time ago and I tried to change it but I never really put my heart into it. I'd practice it every day for about a week for maybe 10-15 minutes a day and then it would start to get further apart in days when I would practice it and I'd start to make excuses to myself about how I really was improving when in reality I was just about to turn the corner but chickened out at the last minute and kept on straight ahead because I wasn't comfortable making the right turn. I procrastinated on turning, sticking to the easier route so that I wouldn't have to face scary new obstacles. At least in violin, those obstacles don't typically prove fatal but they are scary none the less and sometimes the frustration level and feeling of burn out can make a person chicken out and go back to the smooth paved, straight roads again. So, I've admitted it. I've had a problem and I know it's been a problem for a long time now but I haven't REALLY tried to fix the problem. Until now. Yes! It's been 3 weeks ladies and gentleman and I've done vibrato for 15-30 minutes EVERY SINGLE DAY. I've concentrated. I've been committed. I've not let my mind wander. I've been frustrated. I've complained to people. Has it been worth it? Well, you know sometimes it really feels like you are in a bottomless abyss and that no amount of work will fix something. These past three weeks I've also been doing a minimum of 45 minutes a day, more typically an hour a day of just scales and within a few days I already noticed an improvment but with vibrato yesterday was the first day where I could honestly say I noticed a change. Not a big change but a change and a change for the positive! If I do nothing else for the rest of this year it will be vibrato and then scales that dominate and control my day. I will not got to bed each night without having tackled some form of a scale and more importantly that dreaded, dying siren/complaining cat sound that is vibrato. I will triumph and I will gain full control of my left hand and learn how to make the right turn.
And with that, I bid you goodnight.
Tomorrow my vacation ends, and with it so does my ability to take in much of Indianapolis Violin Competition. I think, that I will somehow cope though, I've seen the players perform already have interested me the most out of the preliminary round and there's only so much Paganini one can digest in a days time and I can catch the highlights on Thursday and Friday evenings as well as weekends. My friend, fellow v.commie, Emily Liz and I were questioning my eligibility for the blog contest that Laurie and Robert Niles have set up in conjunction with this competition. Do I have to actually be there in person or can I watch it over the internet since Indianapolis is a little bit of a hike away from my hometown? That was the biggest question that my friend and I came up with. I decided that eligible or not I was still going to write about the players I've heard so far and my "competition" experiences both as a performer and in regards to watching the Indy aka the Father of violin competitions.
First off, I was a very misinformed individual when I began listening to the competitors yesterday. I thought that the grand prize was $25,000 and that was it. I was wrong. There's a Strad, a Tourte, a CD recording and a Carnegie hall recital all in the 1st prize. *sits back a moment and tries to wrap head around it all* So basically, I'd be happy with the $25,000 bucks but you mean to tell me I'd get a Stradivarius AND a pretty cool bow AND a cd recording (I personally hate recording myself....... ) AND a recital in NY? Hmm.... This changes things all together.
Now it's time for the part where I get to judge all these players who got and put all their hard work out in front of the world and I probably cannot play as good as any of them or ever will play as good as they will yet I am still judging them. This seems wrong but I will now share my honest opinions of the competitors I have heard thus far.
Yesterday (*sings* all my troubles seemed so far away....*glances around embarrassed*), I saw 4 competitors perform. Daniel Khalikov, Liana Gourdja, Dan Zhu and Hye-Jin Kim. Khalikov had a nice sound and generally he seems a decent player but I was left wanting more. He seemed to be kind of closed in and there were some inconsistencies in his sound production which distracted from his playing. To his credit, and the other three who I saw yesterday, it's got to take a lot of guts playing on the opening day of competition especially a competition that is discussed year round by violinists and violin enthusiasts alike. Next to play for me was Gourdja. I felt she was extremely nervous and tense and this unfortunately was very evident in her sound. Perhaps it wasn't her day to shine, but her tone was quite squeaky which was amplified further by a bad balance on the video feed which seems to have it's treble turned up quite high. Dan Zhu was the person who particularly interested me yesterday and I wasn't let down. He was the most solid and all around consistent of the four performers I observed yesterday. His Bach was well played, it didn't move me to tears but it also didn't make me want to scratch my ears out. His Paganini however was quite impressive. When he launched into Pag 5 the hair on the back of my neck went up on end. There were some really interesting pauses and dramatic effects but more than that, the speed and precision, my golly, it's insane to think that anyone can play so fast and so clean and maintain it through an entire work such as that. Well done Dan! Hye-Jin Kim also proved she could be clean and quick and articulate but she displayed this prowess in the Bach E major Preludio. I'm still trying to recover, it was so fast. It went by in a blur and my jaw was hanging very much open, you could have fit a baseball in it. She looked extremely tense but still played beautifully. My only major criticism is that I found the Preludio a little overwhelming in the speed that it was hard to gear down and bring my heart rate down and settle in for the Largo but she played the Bach quite beautifully and overall had a very solid performance.
