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February 2012

Out of Shape

February 14, 2012 10:00

I haven't blogged for a while, and it shows. Surprisingly, it doesn't just show in terms of the gap in my blog list to the right--2012 is still blank until I post this--but it shows in my playing too. I started this blog about 5 and a half years ago, in late 2006. I had just started playing the violin (and viola) again after the second of two long breaks from the instrument, and I thought this time I might need something a little outside the box, something other than a practice chart and stickers. Or, something other than guilt-inducing quotes from famous practicers who have achieved levels of proficiency that I can never hope to (you know the ones about how you notice after one day and the audience notices after two), to keep me going.

It turns out I was right, at least in thinking about the correlation. It's really true if I look at my blogs and my practice records: the more blogging, the more practicing. And, alas, the less blogging, the less practicing.

But, as every scientist is taught, correlation is not causation. There could be a trivial explanation: if I get busy at work or home, as I have, or if I get involved in some new project, as I have, I just have less time to spend on the old projects. There are only so many hours in the day. Both declines can be traced to some other root cause. Yadda yadda yadda. But, here's the thing, even if that's true, I still might be able to use the correlation to my advantage. If I make a conscious decision to blog, it might still show up in increased practicing. And vice-versa.

I think my teacher would approve. At my last lesson I brought her orchestra music. The theme for my upcoming concert with the Arlington Philharmonic is "Musical Fables and Folktales." It sounds sweet and easy, but this is about the most carpel-tunnel-inducing program I've seen in a long time. It's got stuff for both hands: for the left hand there is Rimsky-Korsakov's "Snow Maiden" suite, which has 16-notes galore in a sometimes bewildering and mind-numbingly repetitive array. For the right hand there is Tchiakovsky's "Sleeping Beauty," with its measured non-tremolo. And for both, there is Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite, with "In the Hall of the Mountain King," which manages to lead us through the caverns of B-minor, up the crags and peaks of extended 7th position, finally ending in a mad stringendo from which there is no escape. The Mountain King, whom I envision as one of those creatures who captured and tortured Bilbo Baggins and his friends, is probably preparing to eat any violinist who plays in the rest.

So, how to approach a program like this? Not with a few long practice sessions on the weekend. This is like training for a marathon: a little bit each day, build up your endurance, build up your ear endurance too. Play it slowly, an octave down, to listen. Find the one note on which everything hangs: when it's sharp, so are the subsequent 4 measures. A frustrating problem, but fixable if I just put my 2 closer to my 1 up there in the stratosphere. Get up early, play those 16th notes through a couple of times before breakfast.

Good Morning!

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