Skip to main content

I'm Back!

This past season ended hard. My last two weeks of heavy work were...heavy.  I was mentally bruised and physically exhausted. I didn't have the energy or the willpower to practice, to write, to put food on the table in any caring way.  But that was mid-May, and we've been recovering since.  I have needed and luxuriated in the time.  At this point, I'm finding myself in a great phase of practicing both the oboe and the tarot.  This is the thing I love the most about summer - just having the time and space to dig in deep.

Last week had long been intended as MY week.  I had four days away from home and I'd been looking forward to it for months.  As always, I was overambitious about the way I planned to use my time.  I packed three books, four magazines.  Running clothes.  Three tarot decks.  And 25 minutes worth of difficult solo oboe repertoire that I couldn't play yet, to be performed in two weeks time in front of hundreds of oboists at the IDRS conference.

Mind you, I was in central Illinois to perform with the Peoria Bach Festival, which is not an insignificant time commitment.  But anytime I'm away from my home and my family responsibilities I just KNOW that I'll be able to achieve greatness .

I accomplished a lot.  Of COURSE I'm not exactly ready yet to perform, but the program is coming together.  I got a lot done.  Somewhere in the middle of Friday, though, when I was struggling to drag myself back out of the sunshine and down to my basement practice room, I sat at a picnic table by the river and drew the Five of Swords and Ten of Cups from the Wild Unknown deck.


The combination was immediately resonant.  The Five of Swords is traditionally  about a victory that doesn't feel like one, a short term win that may be a long-term loss.  This deck's image of the earthworm cut in half - the enemy vanquished but arising again twice as powerful - reminded me of the pitfalls of unproductive practice time.

Sure, you can make yourself practice, but if you aren't enjoying it, aren't actually interested and curious and enjoying the journey, you'll be learning bad habits, or practicing grimness and anger into your music.  That felt too close to my last month for comfort.

I don't want that.  I want the openness, joy, and abundance of the Ten of Cups to be a part of my practice time as well as  part of my playing and my performance.  I want to approach the oboe with the right mindset.

So I finished my walk.  I came back to my host's house, took a shower, got a cold drink - and approached the oboe fresh and refreshed.  I took some time to meditate before I started to play.  I began with long tones that brought focus to my brain as well as to my sound.  And then I had a spectacularly productive session, loving the music that I was working on.

Could I have gotten there without that message from the cards?  Sure.  It was an obvious insight.  But would I have thought to sit down, take some deep breaths, and consider how I intended  to practice?  And ponder what was wrong with my mindset?  And decide how best to get back in?

I love summer. I love the oboe.  I love the tarot.

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…