Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Update from the black hole

I just finished a presentation I had at work. I had to present a paper on molecular beacons. The papers themselves are something else. The target audience of these scientific journals are people with PhD's in biochemistry, molecular biology, or chemical engineering. So you can only imagine how difficult it is to get through them. I had to look for background information that was more at my level like this before I could even begin to read my paper. Then I had to make a powerpoint presentation and present it to some principal investigators here as well as other interns and graduate students. Can we say INTIMIDATION? I felt quite uncomfortable lecturing about a topic I was still unsure about to people who've actually published papers on that topic. In the end it turned out pretty well. I was nervous and stumbled a little bit through some of my explanations, but the comments at the end were positive.

Between preparing for this presentation and my frustrations with my playing, I've not been playing all that much the last few days. But I am looking forward to returning to my instrument tonight. I plan to just do basics: long tones and slow scales for a few days before working on my piece again. Every time I focus too much on actual repertoire I tend to lose control of things I thought I already had under my belt, namely, embouchure and intonation. It could also be reed related, which means I have to spend more time on that too. I think I've been playing on some bad reeds that have caused me to start biting. Hence I want to use a newer reed which doens't play flat in order to get used to a more correct, open (non-biting) embouchure.

For my next lesson on Tuesday I need to make two new reeds. At our previous lesson T told me that since my goals are "lofty" I needed to get more serious about my reed making. I am going to really put some time into that during the next month before classes start up again.

I've been thinking more about the musical expression thing. I realized that if I have the music in front of me I am capable to analyzing it and coming up with ideas of how it should sound. So if I can do this on paper, theoretically I should be able to do it on the instrument. I think the problem is that it's difficult to be a good critic while you're actually playing. At least it is for me. Maybe this will get easier with time. That's probably what good practicing is about for more advanced students. I often wondered why they'd play the same piece for hours when it wouldn't take them more than a few minutes to get the actual notes under their belts. The difficult thing is figuring out HOW to play the notes. Once you get to a certain level, the notes themselves are no longer the problem. So how do you deal with this while you're still working up to that level? I'm assuming your teacher must help you until you can do it on your own.

I just want to feel that there is hope for me. That the reason I am not expressive now is not due to a tragic personal flaw, but simply to lack of technique and being "green" on the instrument. Sometimes I feel that the sound blinds me. I love the sound so much and it's so exciting that I am finally sounding oboe-like. But I think this distracts me and I pay no attention to actual expression because just making it sound is beautiful to me. Hopefully I'll get over this soon enough so that I can start moving up to the next level.


oceanskies79 said...

There will be hope for you. Having the help of a good tutor does help.

Perhaps if you are keen to work on the expression part, you could start with works that are simpler for your level?

For myself, I found I was more freed to work on the expression when I play works that are about two grades below my current level.

Jennifer Grucza said...

I think it's easier to be free with your expression when you have the technical issues firmly under your belt, so you don't have to divide your attention as much. Otherwise it's like trying to write a poem in a foreign language that you barely know...

dulciana said...

When I studied the violin for a few short months, I realized just how difficult it was to get a good sound out of the instrument, much less play expressively. That must be a little like what you are feeling. At the piano or organ, I have to learn the notes, but creating a pleasing tone is not as much an issue, so I can think about dynamics, articulation, and other aspects of expression from the very beginning of learning a piece. No advice here, just empathy!

Hilda said...

Thanks for your advice and support. :-)

I am going to try some easier pieces at home, stuff that I don't have technical issues with.