December 2012 Volume 11 Issue 2 Published by the Music Undergraduate Studentsâ€™ Association www.mcgillmusa.com
Photo by Jordan Miller, U0 Classical Bass Faculty Hamilton, ON
Table of Contents Editorial The Return of Soundgarden McGill Booking Office A Problem with Concert Halls Sudoku Interview with Philip Chiu On Being a Musician Interview with Eric Abramovitz Review of Handel’s “Rinaldo” Practice Room Maintenance Recipes
...3 ...3 ...4 ...5 ...5 ...6 ...7 ...8 ...9 ...10 ...11
VP Internal Affairs: Nancy Zhang U1 Flute Music Ed firstname.lastname@example.org
VP External Affairs: Katie Larson U3 Voice Faculty email@example.com
VP Publicity: Lorraine Rigden U4 Sax Music Ed firstname.lastname@example.org
VP Finance: Adora Wong U2 Violin Performance email@example.com
VP Administration: Sarah Aleem U4 Piano Performance firstname.lastname@example.org
VP Academic: Gwenyth Epstein U2 Sax Music Ed email@example.com
Music Senator: Andrew Boudreau U3 Jazz Piano Performance firstname.lastname@example.org
First-Year Representative: Thomas Burton U0 Trombone Faculty
VP Recreation: Bruno Roy U2 Voice Performance email@example.com
Athletics & Health Coordinator: Diana Farnand U1 Flute Performance firstname.lastname@example.org
Editorial Winter break is so close, I can smell it.
the deadline! Having all submissions in more, and then we’ll be home with otha timely fashion makes my life so much er people to take care of us for a change. easier. Hang in there.
Provost Anthony Masi recently visited a MUSA meeting and shared with us the university’s plan to continue its commitment to being a “research-intensive, student-centered university.” While he admitted that the “student-centered” part of that statement can always use improvement, we have some control over it too. Support your colleagues and friends in these last few stressful weeks of term. Make the time to go to chamber music and orchestra concerts. Take a break from practicing to have hot chocolate and cookies with a friend. We’re all Many, many thanks to my indispen- in this together, and if we offer support sable Phonograph editors who helped then we often find we’ll receive it too. me get this issue out on time and make it through this semester in one piece The semester is almost over! It seems (hopefully I’m not speaking too soon). impossible that it could have gone by so Thank you also to those who contributed quickly, and yet I feel like I’ve been here for sharing your work, and for meeting together. We can all make it a few weeks Literally. I just ate my third clementine of the day. Nothing says “holidays” to me like the smell of a freshly peeled satsuma. It calls to mind fires in the fireplace, fat cats who don’t mind being used as pillows, the luxury to stay in stupid-looking flannel pajamas all day, heart-stoppingly buttery cookies, reading books for fun, snowstorms, Doctor Who triumphing over aliens...in case you couldn’t tell, i’m just as ready for this break as you are.
The Return of Soundgarden! Matt Horrigan
If you've ever listened to a rock radio station for more than about twenty consecutive minutes, then you most likely have at least a passing familiarity with the groovy/haunting/silkysmooth/crazy-mosh-inducing auditory world of Soundgarden. I mean, you don't even have to have heard the band to feel their grooves: this is the group that taught the entire postgrunge movement roughly 100% of what it knows about rock'n'roll, which sums to about 0.05% of what Nickelback could have learned had they listened a little harder. So when Soundgarden sprang back to life two years ago, I was so excited that I ran out and volunteered for the Ottawa Bluesfest just so I could see them in their first month of resurrection. And while two years is kind of a long wait for the resulting album, King Animal, just might be good enough that I'll forgive them for all that guitar-hero marketing crap. "Been Gone for Too Long", the aptly-titled
obvious choice for album-opener and lead single, presents our heros as the long-lost remedy for some sort of dastardly affliction. Judging by the current state of popular music, and the sheer driving-ness of this beat, I can't help but agree.
