Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shufflin' along

Just had a birthday. I've now been back at bassoon for two years, and taking lessons for one. I tried listening to some of my old recordings, to see if I've been making any improvement, but nothing was too obvious. Oh well. I took a look at the RCM Exam syllabus, figuring that if I could find a level in there that I was comfortable playing at, maybe that shows where I am. Most of the music I don't have, but I did try recording one of the technical etudes for the Grade 1 exam, from early in Weissenborn. And while it doesn't look hard on paper, I wasn't entirely happy with how I sounded on it. I tried consoling myself by opening up Weissenborn not to something easier, but all the way back to the beginning, page 1, lesson 1. Half notes on C, with the occasional B, D, and quarter note thrown in for variety. It doesn't get easier than this, it really doesn't. Nevertheless, I found that trying to play it, and make it sound good, was very difficult, all consuming. Yet I felt that it was working, like I was able to get most of the way there, like I was achieve some semblance of the way I could hear it in my head, if I tried my very best. So maybe that's my level.

I've still been working on Ode to a Toad. I think I've been being a little sloppy about the articulations and rhythmic feel, among other things, so I've been taking it slow, like half tempo. At this pace, the basic rhythm pattern (written quarter note-eight note triplet, with a staccato on the quarter but not the eighth) becomes what I think is some kind of shuffle, a really heavy dumt, BAH-dump, BAH-dump, BAH-dump, heavy and long on the eighths. Really it kind of reminds me of what the boys on the elementary school playground sang when they were joking about di. (What's the name of that song? Buh dah di dah DUM,...) And, you know, in this interview with Tim Price, Pizzi talks fondly about working strip clubs when he moved to LA - music in the trenches. So maybe that's right, maybe that's the right feel for this piece -- at least at half tempo. At quarter note = 120, a different question entirely.


  1. Oh, you're being ridiculous. You're at about a grade eight level. Probably would need some practice on some of the ear training, since you haven't been doing it all along (like as a kid), but aside from that. A grade one student is supposed to play a grade one etude in a manner appropriate for a grade one student, not like God.

  2. Oh, and Ode to a Toad rocks, by the way.