Big changes in 2014

January 3rd, 2015

Early last month, the last of my grandparents passed away. I have been extremely fortunate to know all of my grandparents well into my adulthood. I feel so lucky to have known them as people, and I feel their presence in my life in interesting ways as I get older. Grandpa Mackey, the last to pass away, was an incredibly kind and patient man. He could talk to anyone, and could make anyone feel comfortable. He and my grandmother would get to know the life stories of the waitresses in their favorite restaurants, and were very active in their church. Grandpa served in WWII, and later worked in sales at GE. 

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In recent years, as it got harder and harder to have a true phone conversation with Grandpa, our conversations became rather one sided. However, he would always end our talks by saying that he loved me and hoped that I was enjoying my life. This would usually make me cry. I knew he was having a harder and harder time enjoying his own life- his wife and friends had passed away, he wasn’t able to taste food well, wasn’t able to drive, and he wasn’t able to enjoy so many other tasks that had been important to him. It also made me think about my own life, and was I truly enjoying it to the fullest? What would Grandpa be doing if he were in my shoes?
For eleven years I had been teaching music at Southern Illinois University. In some ways, it was a dream job. Tenure, decent pay, a cushy schedule, opportunities to travel and play. But it was also in a small town, far from city life (which I had always enjoyed) and a plane ride away from any member of my family. I enjoyed the work, but found the hours after work harder and harder to fill with things that were important to me.
This summer marked not only my 40th birthday, but also could have been spent preparing a dossier to apply for Full Professor. When I looked around at where I was living, and thought about yet another year lecturing about Organum and Basso Continuo, I decided it was time to go. While quitting a job in other fields is not so unusual, people don’t quit tenured professor jobs very often. This is because they are incredibly hard to get, and getting harder. But I really didn’t want it anymore, especially not living where I was living. I found myself thinking often about my maternal grandmother, who left her job teaching in a one room schoolhouse in rural Minnesota to join the army during WWII. In that context, quitting didn’t seem crazy at all.
Luna sees the Pacific

Luna sees the Pacific

So in June, I left. I packed up my house and my dog, and headed west to the Los Angeles area. My brother and his family live here, and his sons (my nephews) are 5 and 2. Getting to see them many times a week is such a blessing. They are hysterical, and have fallen in love with my dog Luna. I also have witnessed the 2 year old progress from calling me “Choo choo train” to “Aunt Melissa” (it often becomes A-Lissa, but who cares?) I also live on the side of the San Gabriel mountains, which is a lovely change from flat Illinois. My walks with Luna are much more challenging, and the view is incredible on my commute down the mountain.
my hillside backyard

my hillside backyard

I did not have a job lined up when I got here, and that was stressful. But after a few months, I have found work that I find interesting and enjoyable. I teach music lessons at a local music school for 6-12 year olds, which is a big change from college lessons. I teach SAT prep and coach college application essay writing at a school for mostly Korean students. (FYI- 18-year-olds do NOT enjoy describing “the world they come from.”) But my most substantial job is at the Fashion Institute for Design and Merchandising (FIDM), where I work as an “Educational Assistant.” (That was a tricky interview to dress for.) This means I spend time in the tutoring center helping students write and edit papers, help with math homework, and occasionally pretend to know something about accounting, business, or textiles. Their students are from all over the world, and it is not unusual for me to be talking to someone from China one hour, and Ethopia the next. The people in my department are smart and funny, and I am really enjoying my days there. They have hired me as adjunct faculty for next quarter, I’ll be teaching English Composition. (For those of you who attended MSM with me as an undergrad, please stop laughing!) It is also cool to work in DTLA (downtown Los Angeles), which is undergoing a real Renaissance, and is almost unrecognizable from when I was here last in 2003. FIDM, as you might imagine, is a beautifully designed campus. The computer lab includes a “pool” where you can sit with your laptop in a lounge chair, or get in the blue vinyl padded pool for a nap. There are glass cases in the hallways displaying beautiful garments and jewelry. It’s a wonderful working environment, and everyone has been so welcoming to me.
Logan loves selfies

