Monday, May 31, 2010

And that is that from Phoenix

We're done. We never did recover from the disappointment of losing our Gold Bracket play-in match. So, as I feared, we were an emotional no-show in our early afternoon Bronze bracket match, and lost it 0-2. So we're done.

Very disappointing result for us. Finished tied for 32nd overall.

Pics, vids and maybe some stats in another week or two.

- Aw2pp, who is now headed to to see if there are any early flights home to Chicago.

So much for the Gold Bracket

Lost our first Gold Bracket challenge match this morning. Congrats to Rizen from Hawaii, who played a tough, hard-fought match that was marred near the end of game 3 by some dishonesty by the winners. At this moment, we're moping around the Phoneix Convention Center, feeling somewhat sorry for ourselves for losing in the way we did, angry at ourselves for not playing harder / better, and disappointed in the other team for some calls they should have made on themselves, but chose not to. "It's Nationals... this is why we pay for officials, so they can make the calls, not us*." Well then.

* - To be fair, most teams would agree with this. As would most of my teammates. Except when it costs them (us) a match. This is one of those things that I guess I understand, but is much harder for me apply personally. If I touch the ball, I say so. If I touch the net**, I say so.

** - Those of you who have been out of volleyball for a few years may be surprised to hear that you are now allowed to touch the net under most circumstances. I know, I hate it too.

Next up is the Bronze Bracket. Unlike the Gold, which is double-elimination, any match we lose in Bronze will end our tournament. Winner of the 12 team Bronze bracket will take home Gold Medals (go figure) that say "Bronze Champions". They'll also be able to claim a final National Rank of (counts it up...) 25th. We are going to need to get our heads back on our shoulders before our first match... or our trip through Bronze is going to be short and sour.

- Aw2pp, who will now go find the closest Subway, then go back to the Convention Center.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day two update from Phoenix

Easy day today. Two matches, two wins, I played only the first.

After dropping our second match yesterday, we seem to have composed ourselves, and took care of business in sweeping both matches today. To recap, now, pool play:

Match 1 - RVC Red (from Boston), we won 2-0
Match 2 - Vamo' Alla (from the Chesapeake area, not Indiana as I had previously thought) we lost 0-2
Match 3 - Graywater VBC (Seattle), 2-0
Match 4 - Balls and Beers (Milwaukee, natch), 2-0*
Match 5 - Metro Long Beach (New Jersey), 2-0

* - Midway through game two of this match, I had one of the top 5 kills of my 20-year volleyball career. It was unusual... I knew I was going to be set, and I figured they (the other team) knew, but when I went up to swing, I found myself all alone, no block in sight. I questioned this momentarily. "Where is everyone?" No block ever appeared, so I swung away. I'll post a clip of this if I can.

Other than our moment of inattention against Vamo' Alla, we've had an easy time of it. Problem is, Vamo' Alla swept the pool, which means in order for us to advance to the Gold Bracket (where Championships are won, of course), we now need to win two matches instead of one. So 8:00 AM tomorrow, we'll take the court against Rizen VBC, from Hawaii. They are exactly the kind of team that gives us fits... little, quick, smart. I'm officially concerned.

Last comment, completely unrelated to anything. My Yahoo email address sent some spam a couple of nights ago to everyone in my address book. Ordinarily, this is a sign of a virus, but in this case, I don't have the Yahoo address installed on any email client*. Which suggests to me that this was a problem on the Yahoo side (and if anyone can point me somewhere that might verify this, I'd be obliged.) If'n it happens again, I might be forced to cancel that email account. Not sure what else I can do about it. So apologies go out to those of you who were spammed a couple days ago. Here's hoping that's the last of that.

* - Like Outlook or Lotus, for example. Viruses commonly are written to co-opt these programs.

Depending on how we do tomorrow, it could be a very, very long day.

- Aw2pp, virus-free since 1998.

Day one update from Phoenix

We ended up being seeded a gaudy third, which is really an endorsement in a 72 team field. After the first day, though we proved unworthy of the compliment, dropping a match to a small, unassuming, and feisty team from Indiana. We made the mistake of rolling our eyes during their lethargic and unimpressive warmup, and sat two of our best players*.

* - Yes, I was one of those who sat. It's a long tournament, the Open, and I willingly take every break offered to me.

We rebounded later, winning our third match of the first day, and finishing 2-1. All is not lost, but the path to the Gold bracket probably is now one match longer than it should have been.

