Recent Reflections

Dear Readers,

First off, I’d like to let you know that I am indeed still alive. Secondly, I’d like to thank you for waiting out my silences. Now, on to the important(?) stuff!

These ramblings have been in the making for quite a while. It seems, however, that some kind of inspiration needs to hit me before I can break whatever barriers that are preventing me from writing. Today’s inspiration, as seems to be the norm for me in general, is music. I didn’t place this post in “Musical Musings” for nothing, you know.

My most recent inspiration is called “Steel Life.” I still haven’t gotten the full affect of decently-described visuals, but from what I can gather, it takes abstract filming and uses ideas taken from nature in order to portray a theme of rebirth and genesis. You can find it here.

I only heard it a couple of hours ago, after seeing the post appear in one of my Twitter timelines. I had to replay the video (originally posted to YouTube) three times before I decided to go “composer hunting.” The link above is to the original video rather than the YouTube link, as the music is better quality.

At any rate, this piece, before I’d read up on the original idea, was something that hit me right off the bat. I immediately wanted to rush out of the room and go tell my immediate family just how lucky I was to have them. As the piece progressed I found myself wanting to reach out and embrace close friends as well. It, like so many other things as of late, insisted on making me think of all the good things I happen to have, all the good people I happen to know, and the intriguing possibilities that life could offer me.

I could leave this post at that, but you know me… I have to talk and elaborate a bit on why I ended up with that kind of a summary. So, here goes!

For the rebirth side of things, the past year has been filled with new changes. Da ended up getting sick which changed his life (and mine as a result, which was huge), in March I managed to land a job at a local studio (also huge because I was sitting on my butt not doing much of anything LOL), and in May, my grandfather passed away and rekindled something that I still can’t find the words for.

Not to say that Grandpa’s passing was something to celebrate–indeed it wasn’t. I still have pangs of sorrow every now and then; but it was the way the funeral got taken care of, the way the funeral was carried out… the simplicity of getting together with the family. It pulled us together and brought us closer.

The entire picture is difficult to put into words… it’s the small things which have, for me, been most effected. But it’s all those small things which enhance the entire weave of life’s events. I think today’s inspirational piece helps to portray the kind of emotion and change that has happened to me and my family over the past year. The best thing to understand would, I think, be to watch the video yourself.

On another note, I’ve finally gotten my own domain name! One of my good friends has been working like mad to help me get it set up. Where you’ve gone to read this newest post is of course where the new website is. I’m quite excited about it, actually. I’m not sure what I’m going to do when it expires next year, though. I’ve been really keen on getting a bobbiinabox com domain, but I like the one I’m currently using. It’s kind of overwhelming with the amount of options that are available to me, and yet I really like the idea of having multiple options. I might have to think about it for ages before I actually make a decision, but still… somehow it just feels safer.

The medium in which I’m writing this to you is pretty interesting, too. I’m actually writing this in an Email rather than in a Microsoft Word document as before. This particular method may have been around for ages but I’ve only just discovered it and so, here I am thinking it’s the coolest thing since sliced bread. This way is a lot nicer, I must admit. I had to do loads of editing on my other posts because Microsoft Word would sometimes reformat things differently than how I wanted them, or the website would go and take away my nice double spaces, and I’d be enough of a perfectionist to have to go in and fix them. LOL

Hmm, I think this post has been more rambly than musing. I’ll probably start updating a bit more, though, with smaller things, for fun. I seem to only write when really big things have been going on. The friend who has so generously assisted me with this current website actually suggested I try writing about the so-called “less important” things… at least I’d be getting more updates out, right?

Hey, maybe I’ll start writing about some of the dreams I have. Most are book worthy, in my opinion. I only wish I could remember all the details like I used to when I was a kid. Unfortunately, though, that’s not the case. Of course, even if I could remember them, my writing skills aren’t exactly book worthy… so writing books about dreams is probably not going to be the best idea for me at this point. Haha.

