Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wanted: A Moment to Think, & a Moment to Write

Ever feel that way?

Work has been super-busy, particularly this week because I'm having to put in extra hours so I can leave early Friday--we have a piano group class at 4:00 in Asheville, which means I need to leave work no later than 2:00 or so.

Had a 2-hour lesson on Saturday afternoon. Awesome lesson. It wore me out, but it was a great lesson. I honestly think I may be playing better now than I've ever played in my life.

Prelude sounds great. I'll be playing it for the group class. I'm mainly working on speeding it up a bit, though Deborah said it sounds fine at the speed it is (about 76).

Fugue: She raved about how well I played the first two pages. The last four sounded good but not great. "You're not thinking in musical sentences." So I need to work on making the last four pages less of a run-on mess of notes. OK.

Liszt: I'm lingering a bit too much here and there, but for the most part it sounds good. I'm playing it for the group class, too.

Elfe: We worked on this one quite a bit. I'm pretty far along in it, actually. I can play the whole thing through, at a nice (but not fast) pace, in blocked chords. I'm starting to practice the broken chords.

That's all for now. It's 6:30 a.m. and I need to get ready for work!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

I Like My Job

I like my job. I love the fact that I don't love my job. The network folks monitor employees' internet rambles, so I'm sure I'll get "caught" sooner or later for blogging.

Thing is, I punch out before I blog, and I punch in after I finish blogging. I work hard at this job. I work from the moment I walk in until the moment I leave, save for the 45 minutes or so I take mid-day to commune with Sebastian, Franzi, Bob, and the rest of them. The only bad thing I'm really doing is using the company system for blogging.

I work for a good company. I have a good, laid-back boss, and I work with some really great people. I've made some friends. Life is good.

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Should I Do?

It seems my blog is dead. Three years of blogging ... gone. I'm not sure what to do now. Should I just blog from here? Should I start a new blog that isn't just piano-related, since piano isn't the only thing in my life? I definitely don't want to use Blogger again. Should I go to squarespace or wordpress or one of the other blogging services?

I've actually been thinking about starting a piano podcast. As if I have the time.

I'm kind of depressed about this. Boo hoo. :(

Short & Sweet Schumann Session

I had a whopping 25 minutes available for practicing today. I spent most of it drilling this:

Have I mentioned that "Elfe" is a complex little piece for a small-handed pianist? I did? Oh, OK.

It was fun, though. It's really, er, stretching my capabilities.

Piano lesson tomorrow! I can't wait!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

45-minute practice

Thursday's practice session lasted all of 45 minutes. I basically flew out of a meeting at 12:00, got to the piano as quickly as I could, let time stand still as I practiced for 45 minutes, then ran back to the office for another meeting at 1:00.

Not much time to write at the moment. (Being important at a job has its perks, but it also means never being able to slack!) Here's what I focused on today:


This is "Elfe." After the usual scales and arps, I spent 20 minutes--20 whole minutes--on this itty-bitty little section. This sure is a complicated "intermediate" piece. It would help if I had Rach-sized hands, but oh well. I'm playing block chords in rhythms, only I can't play block chords in the last two chords of the LH in the section circled above. So, I'm in rhythms, going from block chords to rolled chords for two LH chords. I'm not playing fast, but my hands seem to be scampering elfe-like all over the place.

I also worked on the second 9-against-4 section of the Liszt. (I can't find it on the IMSLP, or I'd post it here for you.) Spent about 15 minutes on that single half-measure.

Last night at home, I worked on Bach. I can play the fugue through pretty smoothly, but each time I play it, little "speed bumps" come up here and there. So I drill and drill and drill the speed bump, and it ceases to be a problem, and allows me to focus on other speed bumps. The good news is, the speed bumps have been getting smaller and smaller and smaller.

So here's what I drilled for a good 20 minutes last night:


Yup. Three beats. Twelve notes per hand. For twenty minutes. That's all I worked on last night.

