Monthly Archives: September 2015

Cello practice: fake it ’til I make it

I’ve been doing terribly on the two pieces of music I was supposed to learn for this week’s lesson (which is this afternoon).  I keep getting caught up in whether or not my bow hold is perfect and staring at my left hand and it’s been going horribly.

I just finished another practice session.  I gathered my courage and faked confidence like I knew what I was doing, but slowed the pieces down, and it sounded better.  My teacher keeps telling me I play too timidly.  So I’m trying to fake it till I make it.  Seems to be helping.  Pressing the bow a bit harder and faster certainly makes me sound better.  And spending the whole piece worrying about my bow hold being perfect makes me sound even worse, so I just put my hand in the right position and pretended I was good.  And it was much better.  Also pretending that I was in front of an audience seems to help.  In my head I was on stage at the concert hall where I saw the concert last week and just went for it.

I hope I can do as well at lesson today.  Wish me luck.

Concert, and shopping

Last night I went to my first classical concert since I was eleven.  Used to go to them all the time as a kid, as my parents wanted to expose me and my sister to Culture, but I haven’t been since they split up.  I usually don’t go to concerts of any sort because they’re expensive, but student tickets were $15 and my violinist friend The Butterfly was going to be there (although not performing) so I went.  I am so, so glad I did.

The first half was the conductor/music director playing piano and talking to the audience.  It was nice.  I particularly dug the Liszt pieces, “Funeraille” and “Hungarian Rhapsody #10.”  Chopin’s “Nocturne in D Flat” was pleasant, as were the two Lecuona pieces.  The Debussy annoyed the crap out of me, though.  It sounded like Muzak, almost.  Like you’d hear in the background of black-tie galas in the movies.  Dreadful.  It was played well, I can’t fault the musician, I just loathe that style of piano.  I need to listen to more Liszt though.  And soon.

The second half of the show…  I was so happy.  Conductor and four orchestra members (violin, viola, cello, and double bass) played Schubert’s “The Trout” quintet in A Major.  I think my eyes left the cellist twice in the 45 minutes or so of the piece.  I was watching his arms and hands and bow.  I haven’t seen a cello played in person since I was a child, and it was delicious, and I was absorbing as much of his technique as I could.  He was a larger man and hunched over his cello, and he had these giant thick fingers and his body language said he couldn’t make the sounds he was making.  It was weird but cool.  During the fourth movement he was practically banging on the instrument and I was like, holy shit, I’d be terrified to do that, banging hard enough that strands of his bow hair were flying around loose and just wow.

I went home giddy, looked up the dates for the rest of their concerts, and also checked out the dates for the university’s free shows.  Must watch allllll the cellos.

Oh, and there was a group in the mezzanine who clapped after every movement.  Thinking about it afterward, I believe it was some students, as the concert was held at the community college and the Music Appreciation classes there require attendance at a concert, and you have to write a paper about it afterward.  I know, I took the class years ago for an easy A.  It was hilarious to watch all the people who were obviously regulars at the orchestra’s shows looking around like “WTELF?” and the musicians on stage seemed rather baffled.  It was kind of hilarious.

And that was last night.  Subject change!

Today I went clothes shopping.  I hate clothes shopping.  But I got myself a rather nice lightweight black “travel” suit jacket to use as a blazer, 70% off on clearance.  I tried both Goodwills in town first with no luck, but at one of them I picked up a pair of black pants that make me look amazing — taller and leaner.  The blazer was because I felt woefully underdressed last night (in a casual button-up shirt and chinos).  Plus I like the blazer+jeans+T-shirt look for casual stuff.  My old one doesn’t fit anymore, which is why I don’t use it.  Also it was corduroy, which is too heavy for anything but winter use here in Florida.  The new one is supposed to be comfortable even when running to catch flights or whatever it is people do while traveling in a suit, and is wrinkle-resistant without looking shiny.  So yay.

I was exhausted when I got home at 6:30 and took a 4-hour nap.  I think I’m ready to go back to sleep now.  Good night, internets!

