Over the past week or two, I've begun three different entries that tasted about like yesterday's reheated coffee, so I just couldn't stand to finish them. Well-written words come best from a fresh heart, but mine lies stale, still buried under a snow berm somewhere.
Who can help but be affected by the long winter that followed last summer's rain? Upon spring breakup, we congratulate ourselves around town for surviving another one, but I can't help but think about all the horses at camp that have died in May. It can't be coincidence that this is when they concede, but why? It's almost as though they would have forgotten about heaven completely, had they not been reminded by the change of weather.
Yesterday it warmed up to 45 degrees. The first migratory bird of the season, a varied thrush, sang from a spruce thicket as I walked with my dog along the soggy road. Its plaintive, singular voice, along with the appearance of the sun, stabbed my heart with contrast, there next to the blanket of silent steady greys. Hope hurts for all its reminders of what could be. But faith encourages me to believe in the good that's still to come, even when tomorrow's forecast is snow.
The next Anchorage Symphony concert is just around the corner, and Mahler's on the menu. Number Two, "The Resurrection" came with a heavy amount of baggage; the personnel manager had preceded the music with an email attachment of the glossary of terms, and the conductor inserted a 3-page list of tempo markings in my music folder. There were 21 tempo changes in the first movement alone.
I've never actually listened to an entire Mahler symphony; both lack of attention span and lack of band-width have prevented me. So, each night, I sit down with the music, a metronome, and a pencil, and I follow each tempo marking carefully, paying particular attention to all the tricky key changes and accidentals along the way. I think about elementary school and the tests teachers would give to see how good you were at following instructions. If you did everything right, you'd have the punch line to a riddle or a pretty picture when you finished.
I hope to get everything right, and I have faith that something beautiful will come to life when I assemble it with the rest of the musicians on Wednesday. Right now, though, I feel like I'm connecting dots, trying carefully to do exactly as I'm told. I draw my bow through the series of notes until time's up, and then I put it away, to be continued the next evening.
The Anchorage Symphony Orchestra will be performing Mahler's 2nd symphony this month; I received the music in the mail yesterday and pulled it out for a run-through. Having never played Mahler before, I found the German markings both mysterious and amusing. I took a guess at them before digging out the translations that had been sent with the music. For the most part, I'd been surprisingly correct.
Here is the glossary of terms, for those of you who will be playing Mahler any time soon and may need help:
(Thanks, David McCormick!)
GERMAN – ENGLISH
Langsam – Slowly
Schleppend – Slowly
Dampfer auf – Slowly
Mit Dampfer – Slowly
Allmahlich in das Hauptzeitmass ubergehen – Do not look at the conductor
Im Anfang sehr gemaechlich – In intense inner torment
Alle Betonungen sehr zart - With more intense inner torment
Getheilt (geth.) – Out of tune
Von hier an in sehr allmaehlicher aber stetiger Steigerung bis zum Zeichen – From this point on, the spit valves should be emptied with ever-increasing emotion
Hier ist ein frisches belebtes Zeitmass eingetreten – Slowly
Haupttempo – Slowly
Noch ein wenig beschleunigend – Slowing down but with a sense of speeding up
Immer noch zurueckhaltend - With steadily decreasing competence
Sehr gemaechlich – With indescribably horrific inner torment
Etwas bewegter, aber immer noch sehr ruhig – Somewhat louder, though still inaudible as before
Alle Betonungen sehr zart – With smallish quantities of fairly mild inner torment
Gemaechlich – Intermission
Ganz unmerklich etwas zurueckhaltend - Slowly
Etwas gemaechlicher als zuvor – Slowly
Von hier ab unmerklich breiter werden – As if wild animals were gnawing on your liver
Ohne cresc. – Without toothpaste
Immer noch etwas zurueckhaltend – Slowly
Vorwaerts draengend – Slowly
Hauptzeitmass - Slowly
Allmaehlich etwas lebhafter – Screaming in agony
Ohne Nachschl(age) – Without milk (sugar)
Kraeftig bewegt – Slowly
Mit dem Holze zu streichen – Like a hole in the head
Mit Parodie – Viola solo
Sehr einfach und schlicht, wie eine Volksweise – Slowly
Daempfer ab - Eyes closed
Ploetzlich viel schneller – Even more ploddingly
Den ersten Ton scharf herausgehoben – Do not play until the buzzer sounds
Am Griffbrett – As if in tune
Aeusserst zart, aber ausdrucksvoll – Radiantly joyful, despite the itching
Wieder zurueckhaltend - Increasingly decreasing
Noch breiter als vorher – Better late than never
Nicht eilen – No eels
Allmaehlich (unmerklich) etwas zurueckhaltend – Much faster (slower) than conductor
Lang gestrichen – Heads up
Lang gezogen – Heads back down
Die werden allmaehlich staerker und staerker bis zum (fp) - In the event of a water landing, your sat cushion may be used as a flotation device.
More entries: March 2011
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