Archive for January, 2008

crisis and a half!

Sometimes I feel like life at Eastman is a constant crisis.
Take today: My normally busy Thursday seemed pretty much under control, even though I found out that my best reed, despite good tone and response, has the most terrible staccato attack. Still, that would be okay, right?
So of course there’s this gig that my quintet wants to apply for, and we’re recording on Saturday. In two days. On a piece that has lots of staccato down in the low register — the Ligeti Six Bagatelles. I pretty much have to make a reed specifically for this piece, and none of my reeds are at all suitable.

So instead of practicing like I wanted to, I had to run back to the dorms, finish my dictation for Aural so that after Poetry Club I could cram in an hour or so of reed-work.
I’ll probably have to do this tomorrow night, too. There go my fun Friday plans!
I’m really hoping the reeds turn out to be amazing with only a little work. Or that my first reed is a Ligeti reed.

The life of an Eastman bassoonist is clearly a life of constant crisis. That said, I would not have it any other way.


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Today has been filled with a lot of emotional highs of all kinds and right now, I am almost sad to go to bed soon because then today will be over and who knows what will happen tomorrow?
Clearly my neuroses are completely opposite of Little Orphan Annie’s: while I’m guessing the sun will come out tomorrow, what if it’s not as bright or beautiful as the sun was today? And so on.

I played the Shostakovitch Symphony 9 solo in studio today, and I feel really happy with the results. I got a lot of really excellent feedback (even if it included encouragement to keep working on long tones!) and I’m really excited to keep working on it. Also, it makes me even more pumped to play the David in two weeks, because a) I’ve been working on it for longer than a week, b) playing with an accompanist is always less stressful than playing solo, and c) apparently I can perform at studio without forgetting everything I’ve worked on.
So if you’re going to be at Eastman on February 5, you should come to bassoon studio class and watch me! I might not fail miserably, even.

It’s been snowing a lot, which puts me in the most fantastic mood. What I’d really like to do is go sledding, but I guess that practicing in a room with a window is an acceptable alternative.

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In the past few days I’ve had so much to say, but no time to say it in. Life has been crazy! It’s also been amazing.

Today, for instance, I woke up wanting to listen to Okkervil River on the way to lunch from practicing. I was only about twenty seconds into “Our Life Is Not A Movie or Maybe” and suddenly I was nearly in tears. The combination of the lead singer’s voice and the music and the gorgeous lyrics were so unexpectedly moving.
I mean, how can this line not be dazzling:

It’s a life story, so there’s no climax.

I could write volumes about that line. It’s so gorgeous.

Also today, I had a rehearsal with my accompanist — which is always a treat, because a) he’s a fantastic accompanist and b) I worked with accompanists a grand total of twice before college — and things just fell into place on the David. I’ve come a long way since the beginning of the year; it was so obvious that he mentioned it.
I can’t wait until I get to play the David in studio! The piece, especially the fast movement, takes on a slightly different character with accompaniment, and it’s so much more fun to play.

Also today, my iPod wouldn’t play!
Thank goodness all I had to do was reset it. What’s a music school student to do without her music?
Probably practice more bassoon…

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I finally tracked down a copy of the bassoon solo in Shostakovitch’s Ninth Symphony and oh my goodness, I am madly in love with it. It’s officially my new favorite bassoon excerpt — and since that’s already the dorkiest statement ever, I’m going to take the time today and list my Top Five Bassoon Excerpts. I am just that cool.

Rachel’s Top Five Bassoon Excerpts

1. Symphony No. 9 — Shostakovitch: First you get this almost distressingly gorgeous lyrical section, which, sandwiched as it is between loud low brass chords, emphasizes the mystery and the almost fragile quality of the bassoon’s upper register. It’s heart-wrenching and beautiful. But if that isn’t enough, it goes straight into the next movement with a comical, mocking line that reminds you that a good bassoonist has some rocking technique. There may not be a perfect word, but I think there is a perfect bassoon solo. This is it.
2. Rite of Spring — Stravinsky: Until today this was my favorite bassoon solo. Mysterious and ethereal, it starts off a whole big piece that was radical enough to cause a riot at its premiere and is delicious enough to thrill audiences today. The first minute is the best, though, especially if you get to rock out to the tune of a perfect high D.
3. Scheherezade — Rimsky-Korsakov: I’ve said before that there aren’t enough sultry bassoon solos. This is a sultry bassoon solo. It’s basically the sexiest thing a bassoonist can ever hope to play, which may sound disappointing, but Scheherezade will not disappoint.
4. Bolero — Ravel: It seems like everyone has a love-hate relationship with Bolero, but I love the bassoon solo. It’s almost restrained, but when I hear it played really well I start edging out of my chair as if preparing to dance. And given the placement of the solo in the piece as a whole, I think that is exactly what Ravel intended. Rock on, Maurice Ravel.
5. Second Essay for Orchestra — Barber: I actually do know that this is not an excerpt anybody asks for, and I only include it because it is the most entertaining and terrifying solo I have ever encountered. It requires crazy technique and precision, as well as being on the exact same brainwaves as the principal clarinetist. But when everything locks in, playing the Second Essay is the most exhilarating thing in the whole world.

