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Hullo! It's been a while.

I'm writing this because I got two letters today, one from my Emilyhobbit and one from my very dear friends in Lyon. Emily's is filled with little dactyls waving hello and sketches of creatures from Miyazaki and hedgehogs and gulper eels and a little platypus going "hulllooooo", which reminds me that the world can be lovely (there are hedgehogs and platypi in it! But most importantly, there are Emilys to cheer me up).
  Then a letter in French! From J.C. and J., the two lovely people who were my family and company for a year (a year?!) in Lyon. J.C. talks about the crate of vegetables he needs to collect from the garden, his bricolage (handywork), the primaries in France. J. has made quince jelly perfumed with raspberries ("not bad!", as she says), and soon she'll start wandering the windy secret passageways of Lyon on walks with her friend again. It's been so long since I've really sat down and read French, but I can immediately tell that J.'s writing style is completely different, and I can hear it in her voice. I learned some new words and phrases. Native French is so beautiful.
  I love getting letters, because what made you happy or touched you in them is always there. Sometimes you play a phrase in a performance and the moment makes you so filled with emotion, but later it's faded and you can only tell people, "OH, it was... amazing." Pale and awkward and horrible compared to what you actually felt; you feel guilty for describing it so boringly. But in a letter someone else wrote for you, their emotion is always there. If you know them well enough, you can always hear them talking to you in that  particular proud tone of voice they only get when they talk about pterodactyls. :)
  I haven't been doing well adjusting to being back, or whatever it may be. I spend a lot of time brooding, or gloomily musing, or whatever you want to call it. Classes aren't difficult, but they're hard to be in sometimes. Ensembles likewise. Things that I used to look forward to and get excited about feel like another duty. My cello playing is affected-- some days, I feel tired and disillusioned and feel like it would be better just to drop out and not play. Then I get depressed about that thought, since I love cello and want to love playing it all the time. Then I play wrong notes, my bow goes all scratchy, I get nervous and upset. I feel very alone in ensembles where I used to feel like part of a huge group of friends. If I did stop playing, would it really matter? Would anyone notice?
  I guess life in Davis did go on without me. What an easy, logical thing to type out. But there's part of me that resents that and feels like I don't matter any more. I've been replaced and my role re-shifted. I might as well have left. What am I doing as a music major if I'm not enjoying what I do? If I'm not contributing to the department or enjoying creating music? What if I'm not even that good at it any more? Behind all of my cello playing, some awful part of me can't stop telling myself that maybe I can't be a cellist, because if I can't handle even this, I'll never be able to get my life together enough to play better or play how I want to. Or enjoy playing.
  Of course, sometimes I do enjoy it. Sitting alone in a practice room spending an hour on two measures of minor Bach, playing fun cello trios, playing super thumpy parts in orchestra, proudly building up my thumb callouses. It just takes so much energy to stop all the gloomy thoughts from coming back as soon as the happy moment ends. It helps when Stephen is around and not in a school situation-- it's impossible to be sad or preoccupied when you're making drunk snickerdoodles and Stephen's obsessively frying cabbage.
  But letters are a little bit of happy to carry around with me all the time; they help me remember that I do have friends who do care about me enough to draw platypi for me or tell me about the vegetables in their garden. I wish I were better at drawing platypi for myself to cheer me up, but I suppose writing letters back does cheer me up almost as much as getting my own letters.
  It's late and I have a paper due so soon. Sigh...


I have three short months left in France now before I get on a plane and head back to all that is "normal" in my life. It's no longer normal, but that's something I'll think about when I get there and have someone to give me welcome-home hugs. But I have been thinking a lot.

Next year I'll have two recitals; there is music to be picked out and worked on and loved to utter frustration and tears and hopefully indescribable joy and if I'm lucky some kind of inspiration and meaning. Next year I'll have classes every day. There won't be bakeries around every corner and kebab places where I never understand what they just asked me, but it doesn't matter because I just take a deep breath and say "TogopleaseAndcurrysaucepleaseThanks", and hope they don't ask that next mysterious question I am always anxiously awaiting. They never do. Next year I won't take my cello on the Indiana-Jonesesque little train that rattles through a dark tunnel with a miner's light on the front, passing by a sink and a roll of paper towels attached to the side of the dusty rough stone passage, that I always wonder if anyone has had occasion to use. I won't emerge up the steps and feel a little hint of pleasure at the gasps around me as those who haven't seen the Basilique yet come out of the métro and see it smack in front of them. I won't walk past my lion and say a little private hullo to him in my head. Next year there'll be sun and squirrels and people lying on the grass and the whirring of bikes and the cawing of crows. No more lines of smokers bunched up in little groups in the cold, or me walking across bridges and stopping to stare at my favourite boats, Hermès and Symphony Amadeus. Hermès went missing once, but he soon reappeared, along with the local swans that were removed to be cleaned after the river was too polluted. I won't walk past the amphitheatre and then stop in surprise and look back, the thought slowly coming to me that there were Romans there, I'm walking past an amphitheatre used after the conquest of Gaul...

Mainly, though, I've not been dwelling on Hermès or the conquest of Gaul. Mainly I've been dwelling on the shockingly obvious fact that my life is progressing. And on the second thought after that-- I might have to do something about it. What am I going to do with myself? Or rather, what kind of a life might I want? A Life! What an odd thought. On a shorter and less panicky time scale, the two most obvious choices for the years after UCD are celloing or doing whatever one does to become a music history professor. What does one do? I honestly have no idea what grad school's like. Would I like playing cello as a "job"? Could I even do that? What is it like being a "professional" musician? What is it like being a professor? If you're my dad, it means lots of coffee in the morning so you're awake enough to remember to bring all your notes with you for the lecture so that you can be sure to place them on the table and ignore them entirely. Then you talk to your students about cold chalk and kirsch and play your violin for them and write in apalling handwriting on a chalkboard about mysterious suitcases that are impossible to hold still. And they all think you're pretty crazy and leave lots of comments in your evaluations about how you changed their way of thinking or their life or in some cases their GPA if they're upset about that last test score. Would I be a good professor? Could I be a professor? Perhaps being a professor takes too much confidence and an aptitude for inspiring thoughts...

