Monday, March 27, 2017

If Kafka wrote stories about clowns

...that's what our current government is like: Kafka stories about clowns.

My little lymphoma dog is back on chemo after a neutropenia-induced vacation. She's tolerating chemo well, but that may be the prednisone she's still on. It makes her hungry all the time. She who has been underweight her whole life is now a tank.

My best friend's husband is very ill.

The overuse injury (thank you, Simon Fischer and Nathan Cole) I flirted with last week seems to have settled down.

Otherwise, I feel well physically, better than anytime in the last couple of years. I'm able to run a bit over 50 miles a week, mostly slowly but sometimes a little brisk. I sleep well.

I still haven't recorded the audition pieces, and I am stressed out about it. I was supposed to record today, but I bailed on it. I wasn't ready and I knew I would get very frustrated if I tried, and I just didn't want to deal with that. I have already missed one deadline and am about to miss a few others, and it's my own damn fault for picking these pieces that are over my head. Why why why? Even I know that for auditions you're supposed to pick something that's sort of easy and then polish it; you're not supposed to bash through something that's so far beyond you that you (and everyone listening) are on tenterhooks waiting for a flub...Every once in a while I remember it's only music, and of course I'm not going to sound very good, and if I want to go to a camp I need to make these recordings and not think too hard about what I really sound like and look like. But, sigh. It's sooooo god-awful. He said I should play that fluffy Nardini duet and something from Suzuki 3, and he was right.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

on the bright side: TIL

Today I learned that wrist vibrato is initiated by the wrist, and the fingers go along for the ride, so to speak. The fingers have to be flexible so they can stay on whatever note but still let the wrist and hand move, but the fingers don't start the the vibrato or keep it going. That would be like the tail wagging the dog.

Why do I say I learned this today, when it's only what every teacher + every article + every book + every video + Simon Fischer and Nate Cole and all the rest of the stringplaying world have been telling me for like 8 years? I've been focusing on vibrato for the past several weeks, going back to basic drills and trying some new ones. After all this time, I finally have enough coordination to actually watch what's happening while I listen. So after all these years I finally put two and two together and learned what I already knew.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

beware the ides of March.

Today was the 3rd Annual Recording of the Placement/Audition Pieces for Summer Camp. Every year this causes me way more stress than it's worth.

This year I picked a neato duet by Michael Kimber, which had been suggested to me by a former teacher. I asked Critical Man to record it with me. He thought it was over my head (and told me so after one reading), but agreed to try it. I worked on it for a few weeks and went to his house to record it today.

His opinion of my playing is fairly poor, and mostly he doesn't bother to hide it. But he does slip into teacher mode, finding some thing in the thicket of bad notes and poor sound that he can spend time on and fix, and sometimes he's really effective. During those times, I almost think that he thinks I can be helped, and that he's not rolling his eyes and making gagging noises behind the teacher mask.

But I know it's a mask, and sooner or later it always comes off. Today, before we even started on the recording he made some remark I can't remember exactly, some refrain about kids just "getting it" while I, oafish adult, trip myself up trying to apply logic to things. Not a particularly promising start to the session. We recorded one take of the duet; it was ok for the first 2/3 until I flubbed a few notes and my playing grew tentative. Still, it was really about as good as my amateurishness would allow. As I packed up I said I wished I could change some things about my sound. What do you wish you could change, and why, asked Concerned Teacher Mask. I said I wished I had better control of my tone, and I wished I had a better vibrato - more speed, more continuity, more control so I could use it the way I want. And I wished I could do more with right and left hands simultaneously. Oh, I can't teach that, he said, mask slipping away. That's something I just "got", the ability to make whatever sound I imagined. There's no lesson for that. And coordinating right and left, well, that comes from neural networks that you just don't have. UNSPOKEN STAGE WHISPER: and you never will, because you're an old lady! Ever conciliatory, I left the check on the music stand, also a brand-new pencil for good measure, saw myself out. Went home and listened to the recording, emailed asking for please one more take next week but willing to accept No for an answer if he feels it's hopeless or a waste of his time. 

Old lady in a Dead Kennedys Nazi Punks Fuck Off t-shirt here, adolescent rant forthcoming: SOMETIMES I HATE HIM SO MUCH, SRLSY!!!!! I work so hard, and all he ever does is look down his nose at me and say "amateur" with the sneer that seems built into the French pronunciation of the word.


The fact is that I work this hard because that's just the way I am.
I work this hard because in some way, I want to.
I am learning, although lately I feel that everything I learn comes with a price tag, and that price is a deeper realization of how much I still don't know.
This happens every spring and I should feel damn lucky to get through it.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

I don't know what to make of anything.

