Monday, May 26, 2008

There are two problems which eternally belong to summertime.

Sunburn? No. Too many bugs? No. Heat? No.

First, practicing and advancing without a teacher. As, I think, many people do, I have trouble practicing specific things, rather than whatever catches my fancy that day, when I don't have a specific event (lesson, audition, concert, etc), and so I don't end up getting much done during the summer. I tend to start many things, and not work up any until the last few weeks, when I have to get ready for my audition or what have you. This summer, though, I am making a plan. I'm going to work on remedying my rather spotty knowledge of Fehrling, and go through the etudes two by two, and also work on Le Api, which has been neglected pretty much all year on account of auditions and the recital. I'm also going to pick a solo, possibly the Vaughan Williams Concerto, which I love.

Second, surviving months without orchestra rehearsals without insanity. I don't really have a solution for this, other than going to lots of concerts and listening to classical music a lot. I noticed this year in particular that I'm really liking every piece of classical music I listen to. That said, this year will be even worse than usual, because my classes don't start until the end of September, rather than at the end of August.

Speaking of UC, I went with my mother to Cincinnati this weekend to find an apartment, and found a lovely and affordable one. (Pictures here of the apartment with someone else's furnishings, and of the Music Hall.) While there, I managed to get free tickets to two May Festival concerts. One was Faure's Requiem and Vivaldi's Gloria, the other Berlioz' Romeo et Juliette. While they were suffering from the problem, as many festivals do, of too few rehearsals with the soloists, both concerts, and especially the Berlioz, were very good. The hall was huge - it apparently sits around 3500, and as the home of the Cincinnati Symphony I find myself wondering approximately what portion of seats they typically sell - and the choir correspondingly vast, with about 225 singers. It was a bit overkill for the Faure, though they had a smaller choir for the Vivaldi, but for the ending of the Berlioz it was spectacular.

I've been reading Musicophilia, by Oliver Sacks, which is pretty interesting, though slightly frightening. The conclusion of each section, dealing with things ranging from synaesthesia to musical hallucinations to the sudden acquisition of tone deafness, can be summarized as "well, we know what causes this, but not how to prevent it or fix it." A few interesting facts, though: According to one study, 1 in 23 people is synaesthetic. The number of people with absolute pitch is wildly higher in countries, such as China, whose languages are tonal.

Ah, yes, graduation. Having had a little over a week to get used to it, it isn't quite so strange to have graduated college, but it is still a little bit bizarre. For instance, late last week I was unsubscribed from the music major mailing list. And of course the fact remains that when I go back to school in the fall it will be in another state for another degree. Though the day before graduation and the day after were perfectly lovely, it rained the day of and was about 5 degrees too chilly to be entirely comfortable at the morning ceremony. However, my department ceremony was inside, in our hall, so it didn't affect me too much. After the chaos of the morning, backstage with only 25 music majors and 12 professors was lovely and well-organized, and the ceremony quite short.

You may remember that my recital was a "distinguished major project," for which I would graduate with no distinction, distinction, high distinction, or highest distinction. My English major roommate had been assured that she would know what she'd received before graduation, but knowing my department's track record, I was skeptical that I would. Sure enough, the professors were wandering around before the ceremony looking smug, and I didn't find out until I was standing on stage. I was well and truly shocked (my mouth literally dropped open) to find out that I received highest distinction. Although I was quite pleased after my recital (admittedly a little less so after listening to my recording), I was really surprised. Also, the benefit of a small department, I was one of several to receive an award that came with a $250 check.
I believe I've written in here before about "departmental recognitions", for which you are nominated by a professor. Usually they give them out in the fall and winter, but obviously graduating fourth-years won't be around come next October, so they gave ours at graduation. I've gotten them before, once for course work and once for my third year recital, but I have to say that this one meant the most for me. I got one for my term paper for theory, and then one for my two big English horn solos in orchestra, in the Ravel Piano Concerto and in Symphonie Fantastique. Obviously as someone who aspires to be an orchestral musician, it meant so much for me to get a recognition for my orchestral playing.

After the ceremony, they had a lovely reception and I got to say my good-byes to my professors, with many promises, which I firmly intend to keep, to keep in touch. And then it was back to my apartment for a joint family party, exhaustion, and melancholy. It's a very strange thing, graduating college, because the way in which you grow up during college is so different from the way you do in high school, and also because college is so very strongly tied to a specific place. I love this campus, and the buildings and the hall, etc, and it is strange and sad to think that I will not be playing in our hall again. That said, while it will be sort of hard at the end of the summer, I've gotten over my maudlin for now, and the lasting emotion, I think, is accomplishment. Which really is as it should be, now that I've gotten my last statements of "ooh, look what I got" out.

If you're interested, I have a few pictures from my recital and from graduation (you can see my long-suffering roommates, unless they mind) here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Not Dead Yet!

