jennifer steinfeldt warren

When your music breaks, do you grow, or do you dissolve into the profession?

August 25, 2012 15:49

I have been reading through my own blog archive while sitting in a hotel recovering from a long labourious rehearsal so that I can be fresh for the concert in less than a few hours. It is fascinating (oh, I am SO modest, yes?) and interesting to read unfamiliar text that at one point shared the same brain that I use today. Except.... I used to be so much more articulate and organized and introspective and... understandable in my writing than I am now. The past few years have seen me in increasingly obscene amounts of time spent with my nose in a book as opposed to living life, so you'd think it would influence the literary organization of my thoughts. But no. It seems more that I am impressed with who I used to be in the form of expressing myself in conjunction with having useful and worthwhile things/topics/ talk about. Real content.

After three years or so of feeling lost and stuck in a musically "dead zone", I am waking up and feeling like something that has been broken in my music has been put back together in a new and unpredictably exciting way.

So why isn't that reflected verbally (the written version of a thought or concept). In the years when my music was broken, did I also lose other things that I'd never consciously associate with being musically healthy? All my life music defined who I was. Then I didn't feel as if music made me or was even inside of me. It was torture at first, but then I discovered that I was more than just a musician.

This was not necessarily a good thing. On one hand, I'd lost my drive, my passionate side of my soul. On the other hand, I think that getting burned out and turned off and feeling the deep despair of a sense of one failure after another in the hugest part of who you are... that cannot continue very long before it destructively dissolves your life in general.

So. What is my point? It has come back... because of interaction with other musicians. Because professionally I felt so screwed over that it became transparantly clear that I'd put all my efforts into an organizational system that I cannot control at all. I had no idea that my music had gotten so poisoned that I could not even TELL that it could exist beyond the perameters currently keeping it barely alive.

Then came along a few people who changed the way I saw so many things. Then came along the thing I am worst at doing: stepping away from comfort zones and taking leaps of faith...and getting involved whether or not it will be too much to handle and I will fail. Then came along the realization that friendship and musicianship can equal chamber music and relationships that rekindled a spirit of music that is parallel to what I used to feel, but more mature. And less isolated. Shared.

Now I am in the midst of perhaps overwhelming myself in the attempt to start new musical experiences and relationships and careers so that the ones existing don't tear me up so much when there is nowhere to go but down. And it is SO EXCITING. That in itself still surprises me. I'm not the type of person who embraces change. Of any sort. It is usually scary.

The point is still eluding me. I think it has something to do with understanding that music is the people who make it with us. Not all those standards and technical points. Not the hours spent practicing and the "canon" or education of it. That is necessary of course to develop the skills.

But as you mature and grow into (for me, my thirties)... you must go beyond all that to find meaning and happiness in this very stressful career in which sometimes we can be made to feel as if there is never an end to having to prove yourself every time you pick up your instrument.

Oh my! Time to get ready for the concert!

3 replies

Assuming Characteristics for our Instruments' Role in Various Combinations?

August 23, 2012 10:08

I wrote an embarrassingly long comment in a discussion section of, which is more suited to a verbose and unstructured venue of...of...(not blabbing since my mouth technically isn't opening and closing...WOW; but the equivalent of that in typed form... cyber-drivel..dribble... no quibble). Yes. It is one of those days. :) So..
I cut and pasted the comment to a blog.

RE: Playing String Trio Music and the Strange Nature of Finding a Role as the Inner Voice (as opposed to inner voices within quartets).

Oh, how my college professors would cry if they could see the inability to condense a title as such and my writing in general. *sigh. That is why this isn't college, yes?

Here is the copied free-association writing that served as a discussion comment from a topic regarding string trio literature:

"Wow, I have not checked in a few days and didn't expect this post to still be active; I was pleasantly surprised to find all sorts of great avenues to explore from the suggested music and sites. We played Haydn this past weekend and the Urtext of this particular set (it wasn't mine, which is the London trios set for two violins and cello) of divertimentos had one whole divertimento in alto clef with the rest in treble clef. Unfortunately the cello part for that one was a series of quarter notes that she was able to memorize as we were "reading"! But for the viola? Oh, what singing lines and beauty in the interplay of melodic gestures between violin and viola. With the cello keeping us nice and steady and giving me defined aural rhythmic stability, I was able to let go more and really sing. My weakness as a violist is actually rhythm and counting. If I'm playing first violin, that is not the case, but somehow, playing the inner voice wreaks havoc on my rhythmic reading abilities. I have yet to define EXACLY the nature and origin of this problem to fix it, as it seems to be only when playing viola or violin II. All of a sudden, as a professional with a Masters' degree, I find myself in a position where I am lost way too much of the time and get frustrated as to why...

