Monday, June 30, 2008

I love you

...but would you hold still so that I can give you your bath?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Treating ear worms

The best way I've found to treat an ear worm is to replace it with another one. Today I'm trying a different tack, actually spending more time with it in the practice room, and as a by-product creating my first dual track Audacity project. Hasn't worked yet, but I'll let you know.

This is a song we played in church last week. It has a simple cello ostinato line that is quite addictive. We started our pre-service rehearsal with both of us playing the ostinato introduction, but didn't like the effect. Two string instruments playing in unison is the most difficult combination. So between us, we decided that it needed to be a cello solo. Usually the other cellist plays the solos, and I am happy in my role as Cello 2. But somehow, she passed it off to me, just before we went live.

I wasn't too distressed, as it's not difficult - just exposed. And I'm quite proud of my performance anxiety management - when I caught myself thinking "Now don't screw this up and get all tense" I immediately changed that tape to "This is a beautiful line and I am going to release any excess tension and play it warmly." I don't know how beautiful it was, but it felt pretty good. DH commented after the service that the cellos had a big part, and that it sounded nice. Good enough for me.

But that simple ostinato has been caught in my ear since Sunday. Today I wanted to just play something fun to start my practice, so I looked through my Suzuki books, having heard that La Folia is in there somewhere (variations on the ostinato theme). Unfortunately, whomever I overheard must have been talking about the violin books, because I didn't see it in the cello parts. So I decided to record the ostinato part of the song from last week, and then the other cello part, which Cello 1 played, and mix them together in Audacity. A fun little project.

You'll hear that I am not quite exactly aligned, but well enough to get the gist of it. Think of all the duet options...

Ostinato mix

Friday, June 27, 2008


We have a problem. I can't sit at the computer in the office without turning to see Linus climbing up the prison wall, and he's become a very good climber. But definitely not a good climber-downer, and probably not a very good faller. He hasn't fallen yet, but that is only because I notice he is climbing, usually as he nears the top, 5 feet off the ground. I'm sure a fall from that height could cause a kitty concussion.

So, obviously this post is not about training kittens, but a kitten training me to facilitate his jail breaks. Smart kitten.

The first time I took Linus out yesterday morning Lucy was busily eating breakfast. When Lucy is eating, she has a one track mind, and it's not on the baby. I realized something was up when mother talk intruded on my consciousness as I was typing, in escalating volume, and I turned to see her frantically searching in all the corners for Linus. I just called her attention to the baby in my lap, and she laid down, eagle eyes fixed and unwavering on Linus until I relented and let her out, too.

Office door closed, of course. We did have a few loud discussions under the door with the bigs outside. Not ready for integration (for a variety of reasons) for another week or two.

For a cat rescued from a dump, Lucy is exceptionally sweet and people oriented. As soon as I let her into the office, she came over, jumped in my lap, and took up a post on the desk. An ideal blogging companion.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


My Dr. Beat sits on top of the piano, within easy reach while I am practicing. It seems like a flat, secure place, so I'm not sure why it ends up on the floor at least several times a week. It's a sturdy little machine, so in spite of multiple falls, yesterday was the first time it appeared to be damaged during its adventures. That circle to the right of the "70" should have a big orange dial on top of it.

Fortunately, I can work the dial without the cover, but I got to thinking that I should find it soon, if I had any hopes of ever seeing it again. Thinking like a cat, I feared it was finally time to clean out all the toys lodged under the couch.

But before going spelunking, I did a visual scan of the area. Wait, there's a flash of orange! Wasn't it kind of Sharae to provide some complementary visual interest in the area my eyes needed to see?

A little closer. That looks promising, but uh, oh, I think it may be broken in half.

Phew. It's just fine, lodged under the fireplace tools.

Bummer for the cats, though, The rest of the toys are still under the couch.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Window cleaner needed

Sometimes I think I would like to get a "real" camera, but then I'm surprised by what my little point-and-shoot Elph is able to do. I figured no way it would focus on the window rather than the trees outside in this shot. I think that must mean that this window is very, very dirty, to give it a solid plane. Sheesh.

