theremin major

notes from me and my moog etherwave pro

Week Three: Steady March 16, 2007

Filed under: Week Three: Steady — jenhammaker @ 3:58 pm

Week three began with a second lesson from my Master Teacher. We hit it off right away. She’s great! I think we’re around the same age, she’s got a really nice apartment, not to mention she’s a talented violinist (or so I’ve heard – all of her performances so far have been during times when I’ve had class). Most of all, she is VERY patient. The first lesson, I brought in several pieces to try to play and we chose a vocal piece to work on: The “Pie Jesu” from Faure’s Requiem, which is one of my favorite pieces of music. It’s very simple (well, as far as notes and tempo) and sounds nice on the theremin. In this lesson we looked at “The Larsen” and she helped me play through the Waltz and part of the first movement, which is really really hard.

I didn’t feel as hopeless about the piece when the 12:00 lesson was over. Also, my next class was at 7pm, and I had brought my laptop so that I could spend the time between my lesson and Ear Training class to look for alternative pieces to play for the Chamber Music class and pieces to play in general.

I got some lunch, sat down at a table on the 2nd floor of [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education], hooked up to the free WiFi and went to work. First stop: The [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education]Library Catalogue.

Okay if I’m NOT an idiot, and I’m not!, then why did it take me FOREVER to figure out which keywords to use in the library catalogue in order to find pieces for flute, piano, and voice???!!!! In the first discouraging Chamber Class, we had decided to search for pieces for voice. After not being able to play the clarinet part, I finally had to explain to my classmates that the theremin was a lot like the voice. It would be really hard for a voice to sing a clarinet part, so piano/flute/voice was the way to go.

My professor walked by, and she seemed kind-of irritated as she suggested some alternative pieces to play. One of them was a piece by contemporary composer ‘enry Kowell (again, I’m not ready for anyone from school to find this blog) called “Vocalise.”

It took me a really long time to find anything. In fact, I couldn’t find anything that was actually in our library. There were a few pieces, including the “Vocalise” in the [Other Institution of Higher Learning] library, 80 blocks south of where I was. I emailed my classmates my findings. The Flautist, who is a music collector, lucky us!, went to his favorite music store and found several pieces and some others and bought them! That must have been expensive.

So, since that fateful first day, we have been working on three pieces. One by Saint-Saens with a title that translates to something like “the invisible flute, another by Ravel that translates to something like “the enchanted flute” , and the “Vocalise.”

“Vocalise” is really fun, but I don’t think the pianist is too inspired by it. It requires her to play with one hand and hold the piano strings with another, in order to make the piano sound percussive. I LOVE that. We found a recording of the piece, too and it’s really neat.

The Saint-Saens is really nice. It’s a simple Romantic song where the flute and voice/theremin play separately until around the end of the piece, where we have a rewarding few measures of lovely harmony. [curtsey]

The Ravel is challenging and I really like it. Again, the flute and voice/theremin play separately for a while and then play together, but it’s more complicated and the rhythms and melodies of the instruments intertwine in way that sounds really nice. The Pianist has some really beautiful Ravel-esque solos.This piece has taught me how to play legato sixteenth notes! Who knew?!!

Here’s how, (if you theremin nerds* don’t already know): This works a LOT better on the Pro. Set the volume knob in the middle, so it’s about half-way in between “instant sound” and “my hand is a foot above the volume antennae.” Find your note and keep your volume hand steady at a mezzo-forte. Now, just lower your volume hand quickly and gently to a piano and back up again, so that you never completely stop the sound. It’s kind-of like a vibrato motion but for the volume hand.

*we’re ALL nerds. face it.

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One Response to “Week Three: Steady”

  1. Hi. Really enjoying your blog!

    Here’s a nerdy thought about the volume antenna.

    The volume field is football (Brits: rugby ball) shaped. Like someone spiked your antenna. So rather than adjusting the volume knob for a smaller field, try moving your hand to the side of the antenna where the field is narrowest. Pamelia Kurstin does this for her signature “walking bass” staccato, using a crab-claw pinch to move her whole hand rapidly in and out of the field.

    For a legato you might try tucking away all your fingers into a fist apart from the index finger and moving just the index finger towards and away from the side of the pitch antenna.

    If this works for you it would allow you to switch to and from legato playing during a piece without having to adjust the size of the volume field manually.


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