So I have this friend, and this friend’s website, which I threw together under emergency, “has-to-be-live-now” conditions, custom coding it in, quite literally, hours a few years back, NEEDS to be upgraded. …Because it’s going to fail soon. But this friend is very particular, so it’s very hard to get a semi-solid “this is what I envision” from them. I had a couple of “Dawn” ideas, but nothing I “knew” would gather any sort of approval. So I pulled a “sneaky” based on a mere passing mention that was made of another friend’s site, something I knew was built on bad coding, but that I knew I could hand-code myself if need be.
Now here comes the “sneaky/naughty” part:
First I displayed a site laid out much as the one already in place. After a couple of hours of working through this friend’s critique of it on the phone, I switched to a rough I’d coded on another design scheme, and, as I anticipated, this was definitive “no”. So then I pulled up a raw, stripped version of something I thought might be kinda sorta cool–good for cross compatibility (responsive-to-all-devices/mobile-first) yet allowed for a really professional presence that didn’t get ‘old’ to the eye or the brain. And it worked. This one is a go. …At least so far. We’ll see how this all works out after I get done custom coding it all out, then dressing it with content. My fingers and toes are all crossed. This is supposed to be a Christmas present for them to be launched with the advent of the new year. Wish me luck.
Rage, castigation, derision: Not only do we have constant contention on the main streams of social media, but we’ve got it in the groups and communities, as well, including, I’m sorry to say, the main flute group on FB. Can we concentrate on playing our flutes and discussing (with civil tongues and benevolent perspectives) the nuances of effective performance? No. Can’t seem to.
I took to lurking, then left the main flute subreddit over on Reddit.com — too much cliquishness support for questionable, even erroneous ‘expert’ advice. Then, here on FB, after one of the skirmishes that blew up over much ado about nothing, I took to mostly lurking on Flute Forum, https://www.facebook.com/groups/fluteforum/ . This isn’t because I don’t enjoy a lot of the people there, but because, again, there’s this contentiousness that creeps into any discussion, and anyone is fair game for contemptuous, derogatory treatment by cliques of a different mindset.
Then, of course, there’s the ‘show and tell’ that really should be relegated to one’s own personal FB pages and the “buy lessons/master classes from me” posts. Oh, yeah, and the “buy tickets for my performance this weekend at JackAndApes” posts. These things I can do without.
You know, I really am on social media to interact with people, not to look at advertisements and duns for attention. I want to be part of flute discussion groups because I wanted to interact with other flutists. It doesn’t work, though. It’s become just like the present political and socio-cultural landscape — in a roil, a CONSTANT roil. It’s all fuss, fume, and bother, so, honestly, why do I bother.
8 Months Research, a Breakthrough, So It’s Build Time
Back in January, 2016, I quit publishing. I had book #3 of the Country James series ready to throw to my editor and was pounding out the final manuscript of E. J.’s Come-Back Road, the second book of a planned three book series covering the life of one Dr. Warren Jeffries, DVM that started with Old Hickory Lane. I quit because I got a good solid look at the piracy numbers of just one of my titles. Then, I got the rest of the numbers, too.
Throughout 2016 and 2017, I published nothing. And I was pretty darned sure that I would never publish another novel, not until piracy could be defeated (Ha! Dream on. Did a year of research on that and found no good solution.) Then I met author Laura Belgrave, mystery/crime author of the Claudia Hershey Mystery series. Like a drip of water that slowly wears away stone, Laura got my rock hard petulance worn down bit by bit. It took her until January of this year. Then, once again, I began to research.
I’ve got a very interesting brain. It works at its own pace, and, usually, that pace is quite fast. Not this time. I kept shoving data in, but got back …silence. I shoveled in more data. Then more again. Still silence. Eight solid months inputting more and more data; eight solid months of dead silence. …Until last week, when, like gears finally starting to move once the penetrating oil does its job or like one of those strange flowers that takes months to form, then bursts open into full bloom all at once, the whole evaluation and conclusion precipitated from subliminal simmering into fully served answer.
So I tried it.
And it worked.
Now, I’m scurrying about, pulling out projects I built, then mothballed as unworkable, and all the pieces are hanging together quite nicely.
I’ll keep you posted on progress as I work through all the various branches of the project’s build. See you on the other side.
Yeah. I know. It’s about time, huh! So, I’m working on EJRuek.com and CountryJames.com, then it will be DLKeur.com right after. Then, I’ll see about revitalizing Aeros’ site. Meanwhile, I did release another E. J. Ruek book. I just never got around to posting it up here on this, my main website. It’s titled Slightly Disturbing Stories and those folks who’ve read it seem to really, really like it.