Then there's that third thought. It's a small thought, but since it's my life and I'm the one who has to make decisions, there's a little part of me that thinks, wait a minute. I can choose whatever I like. Yes, I've been doing a Music degree. Yes, I've been studying and practising and thinking all seriously and deeply and all that, and yes I could follow one of those paths that are ahead of me. Or I could do something else. What if I started writing novels? What if I could make a Life out of writing stories or creating worlds? It's such a silly naive idea. Maybe. But wouldn't it be something? Wouldn't it be something if I could do that?
Then the rest of me comes back and tells me to get back to Haydn because you know, you do have a rehearsal next week and did I mention it was in French? Also, the pianist wants you to have it memorised and you'd better start on that cadenza because you haven't actually practised it at all yet even though you've had the rest of the piece for months. And then I do.

(...but wouldn't it be something?...)


Listening to the Mendelssohn octet (1st movement) and wondering how it is that this particular first violinist finds himself/herself so very prominent. Such a tone, that cuts over, not even deigning to go through, all the others. This happens far too often (cf. my recording of notte natalie, where the violinists seem to think they're soloists and blast out the harmony while the poor cellist is playing his heart out to no avail). Academy Chamber ensemble... ah, that's why -- it's not the recording I usually listen to. Switched to Prazack Quartet - Kocian Quartet, warmer more together sound. Not sure if I like it more just out of habit, or actual thought. At any rate, for now I'm too tired to put up with the unfamiliar. Britten and ballets tomorrow. For now, let me have my comfort food.

I'm taking a short break from celloing because I don't like my etude. It sounds crunchy every time I play it, and I can't figure out why -- probably because I don't enjoy playing it, and my cello picks up on that and, in its gentil way, tries to agree with me. Sometimes cellos need to be more contrary, to give you something to push against. Although then Costja at home goes too far and is stronger than me and was asserting his dominance over winter break to the detriment of my wrists, so I need to learn how to tame him. He needs a worthy adversary. It might take a while...

I've been thinking a lot in the last few days about ways to practise and ways to cello -- celloing I think being the act of fiddling purposely with one's cello, not just playing, but exploring. There's a way of concentrating very hard and then fooling your brain into thinking you're not thinking, which is the only way to be relaxed and poised and precise all at the same time, at least for me. As soon as your brain realises you made it think (god forbid), it panics and then everything goes tense again. So difficult to maintain that state. I took a video of myself playing the Haydn Concerto in C and watched it afterwards. It was like watching a film with remarkably irritating characters: "Yeeees, yes, oh, that's good -- no, argh, NO, don't go through that door. Aah, what are you doing?! Oh, okay, now you do the right thing. Yeah, yeeees, good good goo-- WHAT? AGAIN? Why'd you--?! Oh, I can't watch!" Cue train crash. All right, not as bad as that, but that is how it feels watching yourself play. One valuable thing I'm getting better at hearing is the difference in tone between when I'm relaxed and when I'm tense. It's a subtle difference at first, but once you hone on it, it really seems like a world of difference in tone quality and even affects the interpretation of the piece. Of course, I can only maintain that sound and relaxation for 3 seconds max. I have proof in the form of many 3-second clips that end in raspiness. Sighhhh...

So, back to work, slow slowww work. Think train crash, only in slow motion, black and white. And every time you're about to see the collision, the film abruptly stops and starts back from the beginning. I figure there are only so many reels of film I can go through before I decide I'm just going to have to go with that last clip. Maybe by the weekend, I'll be up to 4 seconds! :D <------ this is a forced smile.

Bonne soirée!

P.S. In other news, happy birthday Stephen! :D

Unsettling rhythms and shifting keys...

Hiya. This is a musicking post because I MISS WRITING ABOUT MUSIC DAMMIT! Um, don't kill me, Stephen. :P
So all you non-musicking peoples can, um, go look at this instead and enjoy the kindof precursor to Monty Python:
Hey, but no avoiding it -- they have the talented Dudley Moore in their group, and if you click enough, you will end up back at... that's right, classical music. But what else did you expect from me? ;)

Onwards!Collapse )

Le début (de la FIN!)

I finally decided to get a functional livejournal again, because too many of my friends use it and I was not super thrilled about being associated with the name... fingleguts. :/

Anyways, I have to go type up a report on Roman coinage in Lugdunum (that'd be Lyon for all you non-Latiners pshaw pshaw), so I'll just link you to two of the many sites I spend far too much time on that will (hopefully) occupy you for hours, as they have moi...

Oh, and if you want to cook stuff, but you don't want to go find ingredients at that giant far-too-many-choices scary store place (What? Is it just me who feels that way? Really? Oh...), here is a magnificent website that has provided me with endless snickerdoodle and scone recipes (yes, I was using up the last of my flour and sugar. Don't judge the boringness. Just eat the damn things)...

You claim you are not into cooking? Or music?
At ALL? D:
Well, then, go gawk at this and feel inferior for not being able to make such deliciousness (INFERIOR!)...

And while you're at it, listen to this, because it is beautiful and an amazing example of why classical music is important. So be interested. Harrumph.

...Ha. Gotcha! :P
Enjoy your fish fingers and custard, everyone. ;)