Anyway, I think I should probably close now. I ended up having to break in the middle of this to go eat food, and time refuses to slow down for me. I’m probably going to end up regretting the fact that I stayed up past my usual sleeping window. I’ve got half a day of work tomorrow, which is good (minus the fact that the “inactive portion will be spent at the dentist’s.) Oh well, I’ll survive. Come the weekend, we’re going camping for the first time this year.

I think we ended up going a total of five times last year… I don’t remember. I may’ve mentioned some of the times in previous posts, but I don’t remember that either. Seems like my memory is deciding to slowly drain out of my ear. Either that, or somebody is sneaking extra portions when I’m not looking. LOL

Okay, now it’s really time to close. For those who made it this far, congratulations. For those who want to continue reading, double congratulations. You’ll just have to wait till my next post. For everybody else, well… I won’t worry about that bit. I’m too tired to think of something intelligent.

So, with all these new changes in mind, I’d like to leave you with my best wishes along with today’s message: from the ashes of life, the phoenix is reborn. Take care, and thanks for reading!

Most Sincerely,

Bobbi

General Update

As per usual, it’s been a while since I’ve made a point to write something longer than the routine and somewhat mundane things over Twitter. I often end up thinking about writing, but something ends up distracting me. There’s not a huge lot to say, but enough has happened that I feel it’s only right to write a little about it.

In general, I’d say that this past year has gone rather well. Yes, there were some hardships. Yes, there were some lows. There were highs to make up for each and every one of the lows, though, which is why I say that this year could not have gone any better. That’s about as much as you’re going to get regarding an end of year review.

I wanted to talk briefly about my last performance, which took place on the fourth of November. It was the kind of performance that left me thinking; not just about if it had gone well or not, but about some interesting things that I could perhaps teach.

Despite the near train wreck that happened due to my sad lack of focus during the duet with my good friend Susan Goodfellow, the whole performance went really well. Afterward, people were lined up to speak with me, my accompanists, and of course Susan, the other flutist with whom I chose to play the duo. There were two comments that I have been thinking about off and on as of late for the past little while.

One lady came up to me and spoke in a rather soft, almost demure way. While I don’t remember the words she said, I remember the meaning. Basically, she told me that she could see the spirits which had come to hear me play. I must admit, I almost laughed outright because I was not certain I had heard her right. Then, I was taken with a feeling of “yeah right,” and I am really hoping it didn’t show on my face. She continued a bit longer and the meaning finally took hold.

I have no idea if she had actually seen the spirits of other musicians that had come to hear me play. I do know, however, that I had accomplished one of my goals. I had hoped to be able to portray a particular feeling with each piece. I believe that this young lady was telling me in her own way that I was able to bring positive energy into the room, that my performance was something that would’ve lifted the dispirited, the depressed, etc. It is somewhat difficult to put into words… but I believe you understand. You can always comment on these posts if you don’t understand something, you know. *chuckles*

The second comment was more concrete, but held no less meaning. This young lady spoke confidently, but I detected a slight tremor in her tone, as if she were on the verge of tears. She was able to collect herself as she spoke, and I couldn’t help smiling as my second biggest worry was put to rest.

She told me that she was able to hear a difference in every single note, a difference which made even the repeated notes have a spirit—a personality—of their own. Now, I have heard so many musicians try to teach their students this. It’s so easy to turn to someone and say to them, “”Make every note have its own emotion. Make every note sing,” etc. The problem is that no matter how you say it, you really won’t be able to get the point across with words. You can certainly play a passage and have your student copy you, but he won’t actually feel it and so the copied nuances in each phrase sound hallow, not quite right to the ear… It’s sort of like showing someone how to smile and then asking them to smile on demand and make it look sincere. I don’t know of anyone who has smiled for a picture and actually liked the way they looked… because their smile seemed canned, or hollow. The emotion in pictures with posed smiles just isn’t there because everybody’s nervous, or doesn’t really like having their pictures taken. The only way to really get a good, sincere smile in a photograph is to catch a person unaware. Catch them laugh before you click the camera.