Erica Jacobs-Perkins Editor-in-Chief B.Mus. Violin Performance; B.A. English Literature, Biology Minor email@example.com◊
"Blood on the Valley Floor" is pretty straightforward, rhythmically speaking, allowing the (rabid) listener to devote extra attention to the blues-with-less-blues-andmore-distortion sumptuousness of the guitar line. Also those looking for a truly magisterial chorus need journey no further than the fifty "Non-State Actor" revels in the kind of direct seconds into this beast of a track. political commentary I would have suspected from almost anyone else. Fortunately, "Bones of Birds" demonstrates that a 7/4 Soundgarden rocks about politics like they backbeat can, in the hands (and feet) of rock about everything else: better than the drummer Matt Cameron, feel comfortable. competition. The fact that they were making Better than that, actually; it takes some real angsty music when the members of Green concentration to perceive the strangeness of Day were in their terrible twos also goes some this rhythm. Herein lies one major difference distance to capture the elusive beast known as between Soundgarden and Tool: Tool takes The Credible Political Song. simple beats and makes them mind-boggling (that is, when they're not taking mind-boggling After a couple of deliberately sloppily-produced beats and making them mind-boggling). false starts, "By Crooked Steps" leaps from the Soundgarden makes the alien sound like home. speakers with guitarist Kim Thayil's latest take on the trademark riff he first unleashed on the Seems like I've spent so much time obsessing world in "Spoonman". While many subsequent over the beatz that I've forgotten to talk about redeployments have dulled the edge of this Chris Cornell's voice. No longer. The album's particular hook, the rest of the band's sturdy 7th track, "Taree," compels me to mention commitment to "coming up with new stuff" our beloved frontman's newfound sense of once again ensures that Thayil's latest exercise in crooning-ness. This is something that seems self-quotation steers clear(ish) of redundancy. to have manifested itself as a direct result of Cornell's rather wacky solo career. Good to "A Thousand Days Before" sees the band hear that all that listening to his own voice has sounding a lot like their influencees Thornley finally paid off. and The Tea Party. But who knew that a riff could be seething and upbeat at the same time? "Attrition" is three minutes of straight up rock, stripped to its bare, scarred-but-still-gleefully-
dancing-about bones. Also, "ooh-ooh" backing vocals. Dave Grohl might write something like this on a very, very good day, but on King Animal this track actually seems pretty ordinary. I have to say I don't like track 9. A lot of grunge bands seem to have this weird compulsion to include a strange sort-of-acoustic track on otherwise great albums, and, well, for King Animal, "Black Saturday" is it. Well, okay, it's a tad more interesting that “When the Sun rose Again” by Alice in Chains, or Black Sabbath's "Caravan." It has (yipe!) horn shots, after all. By track 10, "Halfway There," I'm halfway to getting really irritated with this whole acoustic-verse schtick. But I guess it's still halfway working, or at least the band's warm 'n’ wonderful harmonies are making up for whatever sappiness the guit-box brings to the mix. Aaaand just like that we're back to electric-land, in fine dissonant style. Cornell takes his cue from Tool's Maynard Keenan here, singing a nearmonotone vocal line which forces us to grasp at Thayil's coy, sinuous guitar figures to lead us out of the rhythmic labyrinth. "Eyelids Mouth" is the album's black sheep. Perhaps the rest of the band shouldn't have let Matt Cameron abscond with a microphone, and, umm, Cornell take the guitar solo.... more than a little "Hey dude, why don't I do your thing and you do something else?" going on here... "Rowing" is just not that inspired either. While the bubbling bass line and sizzling drum-production must have seemed like a good wordpainting idea, what they actually do is make sure we can hear Cornell's every syllable as he demonstrates exactly how far one needs to overextend a metaphor before it becomes, uh, overextended. The bass line is fun, though. And that's how the album ends. "What?" you say? "Wouldn't this have been an ideal moment to include that super-duper hunk of catchiness they churned out for the Avengers soundtrack?” And that's where copyright informs you that such a gesture would be ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE! If you want THAT song you have to buy it SEPARATELY! Which is why we're left with one of those lame-ass album endings where some producer mixed twelve-thirteenths of the record, reached into the audio bin one last time all like "man, there's gotta be, like, one more good song in here..." and came up with a bunch of proverbial crumbs. It's not the world's first front-loaded record, and it won't be the last. But if you want to do yourself a favor, buy tracks 1 through 11, go into Audacity and put like a fade out or something on "Worse Dreams", and pretend the album ends there. But I think I've become distracted from my main point, which is: SOUNDGARDEN, everybody! They're still alive! They're making music! Listen to it! Revel in its glory! Savor this one last bit of grungy grit before the apocalypse rips us all from the mortal coil in a flurry of undeserved smiting! As for myself, I know the world's still spinning as long as there are guitarwielding heroes (real ones, not the wannabes bragging about their expert-level adeptness at "Through Fire and Flames"...) to keep it that way.◊
The Booking Office:
an Interview with Alexis Carter Erica Jacobs-Perkins
How can students get their names on the Booking Office email list? Students can come by our office in E301 and fill out a sign-up form available on the bulletin board. Just fill one out and place it in the clear envelope labeled "Pick-Up/Drop-Off". Announcements for events will be sent to the email you have indicated on the slip of paper. What kinds of events does the Booking Office handle (one-time things, long-term jobs, or both)? The Booking Office handles a wide variety of bookings for our musicians. Our largest number of events are ‘one-offs’ (weddings, cocktail parties, birthday parties). We also send out advertisements and announcements on behalf of organizations looking to directly hire musicians or for people seeking private teachers. * The office does monitor the emails sent out to the musicians. Volunteer opportunities or other professionally questionable offers are filtered to our best ability. Who can have their names on the Booking Office list? Our mandate is to provide students with professional development experience through work as a musician with clients for events. Priority goes to students in good standing in the Performance Department as well as students in other degree programs that have faculty approval to work as a musician for the Booking Office. Musicians are only allowed to register on the list for instruments that they are being instructed on at the Schulich School of Music, since we do not have faculty approval of a musician’s skill on other instruments. Who hires through the Booking Office and how do they hear about it? We have a considerable number of internal requests for musician bookings; the University loves having their own students to perform for their events. Sometimes, performance opportunities come up in other cities across Canada and the US; our office relies on our network of current and alumni musicians to fill these opportunities. We also have a large number of organisations and individuals in the Montreal community that use our office regularly and refer us to their friends and colleagues. Clients such as the Musée des beaux-arts and the Palais des congrès hire our musicians frequently, as do many of the wedding and party venues around the city (Birks Heritage Chapel, Chateau Vaudreuil, Sofitel, etc.). We also have countless clients that book for events in their homes and restaurants across the city. Wordof mouth is very important for our office (as well as the reputation of the school) and proves to be our main advertising method. If there’s an event I’m interested in, how do I follow up to get it? What is the procedure after that? Once you are on the Booking Office mailing list, you will receive the event emails applicable to your instrument. No need to follow up. If you have been selected for an event, you will hear within 24 to 48 hours from the time the call-out ad was sent. The email will detail paper-work requirements and logistical details for the gig, as well as the client’s contact information. Due to the number of responses for any given event and the limited amount of administrative support we have in the office, we are unable to respond to everyone who will not be assigned an event, but we are sure to confirm with any musician that has been assigned an event. As a lead musician on an event you are responsible for all organizational arrangements once the contract has been issued to you and failure to appropriately follow-through on
