Tuesday, April 24, 2012

What's On the Music Stand

Last night I practiced violin. I've been trying to do that more often, to get back into practice preparatory to seducing young TG into forming a duo. Which means that I've been working on tangos, because everyone loves tango, right?

Currently I'm working out of the Boosey & Hawkes book The Tango Fiddler, which is a sort of intermediate-level book but that's fine with me. Who wants to play above seventh position? Not me, that's who. Most of the tunes are playable in first and third position anyway, with extensions up for octave harmonics. Easy peasy, is what I say. The challenges come in the rhythmic fufuras, with the syncopated melodies and weird accents. It's all a lot of fun, kids. Last night I worked on two tangos: "La Cumparsita" and "La Payanca." "La Cumparsita" is the tune you hear in almost every film or Bugs Bunny cartoon when a tango is called for, so it's an old warhorse, a cliche, but it's still a lot of fun.

Also on the music stand is Monte's "Czardas," which is a crowd favorite, right? I'm lousy at the spiccato but I'm working on it. The artificial harmonics section annoys the hell out of me, too, but it'll come in time. I admit that I cheat and play the initial melody on both the G and D strings, rather than all sul G. Anyway, that whole first section is all about phrasing and a big vibrato, not so much about unity of tone. At least, not for me. You don't care anyway.

What else? The Gavottes I and II, from Suite VI in D Major for Violoncello by Bach, as arranged for violin. It's of course nicer on cello, but the bariolage passage at the end of gavotte II is fun. Von Weber's "Country Dance" was in there, too. A few nights ago I started working on Faure's "Berceuse" because it's a lovely tune and you can get away with a lot of wide, schmaltzy vibrato. The only form of vibrato I possess is, of course, wide and schmaltzy. I am working on a narrower, more self-conscious vibrato. A prim sort of vibrato, if you will.

Bits and bobs from Mozart, Beethoven and Bach find their way into the mix depending on my mood, but I don't think I played any of that last night. I was attempting to focus on the tangos. My warm up routine these days is a three-octave scale (currently D major, starting on the second finger in 3rd position and you still don't care) and arpeggios, followed by some exercises related to the five sound points courtesy of Simon Reynolds.

I am by no means a brilliant violinist, but Mighty Reader doesn't seem to mind so that's all right, then. The violin I own, since you continue to not be interested, is an instrument built in 1914 by a guy in Prague. We call it "the Czech hussy." The Czech hussy is a fine fiddle and what I really need to do is find a better bow for her.

12 comments:

  1. I like spiccato and arpeggios. If I had children--and I'm not saying I don't--I might name them Spiccato and Arpeggio. I didn't know you were looking to form a duo, Scott. That sounds cool!

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  2. I'm just not sure that TG is looking to form a duo. Or if he is, if he's looking to play tango music. But everyone loves tango, right?

    Spiccato and Arpeggio Catch the Bus. You could write a series of books about your children! Spiccato is a bow stroke used in rapid, accented staccato passages. If I were more highly motivated, I'd break out my Kreutzer and practice spiccato on etude #4 (or is it #7?). That's a large if.

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  3. I do really like spiccato. I like all the different techniques that can be done on the violin. Did I tell you I attempted to learn to play when I was in graduate school? I bought a violin, and I hired a teacher. Then, I hurt my neck and back making up some weird exercise in a workout and playing wasn't any fun anymore, so I stopped, sadly.

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  4. I think you did tell me that, when you came a-visiting in 2010. Has it been that long? At least you can still play clarinet. I had one lesson on clarinet, when I was about 15. I really hated it. The fingering made no sense to me at all.

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  5. If you learn the Ave Maria by Piazzolla, I would love to sing it with your duo.

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  6. Piazolla wrote a version of Ave Maria? I had no idea. Is there an arrangement for piano/vln/voice? Interesting. Piazolla was cool.

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  7. You're free to seduce my man if you take the "spare" piano to your house.

    Everyone you'd want to know loves tango.

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  8. You have a spare piano? TG kept this quiet, damn his eyes. We can find room for it, I'm sure.

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  9. It's an electric one, but yes. Roland something. I like this duo plot, and not just to de-clutter the bedroom.

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  10. I wonder how Ted will feel about this plotting behind his back. I wonder how Ted feels about tango. His favorite key is Db. I don't know any tangos in Db.

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  11. He who will not join the new age gets what he deserves.

    Perhaps you can ask him these tango questions by carrier pigeon or email or some other quaint method? Pfft.

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  12. No, he has to intuit the conversation from the ether. Or, I could ask him on Friday when we have lunch. Hmm.

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