Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Tell us about a time when everything actually turned out exactly as you’d hoped.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us PERFECT.

 It’s one of life’s pleasures when you experience something perfect, or something that has turned out perfect. As a musician and performer I always want a performance to turn out the best it possibly can, and this has rubbed off on other areas of my life as well.

For example, I am never quite satisfied with what I write, whether that be a blog post, a story or even a piece of music. I am my toughest critic. I can be quite the perfectionist – half measures aren’t good enough. I think this originated, it has to be said, when I started receiving large amounts of criticism from other children when I moved primary school, and has been something that has affected many areas of my life ever since, including confidence in myself, my abilities and my work. So when something turns out perfect it really must be perfect, because everything I do seems less adequate to myself than others might think.

Music gives me the greatest amount of liberty in life I think. When I play music, I am communicating with my audience, or even just to myself. I am speaking my mind through another language. Music is a language – it’s the language of emotion. There is so much more you can express through music, I find, than expressing things with words, and I use it largely for that purpose because it gives me vast amounts of happiness and enjoyment, as well as satisfaction.

I enjoy playing with friends in chamber groups because it’s like a perfectly harmonious conversation between players, and the more you perfect how you play the music (or the more you get it closer to how you want to express it) the more harmonious it becomes. I am generally not someone who is open with their deepest emotions, however this is a subtle way of digging deep into your heart and finding a way to say these things. That’s why I love music especially.

Recently I performed with four friends the 3rd movement of Schubert’s String Quintet for 2 Violins, Viola and 2 Cellos, in two concerts. The wonderful thing about this movement is that it has two contrasting sections – it starts with a joyous, fast-moving and extravagant Scherzo, which is in a major key, and then moves onto a fairly slow, relaxed, expressive and utterly beautiful Trio, and then it returns to the Scherzo for a fantastic ending. I strongly suggest it – you can find a YouTube video here. This recording is quite good, largely because of the communication between the players, although I’m not a massive fan of the cellists in this one – however the violinists and the viola player are fantastic, so it’s well worth the listen!

We have been carefully working on this movement for a few months now, and we are also doing the 1st and 2nd movements now, as well as entering the Edinburgh Competition Festival with the 3rd movement. I love playing chamber music, and writing chamber music too, all because I love the communication between players. Understanding that connection is the key to both writing and playing chamber music, and without it there would be no purpose I don’t think. As I felt when playing the Schubert above, chamber music is just perfect.

Other perfections:

  1. The Obligatory Gushing New York Post | AS I PLEASE
  2. Walt Won’t Talk About Religion, But Will Talk About Politics | The Jittery Goat
  3. No Vision – no Courage | A Teacher’s Blog
  4. All It’s Cracked Up to Be | Geek Ergo Sum
  5. Snow tree | muffinscout
  6. of dancing with strange men « Anawnimiss
  7. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be | The Wandering Poet
  8. Chiaroscuro – Sheep | artinstructor
  9. Wave Painting Finished | artinstructor
  10. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be | Thoughts of an INFP
  11. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be | What a beautiful mess I’m in
  12. Remember that time… | Unlocking The Inner Creative
  13. All It’s Cracked Up to Be: Purrfect & Not So Purrfect! | Khana’s Web
  14. DP Daily Prompt:All it’s cracked up to Be http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/daily-prompt-perfect/ | Sabethville
  15. Just a Perfect Day | Raspberry’s Daydreams
  16. Turning 40 is all it cracked up to be! « Dancing with Fireflies
  17. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be w/ Secret Sub-prompt: did you just say “bite me”? | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice
  18. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be « cognitive reflection
  19. Doric Perfection | Exploratorius | Photo Hack & Curious Wanderer
  20. It’s the Little Things . . . | meanderedwanderings
  21. Distant Memories | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  22. Chateau de la Madeleine, Chevreuse, France | RinnyWee
  23. below | yi-ching lin photography
  24. A Perfect Day | Flowers and Breezes
  25. Answered Prayers | Active Army Wife
  26. Quest for the Perfect Story | theauthorwhoknows
  27. The Perfect Moment | My Little Avalon
  28. Day 8: What I see 🙂 | gypsy thoughts ..
  29. If you look for Perfection, you’ll never be Content | An Upturned Soul
  30. Better Than Perfect | Mishe en Place
  31. All It’s Cracked Up To Be | Just Visiting This Planet
  32. Just one shade of gray | Stories from aside
  33. Facets | johnny ojanpera
  34. Daily Prompt : All It’s Cracked Up to Be | Nicole Sloan’s Writing
  35. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up To Be | Chronicles of an Anglo Swiss
  36. Daily Prompt: All It’s Cracked Up to Be | Awl and Scribe
  37. Pantomime Dame’s Weakest Link?! | alienorajt
  38. 252. Picture Perfect | Barely Right of Center
  39. Chat Time, Chatime | Le Journal D’Une Cheval Noire
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Getting to know your Musical Self

