Monday, December 31, 2007

I had a lot of fun in NYC.

I got back on the evening of the 28th, and I've been pretty good since then at getting down to work. (Thank goodness.)

My Pisoni staples continue to be fairly miraculous. I only have two, though, and I really need to buy more. However, I have a silver staple and a brass one, one of which is far better than the other. I have them marked with numbers in pen on the cork, but do I ever remember to check which is which when a reed dies? That would be a no. This time I will, though! I will check, and then I will know which is the wonder staple, and then I will buy more of that one. Finally.

My reed luck has been wildly on and off recently, and very hard to predict. I think that the latest batch of cane I bought is kind of off and also more widely varying than usual in hardness of cane and in diameter, so I'm having trouble getting my reeds to come out. However, I'm also finding it very difficult to predict my success with the reeds I do tie on. It seems that every reed which seems as if it will turn out well become horrible and odd, and every reed that starts out strange or unusually bright/dark/hard/soft/etc turns out well. Some of this I attribute to my miracle staples (that was what happened with the magic reed that I had a while back and dyed blue with mouthwash), but some of it appears to just be the cane playing tricks on me. However, better playing tricks than flat out refusing to work. :-)

My auditions and trips to CCM (Jan 12th) and Northwestern (Jan 19th) are all planned out, and my father is being incredibly nice and going with me to both of them. I have to say it'll be nice to have a car for both of them rather than having to deal with a strange city's public transportation on top of audition stress.


I have a couple exciting links, though I found one at Oboe Insight, so many of you will probably have already seen. Still, I thought it was worth posting here.

Fourteen Wacky Events in Musical News This Past Year: Featuring a French hornist who "tramps around the South Island [of New Zealand] dressed in 19th-century attire," "a balcony brawl that stopped the show on opening night of the Boston Pops," "a Genoa 'Julius Caesar' production with an added role, a guy strolling around in a crocodile suit 'representing the timeless spirit of Egypt,'" and many more, including a commission by the Kazakhstan Orchestra from Borat's brother.

Also, take a look at the first record album cover
here. A good look. Notice the instruments on the cover. Now look at the album's title.

This is either a little late or quite early: a hilarious recording of the ending of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus, found at a website of musical bloopers. Make sure you listen all the way to the end- the problem is not the out of tune strings, although when I listened to the recording the first time I thought that and it made the ending even better. I have to say that I think that this is one of the funniest things ever, and I wish I knew what the reason behind it was. Did the organist go insane? Was he or she drunk? Incredibly confused? Playing a prank?


Happy New Year's Eve everyone! Have fun and be safe. I will be spending the evening dressed as a medieval princess at my mother's costume party. :-)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

My Christmas Eve gig went fairly well, although it was a long program (a short "concert" followed by a service) and by the end my reed and my chops were giving out a little. Aside from that, though, I was happy with my playing and I thought my tone was pretty good. The tuning was fairly dreadful as a result of switching back and forth between the organ and the piano, and also I think because the strings didn't adequately tune to the organ's pitch. I found it very difficult to play in tune with the organ, and the strings, and the flute at the same time. Also, the flute and I had been moved from where we sat at rehearsal to behind the organ, which meant that the conductor was very hard to see, particularly when he played the piano. This resulted in one near trainwreck in Silent Night, when the flute picked a completely different tempo. I just inserted rests into my part and came in when everything had gotten back together. Still, it went well all in all, and the congregation seemed to enjoy it. The choir also was very good for a church choir; I was impressed. I approve of the director as a choir director if not as a conductor.

For Christmas I've gotten, among other things, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra recording of Tombeau, Beethoven 3 with George Szell and Cleveland, and Leonard Bernstein doing Dvorak's New World with the NY Phil. :-)

Now I'm off to pack- I'm going to New York for two nights with my cousin and my little sister. I hope everyone else's Christmases and Christmas gigs went well!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It's amazing the difference five minutes can make.

I know I've been going on and on about my recent oboe issues, and I'm not going to start that up again. But I was practicing this morning and got around to my excerpts and started on Tombeau. And it was wonderful. My last lesson of the year we'd worked on Tombeau, and it had just gone horribly, (although that was because I had not known we were going to work on it that day and so hadn't practiced it at all), and this was especially disheartening because generally, well, I rock that excerpt. It's one that I can play well, and musically, and with all of the notes clear and coming out. After that lesson, though, rather than getting into practicing it, I just let it (and all of my excerpts) sit some more. Today I finally picked them back up, and I was reminded that oh yeah, I can actually play the oboe. The Paladilhe was going pretty smoothly today also, as well as my Ferling etudes. The Gillet has reached that horrible stage where my fingers suddenly forget how to play everything, but I will persevere. The first movement of the Mozart Quartet just needs a lot of run-throughs. I suppose that's true of all my pieces, but I feel like I need to do just a little bit more work on musical elements of the Poulenc and Marcello.

I think I've finally kicked myself back into gear.


I saw Sweeney Todd last night, and I have to say I heartily approve. I was grossed out enough that I didn't completely love it, but the cinematography etc is amazing, and I was pleasantly surprised by everyone's singing ability except for perhaps Alan Rickman. Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, though, did quite well, and were brilliantly cast. Also, the secondary roles (Johanna, her sailor boy-Antony?, and Toby) were cast for voices, and they were good voices. I was quite impressed, especially by the boys. Johanna was good, and appropriate for her character, but uneven. Tim Burton did take out all of the choir numbers, which I don't like, but as the choir was replaced by organ and a large quantity of brass, I can't complain too much.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas gig rehearsal

As I mentioned, I have a gig for a Christmas Eve service, and tonight was the rehearsal for it. I was a little surprised to find out that the orchestration was chamber strings, flute, oboe, and organ, but hey- I like people who like oboe. It should have been a fairly uneventful rehearsal; we're playing the usual sort of orchestrated Christmas carols, though they're done in a very English way as the conductor is British and the church is Episcopal. However, the seating is odd, with us in the back of the sanctuary in a corner, and with the flute and me separated from the strings, and there is the aforementioned organ. The organ plays approximately 20 cents flat. Not only is that a hard pitch to tune to and to maintain, it doesn't sound right. Unusually sharp orchestras sound bright and, well, sharp, and when we play with this organ, we sound dull and wrong. Unfortunate.

Additionally, the conductor is very hard to follow, especially when he's conducting a piece in three. This is because while he does 4/4 patterns correctly, and uses a French 6/8, which I at least know, he conducts three with beat two on the inside rather than on the outside. It seriously confused me at first.

I also felt bad for the flautist, who seemed to be a young high-schooler, and who was filling in for whoever will play at the service. The conductor pointed some serious glares at her early on in the rehearsal. Plus I would have had a better time had I not had an intense allergy attack involving sneezing and a runny nose all day.

Still, it's all going to go well, and I'm getting paid, and I do like playing silly Christmas songs. Also, one of the other violinists complimented me on my sound, and asked for my card, for future gigs. The only problem with that is that I don't actually have any cards. Apparently, though, you can buy print-your-own-business-cards, so I think I'm going to do that this weekend. I have been thinking for a while that I should have cards.

I've heard that the Washington Balalaika Orchestra is currently looking for oboists and bassoonists, but I don't really have more information about that. I sent them an inquiry, though, so I'll put anything that I find out here.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My parents' house

I've been home for Christmas break since Saturday afternoon, and since then I've been wildly unproductive. Coming here always plays havoc on my practicing schedule, at least at first, and it's making me nervous- I have much less time, and a much more important goal, now than I did during summer break. It's not that I've been doing nothing oboe-wise, but it's been pretty much the bare minimum. And it's not as if I've been sitting around all day reading (I wish that I were doing that- I'm about 70 pages into reading Dracula for the first time and loving it)- I've done my Christmas shopping, and helped my mom with hers, and gotten boxes of Christmas tree down from the attic and all sorts of things like that- but what I'm doing with my time is really not what I should be doing.

I do, however, have a gig for Christmas Eve now. I got woken up yesterday morning by a call from Lazo, who is an oboist but who also arranges gigs for a large number of other musicians in the DC area, asking me if I were free to play a Christmas Eve service. One rehearsal tomorrow, at which I first see the music, and then a service on the 24th at 10:15 pm. Pays well, and hopefully will be a good group of musicians. I met Lazo last March or April at a friend's senior (oboe) recital, and he got me a gig up in Maryland in May. It was absolutely the best gig I'd played up until that point- Mendelssohn's Elijah, and quite a few of the instrumentalists were from military bands.

