Saturday, March 31, 2007

no speeches prepared, but...

I just won a job, section bass in the Calgary Philharmonic! I'm sort of in the ecstatic, wanting to tell it to the world stage at the moment - you, my blog readers, being the nearest thing I have to contacting the world directly. I'll definitely have lots more to write about it soon. Right now I just wanted to say:


Thursday, March 29, 2007

how hopeful...

And yet, and yet: how hopeful each individual person is every time again, how real, how well intentioned, how rich. When one then looks at the confused and dreary crowd, it is impossible to grasp that the individual loses himself there in this way as if without a trace.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, The Poet's Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke
Lots of my New World Symphony colleagues have been heading off for auditions in recent weeks, flying off to all corners of the country and beyond. Just as in that Rilke quote, they all leave hopeful, real, well intentioned - maybe not rich in net worth, but definitely with a wealth of musical ideas! An audition can be a confused and dreary crowd, though, and you hate to see people return back diminished. So many of my friends have gotten very close, and made great strides - still, there's a sense of disappointment when they don't get that final yes!

I've been thinking a lot about Danny Matsukawa's idea of a "musical mission" as I pack and get ready to take my own audition - in Calgary this weekend. I have a lot of hopes and expectations for myself, but I'm trying to not let too many of them hinge on the final outcome, which I can't control. I want to play with a real sense of confidence, of phrasing and line and beautiful sound, and really show how I can play. I want to present the kind of audition that makes people stop checking notes, allows them to sit back and relax and enjoy a real performance. Even writing these hopes down seems a like an act of courage - I know it's a lot to ask of myself. But I know the music, I've prepared it well, and that faith can help guide me, I hope!

I won't have Dan Wakin to report on this audition, and my computer won't be coming along either - but when I get back next week, I'll try and write more about it. I've been a little negligent of the blog, these last couple weeks, but I'm grateful that so many people have kept checking in and reading the few scraps I've written!

Here's one more Rilke quote, which helps remind me of a larger purpose in all this self-absorbed navel-gazing:
Before a human being thinks of others he must have been unapologetically himself; he must have taken the measure of his nature in order to master it and employ it for the benefit of others like himself.

Monday, March 26, 2007

the dead and the living

What we all need most urgently now: to realize that transience is not separation -- for we, transient as we are, have it in common with those who have passed from us, and they and we exist together in one being where separation is just as unthinkable. Could we otherwise understand such poems if they had been nothing but the utterance of someone who was going to be dead in the future? Don't such poems continually address inside of us, in addition to what is found there now, also something unlimited and unrecognizable? I do not think that the spirit can make itself anywhere so small that it would concern only our temporal existence and our here and now: where it surges toward us there we are the dead and the living all at once.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Poet's Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke, p. 25


This is a big week for yoga in Miami, at least for those of us who practice Ashtanga. Ashtanga yoga was developed by a man named Sri Pattabhi Jois, shown here. Known as "Guruji" by Ashtanga practitioners, Jois developed the practice based on ancient traditions, refining it into several series of asanas, or poses. Guruji is now 90 years old and had planned to visit Islamorada, in the Florida Keys for the next two weeks. It was to be his only appearance in the US this year (yogis normally have to travel to Mysore, India to study with him), teaching two weeks of workshops and celebrating the opening of a new yoga center. Unfortunately, Guruji became sick last week and had to cancel the classes.

That left a lot of displaced yogis from all over the country, who had come to Florida and now had nowhere to practice. Many of them have been going to the center where I practice, the Miami Life Center on 6th Street in Miami Beach. Kino MacGregor and Tim Feldman, the Center's creators, have been teaching packed studios full of limber Ashtangis, all their Warriors and Scorpions practically colliding in the tight space.

I actually really enjoy the crowded classes, though, especially with so many very skillful practitioners and great teachers in Kino and Tim. Just like in an orchestra, it can be incredibly inspiring being surrounded by other people performing at a very high level, challenging and overcoming their limits. Even when I can't quite fold myself into all those pretzel-like configurations, someone else nearby probably will, which kind of gives me a vicarious thrill.

