sylvansafekeepe: (Violin)
...and the Molitor Strad goes for $3.2 million.

About what I expected; a little higher, perhaps, but not by that much.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
I had a wonderful dream last night.
Spoilers inside if you haven't read Anathem )
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
I have a new favorite YouTube music clip, this from a Ryan McKasson & Hanneke Cassel concert:

First half is just gorgeous, and second half is a lot of fun to listen to, especially if you're trying to figure out what's going on with the non-melody parts. Farewell to Tchernobyl also makes an appearance, which pretty much guarantees that I'll like the performance; in this regard, I'm rather predictable.

Haven't been playing as much recently, since BiCo and Swat classes are on break for the next few weeks. Am spending the time learning new tunes. I can actually play The Mathematician's Hornpipe at speed now, but it's something of a hollow victory, since it's not like I'm ever going to play the damn thing for a dance or at a session. Sort of the same as The City of Savannah. Suspect I have a glaring weakness for Skinner tunes that nobody else actually feels are worth learning. Problem with the realization is that it means I actually have to learn bariolage bowing if I want to play some of this stuff. I'm not sure I want to do that.

In 'played by the average fiddler' tune news, I have also discovered the Raivlin Reel, which is a heck of a lot of fun to play, and has a freakish number of possible ways to bow it. Still haven't decided how I'm going to come down on that.

It's probably good that I'm doing the tune learning now, since my February is looking incredibly full of stuff. We'll see if I go nuts.
sylvansafekeepe: (Default)
I finally got to play Wizard's Walk at a contra! With completely ridiculous piano runs, over-the-top violin pyrotechnics (if such things can be said to exist), and stuff! It was pretty much exactly how I always dreamed of playing it.

I normally tend to favor a certain amount of restraint while playing music for dancers. However, Wizard's Walk sort of begs to be played in a style full of nutty harmonies and huge quantities of bombast.

I was somewhat less a fan of driving 50 miles through the snow to get to Elverson, as well as missing Magic State Championships due to this gig, but it still may have been worth it.
sylvansafekeepe: (Default)
Now that Seussical is over, I need to figure out what to do with my newly-acquired free time.

sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
But it's filled with lawn care equipment, so there's not a ton of space. And the kitchen has better acoustics.

So, in an effort to actually improve my playing, I bought a Griffin iTalk thingie that records stuff to my iPod. I can now tape myself practicing, then find all sorts of things I'm doing incorrectly. Discoveries so far:

1. I play way too fast. Like, 40+ BPM over what I hear on most recordings, to say nothing of dance tempos. This obviously causes all sorts of problems, but creates answers as well. For example, most of the times that I'm having difficulty playing something, and am feeling completely hopeless and incompetent, it's because I'm trying to play the damned tune at one-and-a-half times the speed it really needs to be played. I knew I had a tendency to speed up while playing, but I didn't realize it was this severe. The flip side of this, of course, is that if I learn everything really fast, I'll have all sorts of time to do weird stuff with tunes when actually playing for dancers, since I'll feel like I'm playing in molasses.

2. My ornamental triplets (or trebles, shivers, whatever the hell you call them) always occur at the same speed, regardless of how fast I'm actually playing the piece. I'm unsure whether this is supposed to be the case or not.

3. On a similar note (pun intended), I can't pick out bowed triplets I've played on the A or E strings. I'm not sure why -- I can hear those that I play on G or D strings. And I'm not doing anything differently when I play them. Two possibilities: one, the recorder is relatively crappy; it's entirely possible it just can't pick up the breaks if the note is above a certain pitch. Two, it's the strings; I'm trying out Evah Pirazzis with a Goldbrokat E, to see if they're as good as everyone raves about (conclusions so far: I really like their sound, but I'm torn between them and my usual beloved D'arddario Helicores, which have a lower tension and cost $40 less per set). I wonder if the Evah A simply produces fuzzier triplets than other strings.

4. I'm excessively fond of tunes in A minor or D minor. This isn't a bad thing, but I should try to expand my horizons a bit. Also, all of my current noodling seems to eventually turn into Paddy on the Turnpike. This isn't a bad thing, either.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
I didn't feel at all prepared for this dance (I printed out the music earlier in the day), but I was pleasantly surprised at how well things went. I think the trick is just convincing myself to relax.

The whole thing was just really, really fun.

Also, Wes's idea to call ourselves "Mr. Darcy's Lonely Hearts Club Band" was awesome.

