Archives for category: cello

When 2 of every 3 papers I have to write are “Reflection” assignments, the very word reflection has taken on a loathsome tinge. A case of familiarity breeding contempt? Perhaps. Nonetheless, I find an inquiry into the etymology of the word to be useful. Reflection comes from the Latin root reflexionem, to flex. To bend backward. To stretch. So, to stretch again.

On the MIT program: I’m feeling significantly less stress re: keeping up with readings and writing the papers this quarter. I’ve acclimated to the demands, and also figured out how long it takes me to get through readings and draft papers. Basically, it takes me 1-3 minutes to read and annotate one page of academic text, and it takes me two hours to write one polished page.

On living a balanced life:
I just heard “A Good Heart”, a new song from Cowboy Junkies that I am absolutely in love with. I want to do a version of this with extended cello and piano. Someday?

On downtime and breathing space: 3 energetic kids, a continual bubbling stream of houseguests, the nature of my program, and significant commuting time all provide lots of opportunities for me to practice being zen.

I’ve been thinking about mirror neurons since I attended PNB’s All Balanchine performance in April. Why does the lissome grace of trained dancers affect me so much? Why does it make me feel elated and inspired and alive? While the straightforward reflecting action of mirror neurons is disputed, there definitely is cognitive resonance going on, with one discipline influencing another.

That brings me to last night’s sublime performance: cellist Joshua Roman performing with pianist Helen Huang last night at Seattle’s Town Hall. He was expressive , playful, intent, brilliant, and a comfortable public speaker. I’m just mesmerized by the kid. I loved seeing him play in a smaller venue; I loved that it was true chamber music, unmiked, and that the composer of a lengthy piece was present.

Also, the fact that I hoofed it up First Hill at a pretty fast clip just before the performance probably added to my appreciation of the music. (We learned something last night. When your ferry has been delayed and you’re trying to get to a concert on time, you can plan to take a cab from the ferry terminal. If you’re short on cash, there is an ATM on the ferry boat. Once you’re off the boat, walk down to Alaskan Way, where there are always waiting cabs. Except on a night when there’s also a Sounders game. Then there are no cabs to be had or hailed for the entire 10-block-walk to Town Hall.)

And all of the above leads me to this: on Tuesday, I went to my lovely professor’s house for the last class of the quarter. There, she gave us a personality assessment that correlates with multiple intelligences and the kind of learners we are. So since then, I’ve been thinking about kinesthetic learners. This test (based on the work of Howard Gardner) showed that I am only partially inclined to be a verbal and visual learner, while I am completely, 100% likely to learn through kinesthetic means.

What does this mean? On one hand, it means that when B. is showing me something on the computer, I tell him: Don’t show me– Let me do it. Walk me through it. It explains why I am tied to pen and paper for note-taking. It helps to explain why I need to print out journal articles and physically annotate them to really process them, rather than use a computerized note-taking program.

It also explains why I do my best thinking while walking, why I’m willing to do pilates early in the morning, why I feel mentally sluggish if I have been sitting for an hour in class, and why I am so interested in physical classroom design.

On the other hand, what does it mean in terms of language arts and academics: deriving meaning from a written text? This is a great mystery to me. Right now, I’m inclined to head in an interdisciplinary direction and bring in theatre, dance, etc. into my classroom.

I should mention that the widespread acceptance of multiple intelligences and learning styles does not mean that there is a clear best-practices way to teach to these multiple learning styles in a diverse classroom. The 2009 Association for Psychological Science critique raises the point that students would need to be grouped by learning style and taught to their strength to derive consistent benefit from any learning-style teaching approach.

The Bee Eaters‘ concert last night at the BPA was an extraordinary experience. The four-person band (banjo, hammered dulcimer, cello, fiddle) played to a full and enthusiastic house, and since they return to Bainbridge regularly, I’m already looking forward to hearing them again.

Simon tunes his hammered dulcimer before the show. He plays with such grace and precision, he becomes a dancer at the dulcimer.

