Friday, July 31, 2009

Summit Day 5-7


Hopefully I'll be able to remember most of this ... I haven't had any time to get on a computer lately ... I've been trying to really practice (and also trying to beat out Alma who so far seems to be practicing more than me ... I've been getting about 3 hrs. a day ... today I got 3.5

So here's a recap:

Tuesday (Day 5):
Tuesday I practiced all morning (3 hrs), then there was the Adam Kent Masterclass, which was disappointingly less interesting than his lecture, but still fairly cool. Can't say I remember much about it at this point ...

Then later there was the Young Artists concert, which featured a former Summit participant named Kristin Stephenson. She was a Juilliard graduate & seemed like a cool person. I enjoyed her performance & I probably should have chatted w/ her a bit & asked her what she thought of being a classical pianist & how it compared to her epxpectations & other stuff ... I was a bit out of it at the time or something.

In the evening was Suren Bagratuni & Max Mainolfi's concert ... this was all kinds of cool ... Suren is an amazing cellist & has the left hand technique I want to develop (which is so exciting ... there's so few cellists I see who really bring that out for me) ... Mr. O is another who has that ... I funortunately don't have the program on me & can't remember what he played at this point, but it was amazing. Apparently he studied w/ Danilli Schafran a lot, which was interesting, given how much Steven Isserlis idolizes Schafran ... cool little connection. This concert was particularly important for me for two reasons. First, because I was reminded that you are in fact allowed to lift your thumb off the neck & that it is sometimes beneficial. Two, because it reminded me of how important it is to use the fleshy part of your fingertipe to really get a good tone & nice, wide vibrato - this is the way I used to play back when I was really practicing in high school & I've started incorporating it into my slow scales & it's made a huge difference.

Wednesday (Day 6):
Busy day!

I only managed to get in 2 hrs. of practice, b/c I had rehearsal & then my performance for the 3rd movement of the Beethoven Op. 11 ... I played pretty horribly, b/c I wasn't feeling well that day, which really sucks, because I generally have this abundant self-confidence & sense of fun about performance, and instead I was depressed... I just kinda needed another day or at least a few hours with the piece too ... At one point I looked up & noticed David Krieger was there, which was cool, but also makes me nervous ... that's good though. If I had been playing better, I wouldn't have been nervous ... on the other hand, by the end of this festival, I'll be in such good shape that I could play that piece really well. My playing has already improved a lot, though I've been really pushing myself too. It also clicked in my head that I practice scales w/ slurs too much & not enough w/ separate bows - this is part of why my bowing technique isn't good.

Then there was the Rosand masterclass & the Tcheckmazov masterclass ... given that I'm not really crazy about Aaron Rosand, I decided to go to the cello masterclass ... the only reason I stayed was because I actually wanted to hear everybody who was playing ... Cyntia played Bach 3, Inna's other student played the Breval sonata & the little kid w/ the orange case played Haydn C. I really did not like his teaching ... he taught almost solely by rote & dictated interpretation. Those are two things that really bother me, because they are not giving the student the tools they need to progress on their own. I'm ok w/ guiding interpretation & sharing information & asking pointed questions, but not telling people how to play - that's their decision. The only useful things I got out of the class were that I finally understand what the hell people are talking about with Figure 8 bowing (it is also the way David Krieger explained it to me, though he didn't use that term), and he mentioned using weight w/ the first finger on the bow & that was just a good reminder. One thing that was interesting was when Checkamazov played something on Cyntia's cello ... the difference in sound was incredible ... it's amazing how much difference an instrument can make ... I wonder how much better I might sound if I had a better instrument... (not that I'm complaining about the one I have) ... speaking of which, Bernie mentioned letting me try a Carbon Fibre cello that someone gave him ... can't wait to do that once Summit's over.

Then, there was the Student Gala concert, which I had heard most of the pieces on from attending the masterclasses ... though the last girl (and one of the youngest) was absolutely incredible. Not only did she play her piece flawlessly, but she was practically dancing on stage while doing it & really looked like she was having fun to a level that we generally don't while doing classical music. It really made me smile.

