Thursday, October 23, 2008

Musical Re-creation

It has been kind of difficult for me to put much effort into musical creation these days because I have been involved pretty heavily in musical re-creation (which is another word for practicing and rehearsing). I imagine that the creative process is kind of like the stock market: there are times when everything is flowing, and there are times when movement is a bit slower.

I don't do "slower" very well, so I'm putting my musical "eggs" into violin playing and into making music with a few composers who have been way out of my league for hundreds of years (Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart) with the intention of playing a concert in a couple of weeks. Here's your invitation, if you happen to be in the neighborhood.

One of the pieces we are playing is the Bach E major Sonata for violin and keyboard, BWV 1016. I actually performed it once before around 30 years ago (!) at Alice Tully Hall (!!!!) on the flute (!). I had a harpsichordist friend named Helen Katz who had scheduled a performance of the piece for a "Wednesday One O'clock Concert" (free concerts for the people in the neighborhood to attend) with a violinist who was a student of Dorothy DeLay. It seems that Miss DeLay was not happy about the idea of her student playing in "Baroque" style (which during the 1970s and 1980s involved a lot of experimentation with inegal or unequal note values, regardless of the style). Helen, who really wanted to play the piece, asked me on a Monday night (I remember it well because I played at a restaurant called "Ruskay's" on Monday nights) if I would be willing to play in place of the violinist that Wednesday (yes, I had about 36 hours to learn the piece). I agreed. What was I thinking?

All I can say is that it is a good thing Helen was such a good harpsichordist. She followed me through a landscape of rhythmic inaccuracies. I remember the stupid blue platform shoes (they must have been four or five inches off the ground) I wore, and the brown wrap-around dress with blue piping along the edges. I remember the speed with which we played, and I remember my pioneering and rebellious spirit. I was playing a violin piece on the flute in Alice Tully Hall, and I was playing all the eighth notes in the second movement as dotted eights and sixteenths, and all the sixteenth notes in the last movement as dotted sixteenth notes followed by thirty-second notes. I felt like I was on the cutting edge of creativity (and I know I was on the cutting edge of fashion). What was I thinking?

Now I'm playing the piece on the violin. The eighth notes in the second movement will be eighth notes, and the sixteenth notes in the last movement will be real sixteenth notes. Thank goodness.


Gatoto said...

Hello, Elaine:

Looking for information about the "tromba marina", I found your blog, congratulations. I´ve also read on it that you play violin and viola, it´s possible? I´m learning viola in the conservatory and also trying to learn violín(fiddle) by my own, and it´s very difficult for me.

Thanks and best wishes, from Sevilla (Spain)

Elaine Fine said...

Of course it is possible gatoto! The technique is basically the same, but the difference is in the details. What you do with your right hand, for example, to get a good viola sound doesn't necessarily work to make a good sound on the violin, but the mechanics of the left hand are pretty much the same.

I practice technique on the violin, and allow it to "translate" to the viola when I'm playing in orchestra or in chamber music groups. I would advise you to find a good violin teacher to work on (or even talk with about) some technique-building exercises.

Anonymous said...

The real question is: will the blue platforms be making an appearance this reprise performance?

Elaine Fine said...

They are probably still decomposing away in a landfill somewhere on the east coast. Maybe they'll walk all the way here to Illinois by themselves, covered with slime, and listen to the concert. The horror of it all!!!

j said...

What a great story, Elaine! :)

Y'know sometimes things are part of the moment. We look back and sigh, but at the time, it works.

Hope you have a picture of that happenin' young woman in the blue platforms.

Wish I could have attended your concert (both of them!)

Elaine Fine said...

Alas, there is no photo evidence of my late 70s self in that getup. The double-knit polyester of the dress has probably separated into its various petroleum parts by now. Imagine, if you will, a wraparound dress in chocolate brown with navy blue piping along all the edges, with a neckline far lower than anything I would ever imagine wearing as an adult. Oy.

The concert on Sunday was a lot of fun, and a lot of hard work. I had much more fun playing the Bach on the violin than I did when I played it on the flute, in my youth, in that dress and those shoes. This decade I wore a nice brown and white print dress this time, and a soft brown jacket. And I wore flat black shoes.

The universe is once again in balance.