They play around with enough dissonance to give their sound a new-music edge, while being firmly grounded in traditional American/Appalacian roots.

Or in other words, my best birthday present ever.

The program itself was music from a century ago; beautiful and very much to my liking: Hindemith for strings and brass, Bloch’s Schelomo, and then Franck’s Symphony in D minor.

Joshua struck me as a very self-possessed sprite on stage. I love the way he cradles his cello between his knees and rocks it as he plays, conveying an utter oneness with the music. He is physical and restrained at the same time.

Schelomo, the Hebraic rhapsody, is supposed to convey the themes of Ecclesiastes–a quite dark book of scripture–with the cello being Solomon’s voice. Joshua’s performance was deeply compelling, enveloping, sonorous and enchanting.

Clapping until my hands hurt, he walked out again and again and finally sat down for an encore. And guess what he played?

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Minuets in G major, the very same pieces I immediately loved and the ones I began learning earlier this week.

The only thing that made the evening better was the great kindness of a couple in the lobby during intermission–they had to leave early, and gave us their box seat tickets. So we enjoyed the Franck symphony close enough to see every expression on Gerard Schwarz’s face.

On Thursday, C.F. and I continued working through the Telemann duet and the first 3 pieces in Suzuki book 4. I really love the Bach minuets in G major, so C.F. played them for me and then with me, slowly.

My goal is to play them for my family reunion in July–perhaps a bit delusional, but deadlines are very motivating for me, and simply taking lessons doesn’t provide that sense of an urgent need to practice!

One of the things I really like about C.F.’s approach to teaching is the way he encourages me to find what I like, and practice that.

I had a good lesson yesterday after a three-week gap in lessons. It’s nice to get back in the routine, and my suspicion is confirmed: lessons at two week intervals is ideal for me, but if I go any longer, I’ll fall down that steep slope of wavering intentions.

Still trying to get that first flashy piece in Book 4 up to speed; I spent nearly 2 1/2 hours just on that piece yesterday. C.F. was complimentary as always, and most importantly, he corrected my technique.

On another note, I heard about a Seattle band called Blue Star Creeper–they have a cellist in their group, and I’d love to hear them sometime.

My lesson with C.F. was encouraging yesterday; sometimes I just have to consider my lessons with him as intensive practice. Whether I’m ready to acquire new skills or really need to go over and over certain passages, I count the hour well spent if I’ve been making music.

Oh, and I wanted to show you what happens when you don’t practice enough:

I think the spider web doesn’t show up, but boy, this little guy was trying to weave a fast one on me!

Great lesson today. We worked through the first piece in Suzuki book 4, a sonatina from the classical period. We’re moving out of the baroque stuff and into some melodic, sonorous pieces, so I’m working on developing a rich, bel canto quality to my tone. This classical music, courtly music, is like the era of construction rather than deconstruction. Everything beautiful and measured.

Double stops are gradually getter easier, though they’re still tricky if one of the notes isn’t an open string.

I learned something about dynamics today: the alternating piano and forte parts are called terrace dynamics.

I had a really good cello lesson on Thursday. I played through the last 3 pieces of Suzuki Book 3 with C.F. with some confidence, which translates to expressiveness with the bow. He wants me to practice an etude that focuses on double stops (a term until now, I was unfamiliar with)—chords, which on the cello means just two notes at once. We went through it slowly. Quite challenging!

I’m just beginning to add vibrato, on occasion, when it comes naturally.

I’ve made it to the end of the challenging 3rd Suzuki book! At least, C.F. went through the last 2 pieces with me during our lesson on Thursday. Now it’s up to me to practice and polish them, and then onward–he assures me that the 4th Suzuki book is easier than the 3rd.

I’m working on playing with more movement and ever more precision–something that brought cellist Joshua Roman into our conversation. I still haven’t seen him play, but C.F. encouraged me to catch him before he leaves the Seattle Symphony (he’ll be back, of course, but he won’t be ours!). So last night I bought tickets to see him in June. I missed his Radiohead performance in January, but I love Bloch, so I’m very excited!

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