With singing and playing being a constant goal, we’re always looking for ways to practice that without repeating the same scales and exercises. So, we worked with major and minor blues scales, focusing on hearing the intervals and pitches before singing and/or playing them. We also sightread no. 17 of the Karg-Elert op. 107 Studies with singing and playing. (Admittedly, I had played this particular study before, heh heh.) We covered the topic of grouping notes musically, which may differ from how they are grouped via notation. For example, in m. 3 of no. 17, it appears that the notes are clumped together in groups of 6 (4+2); however, musically it makes more sense to group them with the sixth note in the group belonging to the next set of notes (the first E-flat better groups with the following C, and so on).
In no. 18 of the Studies, the big take-away was to make a distinction between the melodic line and the harmonic “blurbles.” This can be done in a multitude of ways: adding vibrato to the melody, changing the dynamics between the two lines, or playing with different tone colors for each line. Related to that, Robert shared some teaching advice he’d heard to “play the unimportant notes like they’re unimportant.” About this study specifically, taking time, especially to breathe, is totally allowed since it is described as “quasi cadenza.” A change for me to make in this piece concerned the teeny-tiny notes in m. 7, after the fermatas. I was putting emphasis on the beginnings of the groupings (E, F-double-sharp, A-sharp, etc.), BUT the chord being outlined is best represented by the top/last note in the groupings (B, D, F, G-sharp, etc). This means I needed to shift my thinking from using the first notes in the groupings as a “downbeat”, seeing them instead as pickup notes into the anchor top notes. This approach can also help with the overall feeling of building momentum to the high G-sharp/following A.
We’re also moving forward with circular breathing! A next step is to start with the familiar (the embouchure for high notes) and transition to the unfamiliar (maintaining the pressure of the top lip while storing air in the cheeks). Previously, I was trying to go from the puffed cheeks to the puffed cheeks with an engaged top lip. This proved difficult because I was going from a somewhat unfamiliar sensation to an even more unfamiliar sensation. So, we just altered the process. Boom. Another exercise is to practice consistently blowing bubbles into water through a straw while circular breathing. I am still working on this, but I think it’s improving! One key aspect is to understand tongue placement during the inhalation stage; say the word “gong” but stop on the “ng” with the tongue blocking the airway. While this is happening, you push out the air being held in the cheeks while inhaling through your nose. To help understand the motion and feeling of pushing the air out of the cheeks, one can blow water out of the mouth using the same muscles.
The Berio Sequenza was worked on too. Octave accuracy is one area for me to work on. We listened to recordings of the piece by two different flutists, Severino Gazzelloni and Harvey Sollberger, and we discussed their strengths and weaknesses. One of the comments that most stood out to me was that in some cases, musicians might be unsuccessful with pieces like the Sequenza because they’re using a 19th c. approach to 20th c. music.
- Sarah and I spent the weekend with our friends Tyson and Jennifer (and their pup Brady!) away from the city, where sirens and people aren’t constantly bombarding you. We went to the farmer’s market, picked apples, and hiked through some beautiful foliage THAT ACTUALLY SHOWS IT’S FALL! It was wonderful to get away for a bit.
- Robert had a show of free improvisation with a bassist and bass clarinetist at Spectrum. Robert played on a variety of flutes, and it was interesting to hear how the different registers from each flute instrument still blended and worked with the other low bass instruments.
- We went to a talk/performance at the Metropolitan Museum of Art of Paul Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler symphony by The Orchestra Now in conjunction with the artwork of Max Beckmann; both Hindemith and Beckmann were inspired by the artist Matthias Grünewald. The set up for the performance was great, starting with an explanation of the piece and artists (including excerpts), the performance of the piece, and a Q&A session to wrap it all up. And the weather was perfect to walk through Central Park on the way back to the subway :)
Until next time!