I haven’t seen this particular and helpful flute technique mentioned. There’s discussion about embouchure, about fingers, about breathing, about tone, but not much about something so simple and easy to do that it should go into every flutist’s (maybe even every musician’s) knowledge base. It was taught to me, so I’ll pass it along. It’s ‘knowing the next note’.
I’m not talking about reading ahead, where we are reading one, two, or more measures ahead of what we’re actually playing. No. This technique has nothing at all to do with whether you are playing something that you are reading off a score or something you are playing from memory.
‘Knowing the next note’ means: Have the next note you are going to play after the one you are presently playing already in your head. When you do this, your brain already has set up for the transition.
A lot of players play ‘in the moment’ only, note by note. They may know the piece inside and out, they may read ahead, but they’re concentrating solely upon the note they are playing — its intonation, its quality, its dynamics…a lot of things, including quality and type of vibrato. But. They fail to ‘know the next note’, much less the entire phrase, both of which are exceedingly helpful, giving your body, via your brain’s mental preparations, a head start in preparing for the fine motor skill changes that lead to smooth, clean transitions, note-to-note, regardless of difficult fingerings or of interval jumps. Here’s how:
When playing, simply ‘know the next note’. So, if I’m playing a first register A and the next note is a third register E, I already ‘know’ that, next, I will be playing that third register E, no matter how fast or slowly that E comes after the A. And as I’m playing that third register E, I ‘know’ that the next note I will play will be a second register D. Then, as I’m playing that second register D, I ‘know’ I will be playing a first register C# after that.
The ‘know’ is an active ‘knowing’, instant by instant, note by note.
If it’s a run that comes after, then, ‘know’ the run, and, especially, ‘know’ that run’s target note while playing the previous note.
In essence, you’re focused on the note you’re playing, but, underneath, are actively aware of the note you’re going to next. And it also helps to know the entire phrase in your head in the background, behind the active ‘playing this, knowing that next is this’ technique.
This is a ‘brain technique’ that, once mastered, effortlessly does magical things to performance for smoothing out transitions between even the most difficult fingering changes and intervals one must play.
Hope this helps you.
I got a good chuckle yesterday. Somebody I know was working on intonation, clarity, and truing pitch, and, in frustration, turned around and asked, “Do you have to adjust your embouchure for each and every note on the flute?”
“Yes,” I answered, not bothering to clarify with specifics and cases of exception, because I know this individual doesn’t like the ‘if’s, ‘and’s, and ‘maybe’s.
“For each note?!”
“Set for each note, yes — each note and each type or quality of tone.”
“Really!” — snapped in disgust. “I should have taken up electronic keyboard. Then I wouldn’t have to worry about embouchure and I’d always be in tune!”
They turned around and stared at me, then. “For each and every note you play on the flute, you adjust your embouchure?!”
“Yes.” Now, I added in a small clarification, inaccurate at best in the interest of keeping my response brief and comfortable for them. “Unless it’s a speedy run where you start here on this note, then aim for the target note of that run. Then, it’s a sort of smooth transition through the embouchure adjustments.”
They sighed in disgust, rubbed their face, complained about muscle fatigue, and put their instrument in its stand.
“So every note you play, you set that note with your ear and with embouchure adjustments!” they stated.
They shook their head. “I can’t even imagine how long that took you to get perfected.”
I didn’t respond. The truth is, it takes a long time to master a wind instrument, because of embouchure requirements. It’s taxing; it’s long, tedious, slow work, note by note up and down the chromatic scale, the major and minor scales…. It’s working slowly and methodically through all the intervals. It’s doing a lot of long tone work and even more harmonic work. It’s not something mastered in a year or two. Maybe four if you work really, really hard, but usually at least a decade. I didn’t mention that. I know that knowledge wouldn’t sit well, not with a beginning clarinetist.
Learning an instrument is wonderful. Learning the written language of music does wonderful things in brain development — yes, really. Best, the experience of playing with others under a decent conductor is an exceptional experience, as I cover here in “On Being a Member of a Great Orchestra“. Learning to play an instrument with an eye to the skill and art of it as a career, however, is not a wise choice. Let’s put that notion to bed, right now.
At any given moment across the globe, there might be eleven (11) — count them — well-paid, not-so-well-paid, and unpaid openings for, for example, flutists, mostly in temp, part-time, or teaching positions. Same is true for performance artists of other instruments. The available openings probably won’t be something that’s your dream job. If one of them is, I can pretty much guarantee that you won’t get it, because there’s a lot of “who knows who” involved in landing those positions, never mind that there’s usually a better player competing for that rare-as-hen’s-teeth (hens don’t have teeth) job.