So there you have it: my top five bassoon solos! (In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a major sucker for high-range lyrical solos.) I hope you enjoy — I myself am heading in the direction of my bed.

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Today was the first day of classes — although Fractals doesn’t start until Wednesday — and I’m thinking this is going to be a high-quality semester. Even having theory at 8:30 every morning cannot possibly bring me down.
For one thing, we’re playing really fun, really difficult music in this concert Wind Orchestra! I’ve been hoping for a hard rotation, and it looks like Mr. Hunt caught on to my brainwaves. I’m playing all second bassoon, but a lot of it is unison and deliciously difficult, including a high C-sharp in the same piece that starts off with a low B-natural. Rock on.

At dinner I was talking to some friends about politics, and I’m wondering: How much do a candidate’s religious views play into the vote? (Hey, just because I go to music school doesn’t mean I can’t talk politics!)
For my part, I honestly care very little about a candidate’s religion. My president is not my pastor, and although our church and state are not as separated as they could be (not that I’m necessarily complaining), I don’t think that having an athiest/Catholic/Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/Scientologist president is at all worrisome. Unless their religion gets in the way of their politics. I mean, I want a good person to be president. I want a competent, intelligent, well-intentioned president. I want someone who actually knows how to work foreign policy — this is a big issue for me. But if my president isn’t a WASP? I don’t care. Just tell me about their views. Show me their voting record. Talk to me about the good or bad they’ve done in the political arena. But I don’t care about their religion, outside of these areas. I mean, this is America. Should their religion matter in the slightest? I think the answer’s obvious. Then again, I usually do.

I know I’m back at music school when I’m itching to talk politics. Because one can only talk about Alfred Reed and the placement or ritardandi for so long, right?
That said, I am off to practice!

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I’m back at Eastman! Somehow the train was actually on time. It may have been early, even — if so, then I think this is a first for Amtrak. Someone should probably be notified.

Anyway, after arriving, I went to buy my new book for next semester. That’s right, book. All of my other books carry over. (Don’t get too jealous: I buy reed tools and cane instead of books. It all evens out in the end.)
So I’m taking this class about fractals. I have some friends taking it and I figured I could get out of those pesky papers they like to assign in English and history classes. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that these friends are math majors, and I haven’t done real math since taking the AP test for BC Calc.
Here’s a selection from the textbook:

Thus, to understand the growth and decline of the population under this model, we must iterate the logistic function. Unlike the previous examples, this function is quadratic rather than linear. We will see that this simple change gives rise to a very rich mathematical theory. Indeed, the behavior of this function under iteration is still far from being completely understood. We will spend most of this book analyzing the dynamical behavior of this and other similar functions.

I guess that’s what you get when the textbook for your class is called A First Course In Chaotic Dynamical Systems and completely forget how integration caused not one but several tears.

So it looks like I’m going to be learning some math this semester!

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I visited my high school today and it was a little surreal. It wasn’t terrible at all, though, mainly because I have some fantastic teachers who made sure I wouldn’t randomly get kicked out. (Also, someone misplaced my scale study sheet… But that’s okay, after doing scales an hour a day, I have them memorized. Sometimes it’s handy to enjoy scales.)

I talked so much about music school. It’s hard for me to explain how different and yet homelike Eastman is for me, but I tried. I used too many words, mostly. Sometimes I think I used too few words. The intention was the same. Music school isn’t for everyone, but it’s for me and I love it and if you think you love it, you should try it.

I’d originally thought I’d go and warn the kids I encountered (the ones who want to do music, the ones who look like me a year or two ago) about how hard it is. How busy it is. How discouraging it can get. But I heard that enough when I was them, a year or two ago, and what I wanted so much to hear was: it’s gorgeous, it’s wonderful, you might just keep on playing and playing until you’re madly in love. So that’s what I tried to say.

Because sometimes, when I’m not there, I can feel my heart start to break from missing music school. (That’s dorky, right?) But then I catch myself smiling — because you can’t be in love without a little heartbreak. You might forget about it.

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