Skip to main content

The E.T. Effect

You know how, in E.T.:The Extra-Terrestrial, E.T. and Elliott are psychically connected, and then ultimately physiologically connected, and when ET gets sick from the unfriendly atmosphere of the Earth, Elliott gets sick too, and then eventually they both magically recover?

I would not have thought that I had that sort of connection with my oboe.  I’ve been subbing with the (amazing, excellent, inspiring) Milwaukee Symphony this week, and it’s been rough going for my new oboe and me.  I’ve been struggling to fit in with the group.  Most surprising to me were several low attacks that I really expected my Bulgheroni to carry off with aplomb.  I kept over- or under-blowing them and missing ever so slightly, and I was annoyed at myself, and super self-conscious about it.  And then annoyed that I was making so big a deal about myself, to myself, and then I would make more mistakes. 

Thursday morning, after two long days of hard commutes, I finally had time to get into a practice room and really warm up well on those low attacks.  And although I was able to find them in isolation, something still felt a little amiss.  I checked all of my adjustments and inspected the instrument, and everything seemed fine, but it just didn’t feel quite safe. 

By half-way through that day’s rehearsal, though, my mood had lightened.  I was feeling confident and enjoying myself.  I was making sounds that I was happy with, and fewer stupid mistakes, and the oboe seemed to be working well, too.  It was coasting in just as I was accustomed to, and the response was right where I predicted it would be, and I felt like I was pulling my weight in the group as I should have been doing all along.  And it seems to me that this is just like what happened to E.T. and Elliott.  The oboe began to work better, and I began to feel better, and it wasn’t just that I didn’t fear the attacks anymore, but that I was alert, engaged, and on top of my game again, which I had not been before.

Now, woodwind players will all know what is coming next. A period of mysterious struggle, with no apparent cause, followed by a dramatic improvement in ease and playability certainly means something.    Either the weather changed dramatically (it didn’t) or the wood worked through its problems and solved them by cracking (it did).   The crack was minor - from a post, rather than through a tonehole - but it relieved the weird internal pressure on the oboe and made it sing again.  I’ll have to get it glued or pinned - but for now things are feeling just great. 

I don’t know whether my own mood and aptitude shift were simply, directly, a result of my instrument working better.  I’d like to think that I’m less shallow than that.  It did seem, in the moment, that we pulled ourselves together at just the same time, and if anything I assumed that the improvement I heard was because I was PLAYING my oboe better, not because it had physically changed under my fingers. 

If I were prone to supernatural thoughts - I rarely am - I would point back to that invisible, magical, E.T. connection and say that this oboe and I were meant to be together.  Perhaps, even, that with that small crack it sacrificed itself for me, as E.T. did for Elliott. 

It delights me a little bit to say that.  I think I will. 

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!

Everybody's Got a Thing

I went in for my yearly mammogram last week. As you know, it's not exactly a painful procedure, but it's uncomfortable, and as I was being manipulated into the unwieldy machine I got to thinking about what a peculiar job it must be to jam women into awkward positions, over and over, every fifteen minutes all day.

So after we were done I asked the technician about that, and she LIT UP, the way people do when they FINALLY get to talk about the thing they are passionate about, and she talked about the advances in the technology since she was starting out, and the things this machine was capable of.  She talked about the women it has saved, from dying of cancer, of course, but also from unnecessary surgical disfigurement.  It was completely inspiring listening to this lady love her weird job, and I left feeling fantastic about the whole ordeal. It's great to see someone who is doing what they are supposed to be doing!

Two weeks before, I had my first Mendelssohn rehearsal with…