I think there's a lot in common between yoga and music - and it hasn't escaped my attention that some of the most respected double bassists and teachers also practice serious yoga. Peter Lloyd and Paul Ellison are the two I know best, though I'm sure there are many others. In fact my very first yoga teacher was Deborah Dunham, a fantastic bassist who taught an introductory class at the New England Conservatory.

So there must be some kind of synergy between yoga and bass, even if I made up the pose 'contrabasana'. Yoga does have many forward-folding poses, in which you're challenged to extend and lengthen the spine, rather than collapsing - a challenge we all experience when playing the bass as well. And many of the pitfalls of bass playing - distorted alignment, imbalanced shoulders and hips, shallow and forced breathing, etc. - are addressed and corrected in yoga.

Tim Feldman, one of the yoga teachers at Miami Life Center, told me the other day, "I'm a great believer in the power of Ashtanga yoga to restructure the body," and it seemed like a very fitting description of the practice. We're all trying to restructure our bodies and minds, to make them more efficient, flexible, sensitive, and better attuned to the demands of life and music. So I'm a great believer too, and I especially recommend the Ashtanga practice - you can read more about Guruji and Ashtanga at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute's website.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

morning in Miami

This was taken last Sunday morning in Pace Park, looking out to Miami Beach across Biscayne Bay.

Rilke on life and music

Lately I've been reading a book with the rather unwieldy title The Poet's Guide to Life: The Wisdom of Rilke, edited and translated by Ulrich Baer. It's a collection of passages from Rilke's letters, which apparently comprise many more than just those few to the young poet. In fact, there are an estimated 11,000 extant letters, of which 7,000 are uncopyrighted and available to the public. Ulrich Baer notes in the introduction, "In his last will, Rilke declared every single one of his letters to be as much a part of his work as each of his many poems, and he authorized publication of the entire correspondence."

I've just begun the book, but already I've found some wonders - here are a couple of my favorites, which seem to relate to the experiences of both living and making music:

If we wish to be let in on the secrets of life, we must be mindful of two things: first, there is the great melody to which things and scents, feelings and past lives, dawns and dreams contribute in equal measure, and then there are the individual voices that complete and perfect this full chorus. And to establish the basis for a work of art, that is, for an image of life lived more deeply, lived more than life as it is lived today, and as the possibility that it remains throughout the ages, we have to adjust and set into their proper relation these two voices: the one belonging to a specific moment and the other to the group of people living in it.

Each experience has its own velocity according to which it wants to be lived if it is to be new, profound, and fruitful. To have wisdom means to discover this velocity in each individual case.

The following realization rivals in its significance a religion: that once the background melody has been discovered one is no longer baffled in one's speech and obscure in one's decisions. There is a carefree security in the simple conviction that one is part of a melody, which means that one legitimately occupies a specific space and has a specific duty toward a vast work where the least counts as much as the greatest. Not to be extraneous is the first condition for an individual to consciously and quietly come into his own.

keeping up with the Georgesons

Lately I've been reading the blog of another New World Symphony musician, bassoonist Anthony Georgeson. He shares the blog with his wife, Erin, a teacher - so they cover a wider range of experiences than a lone blogger might. They also do a lot of fun things with their blogs - pictures, videos, e-props (what is an e-prop?) which I haven't quite gotten around to lately.

Actually, I have a little bit of an inferiority complex about my blog right now. It feels like the blog world has progressed to post-impressionism, and I'm still writing isorhythmic motets. But seeing what Anthony and Erin have done, I have hope again - and even if you won't see me popping up on YouTube any time soon (at least not intentionally!), I'm not going to let the blogosphere pass me by completely!

