Further flute adventures

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Currently working through the second study in Köhler, Op. 33, Book 1.

The last in-person rehearsal of the band I joined in January was March 5. The director cancelled our March 10 and 12 meetings, and, of course, by the end of the following week, well….

For the seven weeks I participated, though, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Developmentally, it was exactly where I needed to be, and the flute teacher who led the sectionals not only was as credentialed as my private lessons teacher but had also performed with her.

In April and May, the band director gathered us via Zoom once a week. Although the meetings were strictly social in function, many of us did contribute to at least one of those collage performances that became ubiquitous in the early weeks of the shutdown. The quality of both our playing and the videos was dubious, at best, and eventually, participation waned. But, to my delight, flute sectionals continued. Rather than meeting as a group in Zoom, though, the sectionals teacher delivered individual lessons via FaceTime, a process my regular teacher and I had mastered by week two of the shutdown. Throughout the spring, then, tedious Zoom meetings were the small price I paid for excellent and unexpectedly abundant additional private instruction.

In late April, I also worked on a video performance of the first movement of Handel’s Flute Sonata in G major (HWV 363b)), my contribution to the annual recital my teacher hosted in mid-May.

Weekly band meetings continued into the summer, but despite the addition of stretching, warm-ups, and some playing, they remained, for me, simply a pathway to sectionals. In June, I suggested to the other flute players that we work on something as a section, and we eventually landed on the lovely “Sarabande” by Claude Debussy, with the goal that the director would dovetail the videos of our individual performances as he had for the collage performances of the band. The deceptively simple Debussy piece and tone and scale work were the focus of my remaining sectionals.

In my private lessons, we have continued to focus on P. Bona’s rhythmical articulation studies; Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute; my new solo, “Morceau de Concours” by Gabriel Fauré; and a weekly duet. You probably already know that it is impossible to play or sing together in Zoom or FaceTime. Well, each week, my teacher randomly selects a piece from the Rubank collections, notes the metronome setting, and within two days forwards me a recording of her playing the second part. During an in-person lesson, she readily adapts to my tempo issues, reading errors, etc., but a recording is a merciless duet partner, which is an unanticipated  benefit of virtual lessons: I have vastly improved my duet work.

I hope to bring that improvement to my recording of “Sarabande,” which the flute section has rescheduled for the spring semester. In late July, I indicated that I would not return to band until then. Although there have been murmurs about in-person but socially distanced rehearsals later this fall, it seems unlikely: All but two band members are over fifty; more than half are in their sixties and seventies. Much as I have adored the additional private instruction, I am through with Zoom “rehearsals” until January at the earliest.

My current daily practice schedule remains much as it was in early January, then:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 to 20 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 to 20 minutes: solo

In July, the music program with which my teacher is affiliated sponsored a series of free, multi-week seminars, and the one she led featured the scales and études high school musicians must prepare to audition for regional and state ensembles. She invited me to attend as either a participant or a viewer, and I chose the latter, which was both wise (those students are terrific and didn’t need this old woman slowing them down) and edifying (the scale work alone has added a new dimension to my practice). They also spent time working through “Dr. Sánchez’s Epic Flute Warm-up.” My teacher had introduced me to this a while back, but in the seminar, she reviewed every bar, and the benefits became more readily apparent to me. Now, once a week, I substitute the warm-up for long tones and scales.

Another change I’ve made to my practice is punctuating each of my first four practice sections with five minutes on a stationary bike — nothing overly exerting, just a bit of movement before carrying on with next bit. I’m not the sort who can abide exercise equipment as home decor, but we scored an incredible deal on a sturdy, folding model that I put away after practicing.

Studying music has ameliorated some of the isolating effects of this pandemic. I remain so thankful to be able to continue.

Flute adventures

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It’s impossible to explain the brain tic that made the Rimsky-Korsokov completely readable, while my repeated errors in 34 finally reduced me to writing it out during a particularly grueling practice session. (Yes, I probably should have erased it once I had “mastered” the passage, but that is, after all, how this sausage finally got made.)

