I managed to get a few days off work this week to recuperate from my "Oraclitis". So, I perused the OSO concert schedule to see what was on the "musical agenda" this weekend.
Back in January, I blogged about how sometimes your day job is like Bolero:
Well, guess what the OSO is playing this weekend???
Bolero!!! It must be April's Fools Day. This has GOT to be a joke!!!!
I did a little shopping therapy this weekend... classical style:
Barber Quartet Op. 11
Borodin Quartet No. 1 & 2
Dvorak "The American" Quartet
Mendelssohn Quartets - All of them
Brahms/Dvorak Hungarian & Slavonic Dances
I have been diagnosed with a severe case of "Oraclitis".
Symptoms are short term memory loss, premature aging, inability to count, insomnia, and difficulties in mind/body coordination and spacial concepts, and speech issues (a mix of Chinese and English).
"Oraclitis" has been known to be brought on by repeated exposure too many Oracle ERP implementations. Long term exposure may cause the symptoms to remain long term. I have been exposed almost a dozen times now in the past 5 years. The good news is that once removed from the source of the exposure, symptoms will disappear within a few days to a week.
Tonight I went to lessons with my "Oracitis" flaring up. I walk in to my teacher's studio, remark that we both managed to find 5 minutes to finally get hair-cuts, and he asks me what I want to start with. With my typical wild-eyed look, I say "SCALES!!!".
It starts off well enough. One note per bow. He skips to 3 notes per bow - I play 2 notes per bow. It took me three tries to count to three correctly. Then 4 notes per bow. Then 6 notes per bow (I'm still playing 4 notes per bow). After 3 false tries on 6 notes per bow, we break down the scale 6 notes at a time, then string it all together. I'm still playing 4 notes per bow even though I'm counting to six. ARGHHHH! We won't mention about playing the right finger on the wrong string.
Move onto arpeggios. The first few go well enough. Then on the last few, my spacial concepts seemed to have disappeared. "Put your fingers close together in a half step on the two strings", I place my fingers far apart in a whole step on the same string. We finally work through the arpeggios, then onto Kreutzer.
Kreutzer goes better. I get a little instruction on where stacc. works best on the bow, refine my same bow legato. Then onto new bowings: "this one is a mind-teaser" :::::groan:::::
Finally, onto Hummel. :::sigh of relief::: Not so bad, the same typical rhythm issues I normally have (time dilation occurs when I count), but much improved. We work on breaking down some of the rhythms into separate bows. I try again, and my inability to count symptoms slowly start to go into remission. But a new symptom appears: "start at the beginning of the line", I start at the beginning of the measure. He says, "No, your other measure" :) Oh my!
We proceed to the final movement - that incredibly lightening fast "fiddling" section. I can now count effectively again, I know the difference between a line and a measure, my fingers know the difference between a half step and a whole step. I know where my C, G, D and A strings are in relation to each other. I play the first line of that movement. Stop. Look at my teacher. He's grinning ear to ear. "Why did you stop?" he asks. I reply "Because I have NO idea how to tackle the next few measures." He proceeds to show me how to practice that next lightening speed run of notes.
We then move on the the final bits of the movement. A few pieces of advise on some stylistic tempo changes and "tricks". WHEW! I play the last three chords and the low D with relief and a small sense of accomplishment for making it though the hour.
I am sooooo happy that Joel is so patient with me on days like this. We can laugh at the fact that from time to time I can't tell my left from my other left (my right). If he gets frustrated with me, it doesn't show.
We both know the cause of these lapses in my basic ability to function as a human. A gentle reminder: "Get out of work mode into music mode" does the trick most of the time. Other days, it just takes the patience of a saint to guide me through basic exercises to get me functioning normally again. After more than a year of lessons with him, he now knows when I beg for scales it will be one of those lessons where saintlihood is called for.
It took two days, but I was finally able to relax enough to practice and play well. My "clock" slowed down to match that of the "normal world". Some stretching exercises OUTSIDE (the weather was pleasant) did wonders for the mind and the body.
