Category Archives: semi-pro

The Upbeat Man and the Downbeat Woman

(link to lossless flac file is below)

My husband is a rock musician. Through and through. Ask him to play anything ‘rock’, blues, even jazz, and he’s all over it. Ask him to play something more folk or classical, and he begins to suffer. He’s an upbeat man. I’m a downbeat woman. I look for the beat. He looks for the ‘and’ between the beats. Trouble brews. Always.

Most of what we play …because that’s what he arranges …is classic rock — stuff written to emphasize the upbeat. And, of course, I play it like the downbeat woman I am …which makes for lively sessions with husband waving his hands in the air, singing out the upbeats. (I’d love to catch him on video doing that, but, well, that’s not going to fly. He’d be giving me his Beethoven impersonation. You know, stormy eyebrows?!)

Anyway, we did manage to get In Memory of Elizabeth Reed laid down, so, here, in all its upbeat glory, despite the downbeat woman on flute, is the audio of the culmination of today’s efforts.

For those who have the capability to play flac files, which are better sounding than .mp3s because they’re lossless, here’s that file:

For those only capable of handling .mp3s, here’s that one:

Playing Tull’s Living in the Past

Living In The Past Strip

 

For me, playing Tull’s Living in the Past requires a lot of air. In fact, most Tull pieces require it. To be even modestly effective it trying to mimic the Tull flute characteristic sound, I have to push the brink of where the tone breaks to the harmonic and do so while purposely angling the air column so that it cuts across the outer edge of the blowhole just a certain way. I also have to adjust the delivery and shape of each note as well as my tonguing and how I depress the keys. Here are the details:

Overblowing the sound for this piece I accomplish by, both, pressurizing the air column and increasing the amount of air I’m pushing. This increases and intensifies the speed of the airstream as it cuts across the blowhole. Simultaneously, I also angle that airstream just so, getting the far edge of the blowhole to, quite literally, sharply slice that airstream. It’s what makes that ‘edgy’ sound — a subliminal whistling of wind that’s partly due to the speed with which the air is crossing the blowhole and rushing into and through the body of the flute, and partly due to the angle. This gives the resulting sound its intensity and razed effect. I’m using twice as much air as usual and the embouchure control has to be meticulous to control it. Of course, sometimes the sound does break, and that’s okay. That happens when I stop being so careful and drive the sound too hard. But I find I like the sound, even when it does break.

I also had to adjust my tonguing technique, going back to ‘the wrong way’ of doing it, using the harsher ‘t’ consonant taught by band teachers, instead of ‘du’ and ‘da’ flutists actually use for hard tonguing.

With that ground work employed, then the actual notes have to be formed with the breath using diaphragm control combined with the mouth shape and tongue so that the shape of each punctuated note, whether soft or hard, is shaped like a mushroom, not like the usual ‘O’ pinched at both ends, the soft, big pillow, or a wedge, these latter three being examples too classical in style to get the right effect for Tull rock.

I find myself shortening the duration of the notes, which I shouldn’t, but, with using the ‘mushroom’, I find I want to start ‘bouncing’ the notes — again, another classical technique — instead of what I’m supposed to be doing, namely, ‘punching’ them and then letting them (p)lay out.

Lastly, I have to use a lot of mouth effects in certain passages, but, in Living in the Past, the use is subtle, not overt, so I’ll talk about that when we release one of the pieces where the use of mouth effects is very distinct and noticeable.

It’s very typical of ‘rock’ flute to combine techniques not usually utilized together and do it in a way that produces a distinct and unique energy and grit to the sound. I’m not yet very proficient at it, but I’ve got a start, anyway.

Living In The Past, Video Size

Yes, We Might, But I’ve Got Red Light Fright

recording music and red light fright

I just finished a new page devoted to music here on the site, and, sharing it around, the question of whether we, that is, Forrest and I, are going to release an album came up. The answer is ‘yes’. Certainly, in time, we’ll be putting out one and several albums. And Forrest mentioned maybe doing a Christmas album this year. This would come after we get the rest of fifty-some songs and their videos on our release schedule out for free listening. For an album, though, I have to get over having my diaphragm seize up as soon as the red light comes on, because, right now, when that little red glow indicates to me that we’re live recording, suddenly my whole body becomes rigid, my fingers start to quake, and I can’t draw breath.

