Thursday, October 30, 2008

it's a bird-it's a plane-no! it's supermetronome!

When I went home to Houston in September, I had a lesson with Bob Atherholt at Rice. One of the things we talked about was keeping a steady pulse in the Mozart exposition, and he had this super-cool device to help with that: it was a metronome that could go all the way down to 1 beat per minute. This allows you to set a pulse for each measure, rather than each beat (for example, if you play the Mozart exposition at quarter note = 116-120 bpm, then you are playing approximately one measure = 28 bpm). This was very revealing, because while it's relatively easy to stick to a normal metronome, a measure metronome forces you to keep your own very strict pulse within each measure. Mr. Atherholt had gotten his metronome from a friend of his who'd made it. So I was trying to figure out ways to provide myself with my own "supermetronome." Most conventional metronomes stop at 40 bpms, as does the one in GarageBand. Does anyone have a suggestion for obtaining such a device?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

real American cello songs

Stephen Colbert to Yo-Yo Ma: Aren't there any real American cello songs, about like pick-up trucks and kicking ass?

Monday, October 27, 2008


I love Bernstein's Mass, even with its indeed "cringe-worthy moments," and was happy to see this review in the New York Times. I think that it still has a lot of relevance today, and I love how heartfelt it is today. Plus, the music is great, in all its various styles :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

germophobia does not mix well with oboe reeds

Have any of the oboists who read my blog ever had a germophobic student? I just took on a new student, and her reeds for her first lesson were AWFUL, but she refused to try my reeds or to buy one from me. (Or to let me try the ones she had). If reeds come from the store, she thinks they're fine, but (despite that I add mouthwash to my reedwater when teaching) mine are germy. I tried to tell her that any reeds worth buying are going to be made by hand and therefore someone has tested them to make them, therefore just as germy as mine, but she wouldn't believe me. Fortunately RDG is right here in LA so I know she can get quality reeds there, but ideally she should buy them from me. Any thoughts on how to convince her to try my reeds, and also, to let me try hers? Or to work around this in some way? (I like to test reeds before adjusting them. She says someone helped her with reeds before and they just had her play them and then adjusted from what she said, but, especially for a beginner who has no idea what to look for in a reed, I'm not sure this will work. All MY teachers have tried my reeds!!!)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday, October 5, 2008

houston, ike, auditions, people, stuff

I have been back from Houston for a week already. It was a little strange to be there, especially at first, because of Hurricane Ike. There were many non-functioning traffic lights, which meant that going places could be slow, since there were essentially stop signs all over the place. And at first there was a curfew at night, but the one time we did drive someplace after dark, it was a little scary, because a lot of street lights were also down, making it easy to blow right though an intersection with a downed traffic light. By the time I got there (Thursday, the storm hit the morning of the Saturday before), most of the debris had been picked up and was sitting in enormous piles on the fronts of people's yards. There were still a few huge trees down that had yet to be chopped up, sometimes blocking streets. Electricity was random--some people had it back hours after the storm, others still didn't have it back when I left, two weeks after the storm hit. My house serendipitously got its power back about an hour before I got home, so that was nice. Also fortuitous: my house was undamaged, and the weather was freakishly cool and dry for Houston in September (lows in the upper 60s, highs in the low 80s, 40-50% humidity instead of 80-100°F and 90% humidity!), though our trees really took a beating. It remained weird to drive around town and just see random destruction: one house would be fine, the next would have a tree through it; a lot of billboards, awnings, and such were torn to shreds, but adjacent signs made out of stronger material were fine. Restaurants, stores, and schools were mainly closed when I arrived, but by the time I left ten days later, most things were getting back into the swing of things.

