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Archive for May, 2010

The past few days have been spent packing up my room… and playing my last paid gig of the school year, at Eastman’s Community Music School! Although I had to wake up early after a late night of packing and a trip to the grocery store which ended in the happy purchase of Coca-Cola made from real sugar, playing for six classes of three and four year olds was actually incredibly fun and rewarding. Sappy and cliche, maybe, but as a bassoonist I like the fact that somebody’s trying to make sure that the children of today actually know what a bassoon is. Until I had the instrument in my hands, I had no idea what a bassoon was.

Playing for little kids is also gratifying because they think you’re super awesome. In ten years, those kids will probably think the bassoon is a nerdy diversion for lamesters, but right now it’s the coolest thing they’ve ever seen. That’s my favorite thing about them: they really don’t care if anybody else thinks they’re cool. They like what they like, they oooh and ahhh over a bassoon, they pull their socks high over their leggings. (Incidentally, I am both amused and gratified that the clothes I wore as a little girl are in fashion — the girls in my elementary school may have teased me, but apparently I was secretly a visionary. Or something.) I want to keep that childlike wonder, which I know is cliche, but imagine if every time I took my bassoon out of the case, I was taken aback by how ridiculously blessed I am, to be standing in front of such an awkwardly beautiful instrument, the product of so much care on the part of its creators. I think it would mean more to practice well, to keep improving.

And to be honest, one of the perks of playing for little kids is the reassurance that if I ever have children, they might actually love the bassoon even more than me! A girl should always dream big, right?

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Last night I went to a jazz recital in support of a friend. It was one of those recitals where I wasn’t sure if I’d like the music at all, and usually those are the recitals I don’t attend, but like I said, I was going to support a friend, so there I was in the back of the audience, ready to listen to the music of Tim Berne. Incidentally, if you have no idea who he is, clicking the link may be a helpful resource. But I digress.

The music was like a strange kaleidescope, shifting from sonic texture to groove and pausing at every place in between. There were people moving and head-bobbing in the audience, although I’m not sure how they did it aside from sheer force of will. It was the kind of thing I could only observe as closely as possible. And it was interesting, to hear the shifts as they occurred, the way you couldn’t count on any sort of solid ground to rest your ears on. You just had to keep listening. I think there’s a kind of hope and trust involved in that, you know? Whatever comes next could potentially be terrible, but everything that’s come before has been great, so you just hold on and keep listening.

And there was, too, this really interesting idea of strain. What I mean is, at least when I play bassoon, I try to make everything look and sound super easy. But here, I could tell when things were hard and I liked that. Maybe it wasn’t intentional — sometimes I think things aren’t universal and it turns out I’m being too forgiving — but I really liked it. Why should we pretend all music is easy for us? Sometimes it’s crazy difficult and even if I’m nailing it, isn’t it okay to get a little sympathy? Or maybe not.

There’s this weird and almost unbelievable dichotomy between classical and jazz majors at Eastman, sometimes I feel like we’re oil and water and no one’s interested enough to mix us. But sometimes, there we are in the same room, and I’m so glad that I went to the most unlikely recital and that my ears had this sonic adventure. Of course I come to this realization at the end of the school year, but on the other hand, better late than never, right?

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There are a lot of music snobs at Eastman, it’s true, who can tell you that your recording of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony isn’t up to par or that you really just don’t know what you’re talking about when it comes to Beethoven. But one of the great things about being a bassoonist is the inherent silliness of the instrument. It’s archaic and strange and… really, just close your eyes and say “bassoon” ten times out loud. See what I mean?

Still, the silliness of the bassoon is multiplied in bassoon quartets. The senior girls of the Eastman bassoon studio have had a blast with this idea — they gave a recital on Sunday comprised entirely of quartets to bring tears of laughter to the eyes of every member of the audience. I mean, any group that calls themselves The Breaking Winds is already a delight, right?

Thankfully, they were kind enough to record and their shenanigans have made it all the way to Youtube, so that you, too, can enjoy them:

I hope you love it!!

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I was just about to go practice, but a thunderstorm started and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to restart this blog. So… here I am. It’s been almost a year since I updated, and although I don’t know how precisely I can describe it, one of the major changes I’ve experienced in the past months has been a transformation from insecure, to a girl daily gaining in confidence.
See, one of the reasons I stopped updating was that I felt as though I could never provide you, readers, with any worthwhile insights on the bassoon-playing world. I’m just a student, after all, what do I have to tell you? The thing is, maybe I can’t tell you with much certainty which bassoon to buy or how to make amazing reeds or a practice strategy that will make you a thousand times better overnight.
The only thing I have to tell is this: my story. I’m a bassoonist at the Eastman School of Music and I am working hard and getting better and every day I learn so many new things. I want to share them with you, here.
Of course I’ll still be sharing tips, suggestions, and my views on the bassoon & music, but I’m sitting here hoping, not just that this thunderstorm passes quickly so that I can go practice, but also that this blog will be a story in progress about a bassoonist in progress. And I want to invite you to take that journey with me — let’s see where it takes us.

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