January 31, 2011

#19: Four Letter Word

I'm going to have to break down and say that today's sunrise was...EPIC (shudder). The world has been super-saturated with this word lately. I'll admit, it started out to be a really cool and meaningful word, but any gravity it once possessed has now dissipated into a popular void. Everything seems to be "epic" these days and I'm completely sick of it! I just finished reading Alfred Lansing's book Endurance about Shackleton's 1914 attempt to cross Antarctica. THAT was definitely epic (you should all read the book by the way--I loved it!). Football games, cell phones, big greasy meals--none of these things qualify. Come to think of it, I'm annoying myself by wanting to call this morning's sunrise epic. I guess I'll just tell you the story and you can decide whether I'm being a melodramatic hypocrite or not.

I got a slow start this morning. NPR's weather forecast warned of a massive blizzard on the way and I sat beside the radio for a few extra minutes making sure I had all the details I'd need to get to school on time and avoid having my car ticketed or towed. When I finally got out the door I was a couple minutes behind. This may sound insignificant, but sunrise waits for no one. To catch the best moments, it's necessary to arrive on time...and even better by far to arrive early. To help keep up a brisk pace I pulled out my shuffle and timed my stride to the determined sounds of Tron. Timing was additionally complicated by the fact that I would have to make a side trip to the Evanston library and return an audio book that was due.

I took my usual route up Chicago Ave and when I reached Davis, looked to the east to see if there were any hints of brightening that would signal a good sunrise. I wasn't expecting much...a thick layer of clouds hung low in the sky above me and the forecast for the day was bleak. What I saw however made my heart race--the clouds broke over the eastern horizon and below them the sky was a luminous bloody red. CRAP! I still had to go to the library and I was missing everything!!! I immediately picked up the pace, running where possible (difficult to do with a loaded shoulder bag). I finally made it to the library a couple minutes later, dropped the case of cds in the slot, and then booked it east along Church street watching the flaming horizon grow before me.

Why the hurry? It's not uncommon for the most brilliant hues of sunrise to occur well before the sun actually arrives, and things can always change in a matter of seconds. It was well within the realm of possibility that by the time I reached the lakeshore, the brilliant red would have dissipated into some pale shade of yellow and--though it would still have been pretty--the intensity and drama of the early climax would be lost. The Tron soundtrack playing in my headphones flipped to a particularly badass track (Derezzed) and I suddenly felt like a superhero on a mission--I smiled:)

When I arrived at the lake's edge, I whispered a cheer "YESSS!" and tried to steady myself against a strong and bitter wind to get some photos. At this point, Tron was playing me a track both forboding and resonant (Fall) that seemed the perfect compliment to this piquant foreshadowing of the sun's arrival.

There was still a good 10-15 minutes to go before sunrise and I continued north along the lake breathing heavily and (despite a vicious wind chill) sweating profusely underneath my layers.

After a while, Tron took a more contemplative turn (Finale...perfect sunrise music) and my walking followed suit. The piece starts out with a dramatic low-brass chorale--actually I think just Tuba and bass trombone at the beginning--and before each note the musicians' enormous intake of breath is easily audible. I love the sound of a good section breathing together--it sets up and leads into the music so easily. At the same time, hearing the shear amount of air that has to be sucked out of the room to create a good low-brass tone gives even the most pianissimo passage an incredible amount of power. Being able to hear extraneous noise--like breathing--is unusual in a studio recording. I was surprised the producers left it in. Now I love that dang soundtrack even more!

I got to school just in time to see this...

Tron was playing End of Line, and the violence of the music mirrored the ferocity with which the waves were surging toward me. The light blue you see at the bottom of the above photo is a mass of rippling pancake ice being moved ashore by the stormy swell.

I snapped a few pictures, and then...my battery died. I knew I didn't have a spare set of AAs so I scrambled around trying the few tricks I know to squeeze every last bit of juice I could out of the pair in my camera. One thing that usually buys me an extra picture or two is switching the batteries around--the one on the right goes to the left, and visa versa. No luck this time. I don't know if this is true, but extreme cold has also seemed to affect my batteries' life in the past. I cupped the camera in my hands and blew hot air around it. Aha! It worked! I got another couple photos before cold and the necessity of practice drove me inside.

