Monday, April 28, 2014

just a few, then I'll quit

Tonight, again, I pulled out some old pieces I hadn't played in a long time. Specifically, I read through the pieces from a chamber music workshop I attended last year. At the time, I had recently switched teachers and was convinced I had Embarked on my Really Serious Study of Viola As an Adult. I worked really hard on those pieces, and felt horribly wronged when I discovered my workshop group mostly couldn't play their instruments, let alone slog through either piece. Oh, how miserable I was during that workshop! Extreme shyness and an inability to sight-read made the weekend even worse, but oh, the injustice...a few weeks later, my teacher gathered some colleagues from his orchestra and we all met at his house and played the pieces and read through some others. I was incredibly grateful that anyone would do that for me, and still am.

Back to this evening...I read through the pieces, and they seemed so...easy. On a single read-through they were probably 90-110% of what they were when I was sweating bullets over them last year. Which made me wonder how I had the nerve to play them last year with good musicians, with any musicians at all...I was terrible! And I thought I was on the One True Path or something. But I had no vibrato at all and no sense of how to create tone, just volume (and even so, I didn't do that either). Oh god, how tiresome I must have seemed. How tiresome I must seem now, sometimes, hopefully not all the time. I really need to lighten up.

It's fun.

It should be fun.

need to
lighten up.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

walk it off

Running this week: a bit over 38 miles, not very much but consistent. Despite this, and despite the addition of calcium+magnesium+potassium (bananas) to my diet, I still sometimes get cramps in my feet just from putting on shoes.

Tonight, at the tail end of practice, I pulled out some music from a med-school/community orchestra I played in nigh on 2 years ago. We played interesting, challenging music that was mostly over my head. This music I pulled out included a beautiful wild thing from St John Passion, and a version of Wachet Auf. Oh, how I struggled with this 2 years ago! The fingerings I'd written in looked bizarre, obviously the fingerings of someone scared to death of shifting, and scared to death of 2nd position. At the time I worked and worked at it, but could not get it to stick in my head or in my hands, and eventually dropped out of that orchestra because I didn't have time to spare, or the patience to deal with not being able to play the pieces correctly. 

So tonight I pulled it out because sometimes I like to pull out old music. I read through the pieces and each one sounded better than it ever did when I was banging my head against the wall trying to learn this stuff back in 2012. How on earth did I even think for one moment I could play this stuff back then? I had no business in that orchestra. Why did no one tell me?

I'm glad the music comes easier now, but I wonder what I'm doing now that I have no business doing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I am not flexible enough

String orchestra performance was this evening. The pieces were pretty easy to learn in a rudimentary way, and had no supertechnical viola stuff, and I must admit I gave them even less effort than that warranted. I'd practiced so hard for various recital pieces and lesson assignments that I thought that would carry me through somehow. It didn't. I could not adapt to any deviation-from-the-norm in my stand partner or in the other sections. I played out of tune and with yucky tone. It threw me every time.

Anyway, it's over.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

dum spiro spero

The other night, my cellist friend and I got together, since we're done with recitals and stress for the moment. We played the first movement of a Handel triosonata (which we started working on last summer and put into mothballs), which the cello starts. I was really struck by how good she sounded. She has really improved in a year. Not that she was bad or anything last year. But in this piece the other night she had such a nice sound, such a nice vibrato, such an improved sense of phrasing. Last year the intro was a little stiff; the other night, it just flowed. I was happy for her, happy for me (because I get to play with her) and happy for us both, because it's proof that adults can improve, and aren't always washed-up from the start.

Friday, April 18, 2014

I will not

  • , ever, do a "throwback thursday" thing on facebook
  • say "fuck stupid cancer" as some sort of slacktivist anti-cancer slogan
  • put a mustache on my car, for that matter
  • click on a video described as "amazing," or purporting to "blow me away"
  • ask anyone else to view such a video
  • write haikus
  • , ever, join AARP

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

crunch time

One week out from (orch) concert and my ability to play has evaporated. Nothing sounds good at all, makes me reluctant to practice the pieces. Last rehearsal is tomorrow and I am dreading it. No good can possibly come of it. I will play poorly; it will bother me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

this time tomorrow

It's been a really miserable week. I've been unable to maintain equilibrium for any entire day.