The 8:00 concert was 1/2 a Russian Pianist (who clearly used to be really amazing, but has very unfortunately hit a point where her age is interfering with her playing ... she was still pretty damn good though & I thought she had a great sense of dynamics & volume & managed to do a lot w/ loudness in a way that most people can't). The other half was a Brahms Trio w/ Adam Kent, Jeff Solo & Elena Peres ... according to Adam it was the first & last trio he wrote (Brahms revised it) & was all kinds of cool ... I've heard it somewhere before & I'd love to play it someday.

Thursday (Day 7)
Today was busy & fun!

I got in 3.5 hrs of practice (a half hour short of what I was shooting for ... I forgot my rock stop & my bloody cello kept slipping, so I gave up at the end...). I got to practicing later than I wanted, because I had to pick up strings for Anna, but that's alright... So I practiced, then helped w/ check-in, which involved hanging out w/ Alma, Maria, Alessandra & Jessica & showing folks to their room as they showed up ... it was great getting so see some folks from previous years ... it was particularly interesting to see Drew (chamber partner from the first year I did Summit) ... he seems to have grown up a bit, which is good. Also, it was really interesting to see Elliot ... he lost a *lot* of weight & seems generally very happy and all. He's studying w/ David Soyer at Juilliard atm...

I skipped orientation to practice a bit, then had dinner, then went to the concert, which I was somewhat surprisingly disappointed by. Nathaniel Rosen was the performer & the entire first half seemed very off - like he wasn't in control or like he wasn't warmed up or something of that sort. It got better as he went ... also, the Hindemith concerto is kind of an iffy piece for me. The second half, he played Bach 4 (which I was not thrilled about ... it's hard to watch people play bach though ... it's so individual, but he really just made a very bizarre way through it - from my perspective). Then he played this really cool Granados piece (is there any uncool Granados piece? That name makes me want to go watch that Jackie documentary). He also did the Fire Dance for an encore ... that was cool too.

Afterwards, I trained Amery to do the lights (and am hoping to get a 3rd person) & that's the story for now. I've gotten over most of the social anxiety/insecurity I was feeling in the first few days & seem to be fitting in generally pretty well & practicing a good amt. & Summit's been very therapeutic in terms of giving me reasons to smile & giving me the chance to talk with a lot of new folks about my schooling and where I am in life now & all that ... I need to find more folks I feel generally comfortable talking to ... Jenny Wu was great for that (particularly, b/c she was 30 and had a PhD, so was very mature) ... it's too bad she's not here for the rest of the festival ...

Anyway, sleep time ... have to be up in less than 7 hours for orchestra (which I'm excited for!)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summit Day 4

A busy & productive day!

I was pretty energetic early in the day (thankfully!)

Had practice w/ Jenny, then coaching w/ Flora ... David couldn't make it ... but we got the part between us pretty squared away.

Afterwards, we went to lunch & then to the cello masterclass, which was all kinds of cool. The teacher was this amazing cellist from Armenia (though I think he lives in detroit now or something). Leonard played Bach 3, Cyntia played Saint-Saens & the other girl played Bach 3. It was a real treat getting to watch Cyntia, because even though her piece has a long way to go, she's made a huge improvement since last year in her playing, which is great!

After that, I got in a small amount of practice, and then there was the Composer's Roundtable. A fairly interesting, but poorly attended event (it was competing with dinner unfortunately). For me the most interesting parts were hearing the polytones (is that the name for it) in Geoff. Kidde's piece (this technique was originally invented by Robert Dick), and hearing the difference in the 2 orchestrations of Mary-Anne Joyce's piece (which I got to keep a copy of). She described her music as a film score without a film & it was really cool, because I had that exact same thought as I was listening to it. These people are my former teachers as well, so it was great to get to talk with them before & after. Binette Liper presented as well & then there was a Q&A afterwards. I tried to ask questions that I thought would be interesting for folks/that would stimulate discussion ... tricky considering the lack of people though. Another interesting point was Geoff. Kidde's point about modern music. He said that he would tell people to let go of their expectations & just try listening to the sounds. It's weird for me, because I actually get a lot of modern classical music ... it just makes sense to me (which doesn't mean I like it all) ... maybe it's because I started so late, so I didn't get trapped in the Common Practice/Romantic sound-world. Maybe not. This event plus the original music from last night has motivated me to compose another solo cello piece soon ... I'm looking forward to it whenever it's ready to come out!

