Musical Meditation and Warm Up

Dear Instrumentalists,

I love this and am eager to share. In my quest to “swim deeper” in a more integrated way of being a musician, this is very helpful. Excellent with students.

1) Imagine (as richly as possible) the sound of a note in its fullest expression/exoerience
2) Play the note (hold it out)
3) Imagine it again
4) hum the note, then slur into an AH singing that note
5) imagine the note
6) play it again
7) Sing in solfége and add hand signals preferably - if you can and wish
7) write the note down

repeat with two notes … repeat with patterns….
Stick with just one or two notes and play around with dynamics and tone color, expression

Build as you can and wish - no hurry - the priority is full experience

How do you feel and what can you notice about the note? How does humming and or singing influence how well you can play and experience, express the note?

Adjust patter of practice and note patterns to suit yourself as you wish.

In service to the muse,
August 20, 2019

Love in multiple facets

Dear Guests,

So many oboists, myself included, strive for perfection in our art. Why not!?! We care so deeply about our every aspect of reed making, playing, and understanding of the music itself. It is easy to “get out the magnifying glass and study the bark on the trees in the forest” We’ve heard the expression, don’t loose the the forest for the trees …. well, in being a perfectionist, it’s also easy to loose the trees for the minutia in the trees themselves! That’s OK and great to get absorbed in the nitty gritty, so long as it serves the overall expression - SONG if you will, of the forest itself.

What do I mean by this? Well, back to the philosophy I embrace, that there is only one subject, LOVE, let’s say that music is the voice of LOVE, in all it’s profoundly complicated and delicious spices and flavors, however shallow or deep, dark or sparkling the water in the ocean of love in the musical voice. In other words, yes, every wave is comprised of drops and micro organisms, but don’t loose the wave for that, or the ocean itself in the fascination of perfecting the details within the music of the ocean.

As a composer, all the details matter in the portrait of the flavor of love I am writing.
When I compose a sonic portrait of a tiny, small work of a solo oboe flower, for example, I take it very seriously. Every note, placement of the note and where it relates in the relationship of beat in the measure, has importance and meaning to me and the more these detailed brush strokes are observed, the more clarity in elegant nuance to the beauty of the portrait of the flower can be heard and expressed, AND also, HOWEVER it’s all a mute point if there is sight lost to the flower itself! (I will blog more about the flowers again in this new generation of blogs - for instance a ROSE to me symbolizes patience and cultivation of elegance)

Consider phrasing, all notes belong in a phrase (assuming there is a phrase) All notes in a phrase are a part of the phrase itself and are like how all letters are parts of words and those words are members of a sentence. (or line of poetry… I know, there is no end)

I find it helpful to think of written music like a language. Notes in a measure are like a word, measures in a phrase are like a words in a sentence, sentences in a movement are like a chapter in a great story. YES, it is both important to pronounce the letters of words correctly, to articulate the consonances, and be mindful of rests and timing… the words can be heard and understood, but it is all in service to the story.
What is the GIST of this story and how does this word enhance and contribute to the meaning of THIS gist - how does this ingredient make this meal delicious? Every ingredient has a flavor, and every flavor relates to other flavors, in terms of how it colors or enhances, blends with…dosage is important. It helps to know the difference between the main ingredients, spices, and textures.

Lois Wann would often have me remove all excess notes and have me just play the skeleton of the phrase. What are the stable notes (nouns) of resolution and what are the action - stressful notes - (verbs) of motion in the scale. For example there is a big difference between tonic and leading tone in purpose of a phrase or arpeggio or in a measure. How the downbeat is played or felt is a far cry from the upbeat of the last beat - and so on….. A grace note using the 2nd note of the scale is not the skeleton and is different than a dominant note of a scale on the 3rd beat in a 4.4 bar … Here is the skeleton body of the phrase, then we would gradually add the passing tones and filler notes, ornaments etc. This requires some idea of theory. It helps to know what you’re doing and what is what. Is this note a part of the skeleton of the phrase ( a main ingredient) like chicken in a chicken dish or is this curry in curry chicken (I’d think of that as the 3rd degree of the scale - consider how a third degree of the scale influences the emotional flavor)

Of course as a composer, I want to hear my work performed correctly with understanding the details and the story and how the details serve the story. Hmmm, I will have to write more blogs about this. Everything in written music - if written consciously - has a function. What color is this in the landscape? Is this a shadow, ray of light?

Imagine a painted portrait of someone. I think the objects, colors, facets of the face and details of what is ever around the person all somehow give meaning and support the purpose or gist of the portrait. What do the objects in a portrait say about the person? What is the person and what are the supporting objects in the environment? What says or expresses what?

With some creative thinking - we can liberate our learning and recreation via metaphor and analogy in service to our art, What was the composer thinking? Why this note, or rhythm, or place in the measure…..???? Why not?

I maintain that the more a person understands theory - which is like grammar and vocabulary using the language analogy - or ingredients using the cooking analogy, or color and shadow, objects and subjects using the painting portrait analogy, and can pronounce and understand the words and nuances of inflection, timing and so forth to articulate i.e. TELL the story, relate the point, the flavor, the portrait of love behind the story itself best, providing the understand of minutia doesn’t eclipse the overall expression.

In future blogs in the heading MUSE ECHO - I will go into this thinking.
For playing works of other composers, like Handel or Telemann for instance, I’ve found this thinking - and the great teachings of Lois, extremely helpful. Know your bones, muscles, embellishments and so forth in service to the overall work itself.

YUM have fun.
In service to the music!
August 8th, 2019

smoothness fostered and maintained

Dear Oboists,

As part of mechanical oboe maintenance, my oboe maker recommends that I oil my oboe every 4 to 8 weeks, so I do.

First I thoroughly dust the entire oboe, especially all the precious key work, with a little clean soft paint brush, then I use the synthetic key oil I bought from them which has a needle nose for application, and apply a tiny drop of oil everywhere appropriate in the key work to do so.

Next, I play building scales for over half an hour to ensure that the oil works its way thoroughly into the key work. I might add, that reviewing trill keys and practicing trilling at this time is important as well, so those rarely used keys get attended to as well.

Practicing the building scales in both directions, one octave, two, maybe three octaves is of course a magnificent way of practicing smoothness in playing as well as smoothness of key work!

No oboist ever taught me building scales - scales a plenty to be certain - but the building scale practice, I imported from my piano training.

For those of you who may be wondering how to play a building scale - or wondering what I mean by that, here is the pattern using scale degree numbers instead of note names.

1212121212321232123212321234321234321234321234321234543212345432123454321234543212345654321 etc. reverse 8787878787678767876787678765678765678765678765678 etc

I play them slurred, tongued, in patterns,….with dynamic work - you name it.
I’ve found building scale work essential and liberating for my playing.

Advice, breath as needed but only right before beginning a new round of the pattern.
Practice PERFECT form: posture, breathing, embouchure, intonation, direction, focus and diaphragmatic support - all crucial to improve all aspects of playing, while doing this.

Hope this helps, or serves as a friendly reminder.
Best wishes to you and your technical prowess to liberate your artistry and enhance a fulfilling relationship of life long music making!
August 6, 2019