obliged to be industrious?

exercises in nerddom/perambulations through sound
  • Federico Moreno Torroba’s (1891-1982) “Torija” from Castillos de España. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous music.
  • Plucked from the same 20 minute iPhone recording sesh as my last post, in a stinky practice room at Hunter College on my old La Patrie, tuned down one half step.
  • Performance 100% inspired by watching No Reservations the previous evening and seeing Tony head to Catalonia to stuff his gourd with calçots: steamy, charred, mutant onions. Can’t think of anything more romantic than that.
  • Sometimes, even when I know I’m going to want to practice at school, I just don’t have it in me to lug a really expensive guitar in a really heavy hard-shell case from BK to the UES. Which is, frankly, kinda great, because it gives me a chance to revisit my old $300 La Patrie, still the easiest playing guitar I have in that it’s not a true classical. When I cracked open the gig-bag on Monday I found that the guitar had been tuned down - maybe because I was strumming and singing with it last time I played it (baritooone), which was at least two months ago. Between how quiet the guitar was from the get-go, how beaten up it’s gotten, and the detuned strings, moments in this recording get close to sounding kinda lutey, and I love that about it. iPhone voice memo, again.
  • Blazing new trails into YouTube country. 
  • As is my M.O., not perfect by a long-shot, but, not half bad!
  • If you don’t care for music, just hit mute and relish my extremely yellow shirt and all the faces.

BWV 998, Prelude

998 is an absolute cornerstone of the classical guitar rep. The 2nd edition of Frank Koonce’s J.S. Bach, The Solo Lute Works calls it “especially mature,” (cuz yeah, usually Bach was all like, eating his own boogers and pantsing people) and it’s one of the last works J.S. wrote with the lute in mind, sometime in the last ten years of his life.

I feel like I can hear Bach’s imagination in these three movements. They sound modern, relatively speaking, and there’s an element of prescribed improvisation that’s a lot like what his son C.P.E. would be up to in his own work to years later. The prelude & fugue feature some of my favorite lines in the sprawling Bach canon. The fugue subject is just a heart melter and is one of my top ten musical ideas ever (is that a thing?), while the suspended fermatas in the prelude are a gift to a performer, plain and simple.

For all of that superlative praise, 998 is a tremendous pain in the ass. My journey with it began about 7 months ago, starting with the fugue, allegro and then, most recently, the prelude (personal order of difficulty, hardest to easiest). Here are a couple of takes from practice seshes in the last 7 days (both recorded with iPhone voice memo and given a small dollop of verb to counteract an extremely dry recording environment):

5 things I like about this take:

  • Goes at a pretty good clip without feeling rushed
  • Solid opening (motive grows out of first note)
  • Contrast between tonic/dominant timbres
  • Boo boos did not detract from a confident performance
  • God, the Carrington sounds amazing

3 things that could be better about this take:

  • Enjoy first suspension & fermata (3rd inversion 7th chord) more. Match tone in resolution.
  • More defined bass-line, especially when harmonic rhythm picks up
  • More lift in triads, more plummet on way to second suspension



5 things i like about this take:

  • I made a conscious effort here to slow down. I saw Ricardo Gallen’s performance of the prelude here and I really really liked the dreaminess of it.
  • I like the way my attempt at ^ sounds
  • Love the way that first suspension/resolution sounds
  • Return to tonic sounds damn triumphant.
  • God, the Carrington sounds amazing

3 things that could be better about this take:

  • False starts suck
  • That same dreaminess that brings out the best mysterious qualities of the prelude also led to some mental lapses: stay focused, son.
  • Slower tempo does not mean dynamics don’t exist

Generally, pretty happy and will continue to forge forward. Ben Verdery says that making decisions about how you want to approach a piece actually gives you more freedom once you’re playing it. I’ll get about making those decisions concrete and then post again.

Oy yoy yoy. (Ai yai yai?)

I chose a funky time to start doing this, considering I have been running on espresso vapors and smiles for the past three weeks. But maybe that’s why it’s perfect.

There’s a good reason I chose such a mouthful of a title for this thing, that lays in a personal reverence for a certain German dude who could really tickle the ivories and who once said:

"Ich habe fleißig seyn müssen; wer eben so fleißig ist, der wird es eben so weit bringen können."

(“I was obliged to be industrious; whoever is equally industrious will succeed equally well.”)

Yeah, sure thing J.S. That’s cool though - here’s my plan:

•Keep all my reviews (right now all of, and going forward I’m sure the vast majority of which, will have originally been posted on the badass I Care if You Listen) in one place.

•Track my progress on repertoire - that means recordings of practice, rehearsals, intriguing demos, maybe even a couple of “finished” products. I’m really looking forward to this because it will be a great way to see and share tangible growth of the music I’m working on.

•Chronicle the achievements of some of my extremely talented friends (who will hereby be referred to as “m’nerds” or just “nerds”). Seriously, these guys and girls are mindblowingly cool and gifted. Allow me to explain.

•Nerd out on guitar stuff (i.e. “I got a new guitar!” [I did, really], “I suck at changing my strings,” “I really fudged up a performance yesterday,” “how come nobody cares about Gaspar Sanz?”)

•Share good music (i.e. not played by me).

•Oh, you know, just talk about my day (** crickets chirping**).

That’s the idea. Because the OED defines “industry” as

Intelligent or clever working; skill, ingenuity, dexterity, or cleverness in doing anything.

and these aforementioned things are just about the only ones I have skill, dexterity, or cleverness in doing, and dang if it won’t be fun to watch them grow in this little nook.

I have a tumblr?!

I’ll explain later, because I need to be up in 5.5 hours to make coffee for 87,000 people on Franklin Avenue.

For now, here’s a chipper little Andrew York tune I rehearsed two weeks ago and then slathered delicious, delicious reverb onto.