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Karen Allendoerfer

So is this what closure feels like?

July 12, 2007 at 11:44 AM

I have been waiting to get pictures of my gig at the Farmers' Market before blogging about it. My au pair took some while I was playing, and then her computer died before she downloaded them, and her camera card does not fit my reader, so they're sort of in limbo right now until her computer comes back from being fixed. Unlike Emily and Pauline and Bram and a few others who post such wonderful pictures here, I've never done that before and am not sure how it's going to work. But try I will, when and if I get them off the camera.

The performance went extremely well, was very satisfying, and then I immediately left on a camping trip, which I just returned from. I didn't take an instrument along--there just wasn't enough room in the car, or the schedule.

But when I got back, I took my viola out to practice and something had changed. I played the Bach Prelude amazingly well, almost effortlessly, without any struggle with the intonation in the last line.

I played the rest of the Bach suite #1 too, and I felt, well, *finished*. Like it was time to put this piece away for a while. I've been working on it for over 6 months, and while I'm not sick of it, and still love it in a general sense--it's not "dead" for me--I still got a strong sense of being ready to move on. I took out other pieces I'd played and felt the same way about them.

Way back when in October when I started this blog, I asked myself, rhetorically, "when am I finished?" I'd had a problem with closure as a violin student. I would learn stuff and move on passively when my teacher said to buy a new piece. Then my mom would drive me to the music store, which to my childish mind was very far away (because these were the dark ages before the internet and sheet music plus). All my childhood sheet music looks the same, all these books in their yellow Schirmer edition covers, the edition insisted on by my teacher: the Bach Double, Dont, the Handel Sonatas, Sevcik, the Sonatas and Partitas, the Four Seasons. I'd just move from one yellow book to the next one.

In my blog, I wondered if I'd be finished when I had, for example, memorized a piece. Or performed it. Or what, exactly? I've now performed nearly my entire viola repertoire, gleaned from multi-colored covered books, in public, and it takes less than a half an hour. I've memorized some, but not all of these pieces. And this is the first time I've felt anything like "done." It's a good feeling, but also unsettling.

Then I saw Mairead Nesbitt on You Tube from the links on Albert Justice's blog. She was very interesting; I didn't care that much for the way she moved on stage, but I really liked how she sounded. I've always thought I liked Celtic fiddle, and this reinforces that impression. I'm wondering if the aspects of her performance that I'm not getting or liking right now would grow on me and make more sense with time and familiarity. I started itching for the violin again.

So last night, that's what I did--took up a new challenge, the violin. I played the Four Seasons, a Handel Sonata, Preludio from Partita in E, Irish fiddle tunes (from a real book bought in Ireland as opposed to the "Fiddling for viola" student book). I was offered another Farmers' Market date in August and thought hmm, maybe I could play violin at that one.

I dunno. I had built up a lot of confidence on the viola that just went away on the violin. Instead of grounded and rich, I sounded kind of cardboardy and thin and superficial. After an hour or so, I didn't want to listen to myself anymore. I was just not channeling the spirit of Mairead Nesbitt. I could start complaining about my instrument again, how my new lovely viola plays the pants off my old student violin, but I'm not sure that's fair. And it's boring: I can't afford a new violin right now and that's that.

Maybe I really and truly am a violist at heart, and just discovered this as an adult. Better late than never. But I don't want to give up the violin either. I really enjoyed the Handel and the Preludio, even back then . . . and I started analyzing the Preludio based on the comments in Ruth Kuefler's blog and intellectually I'm ready to go deeper. I had planned to get a viola teacher and take viola lessons only, but maybe I need both.

Jennifer is right, music always leads somewhere. Some days this feels like a blessing, some days like a curse.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 12, 2007 at 1:56 PM
Congratulations on a job well done. Also, which Handel Sonata?
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 12, 2007 at 2:10 PM
Handel sonata in F-major. The two best auditions I ever had were using the second movement from that sonata or the Bach E-major Preludio.

As a student, I used the Preludio more than the Handel as an audition piece, because it was NYSSMA grade 6 and the Handel was only grade 5. It's harder. But at least I can still do the bariolage (sp?) parts pretty well and at tempo. That was fun and sounded nice.

I think I could bring at least those two back to performance level in a month.

And, I could be fooling myself, but I think my violin sounds much better after it's been played regularly for a while. By the time I performed Fantasia on Greensleeves on violin at Christmas its sound wasn't bugging me anymore. Occasionally I play something with my daughter, but the 2nd violin part to "Allegro" isn't exactly a Ging workout.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 12, 2007 at 3:02 PM
Very good! You will continue to mull the issue of closure until the day you join the Great Orchestra in the Sky. I always think that if you feel closure, there is probably something awry. You should feel satisfaction when you really do something well, but there should also be a feeling that there is a next level.
From Ruth Kuefler
Posted on July 12, 2007 at 4:21 PM
Isn't it funny how sometimes a piece will feel "done" and other times like you could work in it forever? I don't think there is any one factor for deciding when to move on, but the way I see it, each piece is just one step in the bigger picture of improving my overall playing. The blessing and the curse of music, as you put it :) is that there is always something that can still be improved, deepened or refined in every single piece you play. I usually learn something until I feel I can play it as well as I can for my current level, then put it aside for the next stepping stone, knowing that I'll always come back to old repertoire.

P.S. I'm glad you liked my Preludio notes - Brian Lewis is a great teacher. :)

From Albert Justice
Posted on July 12, 2007 at 6:01 PM
I am eternally grateful that Ruth said:

"Isn't it funny how sometimes a piece will feel "done" and other times like you could work in it forever? I don't think there is any one factor for deciding when to move on, but the way I see it, each piece is just one step in the bigger picture of improving my overall playing."

I was just playing around with earlier songs last night, and now, they are jammin--but then--> )0: !!!

And then, I don't thing they--maybe once or twice, ever felt closure.

And Karen, I can understand your Feelings about Celtic Woman. I see the entire thing compositely though; and, her moving is actually helping me loosen up if that makes sense.

Then when I listen to Rock'n Double Bach shared by Caeli, I ask: And the rules are? Of course I know them--I'm old school, but.... I 'love' the rock'n Double Bach'n....

From Pauline Lerner
Posted on July 13, 2007 at 3:55 AM
Suzuki's attitude towards the pieces in his books is similar to my attitude towards a lot of music. When I feel some sort of closure with a piece, I put it away -- but not forever. Returning to it later can be like returning to an old love with some new perspective along with the pleasure.

I have a student who was trained as a classical violist, and she plays classical music beautifully. She came to me to learn how to play and improvise folk "fiddle." The stylistics are different. She is having a lot of fun playing harmony on her viola, improvising as she goes along.

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