It has been summer here for exactly three days now, and in the glorious morning light I can see how busy this window has been over the winter. It's in the office, next to the Orbitor, one of my two large cat trees. I love the 6 or 8 inches of paw prints over the scalloped snotty-nose spots border. But I'm not sure what that long vertical streak in the middle is.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Insipient jail break

Not too shabby for not quite 4 weeks old. He's going to be a handful. Fortunately, he gave up and dropped down a few inches later.

Friday, June 20, 2008


I decided the Nursery really had to be cleaned today, but I didn't want Lucy and Linus breathing in concentrated bleach fumes. So I devised this barrier, my old cube shelves from downstairs. (That was a project, carrying them intact up my curved staircase.) As you can see, they are pretty tall, and definitely heavy, but easy to swivel aside so I can get in and out.

While I was cleaning, Lucy rushed any visitors to the wall with her foaming-at-the-mouth growly hissy fits, and then returned to supervise, calm and wanting pets. Linus discovered the rolling jingly ball I brought in as his first toy, and made some tentative swipes to get it rolling, but really was more interested in the twitchy tail Lucy provided for him. He was very interested in the cleaning process, so I was glad I had someplace I could move him out of the way.

I went back out to the kitchen to dispose of the cleaning water and clean a couple of patches on the kitchen floor (Dolly again?), and turned around to see the silhouette of a stripey cat with a skinny tail. Wait, that has to be Lucy, I thought, and indeed it was, skulking quietly through the upper floor, not bothering the half dozen others who were there playing and helping me clean. I checked the "wall" which was unmoved, so figured she must have climbed over it. Silly cat, but she went back in quietly.

And then resumed growling at anybody who came near the wall, starting with Seri. At the moment Seri is in defilade by the desk, watching intently as Lucy nurses Linus under the sink.

The rate of Lucy's hair loss is definitely decreasing. She has lost almost all of her ticked fur, leaving a very short, very soft tabby coat in a subtle classic gray on gray pattern. I am thinking more and more that this is a result of an outside cat moving inside rather than illness or a stress reaction, though would never rule out a role of post-pregnancy hormones. You can blame just about anything on those. Lucy seems much happier with the door open so she can see me at the computer, and she's still segregated from the cats - except when she climbs the wall!

No, wait, I see her pushing with her paw between the shelves and the wall. I think I probably left too short an overhang on one side, and she squeezed through. Regardless, I'll close the office door while I am out and things should be fine.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Highs and Lows

It's been an interesting musical month. If you read my practice blog, you may have noticed that I listed the sessions I attended at two professional music teachers' organizations. My head is filled with new things to try this summer, the makings of my own personal music camp, since I'm not attending anything formal. Heck, I'm not taking lessons, and my scheduled play dates are not for rehearsing.

I've had several performances in the past month.
  • Current Orchestra. Played the Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, Vivaldi Spring from the Four Seasons, and the Bach Double featuring violin and oboe on the solo parts, plus a variety of pops selections. Fluffy program, but the audience enjoyed it and we played well.
  • Cello Trio. I thought this was going to be an adult chamber music recital, but it turned out to be "All School," and we were the only adults on the program. Due to a last-minute schedule change we played right after a group of 7 or 8-year-olds having their first quartet experience. Adorable, and a hard act to follow. Went well, though, and we were so well-rehearsed that I still can't get the music entirely out of my ears. It keeps popping up in quiet moments.
  • Old Orchestra. Last weekend I was in my old hometown for a long weekend that happened to coincide with the last scheduled concert of their season. They graciously allowed me to sit in, and I learned Schumann's second symphony and a von Weber overture in four days. I alternated focused technical practice with play-throughs accompanied by John Eliot Gardiner and the Revolutionary and Romantic Orchestra, my favorite recording. The tempo was faster than the Old Orchestra played, but it was an excellent exercise for learning context, designing faking strategies, and pointing out exposed parts that really needed to be mastered. Plus, Current Orchestra hasn't played a symphony in two years, so I had great fun. The other good news is that the Mendelssohn-like Scherzo has partially supplanted the Cello Trio ear worm, probably a side effect of the total immersion approach.
So, what's the low? Those all sound like highs to me.

