Categories
Astronomy

The night sky awaits

Today, the FedEx guy delivered a new toy to my house. A few days back, I ordered a Meade LX90GPS 10″ telescope from Astronomics in Oklahoma.

This afternoon, I unboxed the scope, set up the tripod, attached the optical tube assembly and aligned the viewfinders. Unfortunately, the sky is cloudy tonight and it appears that it may stay that way until I have to leave for a scheduled Vegas trip in a few days. It looks like the planets will have to wait some more.

Meanwhile, I just get to stare at this impressive piece of optical engineering in my living room. But, impressive it is. Man, I didn’t know it would be this big!

Categories
Classical Guitar

Just 298 notes

The Fernando Sor piece is less than 2 minutes of music. Just 39 measures and 298 notes.

Putting a lot of effort into such a small thing is something I haven’t done in a long while. I feel something of what it must be like to be a woodcarver, starting with a nondescript block of wood, working and working at it until the art within is revealed. There’s certainly no doubt that my initial read-through of the Sor was the musical equivalent of a block of wood.

Sightreading on the guitar poses an interesting problem. In comparison, consider the piano. Each note is at a single location on the keyboard so sightreading is the process of making sure that your hands are in a position that allows you to find each note as needed. On the guitar, that task is complicated by the fact that each note can be found at several locations on the fretboard. A skilled sightreader on the guitar must be adept at scanning ahead and looking for ways to make the notes physically possible. Years ago while studying with John de Chiaro, I remember being amazed at his ability to see around the roadblocks of a piece so quickly.

When I began with Sor’s study, what I did can’t be described as sightreading. Instead, it was a meticulous working-out of the details, measure by measure. I look forward to the day when I’ll be able to truly sightread a piece that moves around the fretboard so much.

For now, I’m still polishing up a few rough edges, including that darned spot between measures 4 and 5 which still produces a clunker now and again as I play through. The goal is in sight though, and I hope to post a recording soon.

Categories
Travel

Belizean Vacation

I’m just returning from a week-long vacation in Belize. (See my Photos from Belize.)
Snorkeling, Maya ruins, and a helicopter tour over the Cockscomb Basin were the highlights.
If they came out OK I’ll soon post some underwater photos from snorkeling at Glover’s Reef.

Belize was awesome! Thanks FocalClick for sponsoring the trip!

Categories
Classical Guitar

Moments of joy

Perhaps my blog post on Sor’s Study #1 was therapeutic. Whatever the cause, when I returned to my instrument the difficulties of the last few measures faded and I had a real breakthrough with the piece.

As my left hand fingers finally found their way to the notes, the experience of fresh enthusiasm is a simple feeling of joy. It is the collection of moments like that which provide the reward for my meager attempts to play.

Equally rewarding is appreciating the perfection of works by a master. I was reminded of that last night while reading from a collection of short stories by Mark Helprin. The Pacific and Other Stories is full of the same awe-inspiring prose as his novels. It is rare to find a book where I’ll sometimes back up and read the same page again, not because I lost focus but instead because I want to relive the sensation of reading it. Helprin accomplishes that time and time again. Highly recommended.

Categories
Classical Guitar

Starting with Sor

After several years away from it, I’ve picked up the classical guitar again. I have a copy of the Andres Segovia edition of Fernando Sor’s Twenty Studies, so I decided I would begin with the obvious: Estudio 1 in that collection of sheet music.

“Estudio 1” in the Segovia book is actually Sor’s Opus 6 Number 8.

Thanks to the fine folks at Tecla and Hebe Online, you can also find a copy for free here:
Fernando Sor Opus 6 Number 8

The free copy doesn’t come with Segovia’s help in the fingerings, so be prepared to spend some extra time on that.
If you’re a fan of guitar tablature (I’m not), you may want to look here as well:
Tabs for Sor Op6 Num8

There’s also a free online copy of what is supposedly Sor’s original:
The entire list of Sor original scores
The Opus 6 Number 8 original

Note that there is an apparent error in the original (!) in measure 13, where the C should be C#. Most but not all later editions have this corrected. For example, this piece is also in a book edited by Carcassi, and the error remains.

I was unable to find a free MP3 online of anyone performing this piece, but I did find a site with Midi files for all the studies in the Segovia book. It’s here:
MIDI files of Sor Studies
For Study # 1, the MIDI file is not very musical, but it will at least give a sense of the melodic lines. That listing is also a convenient place to cross-reference Segovia’s study numbers with the real Opus and Number for Sor’s works.

I have devoted a few hours to the piece so far, and it’s still a struggle. The first tough bit comes between measures 4 and 5, where it’s tough to make a smooth transition to the first chord in measure 5. It’s a stretch of the 4th finger of the left hand on the 2nd string, and it’s all too easy to muffle string 1 with the side of the finger.

I’ve mostly worked out the problems through the middle of the piece, and now I’m struggling to put together the portions from measure 32 to the end. There are lots of spots in that section where you hold a note (usually with the 2nd finger of the left hand) while repositioning the other fingers around it.

At first glance, this piece seemed more like a technical study, but there is a surprising amount of music hidden inside. Eventually I hope to achieve a presentable performance that I can record and post here.