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. 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.