any event can result in a temporary or permanent removal from the list of Booking Office musicians. How much lead time is there usually between hearing about a gig and having to play for it? It really varies. Some clients plan well in advance (e.g. - around three months in advance) and have everything ready so that the office can assign musicians to an event well in advance. Sometimes lastminute requests come in and expedient responses are necessary in these cases we often have to implement “First come, first served” assignment procedures. Be sure to check your emails regularly, have your paperwork taken care of (contract, payroll information etc.), get in contact with the client and discuss details with them (attire, venue, repertoire, special religious or traditional information when applicable). The Booking Office is a good opportunity to begin working as a freelance musician in a protected environment, gain professional experience, and build a network in the Montreal area. It is also a way for students to make an impression, demonstrate professionalism (on emails, correspondence with clients and potential employers), and build their real-world ‘chops.’◊
A Problem with Concert Halls David Endemann
Last week was the first time in a long time- really, a tragically long time- that I went to a concert I actually enjoyed. The program consisted of one piece: Morton Feldman’s Piano and String Quartet, which is a continuous ninety minutes played very quietly with almost no dynamic changes. I went with a friend, who brought his copy of the score. It was a free concert at Christ Church Cathedral (on University and St. Catherine), and I would guess that there were about twenty other people there, a number that dwindled as the piece went on until there were only about ten people present for the last bar of music. I suppose that for a lot of people, including musicians, it might be difficult to enjoy a composition of such alien aesthetic, so I can’t really blame anyone for walking out after a half-hour or an hour, but I was transfixed the whole time. Somehow, these five local musicians were creating a sound that gripped me, engaged me, even moved me more just by playing these quiet, slow sonorities in a church than Alan Gilbert could with the New York Philharmonic playing Mahler’s Symphony no. 5 last year. That really shouldn’t be, should it? I suppose I’m growing quite tired of the sameness of so many classical concerts. Most programs don’t really venture too far beyond 1920, and when they do, it’s often just with a single contemporary to fill the gap between Mozart and Beethoven. Concerts, it seems to me, are always the same music in the same halls with the same expectations of silent audience-rapture. If I want to listen to any Mahler symphony, I don’t need to go to a crowded concert hall with uncomfortable seats and a self-important conductor; I can find excellent performances for free online and enjoy them however I wish in the comfort of my home. The atmosphere surrounding classical concerts gives me almost no reason at all to attend them. I don’t mean to imply that a recording is just as good as a live performance. I mean to say that everything negative about classical concerts overpowers the beauty of an actual performance. For instance, there is something unnatural about sitting in a crowded
space and having to pretend that you’re alone. Everyone in the hall should be having some kind of reaction to what they’re hearing, and it’s bizarre to think that we can’t share it with each other until it’s over. I see no harm being done to a performance of Bruckner if some people talk quietly to each other while it’s being played. The audience can talk at almost every other sort of concert, yet it is taboo in a concert hall. The insistence that the audience stay seated the whole time is another grievance of mine. I often feel captive in my seat, and sometimes I pay more attention to my watch than to the concert; my applause often has less to do with the music just heard and more to do with relief that the music is finally over. A restless audience is going to be an unappreciative one. And this is a small gripe, but it seems absurd to hold your applause until a piece is over. To applaud between movements is to present yourself as uncultured and ignorant, and to applaud during movements is unforgivably heinous. Applause should be an expression of genuine appreciation, not a ritualized display of awe for an arcane art. These practices make a fetish out of formality. Almost no one seems to be having fun on stage, and even fewer people in the audience are. I suspect that more people would come to love classical music if it wasn’t presented with such awe and reverence, and was instead simply treated as beautiful music. My favourite places to play are cafés and bars. The first time my quartet ventured out of the concert hall, I was surprised by how well our reluctant audience received us, even when we would perform music by the polystylistic 20th century composer Alfred Schnittke and the like. And I think they enjoy it there because they’re free from the masochism that is ‘going to the concert hall’. People like good music, no matter what the genre is. But if you tell them that they can only hear it on your terms, they aren’t going to come to your shows. ◊
Interview With Chiu, Pianist
Among McGill music students, the enigmatic pianist Philip Chiu is nothing short of legendary for his phenomenal abilities as an accompanist. Not only is his playing impeccable, but his valuable insight about musical collaboration and interpretation invariably enhances the musical experience and leaves students with important new ideas to ponder over. However, what many students do not know is that Phil is also a formidable soloist- as demonstrated by a recent solo performance of Bach and Chopin at La Chapelle St. Louis. Further discussion with Phil reveals a truly multifaceted musician whose career has taken him in some interesting directions; given his angst-filled beginnings, his ascent to a busy and diverse career is all the more remarkable. Phil was kind enough to share his story and experience with me over a tasty breakfast of bacon and eggs.
do it, and so we wrote to her and asked if I could audition…I went in and I played, and was accepted. And what this [program] was was more intensive theory classes, lessons with a great teacher there, chamber music… And it was really this experience that changed my life.” Phil munches thoughtfully on a piece of bacon while he relives the moment of realization. “I went there and realized, oh man- there are kids half my age who play eight times better than me- like, in front of me, not just a kid on Youtube… There were kids my age or older, doing what I was doing- but I just saw that they loved it so much. I mean at this point I didn’t love what I was doing- I just thought it was interesting. I had no kind of passion or drive… I also began playing chamber music- it introduced me to this idea that as a pianist we could still play music with other people. I had no idea- you know, you grow up in a piano studio… you have class concerts, but you never play with anybody else- it’s so lonely as a young pianist. “So really, it began to make me ask a lot of questions about myself; it took me down eighty notches in whatever I thought I was, as a pianist… it was a humbling experience, in so many ways.” Phil then explains how he went on to do his undergrad at the Glenn Gould School in Toronto, and then pursue a master’s degree at the University of Montreal under Marc Durand. From there, as Phil sums it up nicely: “And then, I started working.”