Yesterday I met with my flute/piano/cello trio for the first time since our Mother's Day performance. We read through arrangements of several Handel suites, and Beethoven: Op. 20, an interesting piece that was originally scored for a rather unusual septet that included clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, and bass, but was so popular that Beethoven made arrangements for a number of other groups, including the flute trio. As an aside, we listened to parts of the septet recording near the end of rehearsal, and I liked that arrangement much better.

Anyway, I hung in for the rhythm and tempo, but anyplace that requires fast shifting or Trouble Clef still sounds pretty awful while I'm reading. I know, I know, sight reading only gets better by doing it, but I really expected that there should be some carry-over from working on more difficult music. I was feeling discouraged when I left yesterday.

But buck up, today's another day, and writing about it takes away the sting. I see that I need to include sight-reading practice in my summer program. And my apologies to those who read my blog for the cat pictures, but I need to do some more thinking aloud about practicing.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Water babies

Dolly and Molly are my first experiences with Maine Coon mixes, and I have discovered a couple of unique characteristics. They're very people oriented, and very gentle and cuddly when they aren't too involved with playing. They have huge, soft feet that are black on the bottom, and very soft claws that you don't notice at all if you keep trimmed. They have cute little chirping voices, but these one don't use them very often. I'll take that as a compliment. No need to speak up if you are already getting everything you need. And they love water.

The only time I had to give Dolly a bath (because she had stepped in some liquid stool), not only did she not struggle, but she hunkered down in the sink, quite happy in the water. And last night I took a bath for the first time with this group (no comments- I usually shower) and it was quite entertaining to have all the gray fuzzies, but especially the girls, lined up on the tub. I wasn't too concerned when they kept pawing the water, but if I got too close to the edge of the tub they tried to climb onto me, and that made me a little nervous. No dunkings when I got out of the tub, so I figured I was home free.

Not. Molly saw the water going down the drain, and had to get in to explore. There was probably four inches of water, so she just got her legs and belly wet, then jumped out in surprise. I started to chase her down to dry her off, but decided a naked woman running around a well lit house with no curtains at night might be too much for the neighbors to deal with. So I got to mop the floor as well as the kitty after I got dressed.

Good thing they're so darn cute. And Molly's fur is awfully soft after her impromptu bath.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Summer schedule

Piano class. Done.
Vocal Ensemble. Done.
Orchestra. Concert last month, and done for me since I am not playing in the July concerts.
Cello lessons. Last one yesterday, until October. T- suggested another teacher I might like to take lessons from over the summer, but I'm not thinking seriously about it (yet).
Flute trio. We'll still rehearse, but not more than 1-2x/month.
String quartet. Monthly, maybe, depending on whether we can work out schedules.
Cello trio. Last rehearsal last night, and recital is tonight. Still thinking about whether to resume in the Fall, but done for Summer.

I do have my first opportunity to be a "ringer" next weekend, joining my old orchestra for a concert. I rehearsed with them once about two months ago, just for fun. They're playing Schumann's Symphony #2 in C, and the von Weber Overture to Beherrscher der Geister. I'm kinda looking forward to the challenge, now that some of my other stuff is winding down.

No music camps planned for this summer. My main goal, believe it or not, is just to practice for the sake of practice. I've picked all of the low-lying fruit, concentrating on specific changes to my technique, and what I need most now is Butt-in-Chair time. I though it could be avoided, but have been forced to conclude that the only way to really make progress at my level is through repetition. So I'm switching my focus from variables helpful in learning new skills to the variety of ways one can make repetition palatable.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Sunday, June 01, 2008

One word

...for why I did not practice this morning.


The time was not nonproductive, however. I was working out bowings for Haydn C in my prolonged hypoglycemic hypnagogic state.

Sharae and John had no such excuse. They are merely suggestible.