After that, I decided to skip dinner (because I was still full from lunch & had food in my backpack) & got in a little bit of practicing before Adam Kent's concert lecture. I think the concert lecture format - particularly the way he does it - is probably the best way to present classical music. or at least talking about the piece prior to playing it. It really gets you into it & gives you the opportunity to see things you never saw before, even on a first listen. I was really shocked when an older audience member started talking about the harmony in her comments - I just do not listen that well on a first listen in live music. Though part of the reason for this is because I often listen emotionally as opposed to intellectually to live music (though I suppose it's possible to do both). His lecture was all kinds of cool: combining history with musical storyline & theoretical analysis. Reminds me a lot of Steven Isserlis, though Isserlis is more charismatic & compelling for me (probably because he's British!).

In practicing, I improved a lot, but during Adam Kent's lecture, I had a bit of a breakthrough - I finally found a meaning of my own for the second prelude. This was because somebody asked about the balance between emotions & interpretation, and also because he was talking about Schubert's "My Dream" story & about his sense of isolation. One of the things I go through whenever I do Summit (and in general, whenever I'm in a new environment) is social pressure/a sense of isolation from others. I take a bit to feel comfortable & like I belong within a group - particularly when part of what determines your status within these groups is how musically skilled you are .. I'm definitely on the lower end of that. But I realized the 2nd prelude could be summed up in the word "Longing" for me ... and particularly the VNV Nation lyric "my restless soul is longing" from the song Beloved came to mind. I read through the rest of the suite ... the Prelude & Allemande are in decent shape & any of the others are do-able (in terms of preparing for a masterclass). Haven't decided which third movement I'm gonna pick, but I'm thinking of the Gigue. The courante or Sarabande might be better, because I need more help with them ... not sure.

The other big breakthrough I've been having with my playing is in regards to bow distribution & precision & technique. I've been improving worlds on that. I also started practicing the Bb major scale instead of my recent usual C# Phrygian). This has the advantage that in order to do 3 octaves, I have to go all the way up the fingerboard. Also, it matches the pieces I'm playing. On top of that, I did some shifting exercises & worked on holding the bow out for 15 counts at 1/4=40.

That's where I'm at right now ... If I can find the time at any point, I'm gonna type up masterclass notes, but as of right now, I don't have it ... I might have to type them all up after the festival.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Summit Day 3

Today was its own kind of hard ... but a very good day!

I woke up feeling absolutely awful ... like another 3 hours of sleep were necessary (basically I woke up the way I went to sleep). That continued for about the first 4 hrs. of the day ... finally, after I ate lunch & chilled out for a bit, things got a bit better.

Today, I didn't have my metronome or my laptop, which meant I couldn't practice the way I usually do. It turned out to be a blessing! I worked on double stops & on the Beethoven Op. 11 (clarinet trio). .. When one practices with a metronome, it's very easy to listen to the metronome & not to what you're actually playing. Working on the Beethoven, the progress I made today was great. I did a lot of very focused work & while there are some spots that I will need the metronome to work on, I really worked on playing it well, and am currently playing it a lot better than I could at my recital (though still not well enough). I also noticed there are some spots I'm not breathing in! I think my biggest progress with practicing was my bow distribution. I've been practicing in the dance studio, which is a room of mirrors & a wood floor basically ... many kinds of helpful. My goal is for it to sound incredible consistently. Then I can let go and enjoy it & make music out of it. My biggest problem right now tends to be fast staccato passages and shifting into intermediate positions ... also, self-confidence ... but I'm working on that.

