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October 2009

Just in time for Halloween

October 31, 2009 08:05

Chatting with Terez about Schumann, I remembered a cryptic misprint in my part for the Symphony No. 3:

After looking at someone else's part, which was a more recent edition, I found out that it actually is supposed to be a sentence, in German, explaining that "Die Halfte gleich die Viertel" (the half note is the same as the quarter note).  But really, how did this get past the publisher?

8 replies

Feierlich (with apologies to W.B. Yeats)

October 27, 2009 14:45

Soundtrack:  Schumann's Symphony No. 3, 4th movement.

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;"

(Was he there at our last rehearsal, or did the conductor write this?)

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity"

(It's a bad idea, when your section is depleted and you still don't know your part very well, to try to cover it up by playing too loudly!)

"The darkness drops again"

(Boy, these days are getting short already)

Concert, November 8.  

Better keep practicing.

7 replies

Taking Stock

October 17, 2009 05:45

This question, posed in the discussion by another adult re-beginner, was really food for thought.  In all the busyness of the fall, the new school year, walking to school, girl scouts, the Fall Concert coming up, I hadn't realized that it's now the 3-year anniversary since I started playing again, until she asked.  I've been with my current teacher for almost 2 years; I spent a year messing around on my own before I had the courage to get a teacher again.

In the thread, I posted about my progress (or lack thereof) on the first thing that came into my head, which was vibrato.  What I wrote was:     

"My teacher has also pointed out that I tend to vibrate only from the note and above, which pulls the pitch sharp (and relates to another problem of mine:  intonation), so I have just become conscious of that recently, and when I do my vibrato exercises and scales with vibrato I make an effort to vibrate around the note in both directions."  

A couple of the comments that came back were surprising and made me wonder if I mis-heard or mis-interpreted what she said.  I could have sworn that she said that vibrato should go in both directions, both above and below the note, but maybe not.  I'll have to get clarification in my next lesson.  But either way, her main point was that I am vibrating too much above the note and that pulls the pitch sharp.  In all these years of playing the violin and taking lessons on and off, I never thought about it that way before.

What's especially cool is the way the problems I'm trying to solve seem to be linked.  A tendency to go sharp in pitch is another problem that I've been zeroing in on over the past year.  I've always known that I have to "be careful with intonation," but that has been a kind of vague and unsatisfying--even anxiety-provoking--way to think about the problem.  And that had led to the following approach: isolate passages that sound out of tune, play them through slowly a bunch of times, over and over, listening and "being careful."  And then hope that eventually, with enough slow, careful repetitions, it would sound better than it did at first.   

This did work, sort of, to a point.  My intonation did improve with this kind of practice.  But I'd have to say, it plateaued.  It got to this level of okayness, where the piece was recognizable and not generally painful to listen to, but also not really beautiful, either.  And, there was occasionally an unpleasant edge to the sound, especially on the E string above 3rd position, that I heard as "screeching,"--a sound that I disliked so much I started playing more viola, where I didn't hear it.

With this problem, too, I think that my teacher has been an amazing help.  Even her just pointing out that I have a tendency to go sharp in certain situations was a big step forward.  It helps to define and classify the problem, in order to tame it.  It took a few months, but I've finally come to the conclusion, with her help, that playing sharp is the main factor underlying the "screeching."  It's not that I dislike the E string on principle, or am really a violist at heart trapped in a violinist's body, it's that I, like a good violinist, hear it when I'm playing sharp, and it bothers me.

Like they say, knowing you have a problem is the first step towards getting help.  What's also interesting to me, though, is that while I've been able to change my thinking around the perception, I haven't yet been able to change the perception.  That is, now when I hear that screechy sound, I say to myself "oh, I'm getting sharp."  I'll check the pitch, either against an open string or the tuner.  I might go back and play the intervals that led me there, slowly, and make sure they are the intervals they are supposed to be.  But, I still don't hear the screechy sound immediately as "sharp."  For example, I don't know just from hearing it how sharp:  a hair, a millimeter, an entire half-step?  Well, it's usually not an entire half-step, but occasionally the tuner goes and calls it an entirely different note than the one I thought I was playing.  Oops.

Last night I was practicing some orchestra music.  Schubert Rosamunde.  This is a fun piece.  It's not really that hard, as my stand partner pointed out.  But there are some spots that go by fast and I still need them up to tempo.  This is the kind of piece that, a few years ago, I would have just assumed the intonation would take care of itself.  And, if a few notes were off, well, they'd go by so fast anyway, no one would even notice.  Now I'm noticing that the intonation needs a lot of cleaning up, even in the fast parts.  

6 replies

My Soggy 15 Minutes of Fame

October 7, 2009 07:29

Today is International Walk-to-School Day.  Back in the dark ages, I used to walk to school, carrying my violin.  A few years ago I became the PTO coordinator for walk-to-school at my kids' elementary school.  And we and a bunch of other kids, parents, teachers, and town officials walked to school this morning, in the rain.  

After 3 years of spectacular weather on fall Walk-to-School day, our karma, apparently, was up.

But, I want to thank Lenore Skenazy, of Free Range Kids, for letting me guest blog on her site about the topic today:

Where Walking Gets You by Karen Allendoerfer

Blogging is fun!  I especially love being called "non-sanctimonious."  


4 replies

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