Flute playing requires the ability to breathe deeply, and breathing deeply requires a relaxed, engageable, working diaphragm, never mind that vibrato is impossible when the thing (the diaphragm) that runs the bellows (lungs) is in lock-down. Vibrato comes from control of that sheaf of muscles, and, when it’s seized up, well, it just doesn’t work. At all. So, getting over Red Light Fright is one of my major hurdles.

Red Light Fright is a lot like stage fright, in some ways, and I used to have really bad stage fright — so bad, in fact, that I’d pass out cold, toppling face down. The first time it happened, during a music jury, I damaged flute and my face, both. Henceforth, at music juries, they always had somebody standing next to me to catch my flute and me as I toppled stiffly, felled-tree-like, face-first toward the floor. (For those unfamiliar, ‘juries’ are when you perform, standing before your teachers and other conservatory staff whose job it is to judge you, your performance, and your progress since the last jury. For me, they happened every six weeks throughout the year.)

Over time, because of repeatedly being forced to perform on stage in front of audiences at recitals, juries, and in concert, I got over my stage fright. I remember the night it happened, when, suddenly, finally, I looked out over the sea of upturned faces all waiting for me to play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #3 arranged for solo flute and orchestra, that I was unafraid, not tense, not frightened, but, rather, supercharged …exhilarated, even happy and excited to be there. And, when I began to play, it was like I was drawing power from that audience. This was such an unusual experience that that night is vividly branded in my memory. It was my first time ever as a soloist that I actually enjoyed playing the flute when somebody else was listening. (Orchestra performance was always a joy. I never suffered stage-fright when deeply embedded in the middle of an orchestra. Only when having to play as a soloist.)

How bad was my stage fright? Well, usually when stepping on stage to perform, I’d be quaking. I’d be blind to anything and everything, my soul, my spirit, and my brain crushed down deep inside this dark, internal cave, just overwrought. All feeling in my hands and body left. My legs would be lead. I would be inside a dark tunnel, barely able to see.  It’s why I always knew my pieces so well that I could play them even in that state …because I was always in that state whenever I had to perform, or even practice, around anyone, even just Mom, Dad, or a teacher, never mind some one or many strangers where the focus was on me. So, I always knew my repertoire so well that, no matter what happened …provided I was able to stay upright, on my feet (You play standing when performing as flute soloist.), I could play the piece flawlessly …on auto-pilot.

That night, though, for the first time in my life, I came out of my shell. I actually PLAYED, interacting with the audience, enjoying their reactions, their expressions, their attention, their empathy with me and mine with them.  Suddenly, the audience became my friend.  They were gifting to me their attention in exchange for me gifting to them the glorious sound of wonderfully composed music.  Our participation in the event of that music being released to the universe at that moment in space and time was a mutual expression of and participation in utter joy — a celebration of sound.

It was a huge breakthrough, and one I’ve never, ever forgotten. And, from that night on, I’ve never again felt embarrassed or shy of performing live in front of an audience, not even if and when mistakes happen.  Mistakes on stage don’t bother me anymore.

But the red light? Wow.

Red Light Fright — now that’s a whole different experience. It’s a fear of making a mistake and ruining the take. It’s the devastation of letting down the other player(s) who did get all his/her/their parts right. No matter how well I’m playing prior to that, no matter how relaxed I am, as soon as that little red light comes on, the terror rises, the freeze-down and shaking starts, and the stress level goes through the roof.  It weighs as soon as, and only upon, that little red light coming on. And getting Red Light Fright practically ensures that I am going to flub something. Guaranteed.

So, I’m working on getting over Red Light Fright by constantly doing it, by recording myself repeatedly, staring at that light as I record, that light that makes my body tense, my breath get short, my fingers quiver. This, like stage fright, will vanish. Somehow, someway. With time and effort and persistence. Call me resolute!