- Aw2pp, who now understands what people mean when they say, "But it's a dry heat."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Piano takes a break for a few days...

... unless my hotel has one, in which case all bets are off.

My flight leaves this afternoon for Phoenix, for the 78th Annual USA Open National Volleyball Championships. Or as my Junior Olympic coaching friends call it, "That Big Party USAV Uses To Fund Itself For The Rest Of The Year." Or as I call it, "The Annual Convention of Really Tall People."

Last year, as you may recall, we finished 5th out of 48 in Men's A. It was an insane result, really, much better than we had a right to expect. After all, we started a 5'10" (ie, unusually short) setter, and me, a 6'5" (ie, somewhat short*) 40 year-old (ie, unusually old) middle blocker. This year, our setter is no taller, I am a year older, and yet, even though 72 teams** are entered, optimism is high. We'll find out our seed tonight, then get underway tomorrow. Daily updates to come, including match results, soreness complaints***, and a running tally of the number of people I come across who are taller than me.

* - Ok, Sue, fine, I admit it, I am no longer 6'5", I am 6'4". Maybe.

** - Moving the tournament out west seems to attract a large number of West Coast teams.

*** - This year brings an added challenge, in that I am saddled with something called the Croup. It's a virus that has been going around the family for a few days (thank you Joey and Rowan). Before the doctor diagnosed them last week, I had heard of Croup, but thought that it was a made-up disease our great-great grandparents dealt with, or something that had been eradicated years ago with the advent of sterilized operating rooms. (See Dropsy, Scrofula.****) Wrong, it's apparently a real malady. And a fairly debilitating one at that.

**** - And yes, I was wrong about those, they are real too. Just called something different today. Obviously my pre-med college curriculum, such as it was, didn't take.

Finally, to channel Phineas and answer the question you're almost certainly thinking... why yes, yes I am too old for this sort of thing.

- Aw2pp, a Middle Blocker for Chicago Coast North, leading his team with a .289 hitting percentage on the year.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hylands (and other Houston friends)... (fixed)

... you MUST take 3 minutes out of your life and watch this. It is...

The World Cup is starting this month. As you know, I'm a sucker for excellence... you've heard me say that I'd watch the world's best Tiddlywinks players* compete if it were televised. But regardless of how you feel about soccer (er, football), it's highly likely we can agree that soccer is inherently more interesting than Tiddlywinks.

* - What would these people call themselves? I wanted to call them Tiddlywinkers, but wasn't sure if that would have resonated. Besides, "Tiddlywinkers" sounds faintly NSFW, even if it is perfectly harmless.

Anyhow, even though we Americans are ranked something like 16th in the world, you can bet I'll be watching. This fires me up. Furthermore, now you know why I subjected you to growing grass the other day. I had to prepare your for this. Anything more exciting in the previous post, and we'd risk being overcome by the vapors.

- Aw2pp, who used to harbor a vague and completely misplaced notion that he had some soccer (er, football) skills. Then he spent a few months in Brazil. Nothing like extended time in Brazil to disabuse one of such fantasies.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back it down now

It's been a little too exciting around lately. I thought I might ease the pace a little. Here is a video of grass growing.

If you think that's exciting, wait until next time, when I start talking about my work.

- Aw2pp, who just can't help himself sometimes

Friday, May 14, 2010

Le Onde - Behind the Tapestry (way too long)

The old adage holds in many ways. Focus on the finished product, because you may be better off not knowing about the bits and pieces and effort that went into it. "Don't see how sausage is made" says Life's Little Instruction Book. By the same token, stay out of the kitchen of your favorite restaurant. Don't turn the tapestry over and look at the chaos on the backside. The work that goes into publishing a book, creating commercial software, a dance recital, building a house... all very messy, and all very tedious. And, when done well, all completely transparent, hidden by the excellence of the finished product.

Those of you who think my Le Onde recording is wonderful and seamless (hi family!) should probably skip the rest of this post. Fact is, I spent a cool 5 months working on this piece. Hard work. Even now, when I play it, my mind is completely atwitter with specific thoughts relevant to where I'm at. The rest of this post will attempt to capture most of those.

