Tuesday, March 30, 2010


How fitting that I chose to learn 'Fever" on a day when I actually have a fever. Ok, so it's from the 1950s, so kinda bends my timeframe, but it's an uber-standard. I'm glad I chose this song for today, because it's easy, and because everyone does it, and there are a jillion different ways to do it. My friend Alysha Umphress (currently in Broadway's American Idiot) does her rendition of "Fever" with Ray Fellman at the piano - lyric & arrangement-wise, it's like the Peggy Lee version. The video's from a couple years ago, but I got to hear them do an impromptu performance of it a few nights ago. I could listen to Alysha sing all day, and ditto for Ray's playing.

Ok, people, I'm going back to sleep! I have two shows tomorrow, so I need to get rid of this bug. Maybe I should bend my timeframe rule again and memorize "I'm Young and Healthy"??

Monday, March 29, 2010

I Will Survive

Where does the time go!?!? Monday night, again? The end of March, already?

I know where the time has gone: into my apartment, into all the furniture and little things I've found and purchased and brought home or had delivered and blah blah blah blah blah... The time that hasn't gone into my apartment is firmly lodged in my sinuses. At least, there's something in there. I look forward to the simple pleasure of breathing through my nose again.

Now that we've determined where the time is, where am I tonight?

Home. Almost out of the woods, apartment-setup-wise, thank goodness. Feeling a little lost/stuck: grad school makes its bi-weekly trek across my mind and as I watch it cross, I wonder, should I be giving you more thought? In contrast, feeling content to be alone this rainy Monday night, puttering around, practicing, plowing through paperwork. Having guilt-free dominion over my time is a perk of being single.

Also, I am behind. Not on anything that matters to anyone else, like rent or credit card payments, just on everything I want to get done for myself. Like this project. Now that my mind has space in it for something other than furniture-shopping and just getting through the day, it's hitting home that this project is going to take a lot more time and effort than I've been putting into it in order to get out of it what I want. The self-discovery is great and all, but I do want to improve my chops and my ear, build my repertoire, and write about a process and an experience that other people might find interesting.

After the above, you will not be surprised to learn that I am working on two songs today. Saturday was eaten up by laundry and two trips to Ikea (small car + tall shelves), and Sunday was devoured by work all day and a sinus infection, or whatever this is. My first song is "I Will Survive". It was made famous by Gloria Gaynor, but I first encountered the version by Cake when I was in high school. I loved it, of course, because it had the F-word in it. Gloria Gaynor apparently dislikes that version for the same reason. Anyway, I chose it because it is super-easy to memorize. It basically goes around the circle of 5ths every eight measures ad nauseum, so I printed out the lyrics and played it in a few different keys. My next song is "Glitter in the Air" - the Pink song that turned me on to the Funhouse album after a friend sent me a link to the youtube video of Pink's Grammy performance.

I still have to work on that, so I will sign off after I paste in some earlier observations about tonight's practice session. Oh, I have headphones now! I can practice at night and actually hear myself!

Observations as I practice tonight:
I have so much to do - another song to learn, laundry and books to put away, papers to file, emails to send, more things to practice and read and study and take care of than are realistically going to get done tonight - that I can feel myself rushing as I play. Duh, no wonder I have a tendency to rush or lose the groove - it's a habit.

This reminds me of someone I've been accompanying lately. He's a singer who's not so good at, um, ...pitch. He's very sweet and has a charming stage presence, but he has a problem singing on pitch. Which is kind of non-negotiable. I realized after a couple times working with him that his pitch problem is just habit. He can match pitch easily when I make him slow down and listen to himself. He needs some help with vocal technique, but mostly he just gets distracted and sings off key, and it's a habit.