When I was younger, between ages fourteen and sixteen, I would play and think I was putting plenty of emotion into my music. I’d follow the dynamics, but the music still sounded flat to those who heard it, particularly my father, who was the one to help me visualize how to make more subtle nuances. We worked on it for two years at least, before something inside me clicked. In other words, you can show a student all you want on how to play with feeling and emotion. In fact, I recommend that you do, because it will give them a spring board for whenever that “something” decides to click with them as well.

I was not able to play with proper emotion, however, until I allowed myself to truly feel whatever it was that the music was portraying, if not my own simple emotions from whatever was on my mind. “Playing with emotion” isn’t just following the dynamics on the page. It’s letting yourself fall into your own emotions and letting those emotions come out in every note. An actor cannot properly play a part unless he is feeling the emotions of the character. A bad actor is simply “following the dynamics on the page” and so his words and actions are flat, or they just don’t seem to have a natural cadence to them. The actors that people label as outstanding will allow themselves to laugh, cry, and even tremble in anger along with their characters. How else would they be able to play the part without seeming unnatural or flat??

The concert last November was a confirmation that I am right where I need to be with my emotional technique. Instead of regretting my inability to act and properly portray emotion with the opera singers, I have found that I can show every bit of emotion through playing my flute. The portal to emotions is most likely different for every person. Some visualize stories to each piece they play, others focus on something in the room before they can let go, while still others may simply visualize colors with their music. I usually end up imagining communication between two people. Sometimes it’s spoken, others it’s more physical. Either way, the communication is usually between me and my fantasy lover. I know that sounds kind of dramatic, but that’s what always ends up happening.

I remember reading in a book somewhere. There was one scene that stuck in my head. I don’t even remember what the book was about, and I don’t remember what words were said—at least, not exactly. I remember reading that someone was listening to somebody else play the violin from a distance. The writer spoke of silver threads, gold, diamonds, and moonbeams when referring to the sound of the instrument itself. Regarding the style of the person’s playing, the writer used phrases like “…each note like a lover’s caress…” Words like “tremulous” and “shimmering” were used, as well as words that—to me—described the steps to a ballet: “light,” “airy,” “delicate.”

Somehow reading those words made me think of how I would feel in each situation those words were referring to, and I asked myself if I had the ability to make my listeners feel that very same way, just by playing my flute, like the person in the book had been playing his violin. The answer is yes, I do have the ability. Last November confirmed it. I was able to keep my audience away, despite the fact that I had been playing classical music, which puts people to sleep most of the time. When the young lady came up to me and told me that “every note had its own personality,” it made me think not just of how emotionally powerful music can be, but also how much emotion you need to actually let yourself feel in order to invoke those emotional responses in your audience.

Well, so much for being brief, eh? I realize that I may have repeated myself a lot, and that my words tend to run away with me sometimes, but you can always comment and ask me to clarify things if you don’t understand something. I know I could probably be a bit more concise with the way I word things, but until somebody tells me they are completely unclear on what I’ve written, I’ll keep writing as I have been. I usually don’t plan ahead on what I’m going to write about, and the words in my head just sort of tumble out onto the printed page. It’s not like I’m writing to my professional contacts, right? This blog here is to show some of my thought patterns and odd personality quirks, while giving people things to either think over or laugh at. In other words, I am much better at portraying emotions through my flute than through the written word… ah well, here it is anyway! With that said, constant readers, I shall close here, and hope this post has found you well. Here’s to individuality, and the New Year.

Forever Contemplating,

Me

The Phoenix: Not What You’re Thinking

I simply MUST write about the piece I started learning yesterday. Those of you who pay attention to my tweets will already know which one it is, and that I’m rather excited to have found it. I would just like to go a little bit into depth about some of the things I like about this particular piece.

