30 August, 2007

Summer recap

For many of us, school is beginning in a couple of weeks, so this is a good time to summarize the summer's events to set a basis for the things that will become regular topics here.

Last weekend I took part in "24 hours of Hot August Nights", an endurance mountain bike race put on by Chico Racing. The team may not have put forth a competitive effort, but we all rode well, had fun and nobody got injured. Good enough for me to call it successful, and I can't wait to try another next summer with more training and notice to prepare. This has been a decent cycling season for me, the first that I've been training on the road with the aid of my new (at the end of last season) Giant OCR-2. I have a long way to go before I'll be doing road races, but it's enjoyable riding, and has likely helped my legs on the mtb as well. I'm hoping to do a fair bit of mtb racing this fall possibly including the University Cup races and the always-fun Off Road Squeezer put on by Liberty! Bicycles in St. Catharines.

Academics and Work:
This summer I've been working in a (volunteer) research position with Dr. C. Perry Chou, resulting from the fact that I did not find employment through the regular process (those of you from UW know the headaches of jobmine). The term has not been as fruitful as I'd hoped, which left me un-engaged and uncommitted to my work, which in turn has led to sub-par performance on my part. I have learned some useful lab skills for future work in biotech and I now have much more refined ideas about what I am and am not interested in for grad studies and my career. That's enough about that - unfortunately there's not more to say.

I'm looking forward to beginning 3B in the fall, which is known as a tough term but for which I'm trying to prepare by not taking on too much commitment. This has been a problem for me in the past leading to poor marks and nearly failing my 3A term. I say after each bad term that I'll improve, and I never do, but this is the time to do it because if things decline any further I'll be in serious peril academically. For those not in my class, a list of my courses follows:

  • CHE 35 - Transport Processes 4: Mass Transfer
  • CHE 36 - Chemical Reaction Engineering
  • CHE 38 - Inorganic Process Principles 2 (Electrochemistry)
  • CHE 321 - Process Engineering Design: Numerical Methods and Modelling
  • CHEM 331 - Metabolism
The last one is in place of my CSE, which I've taken ahead of time by overloading (which was not handled well, in hindsight). I'll also likely be sitting in on MSCI 311 - Organizational Design and Technology, which I took last term but neglected and ended up failing. I can take the final this term as a suplemental exam and will be granted the credit if I pass that.

This has been a good summer both for my playing and listening experiences. The summer season with orchestra@uwaterloo was alright, though the repertoire wasn't thrilling. I was named Principal Bass which is nice. I performed Schubert's "Trout" Quintet in a chamber music concert which was a fun and challenging experience. This past Monday some colleagues from orch@uw, Wallace Wu (vn) and Jeffrey Quilliam (cl) performed with pianist Cheryl Duvall at KWCMS, showing off some very impressive repertoire and displaying their wonderful abilities on their instruments.

I'm auditioning for music studio this fall, in which I'll be studying with George Grier (Assoc. Principal Bass, K/W Symphony). I'm greatly looking forward to this opportunity. I haven't completely made up my mind, but I think I'll be playing the Largo from the Eccles Sonata and the first page of Mahler 2 for the audition. This is especially interesting as I've just begun tuning my bass in fifths, which for those not aware is not a very common practice. Most basses in current times are tuned in fourths: E-A-D-G from bottom to top. In order to achieve the contra C required by orchestral repertoire, bassists resort to a 5th string below E tuned to B or C which is common in Europe, or as is more common in North America will use an extension which allows the E string to pass up over the scroll providing 4 or 5 more notes down to C or B respectively. A few bassists, however, are tuning in fifths: C-G-D-A, an octave below the tuning of a cello which provides both the contra C, but also some other unique qualities. Fingerings are changed, in some cases making passages more challenging, but in general opening up the instrument to play in a way that is more idiomatic to much of the repertoire we have, especially that derived from other strings such as cello, viola and violin. See the article linked here as well as Joel Quarrington's Website for more info. I'm really enjoying the sound of my bass tuned this way, and also the challenge associated with re-learning the fingerboard.

