Friday, May 19, 2017

the summer will not be long enough.



Music assignments for camp came out today. I was assigned a Brahms sextet and a Borodin quartet, one of which I know, both of which are beautiful and waaaaaaay over my head. My first thought was that they mixed up my videos with someone else's. I know both cellists in the Brahms and they are just amazing. Some more sleuthing turned up a conservatory grad and some (high school and college) people who seemed to be very serious musicians. And they will be stuck with me.

Oh, god. What were the camp people thinking? Whose videos were they watching, thinking it was me? I wish I could ask my teacher to write and tell them: "Look, she plays out of a children's etude book; her recital piece is very simple and she can't even play it properly." One report card like that would right things.

I was really expecting simpler stuff: a concerto grosso, or something with a tacet viola part, or some quirky minimalist modern music, or maybe an early Mozart or Haydn quartet. And I realize that had I been assigned really simple stuff, I wouldn't have been all that satisfied. But these pieces...it's not that I don't want to work on them. It's just that I don't know if I can pull it off. The reason this camp publishes music assignments 2-3 months in advance is that they expect you to learn the pieces so well that you can handle whatever the coach wants you to do to make it musical. I don't know if I can even learn these by late July. The other people will find out, but they will be stuck with me.

Monday, May 15, 2017

good days, bad days, good days.

Today is not a good day.

I had a bad lesson Saturday with the teacher who comes to my house. We discussed just dropping the piece he's had me working for 6 weeks or so, which I just can't wrap my head around. I felt like such a loser; countless students before me have played this piece because it's just one of the things that you do when you're learning viola. We left it up in the unstable air.

I'd hoped for redemption today at the lesson with the other teacher, but it was not to be. My fault, mainly. When I got there he was still working with the student before me, and then the phone rang so he spent some time with that, and we didn't get started until almost 20 minutes late and he so often shoos me out right when the hour's up...so I started the lesson with this overarching idea that "hey, this guy doesn't give a shit about you no matter how much you prep for lessons" and that just wasn't a good way to start. Buried in that, I shut down. He didn't like my scale or my lack of vibrato. I worked on vibrato all week. I work on it every day, I swear. He trotted out the "it can't be taught" meme and in my head I appended "so why bother at all?" and fell into a pit of despair. It almost got adversarial at one point when he said "let's hear the etude, do you want to do that?" and I said "if you want" and he replied with "oh, so it's going to be that kind of lesson" meaning the karen-is-in-a-mood kind of lesson. I said no no no and tried to be the good little adult amateur bad viola learner person but I just could not warm to my playing and so my mood didn't improve. I just kept quiet about it. But I hate the way I play and I hate that I work so hard and still sound so bad and no one but me cares one way or the other and they mainly just wish I would go away. 

On to the recital piece, the Negro-spiritual-played-by-old-white-lady-of-Ashkenazi-Jewish-descent (ADULTS LOOK VERY STRANGE IN RECITALS, DON'T YOU THINK? I THINK SO, JUST SAYING). When he starts with the directive "OK, play." it never goes well. And it didn't. All that work I did on this fucking inappropriate 90-second piece remained at home in my little practice room, and my performance at this lesson was lackluster. No vibrato. Yes, there was vibrato, but he said no vibrato so there must not have been any. He had me go back to the most basic thing possible: one note, bowed 3 times, with vibrato. Add a note, then another. It was as though he was re-teaching me the piece, phrase by phrase, and this was not something I wanted to think about, given that the recital is 6 days away.

As I packed up, as I left, I mentioned this thing or that thing I was planning for the summer: "see? I'm going to camp and (hopefully) won't be given baby music. see? I'm playing in a chamber group with some good cellists who are known to you. see?" as if to say take me seriously, I do work hard, I'm not a total loser. I'm tempted to bail out of this recital but I don't want to be that needy problem student that needs to be shored up for something as trivial as a 90-second piece. 

I am fortunate in that I literally have nothing to do this week except take my dog to chemo on Friday. Maybe I will manage to put this nadir of confidence behind me, or maybe I will manage to sleep through the entire day on Sunday.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

this strange and mournful day.

Today is the birthday of my dearest friend ever, the one who jumped off a bridge in 2006. He would have been 52 years old. I think about him every day.

Today France voted for the non-fascist Macron and against the fascists Le Pen. Some hope, finally, this year.

Today marks a just-about-a-week since my dearest (living) friend's husband died. There will be a memorial service on Friday. I hate memorial services with multimedia slideshows meant to commemorate the dead. To me, these presentations seem as manipulative as tv commercials, and what's worse, they are public. The slides summon memories, but you don't get to savor them at your own pace. You're at the mercy of the showrunner, the curator of grief, and if you're not careful, you're liable to find yourself bawling in a room full of acquaintances. I wish I felt differently about this.

Today I had a good music lesson with the teacher who comes to my house. He liked the etude I picked (from Palaschko Op.55) and made some suggestions that a) were really good and b) were within my reach. I really needed a lesson like that.

