Friday, December 23, 2005

Cameras: time to trade film for digital?

For those ending up here after finding my photography site, this post is for you. In the last year, I've been heavily involved with music and haven't done as much photography as I'd been doing previously. However, I have taken a few photos that have received fairly wide exposure, namely this one, this one and this one of violinist and conductor David Felberg; and this one of my string quartet; and then this one of a product, also found here.

And during the process of taking the above product photograph, I used a digital camera. This of course was not my first time with a digital camera... but during this session, I also shot with a film camera - my trusty Hasselblad 503cw. The main thing that I noticed was that halfway through the session, I stopped shooting on film and concentrated on getting the image with the digital camera. For one thing, I could run back to the computer, load up the image, and see exactly what it looked like. Not just a polaroid but the EXACT image.

Not only that, but once I was done with the digital image, I was DONE. No waiting for the lab, no scanning, no color correcting... you see the point. The other images (of David Felberg and the string quartet) were shot on film. And frankly, the quality is still superior. And I wasn't in as much of a hurry as with the product photo.

Here's the dilemma: to get into a digital system, such as Canon's EOS 20D, which I consider to be the bare minimum equipment to do pro work, particularly connected to studio lighting, I would need to sell almost all the equipment I have in order to get into the new system. Bodies (I would probably also get a film body, such as the EOS3, lenses, and a few accessories add up quickly.

It seems that now is the time to unload medium-format equipment because the price is falling and probably won't recover anytime soon. But to give up the medium format system, particularly my "dream camera", the Hasselblad seems a shame. It's a camera I'd like to pass down instead of just liquidating. And it seems that film in 120 format will probably be available for at least another decade. But after that - what happens? The rest of the cameras I'm not as attached to, such as the Olympus and the Contax despite the fact that they are excellent cameras.

Maybe there's another way... maybe I can sell off the 35mm stuff and keep the MF stuff, and put a little cash into this... Hmmm gotta find a way to generate some extra cash and make this happen while keeping the Hassy and the Zeiss German lenses...

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Las Placitas Church

On Sunday, Dec. 18th I played with a small musical ensemble as accompaniment to a choir for a church service. Along with me on viola, there were two violins, a cello, two flutes and two oboe players. They also had a pianist that regularly accompanies the choir. The location was Las Placitas Presbyterian Church in Placitas, NM.

The music was all Bach, starting with the Air in D, then most of the material was from a Cantata in A Minor. Although I was somewhat concerned during the first rehearsal about the outcome, the concert went off quite well and all the bumps were ironed out by the time we played in front of an audience. One main thing that had us instrumentalists concerned was that the conductor was clearly a choral musician, not an orchestral conductor. However, with work on our part (rehearsing separately, watching and listening) I think it all came together fine.

The acoustics in the church were quite good, and I can see why they have the Placitas Artist Series chamber music concerts there.

The other musicians were all members of the Albuquerque Philharmonic. The cellist, Pete Palmer, is nearly 80 years old and knew my great-grandfather, John Tischhauser because the two of them played in the New Mexico Symphony together in the 1950s! That's one of the great things about playing music - it brings people together.

Monday, December 12, 2005

The Best of Albuquerque

It's been a busy week. Last Thursday the Giovanni Quartet performed at the "Best of Albuquerque" event put on by Albuquerque, the Magazine. We were the only acoustic group although Hector Pimentel was also supposed to play. We saw him there, they announced him, but he never actually played... strange.

As expected, the sound system and stage were set up for bands, not a quartet. The sound guy, Carlos, was very helpful though and we got it set up OK. Four SM58 microphones... and set up a little ways from each of us except for the cello. Richard had a mic down low and fairly close to the instrument. He probably had the best sound of the four of us. During the performance, I could hear that we were on the verge of feedback, and the sound was strange. However, David Felberg was there and he complimented us on the performance. I don't know how many people were actually listening...

Richard pointed out that this was a good experience for us since it would be very similar playing at any type of corporate event. What I was proud of is the fact that we stayed very tightly together musically and adjusted to the circumstances. Subtleties were out the window but everyone played well and I thought we did a good job.

This week we decide what new material to add to the book, and what stuff to eliminate. It's about time, because we really haven't been playing a lot of the stuff in there, and we've been looking for new arrangements. I also want to organize the books by music type, i.e. "wedding ceremonies" "receptions", "pop", etc. It may not be so easy to classify stuff that way, but we'll give it a shot.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The APO Concert

The APO concert last night went well in many ways. The section took my suggestion for the seating arrangement, so my usual stand partner stayed where she normally sits, and someone filled in for me while I sat 2nd. The good part was that I could see and hear what was going on, but the bad part was that the stage was very cramped and I literally had no elbow room. However, I sat between Chris Dutro and Richard Strauss, and everyone was very friendly. I mentioned to Richard that "we're sitting even closer than when we play string quartets" to which he replied "thank God!"