Unfortunately, I missed the ceilidh in Lansdowne. Stupid scheduling conflicts.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
Just got back from a late-night cast and crew dinner at Chili's. Very interesting show tonight. We discovered that only three members of the violin section were able to make this performance. This by itself is problematic, since the score sort of needs a minimum of 4 violinists to play all of the notes on the page at times. What made it crazier for me was that I got promoted to principal second, with all the responsibilities it entailed. In this case, responsibilities included being the only person playing the second violin part. Oh, and I also had to do solo/duet stuff with our concertmistress. No, I hadn't looked at any of those parts before.

Oh, and tonight was the night they were taping the performance for the DVD.

It actually went remarkably well, considering. Minimal mistakes overall, although the cast seemed a bit nervous at times, probably due to the knowledge they were being filmed. Things worked out rather nicely for me in that, while I don't think I hit that many wrong notes anyway, I was seriously drowned out by our concertmistress's violin.

Those of you who know me and the type of violins I like to play may ask how this is possible. Yes, my violins tend to be loud. But this instrument is in a class of its own. I was talking to the owner about violins, and got to try hers out during intermission. Amazing projection, incredible resonance and cutting power, and ridiculous depth too. Easily the best instrument I've ever gotten to play in my life. It was made by Hiroshi Iizuka, a luthier who actually works in Narberth/Penn Valley.

I want him to make me one, even if he does mainly make violas and not violins.

There's a small problem, though: he has a three-year waiting list. Oh, and his instruments cost about $25k. This is what happens when you're a multiple-gold-medal winner at the Violin Society of America competition.


While I'm relatively happy with my instruments, getting the chance to play even better ones always makes me want to upgrade. I just need to figure out where to procure the money...

I don't really need two kidneys, right?
sylvansafekeepe: (SheldonDuck)
So, at Sweeney Todd rehearsal tonight, our conductor asked me if I could do her a favor. It seems that our drummer can't make two of the performances, and he has some fairly conspicuous parts that need to be played. Nothing difficult, more like atmospheric stuff that occasionally needs to show up in the musical numbers (knocking, banging a washtub, etc). These parts also occur when the violins aren't playing anything. And there's a space in the pit next to the violin section.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

On one hand, I'm rather amused. I seem to be the de facto nominee for anything that needs to be done during this show (I was already nominated by the pit to fill in a minor role where the actor constantly forgets to show up on stage -- the role being that of a prisoner being sentenced to death. I apparently look like a career criminal). On the other hand, I can't wait for the first time someone decides to crack a drummer joke in my presence (ex, "What did the drummer get on his SATs?" "Drool.").

At least I don't need both hands to play the percussion parts. This will allow me to hold my violin between chin and shoulder, drop my hand to grab the mallet/drumstick, play the drum part, and return my hand to play the violin part in time.

I think this'll be fun. Although it's just a matter of time until I have to strap cymbals to my feet...
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
...because I'm bored, and felt like doing this.

1 -- pair of dancing shoes (jazz) I own. Also the number of mandolins I own. Also the number of pennywhistles.

4 -- number of violins I own (3 in playable condition).

8 -- number of violin bows I own (3 in playable condition -- should be 4, but one needs to be repaired; the screw adjuster refuses to tighten).

14 -- number of violin strings I replaced over the past year.

21.5 -- weight, in pounds, of my books of fiddle music. This does not include loose sheets of music, which I really didn't feel like consolidating.

28 -- number of Facebook photos of me in which I am holding a violin. This number increases to 34 if you count pictures of events where I played music, but am not holding an instrument in the actual photo. If you count non-violin-holding photos from Pinewoods, this number goes up to 38.

54.9, 66.7, 74.5 -- percentages of total Facebook photos of me with regard to previous statistic(s).

6100 -- est. miles driven over the past year solely to play music somewhere. This number increases to 6800 miles if you include the trip to Pinewoods.

16,446,638 -- number of violins you'd have to lay end-to-end to reach that mileage. That's a lot of violins.

375,494 -- years it would take a single luthier to make that many violins, assuming a (fairly standard) 200 hrs. per instrument. This number obviously drops dramatically if you allow for machine-made violins (boo, hiss). On the other hand, this number increases sharply if you allow said luthier to eat and sleep.
sylvansafekeepe: (Default)
So, Hogmanay was awesome. Easily my favorite one that I've attended so far. Parcel of Rogues (the band) is awesome, and my favorite Hogmanay band so far. The recovery party was awesome (I got to play music for 5 hours or so!). And I have a new favorite tune that I'm learning -- The High Drive (it's like, a combination of every single stylistic and melodic thing I try to throw in tunes I write, so it's gotta be good!).