Logan loves selfies

So while it’s only been six months, I feel pretty confident in saying that it was a good decision to move west. Luna and I enjoy our mosquito-free mornings on the patio, even in December, and monthly trips to the ocean. I have really been enjoying working with such a wide array of students on a wide array of topics. I’ve been so touched that some friends from St. Louis found a way to include me via Facetime in one of my favorite activities, our regular Cards Against Humanity game. I found a new pottery studio, with another great teacher named Tom! And spending time with my nephews (and being able to help out their parents) has made me so incredibly happy.
Building LEGOS with Lex

Building LEGOS with Lex

So while I will miss my grandfather and the rest of my grandparents deeply, their presence has been felt strongly in my life this year. I am entering 2015 with a real sense of optimism and adventure. I look forward to whatever challenges and opportunities the future brings. I hope that you and your loved ones are feeling the same, and that 2015 is full of love, surprises, and opportunities for you too. To quote Grandpa Mackey, “I hope that you are enjoying your life.”

 

Program Notes to Beethoven’s Septet, Op. 20

September 12th, 2012

Beethoven’s Septet is an interesting piece that offers a new twist on the Classical tradition of Serenades and Divertimenti. While those two forms tended to be fun, light, party background music composed by Haydn, Mozart and others, the Septet tends towards a more symphonic style, with a bit more weight and craftsmanship. And while Serenades tend to be for ensembles of 4-6 strings, or wind octets, Beethoven’s Septet is scored for one each of seven different instruments: violin, viola, cello, bass, clarinet, bassoon and horn. So, in what becomes a hallmark of Beethoven’s music, he is keeping just enough of the traditions of the day to make the audience comfortable and stirring them up a bit to make them more his own.

 

According to a footnote in Maynard Solomon’s great biography Beethoven, the first performance of the Septet happened in Jahn’s Restaurant in December of 1799. This seems like an extremely appropriate venue for such enjoyable music. The official premiere is considered by most to be at the marathon concert in April of 1800 (where he also premiered his First Symphony and many other works) in the more formal Vienna Burgtheater. It was a huge success from its first performance, proving to be one of the most popular things that Beethoven ever composed. His friend Schuppanzigh, a well-known violinist in Vienna, loved to play it and kept programming it on concerts for the next 25 years or so. Beethoven hated that the Septet was so popular, as he saw it as rather old-fashioned. There is a story that an audience member once complimented him on it, and he replied, “Mozart wrote the Septet!” (Beethoven didn’t always have the best manners.) Some say that the Septet was Haydn’s favorite Beethoven composition. In yet another example of its popularity, when Beethoven’s manuscripts were being auctioned off after his death, the Septet fetched a much higher price than his Missa Solemnis.

 

The format of the Septet is what links it to the Serenades and Divertimenti. It is in six movements:

 

Adagio-Allegro con Brio

Adagio cantabile

Minuet

Theme and Variations

Scherzo

Andante con moto alla Marcia-Presto

 

While the layout looks very similar to Divertimenti by Mozart or Haydn, the music has some beautifully crafted development sections, a fun Scherzo that highlights the horn, and a charming theme and variations. Since Beethoven waited until rather late in his life to start composing symphonies (Mozart began at 8, Beethoven at 29) many see the Septet as a warm-up to prepare him for the larger symphonic works that he is so famous for today. All that being said, it is easy to imagine a crowd at Jahn’s enjoying their beer and schnitzel while listening to this lovely work by a great master.

This week at the chalkboard: The Classical Era

September 10th, 2012

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been covering the Classical Era in two of my classes. (One, a Freshman Intro to Music Lit and Two, a junior level survey of Music History) The Classical Era ends up being my most and least favorite era to teach, for the following reasons:

1. The music is insanely uniform and the era is insanely short.

2. There really are only three major composers.

This makes it both easy and difficult to teach. When I first started, I would dread this era. So much sonata form, so many symphonies and string quartets, and never mind all the piano music. And with only three composers, how to fill the time? I can’t really justify spending oodles of time on Stamitz and Sammartini, (although I do spend some time on them) and forget Wagenseil, Gassmann and Gossec. But over the years, I have come to love many things about teaching this era, partially because of all the other things there are to learn from it that aren’t necessarily about music.

