EBK's Redwood Conservatory of Music and Other Sounds

  1. EllieBelleKitty
    Welcome, one and all, to the Redwood Conservatory of Music and Other Sounds, where EllieBelleKitty can be seen doing her many and various musical thingamajigs, and of course having the occasional temperamental fit that can only be expected of a real, dyed-in-the-wool composer. Pull up a chair, watch and listen...soon, EBK will arrive on the scene, poised before the great wall of many and various musical instruments collected over the course of almost two decades, and no one knows just exactly what sonic development will happen until it does...
  2. theredmarker
    I look forward to these musical thingamajigs!!!
  3. EllieBelleKitty
    Tonight in the Conservatory

    EBK was seen welcoming her stage partner DG in for rehearsal...they played for about 3 hours, definitely a new record. Tonight's rehearsal involved about 20 songs, on 4 different instruments, in 4 different languages, from 5 different countries.

    At one point EBK was about ready to have a fit trying to remember the chords for the bridge to her own song. This has been going on for weeks with this one particular song. "I wrote the flippin' thing and it's not like I can't play it," she said, "I can - there's a recording to prove it - so why can't I remember it anymore? It's like a Rubik's Cube - I fix one chord and another goes out of place."

    "It's kind of entertaining though, watching you struggle to remember your own song," said DG.

    EBK struggled to figure out how to respond to that, since it wasn't entertaining to her. She decided to basically ignore it. "Yeah," she said, "well hold on, I'm going to go through just the bridge one more time. I keep waiting to either feel the chord coming to me or hear something in my head telling me where to go and neither is happening so I have to fix that."

    "I think it's a G," said DG, apparently realizing this was a better time to help, rather than to grin like a fool and say something annoying.

    "I think you're right," said EBK. "Let's try it again..."

    That time it worked - went off without a hitch for the first time in months.

    Other than that, everything was going very well for our heroine. Woodwinds were introduced into an arrangement for the first time in several years, and after about two months' work together, EBK finally explained to DG why she can learn most of the music he brings in almost instantly. There are technical elements common to all of it which make it extremely easy to remember, analyze, and reproduce.

    Of course, after one plays music for 3 hours straight, what else can one do but play more music? Once rehearsal was over, EBK soon picked up the guitar again on her own to work on a solo project.
  4. EllieBelleKitty
    If I can figure out how to post a sound file here, I can make the Conservatory a much more interesting place. (Suggestions?)

    In the meantime, EBK has been seen in the Conservatory quite a bit just over the last 24 hours or so...

    I'm working on a song so ridiculously different and complex that the person who transcribed the sheet music had to come up with new symbols for some of the techniques. I have wanted to play this song forever. I have tried to learn it at least four times over the last 16 years and I have always hit a wall and given up. In retrospect I realize that the reasons why I couldn't do it before, which were many, actually all amount to one thing: an inability to relax. I couldn't relax enough to move that quickly or that precisely, and I couldn't relax enough to perceive the nuances that made one line different from another and all the parts work together mechanically anyway. I had never understood before why the composer and original performer of this song lived the way he did - he was known to spend most of his time not composing or playing music but doing yoga and various holistic practices; essentially he'd often do that all day, and then perform at night - but now I know why. If he'd been tight physically or scattered mentally, making this kind of music would have been completely impossible.

    Well now that I've been meditating for a few years, using a technique which among other things really teaches a certain patient ease in dealing with very fine details, I've recently been able to take a good crack at it and see things in the music that I didn't see before. I actually see how the song works structurally, which I never could before. The hands, however, are still doing something completely new, and it's just going to take time and repetition for them to be able to do it - probably lots of both. This could easily take months, even though I'm about as ready as I could possibly be.

    I have already worked through a little over 1/4 of the song but I'm now hitting a point where the techniques are just so unique my hands have never seen anything like it. Most guitarists' hands never have. See, usually when you hit a note on the guitar you just hit it and let it decay - let it go on as long as it wants to, or until a different note gets played on the same string and puts and end to it. In this song you don't do that. In this song you control when the note begins and when it ends, too, by muting the string at some specific point afterward. This allows for tight control of harmonies, yes, but it's also twice as much work as you normally have to think about. Not only that but there's actually separate notation written for the left and right hands. Yes, this is a guitar piece, and no, that is not normal for a guitar piece at all, but the two hands in this technique often do almost totally independent things at once...so really you're responsible for four times as much stuff at any given moment as you normally are on guitar. I have never seen anything like this song and probably never will again, but it is partially for that exact reason that I have no problem with the idea of dedicating I don't even know how many hours to playing it.

    I know what it takes to play something well. If you can't play an entire phrase without making a mistake, you work with a measure first. If you can't play an entire measure without mistakes, you work with a couple of beats. If you can't do that, you work with fewer beats. In this case, well, I can play a beat and a half without making a mistake if I really think about it and take it slow.

    If you don't know what I'm talking about, try this. Tap your toe in a nice moderate beat - 1, 2, 3, 4. Then speak along with it (yes it's okay to whisper) - one banana two banana three banana four banana. So if the numbers are beats, then each syllable you said was part of a beat - you were speaking what we call "sixteenth notes."

    So yes, this entire song works primarily on sixteenth notes and it's supposed to be played around 80-90 beats per minute. With all this string stopping stuff all I can do on this particular section right now without goofing up is to play six sixteenth notes - what is supposed to be literally around one second's worth of music...taking about three seconds to do it properly. Last night I sat with my eyes closed and took it as slowly as I had to in order to remember exactly how to do it perfectly. If you do it perfectly enough times, however slowly, you will later come to do it perfectly and more quickly too. And I sat there doing it over and over until I got it right 100 times.

    This afternoon I sat there again, playing that same second's worth or so of music, as quickly as I could while still getting it right, and I upped the requirements. Did it right once...okay...twice...good...four times...okay...messed up on the fifth attempt...okay I'm back to four. I decided today that I was going to get it right 100 more times than I got it wrong - even just slightly wrong in some tiny detail - before I set it down. And I did. And by the end I was thinking less about it and doing it faster as well as more predictably. This is very, very hard work but there is absolutely nothing better than watching oneself go from "how the blazes does anyone do this???" to "whoa - I'm DOING this!!!" As I said, this may literally take me months to do, but I am finally in a position to do it. If it takes me months of wood shedding, they'll be months well spent.

    I also rehearsed my duo act with DG for about two hours tonight. We're making relatively big plans, networking, working on new material, playing longer shows, hitting different venues. My codependency does become a hindrance at times - I'm always feeling like I'm supposed to take care of him somehow - but if I just keep an eye out for that and let DG be a big boy and handle his own needs things go much better. It seems like a really good partnership.
  5. EllieBelleKitty
    *props open the conservatory door - hoooooo boy it's stuffy in here after all these months...sprays a little Endust on the desk, wipes it off with a rag...tunes up the harp...*
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