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.


Sadah said...

Just wanted to say don't get too disheartened with the Oboe and reeds! You just have to find a method that suits you and the results you're looking for.

I don't think your goal should be to sound like anybody but yourself - I think it's good that you question whether you want to sound like your teacher. Take what works for you from everyone you speak to and don't bother with the other bits and you'll end up with something that suits your requirements.

When I did my Masters my teacher lived in another city and I got one mammoth 3 hour lesson every month. When it came time for my recital and concerto with a professional orchestra I had had only one lesson a month beforehand.

You have to become your own teacher and actively experiment. But trust that you're the only one that knows what works for you!

racheloboes said...


Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate them.

I'm definitely trying to work right now on figuring out what I want to sound like as an oboist, and how to get that sound. I'm also trying to work on being my own's a big change from being in undergrad, but it's a change that needs to happen.