For some reason, my mind can’t get around the more avant-garde type pieces of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. There is a particular type of music theory that involves in-depth study of what is known as the twelve-tone system. Let’s just say that I barely managed to pass my twentieth-century theory class due to the fact that I couldn’t find a melodic structure to hang on to for whatever we happened to be studying. In short, my mind was set on the fact that twentieth and twenty-first century performance repertoire for the flute was always going to be bad and I was going to stay far away from it.

For the most part, I have lived up to this edict. The obvious problem, though, is that my edict was far too general. I’ve found myself enjoying a whole lot of twentieth and twenty-first century music, I just couldn’t find any flute repertoire that made melodic sense. It was all either composed using the twelve tone system, or was based solely on mathematic equations, or that visually looked interesting but sounded… well, very chaotic.

I have been leery of contemporary flute music from the beginning, and barely surviving my twentieth-century music theory class served only to locked the door. By the time I had finished that class, I had completely shut out all contemporary music when choosing repertoire. The problem was that with that door closed, I was rather limited. Not only that, but I was starting to find myself getting bored with the same old eras, and that sort of scared me, because it isn’t like me at all to get bored with a piece I’ve chosen to learn.

One day, I went to a flute lesson and was completely out of ideas as to what I wanted to learn. Susan, whom I have mentioned in previous posts, began riffling through her music and muttering things like, “This could be interesting… I think you’d like this… but you don’t like contemporary music… so that won’t work…”

I found myself wondering if I had limited myself too much by shutting out all twentieth and twenty-first century music. The answer is yes, I have. I can probably count on one hand just how many pieces I have learned which were written after 1900. Susan eventually opened the door again, though. I still don’t like atonal music, because my head just can’t wrap itself around pieces which don’t sound melodically structured, but this doesn’t include every twentieth century flute piece in the books.

The first piece I played after my rather unpleasant encounter with twentieth-century theory was Jacques Ibert’s flute concerto, written in 1934. While it bordered atonal, it still had melodic structure. It still had motives I could pick out throughout the entire piece. The problem was that it wasn’t quite me. At least, the movement I know is frantic, and almost too chaotic for my liking. What good would it be to say I’d never played something like it, though? What good is it to be a musician and not explore every facit, including performing a piece you don’t quite like?

Well, I have to admit that I haven’t ventured into the extremely atonal realm yet. However, I did find a piece a couple of days ago, which was composed in 1980. This piece not only has a melodic structure that I can interpret and enjoy, but the style of the piece itself fits my style of playing. While I have played lots of pieces in the baroque, classical, and romantic eras which I have enjoyed and could put my heart into, I can finally say that I’ve been able to put my heart into a contemporary piece as well.

I found it while I was skimming through a collection of James Galway’s albums. I didn’t even know the title of the piece when I first heard the opening chords. I listened to the whole first movement of the thing before I even took a glance at the title. After a little research, I found out that it was premiered the same year it was written by Sir James Galway in the Sydney Opera house with the Sydney orchestra. That only clinched it for me. I just had to learn it. The sound of it stuck in my head and invaded my dreams, and so I began the learning process yesterday.

I wish I could explain to you the richness of it! Everything in the first movement alone, from the steady three-4 time signature to the intricate and exquisitely-executed triplets and sixteenth-notes, is enough to keep me going back to hear it over and over again. I haven’t found a piece like that in quite a while, especially within the dreaded twentieth-century collection of flute repertoire.

Why take my word for it, when you can listen to the piece yourself? Take a moment and appreciated it, even if it’s for the simple fact that you haven’t heard it before. It’s taken me far too long to find this piece and reopen the door to contemporary music again. I’m going to make it my goal to play this piece with an orchestra before I leave this world. Take some time and watch the videos below. I think you will find at least one thing to enjoy. I know I did.

John Carmichael’s Phoenix Concerto for Flute and Orchestra:
Movement 1
Movement 2

Forever Seeking,

Me