praise for
days of naze
put the load right on me

days of  
n a z e  




strung out 
brush with greatness 
soul food  


An obnoxiously large

(101k .wav) audio greeting

from the Author.

January 10, 1999   

Strung Out: Coda

For the few of you (ahem) who haven't slogged your way through Strung Out, my personal odyssey through clefs treble and alto, the punch line is that I've been out of the music making business (that would be "business" figuratively speaking) and into the little creature business.

One of the great gifts of this Christmas was the chance to put my toe back into the musical water.

Tooling up Belmont Street with my viola riding shotgun triggers a thick mixture of emotions. I'd been anticipating this rehearsal ever since I got the e-mail invitation to play in the Alumni Orchestra at the Portland Youth Philharmonic Boxing Day Concert. The orchestra has always been the launchpad for my spirit.

However, despite the fact that the Alumni group was just one small part of the program, some of that preparedness anxiety crept in amongst the excitement. I've only been unpacking my lonely Guiseppe Lucci 3-4 times a year, which ain't enough to maintain any kind of musical chops.

Last year when I walked into the Glencoe Elementary auditorium, I saw Huw Edwards, the PYP conductor, setting up chairs and stands. Having served as the stage manager in my day, this horrified me. The conductor just did not do the physical labor. But there he was doing it. We're the same age for god's sake. I'm not sure I'll ever quit marveling at that fact; Maestro Avshalomov (who I played under) is 46 years my senior.

This year I scoured the alumni for my peers, found them, unsheathed my worse-than-crap camera and proceeded to irritate my fellow musicians all night long (so I could irritate you too - don't you feel special?).

I purposely sat myself in the back of the viola section and felt pretty responsible in warning my standpartner, a twenty-something alumna studying at BYU, that I was going to embarrass myself most of the night; my preference is to innoculate against the shock.

For about 15 minutes I really sucked. The music wasn't terribly difficult but it was fast: Overture to The Marriage of Figaro by W.A.M. (Wolfgang Amadeus not George Michael). For string players, the first law of Mozart is to put a little space in between the separated notes especially in the faster parts. Sometimes you do this by stopping the bow, other times you do it with a controlled bounce called spicatto. I have forgotten all about that stuff and am sawing away with the gusto of a true spaz. Until I notice out of the corner of my eye that my standpartners bow is bouncing.

This is what standpartners are for.

The intimidation factor is fairly high with this group. Huw likes to start the alumni rehearsal by having each person introduce themselves. A lot of whippersnappers at Julliard, Harvard, Stanford, Eastman. When it comes to my turn, I take the high road -- I resort to extortion. I've got the camera. I've got the web site. Be nice to me. So much for the wisdom of elders and the brotherhood of musicians.

Let me gush about Huw a bit more so I can make fun of him. Huw's sense of tempo, particularly in operatic work, is unerring. He knows his music cold and conducts from memory fairly often (e.g. Beethoven Third back in November). He also writes about music in Stagebill and does a lot of program notes for major symphonies. O.k. Enough of the gush.

When you want to convey nuance to a section, sometimes you've got to sing it. And when you're talking about the flute section that kind be kind of difficult. Unless of course you're not shy about singing falsetto. (I could seriously use some RealAudio here.) Of course, it worked.

Rehearsal is where all the work gets done. The sad part is that we only had about 45 minutes to get it done. And that's tough even for a fairly familiar piece like Figaro. It takes time to build a sense of ensemble. So instead of going from shaky to great we made it to what I would call respectable. (I'm not sure if my camera flashes helped or not. Perhaps justice was served -- all of the shots taking during the rehearsal were just pathetic.)

Rehearsal Quiz -- these PYP Alumni are:

a) Les Femmes Nikita

b) Reaching out to lucrative gangland audience through "Girls with Guns" concert series

c) Enforcement of strict new "no-coughing-in-the-audience" policy

b) Reason why most musicians are rejected for concealed handgun permits

Which brings us to the non-sanctioned entertainment portion of the rehearsal. The on-it's-way-to-becoming-tradition post rehearsal Horse Brass debriefing.

The Horse Brass Pub is about as close as you'll get to an English drinking establishment in the States. Or so I'm told. I've never been to jolly olde England. It is close to the rehearsal hall and it is in keeping with Huw's Welsh pedigree.

10 p.m. The place is packed and loud. Uncharacteristically amplified music oppresses those wishing to converse. Swing-style Christmas carols from a pink polyester suit clad singer and his band. It's great to see Oregon's Cherry Poppin' Daddies score some hits, but Riot was out for about 2 years before it got airplay so it's not exactly new and the venue just ain't right for this.

