September 2007

One day, long, long ago Pandora focused.

September 27, 2007 00:43

I've been writing this blog for some time now--actually a lot of time. This little Pandora's box I call violin and like it, being an accidental event in my life, is truly amazing. Her Pandora's box is named focus.

All of the wild pleasurable moments I've had just jamming, started to pale about a year ago to what happens when that elusive focus in in place. I would make a list of all the things that one must focus on but most of you know them already.

My journey having quite a colorful beginning, was very slow at first to add any focus really at all. Instructions from teachers only sometimes made sense, there was no muscle memory, and I was playing poorly actually for five hours straight at a time. But I was, as I remain, in love.

I feel maybe a little cocky even, in confidently saying that there is no other instrument with which a person must put their entire selves in as violin; and maybe viola--I don't know yet. Were I new to music and instruments I would be more reserved on this, but it's just been my experience.

I start playing cantabile on piano, and the music just takes over. I'm like an observer at some points in that environment and actually entertained on some level by what is produced; and, can tell that I am observing. This especially holds true as I move from piano to piano and add 'real' meaning to tickling the ivories. I consider it a loving challenge to make each girl respond.

But on piano, there are limited ways one can press a key, and hear a note. Collectively, there may be infinite ways a passage may present itself--but this is about one action, one note. Given though that piano has it's own timbres of detachment or fluidity in the way one may approach a note, it nonetheless is not like violin.

Overall, I'm not alone in finding piano as having more possibilities for richness and complexity, but that is not the point here. The point is that on a single note on violin, all things considered, one may achieve equality in substance because of the variety of possibilities attached to the bow, the technique and 'even the weather'! But the key to this variety, is focus.

Instinct can never be a hundred percent assumed on violin, simply because of the weather? Yes, I feel this is partly true. But the focus inspired richness of shaping notes on violin is equally satisfying as piano. Indeed, I am, still in love.

My experience began so timidly because of physical things, that each achievement towards fluid tonality was something else to focus on. Only history will know if this was a good thing, but something tells me it was. Talk about a masochist!

I'm still praying about my f2/3 south, but I'm starting to see that though it may take some more time, and that the improvements will be slow, that it will indeed come. So I'm writing about focus from an informed opinion, of having seen tiny tiny steps mature--just pressing a single note. Where have we heard that before?

Well, being one who sits down and just plays sensitive Schubert for the fun of it, I'm not use to just playing a single note! Argh! I was sketching around with slow mvmt from Pathetique on violin earlier, hoping someone else has done this before, and just for a single moment the music took the lead. But this time, that elusive all things considered focus, was only a quarter note from music rather than two tied whole notes.

So my current contribution to the violin world: is that being truly present in the experience is a great deal of the genius of mastery. Though I understand and appreciate Auer's interpretative meanings, I think that if he didn't say it already, that focus is very important to this.

So this Pandora's box took the crippled hand and transformed it through love and substance and focus, the first two with which I had nothing to do with oddly. I'm staying the heck away from instrument stores from now on! Focus. Darn, I want a cello now! ;)

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Hillbilly: The Real Story reviewed

September 23, 2007 21:19

The History Channel aired Billy Ray Cyrus hosting a program on Appalachia tonight, September 23, 2007. The imagery came together once again rather slanted, and heavily influenced by the views of outside looking in assumptions.

Almost every layer of the presentations rather than demystifying Appalachia, furthered stereotypes and misperceptions, though the effort seemed well meaning. These balancing acts failed by both omissions as well as simply bad information.

Isolation as only a minor example, was a selective luxury of the mountains rather than a way of life. The real travel records studied more recently clearly show part of this myth for what it is.

But the reinforcing of violent images was the worst skew in this yet another view of Appy. Nobody ever mentions that there were border wars in Missouri during this same period, and for some of the same reasons, when romanticizing the Hatfields and McCoys. There are other examples as well beyond these notes.

And rather than portraying the diversity in religion in the mountains, he furthered the sensational view of others, by omission. He generalized the Baptist traditions almost tongue in cheek, and not a word that there are also Presbyterian, Episcopal, Catholic and other well and long established traditions was mentioned. Diverse? Yes, 'and' yes.

And sadly, the story of the mountain's relationship with the economy at large was once again told from the outside looking in spirit rather than ours. The balancing act of images may have mentioned some of our concerns, but they favored things like: industrialization's needs, the war effort's needs and the like overall.

The History Channel writers somehow couldn't see the role of industrialization adding to and maintaining urban sprawl to this day--this really, should have been included.

