Thursday, October 21, 2010

 

It's been a while


I'm not really sure why. It's not that I've run out of ideas, nor comments on current events. I still holler at idiotic talking heads on TV as they parrot their daily talking points. I still grumble about lame plots, stereotypical characters, trite contrivances, and stupid continuity issues (how come so few TV characters use seatbelts?) I still look up into the night sky and ponder the universe. I still play my cello.

I originally started this blog to ramble about my cello. At first I posted [100] daily entries (I had a lot to get off my mind, I guess). Then it slowed down to once every day-or-so. Then a couple times a week. Now I'm down to just a few times a month. I'm guessing at this rate that I'll eventually just abandon this altogether. Ah well. There it is.

I'm just not as comfortable putting myself out there as before. I think it's because I've lost my anonymity. People I know read this. Back when my [three] readers were likewise anonymous it was easier to be open and honest, here. After we started commenting on each others' blogs - giving up a part our our mutual anonymity - the inhibitions began to creep in. I started to censor myself, deleting things, and putting more and more subjects off limits. I still read all the cello blogs I can find, although fewer and fewer cellists are blogging anymore, and most are posting fewer and fewer entries. I wonder if blogging has run its course, and is being replaced by things like twittering and texting?


OK, about the cello: I still practice almost every day - although I skip out more often lately, and I seldom last beyond an hour or so. This is going to play havoc with my annual 10,000-hour goal assessment. For a variety of reasons - primarily scheduling problems, I've only had three lessons since April. I am currently working on a challenging piece for our next orchestra performance at the end of the month - "Windjammer", by Carl Strommen. It's one of the toughest pieces we've ever tackled, and not only because the tempo is 132. We're a large, diverse group this season and we're making good progress. I'm confident we'll play it well.

I'm still working on "Danse Rustique". I've not had much trouble mastering the shifts, and lately I am focusing on increasing the tempos. However, the last time I tried playing it with my teacher, I blew it pretty badly; and I was pretty disenchanted for a while. I haven't opened my etude book in several months. It's not that I've lost interest or anything. I don't think. It's more of a disillusionment, a vague sense of failure, feelings of inadequacy, frustration at my current level, and so on. Some days it is a lot harder to pull out my cello and sit down to practice than it used to be.

As I approach the end of my fifth year studying the cello, I've realized several things about my journey. I am not as good as I'd hoped I'd be by now. I haven't overcome my a-rhythmic issues. I am a weak sight-reader. I still need a long lead-time to learn a new piece. I'm too much of a perfectionist. I don't have enough confidence in my own abilities. I don't want to perform a piece until I can play it well. Fast tempos are really tough for me. On the flip side, I've lately become quite comfortable moving around in the upper positions - all those years of daily scales are paying off. I can quickly see alternative fingerings in new pieces that make it "easier" to play. My intonation is not bad. My bowing is improving.

In the past year or so, I've struggled a lot with cello-related "injuries" - primarily my left thumb and my right shoulder. But in recent weeks, these seem to be improving.

I'm still an optimist, I think, about all this. I still believe I'll be a good cellist, one day. But I also have fewer illusions about how good, or how soon that will happen.


I just finished reading a profound and unforgettable book: "Matterhorn - A Novel of the Viet Nam War", by Karl Marlantes. It opens with a raw second lieutenant as he takes over a marine rifle platoon heading out into the jungle just below the DMZ to take, abandon, take, abandon, take and once again abandon a hill code-named Matterhorn. They suffer from leeches, bugs, jungle rot, immersion foot, physical and mental exhaustion, every possible infestation, snipers, booby traps, and fraggings; they slog along without food, water, or ammo; and they suffer massive casualties as they try to follow one inexplicable order after another sent down from their Battalion HQ. This magnificent narrative gets the details right. It brings the reader along for the ride to witness their bravery, their fear, their suffering, their futility, their rage, their heroism, their deaths. It's been a long time since I've felt so drained and so disturbed after finishing a book. Nice work Mr. Marlantes; you have laid it all out there; presenting the Viet Nam war in a way no one else has. This should become a classic.


We are still trying to get used to not having Z around. It's been tough to let go. At least we have Skype. And we send lots of care packages. He does seem to be doing well, his mid-term grades are quite good. He's in a good school, living with his best friends. We have no doubt he'll thrive there, but I sure wish he was closer to home. He and three of his friends are driving the 500 miles home for the weekend. It sure will be good to see him in person.

Comments:
Cellofamily synchronicity strikes again: I was thinking about you just this morning and wondering how you were.

Sometimes I think the more we know about the cello, the harder it is to get ourselves going.
 
Cello enthusiasm runs in cycles, just like everything else. Don't despair, and don't quit. That's the most important thing. Don't quit.

As for blogging, yup, the hay day is past, but so far as one group lets their blogs lapse, another group starts up.

And yes, there is an active #cellofamily on twitter. You should stop by. Us oldtimers are there: @EmilyCello, @gottagopractice, @owldaughter, @Michael_Tuchman... at least enough to have an encouraging quorum. And there's a real art to microblogging in 140 chars.
 
Yours was one of the first blogs I stumbled upon when I started playing cello just over a year ago. I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading all your entries and though I pop in less often than I used to, you're still one of my favorite cello-related bloggers. No matter how you're feeling about your celling at the moment, consider your blogging a massive inspiration to
future cellists of America like myself!

Like GGP said above, enthusiasm waxes and wanes. It's all part of the game. Last night standing in the kitchen i asked TBF (who gave me my cello a year ago) "Would you feel disappointed if I just decided it(cello) wasn't for me?" I've been struggling a lot with bowing lately. He told "Even if that thing becomes just a something we hang on the wall (i.e. art) it will have been worthwhile." Of course this morning I was back at it and I didn't embarrass myself too much in my lesson today :-)

I do love Twitter. Sometimes I just can't get up the word count for an honest to goodness blog post, so at least with Twitter I can check in with others and update my practice status (or play traffic cop).

Hang in there. Hope to see you around for a while longer!
 
Five years already? I came upon your blog four years ago. There's a lot to be said for striving to be better. Obviously, you have less to say about your journey as it becomes a daily slog. It's no longer new and exciting. Still there's pieces to perform, technique to embrace, progress to report. Keep up the good work.
 
Hey Guanaco, "MagicBunnySlippers" here. I was just making the rounds to see who was still blogging. I've let mine lapse again, and haven't made the jump to Twitter.

I'm glad you haven't given up cello entirely. I'm still keeping up with lessons, string ensemble, and practice, though at a reduced frequency. Progress is slow but still noticeable.

I had a shoulder injury and a finger injury, not sure if either was actually related to cello, but they sure wreaked havoc with my practice. Not being able to play at all for several weeks made me realize I really do still enjoy it, so I'm struggling to keep at it without reaggravating those injuries.

Have a happy Thanksgiving!
 
funny how we all seem to have lost our anonymity around the same time. Is that the natural course of blogging?
 
I really enjoyed reading this - happened on it by accident. I'm playing the cello again after a career change and eight years with no instrument - I used to do it for a living. Having caught the blogging craze, I've gone out looking for blogs by other cellists. I hope you're still at it.
 
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