Dear worker bees,
The month of March has brought on many changes, as it usually does year after year. Many pages have turned, certain chapters have ended and others have just begun. Now that the month of April is upon us, I look forward to a new season and a little bit more sun. Ok a lot more sun. Alright I admit it! I'm dying over here! I would kill to feel the hot sun on my skin, to kick off my boots once and for all and take my Vespa to work. I mean really, my skin is so pale I'm practically see-through. My lips are continuously in need of lip balm and I have no idea what to wear anymore (though it has made me more creative for outfits at work!). We Montrealers have had our fair dose of winter, even those who love winter are now complaining. I can honestly say that it's one of the first years that the winter and the cold are particularly affecting my mood and behaviour. I simply feel trapped in this snow globe in which the "windy" switch got stuck. I don't stand alone though, many of us Montrealers are feeling it and, as I mentioned in one of my first posts, the weather is kind of a big deal around here and here's the math: winter = long thus springtime + summer = precious.
How have I been surviving? Well, it would be ordinary to say by watching movies and staying home. There is just so much of that you can do until you get cabin fever. I have been having my banana spinach smoothies, creating photo books and listening to music…live music! That's right! It is just my luck to have met some of the most incredibly talented individuals who play the most interesting instruments. Thus, I have battled the winter blues by surrounding myself with inspiring and musical individuals. But first, "Lemme" explain my relationship with music.
My Relationship With Music, Percussions and Tap Dancing
Anyone who has met me knows that music plays a key role in my life. When I hear a song, I am able to hear absolutely every instrument individually. I instantly start analyzing the pulse and melody and the feel of it all as one. Music moves me like nothing else does. It makes my blood vibrate and I am certain that it releases endorphins and dopamine…and a little adrenaline even. I go to work and the first thing I do after locking the front door is put in my earphones and turning on my music (I always feel like I have a soundtrack to my life haha!). I walk into my office where a picture of The Beatles proudly hangs on my wall. On my way back home, back to my music it is and I almost walk on beat. Quite frankly, I don't even need to hear the music, there is always a song playing in my head. And when there isn't, anything and any word will trigger one. I speak and think in music.
Learning to read music was relatively simple. Having been signed up for solfeggio and music classes at the age of five at Montessori, I started young. As I grew older however, my memory with songs developed and playing while reading was a battle. My ears took over and I paid less and less attention to the music sheets and eventually, I gave myself up to this pulling force. Once I knew the melody and beat of a song, all I had to do was find the matching keys, practice and voilà, I can play the song. That is why I always knew my music by heart and never quite understood, as a child, why the other kids needed their music sheets during recitals or why is was such a big deal to "learn it" by heart. My music teacher was on to me though and tried to reinforce my reading. She would hide my hands as I played so that I wouldn't look down at them and read the music in front of me instead. Alas, it only made my ears even stronger and more sensitive as I still half read, half played by ear. I never needed the metronome to keep tempo. I had an internal time keeper. so I never needed to keep count, it was already done. It was the same in my dancing classes - whether it be classical ballet, jazz or tap dancing, I was the only one who was consistently on tempo. I can read music now, but it is way longer for me and I will probably overlook that it's A minor or that I have to play mezzopiano on some parts. All I truly need to do is listen, pay attention and I usually can replicate it. More challenging pieces will require significant hours of practice of course. I will therefore forever respect and envy the reading and playing musicians who don't need to have heard a song and know the rhythm, finger placement and speed simply by glancing at the music sheets. As usual, knowledge is power.
Drummers are often hidden behind the glory of the melody. Usually, not many will notice if it is the ride or the high hat that is used, if the drummer is jamming on a double-pedal, the soft drum rolls that can be heard in the beginning of "it ain't over 'till it's over" by Lenny Kravtiz or notice that the drummer was able to make his part sound like a horse running through the desert in "Knights of Cydonia" by Muse. Yet, misplace one hit and the entire song falls apart. That is what I love about the drummer's role: we are not at the front lines of the band, but we are the backbone upon which everyone rests to start, develop and finish the song. Drummers are the core and the beat your feet and head will be moving to. One false move, and we not only look like fools, but we take the entire band down with us. I don't believe the number of toms or loudness are the makings of a good drummer. You want to hear the ability of a good drummer? Ask one to play on pots and pans and see how creative they get or better yet, ask one to play softly and controlled. Jazz drummers impress me so much more than heavy metal ones. It is their stability, creativity and their presence while performing on a small and simple drum kits that I admire more than anything else. If you have 20 minutes to spare and want to hear one hell of a stable drummer, listen to Bolero De Ravel - from beginning to end, the drummers part is the same, the only part that changes is the volume.
Additionally, women have yet to fully conquer the territory that comes with the drums. Knowing this and having tempo at the center or my musical being, drums were quickly becoming a dream I often drifted my thoughts to during class. After much begging, my parents granted my wish and I still remember my father asking me what color I preferred while he was picking them up at Steve's downtown: "black, blue or red?'' and without a blink, I chose red. I signed up for classes and reading music sheets for drums sure beat piano - it was so much simpler for me. Drums aren't usually instruments you learn by reading anyway so I finally felt like I belonged...apart from being a 13 year old girl with drums. I signed up for classes and got a great teacher, his name was Gilbert. He taught me a lot, especially the latin beats: Bossa Nova, Cha Cha, Naningo and a little Jazz too. The one thing that he said that I totally understood was: "If you can sing it, you can play it". Which was how I understood the world of music exactly; your ears just need to answer to the music in your head.