XLR cable

The Mix-Down Session

So, today, my husband is back to working on the mix-down of our performance of Carry On Wayward Son. As I listen to the balances he’s trying to achieve between sounds produced by un-effected me — pure, raw flute (loud) — and sounds produced by me through an effects unit (loud, but not as), I’m thinking to myself, I really like the sound of my instrument. I’m really not that thrilled with sounding like a saxophone, a lead guitar, a chorus of instruments, or any other warping of my sound waves.

Of course, what I think is irrelevant to what we’re trying to do. It took me a lot of practice and frustration to be able to manage the foot-switching on the effects unit at a fraction of a second prior to when the sound was supposed to happen …which, in the case of this piece, sometimes happens every two-and-three-quarter beats apart: Clean, effected, clean, effected — do it, do it, do it, do it.

There’s a lag — just a fraction of a second — that happens when you punch a button on an effects unit. It’s just a minuscule amount of time, but it’s critical. And, trained classically, which comes ‘on the beat’ rather than just before the beat like rockers play, my training coupled with the effects engagement lag compounds my problems, because it’s got to be right.

So, prior to recording day, I spent a week working very hard on my feet — an odd thing for a flutist to have to attend. I practiced …and recorded that practice — thank the cosmos for good recording software — then began adjusting my playing to ‘anticipate the beat’ and come in sounding ‘on time’ the varying micro-fractions (depending on which patch…and, yes, they all require different lead times) ahead of when normally one should. That worked. I was…happier. (Can’t say happy, just happier.) Next was trying to figure out the lag that happened between stomping on the effects unit button (switch banks, engage POG, step on one or another button, 1-10, and, simultaneously, with the other foot, ease on the volume pedal to the exact level specified in the performance notes, reversing the process two-and-three-quarters of a beat later.)

The lag was, literally, .121 seconds according to the sound wave and beat division markers contrasted against the actual time in thousands of a second. Right. I guessed at what I had to do, trying over and over …and I was running out of time. This was Thursday. We were recording on Saturday.  Finally …finally, I got it.  The wave form lined up.  When Forrest came home from driving truck all week. I was ready. He was happy with my results, though I’m still not completely convinced. I feel I can do much better. (Intonation suffers. Posture suffers, me sliding into ‘hunch back’ with having to keep an eye on the LED readouts at my toes. I fall back into the bad habits, letting my fingers fly off the keys when I’m concentrating too much on getting everything digital right and not on just playing my flute.) I hope that, given time and experience, all the electronic ‘stuff’ becomes second nature so that I’m more comfortable and can, once again, just concentrate on playing, not coordinating all the paraphernalia required for plugged-in performances.

…Then, there’s getting over ‘red-light fright’, which happens any time Forrest hits the space-bar that starts everything recording us — instant diaphragm freeze and shaking fingers….   I WILL get over these pitfalls, just like I did the extreme stage fright I suffered in my youth. I am determined.

With Laughter…at Myself!

BlackHoleSun2DLKeur5-24-2016Stripweb

We’re doing my husband’s arrangement of a tune called Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden. Our instruments are flute and guitar, electrified flute and guitar, that is. And effected. It’s a seemingly easy piece to play. Not much technical difficulty there, no. Not at all. Unless you want it to sound like ‘something’. And, both of us, professional musicians and extremely picky about ‘getting it perfect’, insist that it sound like ‘something’. Which it certainly does when I’m playing analog, or even just mic’d up. Add in ‘all the other stuff’, and things fall apart for me.

For me, a piece as unchallenging as Black Hole Sun is a snap to play first time, everytime…until you add in, not just the headset, but a 14 switch, ten knob, 15 button, 10 toggle stomp box with a chain of yet other myriad effects via other, smaller stomp boxes, added into the stomp loop. Suddenly, what was simple becomes overwhelming. I’m an analog player. My entire life, I just picked up my flute, warmed-up, put my music up on the stand, and off I went.