With ornament exercises 34 and 35 (which, coupled with 33 in December, kicked my amateur musician’s capacious ass), I completed the Rubank Advanced Method: Flute, Volume II, at last night’s lesson. That’s kind of a big deal. Even my no-nonsense teacher took a moment to appreciate the accomplishment.

In addition to scale and tone exercises and P. Bona’s rhythmical articulation studies, I am now working in Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1. And in addition to my solo piece (currently Handel’s Flute sonata in G major (HWV 363b)), I prepare my part of a new (reasonably short) duet each week.

My current daily practice schedule:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 minutes: solo

Later this month, band rehearsals begin: twice weekly plus sectionals. At that point, I think I’m looking at another increase in practice time:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 20 minutes: solo
— 20 minutes: band music or other

I’ve already met with musicians in my section and reviewed the selections from last semester. The music is fun but not too challenging — perfect for someone who wants to (re)learn how to play well with others before tackling the challenges of say, the first and second flute part of “Variations on a Korean Folk Song” or Shostakovich’s “Festive Overture.” * Preparation for duets with my husband, who has recently taken up the clarinet, and some exploration (e.g., sight reading exercises and revisiting the pieces in my repertoire, such as it is) will comprise “other.”

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* Which is what I was assigned when I joined the community band of the local college two years ago this month. The group is lovely, and the flute players I sat between were not only solid musicians but kind, patient teachers. Still… The music would represent a challenge to me now. Then? It was almost impossible. “Play what you can,” everyone says, but I felt as if I had missed a key step in my development as a musician. In high school, you usually do some learning and growing in concert band before you earn a spot in wind ensemble, you know? So I have joined the adult equivalent of concert band.

Playing the flute

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Image taken yesterday in the Avenue of the Chinese Musicians at Allerton Park.

It has been two weeks, two plays, two band rehearsals, two flute lessons, one dental emergency, and one and half books since I lasted posted. So much for writing about books over my four-day weekend! My schedule is smoothing out, though, so I remain optimistic: One of these days, I will have time to write about what I’ve been reading.

I know.

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Posting a pic of new books (and, yes, these latest acquisitions did violate my resolution, so I lasted, what, six weeks?) is not writing an entry. In sketching out my plans for the upcoming four-day weekend, though, I added “Write about books read so far this year,” so fingers crossed. (I don’t think I’ve contributed a single post to this year’s version of 52 Books. Here’s hoping they remember me when I finally make my way over there.)

My part-time job is not the culprit, by the way. It’s the flute. Deliberate practice requires time, and in addition to my weekly lesson, I must prepare my band pieces. Yes, I joined a community band, and what a lot of fun it’s been! But also a lot of work. Although I played clarinet in middle and high school, my music education was spotty, at best; so much so that I generally maintain it truly began when I took up flute in late 2014. By that definition, I am the least experienced member of the band and require a great deal of practice time to feel prepared for our rehearsals.

I do love it, though, even it means Nerdishly is heavy on photos for a while.

Geocaches, books, and whatnot

Image taken this past Sunday.

During the first of our two trips downstate last week, we found our fifteenth cache. Small and craftily hidden on campus, it is one that we had been unable to locate in February and March. We must be gaining some skills, eh? Maybe. With our sixteenth find this Sunday, we achieved the sixth of fifteen required caches for the challenge in which we’re participating. Although it is still quite cool here, I suspect it will soon become warmer and buggier than we typically appreciate during our walks in the woods. By Memorial Day, we may need to set aside the challenge until autumn. We’ll see, though.

In the week since my last post, I (re)read eight books:

Fatale (Jean-Paul Manchette; 1977 (2011, English). Fiction.)
Tenth of December (George Saunders; 2013. Fiction.)
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Geocaching, (2012. Non-fiction.)
Briggs Land, Volume 1: State of Grace (Brian Wood; 2017. Graphic fiction.)
Those Who Wish Me Dead (Michael Koryta; 2014. Fiction.)
Henry IV, Part 1 (William Shakespeare; 1597. Drama.)
The Rape of Lucrece (William Shakespeare; 1594. Poetry.)
Henry IV, Part 2 (William Shakespeare; 1597. Drama.)