So it is with my playing. I'm in the habit of constantly thinking of the next ten things I need to do, or remembering the thing that didn't go quite as I had hoped, or having both sides of a difficult conversation that may never need to happen - all while I'm negotiating something as complicated as playing the piano. A few years ago, I noticed that I always seemed to play better when I was feeling a little under the weather - not totally knocked out, but just a little sniffly or achy. And I've noticed recently, as parts of my life have been in boxes and/or shambles around me, that when I have to work, it's a huge effort only accomplished by completely shutting off everything but what I'm doing at exactly that second - but I've been working well when I have to. I believe this is called "compartmentalizing" and "being in the moment". Now I just have to learn to do this when my life is going smoothly.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Popular, ...or, Naptime

I cannot get anything to make sense right now. Earlier, I was writing an intended post about time management, and cleverly linking it to yesterday's song, "Popular" from the musical Wicked (balancing work, rest, social life, needing to network, being *popular* - free association works for me). As it turns out, I have a lot of thoughts about time management ...and no time to put them in coherent order. Ha. I have so many things to say on the subject that I don't know where to start!

My to-do list is much the same way - it is so long, with so many tasks vying for top priority, that I don't know where to begin. Actually, that's a lie. I know exactly where to begin. Sleep. Practicing would be counter-productive at the moment, because I play with bad technique when I'm this tired, and lord knows I don't need to cement any more bad technique in my body. I could do little mindless tasks around the house, but... since I have the option, I'm going to take a nap.

By the way, I wrote all this by hand on the train, so there is a small victory in here for time management.

My schedule is so wacked-out, and is wildly different from week to week. My average bedtime lately has been 3 a.m., which is extra fun on Sunday mornings when I need to leave by 8 for my church gig. My body is happiest when I go to bed around 12 or 1, and get up around 7 or 8, and it's wondering why we aren't in California right now, since that's where my circadian rhythms seem to be. Sorry, body, let me remind you, we are a musician.

Last night, I got home after 3 from a gig. Today I had to be somewhere at 11, which was nice because it wasn't too early, but I had to get up before too much of the day burned away. Days when I don't have any scheduled appointments, but a ton of work to do (learn music for gigs, freelance on-my-own-schedule projects) are the worst, because I am invariably exhausted and have no attention span. I made myself the promise this year that I'd take a full day off at least once every two weeks - that is, no paid work, and, if I can help it, no business meetings or work-related practice. But there's so much overflow from Work and Life that maybe once every two months I have a Planned Day Off was actually feels like a day off. Hence the inability to concentrate on Swamped-But-Set-Your-Own-Schedule days. So I get less done, so I have more overflow into the next supposed light/free day. Vicious cycle.

Then there's the fact that transitioning into a new home and neighborhood and relationship status all have a way of eating up a lot of time and energy that might otherwise be free. Right now I have the sense that I am swimming as hard as I can, and getting nowhere.

Oh well, being "productive" doesn't seem to be the point right now. Transitions like those mentioned above, lifestyle changes, career goals shifting slightly. There will be time later for running around like a crazy person, crossing things off the list. Right now seems to be the time to figure out what the hell I want on the list in the first place.

Now, about that nap.

Monday, March 22, 2010


It is with a touch of irony that I blog about the Pink song "Sober", which I still have to work on (keyboard, volume just high enough to hear over the noise of putting the keys down, because I still need to get decent headphones), at 1:30 in the morning after two beers and several sips of a friend's mojito at a bar in my new neighborhood. Refined sugar doesn't count if it's from a friend's drink, right?

Here's what I get out of this song: Sometimes there comes a point when we get tired enough of our addictions that it's worth the trouble to stop.

So. Sugar. Lent. Just a practice run. My addictions are all completely legal (such a goody-goody), which makes them that much harder to manage. Twelve more days until Easter and cake and cookies - twelve endless, interminable days.

Really? That's less than two weeks. The entire season of Lent is only six and a half weeks long, and I have not made it without cheating and messing up. And I'm just giving up refined sugar - it's not like I'm on a juice fast, or a fast of any kind.

Take a moment out of myself to observe. I learn how addicted I am by how skilled I am at advanced rationalization. I learn how to start over when I mess up, instead of saying "Screw it, I messed up, I'm a failure, let's throw in the towel." I learn that this too shall pass (seriously - six and a half weeks). I learn that I have options; honey is not refined sugar. I learn how much space sugar - freaking SUGAR - takes up in my life.

