Wednesday, July 19, 2006

About 300 years of jet lag

About once or twice a year I get a really bad headache that shuts me down for at least several hours. This happened yesterday, during the last class of the day. I went back to my room and slept fitfully for 13 hours, missing a concert and a thunderstorm. And blogging. So here is what happened musically yesterday. I discovered that I need to warm up more carefully before rehearsing at 9 am, especially on a still-unfamiliar instrument. I had no focus to my sound for the first entire hour. I also discovered that I HATE G#'s on the cornetto. After two pieces that had reams of the damn note, I finally discovered a fingering that plays in tune. Unfortunately, this fingering involves manual gymnastics similar to balancing on your head while scratching your nose with your foot.

Most of the students here are amateurs that love to play early music. They invest money in all sorts of shawms, dulcians, krummhorns, etc., but many still have difficulty feeling the beat consistently. I had thought I would be learning a lot about improvisation, being given divisions to practice. But instead, everything is in ensembles, with work on tuning and balance when it isn't about getting everyone in the same measure (when there are measures). And I question some of the balance decisions made by one of the teachers. He focuses on strong roots and fifths, with weak thirds. This works with held chords, but I think it is misplaced with some of the polyphony to which he tries to apply it. Suddenly dropping the volume of a note because it is the third can make sense harmonically, but can be quite nonsensical* melodically. And everything I've learned before about polyphony emphasizes the melodic nature of each line OVER the harmonic implications.

I have some freetime, as the mass I mentioned before is rehearsing in smaller sections. I won't have to come back into rehearsal for that until Friday. This is good, especially mentally. I still need to think about fingerings for many of the notes, especially some new fingerings I've learned since I got here. Thus I can get quite exhausted thinking of the notes, the rhythms (everything is in 4/2 or 2/2, with the whole note getting the beat), the balance, and trying to keep the instrument in tune with a dime-sized mouthpiece. I think I will go swimming now.

*That word doesn't look quite right, but I'm too lazy to check.

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