Running: I have been running more consistently, if not much faster. But consistency seems to be key. I wondered a few weeks back if I could sustain any interest in non-competitive, non-goal-oriented running. I had my doubts, but strangely enough I've latched back onto it. It's something I do where no one judges me, no one critiques me, no one compares me to others. Additionally, I have no goals, no races to train for, so I am not putting any pressure on myself. I just run.


  • so-so rehearsal, the penultimate before the performance. My stand partner came, so after 3 or 4 weeks solo I got to hear and adjust to another person. Not that I was any kind of virtuoso anyway. I suppose we play well together, to the extent that we are audible anyway.
  • so-so lesson; the scale I'd been blundering through all week actually sounded better but the etude I've sort of abandoned (in favor of the the recital piece) was just crap. Then the recital piece...I think I maybe peaked a week ago. It sounded stale on run-through and there were lots of things my teacher found to pick apart. Unfortunately nothing was going to change by recital time.
  • I asked my teacher (who is also the orchestra conductor) if I could skip next Wednesday's rehearsal to go to the viola-studio recital at USF. I figured (but did not say) that since I've not missed rehearsal in years, and since no one really is listening to me anyway and I am only there to provide alto-clef pitches during tutti run-throughs, it might not matter so much if I missed the dress rehearsal which isn't really a dress rehearsal and isn't onstage anyway. But the answer was No.
  • recital: my husband came, and my cellist friend came (yay). I wasn't nervous at all (yay). And then my bow arm started shaking (boo), and something about the accompaniment caught my attention and threw me a bit, and then I missed some notes (boo). I never stopped and never fumbled too badly, but it was not a good performance compared to any run-through during the past 4 or 5 weeks, oh well. And the other kids' performances were just great, which made me happy - I love watching recitals - but in their performances I could hear all my shortcomings, and I wondered if these were things I could work on and correct, or if it's just hopeless.
Work: I have been pulled from the pasture, at least for now. There's a Medium-Big Project that I am suddenly on. Until I'm not, or until the project falls from favor.

Can things get better? If so, I hope they do.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

maybe this will help

Two days in a row I have practiced badly. My vibrato is gone, replaced by nerves and tension. I make dumb mistakes and more serious ones. Not a good sign the week before a recital, not good two weeks before an orchestra concert.

Maybe this will help tomorrow at (orch) rehearsal: don't grimace or make a face if you fuck up or if it doesn't sound nice to your ear. Very likely no one can hear you, and even if they can hear you they aren't really listening to the viola anyway, so unless you make a huge loud bad noise, people will think you're grimacing because you're negative and bad-tempered, not because you heard some small fuckup that destroys your (misguided) ideal of perfection.

Monday, April 7, 2014


If you hold still, if you let your mind go blank, negative thoughts come marching in like ants descending on a dead or dying animal. So the trick is to stay busy, stay occupied, stay moving, stay engaged.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Things really need to change. I cannot go on wasting life like this. But I honestly don't know what to do.

I keep harping on "the last really-bad time of my life," but that's probably because that story turned out to have a happy ending. At the time, I didn't know it would, and I still don't know how it did. But it did have a happy ending, and I was able to live without destroying myself, or even thinking about myself most of the time.

Now here I am again, thrashing around like I did in my thirties, only much more gracelessly; there is nothing graceful about a fifty-year-old woman in distress. I am unhappy; I push people away; I make resolutions and then break them. I manage to get a foot or two away from the bottom of this hole, only to hear this Voice reminding me of past failures: "you think you're doing so great, yeah? remember that time when you said [this] or did [that]...don't be so damn quick to congratulate yourself..." It takes so little to push me over, and it's my own damn fault, but I don't know how to break this cycle. I can sit for hours staring at nothing, thinking of terrible things, and even though I hate it, I just don't know what to do to make things change. Will it last a year (like it did in my thirties) and then I will be ok again? Or is this blog just going to be a long unread suicide note, some sort of chronicle of descent? I guess as long as I wish things could change and wish I knew what to do, there is some hope. But I don't know how long this will be the case. I don't know if I can outlast this.

Friday, April 4, 2014

weak end start

Couldn't wait to get home to make up for that lost day yesterday. Found I couldn't concentrate on anything, so I wasted the whole night sight-reading etudes I will probably never get to. It wasn't a total waste - my brain is beginning to make more instant sense of what's written, so when I see line-line-line I think 1-3-1 or 3-1-3 or something similar with 2 and 4. It's like I'm finally starting to recognize patterns.