Practice

A few amazing things just happened

Hey friends —

I spent all of winter 2019 more or less underground. While I was in hibernation, a few major personal and public things were in process. On the professional side of things, I started working in earnest on three big pieces of music. All three of these pieces were developed throughout the winter, and were premiered in April and May. It was a period of intense work, and when I look back on the whole period I’m grateful to say that everything went better than I could have ever hoped for. I thought that while everything is still fresh I might as well try hard to say a little bit about what these pieces have meant to me.

So over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting some thoughts about these three pieces, as a way of putting a cap on this intense period. I’ll be working in reverse order:

  1. On Monday June 17, I’ll make a post about Five Stations, a piece for piano, saxophone, and string quartet which was premiered by Balance through Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings on May 31

  2. On Friday June 21, I’ll make a post about Dividual, my collaboration with theater artist Paul Manganello, which was premiered at the Cleveland Public Theater April 11-13

  3. On Monday June 24, I’ll make a post about I Got to Keep Moving, a performance piece by Balance featuring the stories of eminent author Bill Harris and the drummer Gerald Cleaver

So that’s what’s coming up! Stay tuned.

A Delightful Typo!

Today, I found a typo in Oscar Beringer's "Daily Technical Studies for  Piano." I cannot express how much joy this brought me. This book is a nonstop onslaught of eighth notes, very regularly patterned, and although it clocks in at 151 pages, it is approximately 1/12th shorter than it should be -- each study is meant to be transposed into all 12 keys.

The ritual of practicing out of this book was handed down to me by my teacher, Geri Allen, and I seem to remember her telling me that Herbie Hancock had shown her this book (I can't remember that point definitely -- did any other former students of Geri ever hear this?) In any case, every student of Geri's practiced diligently out of this book. I have practiced out of it, on and off, for 12 years, and recently I've picked it back up again. (Here's a link to the book, if anyone's interested).

That's why finding this typo is so satisfying. For starters, this book is dense, and its sheer density makes it satisfying. But secondly, I'm imagining finding this typo and bringing it into Prof. Allen's studio for a lesson. She was stern, but I know that she would have delighted in this, and it might well have opened an enlightening conversational door. She was like that -- a diffuse thinker, with a strong aptitude for lateral moves.

Lately, my musicianship, creative practice, and career have been changing in circuitous and unexpected ways. This is healthy, and I'm simultaneously nervous and pleased to see how things have changed for me over the last few years. But I have to say, moving forward without having the ability to chat with Prof. Allen has been challenging. Over the last few years of her life, we didn't talk much -- maybe once a year -- but every time we talked, I felt like I had gained some clarity, some mandate, some mission. As I get older, the clarity, mandate, and mission is starting to come from within. It's good, but not having much external feedback can sometimes make you wonder if your internal compass is guiding you in the right direction.

I think mine is. But I won't know for some time yet.

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