Sunday, February 15, 2009

All's well that turns out well

I feel like I've reached the end of Stage 1 of the digital music reading process, having successfully negotiated a full recital last night. Actually, I got to sit out a set for voice/guitar, and to be honest, it wasn't a program with a lot of heavy lifting for me, which is one reason I chose it for my Airturning long-form debut. Still, I can happily say that not only did everything work beautifully, but I really felt completely at ease with the whole process. There's a wonderful simplicity to having a single page glowing there in front of you, with no concerns about page-turners, or pages that won't stay open. I guess what I'm saying is that it all felt right - simple, economical (well, not that kind of economical), even stylish. Most people who see my setup comment first on how small the music is, which is an understandable reaction, but I never found that to be a concern, although I'd like to blame all missed notes on something other than my fingers.

It's true that I already have much more experience with this process than I did in my nerve-wracking debut, but perhaps what made the most difference was a fantastic little discovery that Hugh Sung posted about a couple of days ago. Hugh, of course, is the primary trailblazer I've been following in all of this, and one of the creators of the Airturn system. The Airturn is, in some ways, a very simple device (part of what makes it so appealing) that just enables a pedal to signal a "page down" or "page up" command wirelessly, but I've written about how an overly eager pedal jab can produce an unintended double turn. In retrospect, much of my pedaling anxiety had to do with that. Hugh's discovery is that Windows (Macs, too, apparently) has a little program called "Filter Keys" hidden away in Vista's "Ease of Access" control panel (known as "Accessibility" in XP). I simply set Filter Keys to ignore repeated key strokes less than 0.5 seconds apart, and that completely solved the problem. Very big news.

As mentioned, this wasn't a particularly difficult recital technically, but there were several pieces with turns that needed to happen in the middle of busy passagework - I still find myself looking down when I have the chance, but I'm realizing I don't really need to. My foot has pretty much figured out how to do a quick jab without distracting whatever else I'm doing.

Probably the biggest ongoing issue for me is to work through my "absent-minded professor" issues. For example, I was home on Friday and expected to do a good bit of practicing from the PC, but I'd left both my power cord and extra battery at school, something I realized only after pretty much draining the battery web-surfing. Friday, I was slated to play only one work in a class recital; I was chatting offstage with someone while waiting to go on when I realized I'd left the pedal upstairs in my office. I may need to get one of those armbands that quarterbacks wear with all the plays written on them. Mine would say things like: 1) bring pedal, 2) turn off sound, 3) turn on Filter Keys, etc. But, on the other hand, it's not like I never showed up backstage with the wrong music in hand. These issues go deeper than any technology can solve...

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