After lunch, I watched the first 2 students of Irina's masterclass. She's a good teacher. They were younger students & I was really surprised at how well the first one played considering she hadn't done much in the way of technical work ... Irina went through. It was really great for me to see the two kids play (well, one was 17 & the other was much younger). In many ways, I'm much closer to them (technically) than people my age. As Irina was relating her experiences and stories about the Moscow Conservatory & Jascha Heifetz, I came to a realization. 1 hour a day is not enough to work on technique. I need 2 at minimum. Here's what I think I need to work on:

(A half hour to each topic)
Slow Scales (Standard & Ladder) 6/4 at 1/4=40
Fast scales - 4/4 at 184
Sevcik/1 Finger Scales

That's what I feel should be my bare minimum. I may have to make that 3 hours so I can start including etudes. This is a big general problem I'm having right now ... I am not finding enough time to practice every day, but this stuff is all essential & I need to learn it as soon as possible. That's the main difference between me and all these other players - I have the potential to be like them (in terms of skill), but I am not, because I don't have the technical foundation. It is something I can build largely on my own at this point. It just needs the appropriate amount of time put in. I need to make those my gospel basically.

After Irina's masterclass, I practiced some more, started analyzing the Beethoven (which has made things so much clearer) and then had rehearsal - only to find out that David Gale has pink eye & so we had a new violinist, drafted from the masterclass. Possibly David will still play with us. Rehearsal was productive & we've decided to get together as a group tomorrow morning (which is going to multiply the craziness of my tomorrow!). I'm scared/under pressure that this piece is being performed on wednesday at 12. That really gives me 2 days to get it down really well.

After rehearsal was dinner, and then a little bit of time before the concert. Prior to the concert, David Krieger asked me if I wanted to play in one of the masterclasses. We talked about what I could play & came up with Bach 2 or 4. I could do either, but after playing them on my own, I've decided I'm going to do a few movements of Bach 2, because it is actually within my technical reach. This means I'm going to have to find an additional hour to practice (I did 3 today) somehow. It also means I need to dig up my barenreiter & get another movement or two really solid (which should not be a problem). I want to play for Andrey Tchekamazov, but I'm not sure if I'll be ready by then ... we'll see.

The concert was all kinds of amazing ... particularly Andrey Tchekamozov's pieces ... one was distinctly American, and the other was a modern solo cello piece (I don't think there is anything more powerful for me in music). I think I was one of the only people who was really into it ... others didn't like it or found it hard to stay isterested... I'm forgetting the pianist's name, but he played his own (really long multi-movement) piece & then a Liszt piece. His piece & playing had a style very similar to Liszt - it was very cool. I'd write more, but don't have the program in front of me & also need to get sleep ...

I'll try to type up Irina's Masterclass notes in the morning... but maybe I should try to practice instead ...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summit Day 2

So day 2 was also an adventure - a less stressful one!

I got there a bit early to get some practicing in & got in about an hour ... I need to buy a 9v battery so I don't need to use my laptop (though if I leave that home, then I need to write out my practice log ... ). Then I had to pickup Irina & this time her son Pasha came along (he was doing the slide show for her concert. I then also managed to get him to do the sound effects too, which effectively minimized my part, putting me back on the lights (which was enough work in itself!). Anyway, by the time we all got over there & working on stuff, we had probably about an hour to an hour and a half before Vladamir Viardo's masterclass started. So we did what we could, but had to come back later (both to rehearse the circus piece with sound effects & to get the projector working properly - a matter of getting the display settings right on Vista & hacking around with those plus realizing that we could shift the image on the screen via a little shift knob on the podium). Initially we couldn't get the projector to work, but that was because some genius had unplugged it (and left all the other connectors plugged in - so I didn't realize it was unplugged).

So after that frantic technical rehearsal, I stayed to watch the first student for Viardo's masterclass ... what an amazing teacher! I really wish I had thought to bring paper to write on, b/c those would have been great masterclass notes. I largely agreed with his philosophies & viewpoints. He commented that the girl was very involved with her playing & that that was rare & that she needed to hold onto it. He also told her to try to use arm weight instead of pushing (it's amazing how many principles of instrumental playing are the same regardless of instrument). Then he started talking philosophy of music - Questions like why do we play? Whether the written piece is finished or not (he considers it to not be finished & I agree). He also talked about the Mozartians or Chopinists or w/e (the people who insist they knew the right way to play these composers). He dropped the infamous "if there's any chance you can not play piano, please don't" line. Wish I could remember more specifically what else he talked about ... I do remember him stressing that one had to go through the score & find the melody and learn the melody first (he compared this to speaking - you have to know what you're going to say). He also then brought up improvising within the melody & asking if it's a monologue or dialogue. Similar to Steven Isserlis, he talked about needing to be a detective & decoding the music (it's a message throughout the centuries).