I snagged a practice room with the best sunrise view I could find (the fuzziness in this picture was a result of moisture condensing on the lense--like what happens to my glasses all the time. The effect was unintentional--but kinda cute none-the-less--so I left it). I was bummed that I couldn't stay and watch the scene for another hour or so. With cloud formations like this, the colors and shapes created and highlighted by the sun were likely to evolve spectacularly for quite some time. But (sigh) I only had an hour in which to get a good warm up before my 8:30 theory class. And, you know, (contrary to what this blog may indicate) I am here at NU to play trumpet...not to watch the clouds go by.

Still I'm glad I've been able to take this bit of time every morning and indulge my romantic side...even if it turns me sappy enough to inappropriately use a great word like epic. In truth though, I think that was mostly the fault of the soundtrack I chose to accompany my walk. Maybe tomorrow I'll choose some chill-out folky guitar music...see what that does.

January 30, 2011


There wasn't much of an actual sunrise this morning, but the lake sure was beautiful. I juat can't get over the shades of color that can show up in the water...

Pictures never do justice (as true as it is, I'm sick of hearing it!), but I love how the furthest horizon of water deepens to a rich blue-green before meeting the changing hues of the sky.

The chops are a bit of a struggle today, but I keep working at it. Chris Martin (principal in the Chicago Symphony--phenomenal player, really nice guy, and--wouldn't ya know it--an astronomy buff) just issued a single-tongueing challenge to all us NU trumpeters. First, we send him a recording of Clarke Etude IV by Feb 1st using whatever tempo at which we can maintain a clean single-tongue the whole way through without stopping. Over the next month we are to focus on improving the speed and accuracy of our single tongue. Whoever improves the most by March 1st (again based on a Clarke etude IV test) will get a $40 gift certificate. $40 aside--this sounds like a fun project and a nice way to get my focus away from the embouchure and onto something a bit more objectively manageable. I'm in!

Today I bought my first full MP3 album from Amazon. This is surprising for me because I've been insisting for years that I much prefer owning cds to worrying about less-than-tangible music tracks disappearing if I hit a wrong button or about somehow losing everything if a device breaks. I love looking at cover art and reading liner notes, and I much prefer listening to whole (well-constructed) albums than single songs in some sort of random mix. I loaded my new mp3 album onto a little ipod Shuffle I inherited from Patrick and spent a good hour at the gym with it's pump-me-up rhythms encouraging my efforts on the treadmill. The music I picked (as well as the fact that I love it) is a bit condemning. Any guesses? Here are some clues: recent release, soundtrack, not entirely orchestral...ok, ok...it's the Tron score by Daft Punk.

I know, it's not Beethoven...but c'mon...you have to admit that if you listen to it while working out it sorta makes you feel like you can conquer anything--and I need a little of that feeling in my life at the moment.

January 29, 2011


Yesterday's knife-edged ice mountains have all but disappeared. Left behind are enormous rafts of old stitched-together and melted-over pancake ice floating south along the shoreline at a snail's pace. The edges of these enormous shards have melted just enough to develop a buffer of snowy slush and when the gentle swelling of the water pushes one against another a barely audible "shhhh" hums between them and little bits of white crystal slough off into the depths.

I went inside to collect my things and prepare to practice. When I got to the lounge I caught one final glimpse of the sun before it disappeared behind an ever-growing mass of cloud cover.

As the morning has progressed, the warm hues of sunrise have been replaced by the usual wintery gray to which we've all grown so accustomed. Earlier I'd noticed at least two couples (and a dog) who'd paused along the lake shore to watch the day begin--how fortunate to be among the lucky few who know how beautifully everything started.

Today Regenstein is filled with young musicians auditioning for NU and I've been remembering the day I was among them a little less than a year ago. After my audition (which I felt had gone quite poorly) I took a walk along the lake to let off some steam. The sun was shining in full force and it's reflection off the snow was blinding (I'll bet the sunrise had been gorgeous!). The surface of Lake Michigan was dotted with mini icebergs and though I was fascinated by the sight and relished the thought of living near such an amazing body of water, I was trying not to get my hopes up to high.

Good luck to everyone who's auditioning today--I hope you are as lucky as I was.

