2012 Goals: #1 The Website

One of this year’s resolutions is to get off my ass and get myself an online home. Everybody tells me how easy this whole process is – especially these days. I believe the phrase is “push button.” But truthfully, I’m a mite intimidated by the whole process. What happens when I am intimidated by a process? I learn all I can about it before I get started. In fact, spending so much time learning about it that I never actually do it. I mean, I’ve been sitting on my domains for years.

So this week, I jumped in. I’ve said goodbye to GoDaddy and hello to Dreamhost. I’m up to my eyeballs in themes, headers, plugins and “HOW on earth do I (fill in the blank).” My to-do list is getting longer…

Thankfully you really CAN learn just about anything on the interwebs and Dreamhost makes it almost painfully easy to get started.

Long story short, there will be some changes around here in the next couple of days (weeks?) as I finally get my interweb self in gear. Hopefully the transition won’t be too painful.

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Movies with abs and BSG…

In case you were wondering what I’ve been up to these days – the title of this post says it all.

I mean, really, what else is there?

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Well for starters we had our first orchestra rehearsal of the Spring term last Thursday.

Our next performance is at the end of March. The theme of the concert is Space and the Planets and my little geek heart is barely able to contain itself with joy. Until the sheet music started appearing on my stand and I was reminded of a few of my favorite quotes: “Miles to go before I sleep.” And “So near, and yet so far.” and “Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.” As I trundled through pages of new sheet music and tried to figure out where the hell my F sharp had wandered off to for two hours.

The good news is we have a lot of really interesting prospects. Listed here in order of my own increasing personal preference :

4. Blue Danube (2001: A Space Oddessey) Okay so I’m not a huge fan, but who doesn’t recognize this one?

3. Theme from New Moon – And yes, that is the TWILIGHT movie. The response to my inquiry as to how this wound up on the list: “It had moon in the title.” I asked if anyone was aware that this was from a movie about vampires and werewolves and not, in fact, little green men. (In it’s defense, it’s actually a fun piece to play and pretty dramatic. So I’ve made peace with it by giving it a new name: “Sparkly Vampires in Space” )

2. Moon Waltz (Albert Wang) which is even more fun to play than New Moon…and also has “moon” in the title

1. Noche de las Estrellas (Starry Night or Night of the Stars) by Caponegro – has a lovely latin vibe

AND MY ABSOLUTE “over the moon” favorite:

A medley from BSG (Battlestar Galactica, for the uninitiated in the room) which includes the Passacagalia and The Shape of Things to Come.

There’s a similar medley online here if you’re curious.

This makes the whole thing worthwhile. I’d love to add the theme from Cocoon and/or Total Recall to the mix, but I don’t want to push my luck. I’m calling it the international space station set and so far, I like it. Plus, getting to play BSG is sort of like a dream that I never knew I had come true.

Yes, I AM that much of a geek.

And see, all that BSG watching wasn’t JUST about the abs. It’s EAR TRAINING.

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So technically I’ve been “off” my cello for a couple of months aside from sub-regular recreational sessions. In preparation for orchestra rehearsal I did reboot my practice schedule time, but it was abundantly clear that I have a lot of shaping up to do before the performance. Thankfully, I’m no longer the only cello, so at least there’s no pressure of being in the the first and only cello chair.

Now I just don’t want to let down my section.

I have a LOT of work to do on tone, so for the near future I’ve upped my scale work and listening exercises. Our arrangement of Danube has a sh*t ton of A string E’s and F’s which I would like to play – as opposed to dropping an octave “to get by” – so I’m determined to be able to nail those shifts consistently.

I’ve broken out my tape and redone my fingerboard for extensions and shifting. This time I’m also color coding – green for natural, red for sharps, black for flats. Why? The advantage of being an adult is that I know my learning style and I’m a visual learner.

Playing in the mirror has always been super helpful. With color coded tape I can watch myself hit the right notes, which speeds up my muscle memory for finding them and reinforcing my ear’s recognition. At least that’s the theory and I have had some luck with this strategy in the past. We’ll see where I’m at when the tape comes off.

It’s also been helpful to sing/speak the note as I play – but that’s another trick entirely and helps mostly with sight reading.

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So that’s the update. Rehearsal is tomorrow so I’d better wrap this up and get back to business (aka practice) and on to the next episode. Here’s hoping I don’t wind up like these two:

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Use your words: Yoga and Writing

In yoga ‘dialogue’ refers to the words the teacher uses to deliver practitioners through a sequence of postures that compose a class (although it’s really more of a monologue: as a practitioners are mostly focused on breathing and twisting or untwisting yourself from one asana to another) Think of it like an esoteric game of Simon Says or Twister. Not to make light: in my experience, dialogue is the key element that “makes” a teacher and one that I have really worked on in the last few weeks of teacher training.

At the basic level you need to be able to give physical instructions in the right order so that students don’t wind up face down on the mat (at least unintentionally). All good yoga teachers can guide students in and out of postures. What distinguishes the great teachers is the ability to use the words so that they provide not only specific physical instruction but guidance to the more subtle layers of understanding as well. My favorite teachers are the ones who combine physical instruction, metaphor for understanding what the posture should look or feel like, and some explanation of the benefits of the posture or the practice. Of course, in a vinyasa, there is sometimes no more than a breath or two between postures. Nobody wants to sit on their mat for 20 minutes while a teacher gives a discourse Tadasana (Mountain Pose) even though I fully believe it’s possible to fill up that amount of time with all the facts, alignment tips and metaphors that can be applied.

