Rehearsal started late today, which gave me a chance to work on some of my parts in the hotel.   I still only have playable parts for a few of the tunes, but the list is growing.

A moment when the music comes

The way this works, Steve’s figuring out what I’ll play as we go along, I try to catch what I can, take notes and videos and then try to transcribe it and get it into something I can follow on paper.  Then I’ll learn it, eat the paper, and join the CIA … no, what am I saying…

My personal goal by the end of these 3 weeks is simply to know what I’m SUPPOSED to be playing so that I know what to practice during the rest of June and July before we start the tour in August – and I’m going to need all that time to actually learn to play it – to know it in my mind, my ears and my body.

Right now I’m still spending hours each day creating these “parts.’   Once I have them I can actually start working on learning the music, and the coordination.   But right now, I’m still in the ‘figuring out’ stage.  To be followed by the “trying to remember what I already figured out” stage.  Followed by the “what the heck did I mean by what I wrote here???”

The fact that I can’t really execute the music leaves Steve in an awkward position:  he needs to know what the tunes will sound like, but I simply can’t maneuver them – so there’s no way for him to know whether I’m playing the wrong notes because I don’t know the right ones, or because I just haven’t worked out the logistics of getting my harp into the right key at the right time.

Struggling with Notes

He’d like me to just let go and ‘play’ but when I do that, what I ‘play’ is a lot of wrong notes.

I should explain that the lever harp is an instrument you continually re-tune into different keys while you’re playing. If you don’t have the levers set correctly you’ll play the wrong ‘notes‘ even if you play the right strings.

 And at the moment this instrument feels like field of harmonic landmines.   

To avoid becoming totally demoralized, I try to count the times each day when I actually have a moment of clarity –  a split second of knowing what I’m doing.  And even when I can’t remember – at day’s end – what I had clarity about, I remember the feeling of having had it.

My greatest frustration in not being able to get a handle on the notes is that I lose opportunities to be a musical sponge.

Often the way Steve passes on the character of the music to us is by playing it to us and having us play it back.  Because in this situation, Steve is the orchestral score of his music – the music comes out of his fingers, his voice — and directly into us.  That’s the part I want to soak up.

And that’s the part you can’t put on a page.

Written music can only give so much.  What it does give me I really need right now: the exact location of each pitch.  What it can’t give is the depth of musicality, ‘feel’ and character.

No matter what you write on the page, the only way to really pass that on is from person to person.

That’s what’s so exquisite and rich about this experience and why I ache to have the notes, the words of this language, the fabric of the music – so I have a place to catch those riches that hang like ripe fruit in the room where we rehearse each day.


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