January 28, 2011

Sunrise #16--Photo essay

Today's sunrise was so awesome I found it impossible to narrow the experience down to just 2 or 3 photos...so I won't! I'll keep my talking to a minimum and let the pictures speak for themselves.


Here's an example of the pressure-induced ice ranges I talked about in my post from a few days back. To give you a sense of scale, that lethal looking peak on the right must have been close to 3 feet tall.

I'm currently reading a book about Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated trans-Antarctic attempt begun in 1914. After his ship, the Endurance, was trapped and ultimately destroyed in the ice floes of the Weddell Sea, the group of men spent over a year camped out on top of the sea ice waiting for it to either break up and allow passage by boat, or carry them close enough to land to make a run for it over the ice. Can you imagine...they WINTERED in Antarctica...camped in little canvas tents atop a floating mass of sea ice...their boots were made of felt!

Anyway, at this point in the story it's mid April and the ice pack is breaking up. The floe cracked underneath their tents during the night and sent one of the party into the sea while still curled up in his sleeping bag (he survived by running around the remaining ice chunk until his frozen clothing dried out). Shackleton then made the decision that ice-top camping was no longer safe and ordered everyone to pile into three rafts and set out across the still heavily icy water. This is where things start to get really bad. Imagine trying to navigate around a broken ice pack rising up to 5 feet above the water. These immense chunks occasionally collide raising ice ranges stories tall and crushing anything that happens to be in their way. The ocean swells are so large that, when separated, each boat is hidden from the other behind huge rolling hills of water.

This morning while gazing at the knife-edge shards of broken ice uplifted above the surface of Lake Michigan, I tried to scale up the scene and imagine the dire intensity of Shackleton's travails. I heard about this book (Endurance by Alfred Lansing) on NPR as part of a segment recommending good reads for grad students. Their rationale was that while struggling through the worst of your studies, you could pause for a moment and think, "well, I guess things could be worse."


January 27, 2011


Still no sun this morning.

I've continued to arrive at the lakeside daily at sunrise despite the clouds because, as has been demonstrated time and again, surprising things can happen on the horizon no matter the forecast.

Downsides to this:
1. Loss of sleep (especially when Rob and I have a good bedtime chat and stay up late...like last night).
2. Disappointment over an effort that seems wasted.

1. It's always nice to get a little exercise in the morning (and BOY do I NEED it these days!).
2. When I get to school early I'm guaranteed a good practice room.
3. By requiring myself to walk to school every day I've become rather acclimated to the wintry weather. Today's temps were down around 20 (relatively warm) and I didn't feel the need (or ultimately miss) my usual 3 layers on top and 2 on bottom. In fact, compared to how hot some of the buildings here are kept, it usually feels pretty refreshing to step out into the chill.

This morning I got an added bonus when I noticed this frosty assemblage of stones, pine needles, and seed pods.

As I walked past it, the flow of line and jumble of minutiae reminded me of works I'd seen by Spanish painter Joan Miro. To confirm my hunch I googled the artist this morning and found this...

Joan Miro: Constellation 3

...something of a big-city (or psych-ward) cousin to my back-woodsy composition wouldn't ya say?

January 24, 2011


No sunrise today. In fact, though the sun is up somewhere behind the clouds, it's still too dark to get a good picture of the lake at all. When I left school yesterday afternoon, the water was still ice free and roiling with boisterous waves. This morning the surface appears to be frozen solid, and long piles of crumpled debris have been pushed above the otherwise smooth surface like miniature mountain ranges.

January 23, 2011


I just about missed the sunrise today.

I had a good productive day yesterday and was in a great mood when I got back from my evening practice--mostly because I'd spent the first hour and 1/2 of it playing duets with Riccardo. Finding a regular duet partner has continued to enliven my playing. After a day spent drilling fundamentals and devoting near constant focus to refining my embouchure, it is a welcome change to sit down with another musician and play (go figure)...MUSIC! Having another's sound in my ears causes my body to instinctively make subtle physical adjustments in order to match their sound. Riccardo is an excellent player. He's got a brilliant tone and pays constant attention to small details of dynamics and articulation. He's a super nice guy, but when I start to get sloppy with things like sound, intonation, and style, he'll stop and ask me to play it again. I appreciate being challenged in this way and when the music finally comes together, it's thrilling.

