Monthly Archives: August 2013

Packing? Ha!

I’m moving soon, so in typical fashion I’m spending my last two weeks in my current space worrying about things I can’t change and doing absolutely nothing about the things I desperately need to do, like buy boxes. Actually, progress on the move is rapidly moving backwards, as I keep picking up free furniture. Meanwhile, in Kitchener, I was thrilled about the fact that I was going to be a quick walk away from work every day in my new apartment, and would even have my choice of three different routes to get there. One of those routes as been fenced off by the city, one of them is undergoing major reconstruction for the next couple of years and will close periodically, and the third is a bridge that the city just discovered is so structurally untrustworthy that it could collapse at any time (as far as bridge engineering fails go, this one is pretty impressive: besides the decay you’d expect, city engineers have determined that not only was it planned according to now-inadequate safety standards, but the construction crews who built it didn’t follow the plans they were given). Until the city has a plan in place to fix it (not to mention funding to do so) it’s safe to say that route is out.

I’m trying to get reed blanks made in great quantity before I go. A friend turned me onto the habit of watching TV while making blanks, and I have to say this makes the hours of work that go into cranking out these things by the dozen pass much faster. I’m catching up on The Sopranos while I wait for more episodes of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy. Maybe there’s something about organized crime dramas that just lends itself to better reed making.


I am not always helpful

I love people, and generally speaking I want people to do well in life, and I want them to overcome obstacles in their path. I admire people who do courageous things like move to foreign countries and learn new languages and do profoundly uncomfortable things in order to grow as people. I want to help these people. I want people who are new to Canada to feel comfortable and at home. Today, an opportunity presented itself for me to do that. Here’s what happened.

A young man came into the Starbucks where I work late in the afternoon. His English was broken and he seemed a little overwhelmed trying to decipher the myriad information on our menu boards. I don’t know if he is an immigrant, or a tourist, or a student, but he was clearly a recent arrival. My coworkers got him set up with a tasty drink. A few minutes later, while I was cleaning the cafe, he approached me and asked:

“Excuse me sir, but why is today a holiday? What do you celebrate on this day?”

I saw that he wanted to understand Canadian culture better. My heart sank as I realized that my answer could only worsen any feelings of culture shock the man was experiencing. My explanation went like this:

I think it’s a holiday today just because otherwise there wouldn’t be any holidays in August. Actually, it’s not even a real, legal holiday, although everyone seems to have the day off except me. The banks are closed. I don’t really know why that is. They don’t have to be.

In Ontario, we used to call today’s holiday Simcoe Day. Toronto still does, or so I hear. Other cities near here call it all sorts of things, name it after all sorts of people. Simcoe Day was named after John Graves Simcoe, who was the first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada. Hundreds of years ago, when Canada was much smaller, it was split into Upper and Lower Canada. On the map, Lower Canada is above Upper Canada and I do not know the reason for this either. So I don’t know why today is a holiday, honestly, all I know is that I’m not getting holiday pay.

“Oh. Thank you.” was all he said. I hope the rest of his time here makes more sense than our conversation did.

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Ignorance = Out of Tune Bliss

I just wrapped up an action-packed and awesome couple of weeks of music making with the Blythwood Winds. Two things that make you a better player really fast: playing with fantastic musicians, and playing Rossini overtures arranged for small ensembles so that you don’t have a whole orchestra to cover up your mistakes. As I was walking out of the Free Times Cafe after playing a program of movie music, one of the servers grinned at me and said “you guys were awesome!” and I briefly thought I had attained my original career goal, which was to become a respectable rock star.

I got home and realized I have nothing on this month, gig-wise. I have a whole month to practice whatever I want. Usually, when this happens, I treat it as an excuse to practice nothing, but frankly I’ve taken enough time off over the last two summers that the concept of “time off” from music sort of loses meaning if it becomes a full-time state of being, so I’m studying scores for next season instead.

I’m starting from the beginning, the first KWS Signature concert of the 13/14 season – Beethoven’s 4th Symphony, the same work I rehearsed my very first day as a professional musician when I joined the Red Deer Symphony in September 2007.  I know the work, but my thought process has evolved significantly since I last looked at it (which is a good thing, as 90% of my thoughts back in 2007 were “oh my god I have no idea what I’m doing, these people are much better than I am and I’m one more wrong note away from being fired”) so I figure it’s time to revisit it.

It has been a strange voyage of rediscovery. I assumed this would be an easy process, going through and marking arrows to indicate where I ought to be pushing the pitch to create a (in theory, at least) perfectly justified harmony. Then I started running into problems. There are rules for every aspect of being an orchestral musician, but what happens when they clash? What happens when the root of the chord you’re supposed to be solidly holding suddenly becomes the third of the next chord so it has to be flat but you’re in octaves with someone else and what if your moving the pitch clashes with the resolution from the second clarinet and now I’ve gone cross-eyed. Sometimes, by delving deeper into something you love, you find out things you didn’t want to really know.

I’m much better prepared than when I started reading the score, but once I get on a kick trying to perfect things, I want to perfect ALL OF THE THINGS and little details end up keeping me awake at night. (That last point is somewhat exaggerated, my overconsumption of caffeine in the afternoons is actually what keeps me awake at night.)