Graphic novel readers, add Briggs Land to your TBR stack. Short story lovers? Have you met Saunders? He reminds me of Vonnegut in all the best ways. Try “The Semplica-Girl Diaries.” It it works for you, put Tenth of December on your nightstand. (Lincoln in the Bardo should already be there.)

The spring semester of my music lessons concluded last week. As I have done for the past two summers, I will take one lesson during each of the summer months and resume weekly lessons after Labor Day. For my solo piece, I am moving from Sadko’s “Song of India” to Bach’s Arioso from Cantata BWV 156. My older daughter, who is taking organ lessons at the University, and I will also be working on Michael Conway’s “Elegy for Flute and Organ.”

In other news, a female Eastern Towhee spent the day in my yard late last week, so I had a new addition to my backyard list. I haven’t seen the grosbeaks, orioles, or hummingbirds yet, but it is getting to be that time of year again: I have begun assembling my garden containers, and my husband and I redefined a corner of our backyard, adding a border and new plants. I repainted all of the outdoor furniture and repositioned the bird feeders. As soon as the evening temperatures increase a bit more, I will finish planting and install a new, wasp-resistant hummingbird feeder. Welcome to my house, butterflies and birds!

Coming up: My daughters will soon conclude their spring semester. Once they return home, our first two theater adventures will be Harvey at the Court and Relativity at Northlight.

Pursuits

Site of our seventh geocache.

In the week since I last posted, I

■ saw Captain Fantastic — and loved it;
■ caught up on all of my comics, including the final issue of Revival (which was lame);
■ realized that Season Five of The Americans begins this week and set my DVR (Woot!);
■ counted the days until my daughters return home for break (Woot! again); and
■ thrice-dreamed that I was mowing the lawn. It cannot be time for that already, can it?

This weekend, I read and then saw Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land. National Theatre Live’s rebroadcast of the production featuring Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen as Hirst and Spooner, respectively, earned two enthusiastic thumbs up from us.

From early in Act I:

HIRST: Tonight… my friend… you find me in the last lap of a race… I had long forgotten to run.

Pause.

SPOONER: A metaphor. Things are looking up.

Later in the act:

FOSTER: We protect this gentleman against corruption, against men of craft, against men of evil, we could destroy you without a glance, we take care of this gentleman, we do it out of love.

And from the play’s conclusion:

SPOONER: No. You are in no man’s land. Which never moves, which never changes, which never grows older, but which remains forever, icy and silent.

Silence.

HIRST: I’ll drink to that.

If I were a drinker, I’d toast our seventh geocache find. Yes, we made two entries in our log this weekend, one of which occurred before a leisurely walk/hike in a new-to-us park. We arrived at geocaching long after its surge in popularity, but we are thoroughly enjoying this mini-adventure.

If I were a drinker, I’d also toast my new flute. On the recommendation of my teacher, I’ve graduated from a perfectly delightful student instrument to a bold, responsive intermediate instrument that was designed to surpass a player’s needs through college studies. It’s a treasure.

My flute lessons began two years and five months ago, when my daughters, now juniors, began college. My current studies center on Rubank Advanced Method: Flute, Vol. 1. and Pares Scales. I am also preparing the solo “Song of India” from Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Sadko. Hadyn’s “Serenade,” which is the fortieth of Louis Moyse’s Forty Little Pieces in Progressive Order, preceded this and is technically more difficult, but working on expression in “Song of India” has been developmentally appropriate for me, and I will be sorry to set aside this beautiful piece. Speaking of Forty Little Pieces, although I’ve already presented the most difficult, we continue to pepper my list of open assignments with the remaining songs. For this week’s lesson, I have prepared No. 33.

As an adult student and a retiree, I bring two things to this pursuit most of my teacher’s other students do not have: experience and time. Experienced learners tend to question, clarify, synthesize, and study — a lot. All of this requires time. During my first year of lessons, I once confessed to having only thirty minutes each day to practice before that week’s meeting. Usually, I made time for at least three fifteen-minute practice sessions daily; often, four. “Forty-five minutes?” my teacher responded, wistfully. “I’m happy to hear that students [in Rubank Elementary Method: Flute] have done fifteen minutes a day.” These days, I’m deeply chagrined when I haven’t put in at least four twenty-minute sessions daily, and I aim for six or more.

