September 23, 2013

it's not agony

Yesterday my teacher said I seem to agonize over music (playing it) and don't seem to enjoy it. I was really surprised I came off that way. I know I am pretty hard on myself, but this isn't agony. Obsession, maybe, but not agony. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't do it. Still, maybe I'm like those people who look angry/sad/what have you all the time, even when they're perfectly fine.

I guess I should smile more :-)

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it's not agony

Yesterday my teacher said I seem to agonize over music (playing it) and don't seem to enjoy it. I was really surprised I came off that way. I know I am pretty hard on myself, but this isn't agony. Obsession, maybe, but not agony. If I didn't love it, I wouldn't do it. Still, maybe I'm like those people who look angry/sad/what have you all the time, even when they're perfectly fine.

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September 21, 2013

work! carefully placed!

more comment spam with neat text.

This morning I ran 17 miles, first semi-long one after a recovery week. The weather has turned a touch cooler, but even a few degrees made a difference. I was still godawful slow, but less drained at the end.

The run did give me the opportunity to ruminate on my shortcomings in orchestra, in lessons, what have you. I dreamed up the worst possible scenarios (culminating in being told, publicly, that I was no good and never would be) and played them over and over in my head.

Of course, by the time I finished the run I was in a really bad mood. I'd made plans to work on something this afternoon with my cellist friend from orchestra, and I was not looking forward to it. I hadn't had time to practice the pieces, and as you may have guessed, my faith in any innate musical ability has evaporated this past week. But it turned out surprisingly ok, even the new piece. I could play - at least, I could play better than I do at lessons. We worked on counting and feel and sound, and I think we will be able to think about phrasing soon. It was fun; we stopped not because we ran out of steam but because we ran out of time. I wish I could carry this into lessons and orchestra. But anyway: thank you, Mary. You have helped me more than you know.

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September 20, 2013

writing! neatly performed!

That was the text of one of the (spam) comments I got today. Gets my vote.

Wow, what a week. What a lousy week. I've wandered back into take-myself-too-seriously land, a place I hoped I'd never go again. I must excel, I must be taken seriously. Nothing is fun on its own; the only fun is in achievement. bleh. Someone please shoot me, or make it all better.

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ho hum

Looking back on the past couple of days, I feel a little silly. I got upset about rehearsal way out of proportion to anything that actually happened; I was reacting partially (quite a bit, actually) to what was in my head rather than the reality of what was going on.

I know I'm not a good player, but the last thing I want is to be a head case too.

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September 19, 2013

why can't I dream

So I chewed on my grievances a little while, and the funk has started to clear, as funks always do. I didn't quit orchestra and I didn't quit lessons, and I did practice today. I'm pretty sure the conductor was just plain overjoyed to have a real violist join up and wasn't trying to slight me, and anyway it's not his fault that I'm really a miserable, unconfident, awkward being.

Still, I kept chewing. Am I really that bad? There's a girl in orchestra who doesn't know how to play her instrument, and she's a music major. She's expecting to finish her 2 years at community college and then go on to a 4-year school. It is the job of her teachers and advisors to prepare her to get into that 4-year school, and to see that she plays in juries and ensembles, and prepares for auditions and whatever else there is. There are camps and stuff she can go to in the summer if she wants to do more intensive work.As I have (bitterly) pointed out many times, these things are not available to me. Why - because I'm bad? Because I don't know how to play my instrument? No. Because I'm old. (Or maybe I am a bad musician, but I can say with certainty that I play better than this girl). At orchestra I hear the kids talking about what they're doing, and the conductor reminiscing fondly about his days as a student. The conductor talks about the "serious" kids who practice "two hours a day" and I think "what am I, chopped liver?" I guess I don't count, I am invisible, because I'm old.

If that's the reason, that's no reason. I hate it. It's not fair. Why can't I have the same dreams as other musicians at my level, whatever level that may be?

