Monday, September 28, 2009

Clever commercials

So I was watching Heroes today, and a commercial for some toy train set by Playskool came on. At least I think it was Playskool. Whatever. Anyway, the jingle for the commercial went "Play, Laugh, Grow", and the notes were something like "D, A, C". But being the nerd I am, I instinctively began singing it in solfege syllables. "Re, La, Do!"

Do you see the connection?!

Anyway, I played for the first time since So was here today. Wasn't too bad, but my arm still doesn't feel great. I hope it gets better soon. I think it will--it's not hurting anymore, so I know that's better. But it still feels pretty weak.

I'm trying to get my life as a whole super organized, now that I have some time to do that. To start, I've changed my active email address from to Honestly, the biggest reason I wanted to switch to Gmail is because I liked the idea of being able to delete Thunderbird off my computer. Don't get me wrong, I think Thunderbird is a great program. But if I'm using Internet Explorer, I want to use Outlook Express for email. If I'm using Firefox for browsing, I want Thunderbird as my email. But I use Google Chrome as a browser now, and Google doesn't have a client-side email application. Honestly, I freakin' love Google. I use Google Chrome, Google Pages, Google Calendar... heck, YouTube and Blogger are also owned by Google. If Google takes over the world and suddenly I find myself under a worldwide dictatorship, so be it. At least I'll be able to find my shit.

My laptop is on it's way out, unfortunately. The power jack is failing more and more, the longer it's on... I have a feeling by the end of this week it will become completely unresponsive. I need to purchase a new power jack and have someone replace it for me (unless I want to try to replace it myself, but that's risky). Once I do that, I need to replace the battery. After that, I need to fix my iPod. After that, I need to repossess my desktop and fill it with memory/ram. If I can do all of that, I will reorganize my software and keep my laptop for personal stuff (homework, email, browsing, and of course chatting), and use my desktop strictly for music and perhaps some gaming (like I have time to do that anymore anyway). Apparently desktops are way more stable than laptops in general when it comes to music stuff, and if I can get the right upgrades my desktop should do me a lot of good.

I actually really miss playing video games. It's weird... during the school year, I'm pretty much scared of playing them because I assume there's something more important I need to do. However, it's one of those things that really helps me blow off steam from the stresses of school. I guess everyone needs a hobby, and gaming for me isn't like how it is for most basement-dwelling 20-30 year olds who got their degree in computer science so that they could use irc in all of their classes. Every game I play, I'm playing it like it's a form of art--listening to the music, seeing how it interacts with the artwork, the gameplay, how the art interacts with the gameplay and the script, how the script interacts with the music, etc. The game to best achieve this balance for me is by far Cave Story (or Dokutsu Monogatari, if you are Japaneasily inclined). Closest thing to a perfect game you'll ever play.

Of course, writing blog posts like this aren't really much of a better use of my time. I guess at least I'm writing, which is something you're supposed to be good at.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Busy weekends!

It's funny, seems like the weekend is the busiest time of the week for me! I guess if I had to choose between a two day work week versus a five day work week, my decision would be pretty obvious.

Haven't really played since the So Percussion incident, with the exception of a few triangle notes in PSO (for our concert tonight!) Worked until about 4 or so, went to the library to check out some scores, and started going through Strauss' Burleske in D minor with the recording and my part. I figure if I can't play right now, I better be able to understand this music inside and out.

I'm pretty worried about how I'm going to keep up this year. I'm probably playing Village Burial in December, I have a recital in February (well, technically in November but I highly doubt it's going to be ready by then... I'm probably going to take an incomplete), an audition for Yale in March or April, and between then and now I just want to get really good. However, I feel like I can't keep up with everything. I definitely couldn't afford to take this break, I'm barely keeping up with my VB part (thank god for the chanting sections), I haven't found half of my setup for ...And Points North (theater piece by Stuart Saunders Smith), I haven't played marimba in like a week, and I've only finished one page of Omar (vibraphone piece by Franco Donatoni) when I'm supposed to have the notes to the first movement learned by the time Bob gets back. On top of that, I've got a whole slew of snare drum stuff that I need to learn for David Skidmore (Bob's teaching assistant), and four major orchestral works on timpani. Personally, snare drum is the most important to me right now, because it's my weakest discipline. However, academically, everything else is more important! Argh.

My right arm is feeling a lot better since Thursday. I went to therapy Friday morning (which helped a lot) and have been resting it since then, so hopefully I can start using it again soon. It still feels weak (which is strange, I'm not used to my left arm feeling stronger than my right), but I think I'll be back into playing soon. Just gotta stay smart!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Who knows.

Funny how things work out. Yesterday, my left arm was super tired. But today, it feels fine. However, after another full day of playing Drumming, my right arm is feeling pretty bad. I'm gonna have to take the weekend off from playing, unfortunately. Hopefully, by then, it'll be all healed up and ready to go. Who knows.

Teaching jazz ear training was fine this morning, even though I had to miss pretty much all of the morning So Percussion class. Only one person showed up on time, however--everyone else was anywhere from five minutes to twenty minutes late. I guess that's just a jazz thing. Who knows.

