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.)


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