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September 18, 2013

I hate music, or: the scales fall from my eyes

Quite possibly the worst string orchestra rehearsal ever, not because I played badly or anything, but because we acquired another violist (and doubling our section). Which was actually a good thing, but the conductor was so overjoyed that by the end of the rehearsal he was practically begging the guy to keep coming back, and to my ears it sounded so much like "please keep coming back, please don't leave me with just this one lousy chairwarmer, please." All the demons returned, the ones who say "no matter how hard you work, you will never amount to anything, and any gains you feel you have made, well, they don't amount to a hill of beans and you still stink, bless your earnest little heart, and you always will."

And I do work fucking hard, but it's not enough. There is no All-State orchestra for adults. There is no logical progression from Turkey in the Straw or Happy Birthday to any real music. As an adult you take what you're given, and whether you learn from this or not, that's the only road available. You will never be taken seriously; no one will ever believe that you really want to learn just like kids do. The best you can hope for is that you can avoid looking ridiculous, or being condescended to. The best you can hope for is to be a nonentity, and I guess I have achieved that.

(Or maybe this doesn't apply to all adult learners, only me).

Over the past few years I've had a lot of "aha! you are so awful" epiphanies regarding music, but this one feels like the worst, even worse than after that recital. Of course, the most recent epiphany always feels like the worst one.

So what do I do now? I still love music, and I still love the sound of the viola, but I hate the way I sound playing it, and I hate the way I feel when I sound bad, and I hate knowing that all the work I put into learning just gets me to the point where I am barely tolerable. I want to quit this orchestra, and I want to quit lessons. Complicating this is the fact that the orchestra conductor is also my viola teacher. It would be hard to just drop out of all of it without some kind of conversation, which I really want to avoid.

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September 17, 2013

oh my goodness

rather, my badness. What a miserable practice. It started out well enough, but fell apart after about an hour. I started getting tired and messing up stuff I've been playing perfectly well lately. I could not concentrate on whatever one thing I'd set out to do; instead, I heard every other thing that was also wrong, and found myself in an imaginary lesson with an imaginary teacher berating me for all of it (no, my real teacher doesn't do that, but my imaginary one does). Ugh, what an awful and stupid thing to carry around in your head!

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September 15, 2013

run down

Running: this week was a cutback, only 54 miles or so. It was supposed to be 57 miles and include a 5k, but oh well...The weather has turned just a touch cooler, and yesterday and today I made an effort to pick it up a little from my usual sluggish pace. It felt ok, but I'm not sure I'm ready to declare a victory over the doldrums.

I love what running has done for my health; at my last checkup, the doctor said "whatever you're doing, keep doing it." And as I approach 50 I'm all too aware that my dad died at 51 of a (sudden) heart attack. Of course, he was a heavy smoker, and overweight all his adult life, and a classic type A personality. So unlike me, who has been thin all her adult life, and quit a 23-year, 3-pack-a-day smoking habit 12 years ago, and who never worries about anything, ever, ha!. I hate that I hobble out of bed every morning, but I can't imagine what I would feel like 20 pounds over college weight and with knees full of ground glass. So I do plan to keep running as long as I can, but as for racing and "training" - I'm no longer sure I want to spend so much time and energy on that.

music: This week contained a couple of it-all-sounds-horrible days, which I was able to plow through. I survived (and enjoyed!) the rehearsal where I was the only violist. I dutifully practiced everything we went over in last week's lesson, and I had even arrived at the point where I could tell that some things were better than they were a year ago, or even three months ago. But...I had a lesson today, so of course my head is full of all my shortcomings. And there are so many of them! I really want to set some goals (getting into a chamber music camp next summer is one of them), but I couldn't bring myself to mention any of them to my teacher for fear he would either laugh at me. Or worse, try to let me down easy.

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September 12, 2013

I may be about done

...with semi-competitive running, that is. I won't go too much into it, but over the past few months my interest in hard training has faded to nothing, and running has become a chore. I keep waiting for my legs to come back, or for the weather to break and make it all beautiful again, but it might not happen and I'm ok with that. Still haven't decided for sure about Richmond. Since injury kept me out of the last 2 marathons I trained for, I almost feel like I owe it to someone to run Richmond if I can actually get to the start line uninjured. But then again, maybe not. We'll see.

