August 9, 2007

The occupational hazards of playing multiple instruments.

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Looks like being a musician was more dangerous than I thought.
Read all about it here.

From playing the violin, I think I’ve got

  • Induced hearing loss in my left ear
  • Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome
  • callous formation on fingers on the left hand (further aggravated by my attempts to learn the guitar
  • Fiddler’s neck (rash on the area where the chinrest comes into contact with the skin)

From playing the oboe and cor anglais,

  • a HUGE callous on my right thumb on which the oboe rests on
  • wrist aches from the weight of the cor (if i happen to forget my sling)
  • Backache! (wonder why…)
  • COUNTLESS reed problems
  • tooth-marks on lips after playing for too long (something’s wrong with my embouchure?)

From piano-playing,

  • Wrist-aches from playing octaves.

Do you encounter any problems? What are they?

August 5, 2007

Reeds, Reed-eaters, Piano accompaniment, a conversation and a teddy bear.

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Reeds, Reed-eaters, Piano accompaniment, a conversation and a teddy bear.
On Reeds and a reed-eater

Tied 10 reeds.
Attempted to scrape 4.
Destroyed 1 (it cracked before it could get scraped!)
3 survived – 2 were good, and 1 was extremely quacky

I thought that I was pretty safe before my next lesson, having 2 good reeds and 2 more better ones from K.Ge.
1 K.Ge reed got chipped during practice, leaving 3 usuable reeds. The unthinkable happened. Introducing..

Patches, a 9-month-old Jack Russell Terrier, a.k.a. Reed-Eater!

He literally ATE up the cane pieces of my best reed, leaving a mess of thread and the staple behind. So, for all oboists reading this: keep your reeds away from your pet dogs!

***

On being a piano accompanist…

Lately, Violin Teacher was looking for a piano accompanist for his Grade 4 student, and he called me one week before the exam to ask if I could play. I agreed, and, being his student before (long, long ago), I was expected to

  • play accompaniment
  • teach aural
  • teach violin scales
  • tune the student’s violin before his exam
  • bring my own violin just in case student’s violin screwed up

Darn, I should be paid double or more. Pfffft!

***

A Conversation

Yesterday I was sitting in the office, reading my book and waiting for my student when I heard a familiar voice say, “Hey, I’ve watched that movie before!”. I looked up, expecting to see violin teacher talking to some other teacher or parent or student, and I found him staring at the book I was reading (it was “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” by Milan Kundera). That started of a long conversation about Nietzche, Freud, psycho-analysis, indian philosophers and a little of Milan Kundera (after all, I had only read ninety-two pages of that book). He did most of the talking, and I was contented just listening, asking questions and hearing his views 🙂 He confessed that being a violin teacher rather than economist gives him loads of free time to pursue his interest in philosophy, psychology and the arts. Guess I’m really blessed to have such a teacher who has read so extensively and acquired a wealth of knowledge through years of learning and experience. (I should be grateful to my student too, who didn’t show up for his lesson, giving me the time to talk to violin teacher :P)

Snuffles the bear

Xiaole the girlfriend gave me an extremely cute brown bear last evening which we named Snuffles 🙂 That’s him sitting at the corner of my keyboard at the studio

and she wrote our initials on each of Snuffles’ feet with fabric paint, making me protect him with my life all through bible study until the fabric paint dried :S

July 31, 20070

And oboe lesson today ended with teacher saying:

“…and I think Wagner was a complete idiot.”

with that, she walked out of the room, leaving me shocked, stunned and amused.

July 31, 2007

Hmmm…

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…I’m beginning to see a trend here.

Good reed + Good playing day = Good rehearsal.
Good reed + Lousy playing day = Okay/Not-so-good rehearsal.
Bad reed + Lousy playing day = Not-so-good rehearsal.
Bad reed + Bad playing day = Disaster.