And had they told the down and dirty environmental truth about the slag piles and out of control approaches to getting coal out of the oldest mountains on earth in a more balanced perspective, they could have reversed some of the slant noticed. The early approaches really were that bad--it was like adolescent boys out of control. And many feel with the strip mines being proposed today, it will only get worse.

The goal of the documentary was suppose to dispel myth and stereotypes. Though I liked Cyrus' little bit of rebel spirit, they unfortunately failed and in my mind, probably made things worse.

The mountains around the world have always been storehouses for the world's natural resources. Where they cannot be taken as cheaply and freely as possible, whatever is necessary will be used as a lubricant of sorts, socially, culturally, economically and politically.

Painting continuing myths of violence and conflict may have worked in the past, but that I hope will change. Even the United Nations missed 'very' important points along these lines during the global celebration theme: "Year of the Mountain".

Change can feel like a wave. Using folk tradition story telling as a correlation, these meanings and images have counterparts in that wave effect. Those who own the printing press, most often write history; and, the storyteller precedes the story.

The first written images of Appalachia were direct results of the above reality--yes. Today, the reality continues that large economic forces need not be grounded in reality, just loud enough to dispel dissent. And those being exploited today, may even voice the truth, but with what end or effect?

Finally, though well meaning and again, the effort to dispel myth not only failed, but further twisted inherent strong positive qualities of our people once again, using romantic notions more compelling. I'm pretty sure I know why, but that's for another day and venue.

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Thought for the Day: Basics

September 22, 2007 21:59

Guilty! Hahn and I. Guilty! ;).

Recuperating and rehabilitating my left hand has been epochally instructive. I've had to pay attention at every single small point. I won devil! ;).

Tonight, I was working with basic finger dropping, and went all the way back to 'true' basics. For me-fast but light drop, just several ancillary abilities that I must focus on the next few months purposefully came to light.

I am 'still' like the dude in the popular movie "Footloose" learning to dance--the football player, in many ways. But, I'm improving really noticeably. It feels cool. Many people should feel proud. You.

My most honary coach reinforced my belief that because of my southpaw's history, that Sevcik, Kreutzer and Wohlfahrt will become my best buddies for a long time. Hit me baby! Make me LiKe it!

Fine! But it feels sooooo good. I was pushing me earlier on etudes, scales and arpeggios before garnering my resources in basics again, and Mutchnik's exercises are kickin--though he would agree they are pretty universal?

So's, to whomever is posting about kids needing to learn to read, again, 'start-small'.

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Effort: Thought for the Day

September 21, 2007 20:36

"More than one road leads to Rome! The fact is that when you get it, you have it, that's all!"
(Jascha Heifetz-speaking on one of his remembered challenges--staccato)

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September 19, 2007 21:50

Mendy Smith used the term dissonance in her blog! Yay! Seriously.

I was listening to David Nadien play Becker's Gavotte earlier, and heard another kind of dissonance. The continuation of the notes, had me visualizing his control of string vibrations.

I heard a richness that was created by creating a very very subtle saw-edge effect on the string's vibration that translated into a silk road. But dissonance in my mind also addresses the recent discussion of Bloch Nigun, Mara, Janine and Bartok.

I also grab a couple notes on an original arrangement I'm putting together, that brought this into focus for me. The huge big sound, massages my mind. My anti-fluff cohort, told me to dig in. I shall, with my scoop. Thanks Mendy!

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Ron Mutchnik's Left arm was stolen.

September 18, 2007 20:02

Mr. Mutchnik,

You know that though many have tried, I give you credit for getting my hand shaped across the strings. The dependability of my f3 and f4 across the board has improved a hundred percent plus, as a result. Thank you again--you could not know how frustrating... Anyway.

However, I'm posting to take these concepts to the next level: "For the left hand, this means - among other things- setting one's fingers at an angle from which the next series of notes is efficiently reachable at tempo; shifting as fast as one would at full speed; and arranging one's arm and wrist in a position to vibrate immediately if needed." (Hilary Hahn)

I began with the exercises that finally turned lights on for my muscle memory in simple sequences on the same string as you generously shared. Since then, I started applying a gentle left elbow motion under the instrument and applying the fingers readied in etudes. For 'whatever' reason this nearly immediately translated into my general playing of familiar things. I s'pose I was ready or something.

