Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The taxonomy of taxfolk

I took a little drive down Memory Lane this evening, en route from clarinet to karate class. My mission: Drop off  some tax stuff at the Canadian Revenue Agency.

So at 6:15 this evening there I was, at the CRA building on Broadway.

Along with a lot of other people. Cars pulled up on the west side of the building and spat out envelope-wielding humanoids, who would promptly run to the mail slot and feed the April 30 Monster before running for dear life.

And one brave soul was sitting in his truck with a clipboard propped up on the steering wheel, finishing his tax return on location.

By the way, the Monster bites. It wanted the ring on My right hand and wouldn't let go. (rubs finger)

The 'Memory Lane' business? Oh, I used to work for accountants... For six years.

For those in the number-mangling profession, April 30 (or 04/15 in the States) is a bit like New Year's Eve. Only you have to work later, rather than getting out at 2:30 in the afternoon. Everyone -- Accountants, data entry technicians, secretarial staff -- works like a friggin' maniac to finish the tax returns brought in by last-minute stragglers. Once I was in the office past 9:00 at night, printing and collating the last couple of tax packages.

But then... After all is printed and signed and driven downtown and stuffed into the mouth of the Monster... It's party time, and not a moment too soon.

So if you encounter any ravening hordes of drunken accountants in your local bar tonight, tell them 'Hi' from me.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Practising while fully present

I've had an exceptionally good evening this Saturday, putting in two solid music sessions.

First up, clarinet. After working with the F# minor study being prepared for this June's Grade 4 practical exam, I brought out Ye Olde Digitalle Chromaticke Tunerre. The problem: How to correct a somewhat flatter-than-it-oughta-be B flat at the high end of the chalumeau register. After some trial and error (tempered by the satisfaction of seeing that most of the lower notes were right on the mark), I found that I could get a cleaner, truer tone by creating a thin and more centered air stream.

Then, while singing the F# minor study, I also tested My vocal pitch with the tuner. I discovered that the pitch varied considerably depending on the syllable I was singing. "Aaaa", with the mouth wider, didn't have the same accuracy as "Oooo".

But I can fix that.

And, by Euterpe, I shall do just that.

(Still on my clarinet to-do list: Unlock several double-jointed phalanges on left hand, improve articulation, cleanly speed up a fairly complex G minor study, relax the upper lip.)

Then I got out the violin. As this was clearly a day for technical breakthroughs, I started with the Dancla School of Mechanism (Op. 74) book and worked on exercise #1 till I actually started to get it. Nice, clean strikes of all four fingers onto the fingerboard, in rhythm and with good intonation. Rockin'!

Finally, I spent about half an hour cleaning up a gavotte by J.B. Lully (from the Suzuki Grade 2 book)... It's a wonderful 17th century piece that needs a light touch and graceful baroque bow gestures, but oh! those string crossings. *squeak*

So I decided to fix one particular part of the B section, a quick jaunt from the D string to the G and back again. Slowed it right down and worked on getting the bow angle just right, aaaand going in the correct direction at the correct moment.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, I also discovered that I could cure the "whistling" sound just by keeping the bow at a strict right angle to the strings. As it turned out, that irritating high, thin sound was actually the bow hairs sliding up or down the string.

Oh, and I think I know how rosin actually works, too. I've started to feel it as I play.

Now if I could only be as present for my meditation...