Humble Beginnings “So I started piano at the tender age of about six… I think I started because my brother was taking lessons- I just wanted to do whatever my brother was doing. I went on until I was about twelve or thirteen, and then I was adamant about quitting… I hated practicing, I mean I just grew to hate it more and more.”
First Gigs “My very first professional experiences as a student were when I was doing background music. At that point, I could sight read relatively well, and I also thought it would be a great experience- a great way to just do sight reading under a minimal amount of pressure… I just started doing a ton of those gigs- everything that you could imagine.
I’m sure many readers can identify with this. Eventually, Phil’s pentup rage reached a breaking point and exploded spectacularly:
“Basically, I was supporting myself after my first year of my bachelor’s- and I did everything… I was doing telemarketing- which is terrible- and then eventually I went into bartending. I think it was while bartending- mostly private parties and events- where I saw musicians actually doing things.”
“So at the age of thirteen, after trying to ask my dad to quit- I think on a tearful day- I ripped up my books, and I told him ‘I’m not doing this anymore!’ and my dad, being the good father that he is, he taped all my books back together and he said that I would- he told me that I would continue until I got my ARCT. So… I didn’t argue anymore, and I continued. But I was doing nothing more than what was required of me, you know what I mean? I think I was the typical, if not more exceptionally lazy student. The only thing that motivated me as a child was doing competitions because I liked performing- that was the only thing I liked about music, because I liked performing if not practicing to get better at performing.” The Revelation “And then about halfway through high school, my teacher entered me in Kiwanis again- and this year I went to provincials in Ontario. And there was this adjudicator there named Jenny Regehr who my dad really really liked. I think my dad knew all along- I think he had this ingenious plan that I would eventually succeed in music. My dad has a great amount of faith in me, which is really great- it’s gotten me very far. So there was a master class after the competition and I decided to play for it… We looked into it a bit and it turns out Regehr was teaching in Toronto at this academy- the Young Artists Performance Academy which is part of the Royal Conservatory. It was a weekend program where quote on quote ‘gifted’ students from wherever they could come would come... [My dad] asked me if I was interested…and for whatever sets of reasons- I was. The rest of my education was very normal: I went to public school- you know, Catholic school- normal high school, never did anything kind of crazy… I certainly had no idea what would happen- what my next plan might be. So we decided to
Legendary Accompanist “The other professional side of things was doing collaborative work at my school- being paid by other students or by the school to do accompaniment. By my last year in Toronto I was doing a fair bit of work accompanying… That summer I was at Orford doing a summer program with my teacher- and I met André Roy, the viola prof [at McGill]. Once I’d moved to Montreal, I wasn’t working very much- but I actually felt super useless not working at all. So I approached André one day and said ‘hey listen, I’m looking for work in the city, if there’s anything at McGill I’d really appreciate it if you could let me know.’ And he told me that as it happened, two accompanists had just left so there was a big hole- so if I was interested, he could probably get start to get me work. “And he fulfilled his promise, tenfold… He got me almost immediately accompanying his whole studio- and from there, it cascaded. There really was a hole, and when I stepped in to fill it- all the dirt fell on top of me. So I threw myself into accompanying, and I took it pretty seriously- I would say I worked extremely hard at it, and still do. I just found myself really getting into it- and it was great to find recognition and success doing something instead of slogging away in your practice room hoping to be recognized.” Career Path “Certainly for the past five or six years I’ve just been letting things come. No doubt about it, I’ve been extremely lucky with the way things have fallen onto my lap- whether it was meeting Janelle [Fung] and form-
ing our Fung-Chiu piano duo… to when Jonathan Crow asked me to do that [Schubert] recording… I’ve been very fortunate in that I’ve been working hard, but I wasn’t doing that much actively to create my own opportunities; this something I'm very much trying to change now. “I see myself as trying to be the most versatile pianist possible, in the classical realm. I had definitely, without aiming, to been pigeonholing myself into the collaborative role, as an accompanist…and at the end of the day I realized how much I miss doing solo playing and chamber music at a professional level, and now I’m trying to tilt the balance back more evenly. In terms of the future, it’s just trying to be the most flexible, adaptable pianist I can be and doing everything at the highest level- and trying to do as much for the next generation of musicians as possible.” Role Models/Inspiration “I wish I could tell you about all the times I’ve screwed up- I mean the only reason I’ve gotten better at what I do… is that I’ve screwed up so many times along the way and I’ve only been lucky to have people A) who are forgiving, B) who are willing to teach me the lesson. “I would say that my idols are the people-like my teacher, Marc Durand, and Jenny [Regher]- in the business who are willing to so freely give their knowledge in the pursuit of developing not only as good musicians but as good human beings. Those are the kinds of people I admire. “As far as inspiration goes, anything that opens up your imaginationfrom the utter sublime to the super cheesy- everything can have an impact on what inspires you musically... Everything from videogames to dance to literature… I don’t think one should limit oneself. [Students] often see music as so removed from all these other things… a so abstract thing that sometimes they don’t really realize what it means to make connections between [music] and the rest of life… Everything inspires me one way or another.” Advice? “Don’t avoid your weaknesses. Be humble about them, be open about them so that you can improve on them… You have to sit down and strategize how you’re going to work them out… If you have a problem with something, create a plan for how you’re going to approach it. BE METHODICAL. “Other things I would say… If you want something, go for it- ask for it… Put [your] stuff on the table and say ‘listen, this is what I have to offer’ and be willing to accept a no. If the odds are against you, you still have nothing to lose- so why not go for those odds?” Afterthoughts As we wrap up the interview, I ask Phil about his favorite places to eat in Montreal and his favorite television shows. After reflecting briefly, Phil solemnly informs me that his restaurants of preference are Leméac (“the after-ten-o’clock menu is the best deal in town”), Aux Vivres, and the Piri Piri chicken place on Mont-Royale. TV shows? Arrested Development, Family Guy, American Dad, and Dragon’s Den.
