sylvansafekeepe: (Violins)
I had a wonderful dream last night.
Spoilers inside if you haven't read Anathem )
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)
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: (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: (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*
sylvansafekeepe: (Default)
Not much has happened recently, but felt like posting something anyway.

Am contemplating the purchase of a CodaBow (the trick'll be figuring out which model, since I'm unwilling to spend the $800 on their Classic or Diamond lines, which would be my first choices otherwise).

Got into E&A Week at Pinewoods. There's going to be an astonishingly large number of people there that I know. This bodes well, methinks.

Link: the 2008 Democratic National Convention, as depicted by Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr., former writer-producer of The West Wing:

I found it an immensely enjoyable read, and I'm unsure whether it's because I liked West Wing's writing or because I can actually see this happening. OK, perhaps not quite as depicted, and possibly a bit less dramatic, but I think it says something that the plotline laid out doesn't strike me as supremely far-fetched at this point. Bah.

Two weeks to PA primaries. I still haven't received my voter registration card yet (had to change registration from Independent). I feel vaguely guilty every time I find myself enjoying watching politics; I keep thinking of it as a huge game, and then I realize that (at least some of) the outcomes actually mean something momentous. But it's so much fun!


sylvansafekeepe: (Default)

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