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“And when we meet, which I’m sure we will, all that was there will be there still. I’ll let it pass, and hold my tongue, and you will think that I’ve moved on.”

I heard Dido’s song White Flag recently, one I hadn’t heard in quite a long time. Sometimes lyrics jump out at me, taking me by surprise with how much of an intense impact they have on me. I never cease to be amazed at how some words, when put to music, can describe my emotions so perfectly yet without warning. There isn’t anything particularly special about these, but the poignant, plaintive feeling that consumes me when I heard these words was at the least overwhelming; I felt the need to share them with you. Maybe you aren’t experiencing this situation currently, but at some point you have (or will), and hopefully you will understand.


If you play an instrument or sing, you probably understand the difficulties and horrors of sight-reading music. Even if you don’t, you can imagine how terrible it would be to be forced to play a song at full speed without ever having seen it before. Sound fun? NOPE.

Now, I love playing violin. When the conductor of my orchestra recently handed out new music for us to play, I was SO excited. “Yay, new interesting stuff to play! No more wanting to throw my violin at the wall after playing scales for an hour!” Except, I was wrong. I still wanted to throw my violin at a wall when it was over with.

“All right, let’s get started! First movement. One and two and go!” We started off at about 500 beats per second. (Not really, but it sure felt like it!) No one even had a chance to look over what we were about to play, but my stand partner and I managed to squeak out a few notes before looking at each other in utter confusion. The room sounded like there were about 50 screeching cats wandering around in it.

Not our piece, but in my mind, this is what just went down.

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/37996646559@N01/favorites/page5/?view=lg)

After about two painful minutes, the first movement of the piece was over. This cruel and unusual punishment continued on for four movements. Halfway through playing, my friend and I just gave up and burst out laughing. We were some of the best in our section, and yet we had no idea what was going on!

“This isn’t even helping us!” I said half laughing, half in despair. “Oh yes it is!” My conductor replied with a smug look on his face. “No it’s not! Why can’t we play slower? We’re not getting anywhere!” I argued back, as innocently as I could. “No, trust me. Sight-reading helps you be a better player,” he said in a matter-of-fact tone. “I tend to disagree…” I mumbled under my breath. “Well you can disagree all you want!” “Okay fine, I will!” By then my stand partner was having trouble containing her laughter. “Fine! Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” My conductor ended the argument and turned away. I cracked up.

How in the world was not being able to play something supposed to help me get better at playing? Um, I’m not a prodigy! Maybe if we played it at a somewhat reasonable speed, it would be helpful. I get that sight-reading helps you to read music more quickly, but if I can’t play any of it, I don’t see where it gets me. After going through the last movement, my conductor paused for a lecture. “Now, as Noelle just asked earlier, why can’t we play it slower? Well the reason is you have to be able to sight-read music at full speed. What if you get called in last minute to fill in for someone at a  concert?” He asked us. “You tell them you’re sick and dying!” My friend shouted out. Our conductor sighed. “If you play music but can’t understand the mechanics of it, it’s like reading words out of a book but not comprehending it. It’s like making a recipe for the first time. If you don’t know how it is supposed to look and taste, then you won’t do a very good job, will you?” Um, what? Isn’t that what just happened to us? Congratulations on contradicting yourself… I shook my head and chuckled.

To put it lightly, that wasn’t exactly my favorite rehearsal. But hey, they can’t all be great, right? At least I got a funny story out of it, and I was able to laugh through the confusion and screeching cats! Just goes to show that when the horrors of sight-reading put cloud nine out of  reach for me, I can still find my way on cloud eight and a half. 🙂

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“It’s when you have two notes that are dissonant and held out, and then the second note is lowered, resolving the chord,” I say with a proud smile. “Umm…Can you please speak English for the rest of our group?” This, coming from the choir director at my church. The grin faded into one of those “oops” faces. “Well I can try, but…I can’t explain it any more simply!”

That would be me. When it comes to music, I’m basically in love. Or obsessed. Or both. Ok, lots of people all over the world can say that. Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love music. If you’re that one person theoretically waving at me and shouting, “Me! Me! I don’t love music!” then you can just stop reading. Right now. Just go.

Here’s what makes me different. I have this deep, inexplicable desire to understand music theory. I understand the circle of fifths, I read an entire book on how your brain processes music, I know what an augmented fourth interval is. So needless to say, when I start talking about music, I tend to use big words which, against my intentions, fly right over people’s heads. I guess most people don’t share the same love for music theory as I do. *sniffle*

Here’s a typical conversation between me and a random person about music:

  • Me: Have you heard that new song, [insert name of song here]?
  • Mr. I Don’t Care About Theory: Yeah, it’s awesome!
  • Me (rambling): I love how they change from four-four time to three-four time right before the chorus! Oh and when they use that suspension in the middle, the timbre of their voices makes it amazing!
  • Mr. I Don’t Care About Theory: What the heck are you talking about? I just like the pounding bass! *bobs his head up and down*
  • Me (thinking in my head): *sigh* There is no hope…

Ok, so that might be a teeny bit exaggerated. I’m not that extreme. But seriously, are there any other music theory lovers out there? Don’t be afraid to speak up. Sometimes knowing too much embarrasses me, because no one else seems to understand what I’m saying which makes me look dumb or crazy. However, I’m still proud of all my musical knowledge. I mean, I’m not totally crazy; I just happen to deeply love lots of types of music and understand how the songs work. That doesn’t make me a nerd does it? It does? Oh well, takes one to know one. (Ha! Gotcha!)

Enjoy your day and make sure to listen to some awesome music! (Even if you can’t tell me what key it’s in).

“Music is what feelings sound like.”



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