Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Working on another piece

I started working on the Breval Sonata's "Rondo grazioso" a few weeks ago. My teacher suggested (for the umpteenth time) that I make sure I learned the rhythms and timing first, then worry about intonation and bowing. OK, it's not that I've not heard this before. I guess I just never really accepted that I really would have to change something in my behavior enough so this could happen. This time I did.

Before picking out the first note, I spent several days just tapping out the rhythm of the "A" part while counting aloud the tempo. Eventually (it took a surprisingly long time), I "got" it. Then I set my metronome to 92 bpm, beeping every third beat (the piece is in 6/8 time), and started plucking out the notes. After getting the intonation and fingering worked out I finally started bowing it - still at that same plodding tempo. After several more days, I upped the metronome to 96. I was soon comfortable enough with the flow of this piece to start in on the "B" part - using the same process (tapping/counting, plucking, and then bowing). At this slow pace I'm able to consider each note, to think about how it's supposed to sound, how long it's supposed to play, how it ties into the ones before and after it, and how it fits together with the whole.

I've been looking forward a little more enthusiastically to my practices each morning, like a new bounce in my step. Because I can actually hear my progress on this piece. And I'm look forward to moving on into each new step.

I started taking an Advanced Music Theory course as a followup to last fall's Basic course. We began with melodic analysis and arranging (I chose the Breval Rondo for my first analysis homework). This is going to be a tough course; it's far more challenging than I'm used to, with lots of homework.

The ads for "The Soloist" movie have started showing up on TV. I'm hoping it measures up to the book.

Oh, I almost forgot. Check out this link ... It came to me via 'Google Alert' the other day. Other than the english text of the entry, everything else is in chinese (I think). The narrator reports starting the cello "6 years ago", studying under Wendell Margrave, a cellist who was rather prominent in Washington D.C. in the 1960s and 1970s, but died in 1985... I can't tell whether this is a short-story, a movie review, a personal and fanciful blog entry, or what, but it's quite profound in any case. Consider just this excerpt:

Surely the most abominable recognition of middle life is that we are
past changing. Oh, we switch salad(沙拉) dressings and mutual funds but
we don't change. We do what we can already do. The cello was something
I demonstrably(确然) couldn't do. Yet each Tuesday I could not do it
slightly less.

Nice, huh?

Her approach is very Suzuki but it works. That's why they insist you listen to the CDs that go with the book. Once it's in your head the rest is easier. Enjoy!
Sounds like me. :) I hope.
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