Last night we finished the last duet in Alan Vizzutti's New Concepts for Trumpet, and started working through more of Chris Gekker's 44 Duos for Trumpet. Gekker's book is a real challenge. Though on the surface the music appears rather simple, it's deceptively revealing and requires fluidity throughout every key, an impeccable sense of time and rhythm, and an ear totally locked into the pitch of the other player. We've also been working up a fun concert duet by Eugene Bozza: Dialogue pour Deux Trompettes.

When I got home I was in the mood to stay up late, and if it weren't for my current sunrise obsession I might have diddled around into the wee hours doing who-knows-what. After making some dinner, I listened to a couple recordings of pieces scheduled for SWE's (Symphonic Wind Ensemble) second concert/recording session of the quarter, and then stayed up till around 11:00 talking to Rob...no harm in having a little Saturday-night "date" right?

This morning came early. My alarm went off at 6:01...then 6:03 (for some reason I never like setting it for evens or 5s) and I grudgingly rolled out of bed and peeked out the window. A couple fluffy inches of snow had fallen overnight and the sky looked as overcast as ever. I very nearly assumed it would stay that way and almost allowed myself to crawl back under the covers for another few hours of shut eye. But no...I said I'd be there for sunrise every day...and even though I was almost certain it would be cloudy down to the horizon, there's always a chance it the sun could peek through and give a really good show.

So, I groggily mustered up the wherewithal to make breakfast, take a shower, and scrape off my frosted car just in time to get to school and see this...

Can you believe these colors?!

These pictures don't begin to do justice to the scene. It was actually snowing rather substantially during every one of these shots--I was hoping the little flakes would be visible in the pictures, but it appears they just served to dilute the richness of color and somewhat blur the resolution of each photo. I am glad I spent a good amount of time with the camera away from my face so I could fully appreciate the loveliness of the spectacle.

As our star's disc further rose above the horizon, I started to notice an area of parallel brightening off to the north. It appears the sun decided it'd be a good morning to walk the dog...

Actually the little rainbows we call "sun dogs" are created when countless hexagonal ice crystals floating through the air bend the rays of the sun like a prism. The one in this photo is rather dim, but you can see much better views of the effect by googling sun dog.

I'm really glad I didn't sleep in!

January 22, 2011


No sun this morning. Instead we're getting a nice friendly dusting of snow.

I tried taking pictures of some flakes that landed on the hood of my car...but I think I'll need a better camera before I can really do them justice.

January 21, 2011


It's extremely cold here right now. Our high today was 9 degrees. After wind ensemble rehearsal I went for a walk around campus and came across a little gathering of waterfowl. As I approached, the ducks actually got up from where they were sitting and waddled toward me (maybe they thought I'd have handouts). When I stopped to watch them, two brightly colored mallards came right up to my feet, sat down on the pavement, and proceeded to snuggle up into their feathers as if to go to sleep. When I crouched down to take a picture, this little guy didn't even flinch--just watched as I edged the lens of my camera right up next to him.

I feel kinda bad for these guys. I know they're built for the outdoors, but on a day like today they've really got to be suffering. Wish I could let them stay the night. A ducky sleepover! What a mess I'd have the morning after that party!

Daily Sunrise #14 WoooHoooo!!!

I haven't posted for the last couple of days for two reasons:

1. The sun hasn't come out, (though I have indeed continued to be present at sunrise) and I, (unlike the NU student who's vowed to watch the movie Julie and Julia every day for the next year...and blog about his experience. No really...that's true!), don't want to bore you to tears by just posting a series of gray Lake Michigan pictures every day.

2. I've been bogged down with homework.

I'm hoping my temporary absence will contribute to making today's posting as exciting to you as it is to me.

This morning I donned my layers (Honey...does the cold make me look fat?), braved truly Antarctic temperatures (-2 degrees with a windchill of -20), and trekked to school in time to bring you this...

Then, purely by chance, I turned around to the West and saw this...

By the time I was done shooting, my hands--even inside leather gloves--were throbbing, and I think my camera was actually starting to freeze. Still, as I ran up the stairs to the music building, I had the biggest smile on my face I've had in a long time. It took a lot of effort to stifle a full-on cheer of delight.

