Last night I was feeling pretty blue. In the words of Miss Sophia, "I was feeling mighty bad". I'm ok now though. After a long day or running around (and hearing a beautiful recital given by some of my colleagues) I came home to simmer down with some light vocal jazz, as well as that other thing that helps me wind down. I always make an effort to find music I've never heard by black artists, but that effort is multiplied in February. One of my favorite musicians is Nina Simone, so I went through her discography to find something nice.
Let me start by saying that Nina Simone is the embodiment of the life I would like to live. Despite her being denied a scholarship at Curtis due to her race, she found a way to make a musical footprint that no one has yet to match. Her piano technique was top tier, and the music she sang was so relevant to the time she lived, as well as ours. She was also unapologetically black - something more of us need to get into.
Anyway, YouTube eventually led me to a live performance of her's, in which she sang the song "Feelings". The performance started very soft and slow, with lyrics that connect with anyone going through anything. Nina also told the audience that they would have to help her sing the song. Involving your audience is very important! She interrupts herself again near the beginning of the song to say that "[It's] a shame to have to write a song like that". She goes on to say that, she does not "believe the conditions that produced a situation that demanded a song like that". The recital I went to earlier yesterday evening was filled with chamber music by Brahms. We all know how Brahms sounds (and I need to do more research on him), but some of the music I heard sounded like it had a touch of pain in it. The world is forever thankful for Brahms' contributions to classical music, but what a shame for a man to have to feel sad to give us something so beautiful.
When I woke up this morning the first thing I wanted to do was listen to the song again (of sober mind). After reading the lyrics carefully I saw that this song is basically about love. When you feel some type of way, it's because love has made you feel that way. When I'm homesick, it's because I love Memphis and the people in it. When I'm frustrated with my bassoon playing, it's because I love music and am invested in sounding good for other people. I could go on, but I think it's so important to recognize that. People often disappoint and let you down, but you only feel disappointed because you care about that person to some varying extent.
A long time ago I wrote a post about grapes in a particular region of Italy where the ground is very dry and it's hard for the fruit to reach maturity. The grapes that do manage to make it end up making the best wine you could ever drink. A person is in control of what he does, but not always how he feels. It's such a shame that songs like "Feelings" have to exist, because it means someone is feeling down. It's a blessing, though, that we can take those feelings and create something beautiful.
Creating is therapeutic. We should create more.
"Mississippi Goddam" is also a really great song. You should take a listen!!
I'm currently working on a book that combines random thoughts a person has during a slow rehearsal with the pointless, idle, and (seemingly) profound discussions stoners have with each other while smoking weed together. This is a glimpse at how I arrive at some of the ideas that make up the skeleton of the book.
It seems like it's too soon for us to already be in the second month of 2015 already! At the end of last year, I was determined to make this a better year, and in many ways it already has been. I started the year off in Detroit, playing principal in their Cirque de la Symphonie show. Being back for the first time since the end of the fellowship was nice. It's very refreshing not only to play principal, but to play principal with such a great sounding orchestra. Being in Detroit for 2 years wasn't the most enjoyable experience of my life, but I do admit that I may have taken the sound of the group for granted - a group with many magnificent individuals, I might add.
Shortly after subbing with the DSO, I returned to Knoxville to play the first masterworks of the year. The large piece on the program was Tchaikovsky 4. The performances were good, and it was interesting to play this piece from a non-principal perspective. The piece is filled with very exposed solo passages in many of the winds, and it made me think of the power a single person can have in an orchestra. Being technically proficient is one thing, but what about attitude, emotion, and everything else that makes music actually sound good? I let this marinate for a while - all the way back to Memphis.
Two days into my time back home I got an invitation to a solo violin recital being given by my good friend, Priscilla. Hearing these unaccompanied works being played so virtuosically continued my thoughts about the power of an individual. To create great music together, we must be able to create great music alone, right? That logic made sense to me until Priscilla started doing fancy double stops, plucking and bowing simultaneously, and performing musical feats that simply cannot be replicated by a solo bassoon.
I know there's some smart ass out there that has explored extended techniques and figured out a way to do more violin-type things on bassoon, but for the rest of us, what does this mean? Are some musicians destined to always play supportive roles in music? Are others supposed to take more of a leadership role, no matter what? Because I think way too much, I translate instruments into actual people and personality types. Why should someone born with a loud, trumpet-like personality be celebrated more than the person whose outgoing-ness is like a clavichord?
I read a short story during rehearsal yesterday about a high school kid who writes music, and the last note he wrote in a piece of music for a girl named Selma was described as so beautiful it'd be heard for all eternity. Selma thought it was so beautiful that she fainted and died after hearing it. So who's to blame for such a beautiful work of art - the kid who composed it or the kids that performed it? Each person in the room had something to do with the reaction, so even if we only recognize the very talented high schooler for everything, we know that the entire experience is due to the diverse experiences, strengths, and powers of the individuals. Selma will never know the shy little girl who was playing 3rd clarinet, but thank God for her!
So if the mother of the young girl who died pressed charges, who's going to jail for murder?