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!


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sorry there are so many hoops to jump before you can go to Japan.
Music definitely instills discipline. I never miss a day of practice.

Viola Fury said...


The Japanese work visa started bordering on hilarity when we went from "have you ever been convicted for drug use?" to "have you ever been in, or near a person who was using drugs?" (Define "near": on the same block? 'Cause I know I'm guilty of THAT! I can smell the stinkweed every night around here.) I was honestly holding my breath to see if there was the classic "Have you ever engaged in Human Trafficking?", 'cause, yeah, we musicians do a LOT of that; packin' little kids into our cases and all... :D

I was told once, when I was first learning to play that missing a day of practice, would set you back a week. I don't know if this is a fib, or an old wives' tale to scare recalcitrant kids, but it works for me! I notice that the same obtains for writing, though, so I think it's true. :D Thanks for stopping by, Alex!

Juneta Key said...

I bet your excited. All that sounds complicated the music. I love strings tho. Cello has always been a favorite. I used to love that old show Airwolf where Stringfellow Hawk, Michael Jan Vincent would sit on his home back deck on a mountain lake and play the cello. I've been hooked on cello ever since, isn't that funny that show is what turned me onto it.

Travel safely and I hope you have a wonderful time.

Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

N. R. Williams said...

I love music. When I was young I wanted to take lessons but my parents didn't have enough money. I once lived with someone who owned a dulcimer. I invented songs on it. Lots of fun. In college I heard a flutist play on the grounds and so my heroine in my epic fantasy plays the flute. I asked advice about this and was told that both flutist and fautist were correct. Though my spelling may be wrong.

Someone asked me once why I chose the flute and in addition to what I told you a violin might get broken pretty easily in a camping environment.

Good luck with all your endeavors.

Viola Fury said...

Hi Juneta!

Wonderful seeing you here! I still have to visit you! I added your Storytime Bloghop to my site. It is interesting what will draw us in, regarding music. For me, it was when I was 4 years old and listened to a recording of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture" with all of it's bombastic bells, cannons and craziness! My folks played a lot of classical and Big Band music on the hi-fi and I was just in love with it from the first. According to my father, who was my primary caregiver from when I came home from the hospital and he was in college, he would have to put music in the stereo to keep me quiet, so he could study.

My dad also had perfect pitch, which he bequeathed to me. He taught me to sing harmony before I even knew what the word meant and we sang everything from "Skylark" (which is really rather difficult) to "Havana Gila", which was a lot of fun. It has been said that families sing in close-harmony the best; witness the "Beach Boys" and the Wilsons, who besides having Dennis as a musical genius had some of the most thrilling and right-on close-harmony, along with the Bee Gees ever. They're truly wonderful to hear.

But, whatever path brings you to the awakening of the world of music, it doesn't matter. I've also traveled down some mighty strange paths, ala Robert Johnson, the father of R and B, Eminem, who is a flat-out genius and his passion rivals that of Beethoven and odd groups like Def Leppard, who can practically develop an entire movement of a symphony in a 3-minute heavy metal song. There is just worlds within worlds of music and as you explore them, you'll find something to delight in every corner, Juneta! So glad you visited! I cannot wait for next month's question; I already warned Alex, I'll probably end up writing a thesis. Be warned, lol. :D Much love to you, Juneta! Mary <3

Viola Fury said...

Hello N. R.!

Thank you so much for reading and I am so very sorry that you were unable to learn to play when you were a child, but it's never too late. I once had a student who took up the violin at age 72, after he had a heart attack, and he decided he would no longer delay the things he wanted to do. I taught him when I first moved to Florida and he was a delight! I am a huge proponent of the idea that everyone who wants to play, SHOULD play if at all possible!

It can be flutist or flautist; both are correct. As to the delicacy of the violin. People haul them around in haversacks and pull them out and tune 'em up, rosin on the bow, and away they go! So, you can include something like that. The reason you see us toting around these coffin-like cases is most of the instruments we tote aren't so much as fragile as they are very expensive and insured. The cases can often be (as is mine, ugh) steel-reinforced, with a frame and I lug it around on my back. This presents much fun when I'm tearing around with luggage, tote bag, cane and glasses. I usually just put the cane in my tote and follow in someone's wake. I can see that well. We just look like a traveling circus with all of the hard celli cases, bassoons, harps (one customs agent said it looked like something his mother-in-law would travel in) and all of the other crap orchestras drag around.

Most venues have larger instruments for the larger instrument players. I do not check my viola; he gets "his" own seat, and yes, "he" is a "he", named by the luthier who appraised and authenticated him. His name is "Wolf" and he gets his own seat, or goes and takes a nap, either in the overhead, or under my feet.

But a flute is a fine instrument for your heroine in an epic fantasy and seems a natural fit; I really like that idea! Please, try to find an instrument to play, a dulcimer is a wonderful thing. You can go to pawn shops and find instruments that are for sale for very little and find how-tos on youtube. The best of luck in your endeavors, N. R. and thank you so much for visiting! Mary

Elizabeth Seckman said...

I think discipline is very important.. and something I'm short on.

Viola Fury said...


Thank you so much for stopping by! I must admit I have my lapses, but as time goes on, and I aint' gettin' any younger, it's much more important for me to try and AT LEAST pretend to adhere to a schedule. I do enjoy life and haven't lost my own child-like enthusiasms for things that are probably too stupid for most people. That being said, I'm able to keep up, but I do understand you're concern asa well. Again, thank you so much for visiting! Mary <3