Blow Through It

That’s my favourite saying to myself these days: “blow through it”. Too often have I concentrated on intervals and not the overall musical line. I think though that the James Thompson buzzing book is really bringing this to light. On just the mouthpiece I’m slurring (glissando) very evenly between notes. With the tuba on, the instructions say to bend the note until it just ‘pops’ to the next tone. This requires one to ‘blow through’ the note change. Though awkward at first, with practice and persistence, the result is a smoother change of note. I couldn’t achieve this smoothness with an embouchure change (ie. tensing or relaxing of the lips). This mostly applies to upward changes, but slurs down are sounding better too.
But wait! There’s more! Even articulated lines are sounding better when you ‘blow through’ them! A note can be better attacked when it benefits from the air flow/speed of its predecessor. Ravel’s ‘La Valse’ is really making this evident with all of the awkward leaps and dissonant lines in the tuba part. If you concentrate on the intervals, then the dynamic can suffer and the musicality isn’t so hot. Blowing through these passages brings it all together: articulation, dynamics, and musicality.

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A Week to Remember

This has been an intense week, to put lightly. First, the Domaine Forget application deadline was this Thursday. As usual, I went into panic mode to fill in the application. I needed to do two recordings — at one with piano. Ian Pay, a bassist living in Haliburton County, has a home recording studio so I gave him a call. I recorded a few orchestral excerpts with him. Thank goodness for having him around locally. I panicked next for an accompanist. It’s March Break. Many pianists are teachers. Some were not available because they were on break. Some were just too busy. Lucky for me, again, Melissa Stephens, a local pianist, was available for a tiny window that worked for me too. So we headed again to Ian’s studio. Phew! Recordings completed and uploaded. Plus Sasha was able to write a letter if recommendation for me too. So I got the application in and on time. Now I wait.

On Wednesday too, I finally got The Breathing Gym in the mail. It had been in back order since November! I had remembered bits and pieces over the years so it’s great to have the book to fill in the blanks. But bonus is that it gives the musical goals behind each exercise. A bit of an expensive book but it’s paper gold!

In the meantime, Orchestra Toronto was having special sectionals yesterday. Versatile artist, Guy Few, coached us. He was fantastic – great attitude, great ear for tuning, and some great tips and tricks too. I also enjoyed his take on interpretation of the pieces we’re: Ravel’s La Valse and Holst’s Mars and Jupiter. He was very engaging and the FULL brass section was very responsive. And hearing us in full forces was amazing: 6 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, 1 euph and me. Oh yeah, baby!!

Thursday wasn’t all good for me though. I found out on Tuesday that my mom was in the hospital for a blot clot. It seemed simple enough until I got to speak with her in Thursday and she told me through tears that she has cancer. I started to cry too. It was a very emotional phone call. I didn’t know what to do and the rest of my day at work was quiet for me. I considered missing practice and driving right home, but I knew that playing would be therapeutic for me. I sat quietly in the car, in the underground parking, and cried. I had it pent up for a while. Driving to the practice helped me clear my mind and put my heart at ease a little. Though I still felt guilty as we started the sectional. Something so exciting for me mixed in with feelings for my mom.

This Sunday, my partner and I drive to Ottawa to spend time with my parents. I don’t know what else to write about that right now. I’m just looking forward to seeing her and hugging her and telling her how much I love her.