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September 11, 2013

turn around

There were times during this evening's string orchestra rehearsal I wanted to get up and walk out. Even though it was only our second rehearsal, our numbers have fluctuated and tonight there was one fewer cellist and a couple new violinists; I was the entire viola section. My cellist friend and I got there about an hour early and worked on some of the pieces, which was very helpful. But the conductor spent much of the first hour talking about Baroque music and why we were going to double-dot a whole bunch of stuff in one piece, and I wanted to say "please sir, can we PLAY something before my aged and bloodless hands get too cold?" As the only violist, I felt very LOUD and simultaneously self-conscious about it, so I started playing with a wispy wimpy right arm and learned that my viola does not like that at all, and will make unpredictably awful noises. For a while the conductor was going over rough spots with every section except me, and I wondered if he had decided that I would freak out at being singled out (nope, that assumption is incorrect). I was frustrated. I was tired. My day had started at 5:15am and I could think of many better uses for my time.

And then it all changed somehow - we actually started playing, and I got a couple of decent-sounding notes out of the instrument, which was like the sun coming out, ahh. I stopped worrying I was too loud and just let the sound happen, and tried to do whatever was called for at the moment. I couldn't always get it the first time, but I could always get it by the 3rd or 4th time. And some of the music sounded really good when we played it. By the time rehearsal ended I could have gone another two hours.

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September 9, 2013

ain't all roses

Today was one of those days I couldn't wait to finish whatever I was doing so I could practice. And when I finally started practicing, it was terrible! I was scratchy, I was out of tune, I was late, early, uneven. Even my happy friendly viola sounded hoarse today, definitely not beautiful. Still, I muddled through the long list of things I wanted to work on. I tried to devote the right amount of time to each things, which is to say I wouldn't let myself get fixated on the general lousiness and work on something longer than would be productive.

Two things I really want to remember:

1) lessons are not about performing something perfectly for the teacher. They are more for identifying problems and trying to fix them.

2) the time to repeat something over and over is when you start getting it right, not while you're still doing it wrong.

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September 8, 2013

my head is exploding

My viola teacher is back from his summer job, and lessons started today. I thought I'd made a lot of headway this summer, and maybe I did, but it only seems to have uncovered lots more stuff I need to work on. One-octave scales and arpeggios on one string? Fine, you can shift and you know where the notes are, but now you gotta play them with a metronome. That dinky little vibrato with which you embellish every 10th or 11th note? Gotta use it way more often, like everywhere it belongs. You can sight-read 7 measures before falling completely off the horse? Try for eight. Oh, and play in tune. And set your bow before drawing a note. And think what it needs to sound like. And then do it.

My god, I have so much homework. But I think it will be good for me.

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August 29, 2013

oh, very young

This week one of the orchestras I play in started up again. Although it's a college orchestra, motivated highschool kids and "community" (euphemism for "old") musicians can participate too. There were a lot of highschool kids at this first rehearsal, and one of them is a student of my teacher, and we both played at that dreadful recital in May.

I remember that at the recital this guy played well and also performed really well too. He wasn't the most advanced of all the performers, but he had a something...anyway, he went to chamber music camp this summer and got really good, and at rehearsal the other night, the conductor put him assistant prinicpal. Not too shabby for a highschool kid his first time in a college orchestra. When my teacher gets back I bet he'll be thrilled with this kid's progress.

Which leads me to wonder...this going-off-to-camp-and-getting-good business is something you would expect in kids - after all, they have summers off to practice, and scads of camps to choose from. It must be great for teachers to see the transformation that can happen over a few months. It doesn't happen much for us "community" musicians; we rarely make the same kind of leaps and bounds, or have anything so dramatic to present. I wonder if our teachers ever get bored with our plodding.

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August 25, 2013

I must write this down

so I can remember it on down days...today I took out a piece we did in string orchestra over a year ago, a Mendelssohn string symphony that made me wonder if Mendelssohn had it in for violists. That piece was the bane of my existence that semester. I never did get it in my hands despite spending a lot of time on it, and at tempo? Forget it.

Anyway, I took this piece out because it was a good example of something I was working on, and I read it through and noticed 1) I could read it; 2) I could play it; and 3) it wasn't hard! It wasn't performance-perfect, but only maybe a day or two away. And it was better than the day we performed it.

Wow, this makes me very happy.

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