Having discovered Obohemia, I have to say that these two comics (comic one, comic two) pretty much sum up my view of life. Especially the second. :-D

I'm still planning to buy an Innoledy gouger, aided in part by Christmas money and in part by my job, sometime soon. I'm quite excited, especially since using my school's gouger never panned out. As far as I know, the school's is still sitting in the oboe locker, waiting for its repairs to be approved by the music department.

This is an interesting sound recording played on a reconstruction of a Greek wooden aulos. I'm not sure about the authenticity of the piece, but the sound of the instrument appears quite similar to that of the duduk, though not as extraordinary. It's also quite different from the "Hellenic aulos" recordings on the site, as those instruments appear to be made of metal.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Frivolous

The gift certificate was used to buy a Trans-Siberian Orchestra Christmas CD. :-D

I feel like I've had much less of what I like to call "oboe angst" this year than I have in the past. Today, however, it was back in force. My practicing slump and the fact that I'm going home for the holidays in two days was amplified by my being all hormonal, and the result? An attack of "I've chosen the wrong track and now it's too late, how could I have been so stupid." Which does just happen sometimes. Today, though, it was particularly aggressive. When I'm practicing less, it's much easier to get swept up in thoughts about doing academics instead of performance, and the possibility of doing the former while still playing and having gigs comes strongly and persuasively to my mind. And it's true, I could do that, but it's also true that I wouldn't be satisfied. My angst, though, adds an "I think" to that last statement. I maybe wouldn't be satisfied, but maybe I would, and it would save me a lot of trouble and money (and failure?).

I also today got caught up on the things that I can't do because I'm choosing performance, like trips to England this summer with some of the best English professors at my school, or visiting my friend in California in January, or taking a trip to spring break. Sometimes I worry that my friends will get frustrated at me for not being able to travel during winter break and spring break because of my auditions. And truly, my friends mean everything to me. But I do what I need to do, because I want to succeed and I know that it will be very difficult to get what I want.

I do still come back to the fact that despite my stray thoughts, pursuing performance is what I want to do, and I can do it and need to do it. I love playing oboe, and I love it in a way that will not be satisfied by making it an "also." It can still be hard, though, to let go of what the people you respect wish you were doing.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

'Tis the season to be busy.

A lot has happened since the last time I wrote something here. Our orchestra had their holiday concert with the choir, which was silly and fun and involved a version of The Night Before Christmas with a narrator and music that sounded like John Williams after a little too much eggnog. Although, sadly, it had grown on me before the end. If it hadn't been accompanying a cheerful poem about Santa I think it would have been a lot better. Because Santa is in fact not an alien.

That week we had the music department party, and I got a department recognition for the recital I gave last year, which made me really happy. They gave me a certificate, and a gift certificate for a music store around here. I haven't decided yet, though, if I'm going to spend it on useful cds or frivolous ones.


Then this past weekend, Thursday through Sunday nights, I was in Roanoke, playing with the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra for their holiday concerts. It was interesting, because the three concerts were in three very different locations. One in a cavernous civic center/gymnasium, one in a ballroom, and one in a high school auditorium. The civic center was really horrible to play in, because it was so huge and the stage was so big. They were actually using microphones to allow us to hear each other and to balance the sound within the orchestra and with the choir. The other two concerts were much better in that respect, because I could actually hear the other woodwinds.

They were silly little holiday pops concerts, and the director was more concerned with putting on a show than paying attention to his orchestra, but still, it was nice, especially coming right after juries. Because that, playing in a symphony, is what I want to do. I really can't emphasize enough how much I prefer orchestra to solo performing. And I got to play with very good musicians, although nobody was being particularly serious. It's hard to be, during a concert like that, especially when your conductor is wearing a badly fitted santa suit and zooming around on a scooter. I did feel like I was being taken seriously as a musician; I didn't have people asking me what year in school I was and then telling me slightly patronizingly that I sounded good. I was just one of the players. I really hope I get the opportunity to play for them again. That would be brilliant.

Also, a couple of the principals from my school were also playing in the symphony, and I went out to lunch with the viola teacher and the bassoon teacher and had fun and helpful conversations about music, grad school, reeds, bocals, instruments, double reed things, etc. with a side of (gentle) gossip about both people about my school and the viola section. I brought up the conversation about tone that I had seen on the Oboe BBoard, as well as the idea that almost all oboists are obsessed with having a dark tone despite the fact that most of the top positions are filled by oboists who don't particularly. The bassoon teacher said that it was the same for bassoonists, which I suppose is logical. It was interesting, though. I also had a conversation with one of the cellists, who coincidentally used to work in admissions at Mannes and informed me that a lot of people lately have been unhappy with Tom Stacy as a teacher, which I appreciate her telling me. It's a wonderful feeling to know that all of these people, who you look up to, really want you to succeed.

Last night was the 40th Annual Messiah Sing-in, which I played at, and had a blast. It's really casual, and there are a lot of good musicians who come to play and sing. They fill our hall, minus the balcony, with people who come to sing. Handel, whatever my opinions about his music in general, wrote good oboe parts. He was still in the era where orchestra meant strings plus oboe and horn. Also, I got to play first oboe, which is always nice.

I'm very close to being done with exams; I have only my diction exam and a short music paper for my American music class left. I'm going to write the paper on Copland's Quiet City, which should be pretty interesting.

Unfortunately, I'm having a practice slump, which I need to get over immediately. I have all of my grad school auditions except GMU's, which is nice, but the first one is still on January 12, which is rapidly approaching.

On a different note, I am becoming fascinated with Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, seeing as it's being made into a movie. I approve of casting- I was wary because of the need for, well, singers, but having heard several song clips on the movie website, I heartily approve. In fact, I like Helena Bonham Carter better than Angela Lansbury, which I'm pretty sure is musical blasphemy. I've finally listened to the whole soundtrack (Original Broadway), and there's some pretty cool music. I especially like the choir numbers with the Dies Irae, which I'm a complete sucker for. Include that in your piece, and I am almost guaranteed to think it is pretty cool. In fact, somewhere I came across this podcast
about the use of the Dies Irae in music, done by Doug Adams, who wrote extensive liner notes for the complete recordings of the Lord of the Rings movies. I haven't listened to it yet, but it should be really interesting.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Duduk (The Armenian Oboe)

I came across the name "duduk" in a thread on the Oboe BBoard and I had never heard of the instrument before, so I looked it up in Wikipedia. I have to say that I was expecting it to sound very raucous and nasal, like many of the other non-western double reed instruments. It is completely different. I'm not sure how to describe it; one of my friends said that it sounded like the human voice- that perfect mixture of woodwind and brass sound. It's very dark and wide sounding, and very old. Perhaps like a wooden flute in tone. Wikipedia informs me that the instrument has been used on the soundtracks of Alexander, The Passion of the Christ, Gladiator, and The Chronicles of Narnia, where it's played in the "Narnian Lullaby."

(On a side note, it's especially cool that I found this out because of the Bax Quintet which I will be playing this spring. I worked with my adviser last week on the first movement, going through the score with a recording, and I was struck by how clearly British the piece sounded. You could tell that it was written for a British oboist (Leon Goosens, actually), because of the wild quality that the music evoked. It's very low and intense and "coarsely blown," as one marking says, and starts with a rhapsodic solo oboe line that is very Eastern in feel (Orientalism and all that), but still seems so British to me. There's an intriguing duality in British pastoralism, between the happy, simple pastoral (whether gentle or rustic) and the wild, intense, dark pastoral. Perhaps the latter has something to do with the country's Celtic roots, fairies and such? I'm not sure. Anyways, the first movement of the Bax works within that second kind of pastoralism, though the third movement, in which Bax bangs the listener over the head with folk songs, is a reassertion of nationalist rustic peasant pastoral. One of the key things which that first movement reminded me of, and something that really anchored it in Britain for me, was the Narnian Lullaby.)

Some online recordings of the duduk. I highly recommend you go and listen, because I think this is the coolest instrument I've ever heard, and these songs are stunningly beautiful.
Jivan Gasparian, Hovvakan
Jivan Gasparian, Mayr Araksi Aperov
Vatche Hovsepian, Hovern Engan

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Fall semester juries were today.

I played Gillet etude #15, and Paladilhe Solo de Concert. I've been playing the Paladilhe almost all semester, and I was at least approximately ready to perform it four weeks ago at the masterclass I played in, (I'm still a little mad that I only got to play about 10 bars of the piece the whole time at that thing, but that's really not important.) so I wasn't too worried about it, with the exception of the two note issues that had suddenly appeared yesterday. But the Gillet? Gillet etudes are hard- not as hard as Singer, I don't think (For a while last year I was working on Singer etudes, but they tended to be four pages long and disheartening rather than inspiring.), but still pretty damn hard. So I was nervous about that one, seeing as I have trouble with it when I'm just by myself, let alone being graded for it. It seems it was with good reason. Oh, it wasn't horrible and it could have been a lot worse. But there were a lot of little mistakes and flubs and extra note-slides, which add up. It was certainly not the best I could have played it.