Philip Chiu is a Montreal-based pianist born in Hong Kong and raised in Ontario. As both a soloist and one of Canada's “most sought-after chamber musicians,” Phil has performed and toured extensively with various colleagues including violinist Andrew Wan of the OSM and with pianist Janelle Fung as part of the Fung-Chiu Duo. Recent projects include a tour with Debut Atlantic alongside cellist Genevieve Guimond, another Debut Atlantic tour with violinist Boson Mo, recording an album of Schubert duos with violinist Jonathan Crow of the TSO, and Philip’s Salle Bourgie début in Montréal. Philip can be heard on Classical 96.3 FM, CBC Radio, and Radio-Canada.◊
On being a star-struck, bright-eyed Musician Sahara von Hattenberger
What is being a musician? And what in the right mind posesses talented young people of my generation to reject the proposition of pursuing a degree in something technical, reasonable and “intelligent” that would probably reap more rewards for less effort? Is it a romantic notion of creating something beautiful, doing what you love, or is it a hopeless cry of the ego, a will to prove oneself, to be a star, to transcend everyday life with art, something that only ocurrs in glimpses?... Alas, those are the painfully brief moments that musicians strive for. And among the shiny halls and crowded hallways of the music building I hear the catch phrase everywhere I go; “I have to practise”. Like a mantra, a chant, or the musician’s version of 50 “Hail Mary”s, it seems to be unavoidable. “I can’t, I must practise”, says the friend asked if she wants to go for tea. “I didn’t practise enough today,” says the other. Some try to practise their fingering for a sonata in history class on their forearm. And so off they will go, to the dusty practise rooms, cheap coffee in hand and a mission to accomplish. Separate from the rest of the school, which is in tip-top shape, the practise rooms are verging on decrepit. Doorhandles are often missing, fluorescent lights flicker dangerously, inappropriate doodles peek out at you from the painted white walls, and wainscoting falls from the trim around the windows. Your moment of glory is during a concert, on a stage. No one thinks of caring for the practise rooms because it is the “ugly” “backstage” part of making music. The musicians themselves however, must acknowledge the fact that the most beautiful music is very often made in the practise rooms, when ones mind and heart is free from the prying eyes of strangers and no nervousness stands in the way of true expression. And many of the finest musicians of the school spend more than half of their lives in these rooms, and will continue to practise for hours every day for the rest of their lives, stretching the capabilities and endurance of their minds and bodies to its very limit. When I told my old teacher back home I wanted to study cello performance at McGill, he looked grimly at me and said: “What we do is more challenging than being a lawyer, a physicist, you name it. But society doesn’t recognize that. And neither does your paycheck. However, I am truly happy and I wouldn’t give up my music for anything.” Another musician I knew before I moved to Montreal, a composer and jazz violinist, once complained to me about the audience not being appreciative of what he does. I questioned his bitterness. “Music chose me!” He cried, “I never had a choice!” At first I didn’t get what he meant. What made me different, I thought, was my decision to make music my life. Then again, had it really been my idea after all? I winced at the thought of ever growing resentful like my middle-aged friend. Since I arrived here I have been enthralled by the sea of characters that ooze around me in every class and rehearsal I have. Despite
their range of backgrounds, I realized they all had something in common. A world view, perhaps. Think of an engineering student. Or an accountant. Maybe you are studying one of these fields yourself. These are the people who make a civilized life possible. They go to work everyday and keep the city humming. But what truly touches the soul? What makes life itself worth living? Cuisine, film, art, dance, spectacle, beauty, entertainment. These are the things that makes one happy, the way to put the puzzle pieces together. These are all labours of love, and if they did not exist, the subways that take you to work would not be worth building, the life you live would not be worth living, and the world you know would not be worth running at all. Because whether or not you are a musician, we all live for those moments of true profundity, joy, release, and ecstasy that only art of an almost transcendental quality can bring us. In short, the people I’ve befriended here at the Schulich school of music seem to be the kind of people who recognize the true importance of making this world beautiful. And by being the creators of art, of this loveliness, we are acting as the glue that holds everything together. ◊
young age… We’d get into a lot of fights, I would cry a lot… But looking back now I’m definitely thankful that she did that because it instilled discipline in me… “I went to just a normal, public high school on the West side of Montreal… I was always doing music – [but] music was never a part of school until I got to CEGEP and then university, I was just doing it with a private teacher… While I was in high school, I did the McGill Conservatory exams- and before I went to CEGEP I was in the Montreal Youth Symphony Orchestra.” CEGEP and McGill After graduating from his “normal, public high school,” Eric went on to pursue further studies at Marianopolis College, which was a decidedly interesting (and brief) experience. “I attended CEGEP for one year, and I guess you could say I dropped out. The program I’m in here at McGill doesn’t require a CEGEP diploma. I went to Marianopolis College, which was connected with McGill- so I was at McGill a lot of the time, and for me that was the best part of school; the classes I was taking there I wasn’t so interested in. Also, I had a scholarship the first year but they wouldn’t renew it the second year because my non-music marks weren’t very good… so I figured if I’m going to be paying tuition, I’d rather just pay for McGill and actually be here.” So what exactly is this program that Eric snaked his way into?
Interview with Eric Abramovitz, clarinetist Huei Lin
Although this is only his first year at McGill, clarinet wunderkind Eric Abramovitz is already developing a reputation for his remarkable abilities. Having already garnered a string of competition victories, the nineteen-yearold Eric is quickly making his mark on the Classical music world as a bright young talent commanding our attention. His most recent triumphs include winning the woodwind category of the OSM Standard Life Competition when he was fresh out of high school, and winning the winter edition of the 2012 McGill University Concerto Competition- while he was still in CEGEP- and subsequently appearing as a soloist with the McGill Symphony Orchestra. Eric shares his side of the story with The Phonograph. Early Start “I started playing when I was almost 7 years old, which is kind of young to start playing a wind instrument… When I was really little my dad used to take us to go see concerts…. My mom was in a Klezmer band and there was a clarinetist, and I took a liking to it and then when I was like 5 I was asking my parents for a clarinetthey didn’t really take me seriously- and then a year and a half later I was still asking, and they finally decided to get me one. “My mom, being a trained pianist, forced me to practice from a
“I’m in a licentiate of music- a licentiate is more of a focus on performance- I don’t take any electives… My lessons are also worth more credits than other people’s… But I’m planning on at some point transferring my credits to a bachelor’s so I can get my degree.” Brought Back from the Brink “I think it was when I was 15, one summer I broke my nose so I couldn’t really play for the summer, and when the year started again I just really wasn’t into it; I was looking for people to sell my clarinet to… I was quitting, like that was it. “And somehow, I was scared to tell my teacher about it so I just… didn’t quit. And then after that almost-quitting experience I just got back into it but more than ever- and then I knew: hey this is what I wanna do!” Competitions and Auditions: Healthy doses of Triumph and Disappointment Recently, Eric emerged victorious from both the OSM Standard Life Competition and the 2012 McGill Concerto Competition- earning a chance to perform Copland’s clarinet concerto with the McGill Symphony Orchestra. Eric’s competition experience goes quite far back- almost to when he first began playing the clarinet. “I started competing- I think the first competition I did was when I was 8- and I’ve kept on doing them since them. I mean I think they’ve really helped me improve- the more you get out there and perform, the more you gain a certain naturalness on stage and ease performing for people.” It is worth noting that each of the six times that Eric entered the Canadian Music Competition- starting at the age of 8- he won his age division for the woodwind category. Every time. “At the moment I actually don’t have any big competitions planned… Now I’m just trying to really work on my weaknesses and trying to do auditions- I’ve already done three professional auditions… for the Sherbrooke Symphony Orchestra, the Quebec City Orchestra, and the MSO. Unfortunately I didn’t get any of the jobs, heh.”
Eric laughs good-naturedly, and I point out that he’s still only eighteen years old (nineteen by the time of this interview’s publication)- he still has many years ahead of him to conquer these auditions.
Baroque, but no Need to Fix it:
Current Projects “I’m doing some chamber music- I’m doing a sextet, I’m doing a trio with a cellist and pianist… I’m playing in orchestra, playing solo stuff- I’m actually doing a concert in Ottawa in January, a pre-NACO [National Arts Center Orchestra] concert… You know, solo, chamber, orchestra… all that, I just love doing that. “I’m [also] in a Klezmer band which is me, my mom on piano and my sister on violin- and we play at many Jewish events like weddings, bar mitzvahs and stuff.”
