Monday, November 17, 2008

It's been snowing on and off all day!

I've never had snow before Thanksgiving before; at home we rarely have any at all before New Years. And I overheard one boy today saying that this was the first time he'd ever seen snow in real life. That made me smile. Unfortunately, the school seems to have taken this as a cue to turn off the heat in the practice rooms. My fingers got so cold today that I could hardly play. But that can hardly be blamed on the snow. :-)

I've been feeling very down about oboe most of the time lately. It's not continual- I'm generally quite pleased, for example, when I play the Strauss- but it's unfortunately prevalent. A large portion of it is my reeds, which have been rather highly unsuccessful lately. Nearly all I do in lessons is work on reeds, and while I certainly like my teacher's style of reeds, and I appreciate him fixing up my reeds and showing me (quite clearly and in much detail) what it is that he's doing, I find it incredibly difficult to replicate on my own reeds. And trying to do so is playing havoc with the way that I generally make reeds myself. I do like playing on the reeds of mine that he fixes up, but I find that they die really quickly, becoming very bright and squished, and are nearly impossible to revive.

I've been thinking, though, after hearing my teacher play in another prof's recital tonight. He played incredibly well, very smooth, with lovely and subtle vibrato, and with absolute control. But it felt very closed off. I felt like I couldn't get in to most of the emotions in the piece. It would have been perfection for second oboe, or maybe even first, and I only hope that I can play like that in orchestra. For solo playing, though, it wasn't enough for me. And while I do like his sound, I'm not sure that that is what I want to sound like. So I'm going to do some thinking about that, and try to find a happy medium for reeds.

Another side result of spending all of my lesson time working on reeds is that, well, I spend very little time in lessons actually playing music. As a result I find myself either not very focused in preparing specific pieces, as by now I know that I won't end up playing them, or frustratingly stuck in my attempts to learn pieces. (In fact, my time management in general right now has been lacking. Some of the problem is that I've been working too much, some of it is that I'm being lazy, and some of it is mysterious, possibly mid-semester malaise.) I've been trying to learn Gillet #21 for about 3 weeks now, and while I can't guarantee that it would be going better with input from my teacher, I feel that it couldn't hurt. In that specific case, I'm just going to move on and come back later, but I feel stuck in a rut technically and musically. And after all, isn't the reason that I'm in grad school, other than that I want to avoid real life, so that I can continue to study? I certainly have my own ideas about pieces, but I like having other ideas to bounce off of, and I just need input. Sometimes a few words, critique, observation, or compliment, can make all the difference in how I view a piece, or a phrase, or my playing.

My teacher says that he's not worried about my musicality or technique, as long as I have reeds that I can fully express myself on. But dear Prof, I am worried about my musicality and technique.

However, life has not been all bad. I played the third movement of the Rathbun 3 Diversions for 2 Oboes in masterclass, playing 2nd instead of 1st, which was a lot of fun and a big hit. Interestingly enough, while I didn't have any trouble learning the second part, when I got up to play my fingers remained very attached to the 1st part. Muscle memory is a powerful thing.

Also, I'm playing 2nd oboe/ 2nd d'amore in Bach's B minor Mass with the chamber orchestra and chamber choir, which is amazing. We have two performances, one alone, and one as accompaniment to the film The Sound of Eternity by German director Bastien Cleve'. I think it will be pretty cool, but it makes the performance a little more nerve-wracking, as we must exactly sync with the movie, and a little more frustrating, as we are tied to the exact tempos picked by the director, rather than those our conductor or soloists prefer (or those at which we can play the runs!). I'm a little nervous about having enough time to switch between instruments, but we have two dress runs, so everything should turn out alright. The choir is really outstanding, and the soloists I've heard so far have been as well.

I recently found a fabulous piece, Madeleine Dring's Trio for Oboe, Flute and Piano, which I'm now dying to play. The only problem? I heard it at the recital my teacher played in, and now the entire oboe studio is engaged in a race to see who gets to it first. You can hear clips of it here in the sidebar.

Plus, I really love the other oboists here. I get along well with nearly all of them, and they're pretty much all very friendly and welcoming. I really enjoy my time spent in the reed room. :-)

We're having a Concerto Competition in January with the Strauss, the winner of which gets to perform with Philharmonia, the top orchestra. I wasn't originally planning on entering, as I was feeling outclassed and also as I just don't generally prefer solo playing, but I've changed my mind. It'll be really good experience, and I'm coming to like the Strauss quite a lot. (Not as much as Vaughan Williams, but Strauss can't have everything.) Besides, I feel that I can in fact play as well as quite a few of the people who are entering. I don't expect to win, but I'm certainly still going to give it my all.