Their blog is called a_e_georgeson's Xanga site, and I've posted a link on my sidebar as well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

long term concerto relationships

This afternoon, we put together a slightly impromptu mock audition -- just a couple audition-bound violinists and me, with some friends listening behind the screen. Even among friends, auditions can get pretty tense, and none of us played up to our expectations. That was a bit disappointing, but we all still have time to recover and do better in our real auditions - we're also doing another mock this Thursday.

We were talking about it afterwards, and one of the violinists explained that for her the Brahms concerto is like a love relationship -- they've been together so long, sometimes it's hard to keep the same emotional intensity every time. She's gotten to know it almost too well, so that it's begun to feel predictable rather than spontaneous. In fact, she wondered if they might need to separate for a while, let her see some other concertos, in hopes of restoring the passion.

The Brahms violin concerto is one of my favorite pieces, but I can sympathize with her plight. No matter how much you love a piece as a listener, living with it day to day, trying to refine and perfect it, and relying on it for auditions can strain that love. Added to that, we usually won't play entire concerto movements in auditions, so often we've worked the first few pages to death, and barely touched the rest. It's like a tennis player whose racquet arm is twice as strong as the other -- it might be an absurd and unhealthy way to learn a piece of music, but it often seems like the practical way, given the pressures of audition preparation.

We all suggested she listen to some other Brahms -- maybe some of the songs, or the piano works. Other musicians I know taking an improvisational approach when things start to get stale, reworking the piece in all sorts of different ways until it seems fresh again. She thought maybe she just needed an afternoon at the beach, or a nice nap -- that can help, too. In any case, we're all hoping they patch things up. No one ever said being in a relationship with 174-year-old German was easy.

Friday, March 16, 2007

choral sympathy

Last Saturday, with the help of a bass-playing accomplice, I snuck into the Carnival Center to hear the Atlanta Symphony play the Debussy Nocturnes and Vaughan Williams' A Sea Symphony, conducted by Robert Spano. The concert was part of the American Choral Directors convention, which brought lots of vocalist types to Miami Beach last week. They had the hall only half filled, which was a shame since it was some fantastic playing and singing.

I had never heard the Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, and I had also never heard the Atlanta Symphony. They play it brilliantly - shifting from big, bold playing to tender accompaniment of their vocal soloists, Measha Brueggergosman and Brett Polegato. (Measha is one of my favorite singers!) The piece is a setting of these ecstatic, imagery-filled poems by Walt Whitman - here's the beginning of my favorite:

O vast Rondure, swimming in space,
Cover'd all over with visible power and beauty,
Alternate light and day and the teeming spiritual darkness;
Unspeakable high processions of sun and moon and countless stars above,
Below, the manifold grass and waters,
With inscrutable purpose, some hidden prophetic intention,
Now first it seems my thoughts begin to span thee.
I often feel like classical singing in English sounds odd and stilted - but in this poetry it seemed to fit perfectly, and the grand expansiveness of the verses really shone forth. It didn't matter that I'm not sure what a Rondure is - everything seemed to have a much larger meaning anyway!

Hearing this concert surrounded by choral conventioneers, I started to think about the role of the chorus in the orchestra. It's a little bit, I imagine, like the double bass in chamber music - we don't play in that many pieces, but the ones we do have are just about the most awesome and popular. Okay, I'm thinking specifically here of Schubert's Trout Quintet, as the chamber music
analogy to Beethoven's 9th. The two pieces may not have that much to do with one another, but still I think they both represent a kind of radical expansion of the expressive possibilities of the form. And both haven't never been duplicated, and certainly not equalled in their particular structure. (Back when I was growing up in Tacoma, Washington, the local classical radio used to play the 'top 100' most requested pieces, and the Trout and the 9th were consistently the top two - not that that's any sort of conclusive measure.)

