Monday, September 11, 2006

 

Orchestra


Well, it wasn't bad at all. Not like I'd imagined. We were a small group, just one cello tonight - but there's at least one other cellist who will come in next week, and maybe a third... Also, there was a handful of violins and a violist. There will be several more violins coming in next week. Some of us were rank beginners, and others were much more advanced.

We started off by sight-reading a handful of pieces. We will play the first piece, "Swedish Rhapsody" in a "Evening of Classics" performance on October 5! The cello part isn't very hard - all first position, lots of open string double-stops. There are a few measures where the cello takes the melody. I actually played this piece fairly well. As with a lot of the music in the beginner's repertoire, if I've heard it enough somewhere in my past, I seem to "know" what's coming next and can play it reasonably well after a few run-throughs.

My biggest challenge was keeping up with the rest of the group. Since the violins weren't playing the same notes and sometimes not even the same rhythms as the cello (at least the viola was, most of the time), I had to try to figure out where everyone was by counting. That's something I've not had to do since 8th grade band - I didn't do very well on these parts.

We also sight-read "St. Lawrence Overture" (again, I did OK except when it was important that I keep up by counting). Then we picked up "Pachelbel's Christmas", with a "rest-eighth-eighth-slur-eighth" combination that was new to me, and I kept getting lost. Since there was no other cello to hide behind or pickup from, I just had to sit there feeling kind of inadequate. Fortunately, the atmosphere is pretty light and relaxed...

We meet every Monday. With so few opportunities for amateur beginners to get together and play, I really admire the effort the two Orchestra leaders are putting into organizing and supporting this group, which is now in its third year. There's nothing like playing with others to motivate.


And another bear!

Yesterday, coming home from Anchorage, we saw another bear, a full-grown black bear this time, cross the highway in front of us. We've only seen seven bears "in the wild" in more than 30 years living here - with three of them just this summer! Plus the fresh tracks of another bear. Further, we've hardly driven anywhere this summer compared to past years. Are the bears losing their fear of humans? Or have their numbers increased dramatically? That may explain why we've seen fewer moose than normal.

Comments:
Lucky you! Sounds like you have a good group to play in.

Ok, then, here’s why one has to bow more slowly on the A string: “A cello bridge is like a leaf rake.”

Both a cello bridge and a rake are class 3 levers. I didn’t have this thing about levers before cello, honestly, but so much of cello seems to make more sense when I think of it in terms of leverage. The bridge is a lever, the bow is a lever, the fingers are levers, the hand is a lever, the arm is a double lever, each part of which also acts as two levers simultaneously. Learning cello is learning how to get the right kind, amount, and direction of leverage and applying it musically.

The bridge is a lever with the soundpost as the fulcrum, the bass bar as the load, and the bow as the point of effort (See the diagram in the MIT doctoral thesis link posted by Andrew Victor 8/28). A rake is a lever with the hand near the end as the fulcrum, the tines as the load, and the hand in the middle of the rake as the point of effort.

If my hands are close together I can move the business end of the rake much faster than if my hands are far apart. However, I can’t move my hands as fast as I could if my hands were far apart.

So it is with the bow. The A string is near the fulcrum so it rocks the bridge very quickly but the bow must go slower than it would on the other strings or the bow loses its grip. It has leverage for speed but not for power.

Since the bridge/soundpost/bassbar is a rather stiff mechanism, it does not respond easily to the A string. Bowing energy is more easily converted to higher overtones and more reflection off the nut and bridge than in rocking that bridge. A heavier string, or a cello with a more easily rocked bridge/soundpost/bassbar mechanism will have a less bright A because more energy gets pumped directly into the cello body.

So the pressure-speed balance changes for the A string. The bow has to go more slowly for a given pressure. But don’t apply much more pressure because it’s easy to crunch the light string.
 
Congratulations on the orchestra practice. Sounds like you did really well. I'd be scared to be playing any kind of solo part in a group like that.
 
I think I understand what you're saying, Terry...

The bass bar brings out those deep rich (cello) tones that we all seek, and the bridge "actuates" the bass bar by rocking back and forth (vibrating) on the soundpost/ fulcrum... Since the A string is located on the bridge right above the soundpost, it's ability to rock the bridge on that fulcrum is minimized, so its action on the bassbar will be the least of the four strings...

It makes sense.

Thanks for the feeback, Terry and PFS about the Orchestra. It really was OK. I think I'll enjoy it.
 
Yay! I'm glad orchestra practise was good - it gets more fun when you're all not sight reading everything.

Besides, counting and playing in a group gets easier over time. I found myself a bit rusty on that bit too.

Good on you for managing it all by yourself!
 
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