Thursday, April 23, 2009

i was thinking last night about elvis

I've actually had a lot of downtime this week, due to both my efforts to not overbook myself and a number of cancellations (I'm up to three now, I think). But I'm not complaining. It's giving me the time I need to practice this new music piece I'm playing, one that is so full of details and unusual notations and sound effects that I'm having a hard time working my way through it. The most frustrating part? No matter how thoroughly I prepare (which is a matter that is still up for debate, most definitely), the first rehearsal will suck. Playing something by myself is so completely different than playing it with other people that it's not even comparable, and (for me, at least) there's no real way to be ready for that. I just have to prepare as much as I can and hope I can keep it together when other people are involved.
Actually, scratch that. With this piece, the most frustrating part is how it's printed. Each page is 11x17 and sits on the stand horizontally; ordinarily we'd have pages that were somewhat larger than normal but still sitting vertically. I'm supposed to have three of these pages out at one time. That's going to involve two stands per person and a lot of squinting. Why? At home, because I only have one stand, I have to practice it on the table. If I hadn't bought that rolling cart last week I suppose I'd be on the floor. Grr.

And then there's the actual part. Check this out: staves! I normally look at one line, and here I have three. I am no pianist, sir.

And here's an example of the many things I'm reading at once. The top stave indicates where my bow is in relation to my bridge (the piece of wood that holds up my strings) and the squiggle indicates how I should be vibrating with my left hand.

I mentioned I write a lot in parts, right? There's a whole section where I'm alternately plucking, plucking and using my left hand to damped the sound, tapping with my left hand fingers, and tapping one finger while dampening again with the remaining fingers. Oh, and sometimes I bow, and sometimes that's with the hair and sometimes it's with the stick. Hot damn.

Did I mention that I also have to tune all of my strings down a half step? Oy.
But actually, this wasn't what I meant to talk about at all. I meant to write about dal niente's last concert, which was wittily entitled Hard Music, Hard Liquor and was supposed to take place at a local bar. Except the bar double-booked us with a band, and so we ended up in a viewing gallery of a tattoo parlour next door. Imagine: a large group of contemporary classical music fans have turned out to hear some of the hardest music we've ever seen performed live. (The saxophone solo was called Asphyxia, just to give you an idea.) We sit in a large room, surrounded by paintings of mostly-naked bikini-clad woman (the one behind the performers actually appears to be fondling her own breasts in an orgy of male imagination) and--wait for it--the second-largest painting of Elvis in existence. (Or maybe in North America or something. I don't know.) It was at least 12x12, very possibly larger: Elvis, in profile, had visible sweat on his hairline and a big, blue, cheesy tear running down his cheek. Priceless.
Oh, and the concert was pretty awesome too. And then we all lived up to our self-prescribed title of "a drinking group with a music problem." Good times.


pulley-whipped said...

hot damn. i didn't know musical notation could creep me out. but it does.

awesome slogan ps

ammie said...

Tell me about it. This piece is eating my head a little bit.
And yeah, I wish I could take credit for that! I can only take credit for my part in the activities that led to that slogan being created.