Conclusion: Its the darned reed. Argh. ( I’m pretty sure most, if not all, oboists will agree)

July 28, 2007

Der Ring des Nibelungen: Die Walküre

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The Ring cycle has started! 🙂 4 nights of more wunderbar music, directed and performed by possibly the best around. The conflict between power or love, which cannot co-exist. Love between siblings, between father and daughter.. and the quest and search for power. Such genius in his writing, that he introduces everything in his music even before the singers start. The content of his preludes hold so much, they practically tell the whole story by themselves! Such a pity that I missed last night’s Das Rheingold, performed without the intermission.

Today’s Die Walküre was breathtaking. The lush orchestral colour and the feast of grand sound I was indulging myself in… I could hear the urgency, the rebellion, the love and the heroism from every note the orchestra played. The powerful cast rose magnificently to the occasion, and the narrative pace was so well-maintained that the three-and-a-half hours seemed to fly past! Truly, the music was the unifying medium, and certainly the occupant of the deepest level of the drama. It was in the music that the deepest aspects of the dramatic conflicts were personified and experienced.

There’s just so much to say that I don’t know how or where to start… Perhaps I shouldnt ;P
The intermission was still one hour long though :S

July 26, 2007

Tannhäuser

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It’s now 3:ooam, and I’ve just finished listening to Tannhäuser.

The music, the orchestra, the singers… Marvelous orchestration, pitch-perfect singers, with the orchestra accompaniment that’s so sensitive, this must surely be one of the highest-levels of performing: doing such a tiring programme (stretches as long as 5 hours or more) and being able to successfully capture the attention and emotion of the audience! To think that playing a 45-minute long recital concert is tiring, what more a 5-hour long opera of Wagner? Such a pity that it’s only an audio broadcast, not the entire staging. Not having the libretto or the score to follow, and also having had a long and tiring day, I was at first a little hesitant to start listening. (Perhaps it was also because at the back of my head, I knew that there was a possibility of being hooked =P) This website provides a pretty reliable libretto, in German and English. One little warning though: the intermissions last 1 hour.

I was enchanted by Wolfram’s monolouge in Act 3 Scene 1, von Eschenbach’s singing was just so charming, so full of emotion. The choir did really well too – the harmony of the voices and the lightness just seemed so ethereal. I thought that Tannhäuser’s song for Wolfram in Act 3 Scene 3 was great, but Frank van Eken seemed to sound a little tired towards the end.

The above-mentioned are just my thoughts in an awe-filled, delirious, tired, brain-fried, sleep-deprived state that I’m currently in. I shall stop here and let professional critics do the job of describing the performance 🙂

On a lighter note, they’re playing Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from his only string serenade now, it’s a welcome change from the Wagner, hee…

**the author wishes to express her views on the music but it is simply not possible to put it into words – doing so would just be doing injustice to the music, it’s simply wunderbar.**

July 26, 2007

2007 Bayreuther Festspiele

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The 2007 Bayreuther Festspiele is here, and everyone’s blogging about it! It opened yesterday with Die Meistersinger, directed by 29-year old Katharina Wagner, great-grand-daughter of Richard Wagner.

Here’s rest of the programme for the opening week:
26 Jul: Tannhäuser
27 Jul: Das Rheingold
28 Jul: Die Walküre
30 Jul: Siegfried
01 Aug: Götterdämmerung
02 Aug: Parsifal

I’m now listening to Tannhäuser on my earphones while blogging, and the first few minutes already had me captivated. I’m probably going to finish listening to the whole work =) Shall blog about it if there’s energy after watching it. 🙂 The Ring cycle’s on for the next few nights. Wheeee~

July 22, 2007

Fritz Kreisler – Praeludium and Allegro

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I remember…
Being thrown this piece when I was in secondary three.
All those DOUBLE (and triple)-STOPS and crazy techniques I had to learn.
Faster, Faster!!! Don’t use so much bow!
Playing solo with the TKGS string orchestra.
Practicing like crazy for my MEP exam.
Practicing too hard before the exam and not applying rosin to the bow before it.
My violin bow sliding all over the place (due to lack of rosin) and me desparately trying to control it.
Practicing even harder for my violin diploma.
Zhiyun, my dear accompanist.

Brings back memories, doesn’t it? (: