Daphnis Redux-when is it ME and when is it the instrument?
So I thought some of you migth be interested in more news about the picc part to Daphnis in case any of you ever have to confront it. And I mean confront it!
Progress had been really slow for me despite many many hours of practice… so I finally realized that maybe it wasn’t actually me who was at fault. I think most of us musicians always assume that if we don’t make progress on a passage in an orchestra ….or any other part/piece for that matter….. that it must be US who is at fault. And surely, in fact, most of the time it really is our fault and NOT the instrument. However……. just as I often ask my students in a lesson where they are stuggling with something week after week … “when have you last had your flute looked at by a repairman”?….. sometimes it really helps to have your instrument looked at if you simply cannot make progress after significant practice on something. For…..In some cases… it may not really be you afterall….
In fact… in one of my orchestral excerpt books…. (in regard to piccoli….as opposed to “piccolos” ….often players have not just more than one piccolo head joint… they also often have more than one piccolo……) it really states that if none of these fingerings works on your instrument…. TRY A DIFFERENT PICCOLO!
So…. dear readers…. that is precisely what I just did. I tried a new headjoint.
And happily I can now announce… as Robert Frost so elegantly says in his famous Poem” Stopping in the Woods”… etc…. “it has made all the difference!”
My piccolo original headjoint.. though it is lovely and very good and I still like it… just doesn’t respond quickly to fast high register articulation… and consequently the famous piccolo passage which ….btw is always on orchestral auditions for piccolo at m. 183 in the Daphnis picc part …..simply was not getting any better….. to my frustration and the conductors’…..so off I went to the piccolo factory ( which I am fortunate to live near ….as one of my former teachers once famously told me….. that living in the Boston area was like living in the center of the flute universe!) and much to my husband’s frustration…. “Oh no!!! Not yet another piece of flute equipment”!!!!! Have procured myself a second piccolo headjoint…. which DOES allow me to play that passage much ,much better.
It is of course not just the piccolo… but of course also me… but to be fair… the former picc headjoint simply was not helping me achiveve my goal. Perhaps another better player might have been able to work with it and make it play … but the key point here is that FOR ME… it just wasn’t right …. and I finally realized that it was just not working.
I think the moral of this sotry is that as we get better, our equipment needs often change… and sometimes we literally outgrow our flutes/piccolos etc. And what worked before simply doesn’t work any more.( or we are confronted with a more difficult piece?)
Tranlated to students and student flutes….I think this means that if you can’t make any progress on a difficult passage after a reasonable amount of time and serious hard work… it may be time to take your instrument to the repairman and have it checked out for leaks or any other malfunction. Sometimes it really is NOT you( or us) but it is the instrument.
And tranlated to us professionals…. the moral for me is that this is the first time I have been confronted with a piccolo part as hard as Daphnis since I first entered the profession many years ago and had to learn the famous opera piccolo part to Verdi’s “Othello” in two weeks for a performance with the NJ State Opera Orchestra at Symphony Hall in Newark NJ …and thus now it seems that my current piccolo headjoint…. which worked fine for Mahler’s “Das Lied” two years ago simply was…. and is not up to playing Daphnis.
So….Sometimes it is us….. and sometimes it actually is not! At least… that is my conculsion at this point…. so stay tuned…. we shall see if in fact I can play it better at my next rehearsal and/or the actual concert……..I will let you all know soon enough.