Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I'm Not That Girl

I was pretty pleased with myself today - Anna tested me on "I'm Not That Girl", and I got through it pretty well even though I'd only had about 10 minutes to play it.  I'd had a chance to analyze and listen to it, but couldn't really play it because there was another rehearsal going on in the same room as the piano and I were in.  There's one chord in every verse I have trouble remembering (the C# minor 7), and getting out of the bridge is tricky... but I was pleased, especially after yesterday was so frustrating.  Win some, lose some. 

I woke up this morning with the strange sensation of having truly gotten enough sleep.  Gonna try that again tonight, but first I'm going to go in for some hardcore theory geekery as I start reading my friend's masters thesis.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heaven Help My Heart

"Heaven Help My Heart" from Chess was suggested to me by Anna, one of the teaching artists I'm working wiht this week.  She tested me on "There Are Worse Things I Could Do" yesterday. 

This one ("Heaven Help...") was hard. Playing wise, it was fine; I can sight-read it. But I really struggled with memorizing it, and it's definitely one I have to spend some more time on. It's hard being away from home - limited piano access and not much independence, transportation-wise. But then it's hard being home too - lots of distractions. I think I'm getting more result out of the same amount of effort than earlier in the year. Maybe? Imagination? Not sure.

I'm really tired and had a near miss with a migraine today, so I'm gonna leave it at that tonight.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Far From the Home I Love

The Chicago Tribune building: ruins from the home I love; far from NYC, the home I love now.
The home I love...
Whenever I tell people I'm from New Mexico, I get the following sequential reaction:
1. Look of surprise and delight (New Mexico's inhabited!?).
2. The excited query: "Albuquerque?"
3. A look of wonder at the size of Western states when I reply, "No, about 5 hours south of Albuquerque."
4. "Wow, so that's like... really close to Mexico."

My hometown is approximately in the middle of the triangle made by Albuquerque, El Paso, and Tucson.  It is, in short, in the middle of nowhere.  Going home for a weekend, even a 3-day weekend, isn't worth it - no direct flights, and a lot of time on the road between home and the airport.  It's a little bit as if I left Siberia to find the home I love in New York City.  I find this song and scene to be one of the most moving in the musical theater repertoire. 

You know what I love about Fiddler?  Well, two things in particular.  I love that it's the young women in the show who move forward with the changing world.  Their men catalyze the change, but it's the women who really have the high stakes (poverty with the tailor rather than prosperity with the crusty old butcher, a dangerous trip to Siberia to be the helpmeet of a political dissident, disownment for marrying outside the faith).  I also love the juxtaposition of joy and sorrow that pervades the show - life is hard, but magnificent.  I'm teaching a short version of it to tweens and teens at Camp Broadway this week, and I was trying to explain this concept to them - the best example I could think of was a yin-yang: there's a little drop of joy in suffering, and a little drop of suffering in joy.  Songs like "To Life" are upbeat, but acknowledge suffering in lyrics like "...and if our good fortune never comes, here's to whatever comes".  "Sunrise, Sunset" is such a poignant wedding song, but trying to get kids from the instant-gratification generation to do it as anything but a dirge is like pulling teeth, because it's a slow song in a minor key. 

Ah yes, major/minor... this brings me back to today's song: form AABAA... ooh, an extra A section!  But Bock manages to support the meaning of Harnick's lyrics and keep from being boring by changing modes (it major/minor) with each A section:
A - minor - "how can I hope to make you understand..."
A - major - "once I was happily content to be..."
(B section - major)
A - minor - "oh what a melancholy choice this is"
A - mixed! - 1st phrase major: "there where my heart has settled long ago..."; 2nd phrase minor: "who could imagine I'd be wand'ring so?"

Musical Theater Month

I guess I should kiss or at least shake the hand that feeds me, huh?  So I'm learning some musical theater songs this month.  The downside of doing this genre is that the songs are often much longer and more complex than the pop stuff I've tended towards - more to memorize.  The upside is that I can choose from the many standard and contemporary musical theater songs I'm already sort of familiar with, so I have a chance to practice them to the point where I feel secure playing them. 

I've learned "Adelaide's Lament" from Guys & Dolls (on the easy/standard side, memorization-wise), gotten a decent start on "Vanilla Ice Cream" from She Loves Me, and "When You're Home" from In the Heights.  The latter is proof that when reading music, the information goes in my eyeballs and out my ears: I've played this song a zillion times at rehearsals and auditions, and while a lot of it's in my muscle memory, I couldn't call it memorized.  I learned it long before I was of the mindset to internalize the form and changes - I was still learning everything note-by-tedious-note.  No time for that now.  It's interesting to see how much my music-learning process has changed in the past couple years. 

Anyway, must sign off now - I'm in the middle of an extremely busy week, and I'm up way, way past my bedtime.  I'll pay for it tomorrow when I'm trying to write arrangements on no sleep. It was worth it to socialize with theater friends on a rooftop in midtown with a view of the Empire State Building that was just amazing.  We won't talk about the fact that I overshot my subway stop by three avenue blocks and ended up taking a cab home... hooray for solitary walks and lemonade that might have been hiding some vodka...