Skip to main content

Pacing

I was watching Project Runway last night as I wound English horn blanks, and in the Finale, Part One, our designers had each prepared an 11-piece collection and were asked to display a small portion of it to the judges to see who would advance to the big final show. Most of our heroes chose to present lesser items from their collections, in order to save the "wow" pieces for the true Finale, and they were chastised by the judges for not putting their best feet forward. Since this event was an elimination round they should have brought their A games and played to win.

The parallel with orchestral auditions struck me right away. We go in with a huge number of excerpts prepared and we are asked to present just a few of them - 10 minutes or so - in each round. Unlike our designers, we can't choose which pieces to play, but you can always choose HOW to play. Some people speak of playing "safe" in the early rounds, and not making risky interpretive choices or going for extreme dynamics. These people speak of saving something for the finals, but this philosophy doesn't ring true to me. There are so many candidates for these positions, and it is so easy to disappear in comparison, and the only way I know to make it out of the early rounds is to play my heart out and commit to every single excerpt. And then to do it again for the next round. And the next.

In contrast, though, the running magazines all suggest starting slowly in a long race to preserve energy for a strong finish. And I used to do that in my 5K and 10K races, but I found that I ended the runs with energy left in the tank which I did not want. And that my times weren't all that fast. Sure enough, when I went out faster I still had the strength to finish strong, and I had a great sense of having left it all out on the course, and my times were significantly improved.

When I ran my first half-marathon back in June, I started out pretty strong. Not all out - I wasn't stupid - but I was coasting along at quite a good clip, and anticipating a good finish time because I knew I was faster than my goal pace. I had prepared and tapered well so I had lots of energy, and I was enjoying myself and passing people. All very well and good, but it turns out that 13.1 miles is a LOT farther than 6.2, and by about mile 10 I was done. I was fatigued, yes, but also feeling pain in my hips, knees, and feet. I slowed. Then I walked. I missed my goal time by only about 5 minutes, but it was not a particularly proud moment. It took a solid month to recover fully and run without pain. I can do better.

I am running my second half-marathon next weekend. I have a time goal, but also a physical one - I want to get to the end uninjured. Therefore, like our unfortunate Project Runway contestants, and UNLIKE my audition self, I will start conservatively and try to maintain my goal pace instead of showing off and wasting the finite amount of fitness and energy I have. I will leave something in the tank for the last mile. I will live to run another day.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Resonance

When my students get too MOUTHY with the oboe, I put them in a corner.

Really.

They tend to play the oboe only from the TOP of their body, north of the collarbone, and it winds up unsupported.  Fussy.  Weak.  And out of tune.

So I back them into a corner, and have them stand a foot or so out from it, facing out into the room.  And I challenge them to find a sound that resonates BEHIND them, out from the corner of the room that they are not facing, to fill the space without blowing directly into the space.

It's a weird metaphor.  I wouldn't have any idea how to describe the physical technique to do it. When I find it in myself, it feels like my back is puffy and my body is round, and large, and barrel like, and also collected and zipped up, and supremely powerful.  If you know me, you know that these statements about my body aren't remotely true.  But that's what I feel when I'm blowing well, and filling the room, and owning my resonance.

I teach resonance.  I talk …

Five Minute Reedmaker: Length of the Windows

My Five Minute Reedmaker Season Two seems to be largely about experiments.  People ask me how LONG, how THICK, how SLOPED, etc - and I'm running the experiments for them and for you.

I've been posting these videos on YouTube, and sharing them from my Facebook Page, but haven't totally kept up with sharing here on my blog.

Here are the ones you may have missed:
Length of the Heart
Fallacy of the Long Tip
Moldy Cane

And here's the new one:




Here's the YouTube playlist with all of my other Five Minute Reedmaker videos.  You could subscribe right there if you wanted to - I'm dropping a video each week until I run out of ideas this season.
Here's my website, where you can order reeds or cane or ask me questions.  Questions will keep these videos flowing! 

Here's how you can send me your own reeds to analyze and improve on video for your learning pleasure!

Generosity in Programming

I had the most interesting conversations with a few of my students after my first recital performance last weekend.  One thanked me for exposing her to so many interesting new pieces that she had never heard before.  One admitted unabashedly that his favorites were the familiar ones, the ones he already knew from his previous listening.  And both of these observations rang true to me.

See, I LOVE learning new music.  I really enjoy digging into a piece and breaking through an unfamiliar harmonic language to get to the depths of it.  To discover the composer's intention, and to find the universal emotion or experience at the heart of the work, and then to communicate that meaning back out to an audience.  This challenge is fun for me, and I think I do it well.

I have to be fair, though.  By the time I have put that kind of work into a new piece, it's not new to me anymore.  By the time I get it to the recital stage, it's an old friend.  I find great pleasure in performing i…