Classical musicians have it easy. Yes, we do. Just master the instrument, intonation, the music, pay attention to the conductor, and there you are, and, yes, I’m a classical musician. I get totally lost amidst the toggles, switches, knobs, and buttons of the electronics we use in our performances. And, when attempting to get the right toggle toggled, the correct switch switched, the appropriate knob turned x amount of degrees, and the necessary button depressed, well, things go south for me in a hurry.  Then, there’s the issue of mic feedback! If I move my flute just the wrong way, suddenly that gain setting that we worked so diligently to set doesn’t work anymore. Expensive flute acts like some sort of signal amplifier or antenna or something. Then it’s dive for the soundboard or, if I remember, the stomp box patch #1, any bank, before I don’t have any hearing left.  Whew!

It is no fun being the neophyte in a world where electronic effects and amplification ‘make’ the sound, the instrument mastery an expected given. If I ever hear another classical musician moan about how hard their job is, a job that only entails mastering their instrument and their repertoire, then attending the conductor, I think I’ll invite them to sit in on one of our sessions and watch them go into meltdown.

Copyright 2016 DLKeur

Copyright 2016 DLKeur

Focused on My Art

Since my injury in a car accident last year effectively ended my ability to teach martial arts to anyone less than at least a black belt who owns the necessary discipline and self-control, I’ve had the freedom to pursue my own art without a thought to “the next lesson.” It’s wonderful–the freedom to go full out…now that the doctors have released me to do so.  I’m still working my way back, but it’s so freeing to be able to concentrate fully on my own center, my own essence, my own art. And the sword–I’ve picked that back up, too, though not when there’s anyone about.  Today, dwelling in movement in moment, there came that unity of self with environment that I so thrill to–an awareness in self stillness where all sound and movement, my own and nature’s, blend and unify–the sound and movement of the grasses as the wind rustles each blade in chorused unison, my own movement and inner being completely harmonized within. An absolute self immersion within Way. I look forward to more and deeper stillness of being–deeply moving, silent, still–and I look forward without ever again having to give thought to student needs. I think teaching sacrifices too much. Better to be and do.

Psycho Stupidity

A friend of mine has been coerced into abandoning his honor, virtue, and principles. He’s being coerced by vindictiveness, a vindictiveness which was catalyzed by my refusal to continue working with someone who persistently acted out irresponsibly, with petulance, then with violence and viciousness when she didn’t get her way.

Assailed by family on all sides, he stood his ground pretty well…until the stupidity of psychiatry’s answer to the problem after several “suicide chump”* incidents pushed things to the brink. And psychiatry’s answer? To put a band-aide on a festering wound rather than expose the puss and necrosis. Pyschiatry made him buckle, and, finally, made him doubt himself so that he began living the lie everyone wanted him to buy.

I find psychiatrists and counselors who suggest that compromising self simply to mollify a situation without actually addressing the real problem to be abusive and corrupt. They create more problems by their insistence that everyone adjust to the sick. They prescribe modifying the healthy because they can’t modify the sick. In fact, they’re schooled to do just that. Reasoning? The deranged are incapable of successful treatment without their consent and cooperation which they will not give, therefore take the balanced individual and adjust their behavior to compensate, even if that action completely destroys their internal integrity. In short, do anything to avoid sending the deranged into an existential crisis; instead, coerce the healthy into complying with the demands of the lunatic.

It’s criminal, in my opinion.

The results?

The psychotic’s behavior is rewarded because “they get their way”, which was their intent all along, which further reinforces that behavior. Meanwhile, everyone else becomes the continuing victim of the psychotic’s selfish goals and needs.

Sad.

——–

* A “suicide chump” is someone who pretends to want to commit suicide and acts so just enough to scare others into believing they will, even though they have no real intention of committing that self-destructive act. Everyone then pays attention to them and works with them to succor their “needs”–demands and desires. In short, they manipulate to try to get attention and to get their way by using threats of self-destruction.

The answer to a suicide chump is to call their bluff, catch them in the act, and dump them and the evidence of their suicide attempt into the state hospital for the mentally ill.  Of course, the suicide chump never really means to harm themselves, though sometimes they slip up because they miscalculate.  What they want, though, isn’t death (in fact, not death, at all); they just want others to bend to their will.