First, a comment on the specific recital recording itself. In the end, I had the choice of two imperfect recordings. Recording A was recorded a week or so ago, at a time I wasn't even really intending to make a recording. And it had some awful, obvious errors on both the front and back halves. I kept it, though, because when I listened to it afterward, I was very impressed with how well the subtle things were done. More on those shortly. For now, consider recording A to be the figure skater who fell on her triple axle, and two-footed a landing late in her performance, but scored well on what those judges call "artistic impression".

Recording B was flawed in less obvious, less subtle ways. There was a pause here and a flub there, but it was overall cleaner than Recording B. And it was recorded later, just after a lesson. In listening to it, it was less polished, but had nothing major going against it... nothing that I couldn't live without. This is the figure skater who landed all her jumps, but scored lower for reasons known only to the Illuminati who judge the sport.

Of course you know I went with Recording B, even if I have a slight preference for the more imperfect, but subtly superior version. Both of them are good, though, and represent quality takes of which I'm proud.

Here is what goes through my head when I play this. I hope, by capturing this stuff here and sharing it with foisting it upon y'all, it might begin to clear my mind of all this clutter, so I can just play music come Live! In Person! recital time. Let me know if this sort of thing happens to you. That might help.

  • First 12 seconds - Keep the tempo even here. Build from soft to medium loud with each measure. (This "build" command repeats itself through the music for every LH pass. It's my attempt to create the wavelike feel.)
  • "We're not at the beach yet, but we can hear it off in the distance."
  • Measure 5, Starting at 12 seconds - RH melody kicks in. It must overcome the LH, and yet, decay, medium to soft, with every measure. In addition, the melody (the higher notes) must be accented over the secondary notes. This is crucial. Finally, the last dotted half of the passage (the first of which occurs at the 18 second mark) needs to be lightly accented, and MUST occur exactly the moment the corresponding LH note hits. (This is what makes the note sing, as Denis was asking.)
  • Measure 15 (30 seconds) - Start building volume. The increase from piano to mezzoforte in 4 measures is more sudden than you think. Don't be afraid to be too loud there, you'll quiet down quickly thereafter.
  • Measure 20 (38 seconds) - And the reverse is true here. I had more trouble with the gradual diminuendo than the gradual crescendo, for some reason.
  • "We're at the beach, and the tide is coming in, albeit very gradually."
  • Measure 25 (45 seconds) - Starting a new theme here. Still piano. Resist the powerful temptation to rush this section.
  • Measure 28 (51 seconds) - Crescendo, but then immediately dip back to piano. I never quite pull this off.
  • Measure 31 (55 seconds) - Since you were back to piano, crescendo again. The music calls for a slight allargando (something of a reduction in tempo), but Einaudi himself doesn't seem to do this here in any of the recordings I have. Either way, I usually forget this, because, as you see, there is a bunch of other stuff going on in my head by this point.
  • Measure 33 (59 seconds) - Repeating the second theme. Supposedly, we're beginning mezzopiano this time (as opposed to piano the first time around), but that didn't leave me enough room to crescendo in the upcoming measures. So in practice, I typically begin this second theme softly, and build. Speaking of which...
  • Measure 35 (1:03) - Start building the volume, so that you're blasting away by the time you get to measure 39.
  • "The waves are building. The tide is reaching its peak."
  • Measure 39 (1:09) - Loud here. Accent that first note, and the first one in measure 40, then quickly soften to piano, to increase the contrast with the next section. Big slowdown, too, for exactly the same reason.
  • Measure 41 (1:12) - Play this relaxed, but as loud as you can without making errors. Save the ferocity for later. Don't rush.
  • Measure 44 (1:18) - That LH D needs to be crushed to get the proper accent. The RH D needs to be subtle, because it's contrast with everything else that is going on is enough to bring proper attention to it.
  • Measure 47 (1:22) - Quick reduction in volume and tempo, followed by an equally quick rebuild.
  • Measure 55 (1:35) - Start quieting down. In a few measures, you'll have a quick build, then back to almost nothing.
  • "The tide, having reached its max, begins to recede here."
  • Measure 59 (1:41) - It's ok to be very quiet here. We need the contrast with what's coming up. Don't crescendo, stay quiet. (Note, I usually always crescendo here anyway.)
  • Measure 63 (1:45) - Loud. Accent the LH firmly at the beginning of each measure here. The RH is a tie; as much as you want to hit that D again, DON'T!
  • "The tide has gone out. The beach is very quiet."
  • Measure 64 (1:49) - Key measure. Einaudi calls for una corda, but wait until you hit that first note, then push the pedal. Regain the tempo and don't let it drag. Be smooth. Though we're supposed to be piano here, the LH tends to drown out the RH if you let it. Don't.
  • Measure 73 (2:05) - Slow down, then pause. Create the impression that the piece might end here. That would be confusing, because we've not resolved anything.
  • Measure 74 (2:08) - Hanging just briefly on the pause, start anew. There should be a sense of relief here.
Ok, we're halfway through. And let me answer your question: "Yes, absolutely, every single one of these thoughts, and likely more, pour through my head every time I play this." It's a mess, and I'm thisclose to thinking something is wrong with me. But hey, maybe everybody goes through this? Or maybe the secret to playing this well is emptying your mind of these distractions? How do you get to that place?

