Today my vacation is officially over. But not much has actually changed. I got up, exercised, did some reading. When I checked my email at breakfast with Eileen I saw that my boss had canceled this morning’s Zoom staff meeting. We have a new copier being installed and that seemed to be absorbing all the energy.

When I found out that they had planned to install a new copier the day before the Triduum, I pointed out that it wasn’t the first time. Several years back, I had been trying to do some last minute Holy Week preparation that needed me to make copies and discovered the copier was in the process of  being updated. When the staff asked if we should delay this installation this year, I said, no, because I won’t have a need to use the copier this week.

I may have mentioned that I wouldn’t have a choir to worry about, but not that I am planning to improvise all the organ music for the next four days.

So I wasn’t surprised that the copier threw a bit of a wrench in my boss’s plans for today., No harm done in my case.

I settled back in to my usual routine, did some more reading and practicing and listening.

I have been reading the biography of Miles Davis by John Szwed. It is filling out my understanding of Davis’s work. It lays nicely by the bio of James Brown by James McBride I have almost finished.

This morning I decided to give in and start a new non-fiction  book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. Caste (Oprah's Book Club): The Origins of Our Discontents  eBook: Wilkerson, Isabel: Kindle Store

it is brilliant. Wilkerson is a good place for me to continue my learning about the history of American Slavery and its impact on today. Wilkerson’s expertise, clear prose and obvious planning are a delight even if her subject is our current tragedy.

I have been playing a good deal of Bach and Bartok on the piano. Day  before yesterday I played through all of the two part inventions of Bach and about a third of the Goldberg Variations. When I was a student at Ohio Wesleyan I was obsessed with the work of these two. Since then I have learned a ton of their music. But here I am decades later still in love with the same music. Still working on perfecting my memorization of the F major two part invention.

Bartok’s Mikrokosmos have provided a life long frame work for my continued learning about piano and composition. I played a good deal of these composers during my last coffee house period.

Also I have been looking deeper into Mendelsohn’s Italian Symphony. It is one of several pieces I listen to during the spring of each year. I recently bought the one volume Dover orchestral score of it and a few other of Mendelsohn’s works. I still love listening and watching scores. This is something I have done all my life with pleasure.

So, the Triduum starts tomorrow evening. Today I have a 6:30 online appointment with the two singers who are singing an abridged version of the Exultet from their homes. This is exactly how we did it last year.

I will be in church tomorrow evening. I think I will probably be the only one there besides Eileen. I think my boss is planning to stream Maundy Thursday from home. At any rate, choosing to improvise my way through these high holy days turns out to be a good idea this year. I wouldn’t normally do that, but there was no other way for me to truly take time off if I was preparing pieces for this period. I don’t think it will make much difference to the people praying. At least I hope not.

Today is two weeks from my second vaccination shot. That makes me fully vaccinated today.


a bit of an insight


In the course of my life, I have done very little memorizing of music. My degrees are such that often this was the one difference between a performance degree and the one I obtained.  I have been thinking about this for a while. No time like the present to remedy this situation.

Ultimately, I think it would be fun to memorize some organ stuff, but I thought I would start smaller. I’m thinking if I succeed, I will learn about memorizing using short pieces. At this point I want to memorize stuff that I like and would appreciate having in my memory.

That’s why I chose a two part invention to begin. As I started working on it, I immediately noticed an increase in my personal confidence in my musical skills (such as they are). Some of this may come from the fact that I (like many artists) am my own severest critic.

I think often of how well I perform. Since I usually perform publically once a week, this means a continual evaluation of how well things went and why.

I am reading So What: The Life of Miles Davis by John Szwed. In it, he has referred a couple of times to giants of Jazz like Davis and others confronting the limit of their own abilities. Including, in the case of Davis, re-recording stuff when he made mistakes.

This makes sense, of course. But in the age of recording, it’s difficult not to slip into the idea that the only one who makes mistakes is oneself. If I had some students, I’m sure I would remind them that mistakes are part of performing. But that little voice in my head wonders why I make mistakes.

I think a lack of perspective contributes to this as well. I hope this little time of rest and relaxation will restore some of my perspective. I think it might be working.

But my recent insight has been about how I memorize. Many years ago, I played a memorized jury in an attempt to be accepted into Ohio Wesleyan University. It went very well as I remember. But it may have been the last time I seriously memorized anything, especially classical music.

I was reading what some other pianists have found about memorizing online. One of them  pointed out that muscle memory is not the goal. The more one can understand about the piece one is memorizing the better. This means slow practice from memory helps clarify the actual memory in the mind as opposed to the memory in the muscles.

I almost have the F major invention memorized. But now I can tell which parts are mostly in my mind and which are in the muscles. This is clear especially in slow practice.

At this point, I can usually remember all of the Invention but often with a stumble or two. Yesterday practicing slowly, I played it completely correct twice in a row with no stumbles or memory lapses. This morning, I attempted to play it slowly and discovered more holes in this memory. When i sped up, the piece came out fine but it was definitely muscle recall, not mental.

I guess the goal would be that I could sit down and write the whole dam piece from memory. I’ll add that to my regimen.

Of course, I am aware that memory issues are something most of us have to confront if we live long enough. Another reason to flex this particular muscle.

My next piece is going to be this Mazurka in C# minor by Chopin – Op. 6 #2. I love this piece. Plus, I have deliberately chosen something completely different in texture and ideas from a two part polyphonic piece.