On microtonality and intermittency technique

Concert tour to Italy last weekend, i.e. my amateur orchestra played a theater in Vicenza.  It was wonderful. Here a few impressions, in no particular order because I am still really tired.

While professional musicians have it bad (cheap hotels on the outskirts, wine in plastic cups while VIPs get the crystal), amateur musicians sleep in youth hostels and drink home made wine from 2-gallon bottles in parking lots.

Which was a lot of fun, as it turns out.

Vicenza is a nice town, with a cool theater. Also they’re sharp dressers.

I’m not going to call it messing up my intonation and leaving out the hard notes any more. Instead, it will be known as exploring microtonality and intermittency technique.

At least I wasn’t the one who barfed (discreetly) on stage1.

As far as I know, no one in the audience barfed.

Weather was beautiful in Venice, where we spent a few hours on our way back.

1a high point of my musical career, witnessing that

Being posh is so much hard work

Earlier this week I was trying, briefly, to develop an aesthetic of music that encompassed and accounted for every sort of music and sound including the ambient and uncomposed, but then one thing led to another, and the kittens got out and we had to catch them, and one of the big cats brought a mouse home, and we had to put flea collars on all of them, except the tortoise, which my sister-in-law would have stepped on except Gamma hollered in time. Also, we were busy planning my birthday party, and Alpha and Gamma were packing and making arrangements for their trip to Hong Kong, and it occurred to me that maybe I should pack, too,  for my trip to Vicenza this weekend, where my orchestra plays tomorrow (Vicenza fans: I’ll be the guy in the third row of cellos stabbing the cellist to my left in the heart with my bow).

We’re stopping at Venice on our way back on Sunday.

The sun just came out.

Early Shakespeare, and orchestra report

Shakespeare’s Father: Forsooth, my lad, thou weep’st more loudly than a maid at the deathbed of her betroth’d!

Shakespeare: Father, verily, I beg thee, rein in thy anger and desist in your violence!

Shakespeare’s Father: Aye, thou dar’st call that violence! Weep’st thou? Weep’st thou? Wilt thou sound reason for weeping? Thou maid! Shall I provide thee with sound reason for weeping? Verily, I shall fetch mine girdle and give thee sound reason for weeping!

Everything sounds better in Shakespeare.  Now if I could only remember what this was supposed to segue into…

But, no luck.

Did your dad used to threaten to get the belt when you were a kid, too?

Damn, it’s gone.

I was out of town with the orchestra this weekend. I was awfully sad most of the time, despite the fact that our rehearsals were held in a castle in a nice little town in a nice scenic area and I didn’t get lost driving there. I had a nice room, pleasant roommate, the food was awful but that’s not high on my list of priorities. It snowed, and that was pretty.

The rehearsal rooms were big enough and the acoustics were good. But the entire time I sat there feeling sad and thinking that playing the cello is, for me, like being married to a beautiful woman who will never love me. And I thought back on my cello career, and how the predominant emotion I associate with it is despair and not joy, which made me wonder whether now would be a good time to look for a new hobby.

I was seated next to a young woman who was a far better cellist than I am, with wicked technique. Very crisp bowing, which made it necessary to pay close attention to my own bowing to avoid collisions i.e. accidentally bowing in the wrong direction and poking her. At first it was just more stress and the vast difference between her ability and mine added to my despair, but then I noticed that I had learned more about bowing in the few hours I had been playing next to her than I had in the past several years, and my perspective began to change.

I plugged in my theremin during a break and various people goofed around with it.  I sometimes forget that not everyone is familiar with the theremin. It was fun to watch people try it out.

While brushing my teeth I noticed in the mirror that I still have paint flecks on my glasses from painting a room at our house weeks ago, but every time I remove the glasses to clean them, the paint flecks are no longer visible.

We played our first concert of the season on Sunday, in an excellent venue, in a new building with fine acoustics and a stage large enough for the orchestra. The only thing missing was an audience. We played, let’s see, works by Haydn, Beethoven, Kodaly, Bizet, and um… Bartok.  The orchestra played very well. It was too bad that so few people came to hear us, but maybe eleven AM on a Sunday is not the best time for concerts.

It was great fun to play with so many talented kids.  I made relatively few mistakes, and nothing really awful. The teachers who run the show are all brilliant, and our conductor is especially wonderful.

Another concert next week, and the week after that we go on tour to Italy. For a weekend, but still.

So it’s all very nice, but my relationship with the cello remains as desperate as ever. I really don’t know whether to stick with it, or change to the double bass (a slightly heavier, plainer woman who might or might not love me), or spend more time with the ukulele (a woman who is in a good mood all the time) or what. Maybe look for a new metaphor.