I've been struggling with my set-up (chinrest/shoulder-rest) for some time now. I've come to realize that putting my shoulder-rest far back from my neck (more towards the fingerboard) does the trick. The movement of my chin doesn't "lift" the viola and start making things out of tune. This makes me start to wonder if I should be playing with a sponge instead.
Happy Easter to all, I'm going back to practice again.
Einstein's theory of special relativity has been proven, at least from my perspective this past week. While everyone else's clocks have been clicking along at a steady pace, my clock has been speeding along so fast that trying to manage a few minutes of practice time had me tempted to break some laws of physics.
Until recently, I've been able to balance work and music like a well balanced timepiece. A wrench was placed in my cogs. My practice time shrunk to mere minutes a day. My ability to keep a seperation between work and music has taken a turn for the worse.
I managed to break away from the office a bit early today. I eagerly headed home to my beloved music. I place my fingers on the fingerboard like it was a keyboard, and hold the bow like it was a mouse. The music in my head is not what is written on the page, but the beeps, bleeps and various sounds coming from my computer.
Better to put Hilda back to bed and wait until tomorrow. Maybe a good night's rest will bring the music back.
I should also take Buri's advise and learn how to meditate.
I wake up before the crack of dawn and get ready for a crazy day of work. Monday nights are orhcestra rehearsals. I run through the house gathering my laptop, work folders, cellphone, viola, and rifle through my sheet music on my stand to pick out the orchestra music, and manhandle all of this into my car. Once arriving at work, hike through the parking lot with laptop and viola to the office.
At the end of the day, I'm finishing up conference calls with China while I'm driving to Orchestra rehearsal. This is a regular enough of an occurance that no one asks me "what is that noise" anymore when we begin informal tuning and warm-ups and I'm still on the phone.
I have a two hour "break" from work. When orchestra rehearsals are over, I check voice mails and begin calling back my colleagues in China.
Same as Monday, but no need to bring the viola with me to the office. When I get home, I squeeze in 30 minutes of practice time before the next conference call.
Same as Monday, but start searching for non-orchestra sheet music and studies. Conduct conference calls with China on the drive to downtown for lessons. End conference call as I'm walking up the stairs to my teacher's studio (hastily). Look at my teacher with wild eyes saying "I NEED SCALES!!!!".
Same as Monday, but gather ensemble/quartet music. Conference calls typically end mid-commute to ensemble practice. Have a blessed 2 1/2 on non-work time. Berate myself for not being able to count consistently during rehearsal.
It is China's weekend! No conference calls at night! Go home after a "normal" day and practice until midnight. Every three months, perform concert for the community.
Finally! NO conference calls! I sleep in late, have a good breakfast. Warm-up properly. Practice for 5-6 hours each day while doing laundry and cleaning house. Finally have enough time to spend on etudes, shifting studies, orchestral works, quartet works, and personal musical objectives. Will often break into Broadway Musical tunes as a variant to shifting studies.
Lord! I love music!!!!
I got a good dose of practice in this weekend on the Hummel. There were two areas that I was "assigned" to focus on: some rhythm issues in the 3rd movement (yes Buri, I was assigned some specific metronome work), and the beginning of the last movement (16th notes, played at mm 108++ per group of 6-16th notes).
So first, my "metronome" assignment. The 3rd movement is in 3/4 with 1/4 notes, a triplet of sorts. Sometimes the quarter notes are tied. I was holding them just a bit to long. I was assigned to play them sub-divided at first (with metronome), then without sub-divisions (still with metronome), then without a metronome (subdivided), then again without a metronome (without sub-divisions). This really helped with getting the rhythm internalized.
Then onto the "lightening speed" section. During lessons last week, Joel showed me that if you took the bowings out of the picture, part of this movement was simply chords, played arpeggiated, VERY fast. Once that "light bulb" got turned on, and I moved to the upper third of my bow, I too was playing this section very fast with little effort. That is, until I got to the section that was not an arpeggiated chord :(
I'll save that part for my lext lesson.
One of the things I love most about my quartet group is sight reading new pieces, and often.
We have moved on to Mendelssohn quartets, and played one of the Minuets. Everything was going fine, until the TRIO section, when I noticed, to my dismay, one little word: "solo". As a violist, solos are not common. However I am finding that they are more frequent than I had expected.
