Blogging in Exile: Ramping Up for a Performance of Beethoven 9 After Nine Months Without Access to Timpani

On November 30th, I sat down to play on real timpani for the first time in 264 days. It was exhilarating. The concussion of each mallet resonated through the rehearsal hall. I welcomed the vibrations I felt in my fingers, hands, wrists, and arms. It seemed both familiar and new. The reverberations were recognizable, but they sounded to my ears almost like a forgotten dead language. I’ll admit I was misty-eyed within thirty seconds as the gravity of that moment began to sink in…. Likewise, on December 18th, I sat down behind …

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Art Has Always Been Political

On election night, November 8th, 2016, I wrote the following in my journal: “Tonight all opera became subversive art.” As the broadest protests in U.S. history have righteously erupted in every major city and many more around the world, I had that journal entry in the forefront of my mind when I posted this on social media: I stand by every word of that post. While I do not intend to refashion my online presence for exclusively political commentary, I believe a moment like this calls us to confront our fields’ deeply …

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Deliberate Practice is a Riddle — And Here’s the Answer

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice Epilogue) Among filmmakers, novelists, playwrights, and opera composers, there’s a term for when the audience knows something a character doesn’t: dramatic irony. Horror movies employ a classic form of this when a naive character walks down a dark hallway as the camera reveals the slasher just around the corner. Mozart’s Così fan tutte is built upon a foundation of dramatic irony, with Guglielmo and Ferrando donning (usually not very convincing!) disguises and switching roles in order to seduce each others’ fiancées. There’s another sort of meta-dramatic-irony that …

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I’m Never Completely Satisfied With My Own Playing…As It Should Be

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: Mental Representations) Regular readers: I know it’s been a long time since my previous post. I believe that Mental Representations (the topic of this post) are both the most important and most difficult-to-describe attribute of deliberate practice. Because they are abstract and intangible, they defy easy and succinct definition…so apologies in advance for the length. Anyway, I used my summer hiatus to consider how to write about this topic most effectively…and I’m honestly still not sure how successful that’s been. So it goes. Also during my hiatus, …

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Knowledge is Power…but a FRAMEWORK is Better

(The Attributes of Deliberate Practice: A Framework of Domain-Specific Knowledge) How many numbers in a row can you memorize? Maybe it’s a weird question, but have you ever tried to memorize a really long string of digits? Try it. We’ll start with something reasonably short. How about this? 3  1  4  1  5  9  2  6  5  3  5  8  9  7  9 Stare at that sequence of numbers for a moment, memorize them, then turn away from your screen and try to recall them in order…. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.) […] …

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