But I played that first, and followed with the Paladilhe. I'm having a really good reed day; this is probably the best reed I've ever had for the jury since, perverse things, they like to all suddenly die two days before, leaving me with that one that kind of leaks, or quacks on the low notes, or just kills your embouchure. Anyways, that was not the case today, and my reed was clear and responsive and played the whole range. Perfect for Paladilhe, where you don't need a super dark reed or a super bright reed, just one that is very clear. And I played the Paladilhe well. Very well. Expressive, and all the notes came out, even that low D which you slur to on piano from an octave up. I had one note disaster about halfway through the fast section, but it miraculously didn't ruin the rest of the piece. I missed another note or two, but ended strong. It's so rare that I'm satisfied by my performances, that they live up to how I sound in the practice room, and that this did made me really happy.

Now I have about 6 weeks to work the Gillet up, along with Paladilhe, Poulenc mvt 1, Mozart Concerto mvt 1, and excerpts, for my first audition, Cincinnati.

Tonight is our holiday concert. Yay! Bring on Sleigh Ride.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A nothing post. :-)

This is the first "meme" I've posted here, and I don't intend to make a start of it, but I thought it was cute.

cash advance

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I realize that I haven't written anything in some time.

However, I've been very busy. The weekend after the Carmina concert was the production of Pirates of Penzance, which took up nearly every waking hour of my life. Although the singers were audibly nervous on opening night, they did a really good job, and each performance only got better. The experience was made even better by the most appreciative director I've ever worked with, who bought us joke gifts, and sent out a lovely note afterwards. I'm soon going to start convincing our conductor to do an orchestra, rather than a piano, for the spring opera.

We're now working on our holiday orchestra concert, which is this weekend, and the following weekend I have a gig playing in the Roanoke Symphony for their holiday concert.

Currently, I'm getting ready for my jury, which is this Saturday, a week earlier than usual. I know what I'm playing (a Gillet etude, and the Paladilhe), but I've got only three days to really work the Gillet into performance readiness. I'm not unduly worried, though.

I've been playing English horn in a trio with my teacher and another adult oboist; we performed at a "Lunchbox Recital" (a casual chamber music program around lunchtime, where people can come and go) today and played the Beethoven Variations on "La ci darem la mano" and the third movement of the Badings Trio. It went pretty well, and there were about 8 people listening.

I'm working on the program notes for my recital this spring, as part of my Distinguished Major. I've written a draft of the ones for the Poulenc Sonata, and I think they'll turn out quite nicely. I'm using Michael Steinberg's "Listener's Guides" as inspiration. However, the notes for only that one piece are around 850 words, so I need to pick and choose what I want to emphasize. (A brief snippet:
In the Sonata, the traditional sequence of movements is reversed, resulting in a slow-fast-slow pattern which allows for a somber conclusion. As with Sept Repons, here the music is very personal, creating the feeling that “we overhear as much as hear.” The movements move from El├ęgie to Scherzo to D├ęploration, moving from the melancholic to the frantic to pensive grieving, creating the feeling of a memento mori .)

I've also been writing a couple music papers, and and my final personal statements. Yes, I have finally finished my grad school applications, and will mail them tomorrow. Now all I have is the auditions.... Well, that gives me 6 weeks until my first, and 3 months until my last.

I should be making reeds tonight, but I left my plaque(s) in my locker, making that a little difficult. Ah well, tomorrow I will catch up after rehearsal.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My life is crazy right now.

This past weekend was our Carmina concert weekend, and boy did word get around. Both orchestra concerts were sold out by 12:05 on Friday, and we also had about 400 people sitting in Friday night during our (highly publicized) open dress rehearsal. The concerts were certainly as full as I've ever seen- we actually had people in the standing room.

Saturday night I was oddly detached from both songs, but Carmina was still awesome. Truly awesome. YAY SINGERS.

The Ravel went pretty well, but the conductor was worried about it, and I think it showed in our playing. It was certainly not the best I've played it.

We had a few technical difficulties with things like risers and an unusually large number of brass cracks, but it was still a really good performance.

However, CARMINA. There are no words. The soloists were amazing, and the choir was just absolutely superb, and, so my secret audience connections tell me, was at no times overwhelmed by the orchestra. Success!

On Sunday, though, the Ravel was on- by far the best the orchestra has ever played it, and the best I've ever played it too. The conductor wasn't worried for that concert, and I think that helped. But I think we also just needed that one more time. It was sparkling, animated, alive, one of those words. (As everyone backstage said, wow...that was...good...how surprising.)

Carmina went well the second concert too, of course, though not quite as well as Saturday. Well, it was better for the brass, and not quite as good for the woodwinds. But the soloists were really on- I liked the soprano on Sunday as well as I had in rehearsal and better than Saturday. And the choir was in fine form as well, of course. They've been wonderful every time I've heard them. The end of the piece, though, was truly spectacular. The conductor held the last note just that little bit longer so that we all kind of came up breathless and grinning. I think some people in the audience were on their feet before he'd even truly cut us off.

It was a very good concert.

In conclusion, despite the orchestra parts, playing in Carmina is something I absolutely would not have missed. As my friend said, it's worth it for the very first word. Completely worth it.

(And people want to know why I want to be a musician. For the chance once every how many years to play a piece like this. It makes everything worth it.)

Also, we had fortune cookies with orchestra related fortunes inside, and some free tickets to the chamber concert. (The title of this concert, you see, was "Love and Fate".)


This week, I'm having rehearsals for our (student run) opera company production of Pirates of Penzance. Rehearsal which are every night from 9-12. I don't know how the cast is doing it. I'm exhausted, and having trouble finding enough time to practice and do my homework. Everything will work out, though, and I do enjoy the show. Plus, Thanksgiving is conveniently next week, which will allow me to catch up on my sleep and such.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A failed experiment

I have this reed. A really good reed. One might even call it a miraculous reed, as it revived itself from mediocrity to be a rich, deep, easy-blowing, full-range reed that has lasted a very long time. In fact, it was starting to look a little...gross. But it still sounded amazing, if slightly past its prime. I was trying then, since it was old anyways, to think of a way to disinfect it with something I could put in my mouth. And I though, mouthwash! It's antibacterial, and it's made for your mouth. So, I soaked the reed in mouthwash. And...well, it still plays, and sounds good, and it is "antibacterialized", but...it's blue. Stained from the mouthwash. I'm not sure I can bring myself to play it in public: who wants to have to explain that story in person to a fellow musician?

I've been doing a lot of playing on English horn lately, what with double reed trio, the current orchestra concert, and Romeo and Juliet, and the one problem that persists is that I am always sharp. Because this holds for all of my reeds, reeds which should play in tune, it stood to reason that the problem was my bocal. I only have one, and when I got it I didn't have much choice. And while I love the tone it gives, it is so sharp. So I decided to try the bocals from the school's English horn, which had two 3s, of different shape, and a 1. (All, I believe, Loree- I don't have them with me.) Mine's a 2, and it's Howarth. I found one of the 3s makes me play pretty much in tune, and it also increases my volume, which is a bonus. I sometimes have trouble projecting English horn. It's a little buzzier than my 2, but I really like it. I may have to, um, switch them. I do have permission from my teacher. :-) I also got distracted, when doing this, with the school's EH. It's a Loree, and while I've never found a Loree oboe that I like as much as I like my Howarth, I do like Loree EHs. I went back and forth between them for about half an hour or so, toying even with the idea of borrowing it for the concert, just for fun. But the keys feel really different, and I would have to do a lot of playing to get Daphnis on a different horn, and at the end of the day, it seems I always come down on the side of my English horn. Which, you know, is nice, since I own it.

For my lesson this week, I had to write half a cadenza (a continuation of one in the edition that I like) of the Mozart Concerto. It was quite hard; I'm really not a composer. I've come up with something which I kind of like, but it's very boring. I just can't get past the obvious to the more cadenza-like material. Mine's stuck in scales and arpeggios, really. But I'm going to take it to my teacher, and see if he has any suggestions.

