Friday, May 13, 2005

A schism and an affair

A schism has developed in our household. As I get more involved with the oboe and classical music my husband is getting more into Jazz. It's somewhat terrifying when I dwell on it. Music has been one of our strongest threads of unity. The very first conversation I remember having with JC was about a song we both liked ("Gitana" by Willie Colon). So it is somewhat disturbing that for the first time in almost 10 years our musical paths are diverging. For a long time our main musical foci was merengue music and the stuff we're doing at church (which is a mix of pop, rock, and some Hispanic folk genres).

Over the last couple of years the merengue landscape has changed so much for the worse that almost everyone who is serious about music has become disenchanted and has started looking for other outlets. I have found refuge in my first musical love, classical, and my husband is trying to carve a niche in the world of Latin Jazz. Both are noble endeavors. So it's not that I don't enjoy Jazz. I definitely like it. I just don't feel any compulsion at all to improvise. For some reason (probably fear and lack of understanding) I am completely turned off by the prospect. I enjoy hearing others do it. But it doesn't seem like fun to me. If I wanted to compose I'd lock myself up in my room and fiddle around with a piece and I wouldn't let anyone hear it until it was "perfect". I like order and control and I think that maybe the act of improvisation is just a little too carefree for me. But I certainly do love listening to it, even more so if it's accompanied by Latin rhythms and if there's a big band involved.

And so it was that I allowed myself to get talked into going to that rehearsal last night. And it was at that rehearsal that I had my affair. With Max the Sax. Yes, I played my good, old, trusty alto saxophone last night. I concentrated very hard so that I wouldn't mix up my F's and F#'s. I managed to get them right in most cases. When I first started playing I was "half holing" the middle D. I decided to let myself keep doing it since it has no effect on the sax and I figured it would be a bad thing to lose that oboe habit. I was also trying to do a second octave key movement on the upper A which was a bad thing because on the sax what you end up getting is some strange sounding note. Lastely, I had a hard time remembering where the low C-sharp and E-flat were. But regardless, I managed to pound things out. Since I've been reading more music in general lately, I had a slightly easier time reading the jazz charts. I was playing third alto and it was pretty fun when the whole ensemble was playing. But at one point the director (my sax teacher, Rolando) started pointing at people to improvise. The first time I went on a fake bathroom run and didn't return until the coda. The second time I just kept refusing and eventually he stopped pointing at me. But I was horrified!! I knew mentally what I was supposed to be doing. We were playing in F# minor and I was supposed to improvise on a I minor 7 chord and on VII dominant 7. I know those chords. I like those chords. But which are the nice notes and which are "avoid" tones? And what the hell am I supposed to do rhythmically? I just don't get Jazz swing at all. Memories of me trying to get into the Charlie Parker omnibook came rushing back. Suddenly I realized I was no longer having any fun at all. And I couldn't quite understand how other people enjoyed this kind of pressure. After that piece I put the sax aside, walked off stage, and went to a remote corner of the practice hall to try to play oboe instead. To make matters worse, after two hours of playing saxophone I could not at all make an oboe embouchure. Try as I may I got NO sound out at all. A wave of panic rushed over me. I walked outside to the hallway to try to find a mirror. The cleaning people were in the bathroom though. So I found another corner and kept trying. The nerves weren't helping so I tried to calm myself down and remember everything I know about how to make a correct oboe embouchure. After several minutes I got some sound but it was horrible. At that point I heard the band members clapping, signaling the end of rehearsal so I went back inside to pack up my instruments. One guy wanted a demo but I refused telling him that my mouth was too tired. It was so horrible!

I was in tears as we drove back home. I had no idea that my little affair with Max would render me unable to make any sound from my oboe. How does my teacher play both in the same gig??

JC was very supportive and assured me that I would be fine, that I hadn't suddenly lost all my oboe abilities in the span of two hours. But I was inconsolable. Would I ever be able to play oboe again? In an act of desperation I even said that I never wanted to play sax again in my life! Eventually I did calm down and reasoned that plently of people play them both. Someday I will be one of them. But not for now I will not cheat on my oboe.

After I calmed down a bit I admitted to JC that I didn't want to continue playing in that ensemble. It's just not what I'm into. What I am really excited about are the little ensembles that Rufi and I are trying to get going. Besides the ultimate goal of forming up a true orchestra I would really love to be in a woodwind quintet. JC was sad about me rejecting my saxophone and the group since he had a ton of fun. He doesn't want to go unless I go. So I said I would continue to attend if he needed me to do that. But next time I am not even taking my sax with me. I will find my remote corner and practice on my oboe instead. Who knows? Maybe I can take the place of the flute in some of the pieces. I like playing my oboe so much that I'm willing to do it even if it DOES mean having to make something up on the spot. Imagine that!

I think that in the end we will find a way to keep working together towards our musical goals.

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