A few days ago, I asked, Who am I alone? Who am I without the boxes of my relationships with others, with myself, with various substances and entities (the internet, my other completely legal addiction)? Not that it really matters, since I will never be without relationships - but it might be good to spend a little time considering the question.

Tonight, I am a girl who stays up until 2 a.m. to write and to learn a song, because it was important to do that, and because earlier it was important to hang out in my new neighborhood with a friend who will let me steal sips of his mojito.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Playing the Ink

Here we are again, the wee hours - just so much to do in a day's work. Yesterday, I learned "So What" from Pink's Funhouse album, with the intention of going straight through and learning all the songs on it, or at least all the singles. "So What" - easy to learn and to play, especially since I've been mainlining that album for the past week or so. I can't help but think my neighbors might have gotten sick of hearing me play the repetitive little melody of the intro and verse. Na-na-na naa na-naa naa...

Contrast that with today's epic Jason Robert Brown song, "King of the World" from Songs for a New World. I needed to work on it a little bit anyway for a gig this week, and I decided that I might as well make it the song of the day, and savor the fun of Funhouse a little longer.

Memorizing-the-Form-wise, "King" is easy (intro, verse-prechorus-chorus, verse-prechorus-chorus, bridgity-bridge-bridge, chorus, tag), with the exception of the bridge ... I call it a bridgity-bridge-bridge because it's ...well, long and drawn-out as only Jason Robert Brown can draw something out. It is - if you choose to analyze the song as I did - twenty-eight bars long. The right hand of the piano part is a repeated 5-note pattern that's really simple conceptually and really irritating kinesthetically. Then there's a funkdafied, syncopated buildup into the final chorus which is completely balls-to-the-wall ridiculous.

This is the kind of stuff I live to play.

A note on modern musical theater composers and sight-reading/faking: Jason Robert Brown's music tends to be very idiomatic of some existing pop style. This isn't to say he doesn't have his own compositional voice, but, in an emergency, you can usually tell at a glance, ok, this is more or less a rock/blues/funk whatever tune with a not-unheard-of chord progression, and you just hang on and count like the dickens. With Guettel or LaChiusa or Lippa, it may look like something familiar at an instant's glance, but you soon realize the harmonic or rhythmic language is not quite...normal. More rooted in classical music, so perhaps there's more scope for variation in the musical language than there is in a composition rooted in music of the plebs? A guess at most. But that's been my experience when put in a position to sight-read any of these composers' work.

Playing the Ink: this is jargon for playing exactly the notes written on the page, as opposed to "comping", or making up a groove based on the chord progression and style of music. Classical musicians who don't improvise only "play the ink". Then there are some fine players who wouldn't know one inkblot from another. My goal is to be able to do both: play the ink and comp well in a lot of styles of music. Five years ago I was an ink-only musician. I'd say I'm making progress.

The reason I bring this up right now is that, for many of the songs I work on, I just type up the lyrics and maybe the chord progression, giving myself no ink to play. I'm a very visual learner (weird for a musician, right? AND I'm a morning person, believe it or not). Learning from the sheet music saves me a lot of time, but I actually get too caught up in the music I see rather than hear, and I'm trying to learn to get off the page as quickly as possible.

Now, for "King of the World", I'm learning the ink, and there's no way I'd be able to memorize each note in the time I was able to spend on it today. At least I know the form and the chord changes, and have listened to it a bunch of times. I'm pretty sure that, if Martians landed and demanded that I accompany the Head Martian on this song from memory or else they'd blow the planet to bits, I could at least get through it. Hopefully Martians aren't giant JRB geeks. In any case, I think I will go to bed now, which seems the only thing to do when my blog posts take a turn for the extraterrestrial.

Saturday, March 20, 2010


I took myself off-grid yesterday and the first half of today - I needed to get some rest and have a moment away, even though I couldn't really get out of town. I even turned off my phone and my computer for almost 24 hours. Somehow the internet survived without my constant monitoring, and here I am, doing my best to build up my sleep debt again.

