Journey of 100

Chaconne #10 – The Players Benefit Concert

Nice intimate audience; great colleagues on this program organized by guitarist Sean Harkness, who was a wonderfully supporting colleague to me, singer Carole Demas, pianist Ian Herman, singer/guitarist Ellis Paul and a curiously funny comic whose stage name is even curioser: Brute Force

I was very pleased with the flow of a number of segments of the Chaconne: the  three-tones on A sequence (in the major section) and the build to the end from the return to D minor where I was really able to hold back and hold back and then release the stored anticipation.  Additionally the most difficult variations to play three voices as independent musical lines  – the dotted rhythms right at the beginning – started to show the work I have been putting in on them.

The notion of repetition seeking depth and center of the great work seemed to have a lot of resonance with our listeners. 

December 3, 2012 7 PM at  The Players

16 Gramercy Park, NY NY 

4 Comments

  1. Ann Vellis
    Posted December 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Shem, Thank you for such a magical performance at The Players last night.
    The center of the music may not exist. I believe the core is in the perpetuity of the piece.
    Would love to chat with you more about this.
    AEV

  2. Shem
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    For your information, everyone, Ann is speaking about my seeking to explore/find the “center” of the piece, the center of the circle, something I spoke about to the audience before playing. Ann the idea of the core = perpetuity of the work is fascinating, thank you for your thoughts!

  3. Nichole Donje'
    Posted December 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    Hi Shem,

    Thank you so much for the wonderful performance. It was incredible to see you do what you do and so obviously love.

    I found myself exploring the piece in segments, for me it was about 15. As as actor and director, my mind thinks in story and works to find an arc of, if not actual story, the emotion. I was most moved by what was for me segments 2, 5, 6, and 13. I can’t tell you what they are for you – but there were distinct shifts between them.

    Those were places where I found the exploration going deeper, taking me to the next plane or even somehow cradling me…if that makes any sense?

    Thank you for sharing your work and for allowing me to be a part of it in this way. What a wonderful idea!

    Nichole

  4. Shem
    Posted December 6, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Nichole, there is most certainly a dramatic arc within the work, and it is in fact, essential for the player/interpreter to think in those terms. Moreover, I have started to perform the 4 stylized dance movements that precede the Chaconne as part of my performances in Journey, because I have come to understand them as setting up “questions” which eventually find “answers” in the Chaconne, and feel them as one interlinked work.

    For me it is natural to think of them as questions regarding life, existence and humanity…one can imagine Bach (who saw himself very much as kindred spirit with Sir Isaac Newton – a Devout man whose work in Science more fully articulated God’s presence on Earth) mulling such things while “drawing in” these amazing tones…anyway, I can, and it doesn’t matter anyway since the music is beautiful regardless as to our specific thoughts!


Chaconne #9 – Private performance, Nyack, NY

It was nice to be able to plug back into this world amidst the weeks of opera (and Firebird rehearsals for Sunday’s upcoming Carnegie Hall Concert with the orchestra). I prepped a bit in the afternoon, starting with the last section (return to d minor).  The location was somewhat overly resonant, so tempos had to be scaled down accordingly.  Today I explored pulling more directly (harmonic rhythm)  from the 3rd beat into the 1st beat of the measures in a number of the variations.  I think one could organize this sort of treatment (and others) into a distinct vocabulary…all part of an in-the-moment set of creative options.

The first two dotted rhythm variations were good (where balancing each line as an independent voice with its own continuity) – they seem to have developed on their own without a lot of additional attention from me in practice.


Chaconne #8 – Private performance, Bridgeport, Connecticut

#8)  Better than last night. Still need to craft a better working method for developing the right internal balance between rhythmic groove and rhythmic freedom.  Nice to play the same work, with the same bow and violin, in a larger more sound-friendly space.   A moving experience for my audient.

2 Comments

  1. Yenoin Guibbory
    Posted November 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Shem for a performance I will always remember. The occasion, being a part of personal life-changing events, was one only you could have given. The opening of the Bach was spacious yet metrically clear; the dance-based movements rendered clearly so; the chaconne inexorable and transformational – certainly to this listener. Hearing you perform in a space redolent with the memories of dearly departed was a wonderous, magical experience. I can only wish the same for other listeners along this journey.

  2. Shem
    Posted November 22, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    Folks, Yenoin was my very first violin teacher. Two of the earliest exercises I remember are ones he gave me: playing single notes against the adjacent open string -teaching me to listen to the difference tones – and then applying that to playing perfect fifths and fourths. Not only does is technique required in the Chaconne, it also was one of the things that first amazed Steve Reich when he heard me play: he finally found a violinist that could play perfect fifths and fourths in perfect tune! Amazing indeed.

    Thank you Yenoin, I love you.

    Shem


Chaconne #7 – StringPoet Series, Long Island Violin Shop

This was the first performance for me since the MET season started. I felt as if I was operating at about 80-odd %  of optimal   –  small flaws, touching in and out of depth as opposed to living in the depth of the music…humbling to recognize the increased degree of preparation to perform at 100+% in front of a small group of people when in the midst of the opera season.  Definitely more mental and musical effort in preparation is required than the 15-20% difference between 80% and 100%.  Causes me to remember a comment made to me by an experienced colleague: that it was much harder to improve as you get to increasingly higher levels of skill and artistry.  Determining exactly *what* needs to be applied into your daily routine in order to proceed is a significant question. 

I am not intending to be negative – the music did flow, as was evidenced by the attention and gratitude expressed by my listeners.

 

Chaconne #6

6) August 12, 2012 Williamstown, MA Private home for 2 longtime friends and music lovers.  Drove down from Bennington where I have been performing and teaching at the Chamber Music Conference for the past 2 weeks …packed up my things, got in the car, arrived and played. There were a few funny concentration issues: I was smelling the beautiful lunch my Hostess prepared and the smells distracted me, made me lose the thread – I had to remember to listen and not smell!

 Not having worked the piece much at all during Bennington, the performance was a little better than so-so, from my point of view.   The larger musical organization was intact, emotional flow decent, just a lot of ins and outs in concentration: made me want to pay much more attention in my daily practice to this issue; also focussing and tightening the smaller circles…realized that 100 performances will go by quickly, need to value each and every one, each phrase…

played all dance movements – reflecting in the drive home that the four dance movements and the Chaconne are inextricably linked – they form absolutely one singular flow.  convinced.   never heard them this way before.  Allemande build to m15 had powerful effect on listeners, same with reflective end into…Corrente m1,2 bass line martélé correct,  m43-44 shifts worked like a charm (practiced right)…Sarabanda repeat good but disorganized…Giga RA (right arm) arcs and circles ng…Chaconne opening dotted rhythm phrases out of focus; the balance between the three voices remain most difficult spot… 

a beautiful moment – interpersonal, musical sharing: my Hostess said at the end that she had been holding back tears, not wanting to disturb me…confirming my ideas of depth and transformation…for me, those tears were the highest compliment one could be paid,  in fact a most important part of the performance and part of the transformative movement I aspire to create through playing music.   Host commented on the feeling of the music, the sound and emotions in and on his body.

One Comment

  1. Gary Soucie
    Posted August 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    What an incredible experience, one that shall long be remembered! The intensity was such that I sometimes forgot to breathe–not holding my breath, but just being held in something like suspended animation. All afternoon, the music kept running through my head.The most intimate musical experience of my life.

    Interestingly, my bilateral tinnitus disappeared during Shem’s playing and stayed away the rest of the day–returned the next morning, darn it.