Tuesday, September 6, 2016


This is a really great question because, my other muse, music has come roaring back into my life, and this is what I've been focusing on for a while. Rehearsals started up again for the Tampa Bay Symphony with some wonderfully interesting music, in Dvorak's 8th Symphony, Edward MacDowell's “Woodland Suite” and Richard Strauss's Horn Concerto; the not-inconsiderable string parts for any of us by any means. Strauss enjoyed writing neo-Romantic music and writing it as difficult as he possibly could. Once, a flute player was complaining to Herr Strauss that a passage in “Ein Heldenleben” (A Hero's Life) was unplayable. He looked at the part, and then looked at the score to see that the 1st violins had the same passage. “Liebchen, do not worry," he said, "it is unplayable in the 1st violins, too.” When I lived in Michigan and basically lived in my car, driving from symphony to symphony, we played that thing in the Lansing Symphony. There is a “battle scene” and if any viola player played more than 2 out of four correct 16th notes in the entire passage, I'd be surprised. The thing sounded like chaos, but it didn't sound any better played by the Cleveland Orchestra. Strauss just wrote some crazy stuff!

Okay, so, Richard Strauss's string parts didn't look as horrible as "Faerie's Aire and Death Waltz" by Fibich (it's a parody piece, like the "Viola Fight Song), but his string parts are pretty formidable. Herr Strauss was also one of the founders of BMI, which is why I'm not showing any excerpts here. ALL of his music is still under copyright!

Because I do have “essential” (there's that word again) tremor, I have to “work out” daily, with scales, intervals, string crossings, hand-framing, and a bunch of other gobble-de-gook that string players get, but is meaningless to a non-fretted string player, who uses a bow. Doing so enhances seems to enhance the muscle memory, or embed it in my pea brain. It's a good daily routine, but unlike a physical work-out, I'm not trying to get ahead necessarily, but just maintain my groove. It also makes it easier to read the music and run the patterns.

Viola Clef. The viola is the only instrument that uses this clef. We all play in Soprano (violin) clef and occasionally, some dimwit writes a part for us in Bass Clef or Tenor Clef. We tend to go on strike if this happens. My better 2/3 thinks we should all just add a 5th lower string to the violin (that would sound tubby and woody and awful) and we should just get rid of this clef all together. Somewhere, Beethoven is laughing, because he actually found a use for violas! (We also had a joke that violas only played in 3 positions, 1st, 3rd and EMERGENCY! I don't know why that is, because I "memorized" my fingerboard, and it's a lot easier to crawl around in 1/2 steps than to take leaps, although I can do that accurately, too! ;-)

It also requires discipline, which then I can turn around and apply to writing. I try for an hour a day. Sometimes, it gets so crazy around here, I'm lucky if I get five minutes. With all of the hoo-ha of getting passports, work visas for Japan (which got pretty hilarious I thought) and trying to get the SSA to put my money in the right account, so I can pay my bills while overseas (I'm beginning to suspect the government is incompetent) and deal with “new” insurance rules that I believe are designed to kill us off in a more spritely manner, I'm flabbergasted that I'm sitting here at 10:36 pm on September 6th, writing this for September 7th, 2016, after I just returned from a rehearsal and being gone all day. I guess planning is not my long suit, most of the time.

But, it's the discipline and not all of what I write during that hour, or one-half hour or five minutes is always good, or half-way good. It's a lot of dross and ends up in the Virtual Paper Shredder. Music is the same way. You have to be your own worst critic before you'll be any good at all. Luckily, there are tons of people in both Arts who are willing to assist! Happy #ISWG'ing!
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