Orchestra (both concert and symphony) seems particularly nasty this year. The common opinion among the Peabody student body is "oh man, Teri (our conductor) sucks, I hate orchestra so I don't care about it." To be completely honest, I'm not particularly fond of the way Teri conducts, how he runs rehearsal, or how he interacts with students. It's not a personal thing--I'm just not a fan. However, it frustrates me to no end that the people who complain about orchestra the most are the ones who consistently come in unprepared and don't try at all to make the music sound good--especially because Teri actually does a really good job doing his homework as our conductor and coming to rehearsal prepared. I really felt for Gleb (sophomore clarinetist, playing principal in the Barber Second Essay) today--he has a lot of really hard stuff to play (both solos as well as just tough ensemble material), and he showed up to the first rehearsal with that shit nailed to the wall. We just had our third rehearsal, and he still sounds fantastic. However, Teri tore into him a couple of times today about rhythmic stuff, how he needs to count, the usual. The thing I found really impressing was how he took all of the comments from the conductor, immediately adjusted to his demands, and was able to maintain the same musical integrity he had before. I wished two things:

1. For Teri to acknowledge to him and the orchestra how well he was doing,
2. For everybody else to know their parts like he did (myself included).

Teri really isn't looking for much music right now, and I'm not sure if that's his fault or ours. Teri's been really fixated on counting lately, saying things like "orchestra, you can't feel this music, you have to count it" way more than he normally does. I don't think that's necessarily true--people aren't trying to "feel" the music... they just don't know it. People need to learn their parts, listen to the piece, get familiar enough with the music so that by the first rehearsal, people aren't sight reading and we can actually focus on things like musicality. Once everyone in the group has their part nailed to the wall, then we can complain about Teri. But right now, he knows this music better than we do--so we can't really complain.

Honestly, it puts me in a strange situation. I think part of the reason the orchestra is so unprepared (for this example, especially PCO) is because we have a lot of young, wide-eyed string players, many of which who have never been in an institution of this caliber and are looking for inspiration and eager to fall in love with orchestral repertoire. We absolutely do not get this under Teri's baton, and I don't think that many would disagree with me there. But at the same time, that's just because Teri is not that type of conductor--and it would be a little silly for him to try to fake something like that. Teri is the type of conductor who comes to rehearsal knowing the music inside-out, and expects everyone else to know it like that too. He's not looking to be your friend, he's not looking to have fun with you, and he's not going to put up with anything he considers bullshit. What he wants, and I have to respect this, is to be able to work with musicians who are as prepared and serious as he is. Personally, I'd love to have a conductor who is both. So what do I do? Do I don the attitude of "man orchestra sucks I don't like Teri so I'm not gonna care about it", and resolve to the fact that we're going to suck and I didn't try to do anything about it? Or do I have to start tapping violinists on the shoulder and say "dude, how about you do us all a favor and go learn that rhythm", and perhaps even burn a few bridges along the way? Maybe, as I often do, I can find a compromise. Who knows.

In more positive news, even though working with So might have cost me an arm (but not a leg, as the saying would continue), it made me realize that I would really love working with a group like that for the rest of my life. There are even a few people in school with me right now I could see my self playing with for the rest of my life. Who knows!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Hello, bandwagon!

After reading through the blog of my good friend and extraordinary artist Doug B. Horak, I decided it was time for me to jump on the blogging bandwagon. Who knows, maybe having a real, true to life "Blog" will encourage me to actually write intelligently about intelligent things, as opposed to the constant stream of non-sequitur blurbs that Livejournal, Twitter and Facebook have encouraged me to spew over the past couple of years. Those jerks.

I guess you can expect to hear all sorts of stuff about my life as a classical percussionist, jazz percussionist, video game remixer/composer/enthusiast, college student, runner, cook, nerd, and general human being. For example, I just got done with a long day of working with the percussion chamber group So Percussion, who came to Peabody today to work with us on a lot of stuff. I played Village Burial with Fire by James Wood for them today with the rest of my group. We had been needing a coaching with somebody for a while, and So had a lot of great things to say. The piece opens up with a lot of chanting and screaming, as we're trying to portray somebody pretty much being burned alive. It was at points more of a voice lesson than a percussion lesson, as they talked to us about how we should be placing the notes in our respective ranges. They also gave us some ideas about the unison instrumental section we played for them (I'm playing the xylophone part... which is really hard!), but for the most part it seemed we really had our stuff together and they were pretty please with what we had so far! Guess I don't need to be so worried about it. Now to just learn the xylophone solo.

After that, we learned all about the Steve Reich piece "Drumming", which I have decidedly named this blog after. Learning that was pretty much centered around playing the core motif over and over and over again. I got to play both some marimba stuff and some bongo stuff with them. My left arm is super tired. I hope I didn't overdo it... but on a positive note, my right arm feels great! What a trooper.

Tomorrow I have to teach the jazz ear training class (the first of five weeks), as well as play in orchestra and do more stuff with So. I'm a bit worried about this year... I have a lot of music to learn, and I'm still not sure how to balance it all out without blowing my arms out again. I think I'll be okay... but I can't have too many days like this one.