Friday, 16 September 2011

Time to start making posts shorter but more frequent: more fun to write, probably more fun to read too.

Today I'm off to the library, then the computer lab, then the doctoral colloquium, then um, Amsterdam. I've managed to resist somewhat getting over my jet-lag from two weeks ago. I've still been waking up at 7 or before (and I do love mornings), and last night managed to be asleep by 10 or so. Ok, these are normal hours for many folk, but as touring musicians tend to be up from 9 or 10 to midnight or so (also more normal hours for me), it's now only a 3 or 4 hour shift instead of a 6 hour one. Two nights ago I thought I'd fallen off the bandwagon when I couldn't sleep, then when I did I dreamed that I went to the airport without my passport, with an empty instrument case, and with a favourite small swiss-army knife in my carry-on, and I woke up still running for the plane. This morning I woke up much more gently, with this in my head.

My neighbours have been surprisingly tolerant of my tromboning every night, they've turned on the TV a bit louder, or more often started practising something themselves - something plucked - they're rather good. I found myself holding back though, not playing as loud as I really needed to to build up the right breathing and lip muscles (and getting a bit tense), so yesterday I took my trombone into school (we call Universities "schools" in Canada) and found a big rehearsal room to play in far from the 440 pianos. It was great.

Only, I realized part-way through that most of of the annoying markings on the part (which I couldn't erase because it was a photocopy) were in my own handwriting. Fascinating. That would have been from February 2006 then. I'm curious to see if the dynamic markings I wrote in then will be valid at Sunday's rehearsal. I remember back then I was using my baroque trombone with crooks in it as we played at 415, and because crooks make the instrument tune very differently, I had written in quite a few arrows to help me remember in which direction I would have to correct. I'm on a different trombone this time around and most of them now go the wrong way. But it's ok - I don't write much in the score anymore unless it's completely counter-intuitive, and hadn't been using them. I was a bit surprised at the number of markings I wrote back then, but to give my 26-year-old self a bit of credit, my teacher had been sitting beside me in those rehearsals, and I think I'd have written in quite a bit more than usual just to show I was listening. Hopefully they'll have the originals at rehearsal and I'll bring a big eraser.

Of course a lot of practice time I've spent stressing over the sheer quantity of high notes, which sometimes come along relentlessly when one is already quite knackered (like after a mass and a half - why are we doing two? Oh dear, ANOTHER Sanctus!). Most of this practice therefore, while superficially calisthenic, actually mainly involves learning how to mentally prepare for these concerts. This, oddly enough, involves noting when a stressful situation is coming up, taking the ensuing anxiety (which I have a lot of), and consciously replacing it with another intense emotion (which I also have a lot of). Joy seems to work best and with a bit of work is plenty strong enough to compete. I think there is something physical that happens to breathing when one is suddenly joyful, and it seems to work, so practising becomes an exercise in being joyful at the right moments. No shock then, that I always finish these practice sessions in an excellent mood.

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