Music and Spaces

imagesRecently I played a concert in concert recital hall. The space was very intimate and the concert was around mid-day. At first I thought this was an odd time for a chamber music concert featuring the Stravinsky Octet and a few other works for the era. Odd until I listened to the New York Times Popcast: Jazz’s Takeover of Hallowed Museum Spaces. 

imgresPart of the discussion dealt with the classification of what jazz music is and how artist explore new sounds, spaces, and the integration of many forms of arts. One of the artist in question was Jason Moran. A fantastic jazz pianist and now Artistic Director for Jazz at The Kennedy Center.

Song Exploder Podcast

A few days ago I found a new podcast to add to my rotation. And apparently, I love this podcast! Song Exploder is hosted by Hrishikesha5eMUALj_400x400 Hriway and it’s super interesting if you are into deconstructing modern songs.

I downloaded 3 episodes which included artist I admire and listen to often. I was blown away with the interviews and then felt more invested in following Björk, Tune-Yards and Open Mike Eagle.

Here are some links to those episodes on the Song Exploder Soundcloud page. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.SongExploder60-600x298

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Quick Warm Up

Having a quick warm-up at my disposal has been a very useful to me. Somedays I have 40 minutes to get my face ready for a day of playing. Unfortunately too often I get only 10-15 minutes to play in the morning. And that’s it!no-time-480-300x300

So when my private student informed me that they didn’t have much time to get in a good warm-up, I decided to help them and me with that problem. Here’s what I came up with…perhaps it might be useful to others.

Castro Quick Warm Up

Planets from my house part 6

My night started off with thoughts of jazz and beer. Brother Thelonious is great for both.

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Eventually I stayed up long enough to keep up with my latest hobby… Looking up. My kid calls Jupiter “daddy’s planet”, which lets me know the level of my geek is strong.

This may potentially be the last time I post about which planets I can see from my house. In general I feel the pictures I take with my iPhone does no justice to how cool I think this event is. The idea that I get to watch this pattern unfold before my very eyes is simply awesome. I think I’ll start saving up for a telescope. Perhaps my kid and I will enjoy looking up.Planets from my house part 6

Clark Terry RIP

One of my favorite moments as a trumpet student was listening to Clark Terry warm up back stage before a performance. He is also responsible for helping to shape my view of music and becoming a musician. In a master class his quote to the class about improvisation was “first you must imitate, then you can innovate.” As a young musician I thought I should apply this to every facet of music in my life.

He was amazing.

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NPR’s – A Blog Supreme has a great piece about him and his career.

NPR – Clark Terry

Best Seat In The Housemates

Generally if you are on a stage performing, you are a fan of what you are performing. Either you like the act of sharing something with folk on a stage or you feel strongly about that specific artistic expression. I’m convinced every performer feels one of those mentioned before and I’m certain that I take these moments for granted.

Recently I performed a piece with an orchestra that is rarely performed. The performance was well received by the audience and performers. During rehearsals I noticed my seat was just about in the center of the stage directly in front of the conductor. This isn’t unusual, however with music coming at me from all directions I got to experience the music (and all the wonderful sounds) from an interesting perspective.

I think I had the best seat in the house.

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Still Nervous

I don’t claim to be the kind of person that has it all together. In fact anyone that really knows me, understand that the confidence they see is just a facade. So it may come as a surprise to many that even though I perform music often, I still get quite nervous.

Most performers or public speakers understand the kind of nervous I am referring to. The kind of uncomfortable that comes every once in a while, when you are put into an unfamiliar situation. Or worst, when you know exactly the position you will be in and you know it’s not going to be good. What ends up happening to some is well known as “The Shakes”.

There are ways of combatting this problem. First, is knowing what happening to you. Understanding that your body is flooding with adrenaline as part of your fight or flight reaction to stressful encounters. Second (at least for me) is to breathe, while the voice in my head is going through the task in front of me step by step. Third is understanding that I need to have experiences working in these environments to help reduce or cope with this kind of reaction. So try to put yourself in that position more often than you’d like, to teach yourself how to deal with the anxiety. The last option is to use medication.

Many people use propranolol to help deal with the physical aspects of performance anxiety. These beta blockers can be used to chemically resist our adrenaline from causing performers to shake uncontrollably. The New York Times has an article titled “Better Playing Through Chemistry” on the subject and WQXR also did a set of  radio interviews. Check them out, they give a wide perspective on the reasons for the use of medication for performers.

Please comment if you have other thoughts and suggestions. I think it’s a discussion we should not be afraid to have.

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