Tuesday, February 20, 2007

CSO Audition Report (no not that CSO)

A quick post from the Columbus (OH) airport. I leave here a loser, me and 150 other horn players. I played pretty well. I didn't chip anything. Some intonation lapses here and there and possibly a couple spots of uncertain rhythm. Nothing I'm ashamed of, really. I know I can prepare better with regards to these elements in the future.

The audition was very well run considering the number of players involve. They had two venues going simultaneously for a day and a half and thus allowed everyone a nice chunk of time to play everything. Though a nice little fruit spread in the waiting room is always appreciated.

I learned I prefer to have the amenities like flying rather than driving, staying over the night before rather than going the day of, getting a rental car rather than public transportation. It all just makes the experience more relaxing.

I also very much like having someone back home who is thinking about you and who cares about you. Someone to call after the whole damn thing is over. It calms the heart tremendously!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Out of Tune Good-byes?

We're performing Mahler 1 this weekend. For some reason I've not been very comfortable this set. Our conductor gave me the 'finger' during our rehearsal Monday night. You know... the 'intonation finger'? When he calls out your instrument or stares you down and makes little up or down pointing gestures with his index finger. It's usually seen in conjunction with raised or lowered eye brows and/or a cocked head. The tonic M3rds at the beginning and ending of the duets in the first movement introduction were too wide and, as second horn, it is my job to make the necessary adjustment. I'm not used to "flattening the third" by raising the tonic.

But, like I said, it's my job. I've practiced that duet a hundred times in the past week playing against a recording of myself on first; navigating the major and minor 3rds and 6ths, as well as the tendencies of the harmonics (and myself!). But once you get another living, adjusting body on the other part all bets can be off. Not to mention where everyone else in the orchestra takes the pitch in the opening measures.

I've also been breaking my own golden rule way too often. And it has served me so well lo these many years: Don't play too goddamn soft! The "choreography" in the last movement is also still a mess. You'd think getting eight horns to raise their bells and stand in sync wouldn't need a Martha Graham master class but sometimes you'd be wrong. We've got one more rehearsal tonight to get it sharp so our "aufstehen" doesn't turn into an "oof-da shten!" Any time you get a conductor comment like we got Wednesday night ("Horns, it looks like your doing the stadium wave! Stand up together please!") you know it's sloppy.

First date with Raleigh went great. She's beautiful, funny, interesting, really smart and I wasn't a total dolt. Only problem was the handshake good-bye. What was I thinking? Handshake?!

See here's the problem: There are only a few options for the daytime-post-first-date-in-car goodbye. You could just say goodbye (too pedestrian). You could shake hands (too utilitarian). Or kiss, which, on a first date after coffee in the middle of the day when you've never touched this other person flesh-to-flesh, seems a little forward. And that first kiss should be at least somewhat romantic; not just a convenient gesture of affection.

A hug would be perfect, but in a car it's totally out of the question. The belt has to come off, and then you've gotta rotate your pelvis and sit on your side, and there's no room for the right hand (if your the driver) to go around because the seats are in the way... It would end up being a whole Cirque du Soleil production.

Don't get me wrong. The car make-out is great! But you're both in a very inventive, uninhibited mental zone by the time that's going down. Suddenly problems of ergonomics become opportunities for gaining purchase. But back to the question at hand: the daytime-post-first-date-in-car goodbye. Any ideas? A shoulder squeeze? A playful fist nudge to the cheek? Declaring a thumb war?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Snow, Ludwig and Playing Against the Odds

It snowed about five inches last Tuesday in blowing, drifting fashion. One of the perks of my life is being able to call my own snow days. Not really feeling like driving 7 hours round trip in bad visibility to teach one half-hour lesson to a horn minor (incidentally a great student) I sent an email from my cell and minutes later had myself a free day. Which I then proceeded to both use productively (getting ready for this) and fritter away (watching this - I've become drawn to MP for reasons I shan't reveal and am currently working my way through everything she's been in, including seasons 1-3 of this).

Long after the sun set I walked the quarter mile down my lane to get the mail. As I shuffled along, the ankle deep snow was light and fluffy over my feet like feathers spilled from a pillow. Orion stood crisp and tall in the south, his hunting unimpaired on the moonless night. In the north, clouds rolled in underlit yellow by Dubuque ten miles away. I thought of the DSO rehearsing Beethoven 3 at that very moment and how strange it feels not to be a part of that. I've had so few weekends off this season it seems somehow wrong that an orchestra should be working close by while I'm available yet I wouldn't be involved. Not in a greedy sense, mind you, but just in a social sense. I get used to seeing the same few people who play everywhere I do, like cubicle buddies in the office world, and now I just don't show up for work for a few days.

Having played Beethoven 1 last weekend and with Beethoven 2 slated for mid-February with the CWSO it would have been really cool to squeeze in a performance of 'Eroica' too. Hell, it's one of the most revolutionary pieces ever written and I haven't ever played the damn thing. A well, it's a good section and I love everyone in it. Maybe I'll score some comps and attend a concert for a change!

Since I have no concerts of my own this weekend here's a pic of the QCSO horns after our Don Juan performance last Saturday. The QCSO conflicts with the DMS from here on out. I really like all my section mates in this orchestra and will miss them the rest of the season; especially KL & AG who've become good friends. Though the three of us will reunite in Columbus in less than two weeks for the audition.

The weather has put the kaibosh on my training over the last few weeks. Snow hindered my pace and then wind chill advisories put my mileage in a deep freeze. Incidentally, the difference between 10 below windchill and 20 or 30 below windchill is a deep, soul-sucking pain which calmly whispers past your frozen ear cartilage saying, "This would be a nice snow drift to lie down in and take a nap. Aren't you sleepy? Go ahead, lie down. I'll be sure to wake you when it gets warmer." The difference is... training distance become dictated by the point at which one eye becomes frozen shut. Better turn here and head back... and don't blink too slowly on your way home. The difference is... one makes your scalp hurt.

But I got $30 worth of new knit hats and a vat of petroleum jelly. I'm back, bay-Bee!

And I quote...
"Oh yeah, I also met the woman with whom I may want to spend the rest of my life. What are the odds that she has a boyfriend? I know. Pretty darn good."

The odds, amazingly, just might be in my favor this time. I'll refer to her as Raleigh to protect the innocent. Stay tuned...