January 18, 2011


Sun didn't appear today.
Thought you'd be as bored with the picture as I was.
See you tomorrow.

January 17, 2011

Lucky #13


I guess it's a good thing I've been drinking vitamin-D-fortified orange juice.

Yesterday I decided (before reading your suggestion mom) that I ought not "waste any time" and did make an effort to practice. After about a half an hour of failed attempts to set my embouchure, I collapsed into tears and went home. After forcing myself to get up out of bed a couple hours later, I spent the rest of the day cleaning every nook and cranny of my little apartment--if I couldn't be "constructive or creative," I might as well be "helpful"--mostly just to keep myself active and out of depression-induced doldrums.

In the evening I went to see "The King's Speech." It is an excellent movie you should all watch, and about the best movie I could see considering my mood at the time and recent embouchure travails.

And today I'm back in the practice room trying again, and typing during my frequent breaks: 5 minutes on, 5 minutes off. I won't see Charlie again till Friday and I have lots of playing to do between now and then.

January 16, 2011

Daily Sunrise #12

Today's sunrise was a good one.

A few minutes before the sun crested the horizon (behind the clouds) everything was glowing from the twice-reflected redness of predawn.

I had to wait another half hour or so (fortunately I'd dressed in many layers) before the sun rose above the eastern cloud bank, but I was ultimately glad I toughed it out.

I noticed another strip of ice is coming in over the horizon and getting ready to invade.

I guess they prefer to launch their campaigns on Sundays. It's almost certain we'll all be having pancakes for dinner tonight.

The embouchure progress I made 2 days ago did not carry over very well yesterday. I just reverted back to my regular set up for our brass quintet coaching--which felt great up to concert B flat and gave me the joy of being able to play freely and musically for about an hour. Channing (our coach) even complimented me on my sound and reading--which felt great.

Afterwards I found a practice room and attempted to get myself back on track with the new embouchure, but was unsuccessful. Utterly frustrated once again, I decided to call it quits for the day, and right now am sitting in the lounge trying to decide whether I should play today or not. On one hand, it might be good to take a day to rest and reset--tomorrow of course is Martin Luther King Day and class will not be in session so I have sort of an extra day for personal work. On the other hand, a day off is a day lost--can I really afford to give up that time?

Sometimes I wish there were someone around to give me orders--it's difficult for me to make a decision like this on my own and feel justified.

January 15, 2011

The REAL #11

Guess I spoke too soon.

Here ya go...

#11...Still Waiting

There's no sun here this morning. When it became clear that nothing interesting would be peeking through the clouds, I wandered around campus for a while freezing my butt off and trying to find a nice picture.

If you're really interested in seeing a great picture of the sun today, I'd recommend visiting NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day website--one of my personal favorites. If you're reading this blog and it's not January 15, 2011, go back into apod's archives and look up this date--it's well worth it! While you're at it, you might as well browse around the rest of the collection...it's chalk full of great images and information.

I'm getting ready to head into the practice room for a nice warm up and balancing session. This quarter I'll be playing in a brass quintet and we're rehearsing for the first time today at 10:00. The real kicker is that our coach, Channing Philbrick (1st trumpet with the Lyric Opera), is coming to this initial reading session. I'm a little apprehensive about how to work through this during an embouchure transition, but maybe I can talk Kevin (the other trumpeter) into playing the first part most of the time.

January 14, 2011

Lack-of-sunrise #10...and My Embouchure Tweak

I enjoyed seeing the clouds reflected in the lake this morning. With the departure of the floating mass of pancake ice I am very much looking forward to the first time the sun rises above this pristinely-frozen mirror-like surface.

This has been a HARD week for me. I have to admit--yesterday morning I was not sure how I would be able to continue. Every choice seemed a dead end and every ounce of life seemed absent from my soul.

The main challenge has been figuring out a "slight" embouchure adjustment Charlie suggested might help my high range, which according to him is "the one thing missing from my tool box". Though Prof. Geyer has continued to insist that this alteration is very tiny and shouldn't interfere too much with my regular set up, he only explained the change verbally (without personal physical coaching) and I've been struggling for hours every day in the practice room trying to figure out how to accomplish this...minor tweak.