These days, I really relish the time I have to spend on HMB (that’s Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven). Their lives are so informative to modern musicians, and we have enough primary source material about them to get a good picture of their lives and personalities. (You can’t say that about most composers from the Baroque era and before.) So here’s what I enjoy sharing most with my students about these three amazing musicians:

Their career paths

The Classical era was the beginning and the end for the careers of composers and musicians. It was the end of full-time patronage, as fewer and fewer musicians held full time court or church jobs. Haydn worked most of his life at the court of Esterházy. The benefit of this was he had an ensemble to work with every day, and could train, hire, and rehearse them to his liking. He had a place to live, food at the servant’s table, and a steady paycheck. The downside of this was he had to compose whatever the Prince was in the mood for, stay on top of the instrument collection and music library, follow the Prince on lengthy vacation trips to the summer palace, and (at least at first) he was not allowed to publish his music outside of court. Haydn writes of “praying for ideas” to keep up with the Prince’s requests and composes way more works than Mozart or Beethoven. (104 Symphonies to Mozart’s 41 and Beethoven’s 9) Many will argue that he composed many more works of mediocre quality than M or B, which certainly has some truth to it, and most of his true masterworks come from the period in his life after he is retired from court and moves back to Vienna.

Mozart and Beethoven show us more of the beginning of modern music careers. They both spend some time holding positions at court like Haydn, then break away. Mozart spent a little time working in the ensemble at Salzburg, but really hated being seated at the servant’s table (and I’m sure there were other things he hated too, like still living with his Dad at 25) so quit and moved to Vienna to freelance. Beethoven worked as both harpsichordist then violist at the court of Bonn as a young man, but also eventually moved to Vienna to freelance in 1792 (the year after Mozart dies- good planning on his part). Once in Vienna, their careers look pretty similar. They both take students, publish their compositions, organize concerts, perform (although Beethoven can only perform as long as he can still hear), and take commissions. One thing Beethoven manages to do (that Mozart does not) is to convince some wealthy music lovers to give him a stipend, or places to live, or other helpful gifts that help keep him afloat. In return Beethoven dedicates works to them, so if you know his music, you may already know who these kind souls were (for example, the “Waldstein” Sonata). The careers of Mozart and Beethoven do not look too different from that of many modern musicians, who still cobble together a living from teaching and playing, so I always spend time talking about this aspect of their lives. In Higher Ed we often talk about how today’s musician needs to be more “entrepreneurial” than in past eras, but I’m not sure it’s true. What’s more entrepreneurial than Beethoven cajoling dozens of amateur and professional musicians into premiering his Ninth Symphony? Artists always have had to be smart and gutsy to make a living.

All that Sonata Form

While I do find it a little tiresome to listen to SO many works in sonata form, I think it provides a good learning opportunity as well. Comparing an early sonata form by Stamitz with one by Mozart or Beethoven really illustrates the genius of the latter two men. (And also how innovative Stamitz was to break away from just using rounded binary and to start developing his ideas. Although this tends to get lost in intro courses.) I also find sonata form to be a great listening exercise- can you hear (or feel) it when we enter the development section? What exactly are you reacting to? The harmony changes? The switch from longer themes to shorter motives? Or is it just a feeling in your gut? I also love recap sections. Do you feel relieved? Happy to be back in tonic?

I played a Minuet and Trio movement for my freshman last week. I didn’t tell them that’s what it was, just asked them lots of questions about it. It was an excellent performance on period instruments by Tafelmusik of Haydn Symphony #43. They were able to figure out that it was in 3, had an ABA form, it was a dance maybe, and the instrumentation. I was impressed. But my favorite part was that several of them were convinced that the return of the A section was somehow different from the first. Now those of us who have performed hundreds of these Minuets know that you use the exact same music to play the return of A, there are usually no changes other than to skip the repeats. But my students swore that the instruments were different, it was louder, it was faster- something had to be different! This to me was an excellent teaching moment about the transformative power of a good, contrasting B section (or a good development). That if the composer has done his job, “A” should sound new and fresh the second time around.

Three very different personalities

From everything I’ve read about H, he seems like an easy going guy that everyone liked. Especially in the few years before he gets his Esterházy gig, some pretty high-powered people go out of their way to help him. (His neighbor Metastasio gets him a job with Porpora, for example.) I think you can tell from his music that he was witty and had a good sense of humor. (“Joke” Quartet, “Surprise” Symphony) I am also impressed at how the influence of young M and young B seem to inspire Haydn to compose better and more complicated music in his later years- when he could be resting on his laurels.