At any rate, the second half of Le Onde is very similar to the first, and as such, most of the same thoughts run through my head. I'll be briefer now, detailing only the changes for the second half. There aren't many, but they are important.

  • Measure 90 (2:36) - Constantly coming back to B on the LH creates significant tension here. Don't let that affect you. The tension is for those who are hearing the music, not you.
  • "The tide is coming back in. But it's different this time. Are those storm clouds?"
  • Measure 101 (2:54) - Finally, the LH moves off that B onto a D, releasing the tension. Everything feels familiar now, with the exception of those disconcerting pauses (measure 108, 117).
  • "Yes, it is a storm."
  • Measure 126 (3:36) - Blast away. When you went through this section the first time, you were loud, but relaxed. No need for that now. The music calls for ferocity here, even if my recording doesn't sufficiently convey that. So be it. Einaudi's recordings don't, either.
  • Measures 147 - 149 (4:08) - The entire piece builds to these measures. Hammer the accents. This time, that RH is NOT a tie, so hit that D again in 148 with everything you've got. As before, hit the first note in 149 before deploying the una corda.
  • Measures 153 to the end - I had quite a bit of trouble with this page. My saving grace is that Einaudi plays these measures slowly and carefully, so I did, too.
  • "The storm is passed, the tide is going out, the beach is quiet again."
Anyway, thanks for reading this far. Live recital is in three weeks.

- Aw2pp, who feels like going out and running a 5k about now, even though he hates running.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Le Onde - Final Take

(Two posts in one day? Blogger overload. I may have to take a day off tomorrow.)

As I said earlier, today is / was piano lesson day. I stumbled my way through Night Song in Alfred's... that is MUCH harder than I thought it would be, and it will need another week before we move on to Hava Nagila. Then I launched into Le Onde. It was pretty good... not perfect, but good. I told her I was trying to put together a good recording for the ABF Recital (a concept that still mystifies her, by the way... online recitals?) And that it would be nice if I could put together perfect recording, but also that I'd come around to the idea that "good" is good enough.

She said something she'd said before: "It's good enough. Don't try to improve it. You may improve it, but not by trying. Strive for excellence, which is much more attainable and worthwhile than perfection."

I got home, pushed the record button, and five minutes later, ended up with this. Hope you like it. It's good enough. Imperfect, yes, but good enough. More thoughts on it later this week (as you've come to expect from me). link to a recording of Le Onde I'll be submitting as my recital piece

- Aw2pp, goat rodeo clown.

Aw2pp overcome by Red Dot Fever

I have a piano lesson in 29 minutes. Was just playing my recital piece, and played the first half, even three-fourths so well that... it made me nervous. I was thinking, "Wow, this is really something here..." And of course, that took my mind off what I was doing, and I made a fatal error. Recording over.

But I'm telling you, for the first 3 or 4 minutes, it was some seriously good music.

Back to it. Thought I'd share that with you on this slow afternoon.

- Aw2pp, who will now get back on that horse and try again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

ABF Recital Submission update

I have a recording I could live with. In some respects, I am pleasantly surprised by it. But it has four fairly egregious errors, and since I still have a few days left, I'm trying to see if I can improve on it.

- Aw2pp, who understands that the answer to the question "Is it Opposite Day?" is always, always, "No."

Friday, May 7, 2010

Still open for biz

We're still here. Lots going on these days, so please accept my apologies for relative blogger silence. Upcoming posts:

  • Bessie lives
  • ABF Recital Submission
  • Jason loves baseball and other kid stuff
- Aw2pp, who understands that Dung Beetles never had a choice in the matter.