Anyway, it gave me a sort of feeling of commonality with all those choral directors I was sharing the performance with - helped along by the beautiful music and inspiring poetry. Great choral music like this always seems to arouse an incredible feeling of fellowship and common humanity, no matter who else is in the crowd - even a bunch of choral experts!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Dan Matsukawa and the mission

As you can see, I've been derelict in my blogging once again - mostly because it's been such a crazy week! I actually haven't turned my computer on since Sunday morning - I usually like to do my blogging on my own computer, but when I don't get home until after 10 it seems like too much trouble to boot it up.

On Sunday, the gigging gods smiled on me (maybe since I finally gave some long-overdue recognition to Jason Heath's amazing gig story!) and I got to play in a pops orchestra in Boca Raton, accompanying jazz trumpet legend Arturo Sandoval and his combo. Then on Monday, someone offered me two tickets to Itzakh Perlman's recital in Carnival Center at the last minute - they were three rows away from the stage, I could practically read off his music - so how could I turn that down? On Tuesday evening we had our first rehearsal for this weekend's concerts, which feature Leila Josefowicz playing the first Prokofiev Violin Concerto, Berlioz' Overture to Beatrice and Benedict, and Tchaikovsky's 6th Symphony, the Pathetique. And yesterday evening we had a mock audition, which I coordinated and played on, so I didn't get home until after 10 that night either.

Tonight I went to see Leila Josefowicz's violin masterclass - also way too compelling to pass up, and I've already exhausted my blogging time listing excuses here! I do want to include something Daniel Matsukawa, the principal bassoonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra, gave us today in a talk on audition preparation and anecdotes. It's sort of a mission statement about what we all aspire to become - which, as Dan Matsukawa reminds us, is way more than just a successful audition candidate! His own words say it best:
If you have mastered your instrument, call yourself a good instrumentalist. If you know how to phrase and know the structure of music, call yourself a good musician. But until you and/or the person out there in the back row get goose bumps (from joy or sorrow), don't call yourself an artist. This should be the goal. Unfortunately, many people today make it their goal to master the technique of the horn. That should only be the start that makes it easier to express yourself -- your own voice. Even after one simple phrase, know that it was yours and that nobody can take that away from you. Not only for the sheer joy of music making for ourselves, but to move people. That is why we do what we do...isn't it?
If you come to this weekend's concerts, I promise you'll hear some blazing, soulful, goose-bump-raising music making, from Leila Josefowicz and from the orchestra under conductor Mark Wigglesworth.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

"check engine", or "imminent death"?

Anyone who missed Jason Heath's crazy gig story last month, "My Car Caught Fire and Exploded!", you owe it to yourself to follow that link and read it right now.

I remember the first time I heard about Jason's car nightmare - it was at an audition in Minnesota, January of last year. Stories like this can help put an audition disappointment in perspective: you know, I didn't play as well as I wanted, but at least I didn't have to run screaming from a raging inferno, clutching my bass and dodging oncoming freeway traffic...

Jason is a great friend, and I've enjoyed reading his always entertaining double bass blog, which is quickly becoming an essential resource for bass players. I wasn't quite sure how to bring up this particular topic, though - "Um, Jason, I heard something about your car, and an explosion, and you narrowly escaping with your bass?"

It just seemed like it had to be one of those legends that gets exaggerated in each retelling. The other day actually, a friend I hadn't heard from in over a year called and began telling me about a freeway accident involving me, and how my car and bass had been totally destroyed. For a while I listened with no idea what she was talking about - it was pretty eerie hearing this horrible story, wondering if I was being warned of some future disaster! Then I realized there had been a mistake, the awful story hadn't happened to me but to Matt Way, another bassist in New World. She was very glad I'd been spared, and I almost felt a sense of lucky relief myself. (Fortunately Matt Way was fine, and he's sounding better than ever lately on a new instrument.)

