Thursday, June 23, 2005

Oh what a beautiful morning

Something strange happened last night. As I was setting my alarm clock I must have changed the time on it because I ended up waking up an hour earlier than I wanted to. This meant that I wasn't rushing to get to work less late than I usually am. I was able to appreciate a truly glorious morning. The temperature is in the high 60's/low 70's and the relative humidity is a comfortable 40%. The sky was a wonderful, clear blue and the sun shone at a perfect brightness. Enough to bring out beautiful colors but not so much that it felt burning. I drive up to work via the Merritt Parkway, a scenic highway, instead of Interstate 95. The road has many trees on either side and down the center median, as well as many curves and hills. Today the trees seemed so lush and green. I felt like I was in the midst of an ancient forest. The finishing touch for my perfect morning drive was my CD of Beethoven's 6th Symphony. I had to pump it up really loud in order to hear it over the wind noise. The drive was so nice that even though I'm back in Corporate Jail, I still feel uplifted and at peace.

I'm probably in such good spirits due to rehearsal hangover. It ended up going pretty well last night. This was our first rehearsal as a quartet and the rapport between all members was good. I was really nervous that the flutist, Marti, would not enjoy herself but she did have a good time. I've known her as a sax player for over 10 years and had no idea she played the flute so well. She's such an incredible musician. I handed her a sheet of music and a second later she was sight singing it in the correct key and everything even though the others were still playing some other piece in a different key. Wow! William had been working on his reed earlier that day and by the middle of the rehearsal he was really happy with the way it sounded. We all love the bassoon sound! I was trying to choose pieces were he wasn't stuck with a boring bass line so I think he too had more fun this time. Rufi had more solos last night too.

So that leaves me. I was indeed quite nervous when we started. I was worried about my embouchure, intonation, and sound. Oh I forgot to say that it was VERY humid last night. So my reed was acting up big time. It felt like it was closing up or something because I wouldn't be able to make sound at all sometimes. As it got darker (or I warmed up) it responded better but the upper register was very very soft. Am I supposed to have a backup high humidity reed or something? Speaking of which I need a backup. I can tell that my current reed is now past its prime and heading towards its inevitable demise. How sad. This was a good little reed. Anyway so at first I was making a lot of mistakes due to nerves but eventually I settled in. I was having a difficult time playing piano when I needed to. At one point I was despairing because I felt that my sound was really out there and not meshing well with the others. But I decided to keep on trying and brought out the mirror to ensure I was doing things right with my mouth. Eventually I was able to get a sound that blended better. William remarked that he could definitely hear a difference in the sound since the last time I went. I think he meant it because he's not one to just say things like that for no reason. If you sound bad, he will tell you. My teacher called me and we've scheduled our last lesson of the Spring semester (it's a make-up) for tomorrow. Let's see what he says about my sound.

I learned something last night: You get what you paid for. Since I'm on the computer all day I've been the one buying music for the group. Also since I'm the weakest link musically I need to see what we're getting to ensure that it's something within my reach. I bought music from four different places: a bunch of trios from a private vendor, a big bunch of quartets from, another bunch of trios from Last Resort music, and some quartets from I've listed these in increasing price order. After playing music from all sources last night I realized that the cheap private arrangements pretty much suck. They offer the bare bones of some famous melody in part 1 (at least they're in the correct key) with pretty unimaginative accompaniment on parts 2 and 3. The next two bunches were fair on average. Some were actually pretty good, but most were just ok. The quartets I bought from sheetmusicplus were more "official" scores (adaptations arranged by professionals). These cost $5-$10 for just one piece whereas the others were $10-$20 for anywhere between 14 and 25 pieces. One of the arrangements I bought was for the Andante from Haydn's Surprise Symphony. It wasn't technically challenging not even for me, but regardless when we played it we sounded like a real ensemble. The arrangement was very interesting and super fun. It was everyone's favorite piece of the night. So from now on I am going to stay away from books with mediocre arrangements and try to find good arrangements even if the cost is way more. The others were all willing to pitch in when I explained my purchase habits. So today I get to surf the web in search of some interesting but not too hard woodwind quartets. Maybe by next year we can take on some of the real meaty stuff!

We ended up practicing from 7-10! I got two breaks during which the others played trios or duos. I felt like my face hurt by the end but I had a very nice time. When you're practicing on your own most of the time you can sometimes forget that the reason you're doing this is to play with others some day. Imagine that! I think it was good for me to push myself to last long last night. I had been terribly scared to upset my new embouchure to the point where I was being wimpy. At the first sign of soreness I'd stop playing. I need to push these new muscles so this will be the perfect way. And now I don't have an excuse to cut my practices short. Then again the adrenaline rush from playing with others was what helped me last so long. I will have to try to emulate that somehow at home.

So for now our little quartet will continue meeting on Wednesday nights. I'll keep you all posted on our adventures. :-D

Practice log so far this week:
Monday: 95 minutes. 50 minutes long tones and scales. 45 minutes etudes and repertoire.
Tuesday: 30 minutes repertoire.
Wednesday: Played nearly 2 hours at the rehearsal last night when you take away the breaks and talking time.

Someone needs to work on reeds! *blush*

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