Skip to main content

Bow Envy

I've been watching the bows of my string colleagues this week, and I've realized I'm jealous.  I have bow envy.

I have always loved wind instruments.  There is something so beautifully, terribly intimate about having to generate sound and music with your own personal air, the air you use to breathe and to live.  It's natural to make big phrases that match the shape of the breath, and it's natural to drive those phrases forward to their conclusions, and to the next breath.

When I am following and matching my string colleagues in their elegant, light baroque style, I can imitate the lift that their bows have.  The weight and speed of their bows, and the way they don't force phrases to be longer than the bow itself - these are characteristics of the style we are working in and I can mimic and match this with no problem.  It makes the long long arias and choruses feel easier if I can lift with the strings in all of the tiny rests that occur all the time.  I'm not trying to drive long phrases, I'm playing infinitely many tiny micro phrases to make a big picture phrase, and it's a pleasure to do - but it's a trick made for strings and bows.  I imitate it but it originates from them.

Here's the thing I can't do, though. I can't be truly patient. I can't take a movement of a solo cello suite and let it slowly, endlessly play out, spooling through infinitely long phrases, and building to a place of enormous intensity with no one note or phrase noticeably changed from the one before.  This is not something I can do with my air.  I would have to drive those phrases, and surge up and down, and choose places for a real - not micro - breath. I could still arrive at that peak, and come away from it again, but there's no way I could have the patience of a bow.  Air is more urgent.

I attended an amazing solo string recital yesterday, can you tell?  There's a tremendous amount of talent down here at the Peoria Bach Festival this week.  Tonight was our last concert, and I can't wait to get home and see my family tomorrow - but I always learn and grow at this festival.

This week I'd like to grow a bow.

Comments

  1. You can always buy one, and along with it you can buy the instrument of your choice. Even an instrument that reads in the bass clef. It won't hurt your oboe playing (it eventually will help it). I recall that the oboe professor at Oberlin played gamba. My bow envy turned me into a string player, but I still play winds (my modern flute is getting an overhaul as I write, and my baroque flute is getting her daily workout. My recorders are my trusty pals). Go for it. (Bow for it!)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Elaine, you're the second person to make this very salient point. It's on my list. My long list - but yes, I could see me taking a year of cello lessons and blossoming into a whole new me...

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

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…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.


What a LIBERATING concept!


When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.


I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

We took a vacation this summer.This is not news to anyone in my life - anyone who knows me or especially Steve on Facebook followed along with all of our pictures.We took our travel trailer out to Arizona - via St Louis, Tulsa, Amarillo, Roswell, Santa Fe - and then stayed a week in Clarksdale and Flagstaff and visited some ancient pueblo ruins, Sedona, Jerome, the Lowell Observatory, the Grand Canyon.We swam in swimming pools, lakes, and icy mountain streams.We hiked.Eventually we came home again, via Albuquerque, Amarillo, Tulsa, and St Louis. (our inventiveness had somewhat worn out).After a week at home we took another trip, and drove to Vermont via western NY and the Adirondack Park (stayed an extra day to hike a mountain), lived four days in East Franklin VT, and came home via Catskill and eastern Ohio.
This vacation felt different from all of our previous ones.In the 21 years we’ve been married, I can name only one - maybe two trips we ever took that were not For Work or For …