Of course, younger students rarely struggle, as I most certainly do, with velocity, and they have fewer problems “translating” unfamiliar music. Generally, too, they will travel further and do more with their music, including performances, than an adult learner will be able to do. Still, this is a worthwhile pursuit, and I am grateful for the opportunity.

Coming up: My progress on the “Shakespeare in Year” project; what else I’ve been reading; and more.

“Science fiction was a big help.”

imageHas is it really been two weeks since my last post?

■ Only a few pages in the Rubank Intermediate book remain, so I was advised to bring Advanced, Vol. 1 to my October lessons. I’ve been assigned Haydn’s “Serenade” as my new solo piece, and one of my instructor’s colleagues has suggested that two of his students and I form a trio jointly supervised by the two instructors. A year ago, this idea would have made me shudder. Now? I am excited to begin!

■ In forty-eight days, I will be an election judge at a nearby precinct. Earlier this month, on a whim, I looked over our county’s website, made a call, emailed an application, and registered for training. What a lot to remember! Fortunately, the training included several hands-on exercises, and if I am chosen to work early voting, I will gain experience prior to the big day.

■ This is Week 3 of the University of Warwick’s rerun of “Literature and Mental Health,” and it has been every bit as compelling as I had hoped.

■ Like any over-fifty, my husband and I make a number of annual health appointments, and this year, we decided to schedule all of these in September and October. Waiting rooms have this to recommend them: They give one time to finish a couple of books.

From Slaughterhouse-Five:
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And even if wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.

p. 101

So they were trying to re-invent themselves and their universe. Science fiction was a big help.

From The Code of the Woosters:
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“You can’t be a successful Dictator and design women’s under-clothing.”
“No, sir.”
“One or the other. Not both.”
“Precisely, sir.”

Because I only include cover-to-covers, ninety-three titles appear on my list to date. In these years of reading slowly, my goal is usually a minimum of two books per week, and I am positioned to exceed that next month.

What am I reading today? A Fair Maiden (Joyce Carol Oates) and the poetry volume, Stressed, Unstressed. My husband and I will see Julius Caesar at the Writers Theatre later this month — our first just-us theater adventure in thirty years — so I am also rereading that, one of my favorite works of Shakespeare. (“Would he were fatter!”) And I am savoring Kij Johnson’s The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, which features an over-fifty woman with a “never-absent pain in her back.” I think I may love the fictional Vellitt Boe as much as love the non-fictional and now ninety-eight-year-old Diana Athill, whose latest memoir is winging its way toward the forever home.

■ Speaking of the forever home, how much I love it! Although my daughters regularly contributed to its care, over the last two years, they had increasingly less time for all of the tasks that ensure a property doesn’t succumb to “kipple,” so I often worked solo, on the yards, for example. And now that they are at university, it is generally me alone performing the daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal, and annual home rituals. When he can, my husband helps, of course, as when he made the end-of-season inspection of the crawlspace. And we have services for some tasks — for example, soil aeration; tree care; furnace, air-conditioning, and appliance maintenance; and critter control. But often, it is just the cats and I, which means that the rituals take a bit more time and that I must perform more of them (including pet care, which was once the exclusive domain of my older daughter). What I had thought might prove annoying, though, has mostly represented only a slight tempo change in my life’s regular rhythms. In fact, I find that being needed in these new ways is oddly comforting, as if the forever home is enveloping me while I continue to adjust to my latest “new normal.”

Practice

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From Bill Richardson’s charming novel, Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast:

Many people have had this experience, I think, especially where music is concerned. We become steeped in the notion that if we can’t excel, there’s little point in pursuit.

As I’ve maintained before, for me, the pursuit is the point, although when I studied piano, I regularly likened the pursuit to learning a second language as an adult: No matter how much I practiced, facility eluded me, and my “accent” was unmistakable. Now that I teach English to adult non-native speakers, the comparison seems quite apt, but my flute teacher (I’ve been studying flute since September 2014) prefers to focus not on the disadvantages but the many, many advantages adult learners have over younger learners, including their maturity about practice and the purity of their motivation.

I will try to remember that when I screw up the chord and chromatic études yet again. Heh, heh, heh.