We are playing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring this weekend with the South Bend Symphony, and it’s so much fun to work on! Besides the fact that it is an AMAZING piece of music and that I love the primitive driving beats and creepy sounds, it’s got some techniques that make me stretch my playing and I love that.
First of all, there’s the flutter tonguing. It’s not that crazy a thing to do, but it doesn’t come up that much in orchestral playing. Effectively, I roll my tongue into the back of my throat and spin my soft palate, as if I was purring at my cat or growling at a dog, all the while playing the oboe. It makes the notes gurgle and flutter. What I’m finding challenging is starting and stopping that flutter – I can easily do the technique in isolation, setting my mouth up and preparing and then surging into the chromatic passages Stravinsky requests.
We’re playing a reduced version of the score, with three wind players instead of five in each section, and the result is that more notes are in my part than I’m used to. Toward the end of the introduction I am effectively interweaving 4th oboe and 4th flute parts, and I have to move rapidly back and forth between flutter tonguing and regular playing, and it’s significantly tricky.
Of course I’ve spent time on this passage with my metronome, and with the music in front of me, and gotten it close enough to pass (knowing also that this is SUPPOSED to sound like insanity throughout the orchestra and my part will not be heard). But of course I want to be awesome, so I’ve turned my morning scale routine into an on-again-off-again flutter tongue challenge. It’s getting better. I expect to nail the thing in tomorrow night’s concert.
There’s also a passage – new in this reduction – in which I am playing with the trumpet section. I had thought upon reading through my part at home that it was another flutter challenge, notated a little differently, but it turns out that it’s incredibly fast repetitive tonguing of 16th notes. Fortunately, I have my double tongue pretty well under control now, but this is faster and more extended playing than I had previously ever had to produce in public. Again, I’m working on it in the context of morning scales and warmups. It helps to get away from looking at the page of music I’m struggling with, and de-emotionalize the technique in a warm-up situation. I can calmly work on very fast double tongue all over the oboe, instead of only the Db I need to repeat, and it makes me GENERALLY better instead of merely specifically better.
I love this concert. We’re also playing Appalachian Spring, by Copland, which – when the intonation is just right – touches me so very deeply. The whole program is challenging enough to keep me on my toes and familiar enough to enjoy without undue stress. The ORCHESTRA, by the way, is KILLING it. Everyone has their game face on and sounds wonderful. I’m finding that I had underestimated some players in the group. It’s going to be a super show. You should come.