What makes this passage complicated is that the ups and downs are not quite in contrary motion. It would be so much easier if the RH and LH came toward each other at the same time, and went away from each other at the same time, as in a formal dance. It would also be a little simpler if the notes were even and in the order of the scale, with no thirds, held notes, etc. But no. Notice that the LH is a sixteenth-note behind the RH. I made arrows so you could see how the upward and downward motions of the LH are behind the RH by just a smidgen:


This is a speed bump keeps coming back every now and then. Kind of like a PMS zit. But twenty minutes of drilling fixed it.

Would that PMS zits were so manageable and fun!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I'm Late! I'm Late! But Franzi Wouldn't Wait!

Not a bad practice today. I started with the usual scales and arps and really, really focused on using my forearms and not just my hand/finger strength to strike the keys. This "fingery playing" is a technique issue I've been dealing with for some time, and habits are hard to break--particularly when no one's ever corrected the habit before. But the arm-thing has begun to feel more natural. I'm getting there.

My "intermediate" piece, "The Elf," is from a series of short pieces by Robert Schumann. Here's a blurb from Music Web International:

"The Albumbl├Ątter are twenty miscellaneous little pieces, sounding much like other miscellaneous little Schumann pieces; the playing is precise, dramatic, and idiomatic, but at times I found it hard to keep my attention on them, even though number 17, ‘Elfe,’ is a marvel of pianistic skill. Some may prefer these rather cool performances, but I look for those uniquely Schumann passions in this music and I don’t hear them here." -- Paul Shoemaker

"Elfe." That's the piece I'm learning. I like it with an "e" at the end.

Here's the main part of "Elfe" I worked on today:



To be honest, I'm not crazy about this piece; I much prefer the lushness of Liszt, or even of heavier Schumann pieces. But this one is a nice change of pace, and who knows--since it is "a marvel of pianistic skill," it might be a fun little encore piece, if I ever find my way to a concert stage of any kind (and if I ever learn to play it half-decently).

I didn't have much time after wrestling with "Elfe" for 25 minutes, but I wanted to touch on all the other pieces if nothing else. So I didn't spend a lot of time on the prelude and fugue. I spent last night's practice on a few glitches that had come up in the first two pages of the fugue, so I played through that section again today and it sounded nice. The prelude ... ahh. What a wonderful piece of music. And it is slowly becoming mine.

I really didn't have time for Liszt, but I couldn't stand to leave my practice session without at least checking in on him. (I don't know why I've adopted the principle, "Save the Liszt for Last," but I have. Actually, I do know why. Maybe I'll write more on that later.)

Sounded good. That piece is mine, too. Except for the second 9-against-4 measure, which continues to drive me batty.

Oddly enough, the first 9-against-4 is no longer a problem. It's played with passion and drive. But the second is a bit slower, and a lot more reflective. It's hard to give a sense of whimsical reflection while trying to play 9-against-4. It really is.

So I was late getting back to work. Sadness.

I love the way music messes with my mind. I got the giggles on the walk back to work, picturing a little elfe-like figure riding on the subway in D.C.: A Metro Gnome.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

I'm Still Alive

I'm still alive. I'm just very, very, pre-occupied with the day job. I worked my first 45+ hour week last week, and I'm well on the way to my second.

We were gone all Labor Day weekend, camping near Boone, NC, home of the Appalachian State Mountaineers, who beat Michigan in football on Saturday. (Hubster is an Ohio fan and was delighted.) It was a pretty good weekend, but not a restful one.

"A Sort of Notebook" is gone. I'm glad it's gone. I was so tired of it. I don't know if I'm going to pick up blogging again, but if I do, you, dear readers, will be the first to know.

I managed to eke out 45 minutes of practicing today, most of it on Schumann's "The Elf." Last week was a disaster for practicing, as I didn't take one single lunch break all week, and then I was piano-less for the entire Labor Day weekend. My next lesson is Saturday, so I'm going to try for two practice sessions a day from here until then ... even if those sessions are only 15 minutes long.

I'm two weeks behind on e-mails and am trying to catch up while at work, but it's tough because a lot of my job lately has been spent sitting in meetings. So I haven't had much time or opportunity for "personal business" while at work.

This is just a quick update. More later.