Posts Tagged ‘François Rabbath’

Am I Crazy?

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

You knew this was going to happen.

Just a few days ago, I was looking through the latest International Musician (the publication of the musician’s union) and saw that the Detroit Symphony has an opening for Section Bass. Auditions October 16-18.

So here’s the question. Given that I have sort of taken on a project to rebuild my technique, starting over with Gary Karr’s elementary bass books (I’m up to “shifting!”) and mixing in a self-taught take on Rabbath’s method (I bought all of his books two years ago), can I get from page 63 of the book for beginners to the Detroit Symphony in 95 days?

Am I an optimist or a lunatic?

Am I being fatalistic and self-defeating if I said “honestly there’s no way I could win such an audition–there are so many great players out there, one of them would easily surpass me in a final round?” Is it setting too low a bar to say “I’d just like to play well in the first round.” (Although that of course is true.)

I got a big boost out of preparing for the last set of auditions I took. Although ultimately I was disappointed by my performance in the actual auditions. Am I thinking about doing this for the right reasons? Would it be possible to wipe from my mouth the bad taste of my last auditions by doing this? If I don’t actually commit myself to appearing in Detroit ninety-five days from now … look at it this way: with a concrete and tangible goal (“get through the audition”) and deadline (October 16, 2017) I will really work hard. Without those things, it will be easy easy easy to let practicing slide a couple times each week, and I won’t make the same progress.

But what is progress? If we accept as a given–and I think in will insist that it is a given, many of you will agree–that there are better players out there, who will ultimately defeat me in a final round, is winning an audition of this level a quixotic goal? Is it quixotic even to make the attempt? In business, we talk about S.M.A.R.T. goals, where the A stands for achievable. Again with the given I have just stated, this is NOT a SMART goal. Is making “progress” towards the impossible really progress, or is it effort that would be better directed at some other goal?

I might be talking myself out of this.

At the same time, for a few years now I have been carting around with me a yellow sticky-note with the phrase “look beyond what is reasonable” written on it. At the moment I can’t remember where I first encountered the phrase. It inspires me. It doesn’t say “be insane crazy and live outside the norms of society and abuse those around you” it just says don’t accept that things have to be just the way everyone else sees them. The audition doesn’t have to be won by the young conservatory grad with the gold medal at an international competition–the reasonable assumption. It could go to the guy twenty+ years out of school who just has a lot of heart and is going to make himself put in the work.

Do I really want to do this?

What if we took a poll? Put your vote in the comments. And please leave a comment with some of the reasoning behind your vote. If you’re reading my blog for the first time, it’d be lovely if you took in the backstory for this question by skimming the “audition” tag and the “Practice and Skills” and “Personal Preparation” categories.

Meanwhile, a few observations on the first steps in Gary Karr’s method.

  • Initially, getting a good sound on the “Koussevitzky” harmonic at the marked tempo and bow length on the E string was crazy hard. But it got better over several days of practice.
  • Really, what a brilliant approach to focus so much on bow speed as the primary concept to master when first picking up the instrument. (For me, I think poor control/consciousness of bow speed is a major underlying factor in many of the other awkwardnesses of my playing.)
  • My science brain wants to geek out on exactly what the speed ratios need to be when going from this note to that or one string to another. Practical musician brain has to intervene and remind us to get a good sound and go with it.
  • The shifting exercises, like focussing on bow speed as a fundamental skill, are quite smart. The bass is a huge instrument. Instead of initially working on shifts of a minor third or so, the initial shifting exercises very quickly cover shifting from very low to very high positions: Take on the biggest challenge with “beginner’s mind” rather than waiting until the third book of your method (meaning like second year of student study) to introduce the ‘scary’ concept of playing in the ‘hard’ positions. Master that sh*t early on, the rest will be easy!

More and more I’m thinking that I want to take these books to students of my own. I have resisted teaching for a long time. But I feel like the students I know of would really benefit from approaching the instrument this way. And that I would benefit from teaching them.

Catching Up

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

As usual, it’s been a while since writing a post for this blog. Here’s a very quick entry about what’s going on and what’s next.

We had our performance at North Shore Baptist Church on the 13th of October. While the turn out was a little light, it went well. The organizer, accompanist and piano tuner Randall Fleer, seemed pleased; and we agreed that part of the reason was probably the fact that it was a holiday weekend. A group from the Breakers retirement community was in attendance, and I was tickled when one of them told me “I never would have come to this if it was violins!”

One of the things low on my to-do list–not because it’s unimportant, but because so much else is on the list–is to get programs from the October 13 performance out to composers and publishers of the pieces we performed. *mock sigh* One of the hazards of playing music by living composers! Thank you to all of you for writing music for double basses!

As I began to play François Rabbath’s Pucha Dass, I had a moment of internal panic, wondering if the seniors in the crowd would be disgusted and horrified by this moody and dramatic modern piece. But it went well and received solid applause. On reflection I realized that the people we call ‘seniors’ today were in early adulthood or early middle age when the piece was written and when composers like Stockhausen, Feldman and Subotnick were achieving prominence. This isn’t foreign music to these people. If they were music lovers at that time in their lives, they might have attended performance of works that are considerably more avant-garde than this one. Understand your audience!

Next, we’re on tap for the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater bass festival (last year’s page is still up as I write). A different set of players this time: Julian Romane–who played so brilliantly on Armand Russell’s Ultra Rondo, Josh Harrison–a participant in many of our reading sessions, and John Tuck–one of the first “Four Js” who performed at UW-W many years ago. I’m waiting for bios and vehicle information from some of these guys, keep an eye out for updates.

And we’re hoping to pull together Frank Proto’s bass quartet for the next Chicago Bass Festival on Feb 2, 2014. This is part of an excellent plan that is receiving mediocre execution. I confess, it’s my inaction that needs to change!

As I write this, I’m very pleased to see that instead of just leaving last year’s web page in place, the MYA has created a placeholder page for the next festival that has current information. Thank you, MYA! It will be much easier to tell students and colleagues about the festival with that page in place.

Those of you with the ability to read the English language have no doubt grimaced more than once about the switching of voice (from first person singular to first person plural) throughout this, and all, my blog posts. We’d love to read your criticism of my linguistic style in the comments!

Cheers!
Jacque Harper

October 13, North Shore Baptist Church

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

We’re on the schedule for a performance October 13, 2013 at North Shore Baptist Church in Chicago

ssslogoNorth Shore Baptist Church
5244 North Lakewood Avenue
Chicago, IL 60640

2:00 pm, with a reception following.

This program is part of North Shore Baptist’s Second Sunday series. Visit North Shore Baptist’s page for the series for more information about this concert and others in the Second Sunday Series.

Program:

  • Dan Armstrong’s “Wildebeests and Warthogs”
  • O magnum mysterium from “Three Spanish Motets” by Tomas Luis de Victoria, arranged by Michael Cameron
  • Teppa Hauta-Aho’s “Why?”
  • O vos homnes from “Three Spanish Motets”
  • Telemann’s Concerto #2 in D for four Violins — arranged for four basses in G
  • Jan Alm’s “Quartet #1”
  • O quam gloriosum est regnum from “Three Spanish Motets”
  • François Rabbath’s Poucha Dass (solo bass)
  • Lee Kesselman’s Basses Three (trio)
  • Paul Ramsier’s “Lullaby”
  • Tony Osborne’s “Rocket Man”
  • “A Night in Compostela” by Simon Garçia

People (alphabetically by third letter of first name):

  • Jacque Harper
  • John Floeter
  • Hans Peterman
  • Anton Hatwich