On another note, I've entered the Concerto Competition that orch@uw is holding for Winter 2008. I'll be playing the Vanhal Concerto for the committee in January, and hopefully putting forth a good effort. It's certainly motivation to practice. This fall's program for the orchestra is French music: Franck - Symphony in D minor, Debussy - Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune, Ravel - Le Tombeau de Couperin, and likely one other piece which will either be new music from a composer here at UW or something else (perhaps Berlioz' Roman Carnival Overture).

In the world of electric bass, this was an uneventful summer for playing. I played in the UW stage band, but probably will not do so again as I'm really not learning much. I'm going to be giving up most/all of my jazz performance for the time being to focus on my double bass study and of course on school - a much needed change. I'd like to play some chamber music this term, either as a recital for my studio course or just a random concert with some friends. I've started thinking about repertoire, but I don't want to get ahead of myself as I have lots on my musical plate for now. As far as I know, my rock band which sort of formed last Winter should be reuniting this Fall after a term where we were scattered across the province on co-op. Next week should see the arrival of my new Roscoe bass, which I ordered about 9 months ago through my dealer, Club Bass in Toronto. Here's a picture of the body in progress from a couple months ago (click for larger):

Current Items
Repertoire/What's on my music stand:
  • Sonata in G minor (Eccles, H.)
  • Complete Double Bass Parts: Mahler Symphonies One though Five
  • Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra (Vanhal, J. B.)
  • Complete Double Bass Parts: Selected Romantic Symphonies (for the Franck)
New Albums/Current Listening:
  • Brahms: Cello Sonatas/Bruch: Kol Nidrei (Jacqueline Du Pre, Daniel Barenboim)
  • "Duke Ellington & John Coltrane"
What I'm reading:
  • The God Delusion (Dawkins)
  • Genetics: From Genes to Genomes
  • My textbooks for the fall
Interesting links (all bass/music for this post, sorry to the rest of you!):
Jason Heath's Double Bass Blog
Perhaps the single best resource for news on the double bass online. Also he publishes a wonderful podcast called "Contrabass Conversations" featuring interviews with many top players.
The largest online community of bassists, and a great place to learn all about bass. It's huge, so things get out of hand from time to time and you have to be vigilant of all you read, but it's well worth it.
"Ken's Corner" Bass Forums
Bassist, Maker of electric basses and Collector/Dealer of double basses Ken Smith has set up a forum for discussion of all things bass here. With a more strict and mature environment, it's different from other forums, which is nice, but it's also much smaller.
Joel Quarrington
A fantastic Bassist, and he's Canadian no less. Joel is one of the most prevalent players tuning in fifths these days, and his website is a great resource for info on this topic.
K/W Symphony
Check out their 2007-2008 season, which includes some great concerts from my quick perusal of their flyer. They have a great deal where students can see all the concerts for $60, something I will most likely be taking advantage of!

Why a blog?

Those of you who know me well enough will be wondering why I would create a blog, and rightly so. I've decided to do this because I've been reading some blogs recently as well as listening to some podcasts, and while I'm late to the game, these internet mediums are very conducive to random information that just might be interesting to someone. As you likely know I'm not really into creativity and expression, so that is not the purpose of this blog. It is mainly a medium for me to share with friends internet content and facts about my daily life in a concise way.

Visually, this blog will be changing in the near future as I make time to customize it. For now, we get this swanky template, which isn't all that bad anyhow.

I have no idea how I will spread the word about this, so if you hear about it and you know someone who might like to read it, please pass on the URL. If nobody ends up reading, so it goes. To keep this from getting very stale, please ask questions about post contents - ask me about the music I'm listening to, what I'm reading, what I'm doing at school, or the repertoire I'm studying.

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