M seems to have a fabulous sense of humor, although his humor tends towards fart and poop jokes at times. He loved word play and riddles, and was good with languages. He traveled the most widely of the three, and had friends all over, which proved useful later in life when he needs commissions. There are many moments where he seems to have a pretty big ego, but from our modern perspective, that was probably for good reason. He doesn’t deal with authority figures very well, so a freelance career probably suited him well. He seems to be a good husband, and for the most part, a good son.

B was a more difficult person to be around. He also suffered from bad health and stomach problems for most of his life, which I know would make me cranky. You can also imagine the heartbreak of a musician losing his hearing and how that might affect one’s outlook on life. He had very high standards, for his family and his art. While he didn’t have much formal schooling, he continues to learn and read throughout his life. And for someone who many people complained was in need of better grooming, ill-tempered, and moody, he still managed to win many life-long fans of his music. (Although it did not win him a wife, another source of pain for him for many years.)

So all in all, after years of thought, I feel like this era provides all sorts of good lessons about life in the music business, how to listen to music, and about life in general. Oh yeah, and somewhere in there I actually teach what the music of the Classical era was all about.

St. Louis Restaurants

August 15th, 2012

Here’s a list of restaurants I’ve been enjoying in St. Louis this summer:

Pizza

Pi is always awesome, thick crust, not too heavy, good ingredients, several locations. The CWE location even has good breakfast pizza (think quiche in their cornmeal crust- yum!)

The Good Pie on Olive is VERY good, stone oven pizza. They have buffalo mozzarella too.

And finally PW Pizza is also excellent, and that’s a big compliment from a former east coaster like myself.

Not Pizza

MILAGRO, MILAGRO, MILAGRO- best Mexican food, hands down. No arguments allowed. They also have wonderful Sunday brunch- maybe the best breakfast potatoes in St. Louis. (which is sad to say for all the breakfast restaurants)

Sushi- Miso on Meramec for more upscale, Cafe Mochi for more everyday good stuff. Try the pink cocktail.

Benton Park Cafe has excellent Ultimate Eggs Benedict and good breakfast potatoes. I can’t quite get myself past that part of the menu, although I’m guessing there are other good things on it.

BBQ- this is a category with lots of good options in this town. I am partial to Bogart’s- mostly because I can walk there. I am also looking forward to the opening of Capitalist Pig. Recently had a lovely first meal at The Shaved Duck- smoky meatloaf and BBQ cheese fries!

Spanish Tapas- Modesto is very good. You must order the Cauliflower- even if you don’t normally like that vegetable.

Italian- Stellina makes me so happy! Their menu changes with the season and what’s fresh, so it’s always a new experience. Their pastas are really exceptional. Last time I had Agnolotti with carrot and marscapone filling, topped with pea shoots and a light herb butter. It was like spring on a plate!

Dressel’s- Lamb burger is SOOO yummy. The sweet chutney and goat cheese with the rich lamb is really first class. They have other good things on their menu too, but I rarely can get myself to order them.

The Cupcakery- has amazing chocolate cake.

Any others to add? I’m sure I’m leaving some good places out, but a girl can only eat so much.

Imbecilism

August 8th, 2012

(On August 7, the people of Missouri voted 83% in favor of an amendment that included language saying that students did not have to participate in school assignments that conflicted with their religious beliefs. This post is in response.)

Last night, God came to me in a dream! He wanted me to start my own religion. There clearly aren’t enough of them, and He thinks that the children of Missouri especially need Him now. Here’s what He told me about Imbecilism:

Video games and movies are clearly more important than gaining knowledge. If He wanted you to be smart, He’d have made you that way.

Physical fitness, team sports, exercise, eating healthy foods, and other behaviors that are aimed toward living a longer and healthier life are bad for you. He has decided how long you’ll live, how you look, what the quality of your life will be. You should only run when chased by a predator. Trying to be thin, fast, strong, healthy or attractive to others is a futile pursuit, and you shall not engage in it. If He didn’t want you to eat Doritos, He wouldn’t have made them so tasty.

Math, especially any higher form of math that might help you figure out a tip, do your taxes, keep your business afloat, or balance your checkbook; is bad. You shall not spend time trying to learn how to manipulate numbers, as it might make you more capable than your fellow man, or God himself, and that is bad.

Logic, reason, analysis, and critical thinking are the tools of the devil. They are largely used by highly paid professionals like doctors, lawyers and professors. God wants you to take everything you hear at face value and not question. It makes His job much easier.

