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Archive for December, 2007

Break so far has been excellent — and definitely very chill. By saying this I am by no means referring to the weather, which has been lovely (if a little humid) but rather to the lack of 247 things a day to keep me occupied. Well, there’s practicing, but that’s a given.
One of my grandparents’ neighbors told me that my saxophone playing sounded lovely. Sometimes I wonder why I play such an awkward instrument.

This morning I was explaining one of the essential differences between my schedule and a normal college student’s: “They do homework on an as-needed basis. I have to practice on an as-always basis.”
They suggested that practicing is just always needed, which is definitely true.

My mom’s cousin had a baby in August, whom my grandmother babysits while her mom works, and that baby is so cute! Her name’s Briana. She has these really chubby cheeks, like a little chipmunk, and these huge hazel eyes.
She was crying on the first day I was visiting, and I was practicing, and my grandmother (perhaps in slight desperation?) took her to the room where I was practicing. And not only did Briana stop crying, but she started smiling and kicking her little legs like she was dancing.
Apparently when my grandmother took her to a different room, she started crying again. We’ve decided she’s going to grow up and become a bassoonist — so watch out, world! She’s already getting started at the age of four months, so by the time she’s my age she’ll be making her debut with a major orchestra.

Having Cuban relatives is always good times, except for the fact that my Spanish gets pretty rusty when I’m not in Miami. That said, a lot of it (including all of that pesky grammar) has been coming back.
By the time I get back to Eastman, not only will I have a tan, but also a Spanish accent! It’ll be good times for sure.

And before I go, does anyone know where I can get a copy of the bassoon solo from Shostakovitch’s Symphony No. 9? I haven’t been able to track down an excerpt book that contains it. Any help would be really appreciated.

Have a happy Boxing Day!!

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At my last lesson Mr. Hunt and I talked a lot about fundamentals (vibrato, tounging/double tounging, flicking, intonation), so I’ve started spending two hours a day working them. It’s surprisingly fun — I’ve always been a sucker for scales — but also surprisingly difficult. Focusing on intonation and coordination and everything for that long is intense.
But when I finish those two hours, getting to work on my etude is such a treat. And let’s not even get started on the thrill of working on my solo rep…! Or excerpts. (I’m only half kidding on this. And pretty soon my fundamentals are going to be awesome. I’m really pumped for that.)

Today was the music theory final, and it wasn’t too terrible. Either I did fairly well, or I did so very badly that I would’ve never realized I was messing up. One of these is a comforting answer.
Once I finished I went to go work on some fundamentals. There’s no rest for the teenage bassoonist, I guess.

On the subject of rest, I’m leaving for break tomorrow! Unfortunately, because of the lack of internet at my grandparents’ house, this means no updates until January 4, when I’ll be at my house for a week before heading back to Eastman. (Actually, there may be one or two updates before then, but I can’t promise anything at the moment.)
This is possibly a sad thing to hear, but never fear! I’ll be back in the new year with lots of fun and exciting insights into life at music school (and life outside music school… it does exist!). There are some fun new features that are in the works, too, so get pumped!
And while you’re waiting for January 4, be sure to check out some of the links on the right! They’re all amazing reads.

So, until then, have a Merry Christmas, an excellent Kwanzaa, a fantastic Boxing Day, and a Happy New Year!

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A year ago when I was applying to music schools, I admit that I thought a lot about how great it would be to play bassoon all day without needing to think about z-scores or the Platt Amendment or why we read Heart of Darkness. It seemed unnecessary — and while some of it definitely was (don’t ask me what a z-score is for!), being a person who’s learned how to think hasn’t failed me yet.

So often here, I’ll hear people complaining our humanities requirement. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with Eastman, all undergrads are required to take one humanities class — a non-music class, that is — per semester.) I can definitely understand the frustration, because it’s not fun at all to have to write a ten page paper the same weekend there’s a major concert where you have a huge solo that needs to be perfect.

But honestly? I feel like thats how real life is. It’s not fun, but at least while we’re here it’s okay if the paper isn’t amazing or if I lose an hour of practice time. At least I’m learning when I have to buckle down and accomplish fifty things in a day, and when I can focus on one thing at a time. I’d much rather freak out about it now, than freak out about it when my job or house or family are on the line.

And more importantly, I think taking non-music classes makes you more interesting. Sure, most people here can discuss the pros and cons of atonal music or how to harmonize harmonic paradigms, or even try and help you figure out why you can’t make a decent reed, but if that’s all we know how to talk about, how are we ever going to interact in the real world? How are we ever going to make “normal” people interested in our music when we can’t even make them interested in us? Poking my head above the music scene, just for a little while, I think, is a good start.

Because in the end, I’m pretty sure thinking is a requirement for life, not just graduating music school.

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We had an amazing snow-storm today with somewhere between one and two feet of snow. Needless to say, I’m delighted — and tomorrow we’re supposed to get thunder-snow. Is that not the most exciting concept? I’d been wondering the other day if you could have a thunderstorm with snow, but having never experienced it, couldn’t come to a conclusion.
Apparently it’s possible! I’m excited to see.

