Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mix of the Month: November

The November mix is different from all the others I've done, and you're not going to see the tracks listed here. But let me tell you why.

We finally finished our house, and by "finished," I mean that we got it to a point where we still have projects to do, but it is not only livable, it's beautiful. The big things are done. It's a lovely, happy, welcoming sanctuary. So far, the only picture available online is on mAc's blog, but there are more to come.

What does this have to do with the Mix of the Month? Well, to celebrate the completion of all of our hard work, we threw a party. I made a playlist on the iBook for this party, quickly dragging in every party-appropriate song we had in the library, importing a few party songs we didn't have. After dragging them all in, de-duping a couple repeats and hitting shuffle, my 2005 Party Mix was complete.

It contains 179 songs, or over 11 hours of music. I am SO not typing that up for y'all, no matter how much you beg.

It's not like I didn't have specific criteria for selecting songs--I did. I picked out dance songs, happy songs, groovy background songs, funny conversation-starting songs, and current singles spanning multiple genres, thus giving guests with a wide variety of tastes something to enjoy.

The funny thing is, I've been listening to this mix since I made it (to and from work all week and I still haven't gotten through all the songs), and I like every song. On the one hand, of COURSE I like every song. On the other, there are 179, and they are all over the map.

It's moments like this when I realize how lucky I am to have had such a musical upbringing. For those of you who don't know me well, I played the violin for roughly 20 years, starting out as a Suzuki student in Evansville, IN. I got pretty good, actually. Good enough to kick out a couple Mozart violin concertos, learn Vivaldi's Four Seasons (both violin parts) and lead the second violin section of Denver's Young Artists Orchestra the year we tackled my all-time favorite orchestral work, Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique.

Why on earth did I stop? Well, here's the thing about the violin: it's really, really hard. You have to play every day just to maintain your level of performance, and you have to practice several hours a day to really make that instrument sing. I never had the patience for it. Seriously, I'm lucky that I had any talent at all, because 9 times out of 10, I did all my practicing the day of my weekly lesson or orchestra rehearsal.

So, at a certain point, I stopped getting better. I actually remember what I was working on when that light bulb went on: Concerto No.1 In G Minor For Violin And Orchestra, Op.26, Max Bruch. Oh, man. Do yourselves a favor and go get a recording of this concerto (there's a lovely recording with Perlman performing this, and Mendelssohn's violin concerto in E minor, on Amazon, although on this piece I kind of actually prefer Joshua Bell's slightly edgier approach). It's so sensational, I can't even deal. The first movement alone makes my toes curl.

But I couldn't play it. Try as I might, I could not make this concerto work on my violin. And I really tried with this one. I loved the music so much, I was desperate to make it sound beautiful. This piece was my passion, not to mention my comfort on rough days in college. I'd have to be kicked out of the practice room in my dorm after quiet hours on some days, because I'd just devote so much time just trying to get it right. I'd stretch my fingers on the octave chords, do the runs over and over... At the end of all my hard work, I basically go to the point where I could make the first few bars of the intro kick ass, but the rest just sounded... not bad? But not good enough.

That's when I realized it was probably a good idea to think of other areas to where I could redirect my passion for music. I was never going to be good enough to master my favorite concerto, much less have the patience I'd need to master everything else I'd have to learn in order to play professionally. Not to mention, there were all kinds of things I didn't want to have to play, and when you're in an orchestra you kind of don't get a choice. They don't care if you find Mahler overbearing and boring if that's what's on the program.

Today, I find that it makes me sad to think of the concerto I never mastered, and my beloved instrument collecting dust in the closet. It's not out of the question that I'll bust it out again someday, especially now that we have a house and I don't have to worry about my squawks being heard through thin apartment walls. (I'd love to play my violin in a band, as long as I'm being honest.) That said, I am far more happy than sad to have had those 20 years playing the violin. Are you kidding me? What an amazing gift! Not only did I enjoy experiences and met amazing people I never would have otherwise, but it gave me an appreciation for ALL music. So much so that it remains a huge part of my life.

So much so that I make a party mix of some of my favorite songs, and it's over 11 hours long.

One last note (ha ha! I kill me). I recently discovered that my old violin teacher, the one who graduated me from Twinkle to Tsaichovsky, has a little web site. There's not much too it, but look at what I found on her quotes page:


"NOT because I expect you to major in music.
NOT because I expect you to play or sing all your life.
NOT so you can relax or have fun

BUT - so you will be human
so you will recognize beauty
so you will be closer to an Infinite beyond this world
so you will have something to cling to
so you will have more love, more compassion,
more gentleness, more good ... in short,
more life.

Of what value will it be to make a prosperous living
unless you know how to live?"

Author Unknown

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