October 2007

What do you think about when you're not thinking about anything else?

October 17, 2007 07:16

I heard a story recently about a man who was the son of a famous scientist. The son was enrolled in a science program in a university. One day he asked his father a question about a mathematical problem. The father answered that hadn't we just discussed this problem a week ago. The son replied that they had. The father's question was "isn't this what you think about when you're not thinking about anything else?" The son, chagrined, said that it wasn't. His father then admonished him to choose another career. He said "you won't be competitive. Everyone in your field is thinking about these things all the time." He went into business and had a successful career as a business educator and university administrator.

I am reading a book about Bach. His son CPE Bach said that he was instantly thinking about all the possibilities for a tune upon the instant he heard it.

I visited my sister and her family last week and she took me to a very fine restaurant. She had ordered a dish that was new on the menu that day and enjoyed it very much. When the chef came to the table we asked him how he created new recipes. He said that they often occured to him while he was resting in bed and thinking about food. He obviously thinks about recipes and cooking when he is otherwise not occupied.

What do you think about when you're not doing anything else?

10 replies | Archive link


Chamber Music

October 8, 2007 12:31

From time to time friends acquaintances (and in the more distant past me) have tried to organize chamber music events of one sort or another.

Almost everything has failed. The only exception was sort of a miracle. It was the Mendelssohn Octet with 5 professionals and 3 amateurs. I don't know how it happened but every effort since has been a decisive failure.

I am more than a little disillusioned and I am very reluctant to get involved in new efforts. It isn't that I don't want to play chamber music. I actually do but I am tired of futility.

Here are my rules: (Keep in mind that I am an amateur.)

1. Everyone can play their part at tempo at the first rehearsal. Amateurs may have some ensemble or continuity issues that may need to be worked out in rehearsal but there is no "I'll learn this by the next rehearsal" or the like. This clearly affects what is attempted.
2. No mixing of amateurs and professionals unless the professionals are paid at local union scale. Professionals make their living playing music and you cannot hold them to a rehearsal schedule in lieu of income. By the same token if a professional says they'll play then it has to be a contracted priority. If an amateur member begs off the professional still gets paid unless the professional replaces the chamber gig with something else.
3. The rehearsals start with a definite goal and and end date for the repertory being played. Typically it will be a performance.

My rules are stringent and they disqualify me for opportunities because I can't meet rule 1 for significant amounts of chamber repertory. Generally it means no reading. But the rules also protect my expectations.

4 replies | Archive link


At the crossroads: When did you get real about your future?

October 1, 2007 19:48

When did you get realistic about your potential as a performer? How did you navigate the transition?

There are a lot of different levels of performing violinists her at v.com. It appears that some are actively realizing their highest dreams and many others of us have had to get real and scale back our dreams at some point.

I know that when I was 13 and 14 I thought that I had a chance to have a career. I was playing a movement of a Handel Sonata and two movements (very poorly) of Vivaldi Op. 3 No. 6 (A minor). I owned recordings of 4 concertos. I sat in the library reading biographies of Fritz Kreisler and Yehudi Menuhin and Applebaum's book With the Artists (or The Way They Play?) and dreaming of the ovations etc. I was only practicing (if you can call it that) 30-45 minutes a day.

I remember getting my mother to buy me the Bruch violin concerto and I am sure the family was tortured by my efforts to play parts of it.

Yes I was a deluded teenager.

I took a jump in my skill level at about 16 but it wasn't really that much. I could play the Accolay Concerto (kinda sorta) and a movement of a juvenile Mozart concerto. Some fundamentals improved. I could play three octave scales and there was something of a sound and enough facility to play in the first violins in youth orchestras.

In all this time my teachers never really confronted me about my delusions.

But suddenly (or was it gradually?)reality hit. I would never be a soloist (but I didn't give up on orchestra player for some time) and I started planning alternate non-musical career paths.

Good bad or indifferent, I didn't have useful benchmarks against which to decide what I was really doing and what it would take to achieve any dreams whatsoever.

It took me a while to recognize that almost everyone who had a career:

1. Played as a soloist with orchestra in a major concerto by their early teens (or even earlier)
2. Could play significant virtuoso show pieces and etudes and caprices at about the same time.
3. Had a very well developed sense of pitch and rhythm
4. If they played in a youth orchestra, they usually sat way ahead of older youth most frequently as concertmaster.

By the time I entered college I knew my career would not be in music. I was starting to realize that most orchestra players were only a year or two behind the soloists in their development and that many of them had soloist credentials.

It wasn't really heartbreaking to give up a dream. I just changed the dream. I decided that I would always play and that I would try to improve. I think that I have realized this dream.

I had the great opportunity to meet a really excellent teacher about ten years ago. I took lessons from him for about five years and for the last 5 years or so I have sat in on my children's lessons. I practice every day. I play etudes and short pieces and play in a community orchestra. I am very conscious of the improvement which I consider a gift of God and I am very excited about the possibilities.

There won't be any ovations but there will be growth.

Did you have to scale back a dream? How did you do it?

9 replies | Archive link


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