Anyhow, I guess it just goes to show how disaster stories can grow and mutate, like some sort of virus. In this case, though, the true version is better, funnier, and more alarming than any secondhand version I might have heard. I have no idea why something so terrible had to happen to someone as nice as Jason - it's a thin line between tragedy and comedy sometimes - but I am pretty sure that no one else could have told this story as well as he did!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Richard Goode over Internet2

I've seen lots of lessons and masterclasses being taped for Internet2 broadcast, but yesterday was the first time I'd watched one from the other end. It was a masterclass with pianist Richard Goode, taped in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall at Northwestern University (which was my graduate school). The pianists I heard were doctoral students, playing sonata movements by Beethoven and Schubert.

The sound quality itself was great, as was the image - we were watching a wide screen television, but there were moments when I felt like I was right there in Evanston, wondering if they could hear and see me as well as I could them. (I'm pretty sure we weren't being taped...) They used several camera views, so I could actually see a lot more than I would at a live masterclass - peering over the pianists' shoulders, sneaking in for close-ups of fingerings, etc.

I was especially impressed by how Richard Goode coached the pieces in terms of orchestrational possibilities. A playful eighth note figure in the left hand should sound more like bassoons than trombones and tubas - the sound of a theme in the Schubert should be drawn out like a slow bow. I'm not sure I've heard another pianist who seemed so attuned to the colors of other instruments, and constantly applied them to the piano repertoire.

Watching the class was so cool and enlightening, I've been wondering how Internet2 is going to develop in the next few years. Maybe every masterclass around the country will be taped and offered for broadcast, and each music school's students will have remote-control wars whether to tune into Yo-Yo Ma or Dale Clevenger or Edgar Meyer - every school will have an Internet2 studio to tape and watch broadcasts, and you'll be able to channel surf to performances and classes around the world. It seems like the technological capability is there already; it's just a matter of getting the equipment out and making people aware about all the possibilities it offers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

when in Rome, or Taranto

An article by Burkhard Bilger in this week's New Yorker magazine, "Spider Woman" (sorry, it's not online!) includes this paragraph:

The most notorious spider in Europe in [Jean-Henri] Fabre's time [(the late 19th century)] was the Italian tarantula, Lycosa tarantula. Named for the town of Taranto, on the southern coast, this was a large, fearsome-looking wolf spider -- no relation to American tarantulas -- whose bite was said to cause madness, melancholy, and death. A victim's only hope was to dance furiously for days on end, often accompanied by fiddles and pipes, until his body gave out and the venom wore off. Liszt, Chopin, and Mendelssohn later wrote music for stylized versions of these dances, which came to be known as tarantellas.

Apparently these creatures are quite rare today, and medical science has some antidotes besides furious dancing. If you're travelling to Italy though, it might be a good idea to keep some fiddlers and pipers nearby, ready to play non-stop tarantellas for a couple of days, just in case.

(BTW, thanks to Lydia Lui, a mean tarantella-playing fiddler in her own right, for elucidating the fair use statute for me in a recent comment. All of my guilty confusion is gone!)

in case you missed it...

The NY Times website no longer allows people to read the article "The Face the Music Academy" for free - it's moved into the TimesSelect part of the site. If you're a member, you can still read it there, but I don't expect my readers to be in any special clubs. You're Select enough just for reading this blog, you don't need to pay a yearly membership fee. Which is why I took the link down.

But if you would still like to read the article, it's reprinted in a slightly different form in another newspaper. I was just sent this link to the article, which was renamed "New World Order". Thanks to the Naples News for making it available, and I hope I'm not violating any intellectual property laws by linking to it!

on bad music

As I wrote yesterday, I really believe that listening to great music can make people better - kinder, braver, wiser, more compassionate - just as it changes the character Wiesler in the movie The Lives of Others. I wouldn't be doing what I am if I didn't believe music can have a transformative effect on people, often more powerful and far-reaching than any other art form.

Then again, I wonder if this is a double-edged sword. Does bad music, or music badly played, make people more cruel, fearful, narrow-minded and selfish? Even wondering about this is a little disturbing, since it raises the specter of what is "bad music". From there it seems like a short leap to "degenerate music" and the artistic censorship of '80s East Germany, or Stalinist Russia. I'd much rather think that music can only have a positive effect - or that bad music will purge itself, since no one will continue performing and listening if it is actually harmful.

