Thursday, November 3, 2011

Intermission, Entry 18

Intermission Entry 18, November 4th, 2011, 12:16am (GMT +0)

Tonight's headliner act performed (among other things) a full ten-minute condensed orchestra arrangement of Rhapsody in Blue. She's a wonderful and very talented lady, but she's a little neurotic and doesn't give any cues for anything. A piece like Rhapsody in Blue, with its maze of tempo changes, starts, stops, pushes, and pulls, can be difficult to perform with a conductor; without one, it's nearly impossible. Any other piece would have been a disaster, but we've all heard this one a million times and so most of the cues are written down somewhere deep in our subconscious brains. We made it through by cranking her feed way up in our stand monitors, watching for a couple distinct piano lines penciled into our parts, and through prodigious use of balls-to-the-wall guesswork. There was one part in particular where the trumpets had to come in with the main theme out of nowhere (in high-register fortissimo unison, no less) and both times Dave and I just had to just grit our teeth and hope we were right.

But the show went off smashingly. The orchestra is all exhausted right now (my roommate, the drummer, is snoring on his bunk fully clothed with the curtains open as I write this) but we played everything about as well as human beings can. No train wrecks, and by all rights it should have been a disaster. There's a limit to how much mind-reading musicians can do when sight-reading a show, and I think we were just about at that point. I'll be sad to leave this orchestra in two weeks . . . although there's about to be a huge changeover anyway (tenor, drums, bass, guitar, piano, trumpet 2 (me) and trombone), so even if I stayed it would be a different band.

From the notebook, October 14th, 2011, Vienna

Vienna is great. Due to the train delays, I had to call Alex on a borrowed phone and get new directions to meet him in the evening instead of the day. The signal cut out halfway through the call, but I got most of the directions written down. I met Alex walking the opposite direction on a street downtown, most of the way to where I'd been heading to meet him. He was carrying his saz, an eight stringed Turkish instrument that uses quarter tones. It's good to have interesting friends.

He was on his way to a concert of contemporary improvised music, and so I joined him (still carrying my luggage). It was as strange as these things usually are, but I am beginning to understand the music just as I can understand bop or the blues. There is a language to it, just like all other musics, but it is a language of timbres, not of chords and melodies. It's just as organized as any other type of music, too – listening carefully I could hear how the musicians were constructing different sections. The most interesting thing to hear was not how they got into the different parts of the music, but how they got out of them.

The musicians were all stellar individually as well, particularly the pianist. It was worth the price of admission just to hear him play his first note – what a delicate touch he had! The price of admission, by the way, was up to the listener – it was a pay-as-you-will concert. What an odd concept.

That became the night's theme. From the concert I dropped my stuff off here at his apartment (which is awesome, by the way. Not one, but two sound-proofed practice rooms!) and headed to a basement Pakistani restaurant. The place was kickin' . . . full of students in their socks sitting on rugs, takling, yelling, and smiling. The food was fantastic (and vegetarian), and the place was also pay-as-you-will. Alex joked that he hoped to find a pay-as-you-will apartment.

Now I'm in a sleeping bag in one of the practice rooms. Oh, and I guess that I just turned 23? Cool.

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