Tonight was the first rehearsal for Carmina with the choir. It was stunning. I spent the entire time, when I wasn't playing, grinning madly. We've only heard one of the soloists, the soprano, but I highly approve of her, so hopefully the others will also be good. Tomorrow's entire rehearsal (it's orchestra week time again) is Carmina, so hopefully we'll get through a lot more material than we did today. I like the choir conductor (who conducted us for a year), but he does get distracted.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Non, ce n'est pas le jour. Ce n'est pas la louette.

This weekend I had a gig with the Opera on the James, doing Gounod's Romeo and Juliet. I played second oboe (read: tacet 2/3 of the time, and doubling first another 1/6, with about 50 bars of English horn), with my teacher playing principal (which is how they got my name). And, I've gotta say, wow I love my job.

It was done at a high school, the auditorium of which actually had a sunken pit- the first time I've ever played in one. Not only that, but because it's just sunken, not under the stage, and because I sat up against the audience side wall, I was at a perfect angle to watch everything on stage.

It was so great to play in a professional group. The conductor was in complete control and on top of things, and all of the players could deal with playing in a pit. (And it's a HUGE pit- 4 or so of each string section except one bass, a full wind section, and timpani.) He had to show us things once and everybody could then follow him. And everybody had a sense of musicality, which really helped with that too. We were able to just kind of follow the conductor, and everybody knew when he'd gone into two or four or whatever, because it MADE SENSE.

It is, of course, a French ballet, and while I knew that, I hadn't really processed it all the way before the dress rehearsal. So I was quite surprised when an entire ballet corps (with more guys than girls!) turned up. There's a tableau at the beginning of each (of 5) acts, and the choir just sang, standing behind one of those magic curtains that you can only see through when it's lit, so the dancers did the action of everyone except the nurse, the Duke, Friar Laurence, and of course Romeo and Juliet. And they were good. (Have I mentioned how this is a really truly professional opera company?) It was actually really distracting at the dress rehearsals, because I wanted to watch, but I managed to not miss any entrances during the performance.

The lead singers were wonderful- I loved Juliet's voice in particular (French opera and its sweet sopranos), but Romeo's was really good too. It was also nice having professional singers, because while we did test audibility with one of the directors sitting in the audience, they were able to project comfortably over us. We of course couldn't blast, but we could play with fullness and a dynamic range, and the singers (and the choir) were still audible.

They even had supertitles, shown on a large piece of something (posterboard? duct tape?) on the top of the curtain. It was a little bit odd, though because for everything except stuff like Romeo and Juliet's (added) dying duet, the supertitles were just the text of the Shakespeare play. And while sometimes that's what they were singing, sometimes it really wasn't. But at least that way they were well written.

Because of the aforementioned tacet numbers, my part was mostly really easy. I was pleased in the performance, though, that the super low oboe part in the woodwind chorale came out sounding nice, and I hit all of my low, soft, exposed English horn notes. Plus, it's always comforting to be able to hold one's own in amongst professional musicians.

So, a really great experience. I love playing for opera, and it's always nice to get paid as well. (Another perk of a professional company.)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Orchestra was a blast tonight. I suppose technically speaking it wasn't that great of a rehearsal. It's not that we sounded bad, we just didn't really get anything done. However, that was because everyone was distracted by costumes. Yes, they told us to wear Halloween costumes to rehearsal. The viola section was Snow White and the 7 Dwarves, our conductors were the Cat in the Hat and Harry Potter, our concertmaster was an '80s hair band rocker, and we also had Chewbacca, Raggedy Ann, a railway bandit, "The Banana King" (no-one could really figure that one out), a wolf, a few doctors and some unidentifiable things, and me as Death from Neil Gaiman's Sandman. Because really, what better costume for a musician than all black with a little bit of make-up. :-)


I've been having bad reed luck for the past week or so- they all come out weak and bright and wimpy. I think it's a) a bad batch of cane and b) the fact that our weather is behaving properly, with cold nights and warm days. It was hot for so long, and then cold all the time for a few days, and now I think my reeds just don't know what to do. I'll get them into shape, though. Eventually.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

For once, my life is boring. :-)

My lesson today was much nicer than last week's. For one, I could actually play, and sound good on, my Gillet etude. (A present for which I get to play it on my juries in a month. Oh joy.) We worked on the Mozart, too, which was nice, because (as I've said) Mozart is really hard for me. I have trouble getting the phrasing and characters and such. So it's good to play it again and again in lessons.

I was so excited this weekend, because I thought I'd be able to go to a chamber music party this Friday night. Alas, I have a rehearsal in Lynchburg that night. (I'd thought the doubled rehearsal was on Saturday instead.)

Tomorrow we've been invited to dress up for orchestra rehearsal, so that should be fun. I love costumes.

That's all at the moment, really. The rest of my life recently has consisted of midterms and papers, all with good grades and one due tomorrow which is finished, which makes me happy. (My music seminar prof loved my poem, a Pretty Polly murder ballad in the style of Walt Whitman.) Now I just have to think of what I want to write my paper on for my music seminar: analyzing a musical work and a literary work together, in four pages. I love assignments like that, but that's hardly any space at all. Probably I will end up writing on the blues, even though I find murder ballads much more interesting. Or perhaps I will write about Gershwin or Copland. Yeah, that sounds good.

And now back to your scheduled oboe/performance discussion. :-)

I have one personal statement completely done, and only about 75 words longer than the 500 word limit. Eh, it fits on two pages, no-one's going to count. Especially with a 60 word long prompt. Now to scavenge it for my others.

Monday, October 29, 2007

We had a remarkably good second rehearsal last Wednesday. I think it's because Daphnis and Chloe is so hard that everybody is actually practicing their music. ...In fact, I'm sure of it. Still, I'm very excited for this concert. It's very flashy. Really the only problem is that in rehearsal I end up sitting directly in front of the trumpet section. Ow. (Luckily in the concert our set-up will be different because of the choir risers.) Especially since the principal trumpet was sick, so one of the students was playing first and the others were transposing their parts. I strongly feel that if your part requires transposing, you should come to rehearsal with it transposed.

On Saturday I went to the Choral Showcase concert, featuring our mixed, women's, and men's choirs. It was great, but I had the time wrong, and got there about 10 minutes after it started. Oops.... I like hearing each choir separately, but the best part by far is when they all sing together- this year they did two choruses from Carmina Burana with piano accompaniment. Have you ever heard a choir drown out two grand pianos? I have now. It was spectacular- made me want to go jump up and down afterwards.

We've finally started pit rehearsals for Pirates of Penzance, and I'm quite excited. The director knows what he's doing, both in terms of how the singers are doing the songs and in terms of what is necessary in a pit. Our violins are as yet a little dodgy, but we have a cello and a trombone and a horn and (for the first time ever for me at school) a bassoon. It's brilliant- fl, ob, 2 cl, bsn, hn, tbn, 2 2 1 1, and a great pianist. I'm quite hopeful. Also, quite a few of us are pit veterans, and another few I know to be good, intelligent musicians. Plus, the show seems remarkably easy to put together. Perhaps it's a result of the parts being typed in a normal font and including both warnings and cues typed in the parts. Our performance space should be interesting, as the pit will be practically in the audience's laps, but at least we'll sound good!

I'm playing Gounod's Romeo and Juliet at a gig this weekend. Got the music yesterday, did all of my marking up with cuts and such, and tomorrow I'm going to start listening to the show. My teacher's playing principal, so it should be pretty easy for me.

A very tempting cd:
Lord of the Rings: Return of the King complete score recording. I bought the first two with birthday money last year. I'll end up buying this one eventually. If only it weren't $60.... It's totally worth it for me, though. Awesome music, and a very well written and quite long cd liner booklet. I'm a complete sucker for movie music a la John Williams/ Howard Shore/ Hans Zimmer.

Grad school is progressing...very slowly. I'm still only at most of one personal statement, though I have filled out the majority of my online applications. I'm fairly sure I'll play the Paladilhe and a Gillet etude on my auditions. The rest will get decided eventually. Right now I'm not even stressing about my auditions, though. I'm still stuck on those darn personal statements.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Eighty-nine practice rooms.

I went on a road trip with my dad this weekend to visit CCM (Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music) and to take a lesson with the professor there, Mark Ostoich.

I really loved it. The lesson went well (my reed was on its best behavior, and I played Paladilhe's Solo de Concert and got some good tips), and I have a better idea of what he's looking for in his auditions. Phrasing, stage presence, and etudes.

The buildings are amazing. Three music buildings, including 89 practice rooms and something like 5 recital halls/concert halls/stages.

I met 6 or so other oboists, and chatted with them for a while in their lovely reed room.

