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Always in the Act of Scaring Myself Silly

So, I'm studying conducting. It's fascinating. And terrifying.

I'm studying privately with Brad Keimach, who is a genius teacher. Patient. Encouraging. Challenging. Exactly what you'd want and need when embarking on a journey like this.

One of my favorite things about our lessons are our listening tangents. "Have you heard this? Let's listen to this!!" It goes both ways, by the way. I'm suggesting that he listen to Led Zeppelin. I've gotten him to listen to Kashmir (he's trying to appreciate it...) We're listening to Chichester Psalms together.

Sometimes he has the score and we hover over it together as we're listening. With so many instruments on the page at once, my eyes get confused about where to look next. Anyone out there who is already a conductor is probably rolling her eyes at this point. Ho hum! And... duh!! This is exactly what the task is. A quick visual intake (mostly pre-internalized) of the deeply complicated information, committed to paper, and the untangling of that information to help a seat of assembled musicians understand each of their individual roles in the group effort.

But he's so patient. If I get lost, he points out where we are in the score.

He lent me the scores for Chichester Psalms and Rite of Spring this week to listen and read as an exercise. I had minimal issues following Chichester Psalms. It's complicated, sure, but it's well within my wheelhouse, especially if I hook into the vocal or string lines. Even the crazy times signatures and key changes were fairly easy to track. (And, as an added bonus, I've challenged myself to sight sing along with a part or two, so that's been fun.)

But can I just say -- holy everything!! Rite of Spring. I've listened to it countless times, and cherish it profoundly as one of my go-to pieces of orchestral listening, but I've never ever looked at the score. I really DID NOT understand.

It's so rhythmically NUTS. I'm not sure how a musician is supposed to react to such fine tuned polyrhythmic artificial groupings of artificial groupings score reading. HOW?? How did people in 1913 pick up this music to play it? It's, like, all at Zeldman level...

In any case, off I go to try to tackle it again. I got through the first few scenes, but found myself lost, looking for milestones along the way to get myself back on track again.

Wish me luck and go out and challenge yourself with something scary today!!



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