Dream about moving

I just woke up from a strange dream about the apartment Mom and I are going to go look at tomorrow.  The complex was beautiful, like a charming European picturesque village.  Our new neighbors were members of a sorority, but they turned their music down when I asked and were willing to let me store my yarn in our shared attic space.  As Mom and I explored the apartment it kept getting bigger with weirder features.  The bedroom that was to be mine had a built-in urinal and some of those glass display cabinets like the jewelry displays in department stores.  Then we had to talk to the lady who mowed the complex about how often she could mow our apartment, where the carpets had suddenly become grass — soft Yankee grass that you could walk around barefoot in without worrying about fire ants.  We were discussing her fee for mowing the upstairs (which didn’t exist until that conversation) when I woke up.  It was utterly beautiful and weird.

Cello lesson #6: the long one

Okay, after I finish paying off a couple of things I have to start doing hour-long lessons instead of half-hour ones.  Or maybe alternate between short and long ones.  Today’s was 45 minutes, as the last lesson ran short, and it was so, so much nicer to not feel rushed.  I feel like just the one session has made me better, because we spent a lot of time working on technique.

I had felt like my bowing was absolutely awful, and we spent quite a bit of time working on my arm movements so that I sounded better and felt more natural.  I also asked her to add a couple of pieces of tape on the side of my fingerboard that faces me.  She had stuck some on the far side, so that I would feel them, but I just didn’t feel them at all (too busy trying to get my fingertips to hand correctly) and found myself craning my neck to see where the tape was.  Now I can see where my fingers should go, and I sound so much better now that I’m on key.

I have a lot to practice this week, as I know more about bowing and fingering both and need to work on my muscle memory for each.  I’m going to be doing some super-basic exercises, just “zoning out” (as she put it) and doing long bows back and forth on each open string for a couple minutes each, bow held correctly so I build up muscle memory.  When we were playing today’s pieces (“O Come, Little Children” and “May Song”) I kept stopping to adjust my bow position into the correct one, so doing the open string long bows for a few minutes at a time will make it so I have to concentrate on it less.  But my the end of the lesson I felt a lot more confident than I’ve felt this entire time.

“May Song”, by the way, is the first piece I’ve done that isn’t just quarter and half notes.  It starts with a dotted half note, an eighth note, and then quarter notes.  Teacher played it for me, saying that everybody has trouble with the rhythm. I found the rhythm easy, but not the hopping back and forth between strings for every note.  I’ll nail it this week, though.  It’s not that hard, I just need some practice.

So it was an amazingly productive lesson and I wish they all felt that comfortable and relaxed.  Hour-long lessons are $60, so I probably won’t be able to do them every week, but maybe every other week.  After Christmas, though.  I’m broke until then!

School update

Four weeks left of my final class for my degree.  I was falling apart about it, but Sis and BFF pulled me back from the brink Sunday and I spent a good chunk of time yesterday doing homework.  Sunday night I emailed my prof asking if I could make up some work, explaining that I’m crazy and am getting divorced and had to move cities, and this is the last class I need to graduate and I only need a C (but would prefer to do better, naturally) so could he help?  My sister is actually the one who wrote the email.  She’s had to do it for her husband, who also has schizoaffective disorder and is also in school.  Prof hasn’t gotten back to me yet.  Hopefully today. bites nails anxiously

For years now I’ve said that once I graduated I want to take some classes just for fun at the community college.  Chemistry, calculus 1-3, and physics.  One class at a time, no pressure.  I’d audit, but if I ever go back for another bachelor’s (gimme 5 years first) it’ll be something science-related (or Stats!) and I’ll need those classes anyway.  Yesterday I filled out my readmission request for the CC, aiming for spring term.  That’ll give me two months off of school before I start my fun classes.  During that time I’ll be getting a math tutor.  It’s been 5 years since my last math class, and I need a refresher.

My depression has lifted quite a bit in the last 24 hours, but I’m concerned that I might be veering the other direction a little.  I’ve been awake for 22 hours and I’m not even slightly sleepy.  Annoying.  I need to get tired so I can do more homework and not sleep through my cello lesson in the afternoon!

Concertos v. Sonatas

I’ve been listening to a fair amount of classical music lately.  Unsurprisingly, most of it is cello-related.  I have decided that I don’t like many sonatas.  Specifically the “piano and a stringed instrument” variety.  I feel like the piano gets in the way.  Vivaldi uses very little piano, which is nice, but other composers have equal amounts of piano and strings in their sonatas and I hate it.  (Especially Rachmaninoff. shudder)

Note that I am endeavoring to explore classical piano a bit more.  The public library has both the 1955 and 1981 versions of Gould’s Goldberg Variations. They’re supposed to be brilliant.  Actually, I should check out more Beethoven in general.  I only know a few of his pieces.  As I’ve said, I’ve been focusing more on cello music.