After that, I had to leave to practice & went over to Pius to work on Brahms & Beethoven (both of which need some serious work!). At this point, I made up my mind that I wanted to drop the Beethoven Op. 72 in the second 2 weeks (I had been given the option by Flora Kuan, my chamber coach, because I was already doing 2 other pieces). Despite the fact that I had performed the Beethoven previously, there's much work (musical and technical to be done). After that, I had rehearsal for that piece w/ Jenny Wu & David Gale. It was great to play with David. He graduated MSM, is 22 & is studying with Aaron Rosand. He sight-read that piece better than I played it (embarassing, but also a good push). I realized the main difference between where I was and where he was is that I sometimes hit the notes, where as he always hits the notes (there are some other pretty substantial differences, but that's the biggest). My bowing is also in need of a lot more attention (mostly in the area of planning & bow distribution) & I realized that I really have to focus on releasing my weight a lot more.

I almost forgot one of the most important stories. I met this incredibly cool girl from Texas (I think her name might have been Anna?). She's been playing for 3 yearsa & this is her first year doing the festival (like me when I started). She just finished 2 year college & is gonna get an undergrad degree in music. She's a pianist if I remember correctly, but I'm fuzzy on that. Anyway, I talked w/ her & she was cool. I can't wait to start meeting more folks, because that's one of the most fun things about doing this festival.

Now for Day 3 ...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summit 09 Day 1

Day 1 was pretty fun, but also really hectic and exhausting ...

It actually all started last night when after working from 5-4 I had to come in to Summit to work on some stuff for one of the concerts that is utilizing a powerpoint & sound effects.

So of course, I walked into a nightmare: The projector wasn't working (I tried two laptops), the lightboard wasn't working, etc., etc. Did my best, didn't get it fixed.

So this morning I go to radio shack to get a DVI to VGA Adaptor ... they of course don't have it, meaning I have to waste time/money & go to the Apple store, who did have it (considering they're probably the only company whose laptops have this problem!). So then I get to Summit & help w/ check-in a little bit & then Brandon comes over to help me out w/ the theater & discovers basically what I discovered. We called Mike Loundsberry - the only faculty member who actually knows how this stuff works & the two of us spent the next hour or two working to get it solved ... only to finally discover that a router wasn't working. (which is an example of really poor setup, b/c the board should have just had a DMX cable running to the Dimmers & that would be that). We had even tried rebooting the Dimmers at one point ... even he thinks that place & setup is a complete mess!

So prior to this, I had been working on the projector w/ Brandon interrupting the poor (and very amazing) pianist who was practicing there & I did manage to get the key from him for the projector screen & finally got someone over from media services & we discovered that the input & output on the device that routes the projector wasn't correct & that was fixed finally.

In between all that, I was showing people to their rooms & managed to miss my rehearsal (oi), but it all worked out cool in the end ...

After all that however, I then had to design a light cue for general concert use & managed to figure out how to use the submasters (after discovering that all my previous cues were as good as useless, because people wrote over them!). So now I have a general cue (that may still need some minor modification due to heat) & groups of lights related to the map, which works great for me!

Of course, then I show up before the concert & realize that with 2 pianos there is some *serious* glare off of the lid pointed towards the audience ... I got 2 of the lights off, but one I just could not find with an audience there ... turned out ok though & I found it afterwards (when I could turn all the lights off).

All in all, it was incredibly long ... I met a few people including Jenny Wu, who was surprisingly 30 & is a PhD in biology & I now have Jeong-Bo doing lights w/ me ... hopefully Andy actually is coming back ... wish I could have met more folks, but the lights sucked up all my time ... I'm sure I'll meet them throughout the week.

I think that's it for the day 1 adventures ... tomorrow I'll actually get to practice!

I now have to trigger sound effects (aka perform) on a faculty piece tomorrow & get 1 rehearsal to do this in (can we say nerve-racking??) ... can't wait till that's over ... though very interested to hear the whole thing ... let's see what day 2 has in store ...