So I liked the facilities, and the people, and the atmosphere, and the playing opportunities, and the professor. (I kind of think I'll feel this way about any of the schools I'm applying to, given that they all have "real" music departments, but I liked CCM an awful lot.)
Now all I have to do is get in. It's Super Practice Time.

Today was actually a good start to Super Practicing. I'm slowly working my way through the latest Gillet etude, and I think I've finally cracked the 16th-note octave jumping section. I did some work on the Paladilhe and also Fantasie Pastorale, and starting figuring out what's going on in the Mozart Concerto. The problem with that piece is that one, I have a lot of trouble with Mozart and two, I know it better than I can play it right now, but I'm playing it slow right now and working on phrasing. My oboe reeds are continuing to behave wonderfully (knock on wood).

My English horn reeds are not working as well. They're kind of thin and reedy sounding, and either tend to the uncontrollable side or to the 'can't play louder than mp' side. I really need to learn how to make English horn reeds, but for now I just need to go ahead and order some more from Stuart Dunkel. (The best English horn reeds I have ever played, and very consistent.)

For orchestra, we have a full woodwind sectional, led by our conductor, this week. It should be, um, interesting, since we're working on Daphnis and Chloe. I find myself almost wishing that I were playing oboe on that piece instead of English horn. Or that my hands were bigger. If only the keys were closer together, I think that I would be a lot further along in being able to play the runs up to speed.

My grad school applications are coming along slowly but surely. I've already done CCM's, save for sending my transcript and my personal statement, and I've started all of the others. I have to say, as stressful as auditions are (going to be), personal statements are truly evil. When people ask me over winter break about this semester, I will say that I learned that while I have a personality, it is the same as everybody else's. As my roommate puts it, "we are not unique individuals. Personal statements create mass existential crisis."


I tried to upload a few pictures of the CCM campus and ran into problems, but you can see (more than you'd want to) some here.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

O Fortuna

First orchestra rehearsal for the second concert today. I get to play a lot of English horn (the Ravel and doubling in the Orff), which is nice. Daphnis and Chloe is insane. Partially because the tempo we've been taking in sectionals is about 20 beats slower than the tempo we took in rehearsal. I love the piece, though. Also, CARMINA BURANA. True, the orchestra parts are repetitive and boring, and Orff seemed to think that the oboe sounded like a nasal duck, but it's still awesome. I mean, the opening of O Fortuna? Brilliant. It makes me grin like a crazy person through all of rehearsal. The only unfortunate thing in Carmina is that the movements in which I'm playing oboe are frequently very low. This makes me wonder, why didn't he just leave them to the English horn? It would have made my life a lot easier.

I also started playing a double reed trio with my teacher and another oboist. It's nice to be in a really capable chamber group.


Tomorrow I'm driving up to Cincinnati with my dad to visit CCM and take a lesson with Dr. Ostoich, as well as tour the campus and sit in on an orchestra rehearsal. I'm bringing Fantasie Pastorale and Paladilhe Solo de Concert to play for him. I'm pretty excited, but it's emphasizing the large amounts of grad school stress going on right now.

It's that time when a lot of people feel the need to tell me how I will have a very hard time getting a job, and have a lot of debt, and never make any money. Which I appreciate in the abstract, but which in reality makes me defensive. I know I'm going into an incredibly competitive field. I know it's hard to get a job and even harder to get a job that pays enough. I'm doing it anyways. I have consciously and knowingly made this decision. And I'm not going to wake up one day and decide that I don't want to do it any more, oops. But I'm having one of those periods of time where I second guess my abilities and my choices and whether I'm doing the right thing. It's also one of those times where I start thinking things like "but even if I didn't want to do this, I have no other options," which first of all is not true, and second of all makes it sound like I'm pursuing music for the wrong reason. That's not why I'm doing music performance. The reason why I'm pursuing music is because I have the chance, and I have the dedication, and I have to do it not because I have nothing else to do but because I love it too much to do something else without first trying this as hard as I can.

So I'm going into this having thought through it and with (what seems to me) a relatively good idea of reality. Auditions? Bring it on.

I've been having trouble with personal statements, and my teacher was absolutely no help, but I met with my (major and distinguished major recital) adviser today, and he was very helpful. So I should be able to do those fairly well now. I have one with an actual essay prompt, one with a fairly specific personal statement prompt, two that are more general "what you're expecting from the program/ what your interests are", and one as yet unknown. I've started the essay, and I have a good amount of stuff to talk about in the more specific statement, which I can then use to write the more general ones. This makes me feel a good deal less stressed, actually.


I'm also a little worried that when I get to Cincinnati to play on Friday all of my reeds will have spontaneously stopped working. But luckily the weather there is supposed to be quite similar to the weather here.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

German Oboe Reed

My German oboe buddy's reed arrived in the mail yesterday.



































Here, it crows a slightly flat C (when it left Germany, it was crowing a slightly sharp B, but there was the whole overseas mailing bit, and it's still about 85 and summery here), and when I play it the pitch can vary wildly between quite flat (especially in the high register- my high D, which gets up to 20 cents sharp if I'm not careful, was around 20 cents flat) and quite sharp (everywhere else). The thing is, I don't actually know what a German embouchure is like. I think a lot more of the reed may go in the mouth than the way I'm used to playing, but when I tried that, it just made the reed harder to play. (The reason I suspect this is that the white wrapping is apparently to protect your lower lip from the reed. But the reed wouldn't go nearly that far into my mouth using my regular embouchure.)
The reed is quite hard for me, and as I said, the pitch fluctuates a lot. It has a gorgeous crow, though. Very dark. Also, it's wonderful to tongue on- a lot easier for me than many of my reeds. I did sand the tip a tiny bit, which made the reed a little easier to blow, but I was afraid to do a lot to it, so it's still very hard.

My lovely oboe buddy also sent me a diagram showing the thicknesses of the various parts of the reed, what the wire is for, and what it was playing like for her. It's very interesting. The image is cut off a bit because my scanner doesn't like A4 paper.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Concert weekend

So, Friday morning I predicted how this concert week would go. Namely, that it would follow the same pattern as every other normal concert weekend. But...it didn't.

Friday night was an oddly good, polished dress rehearsal. I didn't make the myriad of stupid mistakes that usually happen the day before the concert, thereby ensuring that I will not make them on Saturday and Sunday. And it sounded like the majority of other people didn't either. Which, good that we were playing together well. However, it didn't bode well for the concerts.

Saturday, first of all, I got sick. It seems like every time I do, it's on a on concert weekend. Alas. Plus, it does make it a little harder for me to judge how things are going, since I usually get kind of spacey. The concert wasn't bad by any means, but it wasn't great. Things weren't meshing as well as they had on Friday. The Bruch Scottish Fantasy, played by our concertmaster, was incredible, though. Totally stole the show, and should have been our closer instead of the Chadwick. The second half, though, as a whole was better than the first.

On Sunday, that was reversed. The Mendelssohn was more polished and more energetic, and our concertmaster played the Bruch even more spectacularly than he had on Sunday. (Unfortunately the harpist was a little bit off from him. The Chadwick, though, was not nearly as together. It seemed like people were distracted. Plus, it was incredibly hot on stage, which didn't help. Still, not a bad concert, and we did get a standing ovation on Sunday (this doesn't mean that we were great, only that we weren't bad, which was apparently what the audience thought of Saturday's performance). The Bruch got a standing ovation on both concerts.

They didn't get him flowers, though, which was a bit strange. We get everyone flowers. Even if the soloist is a man.

(On a side note, my reeds behaved extraordinarily well for both concerts. It was lovely. Clear and clean and with a rich tone, perfect for the low pitched second oboe part in the Chadwick. ...Now to fix my EH reeds up for next concert.)

No rehearsal this week, since I'm not playing in the children's concert, but the week after that? Carmina Burana and Daphnis and Chloe. :-D

Friday, October 5, 2007

Orchestra week!

We had a really good rehearsal in orchestra last night, which means that all is as it should be. We will now theoretically have a mistake-ridden dress rehearsal tonight, a sparkling concert on Saturday, and a more polished but less energetic concert on Sunday.

I have a couple of possibilities for a concert reed, which is lovely (I usually either have a couple or one that is dying, with all of the others questionable), but the one I was playing on last night was slightly aggravating. It's really a perfect orchestra reed, in tone and range and flexibility of volume. I can match Scott pretty exactly, play low notes softly and covered, and project my few important harmonies and such. However, its pitch is oddly unsettled. It didn't change over the course of rehearsal, which is good, but I couldn't quite figure out its tendencies. I was having to specifically adjust just about every note. But I'll work it out today (I wasn't expecting to play this reed in orchestra last night) and all will be well.

