Sundowning II by Lily Chen was written for Keyed Kontraptions in 2018. She based the subject matter on her own personal experience with her grandmother, and the changes that occured with her dimentia. Here is an excerpt from the forward of the piece:
“Sundowning is a neurological phenomenon most commonly seen in sufferers of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients with sundowning usually begin to show behavioral problems after the sun sets. Sometimes they get agitated, restless, or even aggressive; sometimes they suffer from auditory hallucination, illusion, or even delusional disorder. Such syndrome visited my aged grandmother, which put her in a state of mood swings, mental confusion, and cognitive disorder. I found her physical functions obviously degenerating; she even lost her sense of hearing the week before her death.”
Nomad Session recently finished a large work that took place over multiple concerts. This was a commission from Nick Benavides that he based on different landmarks aspects of San Francisco. The videography was done by Maggie Beidelman.
“What about San Francisco’s tucked away stair cases, community gardens, block sized patches of green and that one “quiet spot” in the neighborhood park with a great view that only a local can lead you to? These are the hidden spaces we are interested in and we believe that there is something more magical waiting to be discovered amidst all the fog that fills this city we call home”
There is a new wave of music products that is aimed, not to be the very best, but to be accessible and affordable. There have been plastic woodwind instruments for many decades, and they are a more cost effective and durable choice for young players.
Now there is a new wave of plastic instruments that are lower quality and don’t try to compete with the real wooden instruments. These instruments are mostly made in Asia, and are mostly made from injection mold plastic.
Sometimes as professional players we hit road blocks in our repertoire. As good as we think we are, and as prepared as we may be, there will always be a passage lurking out there which will require some work. So much of being a bassoon player is about playing in an appropriate and handsome way and blending with an orchestra. I have recently chosen a piece of music for an upcoming recital that is pushing my limits, I will be playing the Franck Cello Sonata on Contraforte. The recital is in about three months and I have in working on this piece for the last three weeks. At this point all of the “fun music” has been rehearsed as much as it needs to be and the technical passages now need to be “woodshed.”
(I had to repair some of the slurs)
I chose the Franck Cello Sonata because it really shows off the upper register of the Contraforte. I’m finding that I’m able to play extreme high note passages in an easier way than on the bassoon. This passage that I selected is one that I am finding to be particularly difficult to get up to tempo. It is getting better each day, but I think it is only due to switching up my practice techniques and thinking about the note groupings in new ways.
For this passage the beginning of measure 4 is a tricky spot, mostly this has to do with the fingering system on the Contraforte. These are the ways that I use to practice it:
These are the ways that I first use to learn a difficult spot of music. If after a few days the passage is still unplayable then I use a few different rhythms to add in. As a side note, I find practicing to be stressful. By micromanaging difficult passages like this, one can create “baby steps” that are achievable everyday. These rhythm studies are a way of taking the notes out of musical context and playing them as a mechanical technical exercise.
This second set of excercises is designed to focus on the notes. These help me when I am having trouble concentrating, or am practicing in the morning and still half asleep. Playing staccato isolated notes is a memorization technique. The sixteenth slurred pattern isolates the finger movement between the notes, I try to have “lightening fast” fingers. Play the note full length and then move to the next fingering as fast and efficiently as possible.
Some other things that I try to keep in mind when I practice, in order to make my sessions as efficient as possible…
-Have a good reed
-Warm up with both long tone and technical exercises
-Have a tuner and metronome on whenever you are playing alone
-Don’t allow yourself to get away with cracked notes or sloppy fingers
I have been jealous of bass clarinet players and contrabass flute players who are able to perform standing. It adds to the stage presence for certain pieces and is more visually interesting to watch.
The parts that I used to make this standing peg cost under $10 and I bought it all at Home Depot.
For the Contraforte, the peg used is 3/8 inch so it was easy to find a match. I used an aluminum rod since it aluminum is easier to cut. I have my cordless reciprocating saw,Peg stock, black Duct Tape, a Rubber stopper. After cutting the peg to length based on my height, I wrapped the tape around an end to fit the rubber stop.
I have entered the limbo phase of my life. I am out of school and practicing all day just waiting for auditions to come up. I’m becoming a full time audition jockey and taking everything that opens. After taking auditions for a few years I realized that I have a problem retaining my audition performance. I can remember the mistakes that I made for a few days, but after months, when I am at the next audition, I try to remember how my last audition went and I have no idea.
So I decided to start an audition journal at my grad school auditions two years ago. Its just a regular composition notebook that I keep in my excerpt binder. I get really into it during an audition and try to document everything possible. Everything from how much sleep I got the night before the audition, how much coffee that I had (for nervous people caffeine can cause shaky hands) and how the audition actually went. Before I even start packing up my instruments I start jotting down what mistakes happened and how I recovered from mistakes.
I have been recommending this to all of my friends who are taking auditions. Even just for posterity’s sake, to look back and laugh at a terrible audition disaster. This is also the best way to record the experience and know in advance how you will react in future auditions.
From my own personal audition journal I found a few patterns evolving. I don’t have stage fright, so I don’t get nervous on stage or during a performance. I do get nervous the morning of an audition but it’s based on logistics.
Like… do i have the perfect reed? did i remember my reeds? do i have the correct check in time? correct date? did i warm up enough? too much? etc.
I also skip breath marks that I have specifically written in. As if after months of practicing this piece of music and logically making a decision of where to breathe, on the spot I have a better solution. So then I am forced to take a breath in a spot that makes no sense whatsoever and is completely jarring.
So outside of the obvious “having mock auditions for friends, family, and teachers” and “recording yourself” and “find many different recordings of the pieces” I would say that the audition journal is the best way to personally track and control yourself in audition settings.
The technology and resources available for making musical instruments is at an all time high. I was very impressed and surprised when I visited the Fox factory and was able to see what went in to making an instrument. I have found some interesting videos on instrument production that range from small scale productions to large factories. This is the whole orchestra in score order being made. Sorry Violas.