Orchestras are vanishing — too expensive to maintain. Performance venues are more interested in contracting for sports events than for music events. The public is more interested in old, has-been rockers or in the latest young pop star who’s good at stirring their hormones or giving them a dopamine high than in a bunch of skilled musicians performing flawlessly. If it ain’t got glam and bling, if it ain’t got some schtick, forget it.
Want to teach music for a living? Really? Okay. But real teaching jobs are, again, rare. In the U.S., public school music departments are being slashed, as are art departments. In fact, all the creative arts are being reduced to unpaid extracurricular activities. The money is in sports, also an extracurricular activity, but usually quite well funded by local booster clubs. Music? Nah. Art? Nah. Drama? Nah. Go to an upper crust school, and, yes, music, art, drama, and all sorts of other things, like horsemanship and archery, are supported. But these are all activities to broaden scope, not taken as serious career pursuits.
There are, in fact, less and less opportunities in every type of career, but especially music, and more and more competitors for those fewer opportunities. So, unless you want to spend your life chasing after success in entrepreneurial endeavors, which means get a degree in marketing, not music, don’t focus on performing, or even teaching music as a career.
At best, you can look for a future to utilize your skills as a musician and a teacher as an avocation, something you do on the side to maybe generate some ‘pin money‘, but you’ll be hard-pressed unless you’re absolutely the hands down best in the world to expect to put bread on the table and money in the bank with a career in music. That’s the reality now and in the future. There are just too many people competing for dwindling opportunities and not enough public interest to sustain you as a musician.
I met a cellist, Sam Minker, at Kathy’s veterinary hospital Wednesday last. I was staring at an unwanted Windows update that had interrupted my computer fix, chatting about our latest recording project with Georgette, the resident receptionist with whom I have a humor-filled rapport. This twenty-something guy leans in over the counter and says, “What did you say?”
I thought he was asking about my grumbling about Windows 10, but, no, he wanted to know about the music project …so I told him a bit about Zentao Music. He seemed genuinely excited to meet a working musician.
Outside, he mentioned that he was performing, and, after a harried day of interruptions, I changed clothes, ran a brush through my hair, and carted twenty bucks with me for a ticket. (Forrest opted to stay home, which was probably a good thing, though, originally, I’d arranged to go because I wanted Forrest to meet Sam.)
Anyway, I pulled in about quarter to seven, went in the main door — a mistake — then, with guidance, found the ticket person, got processed, and found a seat. The auditorium was about two-thirds filled.
Young dancers were first, and their pirouettes were quite good, and the last performer was graceful and elegant. Next came a has-been jazz pianist/vocal act. I won’t say anything more about it, thanks. Now came the trio I’d come to see. Comprising piano-forte, cello, and violin, the trio began with Brahms. It was going quite well, indeed. Then, the grand piano broke.
The pianist, an old hand, got up and engaged the audience about the problem. Someone got up and, with the aid of a flashlight, began to address the problem — the whole upper end had gone dead silent. Somebody in the audience offered that they had jumper cables in their pick-up, which got delighted laughter from the audience — that’s my town, thanks. That broke the ice, the stiffness, the stiltedness of the evening that had been rather palpable. The glass curtain, I call it. Even when you all pretty much know each other, there’s the us and there’s the them on both sides, audience and performers. The gift is to be able to shatter that curtain and have the performance be a co-experience with performers and audience literally ‘in concert’ with one another. It happened here. Wonderfully. All thanks to the piano tuner having erred earlier in the day when reassembling the grand piano after tuning it up. It was a blessing, and everybody benefited, the performers keeping their aplomb, the audience rallied to their cause. Great stuff, that.
HighlightsFebruary 18, 2019February 17, 2019January 3, 2019November 3, 2018October 28, 2018October 27, 2018October 13, 2018October 11, 2018September 10, 2018May 7, 2018
For The Record
I voted for NEITHER Hillary NOR Trump.
My 2018 Writer’s Book
My New Anthology
Under my E. J. Ruek pen name
Under my C. J. "Country" James pen name
Under my SF pen name
FOR WRITERS: People ask me about fans. Here's what I think: I think acquiring an effective fan base is dependent upon striking a chord with the right influential and admired people. Without them, you're just whistling in the wind, no matter how much potential appeal your work may have.
- If You are a Flutist, Beginning or Advanced, I Suggest This Book
This is a very slim volume written by my teacher, the pre-eminent flutist, Professor Richard Hahn. It's only $5, so it isn't going cause you any pain and may, in fact, bring a good bit of ease and practical help.
night by d. l. keur
Spirit of the moon,
Rising at the death of solar light,
Furls the wings of eagles' flight
Until the images of night
Are but an echo.
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