Hopefully the rest of the year lives up to the promise demonstrated during the first day.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
I mentioned, in my year-in-review post, that I seem to be on the road towards a reconciliation between my two musical halves: the classical musician and the fiddler. I've been trying to figure out just when this started happening; if you look back, most of my early music-related posts involve my inability to get these aspects of myself to operate in harmony. After some reflection, I think it began at about the same time I moved to Ambler, for two reasons.

First, there are two libraries within walking distance of the house. There were libraries in Manayunk (or at least near it), but I didn't really frequent them. Here in Ambler, I acquired library cards fairly early on, and started taking out books. This included what was essentially their entire section on violins; construction, history, biographies.

I had already been aware that the split between "classical" and "folk" performances dated back to the early days of the violin's development. Initially, the harsher sound of the violin was generally scorned in favor of the lute, which is what was used for courtly and religious music. Violins were relegated to accompanying dancers, and even then, only peasants and the like. It wasn't until later that the violin was used by the well-known composers, once they realized that the violin's better projection made it ideal for orchestral works.

What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer amount of crossover that actually exists between the two worlds. I was aware that plenty of composers wrote music in the style of folk tunes (Brahms' Hungarian Dances immediately come to mind, but there are tons of others), and that a lot of the earlier music was written to be danced to (gavottes/minuets/bourrees/etc). What I didn't expect was to find that pretty much every ostensibly Classical violinist (or at least the ones who have written autobiographies that I read) have also seriously experimented with folk tunes. There's Itzhak Perlman's well-documented forays into the world of klezmer music. Arnold Steinhardt's discovery of tango. Yehudi Menuhin's love of Gypsy music. The two fields don't really have to be exclusive.

Second, not having a job allows for a frightening amount of free to to spend practicing. I found (not-quite-legal) PDFs of the Suzuki books floating around the 'net, so I now have an archive of music and technique books (I actually own these -- my sister has the Suzuki's, which is why I needed to find copies) that will take a while to exhaust (especially with the existence of My practice habits have changed. I decided that going through all of the stuff in the technique books was stupid; instead, I only really need to use those exercises that are directly relevant to what I'm playing. Going exercise by exercise made a certain amount of sense when I was learning different skills. Now, not so much.

At the same time, I find that I'm instinctively developing my own fingerings for a number pieces. There are certain compositions which must be played a certain way, in certain positions (Kreisler's Liebeslied comes to mind, mainly because it's sitting on the top of my stack of music at the moment), due to a particular sound the composer wanted. But most of the things I've found lend themselves a number of possible fingerings. And there's a certain amount of joy inherent in looking at a piece and saying, "How do you want me to play that? That's stupid -- this way is much easier." It allows me to tailor my renditions of things to my strengths. Not having a teacher telling you that you must play in a certain way is rather liberating. So is choosing what you feel like playing, rather than having it assigned to you.

I think the word 'liberating' is what's key here. I have no desire to become a classical soloist (nor do I think I have the talent anyway), and I couldn't care less if some dancer objects to my choice in bowing style or fingering or variations on a tune (within reason, of course). It's selfish, sure, but when you get right down to it, I'm not playing for other people, anyway; I'm playing because I enjoy it (OK, OK, it's technically for other people in the sense that they might be listening. You know what I meant). It's music, and I like playing music. There are now times when I'll be wandering around the house playing some random concerto, when I'll suddenly slip into a reel or strathspey. And when I'm done with that, I might segue into some 5-minute-long improvisation on one or two strings that eventually resolves itself into another dance tune. Letting my mind go produces interesting results (and yes, I was aware my mind went a while ago ;-)).

I suspect, at the most basic level, it's a matter of judging classical vs. folk by their similarities rather than their differences. At some point, I made that shift in view, and things have been rather different (and exciting!) since. *grin*


May. 23rd, 2008 11:36 am
sylvansafekeepe: (EvilFrog)
It appears that Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz actually has a second page.

First Page )

Second Page )

I'm unsure whether this is a recent development, something most people don't know, or that I'm just that clueless. Possibly all three.
sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
The point of this entry is to do a completely unbiased analysis of my fiddling, and highlight areas which need improvement, whether they be minor things or major issues. It's something I've wanted to do for a while. However, now that I have an actual recording of myself playing for an entire event (at Dithean; thanks, Kirsten!), it's a lot easier to look back ("listen back" might be a more appropriate phrase) and write down things I notice.

Snip )
sylvansafekeepe: (Default)
Maybe I should just start up a second account for music-related stuff, since it seems that's pretty much the only topic I post about with any sort of regularity. Or at least a music-specific icon.


The usual random thoughts/musings/experiences... )


sylvansafekeepe: (Default)

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