And lastly, be good to your fellow man! You should give all your money to politicians and religious figures who tell you things you like to hear. Remember, God loves you exactly how you are, don’t go changing or improving yourself.

So if YOU would like to join me in worshipping God in this important new way, please join! For a mere $50 I will send you a certificate of membership in Imbecilism and a copy of its manifesto. (Especially useful in classrooms in Missouri.)

What if Schoenberg had been an American Civil Rights leader?….

May 21st, 2012

This semester, while teaching the Second Viennese School, a student asked a question about the word “emancipation” that made me think of this. With sincere apologies to Dr. Martin Luther King, I offer this post:

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our art.

Five score years ago, a great Austrian, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the “Emancipation of the Dissonance.” This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of pitches who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. “The single tone” no longer held “the priviledge of supremacy.” It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Pitch still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Pitch is still sadly crippled by the manacles of tonality and the chains of function. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the musical dream. Some might say, an Impossible Dream.

I have a dream that one day this music will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all pitches are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of serialists and the sons of neo-classicists will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that my four little pitches will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their sharps and flats but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, little C sharps and F sharps will be able to join hands with little B flats and E flats as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream “that twelve-tone music in the near future will no longer be rejected because of “dischords””  “That today’s ear will become as tolerant to these dissonances as musicians were to Mozart’s dissonances.”

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

Let freedom ring from the conservatories of New York.

Let freedom ring from concert halls in the Heartland.

Let freedom ring from every studio on the coast of California.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every motif and every theme, from every choir and every orchestra, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, sharps and flats, pentatonic and whole tone, quartal and quintal, atonal and pantonal, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Content largely borrowed from http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm and the words of Arnold Schoenberg (in quotations)

Dogs at play

May 21st, 2011

Here are some home videos I’ve taken of dogs at play: (Click the title to play video)

Tiger and Luna

Loki and Luna

My Heckel Bassoon #47xx, on his one-hundredth birthday

January 3rd, 2011

(This post is a bit belated, but I hope you enjoy it. Boris’ 100th birthday was July 2009.)

A musician’s relationship to her instrument is a unique thing. I often wonder if computer programmers get as attached to their PowerBooks as I am to my bassoon. Especially since I have played this instrument for eighteen of the twenty years I have played bassoon, I feel very strongly that he is responsible for much of my identity as a bassoonist. My sound and my style have been shaped and influenced by him. While I fully acknowledge that my instrument is an inanimate object, he does have expressive powers, and a personality.

The summer I turned sixteen, the school instrument I had been using was stolen. The school was not going to replace it right away, and I was starting Juilliard Pre-College in the fall. So an instrument was needed rather quickly. But buying a bassoon is difficult. Music stores rarely carry them, and buying a brand new instrument can be costly or risky. (How will it “play in”? What will it sound like in two years?) My teacher had met the man trying to sell #47xx a month or so before, and suggested I buy it. However, the owner and instrument had returned to California in the meantime, so I couldn’t really try it myself. I had to take my teacher’s word that it was good. My father, being practical and cautious, decided to fly out to LA with the check, and pick the instrument up himself. At the time, I don’t think I realized what an amazing thing he was doing for me.

When Dad brought it home, it was not what I expected. It was in a horrible case, the joints were banging around inside and it smelled of cigar smoke. It wasn’t shiny or pretty, like all the bassoons I had played before. It felt strange to blow into it (as I now know it is with any foreign instrument). In retrospect, these are the things I now love about this instrument. The lack of finish is why it sounds so beautifully rich and dark. The cigar smell gives him character and history. The little nicks in the wood from banging around in that case are battle scars. Now I can’t imagine playing on a brand new instrument, all perfect looking and shiny.

Heckel #47xx was originally purchased by someone in Boston in July of 1909. (My birthday is also in July. Coincidence?) I don’t know much about its first few decades, but since Boston was opening a new opera house that year, I like to imagine it was purchased by a bassoonist in the opera for his new gig. I bought it from Artie Drelinger, who purchased it from Simon Kovar. Kovar (1890-1970) was the second bassoonist in the NY Philharmonic, and taught almost every major American bassoonist of the 20th century. In fact, if I were to make a “family tree” of my teachers, and their teachers, all branches would lead back to Kovar (in some cases with only one degree of separation.) He also was Drelinger’s teacher. I don’t know if it was Kovar’s instrument, or whether he was selling it for someone else, but it is awe-inspiring to think it passed under his fingers at some point.