But cello concertos!  Also violin concertos.  Droooooool.  I have Ofra Harnoy’s recordings of all of Vivaldi’s cello concertos that she did with the Toronto Chamber Orchestra.  There’s something like two dozen, give or take a few.  Dear god they’re gorgeous.  I am, admittedly, a total Vivaldi slut.  He wrote over 600 pieces of music.  Most people only know “The Four Seasons”, but he did so many other, beautiful things.  Vivaldi and JS Bach are the reasons I love the Baroque period so much.  I think I still have some CDs of both composers from the 90’s.  As a little kid I had “The Four Seasons” on cassette and listened to it so much that I can still hum the whole thing more or less accurately.  Baroque and the formal Classical period (Mozart, Haydn, et al.) are my favorites.  Lately I’ve been on a Boccherini kick thanks to a hunt for Jacqueline du Pre’s recordings.

A lot of Romantic-era composers turn me off completely.  But, then, so do most books and poems from that period.  I just don’t dig the aesthetic, which is probably hilarious since I’m an old goth.  (Still love goth music though.  Mmmm Bauhaus.)  The earlier periods are more… structured and intellectual.  Not boring, just more precise and less moody.  Still, I am going to look for some Romantic-era cello concertos and see if anything strikes my fancy.

I need to experience more modern composers.  Some of what I’ve heard so far is, frankly, a bit confusing for me.  A lot of 20th century composers are as far from the Baroque as one can get, in terms of musical structure.  As in, it’s hard to see any structure in some of the moderns.  On the other hand, you have things like Max Richter’s The Blue Notebooks that I can’t get enough of.  And I like du Pre’s recording of the Elgar in E Minor, and some of Britten’s cello suites. Like I said, I need to learn more.

I’m going to point a friend who knows far more than me at this post.  Maybe she’ll have some ideas.

Babbies!

Last Sunday (a week ago) I drove down to the Valkyrie’s house (my former home) to pick up the babbies.  V was going on a trip for a couple of weeks, and we didn’t want the kids to be without either of us during that time.  So I have my babbies back!  They were very good on the drive from there to here.  It’s an hour and a half between houses.  They were in separate carriers; Loki was on the passenger seat and Eris was on the floor in front of him.  They would talk to each other from time to time, making sure they were still together and letting me know that they were displeased.  But they didn’t yowl or cry.  I played Ofra Harnoy’s versions of Vivaldi’s cello concertos, at low volume and with the passenger-side speakers shut off, and that seemed to soothe them a bit.

They adapted immediately to my house.  They’ve acted entirely normally this whole time, not upset or clingy or anything.  They both sleep on me at night, which is fun considering I have a twin-size bed right now, but they spend their time wrestling and napping and just being themselves.  I’m so happy to have them here.  My babies!

Eris is being her usual thieving self.  Every day she has taken a piece of clothing and put it on the living room floor.  Here she is with my pajama shorts.

The Clothing Thieves

The Clothing Thieves

The drawstring was dragging, so Loki got in on the act.  Eris has also stolen shirts (both button-up and T-shirts), and I think a towel once.  But mostly clothes.  She deposits them on the rug and then Loki takes a nap on them.  CATS.

They also wrestle a lot.  That’s Eris doing her vampire impression.

Doesn't Eris look demonic?

Doesn’t Eris look demonic?

So yes, my babbies are healthy and happy and I love them to pieces.  You have no idea how much I’ve missed them.  Like, thinking of them caused actual heartache.  But now I can snuggle them whenever I like.  But first I have to train Eris to stop hanging from the curtains…

Cello lesson #5: the short one

Normally I have lessons on Tuesday, but last week Teacher needed to reschedule.  So we did it Thursday night instead.  And I forgot to blog about it.

I demonstrated that I’d practiced the piece from the week before (I’m going to start referring to songs by name; we’re using Suzuki book one, and this was “Song of the Wind”).  This lesson I learned “Go Tell Aunt Rhody”, and Teacher played “O Come Little Children” for me to learn.  She looked at the clock and said the lesson was over.  I thought time had gone by faster than I’d realized.  As I was driving home she texted me: “I read the clock wrong and I owe you 15 minutes!  I’m so sorry!” So tomorrow’s lesson is going to be longer.