Fellow musicians of legal age (mostly well above) straggle in. Steve, a violist who plays in the Oregon Symphony, orders pints of Guinness figuring that's what folks want at a place like this. My comrades decline hoping for lighter fare. I, casting aside concerns of vicious viola stereotyping (mellow nerdy trolls just right for dark beer), accept.

Contrary to the photo at left, this is not a Heineken commercial, but damn the light makes it look good perched over there on that menu, don't it?

I can't recall the name of the clarinetist on the left; Jenny, cellist of my era; Dr. Suzy, professor of psychology at a Midwest university that shall remain unnamed, violinist, and occasional violist; moi; Steve, violist.

It only takes a pint before the musician jokes roll out. I open the bidding with one of my favorites:

How do you get 2 piccilos to play in tune?

Shoot one.

Now for me to start this sort of business is tantamount to masochism because violists are the butt of more jokes than any other instrument. While it is now grossly politically incorrect to tell Polish jokes, no such protection applies to the strung out followers of the alto clef. Case in point:

What do violists have in common with terrorists?

They both like to screw up Boeings/bowings.

I guess the homonym part works better verbally -- after a pint.

Huw offered this goody (Rob, I think you'll like this):

What is the definition of a gentleman?

Someone who knows how to play trombone, but doesn't.

And then Suzy offered this classic:

How many flute players does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Two. One to screw it in and the other to pull the chair out from underneath her.

And in that vein:

How many first violinists does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Twenty-one. One to screw it in and twenty to say "I could have done that better".

You get the idea.

Much to our irritation, the music continues. We begin to sing along. Loudly. They are Christmas carols and there are sympathetic patrons in the audience. We aren't thrown out.

After a surprising ribald joke from our cellist with the punchline "Hannukah Lewinsky" (this is a PG site, mostly), the ladies begin a discussion of Barry Manilow composition techniques (formulaic upward key modulations) and then demonstrate in unison with their version of "Mandy". There's nowhere to run. Agh!

The table next to us is populated with guys who look like rejects from the Trainspotters cast along with other friendly but loutish characters. Randomly throughout the evening they raise their glasses in a toast with an infectious "hey-HEEEEY!!". The bass player and I disregard possible hygiene risks, clink glasses and briefly join the motley chorus.

All this after just 2 pints. Hard to believe, eh?

The french fries (or should I say chips?) were gone and some of us were up way past their time zone bed times. We departed.

Boxing Day, 1998. Backstage, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. 7:23 p.m. I've cut it far closer than I intended for a 7:30 curtain. I catch my breath, unpack my viola and warm up. We open the concert with our one piece. And it goes quite nicely. About 5 minutes later an appreciative audience of about 1500 sends us off with a nice ovation. It's time for the 3 orchestras of the PYP proper.

We snuck out into the audience and enjoyed the show. The highlight for me was a reduced orchestra accompanying the Portland Girls Choir in a performance of a piece by Faure. Gorgeous.

It was all too little. That little taste of Mozart with its crescendi and compact energy reconnected me with my hunger for a regular orchestra gig. I guess I need 4 more hours in the day and some creative scheduling in the parenting duty.

I'll keep you posted.


p.s. "What's the buzz / tell me what's a happening": new days notification list.

p.p.s. Ran my front page through Web Site Garage. Ouch. The good news: basically every browser on the planet can read it and all the links work. The bad news (as if you didn't already know): the html reeks and the load time is atrocious. I could blame MicroSoft FrontPage Express and Netscape Composer but who are we kidding here?

p.p.p.s. Walter, I'm not sure if this is what you had in mind but I hope you enjoyed this.

p.p.p.p.s. (I'm really pushing my luck here, aren't I?) Hit-wise we're looking at a little pre-millenial parallelism. So if you roll it over and you'd like to be embarrassed a little, send me an e-mail with the date and time and your ISP and I'll see what I can do.




















previously on days of naze: 
geek of the weak
pre-game stupid
my affair with a greek woman 
brain baker
occupational hazard
i blame them
brilliant mistake
pleasure victim 
the stupid rules 
driven to distraction 
my corner of the planet 
spawn apologist 
interview with a madman 
an introduction 

what have you done for me lately?
stupid football.

May you never be more active than  
when you are doing nothing.  


in the feedbag: 
movie: Shakespeare in Love. In a year of pretty solid film, this one rises above. It takes major cajones to write dialogue for Will but these guys pull it off spectacularly. Paltrow is strong, but Fiennes is perfect. See this and The Mighty at all costs.

game: Rogue Squadron. If you are the one who wishes I would run a little faster than my once per 10 day schedule, blame the latest from LucasArts. I've made it to Taloraan. Geek patrol!


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e-mail We few, we happy few...  


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