I had a long summer hiatus, in part due to a bad bout of DeQuervain tenosynovitis. Since then my practicing has been sporadic, especially as my work life has grown increasingly hectic. But today, after much wringing of hands and disclaiming, I had my first lesson of the season...
...And it wasn't so bad!
There is no substitute for practicing - the physical act of playing the instrument in a way that helps the mind and body learn and relearn what to do and how to do it better. But what Oliver Sacks writes about mental practicing is true: it can really help maintain learned skills. What it CANNOT do is keep up stamina. Kyoko found my actual fingering, embouchure, etc. passable but my endurance was PITIFUL. (She put smiley-face stickers on my score sheets anyway. My "child within" was totally into that.)
So after all the scales and etudes, when we finally picked up the Air from Bach's third Orchestral Suite, I couldn't blow any more. Which was a bummer, because last night when I practiced this it went FINE. High notes actually sounded oboe-like. But I had only done a few scales then, rather than a whole bunch of scales, plus some etudes, plus some duets, etc. Today low notes were doing better than high. Don'tcha love it when you practice and feel good about how things are going and then get to your lesson and BOMB? *Sigh*...I gotta get back into shape.
I have my assignments now. The scales of the week will be E major, A flat major, and F minor. Yes, I have to bite the bullet, finally, and deal with more than three accidentals at a time! Etudes will concentrate on that transition from B to C sharp that I STILL can't seem to do smoothly. I'm also supposed to work on first and second parts for the Bach Air AND try something I downloaded from IMSLP to hear Kyoko play - she turned the tables on me! It's one of the variations from Act III of Swan Lake. It's often assigned to the Black Swan in Russian productions of the ballet but not as commonly performed in American productions.
This video shows Russian ballerina Lyudmila Semenyaka performing the (60-second) Swan Lake variation Kyoko and I were working on toward the end of the lesson:
...But it's the Bach I dream of. There's an almost sacred feeling to playing Bach. From the first note of the Air - when it doesn't come out sounding like a lung full of crackles in a patient with pneumonia - whether I'm listening or playing, I get transported to what feels like a higher, more blissful plane of consciousness. I bet my brain waves on EEG would show a shift from beta to alpha or something like that. It's as if all the beauty and holiness in the world have been distilled into these mathetmatically perfect musical passages, and as I breathe life into them they breathe life right back into me.