This particular movement had some shifting challenges. Shifting up to third position (and higher) is easy enough in some circumstance, however in this piece, it wasn't obvious on a sight-reading on WHEN to shift. The result - arghhh! I took it home to figure out the shifts, red-faced with embarrassment.
I guess this is what sight-reading is all about... testing your skills.
Sometimes it makes you think of playing everything at the slowest metronome mark possible to the point of playing one note per bow per beat, without rhythm, dynamics, or other bowing considerations. Just a focus on making the notes, and making them in tune.
Other times, you think that "practicing slowly" means gearing down the tempo to a painfuly slow pace while including rhythm, dynamics, and bowing considerations.
Then there are times, like tonight, where you think you are playing relatively fast, but only a few clicks slower than tempo, just a "little slowly". You think to yourself: "A few weeks should get me up to tempo".
This last thought was the one I left lessons with. That is until I popped in the CD that my teacher loaned me of him playing the Hummel, and started listening to it on my drive home from lessons. 7 minutes later, I realized how FAST the last section of Hummel *REALLY* was. I was floored by the speed of the last section. I couldn't even imagine by bow arm EVER moving that fast.
Practicing slowly is relative. You may think that you are zipping along quite fast, at Mock speeds until you are passed by someone going near light-speed.
On a different note (pun intended). I've decided to go to "Summer Camp" this year. I haven't been to a summer music camp since I was 12, at Sewanee. My teacher helped me find one appropriate for me: a pushing 40 amature violist. I think he was more excited about the idea of me going to a summer camp than I was (if that was at all possible). Unlike the Sewanee music camp, this one is only one week long, but seems packed full of musical experiences. I'm really looking forward to getting away from all the "hub-bub" at work.
Such a simple concept, but one so difficult to master. How to balance the viola properly on your shoulder, how to balance your hand, how to balance music, life and work.
I've seen musicians - amatures and professionals both, take their art so seriously that other aspects of life are put on the back-burner.
I've seen tech professionals work 20+ hour days to "get the job done", that life outside of work is a dim memory.
What is it that drives people down one path, never to take a detour to see what is on a side-road?
It's nearly spring, and I can't WAIT to go out exploring again!
Our concert is this Friday.
Most of the music in the program was loaned to us by Norman Leyden himself. It is quite interesting to play music from a copy of the original hand-written manuscript.
The pianist that won the concerto competition is performing in this concert. I lost to someone quite talented and experienced. 50 years! Wow!
Tonight my trio group played at the Sequoia Gallery's opening night. It was our first ever public performance as a group.
We set up in a corner on the upper mezzanine and had a brief "staff meeting" on what we were going to play, in what order, at what tempo, dynamics, etc. We started with the Beethoven Terzetto, then moved on to some Mazas and some Dvorak.
We were surprised at the number of people attending the event. At one point someone bumped into the 2nd violinist's stand and moved it at an awkward angle almost a foot away. The second violinist just continued to play until there was a good point to stop, moved his stand back into place, and continued playing. The old saying of "if a freight train goes through the room - KEEP PLAYING" is sooooooo true!
There were times we had a number of people stop to listen, applaud, give compliments on the music, etc. I saw many people I know from my community orchestra. Several of the artists in residence came and thanked us personally while we took a break.
At first, we were all nervous and made a few mistakes. No one ever noticed. After awhile, we settled in and it began to feel more like our regular practice sessions.
I was particularly nervous about playing the Adagio movement of the Beethoven Terzetto. The viola carries the melody through most of the movement, which is normally the role of the 1st violin. However, I played it through without any noticeable mistakes and got thumbs up from my group and a few friends. :) My teacher and I worked on this movement alot this past Sunday in preparation for tonight's event. It was well worth the cost of the lesson, and more.
This was such an exciting, exhilarating and positive experience. I hope that someday we can do this again. All of us have full time day-jobs, with sometimes more than full-time hours. We play together just for fun, but decided to give a public performance a try. We were NOT expecting to have offers for hire! Now, what to do? Keep playing and having fun!
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