I assume part of it is the confidence of the "role" each string section plays. When first violin, I have obvious leading roles and the writing reflects that as well as ensemble dynamics. As second violin in a quartet, you have a less charismatic "role", but it is still quite specific in nature, and you learn to listen to viola in a specific way in relation to the cello and first violin. In a trio.... I can't find the "role" and character and how to fit it in.

As well as not being able to sense timing, I find myself making elementary mistakes with things like double-timing, mis-counting when the music uses condensed rhtyhmic notation instead of ties or broken-up visual notation...

I know this is a bit off the original topic, but does anyone else have this problem or experience with it? Or have an idea as to why counting and rhythm would all of a sudden be proving to be a weakness in such an embarassing way just due to the instrumentation and where I sit within it???!! Perhaps I'll cut and paste this as a blog...

Thanks again for the recommendations and leads for music. There is one string trio piece we've played a few times that I cannot find anywhere as a recording to listen to. The music is a Peters' Edition, so it shouldn't be so hard to find! Anyhow.... it is J.N. Hummel Trio in GM. Everything is in German and there are alternate parts included (like two viola parts in case you can't find a violinist!!! Ha!). On the first page of the parts it says: "Joh. Nep. Hummel (1778-1837) but under it it says: "a.d.NachlaB herausg. v. Fritz Stein". I have guesses as to that, and have researched who J.N.Hummel is, but still can't find a RECORDING of this very pleasant piece.

Well. That is about five different tangeants in one "comment". Enough for now, eh?

Jennifer S. Warren"

The End.
If you Made it this far, reading... you deserve a prize :).

1 reply

I'm Ba-ack!

August 9, 2012 13:22

Just a short blog for the moment (EDIT: SHORT MUST BE RELATIVE...EDIT: substitute "long" for "short") to say hello to old friends and express excitement regarding new ones.

This summer has been what I have been "waiting" for in many ways, musically. I'd put all my professional "eggs" in a limited amount of "baskets" and early this summer came to realize that the organizations I am in are in all intent and practice.... beyond my control. They were my "comfort zone" from which I was reluctant to step away from, but also not local (three hours drive for each orchestral job in two orchestras). That kind of thing makes for a potentially miserable sensation deep within your musical self.

I had felt that my music was "broken" as I struggled more and more to make things work in the ensembles. Devoid of students after we moved, and not being in the local music scene, my focus pivoted more and more towards the orchestral positions. When things were not going well, I fought and upped the ante in my mind and actions, getting more and more frustrated. When I finally came to realize that not only was there no representation for the musicians, but also that no amount of effort or professional pride and relative abilities had affect in administrative and personnel decisions...well...something reached a "crescendo" inside and then sfz into pp. Calm. A heady sense of freedom and decision that I would play this season out and not care so much..just ride the experiences for what they were...while building a local "prescence" musically.

That is easier said than done, but it is happening! For awhile the monetary aspect of involvement will be less than desired, but it is necessary to build a local network and is already showing promise of returns. Relationships. New roads. And...OMG...AUDITIONS!! I've been scared, honestly, of auditioning since it has been so many years since I have done any kind of audition. But here it comes, a double audition on violin and viola for a local orchestral position. It doesn't pay in itself, but it is a more elite group of functioning, surviving musicians who pass jobs around.

Too bad collegeiate training doesn't include a course outlining how the professional world works, how to navigate orchestral circuits and politics, how to make a presence of yourself and how to build a network from which jobs and students ultimately come. Or how to market yourself. I have found that marketing yourself is different depending on your community. What worked in one place is quite ineffective in another and it is EASY EASY to both get discouraged and to avoid taking risks outside of a comfy professional place.

Once a job has nowhere else to lead you but is time to move on. Easier said than done!. So much for a short blog. Verbosity is the weak link in my expression, for which the internet does nothing to discourage in its many functions... :). Howdy, all!

Jennifer Steinfeld Warren

2 replies

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