But Hahn's advice above, this anticipating and generalizing where one is, and is going, I'm sure I'm ready to start applying now. I'm finishing Suzuki 3, and tonight I noticed that her many other slow practice concepts are still in between me and anticipating for intonation, but for things I'm familiar with, I'm ready to rock.

Tonight also, I really pushed the etudes with all this. It was more than nice--I couldn't believe it was me playing Wohlhfahrt No3 so beautifully and competently--adding vibrato of course where I felt I could. For what it's worth, in the meantime I also 'imaged' a least left tuck to keep my hand near it's shape. This means that I do not let my tuck veer right or outward at any time, and feel for it's relaxation in the process.

All this still feels a little statuesque, but 'that' is the normal range of the idea that playing and posturing for violin is not the most natural posture. I got to watch Celtic Woman again on PBS last night, and realized how much of my challenges have been over-rated. Máiréad knocked my socks off. Is there such a thing as play-synching?

Such a focused endeavor, which is also a kind of anti-focus is a neat irony among instrumentalists I think. Violin can be tough. Nonetheless, I'm ready to start focusing and anticipating and preparing for my anti-focused flow I think, and you have been part of that. Thank you.

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Raggedy Andy, Banal Tones, and ...

September 16, 2007 22:15

have been integral parts of my violin experience. I just raggied myself into a nice right downward bow with well balanced instrument, into lower strings from the waist for some Ging notes, rather than pushing down on the instrument again, and it felt so cool.

And in reconstituting my double stop efforts at least a little recently, it was humbling, but not as if I hadn't been there before. But oh'm'gosh, it sounded awful at first. Screech--out of tune--and, in that I had just finished these f2-f4 finger dropping exercises that make progressive look conservative.....

I had just been gliding through some 'light' chords on GDA, and decided to jump over to sixths. Reading an essay about Mischa Elman, I decided to work out some sixths on piano, and start 'really' running scales with these double-stops.

Previously, I had used Violin Masterclass videos, and Bystovesky; and, run up the strings to upper positions. But when I followed Elman's advice and did the math another little light clicked on. Specifically the light was in the spirit of Hilary Hahn's advice to know where one is at all times--this is common advice as well.

Thirds and sixths anyway just make sense to a piano player. Other intervals (other than maybe octaves), I've never really given much thought yet. I've been so focused on getting stronger and well that the basics I've put in place will not, be forced.

I was also comforted in learning that others have found double-stops physically tough, even some greats. And that certain things come easy to each individual, reinforced something I've felt forever--referring to Elman's experience again.

And since I've found my first consistent chops, I started using what I've worked with on bow weight, and in 'very' basic terms started refining loure and shaping in general. God, I have so much work. I trust that "Footprints in the Sand", are true.

Now, I have to find me a little freckle faced girl named Ann! ;). But in the meantime, creating a note, with at least enough weight to resonate, shape and control it, shall be my mantra.

In a red polka-dot shirt I remain,
Raggedy Al.

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When I really play this thing...

September 13, 2007 21:53

it grabs me by the collar, yanks my short arse forward and crushes my soul!. It's a woman.

Yep. Bringing many elements together simultaneously creates that type of drama. Tonight, I was grabbing notes and nuances, and even had scales ringing the walls. It's Stephan Brivati's fault!

Jamming on scales and stuff, I jammed on traditional Celtic and Appy music some also. I have no words really. The power of the music I'm working on is disarming. God forbid when I get double stops competently under my belt.

So yes, tonight was a forte night. But it was also a PP night. I bridged the gap and let the music teach me. Previously I noted some frustrations going from ff to pp, having fried pork chops. And when I layered some elements (Sassmannshaus would understand this)--lordy lordy.

I'm just glad I didn't break a string. And no, it was not messy.

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Juicy Pork Chops!

September 10, 2007 23:06

Skillet's on the stove, taters in the basket, company's on the porch, and it's a pork chops fanatic.

Finally getting some quality practice time I was pretty unfocused in getting a lot formal done. I played all day!. Being stiff for any of several reasons I'm sure, it took me awhile to warm up.

Lots of etudes, a little Suzuki, and a song I'm working on--a medley. A little Albinoni, a little simple Bach, but hard to get expressive--for me, were parts of my leisurely addled from the work weekend self.

But, a big but (be quiet Buri!), I hit my chops on the medley, and they sounded great. And I hit them really consistently overall. I made discoveries of weaknesses and noted them, and formed unanswered questions.

