I haven’t written about the daily Kaddishim since 16 November, when I attempted to do a Cajun accordionesque rendition, and my dog Kjersten sang along. Here’s what’s been happening, for those who have been listening:
18 November 2010: another tribute to New Orleans during Mira’s visit, this is my take on a hot jazz Kaddish.
19 November 2010: just a straightforward reading for Shabbes.
20 November 2010: my first reading on my Lawson six-valve descant horn; playing the stopped horn section was a little trickier than usual because I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of switching out my low F crook for the stopping crook, so I had to work out funky fingerings that got the stopped notes reasonably in tune on the Bb horn.
21 November 2010: trying another one on natural horn, starting a “Natural Horn Sundays” habit. As I wrote to Mira, “Somehow my natural horn playing is getting worse rather than better. Perhaps the pain of New Orleans’ dilapidation is represented here.”
22 November 2010: another in the “Memory Monday” series. This one went pretty well, but I made a left turn and had to find my way back.
23 November 2010: this was my first effective trip through from memory. It’s fascinating to me what changes in a performance when I play from memory. All that chunk of my brain that is normally busy with (largely unnecessary) visual signal processing is suddenly available for creativity (or self-defeatism, or other options). I had an epiphany about the stopped horn passage—for the first time, I had an idea why that passage is stopped, besides because it’s the de rigeur trick for modern horn solos. I heard it as an interruption of the kaddish—in the distance, Muslim call to prayer. I also figured out exactly where my memory becomes unreliable. It’s another passage that feels like a left turn to me. I’ll need to figure out why. Interesting how we don’t question what we see; we don’t even notice that it doesn’t make sense until we can’t see it.
24 November 2010: a Kaddish for my Alexander model 310 triple horn, which is for sale. The next day a gentleman came to try the horn, and he’s got it on trial for a little while. I wanted to get the horn out and lubed up, and I wanted to get myself familiar with it again, so that I’d be able to give him a decent demo. Naturally, I hope he’ll fall in love with it as I did several years ago. My hope is this Kaddish is my farewell to the horn. It has served me well, but the Lawsons are my true loves. A Kaddish for our brief but productive affair. Since I hadn’t practiced on it in almost a year, it sounds a little rough, but I hope I gave at least a glimpse of its pretty Alexander sound.
25 November 2010: another first in the project, a collaborative Kaddish. My friend David was among our crowd of friends and family around the Thanksgiving table, and after spotting the music on my stand, he started a little Klezmerish noodling on his accordion. I quickly queued up ProTools and we were off. Since David was reading a horn part in F as if it were in concert pitch (it would be a bit much to sightread and transpose and improvise all at once!), I knew I’d have to read the part up a perfect fourth on horn, and that would make it quite challenging, especially after hours of feasting and an embarrassment of vinous riches. So I grabbed my flügelhorn instead; on that horn, I’d only need to read it up a step. It did pose a few range challenges all the same, especially for the low written D. That note is quite playable on my four-valve Getzen Eterna 896 flügelhorn, but not with the fingering I tried to use! 1-2-4, Erin, 1-2-4! Oh, well. It was fun anyway. I loved David’s klezmer noodling, and I loved it that the first collaborative Kaddish came after a feast with friends and involved a favorite Jewish musician friend who’s been supportive of this project since the beginning.
26 November 2010: the second collaborative Kaddish. A Daddish.
My dad wanted to play one, too, before he and Mom headed back home. Dad’s an amateur horn player, and he’s loved this piece ever since he first heard me play it on my senior recital. Close followers of this project will know from his comments on my original post that he wants me to play it at his funeral, and give the eulogy. So, one of the things I want to try to figure out during this project is how I can be both mourner and performer, because performing while actively, vigorously mourning seems like a disaster waiting to happen, yet it’s what he says he wants. In this awful year in which too damned many good people and one truly excellent dog have died on me, this daily sharing of Kaddish with Mira and our virtual minyan is in fact about mourning, and other things; it is for both of us a new way of observing traditional a Jewish bereavement ritual.
Dad and I have had an uneasy relationship as horn colleagues, stemming from a basic difference in approach. I’m the perfectionist type; if I can’t do a thing well, I want nothing to do with it. Dad doesn’t have this disability; as he put it recently, if playing horn badly bothered him, he would have quit playing horn sixty years ago. He went on to say, about playing in a community orchestra back home in Butte, Montana, “You gotta remember, Erin—if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.” He’s right, of course.
Anyway, Dad got out his horn. I decided to try my hand at improvising a piano part, and I found it harder than I expected to un-transpose the horn music back to concert pitch and come up with something to play. I guess he wins this one—playing piano along with Dad on horn was worth doing, and I did it badly.