The performance itself was shaky in the Nutcracker Suite and I think it was underrehearsed. But also I noticed more clearly last night that the order of pieces in that suite just seems wrong. The first one is OK, but the suite should end with the Pas de Deux, in my opinion. I don't know if the keys will work out if the order is changed, but my guess is that they don't particularly work out in the present order. I want to do some research on it and perhaps make a suggestion to David Chavez that we do it in a different order. I doubt that he'll want to change it, but one never knows.

I thought the Russian Easter Overture went well, probably better than it ever had in rehearsal. There was a continuity to the piece and also the right tempo. There were some tricky spots but overall it was probably the best piece in terms of the orchestra's performance at the concert. The Tchaikovski Violin Concerto was a little rough as far as the orchestra following the soloist, and I think in a couple of spots it showed. However, David Felberg's playing was outstanding from what I could hear. And the audience certainly seemed to appreciate it.

Tomorrow night is the "Best of Albuquerque" for the quartet, and it appears that the event isn't all that well organized... But I'm sure we'll play well. Hopefully we'll get some interest in terms of gigs. Until then!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Musical Chairs

Last night's rehearsal went well enough although the "musical chairs" in the viola section is causing a bit of disruption. The principal violist has to miss one of the concerts, then the co-principal will miss the next one. So they've asked me and my stand partner to fill in, one at a time, for each of the concerts where one of them will be absent. I originally thought this was fine, probably because I've been thinking about trying for first chair. But now that people have to move around, problems have come up. My stand partner sat 2nd chair last night and it didn't appear to be a good experience for her. She doesn't have that much experience playing at this level, and from what she says, she relies on me to know where we are in the music, and for entrances. But sitting 2nd chair, she was much more exposed.

In the mean time, someone else sat next to me and he has a very different sense of the music than I do, specifically about timing. And he is much more confident and loud than my usual stand partner, so as a result now I hear someone playing next to me who is more on top of or ahead of the beat than I am. After reahearsal, the discussion came up that "what we should have done is simply have the whole 2nd stand sit first stand for these two concerts" and I realized that it made a lot of sense. I think I was so concerned about getting my parts under control that I didn't think about the bigger picture.

Since the concert is tonight, I plan to make a suggestion: have me sit 2nd chair so my usual stand partner can stay where she is, and have the guy that sat with me in rehearsal last night sit where I usually sit. I think that it would be the best way to go, but I don't know if everyone else will agree with me about that. There's only one way to find out!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Tomorrow Night's Concert

Tomorrow evening the Albuquerque Philharmonic will be performing a concert, and I’m a member of the viola section. I’m excited about some aspects of the concert, and not so excited about other things. The music is really excellent – Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Russian Easter Overture”, the 2nd Nutcracker Suite from Tchaikovsky, and also Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto with David Felberg as soloist. It’s wonderful literature, and not without its challenges.

I’ve probably practiced some of the sections, particularly in the Russian Easter Overture, more thoroughly than anything else I’ve done with the APO. Overall, I feel pretty well prepared and I’ve spent extra effort on the parts because for the next concert, on Sunday the 11th, I’ll be sitting principal. First chair is a really different place to sit than anywhere else in the section. Mainly, it is very exposed, meaning that there is no one to follow. In fact, the section will be following me for entrances and bowings. So I really have to pay attention, concentrate, and have my part totally together. The other different thing is that it is much easier to hear what the other sections and particularly, the other principal players are doing. Overall, it’s very challenging but very satisfying. After this concert, though, we’ll be rotating and Natalie and I will head to the back of the section.

Although the music is enjoyable and I feel pretty well prepared, there never seems to be enough time to rehearse and perfect the fine details that make this music as good as it can be. Of course this is largely because we are a community orchestra and thus a wide range of players are members. In some cases, people are less prepared than they should be although overall, the quality of this group often surprises me.

When I’m playing, either in the quartet or in the APO, it often occurs to me that “this is what I should be doing”. It’s like anything else that I enjoy or have enjoyed in the past such as rock climbing, mountain biking, etc. While I’m doing it, I don’t think about anything else. There’s definitely a “Zen” element to playing music – you have to get into the “zone” and focus 100% of your energy, both physical and mental, into playing. Considering the overall level of dedication found in the APO, I would say that this feeling is shared among most of the members.

I’ll post an update after the concerts.