Sunday, May 18, 2008

"Chala, your mother sounds like an ice cream truck."

Whereupon My daughter comes around the corner into My office, studies Me for a moment, and reports back, "She isn't nearly rectangular enough."

As the Æsir and Vanir are My witnesses, the preceding incident actually happened about half an hour ago.

You see, it all started when I decided to do some intensive work on the E flat study I'm preparing for that exam in June. It's a bouncy little number, the love child of a polka and a brisk marching tune. (Think dotted eighth note with a sixteenth note chaser.)

And, as fate would have it, tonight I worked on a small section of the piece... Playing it over and over and over again. (Think lots of arpeggios in that dotted-eighth-plus-sixteenth pattern, up and down and sideways through two and a half octaves.)

I had been doing this for about five minutes when I had the ice cream truck vision. This is the season when those accursed vehicles come out of hibernation, then rampage slowly up and down suburban streets playing their siren songs... Never-ending snippets of "It's a Small World" or "Dixie" or a Mozart sonata gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Yes, I have become what I fear most: A vanilla soft-serve with rainbow sprinkles. On wheels.

But the voices in My head prefer spumoni.

(pours Herself a snoot of Glenfiddich, then cues up some Blind Guardian)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tootling in 5/4 time

It's late Thursday evening in Winnipeg, and as I wind down from the long day I've got my clarinet out. Got an extra lesson on Saturday, noon-ish, and am putting in a few longer-than-usual practices.

On the menu tonight: Allegro Con Grazia from Symphony No. 6 by Tchaikovsky. I've been working on getting a better-sounding B flat at the top of the chalumeau register, and ridding Myself of a few unwanted chirps and twitters caused by intermittent interruptions of airflow.

Oh, and did I mention that the aforementioned Allegro is in 5/4 time? (A 2+3 feel, to be specific.)

My overall sound is improving quite a bit as of late, something that can be attributed to one particular thing: Regular and mentally focused practice.

'Regular' as in 'Not just the evening before the next lesson'.

'Mentally focused' as in 'If you keep making the same damn mistake in the same place, stop right there and play it slowly until you're no longer making that particular mistake.'

And those #3 reeds are softening up nicely, too.

Thirty-two days till the exam... Thirty-two days till the exam...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Once more unto the... exam room?

It's official: In about five and a half weeks I will have to get up Entirely Too Early and drive downtown with my clarinet, for a rendezvous with destiny.

Or, at least, a rendezvous with a piano accompanist and a Royal Conservatory examiner. Yes, folks... Here comes the dreaded Grade 4 practical exam.

(Not bad for someone who's only played clarinet for a bit under three years, mind you...)

It's been an interesting year of preparation, full of Random Equipment Malfunctions. Most of these have involved a new ligature, a Bonade inverted that insisted on slipping off the mouthpiece.

Until a couple of weeks ago, when I decided enough was enough. I took a small piece of #400 wet-dry sandpaper and applied it vigorously to the inside surface of the ligature. Sanded down the high-gloss finish on the metal, roughing it up eeee...ver so slightly. Now, when I set a reed, it stays put.

A definite advantage when one is trying to actually play something.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Springy Tech Support

(stretches, wanders over to window, looks outside)

*dial dial dial*

"Welcome to MacroSeasons technical support hotline. All of our deities are currently busy. Your call is important to Us. Please stay on the line, and Your call will be answered by the next available representative."

(makes cup of tea)
(feeds cats)
(feeds fish)
(feeds Self)
(reads War and Peace)

"...are still busy. Please stay on the line..."

(reads War and Peace again, this time in Русский язык)

"MacroSeasons Tech Support, Indra speaking. How may I help You?"

"Hi. My name's Astreja Odinsdóttir, and I'm calling from Winnipeg. I've been having problems with Vernal Equinox 2008. Keeps crashing on Me."

"Mmm... Did You download the Daylight Saving Time patch?"

"I think that's what caused it to crash. I've had to reboot a couple of times already. And when it does run, it's sluggish... I can't even play Minesweeper without some half-frozen sparrow tapping on My window and telling Me to knock it off. I even got a Blue Screen of Death the other day..."

"I'll have to check with My supervisor. One moment, please." *click*

(writes alternate version of War and Peace, in Esperanto, making Marya into a day-trader with an allergy to spinach)

"Hello, Astreja? Sorry about the wait. I'll have to escalate this to Tier II support. In the meantime, just keep rebooting..."

(insert insincere closing pleasantries, followed immediately by the sound of a MacroSeasons Certified Goddess card being run through a shredder)

Enough of this crap! I'll get this razzafracking season working even if I have to rewrite the whole damn thing Myself. On Linux.

(does a quick search for GPL-licensed weather software, a C programming HOWTO, and the name of a good travel agent, Just In Case)

Right. Let's see what We've got here...

Ah, that's better.