October 7, 2010

Early Morning Rite of Spring

Following my own personal recipe for "how to build a good day", I once again woke early and walked to school. I didn't start out quite as early as I had yesterday so unfortunately I missed seeing the moment when the sun first peeked above the water, but the view I did get was nearly as satisfying.

While contemplating this glorious orb (using peripheral vision of course) I was reminded of a chapter from Neil DeGrasse Tyson's entertaining assemblage of scientific essays, "Death by Black Hole" entitled: Journey from the Center of the Sun. In it he describes the incredible million-year long journey of a single photon of light from the moment of its birth in a high-speed collision of hydrogen atoms in our star's fiery core to the day it exits at the sun's surface and continues another 8 1/2 minutes to arrive at Earth in order to contribute to my daily dose of vitamin D.

Once a photon is created, it shimmies outward from its source in a seemingly aimless pattern of step-wise motion called "the drunkard's walk". Imagine a hopelessly drunk man who begins taking tipsy-turvey steps beginning at a light post in the middle of town square. If his step pattern is truly random it is most mathematically probable that on average he will actually slowly but surely move away from that light post. If our hero the photon were allowed to travel uninhibited from the center of the sun to its surface, the journey would take only 2.3 seconds, but instead it collides every few billionths of a second with other atoms and electrons. Every one of these crashes redirects its course and additionally creates millions of new photons of various wavelengths to join in the exodus. As I basked in the glowing rays of this morning's sun, I could feel my skin being kissed by billions of old souls...particles of light that began their life when Earth was young and humanity only a glimmer in the eye of our mother Universe.

I arrived at school early in order to warm up for an 8:15 trumpet excerpt class. This week the 5 of us had been assigned to learn Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring". I was on 4th trumpet and though I'm certain that my part was by far the easiest of the 5 (4 trumpet parts with 1 piccolo on top), it had still been a challenge for me to decipher the plethora of quick meter changes and rhythmic puzzles. The class is led by my teacher (Charlie Geyer) who's past experience includes actually playing a full concert of Stravinsky's music in the Chicago Symphony with Stravinsky himself at the helm...though I've heard Maestro Igor's conducting technique left much to be desired, that's still pretty awesome! It was a riot to work on these parts! Professor Geyer always demands the highest attention be paid to details written in the score and was clear enough in his conducting to keep the momentum of the music going and all of us players on our toes.

Past NU trumpet students who've won jobs in orchestras (and there are a lot of them these days) have pointed to their experiences in excerpt class as being a highly valuable resource while they negotiate the first few precarious years of their professional careers. It is a great way to get to know a lot of rep we may not otherwise play in full ensembles and allows us to spend a lot more time on details like section intonation and tightness...details that are expected to be perfected before you sit down in a rehearsal. In addition to excerpt class, I'm playing in orchestral rep class...which has the same mission only it includes the entire wind and brass section.

Lots o' playing...Lots o' fun!

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