One of the coolest things about my chop-experience, was that I had another epiphany. I've decided to build my relax focus, on a one minute, then two then .... basis. Tonight I did this and shook the walls I bet. I know I was starting to see how to control the string vibrations.

Still, another notable part was the actual success of the ok--you're in your tuck--now play Raggedy Andy experience. Wow. uh, wow.

One of the discoveries I made was that in feeding weight onto the bow, I'm now not sure any more how to play ppp so much, and still maintain control of the vibration. Focusing on grabbing the string and controlling it indeed gave me a very big sound. But now I'm having to approach it from timid but learning, to controlling and tending to be overbearing.

When I was applying martele forte it was 'BIG'. But, as I decrescendo back into a ppp, my focus and consistency though not terrible, was not as controlled (Hahn did this to me!) and musical as I wish.

So now I'm like, in practicing bow pressure and speed--if one has a Strad, they sure--and a really good bow--,,,can pull and push the notes with just bow weight. I'm on a conservatory type basic though, and I need to be a little heavier to excite those notes and form them. What do I do, about, that? ;).

How does this digging in really work? God, I was making big sounds tonight. It was rich and at my level screamin. I'm not sure what it is with me and sad music, but the medley I'm creating is extremely deep and haunting. And it scares me some that I jammed seventy percent through it's sketching and structure in less than a day really.

When I applied my relax for a minute concept to this, I gained a level of control and resonance that struck me pretty hard. That seventy percent became nearly a hundred percent a few times. And though another re-discovery that "planning shifts is essential--'or at least important" presented itself again on my plate, I now see on my level--how that works.

So yes, my chops came tonight--and yes, obviously I feel they were juicy. I thought of someone I admire: Emil earlier, as I kicked Witches Dance tail pretty good. Just wait dude!.

Yet another discovery tonight, is an answer to my curiosity concerning how in the world folks break strings! Argh! ;)...... double.

I also decided tonight that my soul should touch elbow's with Yo Yo Ma's concerning Applachia's interpretation..

Chops indeed!

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The Simple Life (Installment xx)

September 8, 2007 10:42

Yes, it's hundreds of small things that make one good--not in an obsessive spirit, just a functional competent spirit.

Today, I began not only truly understanding focusing on the string's vibration, but technically applying it in my playing. I found that to understand this, one focuses on the fingerboard itself.

I applied the vibration thing as least as a first effort up through seventh position, and though up there I'm still not confident to focus on musicality, along with just keeping the bow standard(something I've been working on), found a new ally in improving tonality.

The other simple thing I began 'really' mastering today was using fourth finger as a matter of style rather than something to be overcome. Rather than choosing an open 'e' in an expressive measure, I vibrated f4 widely on A, and it was amazing. Actually it was pretty haunting as the song is deep and moving.

I certainly hope that over the next year, all these balance concepts along with things others have helped me with will begin to allow me to focus more on "now, say something with your music!".

I was working on McGlothlin's "In the Arms of the Angels" as well, and this string vibrating notion was very very very powerful, in grabbing her wispy decaying voice. Well, it's not a strad for Josh, but it's another simple step for the kid.

I look forward very much to having some time to apply dynamics to what I can discover about vibrations using etudes. My ff and pp are evolving through this it appears, and resonantly.

Simple but powerful.

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Hot diddly darn!.

September 2, 2007 23:51

Tonight after work, I was loosening up and feeling fairly flexible (anyone who reminds me I'm older'n dirt gets flamed), I started jammin. My elements started coming together important enough to list:
1. fluidity of darn near everything.
2. I finally started feeling the bow vibrating the string rather than grabbing it. I still don't know what in the the heck inspired me to start pulling and pushing notes like that. Honest to God, it just came out of nowhere...
3. my left elbow was like spaghetti and finding it's place under the instrument.
4. yada...

So's, I pegg the first Albinoni arpeggio that must be all that on at least a solid early intermediate level.

Then, I started revisiting the Sarabande I put on the shelf for a few about a month and a half ago, having 'finally' gotten through those notes that were eluding me.

Well, I lost my place on those notes again, but I was all over that Sarabande tone wise, not having messed with it since acutally before Raphael beat me up for using a shoulder rest and made me like it.

And the run and shift up to 5th+ I truly truly pegged. (and grinned). All this work in getting the instrument flowing--let me say it again--that's ok--I won't, expressed itself on the Sarabande tonight, though it will be another year and a half probably in getting it truly masterful on my level.

I'm not sure if my instrument was just feeling good (humidy, temperature) or what, but she sure did sing. Hot diddly!

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