A lot of performing arts organizations have figured out ways to continue as the pandemic goes on and becomes better understood. I really miss music-making with other people. For me, for years, this meant singing in chamber choirs. But I just can’t sing about Jesus in German anymore, or sing yet another “interesting/creative/lovely setting” of a Latin mass. To sing with a classical sound in a choir seems to always lead back to Christian liturgical music. Sadly, I am not like some of my buddies “who never get tired of Bach”. I’m a choral apostate.
My last solo flute performance in public was in 2010. My last flute performance of any kind was in 2012 at my grandmother’s funeral. The flute sits in a dark place, unused – both in my house and in my head. I can’t see me getting into that anymore either. There were some flutterings about collaborating on a book about flute playing, and maybe creating useful materials for young flutists. I directed a flute choir for a short time, but why? To justify my investment of all those years of practice, education, and lost income? I didn’t feel passion for those things. I don’t have the competitive spirit to fight legions of flutists for every playing opportunity. I am sick of the rampant hypertechnical robots that so many successful flutists seem to be. Also, high sounds get on my nerves.
I tried my hand at composing this year, and it was a good, though very difficult, exercise. I finished six songs on texts of Kahlil Gibran. Some of them do not suck, others, eh. That was some sort of reset project. I had not composed for 25 years, and the process was very interesting this time around. A song would start to take shape, and there it was, almost immutable in some cases. Once the setting of a melody made sense, I couldn’t imagine it any other way. I’m sure there is good and bad in that phenomenon. Writing my own songs created performing opportunities, and that was nice.
After my self-imposed composing deadline of December 1, I would do something new. So I decided to do something old. My thoughts returned to my days as a bassist in the 90s. After the burnout of finishing my MM in flute in 1990, I needed to feel good about music again. I had wanted to play the bass since I was a teenager, so I went for it. I was incredibly lucky to have George Vance as my local bass teacher. He is a legend now in the world of bass pedagogy. I really took to bass and had a lot of fun with it. The orchestras I played in were actually neutral to fun experiences (usually the latter), whereas when I was a flutist the gigs were somewhere between terrifying and walking on eggshells. After about four years, I was actually getting paid gigs, and played a full recital in 1996.
Now, I’m not saying I was hot stuff. I’m saying I was good enough. And it was nice in music, for once, to have good enough be good enough. The constant drive to perfection needs to take a break occasionally or one gets very weird. Playing in a bass section was so different, and generally pleasant.
Life events took a turn and I quit bass for a long time. I don’t need to go into that here – too much to tell.
In the last month, I have been having thoughts about the bass and the good times. I decided to reacquaint myself with the instrument and it feels great. So I will do that for now. And eventually I can join a group and make groovy sounds with other people. I miss that terribly in the last two years.
There are many wonderful parallels between singing and string playing. It will be great singing on an instrument along with my voice. All of the music in my life makes me a better voice teacher. It all works together.