I’m supposed to be working on my bowing.  I feel like I’m total crap at it.  The cats judge me, by the way.  Every time I do the bow wrong they bolt from the room, returning only when I sound more normal.  (I say “more” because I am still terrible.  It’s the screechy noises they run from.)

“O Come Little Children” reminds me of the Blackadder theme.  Well, a very simple version of it.  Made me laugh to realize it.  I need to practice it a bunch today so I don’t sound like a clod tomorrow…

Cello lesson #4

This last week has been crap for cello playing.  I skipped a couple of days because of a raging depression, but got back to it Saturday and have played every day since, including twice today in preparation for my lesson.  It’s just been a week when I haven’t felt like I was doing anything right, bowing or fingering.

Turns out I was doing my fingering wrong!  This makes me happy, because it turns out the right way is much easier.  My first finger was playing flat, which meant I was having to really work to get my fourth finger into the right place.  Teacher put a bit of tape on my fingerboard and it’s so, so much easier to not have to splay my fingers out so far.  I don’t mind that I was doing it wrong, because I’m going to fuck up a lot before I get even mediocre at playing.  I particularly don’t mind because it’s easier now.  I need to build the matching muscle memory now, which will take a while, but I’m happy to be on the right track.

Also, I have been informed that I play too quietly.  I’ve always had problems with timidity when playing instruments, even as a child.  (I used to get yelled at regularly by the middle school band teacher about this.  Lifelong problem.)  I have been instructed to practice playing with confidence.  In other words, fake it until I make it.

This week’s piece is another little folk song, and I’m sure Teacher was secretly amused at the look of horror on my face when she demonstrated the tricky bit.  We played through it a few times after I watched her a lot, and I feel more comfortable with this now that I know I was doing my fingers wrong (which made it nearly impossible to execute the tricky bit), and I’m going to have to practice bunches.  But that first time she played it I was filled with despair.  It only lasted 5 minutes, thankfully.  It became fun after that, instead of OMG FLAIL I’M NEVER GOING TO PLAY THIS RIGHT.

Before we started playing it we looked at the written music and she asked me what key it’s in.  “D,” I said immediately.  Her: “Very good!  How did you know that?”  Me: “Tonic note.”  She rolled her eyes and huffed out a laugh because I’m supposed to be figuring it out by the number of sharps, but c’mon, it was right there.  I’m just pleased that I could read the note without having to remember line names.  Still practicing sight reading without having to think of the line order first.

Anyway, I have a shitload to work on this week.  Yay!  Challenges are nice.

I asked her for some names of good solo cello pieces I can look up on YouTube, just to give myself some aspirations.  “Except for the Bach Suites,” I added.  She replied, “I was going to say those!”  Me: “But everybody knows those!  I need other stuff!”  She also told me she’d adapt any regular songs (off the radio or whatever) for cello for me if I like, in her own time.  Nice of her.  I’ll think of something simple to ask for.  And then try to figure it out myself first, because I like figuring out songs by ear.

Right now I’m listening to Britten’s cello suites, which I discovered on my own.  I’ve never listened to many modern composers.  So very different from my beloved Baroque pieces.  I’m digging this though.  I definitely want to hear more Britten!

Life changes

The Valkyrie and I are getting divorced.  It’s amicable and we’re still chatting, but we’re both very different people than the pair who married almost 11 years ago and it just hasn’t been working.  We care about each other but we’re not in love anymore.  I wish her lots of happiness.

So I’m in my hometown for good.  I’ve always loved it here.  If I ever leave again it won’t be for a very long time.  My family is here, the character of the town is wonderful, the area is lush with old trees and lots of greenery, and I should be able to get employment if I’m ever sane enough.  I think grad school is going to be out of the equation, at least for now.  Social workers don’t make enough money that I could easily carry a $22K student loan.

I intend to be single for a good long while.  It’s annoying to have my sex drive back, because I don’t want to get involved with anyone even enough for an anonymous Craigslist hookup.  Thank goodness for sex toys.  I admit that there are a couple of guys I’d have sex with, given half a chance, but one lives in Orlando and has a girlfriend, and the local one has never shown any interest in me that way.  Which is for the best.  Because human interactions are messy and I don’t want that right now.

I’m dealing with a lot of financial changes, too.  Money-related stuff under the cut, since it’s boring to everyone but me.

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