I really like my part on the Chadwick, especially since (knock on wood) my reeds are cooperating for all the low E flats and C sharps. I've got some great harmonies with the first and EH, and quite a few spots where I hold out past the first, or play against him with the flute or the clarinet or someone else. It's always nice to have a few bars where I can probably actually be heard.

I have a question: I'm working on Pasculli's two English horn solos based on Verdi's opera Un Ballo in maschera, "Amelia- Un pensiero del Ballo in maschera" and "Fantisia due sull Ballo in maschera," and I cannot find their dates of composition anywhere. If anyone happens to know, I would be very grateful. (I'm also going to ask on the IDRS message board.)

Has anyone heard Georgs Pelecis' Concerto bianco for piano and chamber orchestra? I've heard it described as "like taking a bath in cottage cheese while ingesting spoonfuls of chalk," and I have to admit that I'm now curious.


My oboe buddy in Germany tried my reed. She writes:
"
That's very interesting, for my ears I got a totally american sound with it. Awesome what a reed can do. It sounds dark but has this silvery thing into its sound. I find it quite hard to play, what I remember from the american reeds I got a chance to try before they seemed to be very easy. But maybe the reed changed through the travel, or the reeds I tryed before were horrible examples. This reed is really nice to play, just in the low register I got some trouble, which surely is because the thread is not very tight and there is a little air coming through it. This might come from the climate change, maybe the cane shrinked or whatever... I think about using a bit nailpolish, as I do on my reeds to fix it. I just wait for the answer of my oboepal before doing anything to it. :-) But I think this will help and the low register would get a boost through it. I like those Chudnow staples, but on my oboe I have some intonation trouble d''' is somewhere up in the sky. lol. from a'' up everything is a bit sharper than I am used to, but this can be handled somehow I think."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh dear, it's October already.

My oboe life lately is a little bit...hectic? unorganized? Something like that.

I've been sorting out grad schools and applications and recommendations and auditions and visits, but not really as much as I need to be doing.

Orchestra is going well, which is good. Our concert's this week, and I'm excited to hear the violin solo piece we're playing. I'm not playing in it, and I've been doing homework in the music library, where I actually get things done, instead of in the auditorium, so the concert will probably be my first hearing. I do know that it begins with a superb brass chorale.

I have way too much to have prepared for my lesson tomorrow. I'm finishing last week's Gillet, working on the Mozart concerto and the Paladilhe, and relearning Fantasie Pastorale. Plus supposedly working up my melodic minor scales. The Gillet is fairly ready, and so is the Paladilhe, but I just started looking at the Bozza again today, and I've hardly touched the Mozart. Plus I keep forgetting about my scales. (I'm also still supposed to be working on Le Api and circular breathing.) But, nothing I can do at this point. And it's not really like we'd have gotten to it all in one lesson anyways. (Besides, the only way that my teacher would get cross at me is if I had nothing prepared and was unrepentant about it.)

For my DMP I read part of The Oboe by Geoffrey Burgess and Bruce Haynes- there's a chapter on the use of oboe in Romantic and Modern music. It was really interesting- the oboe is portrayed as "other" a good deal of the time. It's used a huge amount in Orientalist and pastoral music, and also to symbolize female characters and voices, which provides interesting overtones considering that historically oboists have been Western males. It also should be really helpful for my program notes, which will be the only result of my research, as Taruskin's History of Western Music doesn't really have a lot of information about little known, oboe-centric composers.

My German oboe buddy mailed out my reed today, and posted some pictures. You can see one here.
I'm so excited for when it arrives. She also received mine today, though she hasn't played on it yet. I'm curious to see how it survives the location change.

Speaking of reeds, I should order a new reed knife, since I never did find the one I lost. I'm pretty much used to the old one I'm using now, but I liked my other one better. The one I'm currently using is the one I've had since I started making reeds (5 years ago? 6?), which I ruined on my first sharpening stone and then revived on my new one. But it's a different kind of knife than what I've been using, a "Wedge shaped blade" instead of a double hollow ground blade, and it's just a little weird. ...I remember when Scott told me I had to be playing on only my own reeds by the end of the semester...I think it was the first half of second year (clearly I don't remember it that well)? That was pretty terrifying. Not that it isn't still sometimes, but I quite like making my own reeds. Even if the other people's reeds that I play are much better.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

To my reed pal: your reed, which I will mail out tomorrow.









































(I'm sorry for the blur. Hopefully you can see them well enough- I tried to make them large.)

Made from Jeanne, Inc. cane gouged .60-.48, Pfeiffer-Mack scrape, tied on a Chudnow S 47 mm staple. At A=440, it crows a 20 cents flat C. About 70 mm total. The side that the string crosses on goes on your bottom lip.

This is a more Philadelphia-style reed (as opposed to Cleveland), because of the very thin back, but the heart and tip extend rather lower than on a true Philadelphia reed.

This actually turned out to be quite a nice reed, so I'm a little sad to lose it. I hope it still plays when it gets to Germany.

Unrepentant oboe geek. :-)

When I last ordered something from amazon, back at the end of August, I also bought the Tabuteau lesson CD. It FINALLY came at the end of last week. I haven't actually listened to it yet, but I'm very excited to.

After last week's lesson, when I ran out of things to play, I was assigned a Gillet etude, the first movement of the Mozart Concerto, and Paladilhe's Solo de Concert as well as working on Le Api and the Berio Sequenza. (I'm kind of just humoring my teacher with that last one.) I really like the Paladilhe, although I'm having trouble with some of its phrasing, but the Mozart is pretty much just really hard. If there's one thing that's not my strong point, it's graceful fast tonguing. (Plus I'm just not a Mozart person in general.) But my lesson will be helpful with that.

Of course, I'm not particularly looking to my lesson. Not because I'm not prepared, though certainly not everything's really ready, but because all of my reeds spontaneously died today. They all became very spongy and unable to play above a mezzo-forte. This, plus I'm trying to get a really good reed together to send to my "reedpal" in Germany. I tied on more today, but they won't be ready to play on in my lesson tomorrow.


I did have an exciting musical experience this weekend, though. I went and saw a free simulcast of the Washington National Opera's La Boheme. I was really excited to see it, both because of my experience this summer and because I'd heard that it was a really edgy production.
My impressions of it:

First off, you could tell that the director was from Eastern Europe. The costumes!

Second, well, it was certainly edgy and unconventional. The cafe scene was staged with lots of cross-dressing and sequins and whips and two guys who had neon tennis balls glued all over their suits. And I think it's pretty cool that they put the opera on staged like that. But...I didn't really like it, at least during the second act. (I feel traitorous to liberal artists saying that, but it's still true.) Because the director was being shocking just for the sake of being shocking. The second half, though, I really enjoyed- I was actually kind of surprised, because of how the first act really rubbed me wrong, but sometimes it just takes me a bit to get over being shocked. Also, the second half was a lot less noticeably "modernized".

They did a really good job with the simulcast. I mean, I wished that they had had more comprehensive subtitles (an opera pet-peeve of mine), and sometimes the camera work was a little much, and it was unfortunate that the singers were overloading the mics, but still.

Plus, the singers were good. Rodolfo, Marcello, Musetta, Mimi (I liked her voice even though it wasn't quite as good as Musetta's and though I didn't really care for her acting.), everyone was very, very good.

And the ending always gets me. It's so sad.

All in all, I just love La Boheme. It's such a fun show, really, but it's emotional, too. All the benefits of both comedy and tragedy, in one. :-D

I also watched parts of Porgy and Bess, but the DVD was having problems, and wouldn't play after about halfway through. It was interesting to watch, because I'd never seen it, though I was familiar with some of the more well known music. However, my experience was disrupted by two girls in my class who snickered at everything.


Another very cool oboe book: The Oboe, by Geoffrey Burgess. It's full of the history of the actual instrument, performance practice, and the use of oboe in solo, chamber, and orchestral music. Plus, it has some pictures of old and experimental instruments.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Another orchestra Wednesday, here at UVA.

I love Wednesdays, even though they're 12 hour days for me. Why? Because on Wednesdays I have orchestra. (As well as 3 times a day to practice and sometimes a sectional. This last sentence may make you think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm really not.) And even though I got cheated out of 15 minutes of playing in my piece because the children's concert music went over, it was still lovely. We sound good, and we're more together, I think, than we usually are on our first concert. I suppose it's those sectionals. Anyways, I'm playing in Chadwick's Tam O'Shanter, which is a pretty cool piece- very Symphonie Fantastique or Night on Bald Mountain, what with it following along with Tam as he meets the reveling witches and devils- Scottish and demonic and ending in a gorgeous brass chorale of utmost sentimentality.