The audition I took was OK. It was my first opera & ballet audition, so many of the excerpts were quite unfamiliar to me when I began preparing them. A few days before the audition I kind of freaked out and felt like I did not know these pieces they way I knew the standard orchestral rep. Which was true, but that didn't mean that I hadn't worked hard on them or that they weren't basically under control. But it was enough to keep me from having a positive outlook on the audition, which was enough to keep me from playing my best. It was OK, but once again, reeds were an issue (um reeds are not supposed to close down when going from dry LA to humid Houston, but whatever). I've decided that when I get close to an audition I get a bit obsessed with practicing when honestly I would be better served by working on reeds so that I have a broader array of decent reeds to choose from when I get to the audition. But it FEELS more productive to practice, so it is hard to force myself to work on reeds instead. And honestly, once I get close to an audition, most of the hard practicing work should already be behind me, if things go according to plan. So I should really just work on reeds. Really. Anywho, I didn't advance, and what disappoints me most is that I think I actually could have had a decent shot at advancing had I managed to get my head in the right place. But that's how it goes, and I still learned a lot. And the dying roach in my warm-up room didn't help to put me in a positive frame of mind, either.

I also enjoyed being home, doing lots of shopping with my mom--hard work shopping, like trying on loads of clothes and only buying the two things that are perfect and majorly on sale, but still, I got some sorely needed items. We went to an Italian film festival at the MFAH featuring Pupi Avati and his brother Antonio, director and producer respectively. We saw Storia di ragazzi e di ragazze and Noi tre, the latter an interesting look at a teenage Mozart's brief stay in Bologna. I reconnected with a few people I hadn't seen in quite some time, which was fun, and I attended David & Katie's wedding, which was very nice. It was at their wedding actually, that I met up with an old friend from high school (the one who got me in trouble for laughing in English class), Joe Mathlete. Very funny guy, you should check out his stuff. And his music.

I also spent some quality time with my fave oboe & flute couple at their electricity-free home with their myriad creatures, including: 3 cats, 1 dog, 2 turtles, 1 rabbit, not sure how many tropical fish, and 8 or so chickens! Fun times. Meanwhile I got a bit lazy about reeds (hmm, I'm beginning to sense a pattern here . . . ) and so again wasn't pleased (this time entirely my fault--I knew I should have been working on reeds and just plain didn't! I was having too much fun hanging out with people I like, damnit.) with my reeds options for my next audition, to maintain my position in Debut. Fortunately, I did not lose my job. Though as the EH player, I will probably only play one or two concerts this season. Oh well, that's how it goes!

Now I am on to the next chapter, trying to get by in LA and also figure out where I want to be next year and how I am going to get there. These are not easy times to have just graduated with a master's in performance . . .

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Gosh, well, I've been tagged by Patty, so I guess I'll give this a go: 6 things you might not know about me. Hmm . . .

1) I was a champion tree-climber as a kid. I could climb almost all of the (numerous) trees in my yard in rural / suburban Connecticut. I also had a rope ladder in one of the larger maples, so that I would climb the tree and then lower the rope ladder that I kept there so that my friends could also come up, even if they weren't too keen on climbing.

2) I have never smoked a single cigarette in my life. This is probably due to the fact that my father is a pulmonologist and when I was little and I went in to visit his office I sometimes played with his model of "this is your lungs on cigarettes."

3) I have a baby molar tooth that I've never lost, because there is no big tooth underneath to come in and push it out. It still works just fine. And I have no wisdom teeth whatsoever.

4) In my childhood home in Connecticut, there was a painting of a cow, just her head as she is looking at you, on our dishwasher. Her name is Pauline. She is also wearing a green bandana around her neck (if she's still there).

5) The summer I worked at the Grand Teton Summer Music Festival, I think 2002 (I was 19 . . .), as a ticketing intern, I went with the other interns over to Idaho and got my belly button pierced at a place called Boo's Tattoos. Yeah. I still have it.

6) I had a pet robin named Sam when I was about 10 years old. He fell out of his nest and we found him and took him in. He was really adorable and as he grew, when we took him out in the yard his father would come and take care of him and talk to him. I had to try to teach him to eat worms (by finding them, putting them on the ground in front of him, and directing his beak toward them) and fly (by letting him perch on my finger and then moving my arm up and down so he would have to use his wings to balance). He was completely fascinated by ceiling fans, and he got along quite well with my dog. He would come when I whistled :) I lost touch with him after the end of the summer, when he presumably migrated south with his robin friends and family.

Argh, who to tag, that hasn't been already? I'm not even sure who reads this blog! And I might tag someone who hasn't blogged in a while, maybe this will get her going again :) This is all I can come up with:


Also, I will actually update this blog for real sometime soon, I promise.