Today the lower rotation orchestra gave a concert with the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Brahms 2. It’s a lot of music to prepare in three weeks, but they were pretty amazing. The soloist on the Mendelssohn was a tank. After nine ineffective years of violin lessons, I may be easily impressed, but honestly? It was commanding, expressive, gorgeous playing. And this is someone who walks in the same halls that I do?
Granted, Judy LeClair (the principal bassoonist of New York Phil) walked down these same halls too. That’s either really encouraging or thoroughly terrifying.

Before I head off to bed, some fun reads:
They Just Don’t Get Us is one of those rare articles on Christianity that I read and agree with completely. No matter what your religious beliefs, I highly recommend it — not all of us Christians are insane! Some of us even vote as liberals, which I know is hard to believe, but true.
And I know I have a link on the left, but Think Denk’s latest post definitely brought a smile to my face. See, music majors need to know more than just how to play their instruments!

Music majors also need to sleep. I’m going to go work on that.

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I just got back from watching No Country For Old Men. Amazing.
That said, it’s keep-you-sitting-on-the-edge-of-your-seat stressful, but have you ever seen an artsy thriller with fantastic writing and acting? I think you almost need to see it because of just how many odds it defies. It definitely deserves everything it’s been nominated for, and let it be known that I don’t even like thrillers for the most part. It’s simply an excellent movie.

Only five more days until I leave for break!
Break is such a weird thing. On the one hand, I’m so excited to leave the cold (the perks of the family tradition of celebrating Christmas in Little Havana) and to see my family, but on the other hand, words can’t express how much I love it here. It’s like at home people rarely understood why music was so important to me — I’m not saying this to be emo, but it does kind of get discouraging when people are always trying to talk you out of practicing — and it’s so lovely how here that part of me is simply and wordlessly understood. Music school is a strange and wonderful place.

I’ve mentioned in this post that it helps to schedule yourself. For once I figured I should follow my own advice and bought this planner. I really love it; it’s just small enough to fit comfortably in any purse while being big enough to write down anything. If you’re looking for a planner you’ll actually enjoy using, I highly recommend it. (And yeah, I know there’s only one left, but ModCloth has lots of other planners, too, if you poke around.)

Oh! And before I forget, if you’ve ever thought that woodwind quintets are harbingers of boredom, then you need to listen to Silas Durocher’s wind quintet, Peanut Butter On Rye. I guarantee the bassoon riff will be stuck in your head (and happily so!) for the rest of the day. Even if you don’t play bassoon.

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I’m playing contrabassoon this rotation, and with our concert tonight, I’ve found myself getting a little nostalgic about the time I’ve spent with the instrument. (In case you have no idea what a contrabassoon is, you can find out here.) It’s large and cumbersome and a pain to take to rehearsal — not to mention the pain it’s going to be to haul it out onstage tonight — but at the same time its size and clattering low sound make it pretty charming. Not every instrument can play lower than the piano, right?

It helps that we’re playing a wind ensemble arrangement of Hindemith’s “March” from Symphonic Metamorphosis, because the part ends with the contra honking away at the very bottom of its range. Even from where I’m sitting, it’s hard to hear anything but a rattle, which is pretty sweet.

Also, there’s a certain pride one can take in playing an instrument with a case that could easily serve as my own coffin. I’m not even kidding.

Which is what I’m going to be thinking about up to the moment I force that sucker into the contra locker for the final time.

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let it snow!

As requested: four to six inches of snow today!
I know, weather is supposed to be what you talk about when you have nothing else to talk about, but snow is simply far to exciting not to talk about. Maybe there will be snow angels later today? Hopefully!

Right now I’m reading One Hundred Years Of Solitude, and I really love how Marquez manages to carry such an epic novel on such a simplistic narration.
For instance:

Remedios the Beauty was the only one immune to the banana plague. She was becalmed in a magnificent adolescence, more and more impenetrable to formality, more and more indifferent to malice and suspicion, happy in her own world of simple realities. She did not understand why women complicated their lives with corsets and petticoats, so she sewed herself a coarse cassock that she simply put over her and without further difficulties resolved the problem of dress, without taking away the feeling of being naked, which according to her lights was the only decent way to be when at home. (p. 216-217)

It’s such a beautiful passage to me because of its simplicity and honesty. Marquez isn’t bragging about how amazing his story is. He’s just telling it, so of course I want to read more. (Remedios the Beauty is, for the record, one of my favorite characters in the book so far, so I love this passage a little extra.)

At my lesson today, Mr. Hunt told me I should start looking at a new piece over break, and we agreed on the Vivaldi Concerto in E Minor (Vivaldi, having written thirty-seven bassoon concerti, effectively doubled the repertoire). So I went to the library — keep in mind, the Sibley Music Library at Eastman is the largest in the hemisphere — and it was nowhere to be found. And this is the most popular of all of Vivaldi’s concerti! Silly Sibley.
But luckily for me, I found a free copy on the internet! (Super!Internet to the rescue!)

And when I start turning the internet into a superhero, it is clearly time for me to move on to other things. I’m thinking that “other things” in this instance involves a little break: some quiet time with One Hundred Years Of Solitude. Rock on.

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