Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Goodbye to Cello?

This has been building up a couple of months. My wife and I bought a bank-owned fixer-upper to move closer to where my daughter will be attending high school. Well, it's turned out to be more of a fixer-upper than we had imagined. We have to sink far more time and money into it than we expected. Mold is much more extensive than we were told by the inspector (kitchen is now completely torn out), poor original construction (crazy wiring, no attic access...), and even more poorly done modifications to the house by former owners. What's more, the 13-year-old we moved to be closer to, now is punishing me by refusing to come to Dad's anymore over my support of my wife regarding the snotty way my daughter talked to her. So my ex is taking big advantage of this to egg on and reward the daughter for staying away from Dad, use the opportunity to stop working, go back to court, get a change in custody, and up the child support and attorney fees to maximum she can get (We've only been to court 60-70 times since the kid was born; she's a paralegal).

I don't know how I'm going to get through the next few months. I'm can't motivate myself for, and concentrate on cello playing. So I terminated my cello lessons, and I may even end up having to sell my cello. I've informed the folks that I play with that I'll play at an event that I committed myself to next week, but that's it.

I expect I'll continue to occasionally monitor some of my favorite cello blogs. Maybe some months down the road things will start to come around, and I can relax again. But for now, every day presents too many problems I just can't solve.

Monday, June 02, 2008


The subject of Starker's Organized Method of String Playing came up on Cello Chat about a week ago. I don't have access to the thread right now, but it might still be on the first page. Most of the posts dealt with the hazards of Do-It-Yourself. No one can understand the great mysteries behind the book without a teacher that apprenticed under Grand Master Janos or with one of his duly ordained disciples. My teacher's not in that exclusive club, she went to USC.

But I'm sorry, I don't find the goals of the book all that mysterious and inaccessible. It's sets of simple double-stop mechanical finger exercises, following a mechanical, non-musical sort of chromatic progression: first one finger stays put and the other two finger progress chromatically, then the first finger progresses one half-step and the two other fingers start over in the progression. Sort of like gears in a clock.

To complete the exercise though all the permutations of a single position, in tune, requires really good hand/arm position, finger independence, and very little unnecessary tension. Benefits: precise intonation; endurance from efficient, non-tense finger dropping; and knowledge of what notes are available in what position.

However, (1) I don't have the endurance to play a whole set well without tension. Also, (2) I have difficulty identifying and maintaining good intonation in a chromatic, atonal situation, and, (3) I get bored, and (4) I don't really absorb what notes I'm playing in such a mechanistic exercise, anyway. So, during the past couple of years I've made simplified versions that center around a key. It helps me listen and hopefully make musical sense out of the intervals. And if, at one time, I only play those that fit within a specific key, then rest, I can get though it without over-stressing and tightening up my fingers.

My previous post showed what I'm talking about (click here to see). On it I identify the a key and chord progression that the exercise intends to suggest. I see it didn't garner any interest on Cello Chat. Instead, I killed the thread. I seem to have a knack at that.