Speaking of solo (and "solo") rep, I've worked out how I'm going to space out the performance aspects of my degree. We're required to do one recital, one excerpt board, and one more performance, either a second recital or a solo board. My plan is to play one recital this spring, one (late) next fall, and the excerpt board the spring of my second year. I do feel much better having figured this out. The nice thing is that they're fairly short recitals- 3 pieces instead of 4- which makes the fact that they're fairly close together a lot more manageable.

My most exciting news, however, is that I now have an Innoledy gouger! After being on the waiting list since January, about 2 or 2 and a half weeks ago I got an email that one was available. About a week later, it showed up on my door step. It's fantastic. For anybody who's never encountered an Innoledy gouger, here is a little vido I made demonstrating, though without a piece of cane. I'm planning on making another one when actually gouging.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

This is about (liberal) politics; I completely understand if you do not read it.

In many ways I'm very proud of my country right now. I'm disappointed in California and the other states who passed propositions limiting the rights of gay Americans, but I'm proud of the US for electing Obama, and of my two states. Both Ohio and Virginia went blue, Virginia for the first time since 1964.

I wasn't intending to post anything here, but I came across a few things which perfectly express how I feel about this election.

"...for a very long time we have been told, if you do not support every action your government makes, you are unpatriotic. If you are against war and militarism, you are not a real American. The real America/fake America argument wasn't something that just came out of the woodwork a couple of weeks ago, it has been there all along. And I will say, that I think that for a long time, we, on some level, believed it. I did. I suppose I accepted it, thinking that, "okay if that is what patriotism is, I guess I'll plan my future as an expatriate."What Obama did is phenomenal, not just for the history he's made, but for making it possible for all Americans to be patriots again by demonstrating that there is no "real America" or fake America, just America. He really has given something back to us, and in giving him the presidency, we've given it back to ourselves."

"I couldn't believe how fast it had happened. One minute, Wolf Blitzer was saying the polls in the west coast were about to close, and then seconds later, they called it for Obama. I thought "no, wait, make absolutely sure, don't jinx this for us!" …
... I've always liked Obama (I remember watching his speech at the 2004 DNC and saying "that man is going to be president someday"), I just didn't understand what he meant to do with nothing more than hope. I wanted pragmatism. I wanted details.When he became the nominee, … I still didn't get my hopes up, because I was terrified of being disappointed; surely, something would go wrong."

"I truly honestly believed that we would be hashing out the election results for weeks. I was even prepared for what happened in 2000 to happen again. A clear, decisive victory was the last thing I had expected. I flipped over to CNN, and I wish I could remember the exact phrasing for posterity's sake, but the text at the bottom of the screen actually had "Barack Obama" and "president" in the same sentence, and I stared at it for the longest time. It was real, and it was happening, and it was happening now. And then I was reading y'all's reactions, and I found myself unable to feel any of the same joy or excitement or jubilation. I think I was shocked, mostly. My eyes were a little wet. And the thing is, I don't think I had realized until that moment how much I had lost over the last eight years, until the moment that I got it back, and that loss was suddenly what I was aware of. I realized right then that I had lost faith in pretty much anything this country stands for.

It's not over. One election doesn't solve anything--no matter who you elect, that candidate still has to live up to his promise. No matter what change you want, you have to get out there and make it yourself. But for the first time in a very long time, it felt like the country had opened its eyes again and remembered its name."

I was 13 in 2000, and 17 (just 6 months too young) in 2004, and I remember election night, sitting in the dorm room with everybody so incredibly hopeful, almost sure that Kerry would win. I wrote the next day, "all I can say is did you honestly think that Kerry was going to win?" It's been four years, but I can say that I probably did, certainly more than I admitted to anyone, including myself. This election, I didn't even dare hope. I honestly didn't believe that the majority of people (and actually of people, no interceding electoral college issues this time around) in the US, let alone so much of a majority, would support Obama. My sister called me immediatedly after they started to call Virginia as blue, and my friend after they announced Obama. Both times (I hadn't seen McCain's concession at that point) I couldn't muster up any excitement- what if it reversed, if they were wrong? I couldn't deal with having my hope up. This morning, then, when I looked and saw that Ohio was still blue, Virginia was still blue, Obama had still won, so many states had swung to blue, was amazing.

I know that change is going to be slow, but I've been walking around all day with a grin on my face, and I'm feeling cautiously optimistic.