I'm on a little Heart kick right now. I have these grand plans of giving myself a curriculum of songs and artists to study, but right now part of the point seems to be just to learn whatever strikes my fancy on a given day. So - yesterday I worked on "These Dreams", and today I worked on "Alone".

Late-night music theory geekery: "Alone" sort of meanders key centers - that is, at different points in the song, different chords feel like "home", or a chord you could end on without pissing anyone off. It begins and ends pretty definitively in minor (B-flat minor for the recording, though I find the sheet music is most often in B minor), but takes a turn for the relative major (D-flat) on the pre-chorus, and the submediant (VI - or G-flat) on the chorus (yes, I just had to google "submediant" to make sure I wasn't making it up at 2:30 in the morning). One could probably argue that the chorus instead begins in E-flat minor (and one might be right, seeing as I haven't cracked open a theory book in years), but the last five bars definitely feel like they're in G-flat. And finally the song ends with a few bars of piano in B-flat minor, mirroring the intro. No repeat and fade, thank ye pop music gods.

I am a giant nerd.

Then there's "These Dreams", which just never feels like it settles into a key (it stays in the mist, ahem). The verse is pretty modal, meaning it does use the notes from a particular scale, but there isn't any one chord that says "yes, I am home! You can end here!" The chorus is sort of in the key of C. The melody definitely feels like it's in C, but there are no root position C chords, so it's still tantalizingly vague. Oh, also, the rhythm: lots of strong lyrics etc. on beat four of the measures in the chorus. This song "hides 1" about as well as an 80s power ballad can. More mist, I suppose.

Side notes as I transition to personal stuff: 1. I share a birthday with Ann Wilson of Heart. Yay! and 2. I would like to hear what would happen if Ann Wilson's voice and Freddie Mercury's voice could have a voice-baby. Which of course is impossible.

So. Alone. The past couple days of detox and self-exile have prompted the question, who am I alone? The old standard "You're Nobody Til Somebody Loves You" crossed my mind. This song is potentially depressing for those of us who are single, but thinking about it without the lacerating fear of growing old alone or choking on dinner and dying alone in my apartment (which almost happens to single women in Sex and the City AND 30 Rock, so it must be true)... who am I outside the context my relationships? Not just romantic relationships, relationships in general. We always put each other in boxes in relationships, and some boxes are comfortable enough to stay in for a lifetime, and others... well, we try to stay away from people who put us in uncomfortable boxes. But what about the boxes we design for ourselves?

Monday, March 15, 2010

If It's Magic

The main challenge of this project is just finding the time to do it, and then finding the time to write about it. The past couple days have been quite productive, which is a welcome change, and finding time to sit down and learn a song has been quite a challenge. At least I'm getting better about picking my song early in the day, so I don't arrive at 11 p.m. thinking, crap, what song do I want to learn at this time. One of these days I'll even manage to plan further ahead, but I'm kind of having fun waking up each morning thinking, "ok, what song do I want to learn today?"

Today's song: "If It's Magic". A Stevie Wonder ballad, very sparse instrumentation, unlike a lot of his funkier tunes. I'm always intimidated to start learning a Stevie Wonder song, but upon analysis, always find how beautifully simple and well-designed they are. Clean. They make sense, structurally.

Memorization: this is the second time I've scribbled myself out my own version of the A-section of a song, with barlines in different places than the official piano-vocal arrangement. The verse starts with a descending bass progression, then three II-V-I's (slightly different variations of that old chestnut each time)... I like dividing the beats so that the II-V's fall in the same bar. That's just me. It made it a little easier for me to memorize than to think about the 6/4 bar here and the 2/4 bar later in the form, and the fact that there are a couple beats missing from the piano-vocal arrangement if you are paying attention to the pulse (albeit "free"-ish) of the recording.