Later today I worked on some stuff for my other lesson tomorrow. That teacher has me in a children's etude book which - I discovered to my great dismay - is too hard for me. I spent part of the evening on this stupid maddening Frere Jacques derivative, and the rest of the evening wondering what the fuck I've been doing for the past eight years, how ridiculous I must have looked, how that teacher must be laughing at me. Or cringing. He lowers the bar; I sink to that level, or just below it. I dread tomorrow's lesson because I'm afraid I will lose my shit.

Today I received an email out of the blue from someone I never knew well but who developed a big dislike for me around 25 years ago when we were young. The email was basically an acknowledgement and an apology, and it came as a big surprise, really the least-expected thing I can think of.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

it's not about me.

My dearest friend's husband died this week after a brief illness. Rather, after a few months of mysterious, worsening symptoms, he was diagnosed with cancer and died ten or so days later. It was a shock and yet not a shock, but yes, a shock. My friend is heartbroken. I can do nothing for her.

Another friend's longtime partner/boyfriend/etc up and left this week. He was a hoarder, and his hoarding was at least part of the reason for his leaving. My friend, who would never ask anyone for anything unless she really, really needed it, asked her friends to help clean up/dispose of decades' worth of junk and trash so the city won't fine her. Today about a half-dozen of us went to her house and carried, shoveled, broke down, swept, dragged several truckloads of crap. It felt like picking through the life of someone who had died. I thought about their life together (which I know almost nothing about) and wondered how my friend felt about it all. I thought about my other friend whose husband just died.

None of this is about me, but I am incredibly sad.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

solitary confinement.

I have started practicing in the back room, away from the computer, phone mostly ignored except for the stopwatch function. The climate is yucky (hot/humid+hyperactive window AC) and the floor is sloped enough to make standing uncomfortable after a while. The windows are covered by heavy curtains. I love it. It's my prison cell, my solitary confinement. I go back there with my glass of water and my cup of tea and my viola and just work and work and work. None of this work has manifested itself in my "public" viola playing but it might someday.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

hey hey joe positive

One musical thing finished up this week and another will be largely finished this coming week, and I must say I'm looking forward to the break. I think I took on too much, especially with the audition thing (learn 5 pieces and pick 2) taking up a lot of space in my head.
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Today there was a local triathlon, which I used to participate in as the runner on a relay team but more importantly, my old running club hosted a water/gatorade station on the run course. And they still host it, and they hosted it today, and thanks to social media there were photos. People I haven't seen in years. They look different, they look the same. For a long time, when I was a serious runner, that club was my entire social life. I am no longer a serious runner, but today the idea of re-upping flickered across my mind. And flickered away, of course - I'm too slow, it's record-breaking heat already (96F in late April), I really really don't want to drive to St Pete to meet up for runs - but it did flicker.
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Despite hours of practice every day, things don't stick in my head or my hands the way they ought. I had a(nother) lousy lesson today; the scale and arpeggios were actually good, but the etude and the piece just sucked ass. I knew it and he knew it. The etude was so horrid that the teacher just got up and hugged me afterward, like I'd watched a puppy die or something. He got fairly close to telling me I wasn't ever going to get anywhere with viola, then backed away from that subject, and we went on. I floundered through a bit of the piece and he started packing up while I was playing (this teacher comes to my house).

For some reason, this did not leave me totally demoralized. I know I need to practice better - not more, but better. I also need to trust more in the practice that I do, i.e., don't feel I have to practice everything every day end-to-end in addition to the practice-to-fix-specific-problems. I think I will have more time to do that now.

So, not demoralized today, but there's always tomorrow: the other lesson with the other teacher who doesn't like my playing and doesn't pull any punches telling me. For that lesson, I have a scale, a Sevcik shifting exercise, a child's etude, and a 90-second recital piece. It occurs to me that he keeps lowering the bar and I continue to sink to a level not-quite-good-enough to master any of the concepts. But that's tomorrow....



Thursday, April 27, 2017

fail better.

A really lousy night's sleep can be detrimental. I've been getting cramps in my legs and feet more frequently lately, and last night I woke up several times to spasms in a particular foot muscle I'm never even aware of until it cramps. Two knives stabbing, left and right, at the same time. Not good for sleep. I dreamed I told someone about the cramps, then woke up and realized I hadn't. 

It's hot again now, summer for real, so running is less fun. Even less fun when you're tired after a lousy night's sleep, and depressed after a lousy night. Even the inaugural new shoe run didn't help. I spent 3 miles thinking about the mistakes I made last night, how ridiculous I must seem, how unfair it is that all my hard work (heh) is for nothing, could I actually be getting worse, maybe I need to quit orchestra until I learn to play better, ugh, everything is terrible...stopped the watch at 3 miles and walked home, still thinking bad thoughts. 

Saw a post from a facebook acquaintance who is obviously manic depressive, and I was reminded that my "problems" are very, very small. Yes, they are. Yes, they will fade from the front of my consciousness, and I will stand up straight and start tilting away at those windmills again. But for now I can only wait for this to pass.