Old World or New, Sacred or Profane

Monday, December 29, 2008

Cellistic New Year Resolutions

One thing I find fascinating about learning cello, and did not at all expect, is the paradoxes. Now that I've met some of them, my hope for 2009 is that I allow myself to appreciate and revel in them.

Ok, for you they might not make sense. You know far better than me what is right for you. But as these years go fleetingly by, they are becoming for me the elusive essence behind learning and practicing the cello. Otherwise, at my age, lack of talent, and station in life, why bother? So here's my list (partly inspired by, but not to be blamed on, writings in Stark Raving Cello):

- To stop trying harder; instead, to just try easier.

- To play fast slowly; to play loud gently; to play slow fleetingly; to play soft intensely; to play easy things with attentive, loving care; to play hard things undeservedly carefree.

- Instead of frustration, to allow myself unwarranted pleasure and joy in visiting and re-visiting my weak areas, with unworried faith that it'll come together, whenever I eventually allow it.

- To hear musical forests, instead of trees of notes.

- To feel more, listen more, absorb more, hear more, sing more, dream more, express more, enjoy more. Worry, doubt, fear, control, and struggle (and ok, write!) less.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A grumpy weekend before Christmas

I was asked to play at a local zoo with a folkie quartet that a violinist and I regularly "guest" with. No pay, not even gas money, but the zoo management is always nice and appreciative, so the band keeps coming back and sometimes they augment with the "string section". When the time came, I really didn't feel like going. It was to be outside, at night, so it'd be cold (by Socal standards, that is). I had other things at home I wanted to work on. I just didn't feel the group is playing well this year. The kids pretty much ignore us (only the occasional parent seems to show interest). It's noisy. There's nothing I play that's essential, it's all various accompaniments. And I'm tired of Christmas tunes. Also, it weighed on my mind this will be the first Christmas I won't be seeing my 14-year old daughter; she stopped coming to Dad's since February, hence a string of court dates, with more to come. So I came late and was real close to just not showing up.

I sat in the back in "left field" position. Too dark to see the sheet music, and I forgot to bring some of the non-Christmas tunes, so I working on very faulty memory. Ugh, what was I doing here?

Then at some point a very severely handicapped young man in a wheelchair, pushed by perhaps his mother, appeared in front of the band. And he stayed in front of the band for quite some time, rocking to the music and doing his best to see what was going on. Hammer dulcimers can be fun to watch and they were right in the front, but he seemed to be particularly looking at me. It was hard to tell, his motor movements were uncontrolled and jerky, maybe it was just my imagination that he kept staring at me. Then his attendant wheeled him around the band to the back next to me, where he swung his arm, as if bowing back and forth on a cello. He stayed there some time, doing his best to experience what I so little appreciated.

What have I done in my life to deserve be where I was, and he where he was? Nothing! Perhaps Dickens had a point about remembering He who made the lame walk and the blind see.

Little did I know at the time that there was a message on my answering machine from a Court-ordered counselor that my daughter wants to reconcile and re-establish time with me.

I hope this season brings all of you good things as well.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Carol of the Bells for 4 cellos posted

As requested, here's the five parts to Carol of the Bells for 4 cellos: 4 parts, plus part 1 down an octave. Note: this might not be exactly the same as what Guanaco or Carol played; about a year ago I expanded it by a few measures and changed the harmony in a couple of measures. It's not enough of a difference that they should change, it would just cause confusion, but I don't think I have the original version around anymore.

So now, who else will prepare something for cello ensemble? We could have a cello blog library of arrangements.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

O Holy Night for 4 cellos

Those of you following Cellomania may have read the discussion about Carol of the Bells and O Holy Night. Below are the parts to O Holy Night. If you click on the image, the image will expand. I hope you can size it to something reasonable. If you want, let me know and I'll send you them as PDFs, or TIFFs, or JPEGs, or something).

Note that cello 4 is entirely pizzicato, the others are arco and require some very long, slow bow strokes. Cello 1 looks tough, but it can be done surprisingly easily, entirely in mid-string thumb position, just like a typical tune out of Mooney's Thumb Position Vol 1, except use pinkie (or ring finger if you extend from the thumb) for those high Es (Actually, I think it does sound a bit better if you can stay on the A string and and go in and out of thumb position as required). I had hoped to record it, and did record two tracks, but now a switch on my recorder is stuck. Maybe I can get it working before Christmas.