Ok, I will refrain from complaining any more about the book I have until I make sure I don't know anyone who wrote the arrangements... except to say, there are mistakes all over the place! Differences of opinion, yes, but also plain ol' mistakes - typos. Arghh. More in this Stevie Wonder book than I've encountered in other pop piano-vocal books. Also - my thought is, yes, it's my responsibility as a musician to listen and absorb this style of music that isn't always at its best played by a solo pianist of classical heritage... but, I read music, and I buy the book because it saves me time. So yes, it irks me that the 2-bar riff at the end of the form isn't written down (can't remember which song that was), and that the piano arrangement for "Sir Duke" has nothing to do with the groove you hear on the recording. If you're gonna write it out for us note-reading schmoes, do it right!!

I would go on about this matter, but it's after 2 in the morning, and I have a full day tomorrow. Yesterday's song: "Imagine". Another structurally sound, simple song - Lennon's warhorse verse-refrain-bridge form. Yikes, two songs in a row with wistful lyrics pleading for a better world. How is my cynical mind withstanding this?!

I need a review day soon, to reinforce the memorization of my recent songs. One bout of semi-concentration does not permanent make, I find. ...And, speaking of Yoda, I have to say I object to the lyrics in the third verse of "..Magic": "...then with it why aren't we as careful..." Sorry, Stevie. I know it makes it work with the melody of the different verses, but I have visions of intensive Jedi training in the Degova system whenever that line goes by. This is the musical theater composer in me coming out - lyric is everything, but everything. Not so in other forms of music. An observation.

My, I am cantankerous tonight! Criticizing my superiors! I need sleep, and a shower (no hot water from Sunday madrugada until this evening - the boiler got flooded from all the rain on Saturday). Also, I need an up-tempo, stat! It's been a ballady past few days. Good night, moon!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Rainy Saturday Night

Here's a fun little haiku I wrote a couple months ago:

crushed by loneliness
asphyxiated by love
slow death either way

Recent songs - Alicia Keys:
"Superwoman", "If I Ain't Got You"

Friday, March 12, 2010

Stages of Grief

Must... stay... awake... long enough... to post...blog...

Yesterday: "Hurt", performed by Christina Aguilera. I am not a psychoanalyst, but I'll hazard a guess that this song describes the "bargaining" stage of grief pretty well, what with the lyrics in the pre-choruses and the bridge ("there's nothing I wouldn't do", etc).

This song is in a minor key, not surprisingly. E minor, to be exact, one whole step above "the saddest of all keys" - (shout-out to Spinal Tap fans).

Warning: I am just beer-influenced enough right now to try to explain a scientific concept I can barely grasp myself, and am far, far too tired to be very thorough or very accurate. So, first I am going to provide you with a link to a page about the Overtone Series.

And, second, I will try to make sense of it in my own words...
Basically, when you play a note on a pitched musical instrument (one on which you can play a melody- many drums are non-pitched), that note vibrates at a certain frequency which we recognize as a particular pitch. But it is also simultaneously vibrating at faster frequencies. What we hear the most is the slowest-vibrating (lowest, or fundamental) tone, but in the mix we also hear the faster-vibrating tones (or overtones).

There are whole-number ratios involved in the differences in frequency (like I said: beer, fatigue). Whole-number ratios in different frequencies = notes that sound good together. The first few overtones consist of the notes of a major chord. It starts to get a little funky after that, but one could argue that the overtone series spells out a slightly out of tune dominant 7 #11 chord - a hip jazz chord one often hears at the end of big band numbers.

This occurs in nature! I think that is so cool! So anyway: major chord = as nature intended, happy, bright, yay! ...
Bum, bum, bum...
Minor chord = slightly deviant from nature. Sad. Brooding. Also, sexy.

Today I learned Sheryl Crow song "Strong Enough". Given that she talks about "tears of rage" in the first verse, I'm going to stretch and call this song representative of the anger stage of grief. Yes, I am making this up.

I love this song. What do I love about this song? I love that the chord progression is really simple and repetitive, making it easy to memorize (even though the internet chart I found had bogus chords on the bridge, sending me to Ear Training 101 for a hot second). I love that it's in three-four - not too many pop songs are. Lyrically, I love that she clearly is jaded enough to hold out for a man who's strong enough for her, but lonely enough to invite him to lie to her if he isn't strong enough to be her man. I love how the pitch of the melody rises on the lyric "please don't leave", and she switched to head voice - vulnerable, plaintive.