Even if we decide a certain music is bad for us, though, it seems clear that we can't declare it unacceptable for anyone else. As MTT discussed in his talks on Shostakovich's 5th, different people can hear the same music in very different ways - and sometimes the more true message of a piece is not the most obvious. In the last pages of Shostakovich's 5th, a long and apparently triumphant march emerges from the brass, with the upper strings repeating a high shrill note and the timpani blasting the same two notes that begin the theme. Many conductors follow the swell of the music with an accelerating tempo, though the music only says "ritenuto". It's not a ritardando - a natural slowing - but a forcible pulling back, as if the whole orchestra is struggling against a force we can't control!

Early in the film, Wiesler's Stasi friend (and now his superior) Grubitz calls Georg Dreyman "our only non-subversive artist". It's a funny line - there is a lot of these ironies in the film - and I think it underscores that every artist, in a sense, is subversive. Wiesler himself is a kind of artist, as we see at the beginning of the film. His art is interrogation, spying, and uncovering others' secrets, and he practices with all the dedication and determination of the most devoted actor or writer. And yet all this skill and craft, he soon realizes, is being used for terrible ends - ruining lives, destroying careers. Perhaps that's the final standard of bad art - it makes the artist himself ashamed of what he's created.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Lives of Others

I haven't seen too many films lately - the last before this was Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth - but yesterday night I saw a movie that I would recommend to anyone, even if you're less of a film-buff than I am. It's called The Lives of Others, it's in German, and it's about the struggle to retain one's humanity in trying circumstances, and how art, music, and theater can help us in that struggle.

I had been interested in the film ever since I heard its director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, interviewed by Dave Davies on NPR's Fresh Air. He talked about how Vladimir Lenin loved Beethoven's Piano Sonata "Appassionata" but avoided listening to the piece. As one of the film's main characters explains, he couldn't complete the violent work of revolution while listening to such compassionate music. What music would you play, he wondered, if you had only a few minutes alone with an evil man, a man who had lost his reverence for humanity?

The film's composer answered that question with a solo piano piece, titled "Sonata for a Good Man", which is at the heart of the film. It's played at a point of despair, as the main character Georg Dreyman mourns the suicide of his friend and artistic colleague, a theater director who was blacklisted and destroyed by a corrupt regime. Dreyman doesn't realize as he plays that an official of that regime, a Stassi spy named Weisler, is listening and attempting to destroy him as well. Listening to that music and being immersed in the plays and poetry of Dreyman's life, changes Weisler in a fundamental way. He does regain his humanity, and begins to act on his conscience, rather than the orders of his superiors.

I'll try not to spoil any of the plot twists, which are sometimes excruciating - the greatest villain, it seemed to me, was the system itself, which gave so much power to corruptible men, and allowed them to exploit and destroy the lives of others. It's a cruel irony that a system meant to be truth-seeking and egalitarian instead became replete with duplicity and corruption. Amid all this unhappiness, music and art might seem like a small consolation - but for these characters, and for a lot of us, it's the greatest consolation there is!

Friday, March 02, 2007


Even before the orchestra tour to New York, and especially while we were there, people have been asking me what kind of "recognition" I've been getting from the Times article. I'm not quite sure how to respond - possibly they have imagined swarms of tourists, crowding around with their copies of the February 18th Arts section, asking for my autograph - or big tour buses pulling over, parking illegally on 5th Ave so everyone could get a picture with me. I don't want to disappoint anyone, but all this attention still hasn't transformed me into a tourist attraction.

I guess one of the odd features of modern celebrity, though, is how people's curiosity is mostly not so much about the celebrity himself - we all know more than we want to about most celebrities already - but about other people's curiosity about the celebrity. Most of the coverage of Anna Nicole Smith's death, which I tried carefully to avoid but heard anyway, was about all the other coverage of her death. So it becomes this self-perpetuating cycle - similar to a hurricane or some other extreme weather pattern - which only subsides once we find something else to talk about.