I was listening in on the children's concert rehearsal- they're playing Candide and Samson and Delilah, which speaking of good oboe parts..., among others. But I'm content not to be playing in that, despite how much fun they are, because it means I'll be playing in all of those songs I desperately need to play in.

Ah, orchestra, how it tends to make me so very, very gleeful.

In other news, I have somehow lost my reed knife inside of the music building. There aren't that many places for it to go, so I figure either a custodian picked it up and didn't know what to do with it, or someone else found it and took it.

My reeds today were all oddly resistant, as if the cane were suddenly very spongy. But there's not been any weather change to account for that. Hopefully they'll change back tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Oh, my music department...

They almost did something right. The practice rooms are open now, albeit with temporary doors, and you know? That's infinitely better than lessons in practice modules, and better in some smaller way than lessons in abandoned offices upstairs. But...the temporary doors are REALLY not soundproofed, and the acoustics are pretty bad. My reeds sound about 10 times brighter than they do in the practice modules. But, eventually there will be new doors, and I'm going to try to get the Music Dept. to put in some stuff on the walls to help with the acoustics.

This, plus the fact that it appeared for a while that they didn't own a copy of the Mozart concerto, means that they have not quite succeeded. At least, though, it turned out that the Mozart was just hidden in a place that was not the oboe solo sheet music or the oboe concerto sheet music. Go figure.

HOWEVER. I did find David A. Ledet's Oboe Reed Styles in the music library, and I have got to say, this is a pretty awesome book. It's from the early 80s, so it doesn't have many current players, but it has basically an illustrated history of the oboe reed in England, France, Germany, the US, and a few other places. (Some of the more famous players (more well known to me at least) included are: Evelyn Rothwell, Peter Graeme, Robert Bloom, James Caldwell, Fernand Gillet, Marc Lifschey, John Mack, Joseph Robinson, Tabuteau, Richard Woodhams.) Seeing all of the European reeds makes me very curious to try making one in a French or German style. However, I've been chatting with an oboe player in Germany with whom I might do a reed exchange. I think that would be really interesting, and probably provide me with a more representational reed than from trying to mimic the pictures in the Ledet book.

Speaking of reeds, I haven't posted in here much about them recently, partly because I've been doing less experimentation. I seem to have settled down, at least for now, in a fairly Philly-style reed, with a higher heart and thinner back than my reeds through most of the summer.

I only had a half hour lesson today, though we spent the rest getting the music library to order a couple pieces and looking through the oboe solos. Mostly this was because I'm learning the Gillet etudes, which are incredibly hard. Thus when I'm learning one of those, doing a further brush up on minor scales and double-thirds, getting to a reading familiarity with a duet, and slowly going through Le Api, I don't have a lot of time for another solo piece. But for next week I have three to look at, so I suppose it balances out.

Going along with finishing/re-learning Le Api, I'm supposed to be working on my circular breathing. It's rather tough going- I've gotten to the point where I can circular breathe on a held note, but once I add any finger movement other than a one key trill, I lose it. But that's okay...I have until, um, April?
I've also been given the Berio Sequenza, which, frankly, I hate. But it's one of my teacher's absolute favorite pieces ever, so I'm pretty much learning it, or at least working on it, regardless.

I've had a few "sudden realizations," by which I mean things that people have been telling me for years, like my posture, or my thumb position, or my tonguing, or my wrong fingering for high D, finally clicking into place. I'm really glad it happened (I wish it'd happened when they started telling me), but man, it's hard going fixing it. Well, that's what all of my practicing is for.

I'm rather looking forwards to orchestra tomorrow night...not that I'm ever not. But it'll be the third rehearsal, and seeing that last week was the second rehearsal of the first concert, and therefore the roughest rehearsal all year, I just want to see how everything's coming together.

I continue to think about my recital program and my audition program, which I must start picking. Also, holy cow, I must start looking at summer things ASAP.

I've started my research for my recital program notes. (The least amount of writing you can do for a Distinguished Major is program notes, and while I plan on writing fairly substantial notes, I really don't have time for more.) This means I've been reading from Taruskin's History of Western Music, which is fascinating and frequently quite amusing- I just finished the section on Neo-Classicism, with crazy Stravinsky, and the early 20th century's "sexy androgeny."

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Back from exile: my computer has been repaired

I had forgotten that my music library only owns one piece of English horn sheet music, the one (Hindemith Sonate) which I played on my last recital. I need to get them to order me some, because I absolutely want to play an English horn piece on my recital. If there are any suggestions of early or mid 20th century English horn solos (with piano or unaccompanied), I would much appreciate it. My teacher doesn't play EH, and so is not very much help.

In other, better, EH news, I will be playing in TWO pieces in the next orchestra concert. I'm a little surprised since we have 5 oboes this year, but one (a community member) is apparently traveling with her husband on his sabbatical, and one is singing instead. (This is great news for me, since every single one of our "big" pieces is one that I am absolutely dying to play- Carmina Burana, Firebird, Tchaik 5, Symphonie Fantastique.) This leaves me, a sophomore, and a new oboist, a community member who's very good. I'm doing EH on Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe, and either 2nd or EH on Carmina Burana. (The choir has started rehearsing, and I start grinning widely every time I hear a note of it.) This year winds have mandatory orchestra sectionals, but our pieces for this concert are pretty easy, so my teacher, the new oboist, and I (who, it seems, will be the core group this season) started rehearsing the Ravel. I'd never heard it before, but I think it's pretty gorgeous, and also boy am I glad I have the music a month early. Twelve-tuplets! I'm glad to be playing it, though, and to be doing it as well as Carmina is wonderful.

Technically the music dept has a double reed ensemble, but this tends to end up as trios if that, and this year apparently was no different. My teacher has suggested, though, that the new oboist and he and I play trios weekly or so. I definitely hope this works out. I really like chamber music, and with our department, I rarely get a chance. (Other attempts at double reed ensemble have been...memorable.) I feel like our sounds and ...personalities will match nicely. Also, having the new oboist there gives me just another little push to sound better in orchestra and sectionals and small ensembles. Plus, as a former music major who has played in orchestras and ensembles for, I think she said, 15 years, she's a good additional resource for me in terms of schools and pieces and such.

After about a month of practice room air-conditioning woes, they have finally been fixed- no more 90 degree, humid practice rooms! Of course, now they're absolutely frigid, but it's still much better.

I'm feeling rather despairing of my ability to get into any grad schools right now.
Oddly enough, I am also very pleased with my playing in orchestra. I'm managing to blend nicely, play in tune, and be musical on top of it all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

My computer died yesterday.

The hard drive crashed. So that's taking up a lot of my brain space.

I wasn't thrilled with how my audition for the orchestra went. It doesn't really matter- I'll get in anyways- but I wish, especially after having a bad audition last year, that I could have actually played up to my potential.

I used to think that I had pretty good audition nerves. Sure I got pretty nervous in the week or so leading up to it, but that day I used to usually be pretty calm. I'm slowly coming to realize that this is, in fact, false. I don't audition well. Which I need to get over. Yesterday.

I found out what's happening with 1512. Well, sort of. 1512 itself has been taken over as storage space for the construction work. In the ROTC room, though they've put in practice rooms. Not modules. Actual rooms with walls and doors and hallways. So yay for that.


I'm taking two music classes this semester, as well as musicianship (sight singing and dictation).

National and Regional Identity in American Music and Literature: An insane teacher but really interesting material and will be pretty easy besides- three 4 page papers in a 400 level seminar! And one of the papers isn't really a paper, more of a creative thinking exercise. Plus, this course is made for the way I write papers- Les Miserables and Music of the French Revolution anyone? (A quote from the syllabus: Some examples (God forbid) would be “J. Wilbur Cash and Southern Regional Identity in Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Freebird,” or “Images of Urbanity in the Work of Richard Wright and Li’l Bow Wow” )

Pre-Modern Music (Gregorian chant - 1500): Interesting material, boring teacher. We will learn and perform a Gregorian chant mass. I'm not quite sure yet if that's a good or bad thing, especially since the class time is up against USingers and currently the performance is scheduled for Halloween, which is a Wednesday besides. Still, should be more interesting than Early Modern Music (1500-1700).

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Auditions all around.