Why am I writing about grief tonight?

"Hurt" really struck me as I listened to it yesterday morning. I suppose it saves time to show up at therapy already in tears. Then tonight I saw a play about grief, which involved a character who had been a singer but hadn't sung since her infant child died. So it seems to be the subject of the moment.

The excitement of moving in has faded as I am beginning to settle in to my new place. Things that I couldn't process while still living with my former beau begin to surface. I dip my toe in the surface of the pool of Social Interaction with Boys Who Are Cute, and realize that it's been almost five years since I've been out with a boy I don't already know from doing a show together. And I'm just hella exhausted from moving and life and my crazy schedule.

And that, dear readers, is why I have written about grief tonight.
Hasta pronto - let us see what adventures tomorrow brings!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Way

What makes an artist?

I'm sure there are as many answers to that question as there are people to answer it. To me, one key thing about being an artist is stubbornness - being willing and able to stick to your guns when you are the only one convinced that you are on the right track. Take Thelonious Monk. Certainly no one else would have thought the notes and funky, angular rhythms he chose were the "right" ones, yet when you listen to Monk, they seem to be the only right notes and rhythms in the universe.

And so I begin my "new" year with two songs entitled "My Way". Today's "My Way" was the old chestnut made famous by Sinatra; yesterday, I learned "My Way" by the Texas band Los Lonely Boys.

Los Lonely Boys: 3 chords total, bluesy rock jam
Sinatra: many more than 3 chords, in a pretty standard jazz/pop progression
Los Lonely Boys: in-your-face lyrics of a youngish person determined to live his life the way he sees fit
Sinatra: philosophical lyrics of a man nearing the end of his life and reflecting on having lived it as he saw fit, through all its ups and downs
Los Lonely Boys: three brothers' Texican rock band; no famous covers that I know of
Sinatra: This song was made famous by Sinatra, but the original song is a French song called "Comme D'Habitude" by Claude Francois, Jacques Revaux and Gilles Thibaut. Paul Anka wrote English lyrics that have nothing to do with the original French lyrics. It has been covered a zillion times. I was familiar with the Gipsy Kings' version, "A Mi Manera" before I knew that "My Way" existed. Those Spanish lyrics don't have much to do with Anka's version or the original French.

Speaking of "my way", I tried playing around with both of these songs, to see if I could find a different take on them. A way that is mine, ahem. Los Lonely Boys' song was pretty easy to play with - I think I came up with a sort of mellow version that was pretty fun (which makes the lyric seem like fair warning rather than in-your-face ...suits me fine, thank you very much).

The uber-famous "My Way" (I tire of calling it Sinatra's, since he didn't write it, and was one of hundreds who performed it, even if his version is the best known...) was harder to change. It's not that I am so familiar with it that I just can't think of it any other way. I've actually logged a lot more time listening to Los Lonely Boys' "Way", because it's one of my favorite songs. No - it's that "My Way" is one giant dotted rhythm the whole way through. The emphasis falls on words that are on the 1st and 4th beats of the measure for the majority of the song. So it's hard, without drastically changing the rhythm of the melody, to make it sound like anything other than a stately French overture.

It's a shame Edith Piaf died before this song was written. She would have killllllled it! The English lyrics are actually a bit reminiscent of her signature song "Non, je ne regrette rien": "I'm about to die. I regret nothing. Nope. Nothing.", is what both songs seem to say. Hmmm... I smell a medley...

Monday, March 8, 2010

Happy New Year!

What? ...um, Kat, it's the 8th of March. It isn't New Year's, it isn't Chinese New Year's. It's not even Jewish New Year's.