Looking to (worrying about) the Future “I’m pretty worried about the future… I just want to be able to make a career- you know, making a living in classical music is not easy… And after doing these auditions I really saw what it’s like in the real world, and it’s brutal. So whatever it is, I hope I’m doing something in music; I hope I never have to visit my plan B of another career-” And what was this plan B? “I don’t even have a plan B, heh- I kind of have all my eggs in one basket…” What about teaching? “Yeah I’m sure that teaching will be part of it… I tried giving someone a lesson and I realized that I’m not a very good teacher… You have to really think about what the basics are, which you don’t do as much at the higher level… So I have to learn how to teachsomeone has to teach me how to teach.” Getting more degrees? “I’m hoping that I won’t have to, because if I don’t it probably means I got a job in an orchestra or something- but if in ten years from now I still don’t have a job I guess I’ll have to continue with my studies… We’ll see what happens.” Eric is a first-year clarinet performance student at McGill University. Having begun his musical training around the age of seven, he is the recipient of numerous awards and competition prizes, including first prize in the OSM Standard Life Competition and first prize of the 2012 McGill University Concerto Competition. Eric is also a six-time first prize winner in the woodwind division of the Canadian Music Competition. This year Eric appeared as a featured soloist with the McGill Symphony Orchestra, and is scheduled to make multiple appearances in Ottawa in early 2013. ◊
A Review of Handel's “Rinaldo”
For many, a night at the opera is not the most entertaining way to spend an evening, and I'll admit I felt the same way before I had the privilege to see Opera McGill's interpretation of Rinaldo. Even though I entered Pollack hall unenthused, I was left inspired by the innovative, beautiful, and downright hilarious production. Rinaldo is a fantastic work of art and has been frequently performed since it was composed by Handel in 1711, but let's be real here... the plot is pretty silly. A story of magic, romance, and reverse Stockholm Syndrome all set during the first crusade? It's like Lord of the Rings meets Criminal Minds meets Assassin's Creed. However, the opera's over the top plot did nothing to keep me from loving every minute of it. Francois Racine's terrific stage direction kept me engaged, and transformed the particularly ridiculous sections of the libretto into truly comical moments. Supporting this direction, the beautiful, subtle set design allowed the audience to imagine their own finer details, perfectly forming the world in which the performers could work their own magic. Although I would have expected no less from a McGill opera, both casts were chock-full of strong musical and theatrical performances. The musical side of the opera could have easily taken precedence, but instead, the singers were true actors, allowing music and theatre to work together and support each other. Performers had great intention and clarity of movement, and over-acting was kept to a minimum. Sinead White's “Armida” in particular, with her chilling yet humorous character and powerful voice, left me speechless during Friday night's show, and it's not everyday you get to hear a good countertenor (Collin Shay) show his stuff. Saturday's spectacle featured Sara Ptak as “Almirena,” whose gorgeous rendition of the famous "Lascia ch'io pianga" nearly left me in tears, while the dynamic between Caitlin Hammon and Gordon Bintner (“Armida” and “Argante”) was so priceless I almost cried from laughing. Their comic duet in Act III was one of the most ironic and funny scenes I've ever witnessed. Kudos also go out to both “Rinaldos,” (Rebecca Robinson and Gena van Oosten) for proving one does not need to be a man to portray a convincingly macho male hero. The fantastic performances onstage were matched by the musicians below the stage. Handel's score would be difficult enough to pull off without the added difficulty of playing on baroque period instruments. Unsurprisingly, the McGill Baroque Orchestra was more than up to the challenge, providing a sensitive accompaniment for the singers, and commanding attention during points where little was going on onstage. Everything from the fiery rapid passagework of the harpsichordists, to the noble natural trumpets, was played in excellent baroque style and with intense attention to detail. While the cast and orchestra were impressive in their own right, even more impressive was their ability to keep their energy and professionalism going during technical difficulties. It takes seasoned performers to keep the attention of an audience while a desktop background is projected onto the stage, and they pulled it off with aplomb. The combined talent of the cast and musicians was a veritable tour de force, and I'm sure any operagoers who were seeing McGill students perform for the first time will be thirsty for more. Needless to say, Opera McGill's production of Rinaldo went above and beyond my expectations. My view of the baroque opera is completely changed, along with my appreciation of just how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into these shows. Although I'm sure every opera can't be as fun as Rinaldo, one thing is certain: I've become a huge opera fan.◊
Practice Room Maintenance: keep your instrument
looking and sounding great…. all by yourself. Erica Jacobs-Perkins THIS ISSUE: how to straighten a bridge. This article is written with violin bridges in mind, but the same principles of alignment apply to any stringed instrument.
This is a bridge. It holds up your strings and lets you play on them. You probably already knew that, if you’re a McGill music student. You might not know, however, how much it impacts your sound and your playing. The shape, material, and placement of your bridge can dramatically impact: • Sound quality • Intonation • Ease of string crossing • Resonance of your intonation • Ease of articulation Obviously, the only thing you have control over in your practice room is the placement (unless you keep files in your instrument case. Stranger things have happened). Since the bridge isn’t actually attached to the instrument, but only held into the top by the pressure of the strings, it moves a little bit every time you tune. Most string players don’t know what a well-aligned bridge looks like, however, and those who do often don’t bother to correct their bridges often enough. In the long run, of course, this can lead to warping. it can also make life extremely difficult in the short term. Your instrument will sound muffled if your bridge is in the wrong place relative to the sound post and the F holes, and you’ll have trouble playing fifths and other double stops in tune if the bridge is bowed outward.
No matter which style your bridge, chances are it isn’t as ugly as my drawings. The bridge should be straightened using three reference points: 1. Relative to the F holes. The bridge should be in line with the points on the F holes, with two-thirds of the thickness of the bridge towards the fingerboard and one-third of the thickness towards the tailpiece. Check this by lining up your ruler with the lines shown in the picture below (as you can see, this bridge is slightly crooked). Also make sure that the bridge is straight relative to itself and doesn’t make a curved line across the instrument.
2. Relative to the top of the violin. Slide the ruler between the middle two strings on the tailpiece side of the bridge. Settle the short end on the top of your violin right next to your bridge. If you have the first kind of bridge, it should touch your ruler all the way up. If you have the second kind of bridge, it should touch at the bottom and slope gently away at the top, but shouldn’t be leaning dramatically in the other direction. You can use the ruler to gently tap the top of your bridge back into place, or you can maneuver it with your fingers. Provided you’re careful, either way is effective. 3. Relative to the fingerboard. Look down the fingerboard of your violin, with the scroll by your nose, and make sure that the bridge is centered relative to your fingerboard and that the curve of your bridge matches the curve of the end of the fingerboard. It is unlikely your bridge will move from side to side as a result of everyday tuning, but it’s worth checking if you’ve been traveling or if your instrument has had a fall.