My teacher replied saying something like "I'll clear up that misunderstanding with the other player". I think really I just caught him out, but that's okay. I'm fine with the audition, and quite prepared. I retreated back to the practice rooms today, despite the broken AC. It got nearly as hot in the room in my apartment, and I need to know what my reeds are actually going to sound like. I'm quite pleased, though. I made a very Philly-like reed today, and it turned out really well. If it's still nice tomorrow, that's what I'll use for my audition. If not, I have a few others that will work, though I need to tie some more on anyways. (When I made the one good reed, I had to squish two along the way.)


Speaking of reeds: I'm going to start gouging my own cane later this fall (on the school's machine). I obviously need to buy some tube cane, but while I know roughly what the good brands of cane are, I have no idea who's got good batches right now. Any suggestions would be very welcome.


First years moved in yesterday, and grounds are swarming with them. Three have signed up for oboe auditions- I think that's the most we've had since I've been here. If they're all good, things could get difficult- that would make 7 oboists rotating orchestra. But we'll see. (And only one of the has EH marked down. Still, if she ends up doing any EH that'll make 3 of us rotating on those parts.)

In orchestra we also have scheduled wind sectionals for the first time. Can't say it'll be a bad thing for some sections, and I'm sure it'll help us too, but...we didn't really need that.
Only a week and a half until the first rehearsal. Program is

MENDELSSOHN
Hebrides Overture

BRUCH
Scottish Fantasy for
Violin & Orchestra

COWELL
Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 2

CHADWICK
Tam O'Shanter

I'm hoping for parts in the Mendelssohn and one other.

Friday, August 24, 2007

1512 Lives!

(1512 is the building in which we have private lessons and small ensemble rehearsals here, since our actual music building is very small. It's basically a really old house, and kind of run down, so there were plans to knock it down over the summer. Which would have been a much better plan had there been anywhere for the lessons etc. to occur when it was gone. They were thinking, I believe, to put up practice modules in the ROTC room (a sort of large empty concrete room kind of in the basement) and have lessons there, which would have been absolutely horrible. Luckily, though, they haven't gotten around to knocking 1512 down yet. I hope they never do...or at least not until next year. :-P)

I'm back from the beach, quite sunburned, and ready for orchestra to start already. Sadly I have to wait two weeks for that. I've been preparing for auditions, though, since even though they don't really matter (there's no way that my teacher will kick me out of the orchestra) I want to show myself well. And I don't really have a problem with having to re-audition, it makes sense. However, I ran into another of our oboists today, and he said, "Oh, yeah, our teacher told me I didn't have to do the audition, just play an excerpt for him in my first lesson." Not Fair. (I hope he makes the other oboist audition, rather than just telling me I don't have to. More audition experience is always a plus.)

I'm pretty happy with how I sounded today, and I've got all of my excerpts straightened out. It would have been a lot nicer, though, if the air conditioning in the practice modules hadn't been broken. It was rather like playing in a rain forest.

Today I also filled out my forms reserving the concert hall for my recital. Yay! Now I just have to get in touch with the person in charge of those forms, so they can tell me everything that I've filled out wrong, and how the scholarship works. (I don't have to pay any fees, including accompanist, for my senior recital.)

I'm going to finally make some reeds later. And throw out that one staple that has never given me a good reed. (The bonuses of starting my reed journal. It's pretty interesting.)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Back at school: cue year 4.

I'm back down in C'ville, in my lovely apartment. This summer wasn't bad, but it's nice to be home.

I went to practice in the practice rooms today, which I like so much better than practicing at home up in Ffx. It doesn't really make sense that I like them better, because the acoustics in the room I practice in at home and the room that I practice in at my apartment have much warmer and more forgiving acoustics and because they tend to be really hot, but I do. Still, it's a bit of a shock the first time I go back to them, because my tone sounds a lot worse. But really, I'd rather practice in a room in which I sound worse than I do "in reality" than in a room in which I sound better.

Also, the weather down here has gone temporarily insane, and my reeds are reacting accordingly. It's insanely humid- you can almost feel the rain that I really hope will come soon, so I expected my reeds to be rather fat and hard, and thus darker. However, it's also 65 or 70, and I think the 20 degree temperature change has thrown my reeds off. They're not fat and dark feeling, they're actually fairly thin and bright (and the difference is not just from changing rooms- they feel thin as well as sounding thin). I didn't do very much to them, though, because I assume the weather will return to its seasonal temperatures soon. Hopefully my reeds will get it back together then.

I kind of want to make some reeds, because I have a couple from my last batch whose cane was secretly bad, but I'm leaving tomorrow for the beach and I won't be home until late Thursday, so I think I'll wait. I'll still have all next weekend before auditions, and that way the blanks won't be sitting for days.

I'm going to order some tube cane, and get my teacher to show me how to use the school's (newly repaired) gouger. I'm also slowly getting around to buying one- I think I'd get an Innoledy, as they're cheaper and require fewer steps, and as I've only heard good things. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

La Boheme

I went down to C'ville to see Ashlawn's La Boheme. It was wonderful. All of the singers were easy to hear and understand and sounded really good, the pit was in tune and prepared and NOT OVERPOWERING and you could hear just about everything even though it was outside, and I enjoyed being able to understand what they were saying even if English did sometimes strain the lyrics a bit.

Anyways, I was impressed by all of the singers and the pit, possibly unduly so, as it is a professional group. Mimi could be hard to hear at times, but everyone else was pretty consistently powerful, and all the leads had really nice-sounding voices.The baritone role was unfortunate, not because the singer had a bad voice (he in fact had a quite good one), but because he had a very small part- he (Schunard) and the bass (Colline) were both absent for all of Act 3, and each only got a very small amount of singing, in the fourth act. (Since neither was part of a couple, they only got minimal "aria" time. This opera is sometimes difficult to characterize, because it's one of those late operas that are...through-composed? The recitative is very melodic and slides into the arias/ensembles. Also, having one less couple really cuts down on necessary plot.) :-)

Of course I did a lot of comparing to Rent, and one thing that struck me was Mimi's role. In Rent she's a dancer at a club, and while she doesn't cheat on Roger, she did have a relationship with Benny that he can throw in her face. In La Boheme, she's a seamstress, and there is no reason for Rodolpho to even think of being jealous. It's an interesting variation on the consumptive mistress character, who is consumptive as retribution for allowing herself to be "consumed". Though she does have a briefly mentioned lover after she and Rudolpho (reluctantly) break up, and it's only after leaving that second lover that she dies, but in that case she would be dying not after being 'redeemed by love from her sinful life' but merely after being 'sinful'. Anyways, I think in this case Mimi's consumption is probably just a reflection of the reality of Bohemian life, but it's interesting to think about.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Yesterday I learned how to play the bassoon- my friend's little sister plays, so she let me use a reed and some old books and her instrument and fool around for about an hour. It was actually much easier than I was expecting, and so much fun. The reed was much less touchy than an oboe or even english horn reed, so I could get a not so bad tone out of it. I now have no sympathy for bassoonists' reed issues. Not that it's a topic I hear a lot about.

The fingerings on the other hand...insane. I have a lot more respect now for bassoonists who play anything fast. I don't, of course, play flute or clarinet, but I can easily conceive of playing quick passages on the instruments. Probably because either the fingerings or set-up, respectively, is quite similar. I can't, though, imagine being able to play quickly on a bassoon. I think a lot of this problem, for me, is the fact that I couldn't see my fingers when I was playing. They were tilted away from my body, and completely obscured by the instrument, so I was having to play by feel in a different way than on other instruments. I'm not quite sure how to describe the difference, though, because obviously when one is playing flute/oboe/clarinet one cannot actually look at one's fingers and play at the same time. I suppose it's just easier to go back and forth, or something like that.

Anyways, the bassoon has FAR too many thumb keys. And I kept getting confused by the fact that it has a lower rather than upper octave key. The fingerings are actually much more like clarinet than oboe or flute, also.

Still, I think I did rather well for playing for an hour. And it was so much less tiring than oboe, too. A much looser embouchure, especially in the lower jaw.


Today, I took all of the keys off of my English horn, so now I at least theoretically can repair either of my instruments. I also learned how to replace the cork on my bocal, and Lorrie made me a thumb rest pad out of foam and pieces from a leather glove. As she said, it was oboes as arts and crafts projects. I approve. She offered me an English horn reed, and I turned her down (first reed I've ever rejected from her). As I hear it, there are two schools of English horn playing, the cello-like school and the very reedy school. Lorrie plays very reedy reeds sometimes, and I just don't like the way they sound. I mean, obviously she sounds very musical, but sometimes I actually like my sound better. (gasp)
She's now trying to convince me to do music ed. Says I'd be a good teacher. I won't do it though, because I would be teaching as a back-up job, and I don't think that's fair to the kids.