After a day of beating my head against the wall, I emailed Charlie and told him my frustrations. He agreed to meet with me at his home for an extra coaching session. Long story short: both he and Barbara were attentive and generous in their advice and explanation, but again I left without direct step-by-step physical coaching. Barbara said she felt I was creative and independent enough to work it out on my own.

For another week I struggled with the ideas and how to proceed. No matter what I tried (I can't tell you how many hours I spend hashing through the simplest of exercises) my tone was horrible and my range had lost an entire octave...and it was a minor 3rd short to begin with. Wednesday's solo class was fast approaching and I knew I would be expected to play something from the lists I'd been "preparing" for summer festival auditions ("preparing" is in quotes because I had hardly been able to touch any real rep since my lesson). "Ok," I thought, "I've always been decent at Petrouchka...and even the Ravel Piano Concerto...maybe I can get those ready. I could just go back to my old embouchure and make it work. I guess I should play a bit of the Haydn Concerto as well."

I started in on the Haydn and things were going...ok...so far so good. At the end of the first theme there is a rising scale that climaxes on a high C and...well, I went for it with everything in me...and squawked it...terribly! I heard laughter outside my practice room...then a voice saying, "Well she's the only other girl trumpeter...besides Nina."

I was paralyzed. I know I'm one of the weaker players here, and it has always been a little tough for me to put on a smiley face after I'd played less-than-my-best in solo class, but hearing that laughing did me in. I could barely practice further. None of the rooms are sound proofed and everyone can hear everyone else practicing. Every time I tried to pick up and start again, I imagined people were listening and thinking "She's a grad student?...how did she even make it in sounding like that?" I felt that failure had become my identity here--that I am only the trumpeter "who can't play high". And especially with the new embouchure stuff I'd been trying, I'd agree with anyone that I sounded like a beginner. I wondered myself why I was even here if I couldn't figure out how to play through the normal expected range of the trumpet.

I couldn't bring myself to play in solo class. I bowed out without giving a reason and sat in the back while others played their lists. Because I had no choice, I struggled through wind ensemble rehearsal (my heart breaking wide open that I couldn't play better for Mallory Thompson--who is as ROCKIN' a conductor as you can imagine) and practiced again that evening doing my best to make something...anything happen.

Another dead end.

Somewhere I'd heard it was possible for an otherwise healthy heart to quit on its own due to extreme sadness. I wished that would happen to me. It was clear I could no longer play the trumpet. I haven't drawn in many months. I'd proven again and again my inability to work successfully with other people. My magic was gone. I felt I no longer existed as a meaningful entity on the planet. I might as well just sit down in the snow and wait till the cold stole my life away.

I went to bed without my usual call to Rob and woke up the next morning in a daze.

In my lesson Charlie asked me what was wrong and why I didn't play in solo class the day before. I told him about my struggles--barely holding back tears. He was patient and consoling and (though he still didn't offer any specific physical coaching) after our hour together, I felt I could go back out and try again. He had reassured me that the reason I am here is because both he and Barbara believe in my talent and see in me the will to pursue a difficult dream. He told me stories of many past students who'd had similarly dark times and who all found ways to pull through and eventually achieve success in their lives.

Yesterday evening I met up with Riccardo--an older student of Charlie's who is on the audition circuit--for a duet session. We played together for a good hour and 1/2, and though I still had to cut out on a lot of the higher notes, playing MUSIC with another person (as opposed to scales...and scales...and arpeggios...and MORE scales) seemed to break me out of some of my rut and I was actually even having a little fun.

Rob called me as I was getting ready for bed and we talked a good long time. I offered him a well-deserved congratulations when he informed me that the paper he'd recently submitted had been accepted for publication, and we fantasized together about our next meeting (which hasn't been planned just yet).

Today I woke up feeling a bit more optimistic. When I got to a practice room after "sunrise" I even felt like I may have made some progress with my embouchure. I think I've found an acceptable set up that may eventually allow me to play higher with more facility and make my chops more stable over all.

