Confessions, Also Known As Whining

Confession #1: I AM IRRATIONALLY PARANOID ABOUT STUFF (particularly orchestra gigs). I am a freelance musician. Last year I made a living from gigs and teaching, and that’s about it. The fact of the matter is that this is life, and I realized pretty quickly after finishing school and trying to find a “normal” type job that…shit. It’s tough out there right now, and if the gigs and the students come my way, I’m taking them. And I got lucky! Because it turns out people needed cello subs for EVERYTHING, so I was busy practically every weekend playing with an orchestra. Whoopee.

The thing I realized at the end of this past gigging season is that I was just a sub, and even if I was hired for every concert during a season, there is no guarantee they will always hire me in such a way, especially if I never auditioned for a position and there odd political happenings within the orchestra at the time. I can accept this part pretty easily because it’s FAIR. I didn’t take an audition? Okay, I’m not technically a member of the orchestra and they are not obligated to hire me. FINE. But unfortunately it leaves me in a position of EXTREME PARANOIA when I stop getting calls, because, to quote Roman from Party Down, shit’s random. And now that I’m thinking about it, I shouldn’t even call this irrational paranpoia. Because stupid shit happens in musical circles like this all the time. It’s happened to me, to others, what’s to stop it from happening some more? What am I talking about? Getting put on a SHIT-LIST. Seriously.

And yes, I know. I am good. I am responsible. I am always on time. I learn my music. I’m friendly and approachable and do my best to be upbeat and positive. These are all standards I feel are very important to uphold not only with orchestra gigs, but in LIFE, and I feel I’ve done well at upholding these standards. Unfortunately that’s not always enough. And this is where I get paranoid about very specific things, because people can get on shit-lists for WEIRD THINGS. Things like, use of words (YOU ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR YOUR WORDS as much as your actions). Minor inter-orchestra misunderstandings. Taking over 24 hours to respond to an email (TRUE STORY). A facial expression interpreted as sneering when was actually more a look of confusion (TRUE STORY: HAPPENED TO A FRIEND). And without a contract, in this arbitrary universe, who is to say that something I’ve done hasn’t been interpreted negatively by another person who then says “off with her head?” WHO IS TO SAY? NOBODY?

So there you go, folks. There is a look into my paranoia-addled brain. Because it’s likely this is all for nothing and I’m just insane. The scary part is I WORRY ABOUT THIS KIND OF THING ALL THE TIME, and not just in the gigging community. So, yes. Justifiable paranoia? A little bit. Totally irrational paranoia? Also a little bit. Dammit.

Confession #2: I MISS MY NIKON D40.

I realize that it’s slightly crazy to complain about this, because I have a totally kick-ass D7000 which does all those things that my old camera didn’t do that 7 months ago I felt were really important to have in a camera at this particular point in my photo-taking life. Things like: crazy-advanced 38-point auto focus; compatibility with certain lenses like the 50mm f1.8 lens that didn’t autofocus on my D40; lots of other crap it would take years to mention.

But the fact of the matter is that I knew and understood my D40. Sure, it took 3 years to get to that point. Sure, it didn’t do everything. But shit, I knew how to get good photos out of it, which just proves that old adage of: A MORE EXPENSIVE CAMERA DOES NOT A BETTER PHOTOGRAPHER MAKE! Uh, or something like that.

Don’t get me wrong, I have NO REGRETS about my fancy-camera acquisition, or the selling of the D40 to Mark, who it would appear is taking some pretty kick-ass photos of his own on the thing. Maybe what I’m trying to say is that I overestimated my ability to jump to a new camera and start at the level that I’d left off on the D40. Even knowing what I know about finding the right exposure (probably my biggest manual-camera hurdle with the D40), the D7000 is foreign to me. I suspect it takes practice and diligence, the same level of practice and diligence that were applied throughout my 3 years of D40 use.

And obviously, I’m not starting from Square One of manual camera knowledge. I know some things now! And I think my D7000 knows some things, too. This thing keeps happening where I’m shooting, and I feel all awkward about how cumbersome and foreign the camera still feels to me and grumbling to myself and in general feeling a little like an infant. And then I look at the photos I’ve shot and BY GOD, HOW DID THAT GOOD PHOTO OR THREE HAPPEN (actually, maybe I should just attribute that to the D7000’s kick-ass focusing system. I mean. Whatever)? I suspect that sooner or later, there will be this huge and dangerous collision of knowing things, and the D7000 and I will be of ONE SYSTEM AND ONE MIND (or something).

Until then, though, I’d better keep shooting (which by the way, is more difficult than with the D40 because the D7000 is VERY LARGE).

Confession #3: There is no third confession. Move along.

In The Name Of Good Sound And Less Being Annoyed At My Cello

I’m going to this instrument repair workshop in a few weeks. And there are some things I want to be able to understand that have a little less to do with “fix broken instrument!” and a little more to do with “change the way sometimes-fickle cello sounds.” Because here’s the thing — who out there is a string player and actually knows how to move a bridge and adjust a sound-post? NOBODY, THAT’S WHO. I mean, not true. Maybe some people. I understand that there are luthiers for a reason and that they are around for people like me and everyone else who has that one day where something moves, gets knocked around and then BAM — sounds different, maybe bad. So yes, great, I will happily take my cello to somebody and have them fix things when it sounds bad or when there are cracks or seams bust apart. Yes yes and yes. But there’s this thing about me, this weird Rational streak that sometimes lurks beneath my feeling Idealist surface that NEEDS TO UNDERSTAND THE WHY AND HOW OF SOUND and perhaps take extremely detailed and OCD notes about those whys and hows. I want to understand the science of vibration and sound in a stringed instrument. I want to understand this seemingly mysterious bridge/sound-post relationship and how minor adjustments change sound. I want to problem-solve. I’m tired of not understanding the why. I’m frustrated with doing this major bridge-moving guess-work. I’m beyond annoyed at the fact that my mother who plays the oboe owns a sound-post adjuster and actually had to learn to do that stuff and I never did and yet I actually play the cello, dagnabit!

So I have to learn this stuff. To indulge that Rational streak of mine. To help out my students who come in with their cellos sounding like there are feral cats living inside of them. To reduce the number of instrument repair bills I rack upĀ and miles I put on my car in the name of GOOD SOUND. So that I can be my own master of sound and perhaps minor repairs (though I will leave the major repairs to the professionals, for real).

I do indeed look forward to this workshop.