About Life in Flow:Flow in Life

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Time Management

Summer is more than half over and I'm not happy with the amount of practicing I've been doing. I'm a teacher, so I always think the summer will be a great time for catching up on all those home projects, plus doing a lot of practicing, plus going to Ravinia to hear the Chicago Symphony and other great musicians, plus taking some trips. Then I'd also like to do some writing, explore Chicago neighborhoods, try out new recipes, and get back in shape. Maybe this is overly ambitious.

It seems to take me several weeks to adjust once school lets out for the summer.  Now, at the end of July, I am finally adjusting to summer. I now have the revised goals of getting into an exercise routine that I can stick with once school starts and practicing to build up more endurance and refresh my memory of some excerpts before I go to FAT Camp in a couple of weeks. I'd also like to make progress in decluttering the house. At this point I already need to begin thinking about my upcoming school year, too.

I recently read a blog post on edaxicon about time, which I strongly related to. The author is also a teacher who wanted to be productive in the summer, specifically writing a novel, but finished the summer with a half-written novel. Conversely, during the school year when teachers called for "working to the rule," school hours only, in order to avoid a strike, the author was able to finish all necessary school work without taking any home or staying late. Dax's conclusion was that your project, whatever it is, will expand to fill the time you give it.

My time issues are compounded by a tendency to procrastinate (warm-up on horn at 10 pm?) and to get sucked into other people's activities. I can't say I regret doing things with others, but I am always wishing I had gotten something done before going shopping with my daughter, or helping my son clip the kittens' nails.

One would think that if I realize all this I could take steps to use my time more efficiently. Sometimes, though, what you most need is to "waste" your time. Spend hours reading a novel, talking with friends, laying around in the backyard... Of course, none of those things are a waste of time; they are sometimes the very thing you need to recharge.

I am looking for balance.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Music making and symmetrical countenances

A few days ago I returned from the Colonial Williamsburg Teacher Institute. This is a terrific one-week seminar aimed at helping teachers make history come alive for their students. It was a wonderful opportunity for me, and I had a great time! I saw one hunting horn in the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum, but other than that the music was all about fiddles, claviers, fifes and drums, and singing. Our second evening we had dinner at Christiana Campbell's Tavern, which I highly recommend -- get the crab cakes! A strolling violinist came into our dining room and played some Colonial-era tunes. I wish I had had the chance to talk with him, but he slipped away quietly. He was a very fine violinist and clearly enjoyed his work. During the week we saw other musicians and talked with the cabinet maker in his shop where the staff make claviers as well as other beautiful furniture.

As part of learning about daily life and the social classes of the 18th century, I learned that women of the time were restricted to learning only the instruments that would not distort their faces and cause them to appear asymmetrical. That means only clavier and harp. Only the gentry would have had the means to learn an instrument other than a folk instrument. It did make me a little sad to think that I would not have been able to play horn if I had lived in the 18th century, but then I probably would have had more than enough to contend with without worrying about musical instruments.

I went to the Chicago Symphony concert at Ravinia last night and as I watched Tzimon Barto play piano I wondered if the expressions on his face would have been considered distortions. He smiled, pursed his lips, sucked his lips in, and seemed to talk to himself as he played two Schumann works for piano and orchestra. Perhaps 18th century women were taught to play while maintaining a calm demeanor. (For me the highlight of the program was the Schumann Conzertstuck with Dale Clevenger, Dan Gingrich, James Smelser, David Griffin and Oto Carrillo as soloists. What an exciting piece and performance!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Dad the Listener

In my post on Vincent DeRosa I said I had grown up listening to his recording of the Bach Partita with Laurendo Almeida. My father was the one who found and bought that album and played it frequently in our living room. My dad was an interested collector of LPs and bought a surprisingly wide variety of music, I realize in retrospect. He loved classical music, but also Broadway musicals and band music. We had a recording of every Sousa march. He was adventurous in his listening: he bought and repeatedly listened to Ives symphonies, Leonard Bernstein, and other modern composers. He purchased a recording of Mahler songs at a time when Mahler was rarely performed. I never realized how unusual this was until I got to college (Eastman) and found out that hardly anyone was familiar with Ives Symphony #2.

Our stereo, which he was very proud of, was two gigantic pieces of furniture, one large enough to be used as a buffet table, and the other, which was the second speaker, half as big. You lifted the top lid of the main component to reveal the radio and record player. My dad, who was an accountant, would come home from work and nearly always spend some time listening to records. In later years her got a pair of headphones, but when I was in junior high and high school, I often went to sleep to the sounds of Bach or Rodgers & Hammerstein floating up the stairs.

My father came from a family that enjoyed music. He and his two brothers all played instruments. My dad played both cello and baritone. All three brothers had fine signing voices as well. And, my mother was a fine pianist. So with all this music it was a given that my siblings and I would play instruments. When I started trumpet in 6th grade my dad would often practice with me on his brother's old trumpet. This was not only an incentive to practice, it gave me an early realization of the joy of playing with others.

My father was an eclectic listener. I don't remember ever hearing him say that he didn't care for a particular piece or composer. Because of this -- his attitude and all the music he played -- I went off to music school with an open mind about listening. I wasn't familiar with many of the standards of classical literature, but I was ready to listen to anything.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Vincent deRosa

It seems to me that Vincent DeRosa is suddenly getting a lot of attention. There have been several blog entries, especially Horn Matters, discussing his work. There is a new biography available, and a tribute page with a number of audio clips.

DeRosa is a soloist on Laurindo Almeida's album, The Intimate Bach, recorded in the early 1960s. I grew up listening to this album, but the only part of it I really remember now is the Partita, which is here arranged as a duet for guitar and horn. I was just beginning to play horn myself at that point and didn't listen critically. It was just cool to hear a horn soloist. I hadn't thought about that recording in years and my dad's copy of the LP has vanished along the way. Then a horn player friend of mine in Colorado mentioned to me that he was working on the Partita. He sent me both the recording and the music. Listening now, I am amazed at DeRosa's technique. He is just flying on the Allemande and is all over the horn in the final Gigue. I'm also struck by his breath control. He never seems to breathe and he holds the final note of each movement out for a long fermata.

Another thing I did not know as a teenager was that I was hearing Vincent DeRosa all the time, on movie soundtracks and TV themes. What an amazing player!