Cello lesson: more composing

Over this last week I figured out a better way to hold my cello: lower on my chest, and at a more gentle incline.  It’s like magic; suddenly I’m not hitting extra strings anymore, and bowing is easier because (as Luna put it) “you have gravity working for you.”  Amazing how one little thing — like, three inches, in this case — can make such a huge difference!

Luna was pleased with my progress over the last week.  1.12 “Andantino” is now finished, having finally met with her approval (mostly because I’m no longer hitting extra strings!), 1.14 “Etude” is now finished, also because of the extra string thing.  I’m still doing 1.13 “Rigadoon” for vibrato practice — and I’ve moved up from pre-vibrato to the real thing this week, although it’s going to take a lot of practice to master — and I’m doing 1.15 “The Happy Farmer.”  It has some weird bowing that’s a bit tricky, but I think I’ll have it worked out by next week’s lesson.  She had said it was hard; I don’t think it really is, as long as I’ve got the rhythm right in my head.  (She said an earlier piece.. was it “May Song”?… was hard because of the rhythm too, but that part of it wasn’t hard at all.)  It’s got a short bit that repeats twice, and the B part is short too.  AABA and the song is done.  So I just need to memorize those bits and practice the weird bowing.

(Luna told me only one of her students has started memorizing stuff, and he’s almost a whole book ahead of me.  I feel a bit chuffed about that.)

Then we got to the composing part.  She wanted us to play the bass and melody together.  We messed around with it, she wrote it down properly on the staff, we messed around a little more, and figured out the bass part needs alteration.  (Well, either the melody or bass does; I want to keep the melody the way it is.)  Luna asked me if I’d named it.  Hadn’t even occurred to me.  Now I realize why classical composers name things the way they do; I have no fucking clue what to call it except “Composition No. 1 in D.”  Anyway, next week we’re going to record it, and I’ll post it to share if I like the way it turns out.  It was so weird to have her deferring to me about the transcription, rewriting the notes to match what I had in my head.  For next week I’m writing the sheet music myself after I change the bass part.  Although I think that, to make things easier, I’m going to write out the melody and then match the bass to it based on each measure.

By the way, she said she was surprised at how advanced my piece was; she was expecting more like drones for my bass part.  To use D&D levels as an analogy, if Bach is level 90 than I am level 2 where she was expecting level 1.

Speaking of Bach, I get to play a minuet of his soon. Squee!  Luna told me (before we started working on my composition) that it’s her favorite piece in this book.  I told her Bach and Vivaldi are my favorite composers.  Turns out Vivaldi is her favorite too.  I told her about Ofra Harnoy recording all of his cello concertos in one multi-disc CD set.  She mentioned Du Pre, and I said I liked her Elgar, and Luna gave me this look and said, “You know, that piece isn’t that hard.  It’s got some high parts, but it’s pretty slow.”  My first thought: “OMG GROWNUP MUSIC!” Second thought: “And I can see how much worse I am than Du Pre!”  Heh.

As we were packing up I asked her if she ever listened to the Violent Femmes.  She said they’re her favorite band.  I brought it up because the way the bass is the lead instrument is exactly what I have in my head for what I want to do, musically: low notes as melody.  She totally got it.  (She, like me, owns a bass guitar, but it didn’t really take for either of us.  We’re both planning to sell ours when we get around to it.)  And, actually, the piece I composed is all on the bottom two strings except for one note, an open D.  I suspect there won’t be any A string notes in my future pieces, either.  Or at least not many.

It’s strange to have her be so happy about my little composition.  It’s so very basic, but I guess she wants to be encouraging.  Maybe it’ll sound good as a duet…

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