My little dog friend has lymphoma and though the docs say the chemo is helping, I think I see her fade a bit each week, sometimes each day. During her chemo-break she also stopped prednisone and almost immediately started feeling and acting sick. One more week off chemo and back on prednisone, and she's a hungry little puppy again. But I have started taking hunger to mean health, and food to mean a cure, and this is a mistake. She's hungry because prednisone makes her hungry, and if she had half a brain she'd be asking me hey, why are you doing this to me. She's always been a picky eater, and it almost seems wrong to stuff her full of food and think yay, she's cured. She's not. And even when (if) she starts chemo again, there's 4 or 5 more months of it. She's so sweet and so dumb. She doesn't know what's happening to her.

Today the so-called president went crazy again for the umpteenth time, accusing his predecessor of "having his wires tapped" (quotes courtesy of the prez,and it sounds like "having your tubes tied"). The guy really is crazy, and the fact that he manages to remain in office makes me despair.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

taking a cue from our fearless leader

Yesterday I had an absolute disaster of a music lesson, with the teacher pulling no punches about my awful readthrough of a piece last week, then insisting I play it there in the lesson. The things he harped on - beautiful sound, excellent bow control, rich vibrato, to name a few - weren't things I'm good at. And they really weren't things I'm good at when I'm rattled and self-conscious about my playing, like when someone has just told me how bad I sound. Like yesterday. I didn't cry, but I almost did. It is a disaster when a grownup person cries (or almost does) at something as trivial as a music lesson.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

mundanities in the face of global terror.

At string orchestra rehearsal yesterday evening I was the only violist. One violist let us know beforehand she'd be absent; the others simply didn't show. We did no review, just forged ahead in some of the pieces. I had practiced. but not to the extent that I could come in and just be the entire section. 

I did not handle it well. Sandwiched in between robust healthy violin and cello sections, I couldn't find a way to play that wasn't either too-quiet or super-crunchy-loud. I started to worry that I would forget how to read, and lo and behold, I forgot how to read. I made a lot of mistakes, felt I never got the chance to fix them, got more and more tense at each mistake, bolted as soon as rehearsal was over. Basically I played as poorly as 5 years ago, was mortified at every mistake, just dug myself into a hole. I played so horribly. It felt like everyone was thinking "god, what is she doing here, she's terrible". I am so embarrassed.

Before rehearsal, the conductor (who is also a violist) and I read a duet by Michael Kimber that was based on Hindemith's Trauermusik (which I had never heard of until two days ago and which I was now very smug about having made its acquaintance). There were people milling about the rehearsal room, and I worried about playing something so weird-sounding. Someone even announced she wanted to look over my shoulder while we read; like a good sport, I said "ok, fine". I goofed it. Even though I had practiced a lot, played with a recording, even read it with a former teacher a day ago, I goofed it last night reading it with the conductor in that room full of people getting ready for rehearsal. The conductor said "are you really sure you want to use this for an audition?" I said yes, but after the rehearsal I have new and serious doubts. Who the hell do I think I am, that I can play something like that?

48 hours ago I was happy about playing for my former teacher, who said my playing on a particular piece was like night and day (from when I first started working on it). Now I am back to feeling like a hack or an impostor or a head case, or all of these. I know I will feel better soon, maybe even by tomorrow. But this is unpleasant.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


I took a walk. It was hot. Had to pass by the Rude Boyz (gangbangers one street over with lowered Civics they are always doing something to) twice, coming and going. Someone visiting someone for xmas, visitor had nasty little chihuahua on an untretracted leash, dog runs at me snarling and owner smirks "he don't bite". I could not contain myself and muttered "you need to keep that dog on a leash" which made no sense because he was on a leash, just one that was long enough for him to get really close to me and snarl and snap. Anyway, there went my xmas spirit, such as it wasn't. 

It was hot. There were all these people out walking or playing soccer or visiting each other because it's xmas. I wallowed in self-pity: I have no family; I am uncomfortable around my few friends because I feel them judging me for having retired. Not that they ever asked about my work in all those years, or that I ever forced them to listen to tales about it. But now that I don't work, it's just "so, how's retirement?" and "what do you do all day" like there is no right answer. And maybe there isn't one. What do I do? I pay for music lessons so I guess I help put groceries on someone's table. But aside from that, I contribute nothing. I am just a waste of space, which is not a nice thing to contemplate on xmas, or any other day.