The best teachers make it look effortless. Trust me: having now stood sticky-mouthed and fumbling in front of a room full of people all waiting expectantly in downward dog for the next set of instructions – it’s anything but.

The trick is timing and judicious use of words at just the right moment, while avoiding unnecessary repetition. For example, one could just recite the posture names going through Sun Salutation A and B, but given most vinyasa classes repeat each sun salutation anywhere between 3-10 times, which would get real old, real quick. There is some magical formula that the greats find, seasoning each set of postures like courses in a gourmet meal – so that with each pass through forward fold, upward facing dog and down dog the practitioner gets a different flavor experience. Maybe the first time through there’s alignment focus, then another a taste of energy flow, or a sensory descriptor that helps echo the physical alignment (Leading with the chest and rolling he shoulders back in upward dog also helps maintain the alignment of shoulders over wrists).

The other trick is knowing when to say nothing. The final pose, Savasana (or Corpse Pose) is the penultimate example of this. Although I have had several wonderful teachers include apropos readings or chanting, the precious moments of silence are never neglected. It is in the silence that the practitioner gets to experience the moment without interference and become her own teacher. There are lots of opportunities to have similar moments in other parts of the class – and the good teacher also knows when, as they say “less is more” in the dialogue department.

I could go on. The joy of being at the tail end of a nine week yoga teacher training program which has pretty much consumed my life (or what’s left over after working 8+hours a day) is discovering all of these interesting intersections the things that I am most passionate about. In this case, writing and yoga have lot in common. See, “giving good dialogue” in a yoga class is very similar to how good writers use words.

Much like physical alignment, visual descriptors or metaphor and comprehensive posture knowledge work to give praticitioners access to a complete and satisfying class experience, setting, metaphor and background are all used to give the reader a complete and satisfying experience with a book or story. A novel has a limited amount of space to tell a complete story (I would argue even in a multi book series, this is true). Getting the reader engaged with the writing equivalent of that 20 minute lecture on Tadasana is not going to fly. But get them up in Tadasana a couple of times over the course of the hour as part of a flow of postures, each time mentioning something different but related (four points of balance, alignment of the joints, muscle engagement, the sense of being ‘rooted’ like a mountain) and you’ve got something. Even better you build resonance through indirect repetition that I believes gives more power to the overall lesson. Finally, key the literary equivalent of the moment of ‘silence’ where instead of hammering the reader over the head with the Point, the writer lets the theme or the message speak for itself through that resonance.

Which brings me back (again) to the writing. I haven’t been doing a lot of work on the novel during the past few weeks. I knew going into the experience of becoming a yoga teacher I wanted to devote as much energy as possible to that pursuit (hence the break from my four stringed companion as well). The irony is that what I’m learning about yoga dialogue has been teaching me how to better use my words to do justice to the story that my novel is begging to tell.

When I look at a scene I look at it with the eye of a teacher guiding a praticitioner into, through and out of a posture. Have I given the right cues on ‘physical alignment’ (setting)? Are there enough visual descriptors or metaphors – or too many? How about background; have I wasted the precious momentum stopping to explain too much? Where is there repetition instead of resonance? When do I allow for the resonance to sink in through silence?

Although I haven’t done much revising, I feel the work I have done has been stronger than ever. One of the writing goals I set for myself this year was improving my revision skills. Little did I know that by pursuing training as a yoga teacher, I would be doing just that.

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Friday Cello Video: You never know when that Cello will come in handy…

Nathan Chan earns himself an iPhone case for an impromptu rendition of Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” at an Apple store. Not too shabby….

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Friday Cello (related) Video: Cimmi Plays Cello

Part one is fascinating, but part two is accompanied by last week’s featured cellist, Takenobu which gives it a extra delicious layer of cello-tastic.

Enjoy!

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Friday Cello Video: Takenobu

In which I break the rules and give you an audio clip disguised as a YouTube video. Don’t be alarmed by the sudden lack of visuals, this one is worth it:

Takenoubu, a.k.a Nick Ogawa is a cellist, songwriter and self produced musician who often compliments his intricately layered electric cello tracks with warm vocals. There’s a touch of bluegrass sweetness to some of the songs on his album, Introduction which is available by digital download at CDBaby.

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Friday Cello Video: A Father And Son’s Intense Conversation

I’m intrigued by musical families – and this duo has a wonderful story, in addtion to making some pretty amazing music. Father, Pedro Soler, is a renowned flamenco guitarist and the son, Gaspar Claus, is a classically trained cellist known for his sound experimentation projects. Their recently released album is the culmination of six years of work combining their two sounds in a unique conversation:

Soler says his son expresses himself without constraints — while he holds on to the strict rules of flamenco. Yet their collaboration is not strictly flamenco, and Soler is not playing the traditional role of guitar accompanist to the cello’s “voice.” It’s a conversation between two equals, and it took six years for them to get to the point where they wanted to commit the music to disc. Dessner was the perfect choice to produce — he’d gotten to known the father and son personally, and he’s got a master’s degree in classical guitar performance from Yale. He says things got interesting in the studio.

“They have a very special relationship as a family — very open, very creative, very artistic,” Dessner says. “They’re not afraid to disagree. So there was a fair amount of me mediating between the two of them. There were hard days. There were days where one of them would storm out and not speak to the other one for a few hours and come back, and we’d do something incredible. It was a pretty intense process. It went on for about three weeks.”

Check out the full interview on NPR.

On to the video, which pretty much confirms I’m ready to pack a bag and move to Spain:

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