———–

Suicide Chump, Frank Zappa

You say there ain’t no use in livin’
It’s all a waste of time
‘N you wanna throw your life away, well
People that’s just fine
Go ahead on ‘n get it over with then
Find you a bridge ‘n take a jump
Just make sure you do it right the first time
‘Cause nothin’s worse than a Suicide Chump

You say there ain’t no light a-shinin’
Through the bushes up ahead
‘N we’re all gonna be so sorry
When we find out you are dead
Go head on and get it over with then
Find you a bridge ‘n take a jump
Just make sure you do it right the first time
‘Cause nothin’s worse than a Suicide Chump

Now maybe you’re scared of jumpin’
‘N poison makes you sick
‘N you want a little attention
‘N you need it pretty quick…

Teaching Martial Arts

I must receive thirty-plus phone calls a week from people wanting to enroll their 3, 6, 9, 12, 14-year-old into martial arts.  I dismiss them with a pleasant, gentle explanation that, 1, we’re not taking new students, and, 2, we only teach adults.  And not all adults, either.  It isn’t the age, per se.  It’s the maturity and mind-state.  I’m sorry, but children — American children (though there are, of course, exceptions) are generally unprepared and unwilling to submit to the rigorous discipline — mental, emotional, physical, and philosophical — required to study martial arts with us.  We’re very strict; we’re very demanding, and we’re very much a traditional school where “fun” isn’t part of the curriculum.

Oh, it’s fun, yes, if you have a high pain threshold and love ever increasing challenges, but it’s not entertaining (except for those occasional guffaws when you lose your footing because someone dripped sweat on the mat).  For Americans, both adults and youth, who have been raised to expect their hedonistic desires fulfilled, who are perpetually conditioned to expect reward for mediocrity, and who have been pandered to their whole lives, our martial arts classes are not quite what they expected.  We tend to direct callers and walkins alike to the McDojos, because, honestly, that’s what they want — instant black belt in exchange for no real effort and no true commitment and self-motivated development.

But what about the prospective student who does hold the duty, discipline, self-actualization, and focus that’s mandatory?  Well, taking on a student means this for the teacher: Be ready to become their life counselor, even after they’ve left town.  You’ll be the one they call, regardless of what time it is, what day it is, or if you’re down with pneumonia when they have any kind of life crisis, from marital difficulties to existential crises.  It’s the way of things, and, believe me, after years and years, taking on new students and adding to the calls for help and advice you get takes its toll.  As a teacher, you become very hesitant to add to your load, especially since, having invested the time and effort to get them to and then through the “gateway” that is earning the black belt, then going further, you are obligated to be there, always.  It’s a life commitment on both the student’s and the teacher’s part.  And it’s tough on both of them.  It’s also extremely rewarding.  My students…my husband’s students, it’s why both of us go to bed with gentle smiles on our faces.  They are our delight, even if they do occasionally cause all manner of bleary-eyed mornings.

This morning’s practice was bitter in bare feet.

It’s twenty-four degrees outside, and my bare feet suffered this morning during practice.  It was good for me, but it definitely made me appreciate putting shoes on to work against an opponent in the second half of my morning regime.  Wow.  Good thing I didn’t look at the temperature before I started.  I would have whimpered and probably chickened out and donned shoes at the onset.  Good for me, though, that I did it, and had a very impeccable (in my triple dragon sash husband’s opinion) session.

Of other interest, we came upon another video of a Tai Chi practitioner who does some very fluid and excellent work.  My only complaint is that he tends to jerk his head aside when an attack enters.  I think he must have been hit hard somewhere young in his training, and the body memory is affecting that reaction.  He also seems to work too hard several places against an opponent. Otherwise, he’s very, very good.  See it here if the embedded video doesn’t work for you: https://youtu.be/93wy9FBFP24

Meanwhile, here is the video itself:

Came Across This Video of a Martial Artist

Watch.  Pay attention to the details, not the “wows.”  Enjoy.  Work toward this level of excellence…but watch your knees on those drops.  Key’s to this level of mastery, perfect practice, and you MUST own root and center.  And, to get to this level, plan on training (meticulously) from youth to adulthood at least four hours if not eight or more hours a day, everyday, and then plan to continue to train for the rest of your life.