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Stephen Fine

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  1. Recording myself and posting it online is something I never would've done when I first came out of music school. My standards were much too high. But even in school we were encouraged to use recording equipment (I was in school during the brief period when people thought that minidisks were the future, so I had a minidisk recorder). Now, while I still cringe at recordings of myself, I've come to realize that what I was taught was important in music school (technical/musical "perfection") is not, in fact, very important to an audience. The music does not reside within the perfection. Perfection is just a party trick or a feat of athleticism and focus. It's separate and only detectable by some people anyway. Technical problems can detract from the music, but music can happen without technique.
  2. It's interesting, usually people have the opposite reaction upon hearing themselves play: "I sound awful!" So much of learning to practice actually comes from training yourself to hear what's really happening. A mirror in the practice room can be revealing for some technical issues, but there's nothing like watching a video of yourself playing to make you, literally, self-conscious. These days, I'm often pleased enough when I hear recordings. My intonation is still better under the ear than a microphone several feet away, so that when I think something was quite out of tune, the recording will only sound minimally out of tune. But I find that my bow changes are not as smooth in reality as I think they are as they're happening, and my vibrato isn't as consistent as I want. Probably, the most valuable thing for performance though is being able to hear when phrases aren't clear, or when a note is much too loud or soft in the phrase. And always posture (and how posture effects issues of sound production).
  3. I've written elsewhere about Larry, but I can say a little here too. His rehearsals were down to the minute. They started on time, ended on time, they were meticulously planned, no time was wasted. He didn't talk too much, his instructions were usually short, a word or two, but what I remember most was how he taught us the structure of the repertoire by rehearsing us divided by musical idea, so instead of "strings together" or "brass" or "woodwinds" he would ask to hear "violas, second clarinet, third horn, and timpani." He would weave the music together like this, putting together the different textures... He had to have an amazing knowledge of the score in order to do this so effectively. Most of the remembrances I've read by classmates and others who went to Rice mention, at least in passing, the fear which Larry inspired. He could be cutting, and he would occasionally do the terrifying thing of asking for difficult passagework stand-by-stand. But the fear inspired work and dedication and the Shepherd orchestras were often called the best college orchestras in the country. Classmates of mine are now principals and section players in major orchestras around the world. I quote him as saying in a rehearsal of the Symphonic Dances that he regarded West Side Story as the greatest American composition of the 20th Century. I think he was right about that. Anyway... it is very sad that he's gone, sad to think of the generations who won't get to experience a rehearsal under his baton.
  4. Both the melody and harmony are different. They are close enough that it's a good theory, but different enough that I don't think any use of the word plagiarism is appropriate.
  5. There's even extra labor involved even with the premium raw hair. David spends some time combing and picking through the new hair as part of the rehairing process. Also, consider that if a bow maker sets their rate too low, they'll be swamped with rehairs and will never have an opportunity to make new bows. Playing a stringed instrument is expensive! Took me a second to decipher this since postal banking (tragically) hasn't existed in the US since 1966.
  6. Somewhere around $100 is "normal" I think. Anywhere from $65-$130 seems in the range. And, yeah, maybe it takes just a bit longer than 30 minutes? Specialized labor is expensive.
  7. Hi friends, The second week of concerts of my chamber music festival (the Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival) got canceled this year when my friends Jimmy (clarinet) and Ian (pianist) came down with CoVID and my friend Ellen (violinist) came down with Shingles. So instead of rehearsing all day, my friend Charly (cello) and I (viola) went for scenic bicycle rides and went swimming in cold mountain rivers and tried to enjoy ourselves while our friends were suffering through pain, weakness, fever, etc... Honestly, it was a bit stressful despite having nothing to do but relax. One of the last beautiful afternoons we pulled out our instruments and did a little bit of reading. Beethoven wrote the Duo for Viola and Cello during his classical period for two nearsighted friends and titled it Duo with Two Eyeglasses Required. I'm pleased with the recording quality of the iPhone balanced on a music stand. Amazing how far technology has come. Anyways, please enjoy. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpIzg96SZjc
  8. Hildegard (1098-1179), a Doctor of the Church and one of the great composers of all times... she couldn't have imagined this, coming up on 1,000 years and her music is still performed and found to be fresh. She was a synesthete, her senses closely tied to her spiritual visions. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zabEN84nWZQ
  9. I move mine around somewhat, but mostly straight across 8:45 to 3:15.
  10. We are on to small distinctions here. First, it's worth mentioning that depending on how you tune your instrument, the ringing tones will be in different spots. E.g.: Tuning to perfect fifths vs. tuning to whatever system a tuner is using. Second, playing "in tune" requires context. Oftentimes, in faraway keys, notes we think we know appear in unusual places. And sometimes, when we are playing a harmonic rather than melodic role, we are at the whim of the melody's expressive intonation. So, anyway, there's playing "in tune" and then there's playing in tune to your instrument which is what is being discussed here. PS- from a player's perspective, hearing more of the "right" overtones helps with intonation and inspires tone production, it definitely varies from fiddle to fiddle. Every note has its particular ring.
  11. Stripping a Widhalm's varnish and reapplying something store-bought is pretty wild behavior, but I guess things were different 70 years ago. Neat.
  12. I'd call it a camping violin or a pocket fiddle or a pochette or dancing master's fiddle if you're feeling fancy. You might find some variety trying different models of vielles. But I think the answer to your question is "no." They are what they are.
  13. I try not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good when thinking about government. But, really we are talking apples and oranges here. Canada funds the arts very well, so I'm sure there's a ton of misappropriated funds, corruption, etc... Such is the way when big money is involved. In the U.S., we are talking about a pittance. The U.S. is... 9x larger than Canada by population? And Canada spends about 2x on the Arts Council what we spend on the NEA. I'm curious... how rural is it where you are? What is the arts scene like? Community orchestra? Theater? Museums? What's around in the Prairies?
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