November 2004

November 21, 2004 11:19

Well, today's the big day -- the Madison String Quartet's party celebrating the release of our CD, _Life is a Dream_. No, we didn't record nursery rhymes, it's the name of the world premiere quartet that's on the disc by Miguel del Aguila, and really should be called _La Vida es Suenho_. It's taken a year of work recording, editing, designing, redesigning, un-redesigning, cajoling, and screaming at Discmakers to get it finished on time, but it's finally here. And at this point I'd rather have a party to celebrate not having to do it again.

I've decided I don't like the process of recording and producing CDs. Unless the only thing I have to do to make it work is play, listen to what's on tape and decide which takes I want and which I don't, then I don't really want to be involved in it. Just today we figured out that we left a track listing off of the jacket. All the pieces are listed in their correct order in two places on the jacket, but the track numbers are not given. And this after we had all proofed and looked at the jacket, traycard and cover at least twice. How four people could have missed that, myself included, I don't know. In fact, I missed it twice -- once when we all looked at it and once when the prototype came. Yikes. So I don't trust myself doing that stuff anymore. If I can just go in, do my part, and come out with a finished product, then I might want to do it again. But of course, that won't happen unless Naxos or Teldec or Polymer Records, for that matter, picks us up. So I guess we're not going to do another CD for a while. (Polymer, by the way, is a Spinal Tap joke -- I just saw the movie again last night and it still makes me laugh and cringe at the same time.)

I don't know. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth trying to be a professional quartet. There's no money in it, the competition is extremely stiff, the hours can be maddening, the travel is annoying -- and that's not even thinking about the problems of bringing together four people who may have completely different ideas about how to approach _Death and the Maiden_ or op. 18, no. 4 or Bartok no.1. So what is it that we're supposed to be trying to do? Work like fiends to make a few hundred bucks from 27 hours of rehearsal? I can do better as a musician playing weddings. But then, at weddings you don't get play _Death and the Maiden_ or 18-4 or Bartok no. 1. So is that the tradeoff? I get to play great music, and love being on stage, but don't get to pay the rent doing it. Ah well...

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November 17, 2004 13:05

Well, after 5 weeks of rehearsals, I can give myself a early conducting report card.

Score preparation and knowledge: B
I've done a fair amount of study, and I find I no longer need the score to know what's going on in the parts -- I'm turniing pages a lot less than I was six weeks ago. But I'm still far better versed on the string parts than the winds and brass.

Stick technique: B-
I mirror too much. It's a common problem with young conductors, but it's still there, and I'd rather not. Also, my dynamic range could be larger.

Direction to the orchestra: C+
When I find myself searching for the right words, I know there's something that needs to be improved. I'll work on it -- public speaking is not really a strong point for me.

But, now to the important one:

Fundraising: A
We have enough to cover the entire season, and we're not even at the first performance yet. That hasn't happened with this orchestra in 4 years. This was a big thing for me: as a freelancer, I know that the best gigs are the ones where the check is in your hand the night of the concert.

Once again, it amazes me how much of being a conductor has nothing to do with standing on the podium. It's more like being a manager -- putting out fires and being a moderator, making sure things stay on an even keel. After all, it's just a temp job.

Anyways, I'll let you know how the concert goes. And eventually I'll write about instrument sales again.

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