On April 24, 1839, a 21-year-old Henry David Thoreau remarked in his journal:
Why should we concern ourselves with what has happened to us, and the unaccountable fickleness of events, and not rather with how we have happened to the universe, and it has demeaned itself in consequence? Let us record in each case the judgment we have awarded the circumstances.
The breadth of application for this sort of remark toward a more positive interpretation of existence is wide, but as a musician, I can't help but read it as a comment on performance anxiety. The more we can become casual observers of experience (rather than forcing experience upon casual observers), the less affected we become before, during, and after performance. I think this mindset stands in contrast to the one commonly experienced by performers, in which the most severe of critics occupies our headspace for the supermajority of our time, not letting a single mistake go by in practice. Attempting to replace this firmly-entrenched mindset when it comes to performance time can be a real challenge, and failed attempts have resulted in botched concerts and lowered self-esteem worldwide. Thoreau advocates instead for a probing existence at all times, free of self-judgment, one in which we value ourselves more than the circumstances we find ourselves in. Practicing, then, is the joyous solving of problems and gathering of positive experience, and performance the joyous, selfless experiencing of those solved problems.
And although you've heard it before: Think as though you are, and you will become
As a supplement, here is Muhammad Ali:
Nice coverage of a visit to the Young Oak Kim Academy in Los Angeles [click here]
Feburary: New publications courtesy of LACG Editions:
Mozart (Adagio for Glass Harmonica)
J.S. Bach (Prelude no. 24 from Book 2 of The Well-Tempered Clavier)
Iconic Lexicons of 20th-Century Music: Varèse’s Density 21.5, Babbitt’s Du, and Messian’s Colors of the Celestial City
If one thing could be said to have unified the 20th century, it must be the quality and intensity of the varieties of its disjunction. Nowhere is this more true than in the disparate languages which developed in the wake of atonal music: like bits of cooling matter scattered throughout an ever-increasing universe in the microseconds following the Big Bang (a theory first proposed in 1927), composers soon found themselves in charge of creating their own systems. This solipsism, in which each composer’s language is its own beginning and end, finds its parallel in the increasing individualism prized in the nations from which the three works represented here hail. These three compositions, composed within a span of fewer than thirty years, are not easily made to fit into that paradigm of artificially assembled history: progress! This line of thought, in which Haydn is seen a natural and more perfectly evolved form of CPE Bach, the two bearing the relationship that some bird which nature has bestowed generations of survival does to archaeopteryx (a necessary but eventually discarded stepping stone), fails to cling to composers whose works are detailed below. As such, it is those differences between the composers, rather than their similarities, which will be highlighted. Presented in chronological order, the values displayed within these works differ so wildly that any serious attempt to unite them under any other banner is at best spurious.
Nice feature on my flute partner (Rachael Yokers) on our involvement in the USC Outreach Program:
New videos of Sor and George Crumb (with percussionist and composer Daniel Temkin)
The first motif of this movement makes itself known from the first two pitches, e and c. There are a few characteristics about these pitches which embed themselves into the fabric of the work. First, the pitches themselves are structurally important, as they bookend the piece: the first two notes are e followed by c, and the last two chords are a  chord whose root is C followed by a  chord whose root is E. Secondly, the movement by a third, in both its major and minor versions, appears again and again in different voices. Another alternation-motif whose recognition is crucial to the performance of the work is that between the “non-tonal”  and “tonal” . Alerting oneself to these important motives lends itself not only to an understanding of phrasing which is grounded in something more than “sounding right”, but also to a more highly integrated performance of the movement as a whole.
The instrument now known as the baroque lute was commonplace in Bach’s Germany. Owing to the fact that most lutes were cheaper and more portable than keyboard instruments, its popularity had remained intact for the centuries in which it had been the ideal means of accompaniment for amateur singers. The instrument, while retaining the shape and timbre of its earlier forbearers during what was perhaps the height of its popularity in the 17th and early 18th centuries, had evolved substantially to reach the form it took on in Bach’s day. Before the middle of the 17th century lutes across Europe, while differing in other aspects such as the number of strings, were tuned in similar ways. This method of tuning-- 4ths around a central major third-- was described as early as 1483 in Johannes Tinctoris’s De inventione et usu musicae. Throughout the course of the 1600s, however, the need for an extended bass register prompted the addition of lower strings to the lute. There were so many strings that in fact a player’s fretting hand could not claim them all, and so the free-floating strings, under which there was no fingerboard, were most often tuned in a descending diatonicism that was adjustable based on the key of pieces. It was these additional basses which probably led to the elimination of the 4ths-around-a-3rd tuning, which was replaced in time by an open d minor tuning above the lower, diatonically descending bass strings (this tuning was by no means, however, universally accepted and the traditional tuning of 4ths was maintained throughout Europe and most notably in Spain in the form of the vihuela and baroque guitar, which later would pass on their open-inconsonant genes to the modern guitar).
Berlioz’s famous words stating that only those who play the guitar well can compose for it are doubly true for the baroque lute, which by this time had developed several tablature notational systems which varied from region to region. These tablature systems are one of the reasons why solo lute music continued to be written mainly by esteemed lute players of the day, and also a reason why the lute music of J.S. Bach stands out as an anomaly.