Artie Drelinger was a reed doubler, meaning he played most of the reed instruments. He played tenor saxophone in Charlie Parker’s Orchestra, and clarinet and tenor sax with Paul Whiteman’s band (who had premiered Rhapsody in Blue.) He later joined the CBS Studio Orchestra, where he played my bassoon on the Carol Burnett Show. In his retirement, he was running a music store and repair shop. Just after I first contacted him about the instrument, someone else called and offered him more money. He agreed to sell it to me, because he liked that I was a student.

I christened my bassoon “Boris.” All the good bassoon repertoire, as far as I’m concerned, is Russian orchestral music by Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich. Plus the beat-up, cigar smelling nature of the instrument made me think of tough, weathered, old Russian men who had survived a few nasty winters. I don’t refer to him by name very often, but I do think it fits his personality better than a mere serial number.

Boris has been with me through my entire adult life. In high school, we commuted to New York City to take classes and play at Juilliard’s Pre-College Division in Lincoln Center. Since then we’ve played in Carnegie Hall, Zipper Hall in Los Angeles, and the tent in Aspen. I’ve played him at conferences in New York and Melbourne, Australia. He accompanied me for summers as a student and a faculty member at Kinhaven Music School in Vermont. Together we played a gig at the Hamden, CT Post Office with Carol Channing to inaugurate the Thornton Wilder stamp. We’ve taken lessons from some of the greatest living bassoonists in North America. I think the best moment I ever had with him was in my practice cabin while doing an Artist Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Alberta, Canada. No one heard it but me and the elk outside my window.  I’m looking forward to playing him at a competition in Paris over spring break. It may be his first trip to France!

Boris can be a crotchety old man. His keys stick in humid or dry weather, and his D’s are always sharp. I have to use weird fingerings for a few notes that make other bassoonists think I’m crazy. His 100-year old bocal (the curvy metal mouthpiece) doesn’t work as well as it should, so I’ve replaced it with a newer Heckel bocal that sounds much better. I have added a few keys to make it easier to play the extremely high notes that bassoonists didn’t use very often in 1909. He isn’t perfect, and neither am I. I’m still trying to figure out how to make the best reed for him, and probably still will be in another twenty years. It is rare for any woodwind instrument to last for 100 years, so I’m not sure how much longer he will last, but I hope we will enjoy many more years together. I can’t imagine playing without him, and would hate to have to replace him with a shiny new instrument.

Pottery Pics

May 26th, 2010

A few of my favorite pieces…

Life lessons learned (and re-learned) from art and ceramics classes or Sabbatical Report Part 2

May 19th, 2010

It’s important to know how and when to Let Go.

When centering a ball of clay on the wheel, sudden movements can throw things off pretty badly.

A little Perspective goes a long way.

In visual art, good perspective is the difference between a flat, unrealistic scene or an image of depth and nuance.

The $20 brush really is Better than the $5 brush.

I’m not exactly sure what the real life parallel is to this, but I find it reassuring!

A task with a clear Endpoint is truly satisfying.

I’ll be working on the f***ing Mozart Bassoon Concerto for the rest of my life, but when I’m done with a bowl, it’s done! And then I can eat ice cream out of it.

Starting from a well-Centered position makes everything go smoother.

(Although something that is ever-so-slightly off center is usually more interesting. (Golden Mean)) Being mentally and physically centered helps enormously.

Modify your Expectations to conform to the results.

While it’s a good idea to have a goal in mind when you start, you may get dragged in another direction. That can be a very good thing.

Hedge your bets, make a second lid or handle.

It’s highly likely that something will break or not fit, just make another. It’s no big deal.

Sometimes the only way to know it just to Try it.

Just because it looks good in a sample doesn’t mean it will work in your piece. Just hold your nose, jump in, and try it.

Contrast is interesting.

Colors, textures, shapes, and forms are all worth juxtaposing and contrasting. It’s just more interesting!

Having some Rules or guidelines is easier than unlimited possibilities.

Just ask Schoenberg.

Don’t get too Attached.

Things break, water spills, wind blows. Get over it.

Quit while you’re ahead.

If it looks good, stop.