Today, I was excited to hear Jinjoo Cho play. Despite the huge debate about the outcome of the Montreal Competition, I felt she deserved to win. She's a great player with a huge sound and passion like I've seen in few competitors and she's still very young. But before I get to her...the other people I saw first... I should mention, I wasn't initially going to get up early enough to hear some of the performers seeing as it's my last day of holidays today and I up until 2am watching movies with a friend, but I did wake up and so I decided to get up and see what was happening. An aside for a moment - I live in Western Canada so if the competition starts at 9 in Indianapolis it begins at 6am for me - End of aside. The first person I saw was David Coucheron. I was pleased to start my day off with such a performer. He didn't seem to be plagued by the same tension and nerves that afflicted yesterday's performers and his tone was centered, full and controlled. I felt he shined in the Bach Fugue, being quite successful with the voicings and clean execution of all the chords and some great moments of intensity, I just wish the last chord's intensity had been maintained rather than die off. More than the Bach though, his Paganini Caprice No. 1 made me smile. It had flare and clarity and left me satisfied. One forgets just how hard these caprices really can be until you hear so many people play them close together and you see the difficulties that they come up against. After getting my violin fix from Coucheron, I went about my morning - had a shower, practiced, did some laundry, ate breakfast etc. I made sure I was back in time to hear Jinjoo Cho at noon my time though. I wasn't disappointed. I heard the very end of the performer before her and when she came out and began to play it was like a whole new level of playing. Her tone was huge, even, controlled and warm. She, like Coucheron looked relaxed and at ease with the stage. They both know how to draw an audience in and make them feel at ease even if deep down they are a nervous wreck. People underestimate how much acting musicians have to do and how much it can impact a performance. Even if someone plays very well, if they look tense and nervous the whole time the audience can never relax and it's very hard to take in and get the full impact of the performance, so Bravo to Coucheron and Cho for being very successful in that department! Cho, like Coucheron showed that she was versatile and able in all the genres that are required in the preliminary round. She's thoughtful and skilled in Bach, with musicality and passion to boot and she's a true virtuoso displaying her own voice in the Paganini while still at ease with a pianist in the romantic repertoire. The last performer I heard today in their entirety was Katalin Kokas (what a cool name!) who's exquisite dress and very small frame made me like her instantly. Her Bach wasn't disappointing. She picked the A minor sonata, one of the lesser played Bach selections for this competition and she played it beautifully. It's a difficult sonata to carry off and keep your listener engaged and I was one of those sitting there enjoying it from beginning to end. She picked a Ravel work for her encore piece which was also played beautifully though I think she was much more comfortable in the Bach repertoire. It's hard to stay focused in such a high stress environment as the Indy competition and I think it started to show when Kokas reached her Paganini Caprices. Her clarity and control were gone and some of the technical tricks that she proved she could do in the Bach weren't working as well for her in the Paganini and in the 2nd of the two Caprices she played there was a sense of blurring of notes and the full impact of the Caprice, for me at least was lost. Still a worthy performer with lots of potential though.
And with that, there is my recap of all the performers I have seen so far. Now aren't you all glad I didn't see everyone? Can you imagine how long my blog would be then! Before I close off though, I think it is important to emphasize that all these players who get into this competition and go and play deserve an award. It's a huge feat to pull off the repertoire they are being asked to play in any situation but especially in this type of an environment where there are so many other individuals playing and you are all playing the same things. So Kudos to all the performers! And Kudos to all the judges, they've got a gruelling couple of weeks ahead of them judging this competition and I wouldn't be paid to be in their shoes.
Another day has come to a close (almost) and another day I have yet again spent close to an hour on scales and over 20 minutes on those dreaded vibrato exercises. I still have in my mind to practice some Bach yet tonight to put me at an even keel in terms of my sanity and it's regards to the violin but for now I'm sipping some tension tamer tea to help myself relax though the smell is making me mildly nauseas. It's supposed to have some sort of redeeming health benefit though....
Last night, or was it the night before (?) I decided that after a long absence from my unaccompanied Bach recordings that I would dig them out again and see if I was hit with any new perceptions now that I've been working on the G minor sonata on and off for just under a years time. I pulled out my Ehnes, St. John, Gruimaiux and Ricci. I don't have Ricci playing the G minor but I was curious to hear his sound and approach again. First up was Ehnes. Ehnes was my 2nd largest exposure to unaccompanied Bach and my 2nd recording that I got when I was 12. I had Ricci's sound strong in my mind when I first heard the Ehnes recording on the radio at that age. My Dad, shortly after I began playing violin, brought me home a recording of Ricci which I can remember sitting on the couch listening to with my eyes closed for hours on end, just absorbing to music so Ehnes had some big shoes to fill. I really liked Ehnes' much cleaner, less rubato filled approach and there was a clarity in his playing that I hadn't heard in the Ricci but something about the Ricci recording still stuck with me for a long time. The Ehnes recording gradually grew on me though and I named it my new favorite. The other night when I put the recording of the G minor on I felt somehow a bit lost in the first mvt. It didn't quite embody the vision and sense of motion that I had developed for the piece. There were a lot of things I really liked about it but I determined that for now, I am not such a big fan of the legato filled, romantic approach. I needed there to be more moments where the listener could breath and some of the moments that I have come to love done with more intensity and a sense of building tension, Ehnes does in a more relaxed, slowing down fashion. The Fugue had more of that drive and internal motion that I longed for in the Adagio but again I felt like I was being strangled a bit when it came to having a chance to breath in between sections. Next up I listened to Lara St. John. There are a lot of things I like about her Adagio as well but I find it a bit stop and start and again it doesn't quite fit my vision, although phrasing wise it is closer to my ideas than Ehnes'. The Fugue has a HUGE amount of motion throughout and the statement of the theme that repeats itself throughout is much closer to my statement of the theme. It's got this drive and intensity to it but she stills lets the listener breath even with her incrediably quick playing. I don't know how anyone can make that piece sound so smooth and effortless, it's crazy! *envy sinks in* Next up was Gruimaux's Fugue. This is by far the closest to how I play it. It's a little less "moving" than St. John's but it still has that sense of motion throughout while giving the listen to breath. The statement of the theme is what I'm doing and the execution of the chords comes off how I've been taught and come to love (if only I could do them consistently!). It was interesting after such a long absence from hearing that piece to listen again to recordings and hear my new perceptions of them and compare them with how I have decided (for now!) that I want them to go.
Now that I've gone on forever about Bach, perhaps I will go and wake myself up (this tea, just inhaling it makes me sleepy) and practice for a bit more.
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