Sunday, January 15, 2017

I think I'm developing a tic(k).

This evening, in the spirit of "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more," I spent some more quality time staring in abject terror at the clarinet part for Holst's First Suite in E♭ Major.  It was back in October 2016 when I first blogged about the daunting task of learning the Suite, and about struggling with the utterly preposterous five-bar run of high-velocity 16th notes in part 1, the Chaconne.

I'm happy to report that I now have semiquaverphobia mostly under control, thanks to diligent use of a [redacted extremely rude Old Norse profanity] metronome.  Little blighter is sitting right on the coffee table in the living room, so I can no longer use the excuse that it`s lost under something on My desk.

Even better, I'm starting to actually like working with that little so-and-so.  It just might have something to do with the fact that I can now play that five-bar run -- in fact, I've almost got it memorized now.

Life is good.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The fine art of curating jelly beans

In the aftermath of the after-Christmas candy sales, our household acquired a large container of gourmet jelly beans.  It's one of those assortments that comes with a visual reference so that you can supposedly tell the brown cappuccino beans from the brown cinnamon beans from the brown kiwi fruit beans from the brown cola beans.

Not a chance.

The yellow ones aren't much better.  Reach in for a lemon and end up with pineapple, or perhaps even popcorn or Tropical Punch.  If the lights are low, one might even mistake pale orange for yellow and end up with passion fruit instead.  The only guarantee is that the dark blue ones are always blueberry, but only because there are no other dark blue flavours in the assortment.

Overall, though, the beans taste acceptably pleasant -- except for them.

The speckled bluish-white mint ones were nasty enough, but I couldn't even figure out what flavor the yellowish-green beans with brown speckles were supposed to be.  Suffice to say that I made a lot of interesting faces while trying to figure it out.  The closest match I came up with was some industrial solvent that I used while working in a print shop back in the late 1980s.

I had no recourse but to pour out all the beans and evict the ones that were particularly vile.  While I was at it, I got rid of all the licorice ones, too.  Not a fan.  I kept trying them, hoping that one of them was actually grape.  Never did find any grape in there, although I'm still hoping that one of the many shades of red is wild cherry.

Next time, I build My own assortment -- and unlike this one, there will be cherry and grape in there.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

It's a crazy idea, but it just might work.

Spent about an hour and a half working through new community band repertoire, with an eye towards the Pinawa Band Festival this spring.

Because we're a bit light on clarinets at the moment, I made a preemptive strike and started learning the first clarinet parts instead of the usual seconds.  If When I've learned them, I'll be ready for those nights when no one else can make it -- and as a bonus, the harmony parts will make that much more sense.

(Oh, and I get to play the Friendly Giant closing theme, too, in the form of "Early One Morning" from a medley of Percy Grainger folk songs.  Epic win.)

Goddess for hire

In the long, cold slog between Yule and the Vernal Equinox I've been experimenting with divine side gigs to while away the time.

Effective immediately, and for as long as meteorologically necessary, I am the Goddess of Picking Things Up Off The Ground So That No One Slips On Them.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Yule! Pass the soy sauce, please.

(raises mug of home-brewed mead) Gleðileg Jól!  2016 has been a very strange year -- strange even from My admittedly odd perspective -- so I thought I'd celebrate appropriately.

I made a pot of hot and sour soup, using this excellent recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  About the only Old Norse ingredient in there is the pork shoulder, although one could probably make a good case for the garlic.

The community band Christmas concert season also ended this evening with one last show, and one nervous Springy G as first chair clarinet.  (wipes brow)  No, wait; that's the sriracha sauce in the soup making Me sweat.  I was only slightly terrified playing first.  Amazing what actually rehearsing the material can do for one's nerves.  Once the holidays are done, though, I'm hoping the rest of the section will be back and I can resume being the Lovely Assistant for the firsts.  Second clarinet is, after all, where all the cool harmonies live.

The very best of the season to all!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Public Enemy #1

(glances at lineup of glowering mortals)  I think I might have made a few enemies tonight.

It all started innocently enough:  Darchala and I had agreed to get a mixer for the kitchen, as our mutual Yule gift to each other, and while on My morning coffee break I surfed over to the website of a local vendor known to sell such contrivances.

Lo and behold, there was the mixer we wanted, on sale for the weekend at a really good price.  There were about a dozen left in inventory.

When I got home from work, instead of making a cup of tea and kicking back for an hour so as to avoid rush hour traffic near the store, I got an overpowering urge:

Go to the store.  Now!

So I jumped in the car and I drove over there.  Got an excellent spot right near the doors.  (Thank you, Parking Gods!)

Wrestled with a shopping cart that was tangled up with another.  Liberated them both.  Headed over to the kitchen section.

There was exactly one mixer left, and amazingly it was in the colour I wanted.

And this is where the really weird part starts.

I got in line and the cashier rang up the purchase, using card "A."  The system hiccuped and had to be rebooted, but it finally took My money.

Decided to take a break and headed across the street to have coffee in the mall.  Amazingly, a parking spot right near the doors opened up just as I got there.  (Thank you again, Parking Gods!)  Coffee was very nice but comparatively uneventful, except for the fact that I was still giggling nervously at the serendipity of getting possibly the last on-sale mixer in the whole city, and the card reader glitch at the till.

Suitably fortified, I went to pick up a few groceries down the street.  Sure enough, when it came time to pay for them, I crashed a second card reader using card "B."

That's right:  In the space of a little over an hour I managed to cause Random Equipment Malfunctions in two different debit/credit machines, running two different operating systems, using two different cards.

On a busy Friday night during the Christmas shopping season.

(checks wallet)  I think I'll pay cash for coffee tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The darkness of memory

I was thinking about a couple of incidents from the recent past, specifically a 2013 trip to the International Music Camp and rehearsals with a band I no longer belong to.  What I found odd, and blog-worthy, was that the lighting in both mental scenes seemed wrong.  It was dark, as if painted over with shadow.

This isn't to say that these experiences were unremittingly bad; they were not, and in fact I remember some truly awe-inspiring moments such as the Intermediate Band's performance on the last night of band camp.  What I do remember, though, is emotional tension -- unease, weariness, perhaps even a touch of fear.  Visualizing them again, I feel a subtle heaviness in the chest.

I was conflicted, happy and unhappy at the same time.  I wanted to play the music, but at the same time I was exhausted, aching all over, and just wanted to go home and curl up in bed with a whole pile of purring cats.

Another odd thing about these "dark" memories is that they're like islands.  They seem to be cut off from what I see as the real world, almost nightmarish in their separation.  There's a sense of being trapped in the scenes, unable to just walk away.

But then there are the memories that are polar opposites, the memories of light and lightness.  I remember at the Pinawa Band Festival in 2011 actually starting to cry in the closing bars of a Lord of the Rings medley.  The realization that I was actually performing with a real, live band was a dream come true, in the highest sense of the phrase.  I remember Kurt Elling singing "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" at the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, and I was completely blown away.  The auditorium was dark but the memory shines.  Joe Satriani at the Centennial Concert Hall in July 1990, playing the opening chords of "Flying in a Blue Dream" -- again, musical light piercing the darkness of the room.

What I find fascinating about this is this darkness/light effect seems to be exclusively in musical settings.  It's almost as if the rest of My memories don't count because they don't come with a soundtrack.  This may be because I have a "phonographic" memory, with the ability to instantly recall a piece of music at will once it makes it to long-term storage.  (And yes, I am definitely the person you want on your Name That Tune team.)

Going forward, to swipe a line that may or may not have been the last words of Goethe, "Mehr licht!"