Things to keep in mind
All you need to adjust your bridge is your instrument and a rigid but thin ruler with square corners (not rounded). Most violin and viola bridges are designed with the side facing the tailpiece intended to be perpendicular to the body of the instrument and the other side sloping up to meet it, like so:
Straightening a bridge can be tricky, and learning proper alignment out of a book isn’t always good enough. If your instrument sounds dramatically worse after you’ve attempted to straighten your bridge, take it to a professional. Most luthiers would be happy to show you how to do it yourself, so after they’ve solved the problem ask them how they did it. If your bridge has been crooked for a long time, it may be permanently warped and impossible to straighten by yourself. A new bridge is one possible solution, but sometimes luthiers can get rid of the warp using humidity. This is something that can only be done a few times to any one bridge, but it’s much less expensive and time-consuming than having a new bridge made. Check your alignment, especially relative to the top of the instrument and to the bridge itself, every day. Winter weather and huge changes in humidity from indoors to outdoors and building to building can exacerbate preexisting problems. ◊
Some violin and viola bridges and most cello and bass bridges are designed with both sides sloping up to meet at a point:
If you have some know-how on instrument maintenance (especially nonstring instruments) and would like to contribute, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pot de Creme Meiying Li Tastes fancy, looks fancy, but so easy to make! (Serves 5-6) Ingredients 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips 2 large eggs at room temperature 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 pinch salt 1/2 cup very hot strong coffee 1. In a blender, add the chocolate chips, eggs, vanilla and salt. Pulse 8-10 times, or until the chocolate chips are partially pulverized. 2. Make sure the coffee is very hot (reheat it in the microwave if necessary). Turn on the blender, pour in the coffee through the hole in the top in a steady stream. The coffee will melt the chocolate and turn it into a smooth mixture. Stop the blender when there are no more visible chunks. 3. Blenderless option. If you have a typical college student kitchen and don’t have a blender, use the smallest chocolate chips you can find. Combine everything in step 1 with a spoon, then add the coffee slowly while stirring constantly. If the chocolate is not completely melted, heat gently in a saucepan until the mixture is smooth. 4. Pour the mixture into ramekins, small bowls or pretty wineglasses. Refrigerate for 3 hours or until firm. Serve with whipped cream or fresh fruit. Enjoy!◊
Saltine Toffee Cookies Adora Wong
It's that time of year again, when Christmas lights are shining and "Deck the Halls" or another cheery equivalent is playing in the background of all public spaces even though it’s weeks before most people will be able to find time to enjoy the communal activities of the holiday season. If, like me, you are feeling overwhelmed by a desire to "spread" some holiday cheer (in the form of chocolate) but don’t have more than 10 minutes to spare, this recipe is a great place to start. It is dangerously easy, requires very few ingredients, and takes very little time to make. The cookies are highly addictive, but if enough of them make it off the tray, they also make excellent home-made gifts! Ingredients: Saltine crackers (about 30, depending on the size of the cookie pan) 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup brown sugar 1 cup chocolate chips Chopped nuts, sprinkles, crushed candy canes, graham cracker crumbs, dried fruit (optional toppings)
1. Line a cookie pan with saltine crackers in a single layer. 2. In a saucepan, combine 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Stir continuously and let it boil for two minutes. Immediately pour the mixture over the crackers and spread evenly. 3. Bake at 400 degrees for 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle chocolate chips over the tip. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then spread the melted chocolate over the surface evenly and add the toppings of your choice. 4. Let cool and break into chunks.◊
Mexican Sausage with Rice Nancy Zhang Ingredients: 3 Mexican-spiced veal sausages (can use Mexican-spiced beef sausages as a substitute) 1 green bell pepper (sliced in strips) 1 large onion (diced) 1 whole tomato (diced) 1 can (796mL) of diced tomatoes 4-6 cloves of garlic (finely chopped) 2 cups of uncooked rice 2 cups of chicken broth 1 cup of water 2 teaspoons of Mexican chili powder 2 teaspoons of dried parsley Dried oregano to taste Procedure: 1. Cut sausages into 1cm sections and roll them into little meatballs. 2. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook the sausage meatballs on high heat until they are thoroughly cooked (about 4 minutes). 3. Add onions and when they are slightly translucent, add the green bell peppers. 4. After stir-frying for a minute or two, add in the uncooked rice and turn the heat to low. 5. Add the garlic. 6. Stir mixture constantly and allow rice to brown slightly. 7. Add the whole tomato and the can of tomatoes to the mixture and stir well. 8. Turn the heat to medium and add the chicken broth. 9. Add chili powder, parsley and oregano. 10. Cover pan tightly with lid, turn heat to low and let simmer. 11. Add 1 cup of water to the mixture after 10 minutes, stir, and continue to simmer for another 6-8 minutes until rice is tender. 12. Add salt to taste and enjoy! ◊
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in the 2012-2013 school year, the phonograph would like to encourage “letters to the editor.” in addition, we are always looking for new columnists, photographers, cooks, and cartoonists! email Erica with any questions at email@example.com.
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Contributors Editor-in-Chief Erica Jacobs-Perkins Copy Editors David Endemann Matthew Horrigan Erica Jacobs-Perkins Huei Lin
Staff Writers David Endemann Matthew Horrigan Visual Jordan Miller Samantha Parent Written Thomas Burton David Endemann Sahara von Hattenberger Matthew Horrigan Erica Jacobs-Perkins Meiying Li Huei Lin Adora Wong Nancy Zhang
The Phonograph is the official publication of the Music Undergraduate Students’ Association of the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the University, the School, or the Association. Photo by Samantha Parent, U4 Music Education Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia
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