Basically, my problem has been that I use almost none of my bottom lip. In fact, when I take my usual embouchure up to a high note, hold it steady, and remove my trumpet, this is what it looks like:

As you can see, my lower lip is sucked way in--it's almost completely absent. That leaves my top lip to do all the work. In a better scenario, both lips participate more fully: the top lip serving as a sort of anchor while the bottom lip supports some of the pressure and moves freely throughout the registers--facilitating good flexibility and even leveling out the horn a bit Anyone who's seen me play knows what a "down stream" player I am--along with a little natural overbite, the dominant use of my upper lip is a big reason for that.

When I perform the same exercise of playing a high note, holding it steady, and removing the trumpet, the new (and eventually better) embouchure I think I've settled on looks like this:

As I've been carefully using this slightly different set up, I'm able to hold my horn more evenly, I pivot less from low to high, and my bottom lip has mediated a bit of the mouthpiece pressure (for which my upper lip is quite grateful!) Today I was even able to get up to a high A with a decent sound--major progress! I do think that the notes I'm able to reach so far feel quite secure (maybe more than previously) and I'm optimistic that as I continue to exercise my lower lip, it will get stronger and more flexible and eventually allow me to take my playing to previously unreachable heights.

By the way...I get EXTRA points today because I worked through all this:

*early in the morning,
**in the middle of a cold, gray, Chicago winter,
***on the worst sickeningly-cramping day of my period,
****even though there was a trumpeter in an adjacent practice room playing with amazing technical prowess.

Beat that!

January 11, 2011

#7...is it a sunrise?

Today began in a white out. Little flakes are being blown about wildly in the wind and before the end of the day we should see about 4-6 additional inches. I'm not too broken hearted about that--I have a ton of reading and writing to do for my Music and Memory class so the less-than-ideal weather conditions should keep me happy to be inside studying.

Music and Memory may prove to be the most challenging class I take at NU. In order to graduate, I'm required to take at least one 400-or-higher level class and I figured it would be in my best interests to try to get that accomplished early so that later, when it really counts, I can focus more completely on trumpet. Fortunately M&M is proving to be a fascinating (and surprisingly little explored) area of research. Our main tasks so far have been to read and react in writing to scholarly psychology articles addressing topics ranging from how our brains decide what key a piece is in, to how our neural processes are idiosyncratically set up to record lists of items in short and long term memory. The class is small: about 12 people so far (the teacher says he expects that more will likely drop the class...I hope he isn't expecting I'll do that!), and is primarily filled with masters and doctoral candidates in the areas of cognition and music cognition. I'm one of 3 lonely performance majors braving this new territory! Whew...better get to it then!

Here's the best "sunrise" I could muster for you this morning (yes, that is Lake Michigan)...lovely in its own way.

January 10, 2011

Sunrise # 6: Pancakes in the Morning

I can't get over how much different the Lake is today.

Yesterday morning the water was clear and buoyantly active. Now its entire surface has been utterly stilled by these floating circular formations that stitched together overnight and formed a more-or-less contiguous sheet of ice. The suddenness with which this transformation occurred is startling. After observing yesterday's invasion, it's clear the local water didn't freeze...this stuff floated in from somewhere. So where in the world did it all come from?

As I approached the lake's edge this morning, the air (usually filled with the rushing sound of water) was so still I could hear dry leaves rattling against one another on the tree branches above me. I sat down on the frozen sand and looked into the distance as the sun slowly brightened the sky. The flat vastness of the expanse reminded me of a great salt flat and I felt an urge to walk out onto it. Every once in a while a almost inaudible high-pitched crinkling sound echoed over the frozen plane, and then...did the whole sheet just rise? It was as if the Lake had morphed into a gigantic organism...and I could almost see it breathing.

Some geese flew over...

And nearby a small bird of prey darted after and eventually tackled a duck (don't worry...I didn't take a picture of that). Nature's justice I guess.

January 9, 2011

The Pancakes Have Landed!

In the amount of time it took me to write that last post...the ice came ashore!

It might sound silly, but I've wanted to see real-live pancake ice for as long as I can remember. I always thought it was something I'd have to go to Antarctica to see, and now here it is...only steps away from my practice room!

Don't think this eliminates my desire to go to Antarctica someday. It's still on my dream to-do list...if only because (as I recently learned in the fantastic new NOVA program "Secrets Beneath the Ice") residents and visitors have to consume a diet of 6000 daily calories so their body has enough fuel to stay warm. Yumm! My paradise for sure!