Skip to main content

Keeping Busy

I had a really interesting gig last night. Technology is amazing.

I'm playing next week for a big event which is being taped at a huge sports arena in Chicago, and about which I cannot go into further detail. As I understand it the engineers are concerned that in that space our live music won't be heard or recorded at a high enough quality to put on television, so we met last night at a posh recording studio to rehearse and lay down some safety tracks. I love this amount of attention to detail. It's worlds away from the kind of attention and resources an orchestra at our level can devote to ANY project, EVER. This is how the big guys do things.

The challenging thing about a recording session like this is that the performance has to be perfect. Sometimes the notes are very challenging, more often they are not - but you never know that until you get there that day. What's on the stand can be four notes or the Rite of Spring, as my husband, the bassoonist, discovered to his dismay. Things can change suddenly, too - we were asked in the middle of our session to transpose one number on sight.

Either way, once the "tape" is rolling, one wrong note or missed attack can cost the take, and there are 15-20 musicians and multiple producers and recording engineers who are being paid for every minute they spend in the studio, so there is a lot of pressure to do it right the first time (and every subsequent time). I was keenly aware of this and worked hard to make sure we didn't have to go back for me. My colleagues are wonderful and very professional players, and were spot-on every time, even as the night got later and later.

Because here's the most interesting part. Our orchestra of strings, winds, and harp was in Chicago, but the keyboard, rhythm section, horns, and music director were in LA, doing the same project at the same time. As soon as they got a take that was just what they wanted, it was sent electronically to us, and then we had to layer our material on top of theirs. At times we had to sit around just waiting for theirs to be done before we could continue with our work. And when it was 8:15 for them and they were working on the last few pieces, it was 10:15 for us (and 11:15 for me, as my South Bend bed is on Eastern Time).

This way, when we come together next week to do this live, the music director will have his accustomed key players, but they won't have had to fly an entire orchestra across the country to play for one day. Technology is amazing. I love this work.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

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…

Self-Talk

When we started the opera cycle (An American Dream, showing at the Harris Theater tonight and Sunday afternoon), the four woodwinds were sitting stacked in a rehearsal room.  In other words, the flute to my right, the bassoon behind me, the clarinet behind the flute, just like in the orchestra.  And it was OK.  We were fairly close together, the room was resonant, and we were working on orchestral details.  But when we moved into the pit, this seating felt VERY isolating.  The four of us were far apart, on two different levels, the wall was right next to me, and intonation and ensemble were very much more difficult.  Our entrances and releases were not clean together, and because we had to balance to the singers on stage, I found my playing getting more and more tentative.  Don't be too loud, don't come in early before the clarinet, keep everything in the box, try to lead the entrances but stay in the texture... And it felt like everything that was not quite great was my fault…