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

Hebrides Overture

Scottish Fantasy for
Violin & Orchestra

Hymn and Fuguing Tune No. 2

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.