Last night I turned pages for two song cycles by David Del Tredici: Miz Inez Sez, and My Favorite Penis Poems. It was an all-day affair, really. Rehearsal started at 2.00, and I finally got home somewhere around 1.00 in the morning.
I’m a huge fan of turning pages for concerts. I know that some people look on it as something of a grunt job – you’re doing a menial task and don’t get to relax -, but I’ve always enjoyed it. I get to watch the score go by. Granted, I don’t get to study it in any detail, but I have to do a lot of on-the-spot analysis in order to make sure that I’m following properly: I have to choose a line to follow and keep an eye on its relation to the rest of the score, and I have to be aware of texture changes and registral shifts (sometimes, in denser passages, these are the only things that tell me where the performers are!). I see things I wouldn’t necessarily be aware of had I just been sitting in the audience: inner voices, relations between voices, cool little compositional devices and tricks. Plus, it’s incredibly performative. Just as there’s an art to projecting one’s persona to the audience during a performance, there’s an art to not being seen (“Mr. Bradshaw, will you stand up, please?”). One has to exude a level of confidence for the sake of the pianist (else they’ll get nervous that you don’t know what you’re doing), but also put everything else on ice, as it were, so that the audience isn’t aware that you’re constantly standing up and sitting down on stage while infinitely more interesting things are going on mere feet away. It’s killer on my lower back, though! Sitting that straight for so long, and leaning forward just so so that I’m ready to stand up and get my finger around the page corner. Whew! Plus, the constant low-grade terror that you’ll accidentally grab two pages instead of just one!
In this case, there was the added anxiety of turning for manuscript. Half of the Penis Poems are engraved, and the other half are still in manuscript form; so just as one gets accustomed to turning for engraved music, it switches to manuscript, and the reacclimation process begins anew.
A composer’s hand-written notation is illegible at best. Add to that varying numbers of systems per page and staves that only reach half-way across the page, and my job was cut out for me! But it’s an adventure, to be sure!
Kaity arrived shortly after 3.00 and got some fun shots of the rehearsal. She generally documented the whole day – shooting the entire rehearsal, some backstage moments, and even a bit of the performance itself. I’ll admit, she’s so good at being unobtrusive that I continually forgot that she was there! I’m, of course, used to Kaity’s presence at various events at this point, but I know that others can be super-aware of the fact that there’s a camera in the room. It’s always entertaining to watch someone suddenly turn – while trying to be subtle about it – so that their “good side” is toward the camera. David and I joked about the phenomenon a few times – we’d immediately stop what we were doing, adjust our postures to be more “picturesque”, and continue as stiltedly as possible, glancing constantly at Kaity.
The concert itself was a lot of fun, for various reasons. And it was great hearing the audience’s reactions to the whole concert. Everyone loved the whole thing.
But of course, we only give concerts so that we can go out afterward for dinner and drinks. You didn’t know that? Well, it’s true. We don’t do this for the music, we do it for the food and drinks. And the international super-stardom and piles of cash. Ok, at least the food and drinks….