I played more on my own, but did jam a few times with guitarists (and my dad on the accordion) and secretly dreamt of having a band. Nowadays, when I pay a visit to my parents, I also pay a visit to the basement, where my drum kit peacefully sits and welcomes me every time. That's the thing with instruments, it doesn't matter how long it's been since your last visit, they always welcome you back and always sound the same.
Percussionists can also be found as tap dancers. The first time I was truly moved by tap dancing was in my jazz history class at Concordia University (I aced that class!). One day, tap dancers had come as guests and that's when it really hit me: tap dancers are percussionists! They are, in essence, playing drums with their feet and keeping tempo. After class, I spoke to my teacher and got the name of the tap dancing teacher: Ethel Bruneau. I had no idea at the time who I was dealing with exactly, but I soon found out her legendary contributions to the world of tap; it was a honour to have been one of her many students. My buddy Gloria and I signed up for tap dancing classes and for about four years, we were tap dancers. It was the most satisfying dance I had ever tried. Getting the moves and the sound right was quite the challenge. I strongly recommend it to anyone who is curious or who can't get a drum kit at home.
I had met an actuary specialist last year. A highly qualified manager who happened to have written that she played the clarinet on her resume. To my delight, I immediately questioned her about this beautifully sounding instrument to which she replied that it had been some time since her last practice. Being someone who wanted to explore her creativity, I strongly urged her to pick this instrument up once again and rediscover her talent. Music stimulates us and has the power to make us realize that we excel and perform well in other parts of our life as well. In a world that is ever changing, it gives us back the perception of control we need to function. Suzanne later told me that she had set aside some time to practice while spending time away from home. To my pleasant surprise, her practices eventually turned into joining a nearby orchestra mainly composed of wind instruments and rehearsing weekly. I was so proud and excited to hear the news that I promised to come hear her play should she ever be part of a concert.
Just this past March, her orchestral group "Les Vents du Sud" played in a theater and I received an enthusiastic invitation. I was thrilled to finally be able to hear Suzanne play, but nothing prepared me for the emotions I felt the moment they began playing as one. They were spectacular...for "amateur" musicians they sure blew me away and took me places only music can. The clarinet is a soft instrument that, in my perspective, is able to capture and express emotions of happiness, sadness, nostalgia, and bitter-sweetness particularly well. If, as a human being, you were unable to cry, a clarinet will express tears for you. It is quite moving in an orchestra, but even more so when it stands alone. I admiringly applauded my friend after her performance and will never forget the colors and scenery that the music made me feel. Bravo!
A clarinet song my father introduced me to when I was little:
Petite fleur (florecita) click here to have a listen.
when I was little, my family and I would occasionally go to church on sundays. Of course, not listening to a word the priest was rambling about, I was left to my own thoughts and day dreamt. I remember, however, that every now and again, there was music coming from the back of the church. Every time it would be played, I turned around and looked up to see who that was. I was intrigued by the hidden musician, sitting there and playing at just the right moment. Apart from those times, I would notice the organ being played in songs such as "Light my fire" by The Doors, or "Something" by The Beatles or better yet, The Phantom of the Opera's introductory theme which has a strongly present organ that gives me goose bumps without fail every single time I hear it. These songs are great and so melodious but I had never truly appreciated nor been moved by the instrument as much as I was when I first heard it played live by a friend of mine, Vincent. To describe him as a highly talented individual would be incomplete. I cannot begin to describe the powerful sound that comes from the instrument as a whole; from the solid bass sounding pedals that make the entire chapel vibrate (which are prominent in the phantom of the opera's intro theme actually) to the softness of the top keys when played lightly. I knew the organ was an instrument that, like the drums, requires coordination from both hands and feet, but I had omitted the reading of the sheets and the pressing of what seems like 500 buttons. Playing it commands the musician's focus and ownership of the instrument. I had the privilege of witnessing this through Vincent's masterful playing. However, as mind blowing as it is to actually see the musician play, one does not need to see in order to understand the complexity of the matter…it can be heard. The speed, the tripping of notes, the moment the pedals kick in, or when they stop - breath taking. I had never heard it that way before. I can now appreciate the organ that much more when I hear it in a song or even at church. I have attended quite a few of Vincent's concerts, one of which was only a few weeks ago, and have always remained in awe afterwards. Bravo Vincent and thank you for the discovery!
Now two of my favourite organ played songs:
Prière à Notre-Dame
I hope you are all as fortunate as I am to be surrounded by inspiring individuals or perhaps you are an inspired individual yourself! On that musical note, I wish you all a good spring! Your bee will be escaping the claws of the cold for one traditional week in Cuba and return soon. I promise to bring you sun and warmth.
My name is Ivana. I love photography and meeting people. I hold a Master's in counselling psychology and work as a career consultant. Music is my fuel and an important source of energy in my life. I drive my vespa around the city and I love what I do! :) About this blog: me on my artistic soap box!
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