The title is a reference to "the long 19th century," which points out the more natural boundaries of 1789 (the French Revolution) and 1914 (the start of WWI). My long October begins with 9/22 and ends on 11/3. Those dates are, respectively, when I decided to audition for the concertmaster opening of the Louisville Orchestra, and the day I arrived home from Louisville. Spoiler alert: LO still does not have a concertmaster. HOWEVER, looking back at this crazy month, I'm still proud of what I accomplished. If you read to the end of this, maybe you'll agree.
9/22 was the day that I received a message from Nick Finch, principal cellist of LO, telling me about the upcoming concertmaster audition. Unbeknownst to Nick, I was aware of the opening and had in fact submitted my resume--but had also decided that October was just too busy. If I have a weakness, it is that I am too easily convinced to take on more work, and Nick's message pushed me back toward the audition.
At the time, I was on tour with the ambient electronic drone music duo (is that enough qualifiers?) Stars of the Lid. That was a somewhat new experience itself: traveling in a van, playing for screaming crowds, and being almost deafened by enormous amps. Although I can't say that my technical chops were challenged, I did find that focusing on the long, sustained notes almost meditative. In that sense, their music bore a similarity to Somei Satoh's music.
Did I mention that my dissertation (on Somei's music) was due this month? More on that later.
As soon as I returned home from that tour, I had to resume practicing Giacinto Scelsi's Anahit. I couldn't practice the piece on tour, because it required not only an unusually tuned violin, but a violin with two A-strings. Bottom to top, the strings were tuned G G B D (for those familiar with scientific notation, G3 G4 B4 D5.) Therefore I needed two violins, if I wanted to practice/perform non-Anahit repertoire. Luckily, Klaus Grumpelt, a contemporary German luthier, happened to have loaned me one of his violins this summer. Thanks, Klaus!
While my initial attempts at Anahit drove Nana up the wall, I had actually grown to like the music by the time of the first rehearsal on 10/2. It was great to work once more with maestro Jeffrey Milarsky, with whom I premiered Sayo Kosugi's Lilac Nova in 2013--and great to see Sayo again, who just happened to be in New York! (She currently resides in Tokyo.) It is always a thrill to play onstage with a group of Juilliard musicians supporting you, and also rather nice to have a dressing room all to yourself!
I try to keep myself in good shape for performances, especially when it comes to sleep. After the AXIOM concert on 10/10, sleep went out the window. The deadline for the first draft of my dissertation was 10/16, and there were still 3 pieces that I needed to analyze. Unfortunately, I had also booked that week full of gigs, rehearsals, and even a photo shoot! And did I mention that I was preparing for an audition? Dissertation work began around midnight, and ended around 5 or 6am, at which point I would grab as many hours of sleep before I had to be at school at 9 or 10am that same day.
Rehearsals for American Gothic had been on-and-off since August, but they were on in earnest starting 10/12. We had rehearsal almost every day, culminating in three performances, on 10/21, 22, and 23. I actually missed the 10/16 deadline of my dissertation, though with Joel Sachs's blessing--he preferred me to take a little longer, and submit a higher quality work. I finally got a copy of it to him on 10/23. Also that day: my first Baroque violin lesson with Robert Mealy.
10/24: Day 1 of hardcore orchestra audition prep. A little late? Yep. It's not like I had completely neglected the repertoire, but you can see that I wasn't exactly focused on it for most of October. Nevertheless, I told Nana that I probably wouldn't be home until late, every night until I left for Louisville.
From 10/24-31, I was completely focused on audition prep. Except for recording Nana's concert on 10/25, teaching a music history class on madrigals on 10/27 (the teaching doesn't take long, but the prep does), and another Baroque lesson on 10/28. Plus my usual responsibilities of TF-ing, tutoring, and MAP-ing. I usually got home around 10 or 11pm, and then was back at school at 9 or 10am because that's when my responsibilities begin. The one break I took was on Friday, 10/30--my left hand grew tired from too much Schumann and Adams, so I broke off the practicing at 9pm to hang out with Jeff and Janice (my brother and his girlfriend.)
Stay tuned for Part II!
Somehow I always underestimate how much time writing requires. The completed "final" draft of my dissertation isn't due until mid-October, but I'm looking at a very busy few months between now and then, and wondering how I'm going to fit in everything. (Answer: taking my diss. everywhere, including to the beach!)
That's the score to Toward the Night, by Somei Satoh. It's one of his most conventionally tonal works; I kind of agree with Bernard Holland's assessment of the harmonic style as "almost always dictated by the instruments employed." More to my taste is Somei's Shirasagi for string quartet. Unfortunately there aren't any recordings of that piece. Maybe I'll make the first?
We knew that making weekly recordings would be HARD, but we never expected that, one month in, we would only have one recording up!
This is not for lack of effort, and some of it is arguably out of our control. Believe it or not, we've actually made three recordings already. However, due to piano intonation problems, two of those are unusable! (We knew the piano wasn't perfect after the second recording, but we thought it would be acceptable for our non-commercial recordings. Then I listened to it again. Delete!) Adding to our difficulties, this is probably one of the busiest weeks of the year for both of us, with the Chelsea Music Festival having temporarily taken over our lives.
Nevertheless, we haven't given up! Hopefully the next recording will go up within the next week: another solo violin, though this time accompanied by electronics. (I'll be performing this work next Wednesday, June 24, so I figured why not record it?) We promise you'll get a chance to hear Nana very soon!
Here's my third attempt at posting regularly! This first post is a no-brainer, as I have a lot to share:
1. Nana and I have decided to start a joint YouTube channel alex and nana. On it we'll post recordings, "backstage" videos, and perhaps random musings. Related to that:
2. Since it's summer time and our commitments are (fractionally) lighter, we're starting a video series titled "music@midnight" (part of our YouTube channel)! Our goal is to make a recording every week and post it online. These won't be studio quality, as we're recording them at the Union Church of Bay Ridge which is absolutely not soundproofed. However, we're hoping to minimize street noise by recording late at night (hence the title.) Also, we're testing out some new mics! And related to THAT:
3. Those of you who know me know that I do a lot of new music. If you've got a piece for violin, piano, or violin/piano that you're interested in us playing, shoot me an email! We've got a backlog of pieces we want to record, but we definitely want to add some 21st century pieces to YouTube!
Here's to hoping I don't have to start a 4.0 blog in another year!