I am restarting my year, complete with the intention to maintain - er, form - healthy habits like jogging, keeping my apartment clean, and springing blithely from bed in the morning without hitting the snooze button. And learning music, and writing about learning music, because music and writing are what I love, and I gave myself this project, and I am determined to see it through. And well-behaved young ladies from rural Southwestern mining towns don't get to be professional musicians in New York City if they are short on determination. So, even if I have to start over every day (which I do have to do, if you think about it), here is what I'm going to do:

Learn and memorize one well-known popular song a day. Suck a little less each day. Try to have fun in the process.

Rule #1:
I have to like the song, or at least be really interested in learning it. This is now Rule #1, because life is too short to wait to do things you like, and too long to spend doing things you don't like.
Rule #2:
The song has to be a well-known song either written or made famous between 1960 and the present. I decided to narrow down the category because there are so many songs in that category that I want to know, and because I get lazy/busy with 32-bar standards from the 30s and 40s. This is supposed to be a challenge, dang it!

I knew as soon as I started this project that it was about more than just learning songs. I thought it was going to be all about dealing with my arch-nemesis, Perfectionism. Well, it has been about Piano Kat vs. Perfectionism. But there's more. I am one original musical, one important relationship, and over two grand in moving and home expenses lighter than I was at the beginning of the year. I don't know how all the spiritual mechanics of it work, but I do know that having this Musical Task Thingy to come back to every day helped me get unstuck from a Life Ditch and back on the road (a bumpy road, but a road nevertheless). This Musical Task Thingy also helped see me through some recent dark weeks, even as I took the Half-Ass-Music-Learning to a whole new level. Showing up counts for something, right?

So. I surrender. I have no idea what this project is going to be about. Learning music, obviously - and I have noticed a marked improvement in some aspects of my playing - transposition, groove, arranging, all things that are critical to my work, all a tiny bit less sucky than before. And instead of berating myself for that which still sucks, I'm trying to be really specific about what it is and work on improving it. Take that, Perfectionism! Other than that... all bets are off. This could be about anything. Having fun playing music, even. Bring it, life.

I did learn a song today - "My Way" - not the one you're thinking of, but the Los Lonely Boys song. It might be a slight bend of Rule #2 as it's not all that well-known, but it's one of my favorite songs. It's 1:17 a.m., and I'm wiped out from my long Manhattan-Ping-Pong day, so I will write about it tomorrow with the other "My Way".

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My Heart Will Go On

Since we last met, I have moved my stuff into my new apartment, and spent way too many hours putting things away and shopping online for things I need to make this place a home.

Moving my piano today was quite the adventure - physically, for the burly men who were moving it. For me, it was a more internal roller coaster ride. As cheesy as it sounds, a big chunk of my soul is contained in that heavy hunk of noisy furniture, and while it was at the old place, I was too. Now it lives with me at my new address, a black, dusty, guilt-tripping object that dominates my living room and my life. Never mind the lamp and the dozen cans of tuna and other random stuff I still have to go back for, I am officially in a new place now.

Or am I? I've traveled quite a bit in the past, and the one thing that always fills me with consternation is the fact that, no matter how hard you try, the one thing you can't leave behind anywhere is yourself. She will always catch up to you, and usually sooner than later. She is persistent; she is resistant to change. ...Hey, that rhymed.

Persistence. I never had to work very hard as a kid. Small pond, biggish fish; straight A's, no sweat. If I didn't excel at something, I said, "Oh well, I don't really care about that anyway." Sometimes it was true, like with sports. Other times, it was a cop-out. And I catch myself making the same cop-out now. I'll struggle a little with something, and then decide that it's not what I'm supposed to do anyway. It must not be what I really want, because if I really wanted it, I could get it.

Such is the burden of the girl who is used to being successful. There is no try and fail and try again, and keep trying until you reach the goal. There is only, try, and if you fail, give up and maybe try something else. Nothing really wrong with that, but it's not working for me anymore.

Quick note on songs before I lay down my weary head: this week was Oscar-winning-songs week at a competition I played for. I learned "My Heart Will Go On", "Falling Slowly" and "Colors of the Wind". As much as I am totally half-assing (actually, more like quarter-assing) this project right now, I notice that this gig is much easier than in past seasons, because I am working on pop songs every day.

Hooray for persistence!