Piano practice

I have realised that over the last few days I have been writing only Daily Prompt-related posts. Forgive me – I have been busy during the day, and could only write during my lunch-break. So, as many of you know, I am a music student, and I have been practising increasingly more over the last term. This because, as my teacher says, “it takes 10,000 hours to make a cellist” – so I’m always striving to put on more and more to my grand total of ‘numbers of hours practising’. It’s quite interesting now because, as a musician reading this might know, the more practice you do the more you learn about yourself.

I have a friend, a pianist, who has the wonderful gift of seeing colours when she plays. She practises all the time, and a lot of it in the dark. She does this for two reasons: to practice without watching her hands, feeling the weight of the keys and where they are positioned spatially; and also to see these colours more clearly. I can only imagine what it would be like to see colours whilst you’re playing! It could be one of two things I think – either that you see a flurry of colours that neatly mix and flow whilst you play, or that you see a blinding flurry of quickly changing colours that come one after the other.

Though I don’t know how long she has been able to see colours whilst she plays, or much about the colours she sees at all, I know that every person who “sees” music in this way “sees” it differently. I have shown this friend of mine videos of music that coordinate the notes to different colours on the screen, and she found it very annoying because it was not how she saw them at all.

I think every musician has his/her special features of musicality. For example, I have been told that I have a very good feel for Baroque music (Bach, Vivaldi, etc.) and the way it’s phrased and played. I have been told that I have a good and acute sense of pitch also (not perfect pitch at equal temperament, but relative pitch – for example if you play an A and an E, the E will be sharper if it’s in tune with the A, but if you play the same E with a G, the E will be too sharp), although this is practised and improved upon through practising scales and double-stop scales (scales where you play more than one note at the same time on two strings). It’s very important to explore your abilities as a musician, because then you can plan how much and what you are going to practise accordingly.

Today I was talking to another friend of mine who is also a cellist, and when I saw him he had just finished an hour and a half warm-up and was writing it down on paper! He said that he had been experimenting and had found that he was far more productive throughout the whole day if he did a substantial amount of warming up. Warming up is something I do on principle, usually half an hour straight after I wake up or after breakfast, to increase my productivity also, however not to this extent. My friend had done practically a whole physical workout to make sure that all his muscles in his neck, arms, hands, fingers, legs and back were all relaxed and ready to play. So I created my own, revised warm-up ‘regime’ for future practising this evening!

The significance of this however is that there is a plethora of things that you can know about your musical self, and how you best prepare for practising is just one of these things. Here are some ideas for things you should maybe investigate in the future:

  • How long you can practise for continually without a break. You could maybe see how long you can do this with and without a warm-up
  • How quickly you can memorize a passage of music. This is a memory thing – people with very analytical minds tend to be able to remember music faster
  • How good you are at sight-reading. Here in the UK, musicians are well-known to be comparatively good sight-readers to, say, musicians from Russia. It’s seen as a vital part of being a musician – the importance is shown, for example, in ABRSM grading exams, where you will be given a piece of sight-reading which will be marked and, in turn, will affect your overall score
  • What kind of lighting do you feel most comfortable practising in. I find that natural light is much better to practise in than yellow, artificial light, however I don’t like completely facing or turning away from the light source either – I prefer to sit with the window to either side of me

Knowing these things can help you prepare better and practise more efficiently. I shall be investigating too, and will be posting up what I discover along the way! Meanwhile, I will leave you will a piece of music: ‘Det är en ros utsprungen’ by Jan Sandström.

This is one of my favourite pieces of music of all time. Swedish composer, Jan Sandström, uses Praetorius’ piece of the same name (well, the equivalent in German) and slows it down, as well as adding a ghostly choir part which consists of humming. It’s very much a Christmas piece and is often sung around that time, however I felt the need to post it tonight – you will definitely enjoy it. It’s not too long – just over four minutes – and for those who are going to bed, you can listen to this – it’s very relaxing indeed.