Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Bowed Radio and "The Soloist"

I thought I would make a shameless plug for Bowed Radio. It is an odd mix of hard rock goth cello, bluegrass, modern orchestral, oriental/indian/iranian/egyptian classical music, and jazz violin music put together as a podcast each week.

Some of the music is downright wierd - like any of the goth cello stuff; one song was entitled "My mother was an opium smoker." I bet that didn't go over great at Mother's day brunch. But most of it is fresh and beautiful. I love the middle eastern music and the Indian/Chinese improvisations.

I don't know what the host, Mark Allender, does for a living. His group performs on one of the podcasts and he says they try to make as much noise as possible without pissing off the audience too much. Not exactly elevator music.

It has motivated me to expand my violin playing. I have just had the hardest time motivating myself to pick up scale books, etudes, and student concertos again. When I do practice, and it is not near often enough, I try to imitate some of the fiddle or eastern music I have been listening to. Since mom is here we all pulled out our instruments, even Emily. Mom played a song she learned in High School and we played it back and forth to each other. It was fun.

Violin music stopped being fun for me sometime ago. When I was at BYU I worked so hard at playing that first year and burned out on it completely. My teacher, Wolfgang TsouTsouris, pushed me so hard and instead of getting better, I just got so tense. I couldn't seem to get in tune. I would play the same part over and over again hours a day and it was never right. When I performed it was worse. It was like watching a puppet play and I could only make gross changes to force my distant fingers to adjust to the music as it crescendoed out of control.

I ran into a book called "The Soloist" by Mark Salzman that captured that feeling so exactly that I had to buy it. I reread it regularly. The main character was a child progeny that broke down and is unable to perform any more. In the beginning of the book, he is a mediocre musical teacher at a Californian university, until he gets a child prodigy as a student, is put on a jury for a murder trial, and finally gets a cat.

Like the main character, I have my violin ritual that has replaced much of my practice time. I now get out my violin and improv on something that I have listened to or I try to learn some fiddle songs. I think about how to teach my violin student and I let myself have fun while I play. When it stops being fun, I put it away.

1 comment:

Mark Allender said...

Hey man,

Thanks for the blog-back. It's nice to know people are listening. For the record, I am a professional jack-of-all-trades -- currently a data analyst for JoAnn Fabrics -- we'll see where that goes from here.

Thanks again!

Mark "Yes i do Google myself at work, so sue me!" Allender