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In which it is proven that I am an innovator

I just want to point out that I got there three years ago.


Ballpark measurements

Q. What’s another term for a viola? Continue reading

Concert Roundup, Back In Full Swing

Back in the saddle again.

  • As promised, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra busts out Bernstein‘s “Kaddish” symphony, with a narrator and soprano and boy choir and everything. Add to that some John Adams and Dave & Chris Brubeck (their Ansel Adams piece accompanied by the titular photographer’s images) and you’ve got a very modern evening. September 28 & 30 at the Meyerhoff; September 29 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • Annnnd they’re back – the National Symphony Orchestra kicks of their season with an opening ball performance featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter. Cool! She’ll be playing Mendelssohn‘s violin concerto. Ugh! (I kid, I kid, but guys, seriously – find a new freakin’ concerto, okay?) Add some Beethoven (YESSS), Sarasate, and Strauss, and we’re in business. September 30. [ See it! ]
  • This week at Strathmore: an urban jazz harmonicist (swear!) and a rock concert complete with tailgate. [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Playing with playing

Play (verb)
1. To occupy oneself in amusement, sport, or other recreation.
8. Music: To perform on an instrument.

Remember in the Suzuki method how every book has somewhere in the area of 32 – 57 pieces by Vivaldi? I remember sometime in late middle school I was practicing one of the violin concertos and still had, oh, fifteen minutes of practice time left.

Of course the smartest thing to do in such a situation would be to spend that fifteen minutes practicing, right? Honing the craft and whatnot. Well, as I pointed out last week, I HATE honing the craft, so I went a different route: I decided to try swinging Vivaldi.

I wasn’t very scientific or intelligent about it; I wasn’t concerned with the nuance of my crossover. I just wanted to amuse myself for a bit. So I played through the whole concerto messing with rhythms, stretching and contracting, syncopating to my heart’s content.

And what did that accomplish? Not a damn thing as far as I can see. But the memory did make me think – how many people ever take a few minutes to just mess around with their instrument? Can any good come of it? I’m sure my readership is composed primarily of very serious and dedicated musicians who are all hyperfocused on technical improvement and virtuosity, but how often do you play?

Drop it like it’s hot, Mr. Perlman

You simply cannot begin to imagine the extent of my supreme joy when Stephen Colbert announced that his guest tonight was Itzhak mothereffin’ Perlman. Or maybe you can – everyone loves Itzhak mothereffin’ Perlman!

EDIT: I very much apologize for my inability to get the embed code to work, but I am SO FREAKIN’ EXCITED about these videos that I’m just going to post the links. Okay? Again, I’m really sorry, but it’s Itzhak mothereffin’ Perlman, people!

You should know that when Colbert said “Drop it like it’s hot” I laughed and clapped a little.

A pragmatic career choice

Who says a music degree won’t land you a job?

The pronounced brow ridge is also a giveaway

Q. How can you tell if a violist is walking behind you? Continue reading

I Coulda Been a Concert Roundup

Because the BSO is playing Bernstein’s On the Waterfront, and… shut up.

  • But first, talking! As the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra website says: “Learn about Leonard Bernstein‘s ‘Kaddish’ Symphony from BSO Maestra Marin Alsop in discussion with Chazzan Emanuel Perlman of Chizuk Amuno Congregation. Program is followed by a Q & A session and a light dessert reception.” Plus everyone who attends gets a 20% discount on the “Kaddish” concert. AND you get dessert. Win-win. September 19 at the Gordon Center as far as I can tell. [ See it! ]
  • Like I said, the BSO starts off its regular season with, oh, what’s that guys name? Oh yeah; Gil Shaham, playing the Barber violin concerto. No biggie. Also Bernstein‘s On the Waterfront symphonic suite and Copland‘s third symphony. September 20 & 21 at the Meyerhoff; September 22 at Strathmore. [ See it! ]
  • The NSO says: wait for it…
  • This week at Strathmore: a viola and guitar duo. Not even gonna try to sell that one (oh, I kid ’cause I love). [ See the calendar! ]

If you’d like your concert included in next week’s roundup, leave a comment or drop me a line.

Playing an instrument does not make me happy

I love music. We know this because I write a blog called Ain’t Baroque.

You love music. We know this because you read a blog called Ain’t Baroque.

But today I would like to talk to you about how music causes me BLINDING RAGE.

A couple weeks ago I was ever-so-gently railroaded into auditioning as an alum for my grad school orchestra. Although I have always hated practicing, I have also loved being inside the music; I thought, hell, may as well give it a shot. So I set up an audition time, borrowed my old violin back from my mother, and set about putting together an audition piece. I unpacked the violin, jury-rigged a shoulder rest, opened up an old Sukuzi, and…

God did I sound awful. Half an hour later, I canceled my audition.

Look, I haven’t played violin in, I don’t know, four years? And I knew, somewhere in there, that I wasn’t going to be able to just magically pick it up again ’cause I felt like it. I did know I could work at it, and get better, and eventually make something akin to real music. But the fact of the matter is this, was this, has always been this: it doesn’t feel good to play.

Holding the violin was not like coming home. It was not an old friend. I didn’t smile ruefully at my own incompetence, and I didn’t decide, with the great ambition and determination of the heroine of a novel, that I was going to practice every day until I could play Beethoven’s Spring Sonata with the same easy grace I did in eleventh grade.

Because even when it was easy and graceful, it was never easy. Even when my fingers flowed and my intonation was right on point, I never felt graceful. At my peak, at my best, my practice time yielded mostly anger. My successes brought me little pleasure. I can – I have – listed the reasons, my justifications, for why I don’t like to play, but the ultimate truth as that it does not make me happy.

There. I said it. Playing an instrument does not make me happy. It makes me angry. It makes me hate myself because I can’t do it right, and it’s not just a matter of practicing harder. Improvement does not make me happy either. For me it has never been enough to be quite good. If I can’t be Itzhak Perlman then I don’t want to play this game.

So. I tried again and nothing was different. And that makes me sad. I wish I could do it, I do. It’s just not where I belong in the music world. But I can write about it, and when I do, I sometimes find myself in a groove where all the words flow, and it’s easy and graceful. That makes me happy.

I may not be a musician, but damned if I don’t just shoehorn myself in among you anyway! There is a place here for all of us – sometimes it’s not behind a music stand, that’s all.

Please turn on your cell phones

I’m pretty sure this is what Tchaikovsky always had in mind anyway.