It seems like all I do lately is apologize for disappearing. (Not that I'm planning on it, but I promise if I ever do discontinue this blog I will let you know.)

My life recently has been fairly boring and unmusical, until Sunday, when I graduated and it started being taken up with work and a side of maudlin. Now that I've got a schedule going again, though, I'm going to get my practice schedule back on track and gouge a lot of cane before I leave and have to give the school's gouger back. Mostly these past two weeks haven't been worth writing about, but I do promise that soon I'll let you know about graduation. (And my graduation day surprises!)

One brief note before I go get some sleep:

I learned in this podcast about the Dies Irae that the score to Disney's The Lion King was written not only by Elton John, but also by Hans Zimmer. I've always like that score, and now I just like it more. The (a?) use of the Dies Irae in the movie can be found here around 2:20; also note the opening English horn solo. Now that's why I love my instrument.

Again, I will be back! Hopefully tomorrow!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Hello again.

Having free time is pretty wild and crazy, and I'm taking advantage of it by being very bad about practicing and making reeds.

Orchestra is finished for the season, we had our last concert on the 13th and then two additional rehearsals, one with the youth orchestra and one reading new compositions from composers at the school. The concerts went brilliantly. Despite the fact that Golijov's Night of the Flying Horses is pretty poorly organized and so not much fun for the orchestra to play, the audience enjoyed it. The cello solo, Schelomo, was gorgeous, and the orchestra part much fuller than is typical for a concerto, so they had fun with that. And the Berlioz. Oh, it was lovely. I thought it went really well at the time, and after listening to the recording I definitely think it was a top performance by us. AS for my solo, on Saturday I got water in my G key, and so on the loudest of the solo, the high A, I burbled. On Sunday, though, there was no water and everything went smoothly. I was really pleased with my playing at the time, and I got cheered by the audience, which was a wonderful surprise, but I have to say, having listened to the Sunday performance on recording, that my vibrato was pretty weak. Still, aside from that I was quite happy with my playing.

At the rehearsal with the youth orchestra we read The Planets. I'd never played the piece before, so I was really excited. We had probably 120 people on the stage- we had to play at the high school in order to have enough room. Of course it was pretty rough, but it was still a lot of fun, and I hope that the high schoolers enjoyed it and maybe even got something out of it. I felt really bad for the girl sitting next to me, who was playing the third oboe part (I was on E horn), because her part was over half bass oboe, which we obviously didn't have for only a rehearsal, and her oboe was having severe and strange water problems the whole night, mostly in the low octave which was of course where bass oboe and third oboe fall. She basically couldn't play anything.

The next Wednesday, which was the final orchestra rehearsal, after which I got a little teary, we read new compositions. It's always hard to do that; we don't get the pieces before hand to look at, and frequently the pieces are quite complicated or unusual. The results can be pretty funny, and I feel bad for the composers, who really want to hear their pieces performed. We do try, but a lot of the time things go wrong, and people get frustrated. I try very hard not to laugh, funny results regardless, because it's so hard for the composers sitting in the audience to know that the orchestra is laughing at the antics of our concertmaster, or because the flutes got very confused, or what have you, and not actually at their piece. We also read through the orchestrations from the class I took this semester, which was interesting. Despite many pre-cautions, a good number of the parts had impossible notes, or were lacking key pieces of information and such. Playing these was made even harder by the fact that my orchestration professor conducted them. He was having a lot of trouble getting enough information across to the orchestra, and he was hard to follow as well. So those pieces didn't go very smoothly, though it was still nice that we were able to play them. It was a little unfortunate that the close of our season was so awkward, though.

Since then, I've been writing very long papers, and otherwise finishing up the year, including fighting with the music department over getting the recording of my recital. Well, less fighting and more being bemused over how long it seems to be taking them to get the recording moved from the office to the music library a whopping two floors down. I was told on Friday that the librarian would come and get it that afternoon, but it's still not there. I want to hear it, and there are a lot of other people asking me for it as well.

I have also, of course, been starting to figure next year out. I have now been officially accepted, and given an 85% scholarship, which means that my tuition costs for a year are around $3350 and makes me very happy. I've started looking for an apartment, and resolved to start actually practicing again, rather than the rather weak imitation I've been doing this last week.

I learned from my friend, who sent me a science magazine in the mail in order to inform me of this, that a certain species of hummingbird makes noise with its tail, which vibrates much in the manner of the reed of a musical instrument. More.

It was my 21st birthday yesterday, and I got a lovely little collection of oboe related things, as well as a couple books and some earrings. I now have sheet music for the Paladilhe Solo and Saint-Saens Sonata, two Moleskine staff paper notebooks, and three new colors of purple thread for reed-making (I may have mentioned before that I can only make reeds with purple thread).