Not to liken myself to Anna Nicole Smith, or any other celebrity/cataclysmic event. It was more of a short turbulence, temporarily lifting my blog hits into 3 figures (I installed a StatCounter on Sunday, so I could check) and then gradually returning to the normal handful. Still, I found myself wondering, with all those hundreds of people visiting my site for a few days - there must be some way to leverage all of this attention! Could I use it to promote some noble cause, or maybe to broadcast some thought-provoking idea or opinion - maybe, like Al Gore, I could use my temporary fame to promote some social cause? Or find some way to get people to at least stay more than 5 seconds?

In the end, I think I did enjoy some recognition, but not the kinds you might expect. The story itself really determined the form the recognition would take - Dan Wakin described me as "shy, serious, sober, solid, conscientious", so obviously no one was going to visit my website looking for hot gossip or nude pics. They visited because they connected to a certain character, which Dan Wakin portrayed in the article, and wanted to see whether the real-life version matched. And while I don't think the article completely encapsulates my personality, it was recognizably me.

I actually saw Dan Wakin at the concert on Tuesday. It was a strange encounter, since I wanted to thank him and acknowledge what he had written, but I wasn't sure how. He told me that my story served a certain purpose for the article - maybe that purpose was a bit of drama, or structure, or just plain sympathy, for a person struggling in artistic and career limbo... I'm honestly not quite sure what made my particular story work so well for what he wanted, and I might have asked.

Still, it's a certain reassurance just to find one's story can serve a purpose! There were things in the article that most of my friends, and even my family didn't know about - but having read them, everyone seems to understand me a little better. And maybe, now that I've seen my character sketched out on the pages of the New York Times, I can find ways to extend it, loosen and open it up. After all, there's no point being shy and reserved when everyone knows so much about you already, and likes you despite it all! That's the best sort of recognition, I think.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

New York reviews and afterthoughts

Most of the orchestra returned to Miami Beach today, after two nights in Carnegie Hall. The first concert was reviewed by Anthony Tommasini in today's New York Times: "Sometimes the Newcomers Sound a Lot Like the Old-Timers". Earlier this week, Lawrence Johnson reviewed our performance last Saturday in the Carnival Center: "Yo-Yo Ma offers season's high at Carnival Center".

Both of these fellows had nice things to say about our concerts - I plan to add a few of my impressions as well, when I get around to it. Today, though, I've been thinking about the dynamics of traveling with a group like the New World Symphony. Moving around in any big group always has its own curiosities and frustrations, from airport delays to unforseen ailments. A few people didn't see their luggage in New York at all, and another had to leave the stage in the Shostakovich Cello Concerto due to severe food poisoning! Somehow we all managed to deal with everything, though, and the concerts were both incredible.

As Tommasini noted in his review, we work and live together here in Miami, and our lives are to a certain extent circumscribed by the demands of the program. That's true on tour as well, though it was fascinating for me to see all the different uses people made of their free time! A lot of us sampled the museums and other standard tourist fare - connected with friends, both in Manhattan and from surrounding towns, got work done on instruments, or even found a way to work in an audition or two. (A lot of orchestra members got there early and/or spent an extra day to manage all this!) Everyone seemed to have a strategy to squeeze as much from those few days as possible.

I got to see my Dad and Theresa, my step-mom - they flew in and heard the concert on Tuesday night. I also had my bass trunk refurbished at David Gage's shop, down in Chinatown on Walker Street. They've worked in all sorts of design improvements, to make it more secure and reduce the weight. I won't pretend it's light, but I was able to carry it up and down the subway stairs, all by myself. (Though it was empty at the time.) I also made it to the Metropolitan Museum, and walked around Central Park - I'll post some pictures soon.