Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I've joined SoundCloud!
Yeah, don't get all excited, I only have one thing to upload (and I still haven't done it yet, maybe later), and I don't expect to have any more. However! All the elements or planets or whatever aligned themselves perfectly and I have one performance, of which I am very proud, to share with you.

Later, yes, later.

I can't remember if I talked about it at the time and I'm too lazy to find out, but in December, when I was 32 weeks pregnant, I performed in a little workshop/recital at West Hollywood Presbyterian Church. I had worked on and performed La flute de Pan by Jules Moquet before and I wanted a second crack at it, so Patty, my flute teacher, allowed me to do it again. She doesn't usually let students do that, but I'm just going to come right out and say it: I am no ordinary student. If you are currently a student of Patty's and you're wondering why Irene gets special treatment, well, I'll tell you: I get special treatment because I'm special! Deal with it. And did I mention I was 32 weeks pregnant? Learning something brand new from scratch wasn't going to happen. I had been fooling around with the Moquet at home by myself, and it was easy enough to put together. It's a beautiful piece and I love playing it... so I did it again (only the first movement, "Pan et les bergers" - "les bergers" means "shepherds"), and I'm so glad.

The winter workshop/recital was full of lots of great performances, and Patty's students (mostly kids, but a few of us adults; as one of the adults, and one of the most advanced players, I went last. I've had the honor of going last for several years now) all played really well. I was also in a couple of ensembles (one of them, the Hallelujah Chorus, with me on bass, was kind of a train wreck, and it was totally my fault, but we won't talk about that now), but I was a little nervous about my solo, as usual, and, as you read on, as was to be expected.

I don't have a good track record when it comes to being prepared in advance. I think I've told you before that I love to play, but I'm often not very motivated to practice (though it's funny: once I get started [this is pre-baby] I can sometimes do it for hours. Or sometimes not. I don't have a lot of discipline. I wish I did, of course I'd be a much better musician, but I don't). My history, when it comes to recitals, is to "learn" my piece, oh, pretty much the week before. Of course I'll have worked on it before then, and I know where the hard parts are, but full-on mastery doesn't come until they very last minute, and as you probably know, "full-on mastery" doesn't respond well to last minute preparation. But, that's the way I do it, knowing very well that it makes for miserable lessons and a tear-filled dress rehearsal. Apparently I'm a glutton for this kind of punishment. I will also never change.
This is why I am a. not a professional musician, and b. I forgot what b. was going to be. <--Mommy brain!
Oh, the tear-filled dress rehearsal! Patty employs a young pianist named Mark Abulencia, and he's amazing - he's extremely talented as a performer, but where his talents really lie, at least where I'm concerned, is his accompanying. The guy can read minds, and can tell when a flutist is floundering, making shit up, and about to skip a whole measure or two (or, ahem, three). He's saved my butt many times by repeating the last bar of the music, slowing my too-ambitious tempos down, covering up my stupid breathing, and following me when I'm re-writing the music. And he does all that and sounds beautiful at the same time. He's also a sweetheart. My dress rehearsals (usually an hour in Patty's living room the day before the recital) have been the same since high school (Mark hasn't been playing with us for that long but I've had this pattern since then. Yes: I am a slow learner. Where have you been?): I walk in, usually before the player before me has finished, and start putting my flute together to quietly warm up. Patty, involved with her other student, avoids looking at me, which instantly puts me on guard. I know that I am ill-prepared, I know she knows I'm ill-prepared, and I know she knows I know... oh, you get it. And so I work on attaining the proper attitude to cover up my total lack of confidence. I usually come up with "combative," which is a really charming personality trait, and which works until I start to play, screw something easy up, and then it turns to "fearful" and "tearful."

There is sometimes quite a bit of cursing at these rehearsals. In between the tears.

Anyway, yes, I did all that this time. But please remember that I was also 32 weeks pregnant. I was big. I was having serious breathing problems, and it seemed like the only "easy" solution was to push the tempo. I have no idea what the ideal tempo for this movement is; maybe I should've found that out ahead of time. Pushing the tempo meant then that my fingers (and brain) had to keep up so that my stupid lungs wouldn't explode. And Moquet (or can I call him "Jules"?) didn't really help me out. Properly prepared, the phrasing probably would be fine for another, non-pregnant flutist, but I was not that flutist. So there was that to listen to, my weird breaking of phrases, and it was annoying, and it was worrisome, and then it was my turn to play, which is why I'm writing this long-ass entry in the first place.

I know that I will play my flute again. I know that I will perform again. I know that the baby and I may get to play duets when he's old enough and that I will hopefully be able to to teach him to love the flute as much as I do (and if not, he can do whatever he wants). But this recital, at the end of my pregnancy, felt like a big one. It felt like my last recital as a non-parent. Any playing I do after that will be as a parent. And I don't know, that felt serious to me. I wanted to sound good, dammit.

And you know what? I totally did. I am so proud of that performance. I have never ever played anything so well. I've never felt so powerful as a flutist, so in control. I knew as I was playing that it sounded good (if maybe a little sloppy, maybe a little too fast and a little out of tune, a little wacky on the breathing). It was nowhere near perfect. But it was really, really good. I don't know if I was playing for the baby (unnamed at the time, but now maybe you see why we named him what we did), or saying goodbye to my (long gone) childhood, or what, but I felt like something was happening, there, and I loved that moment of playing, and look, that's not always the way I feel about performances.

Patrick recorded it for me, and I have it on my iPod. When the baby was about 2 weeks old, I was playing music while feeding him, and it came on. It wasn't the first time I'd heard it but it was the first time I heard it since having him, and dude: I cried. My own stupid playing made me so happy.

After I played the Moquet, I then had to join my fellow flutists and play the Hallelujah Chorus (on bass, as I mentioned before). Someone else counted it off, and I stepped off a cliff. I think what happened is, I wasn't looking at the music (after my performance my brain was all scrambled), and so I played the first bar from memory... and that was as much of the music I had memorized. Oops!

So we started again... and the same thing happened.

Dude: how embarrasing! Still, once we got back on, I think it sounded okay. Playing the bass is fun, but I don't do it very often, so maybe I lack that bass player sense of responsibility and weightiness. I don't know. I only know I screwed it up.

I'll upload the Moquet later tonight and post it for you. Like I said before: it's not perfect. But it's the best I could do, and it was good enough for me to be very proud of.

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