theremin major

notes from me and my moog etherwave pro

Downtown Music March 23, 2007

Filed under: Downtown Music — jenhammaker @ 3:00 pm

To avoid confusion, I’m going to skip ahead to the present, or nearer present – If something happened in weeks 4 through now (not even sure what week this is) I’ll talk about it in retrospect.

Sunday is my Chamber Music midterm performance. Our Pianist will be out of of town. We’ll have a sub on Sunday, but we had a small performance with our Pianinst on Wednesday for the professor and a few other groups who wanted to practice in front of other people. We played the Ravel and Saint-Saens pieces that I mentioned in my last post.

We had an hour of rehearsal time before some of the other groups came into our room for the mini-performance. During this hour, we ironed out some kinks with the professor. One problem we were having was with me, of course.

I’m used to being around performers, but most of my friends are involved some kind of comedy. Now, I’m not bragging when I say that I’ve always been able to win people over with my wit and obvious charm, but it is a little bit true. My funny nature is not a cop-out. It’s just the way I am. I’m not used to being in a room of serious people.
So, in this situation, when other people seem to be immune to my hilarious quips and quirky facial expressions, what am I left with?

My mad theremin-skillz, that’s what.

I’ve been working on these pieces for a while now, and I have improved immensely, however, I don’t feel as if I have reconciled my place in this Chamber Group. Maybe I can’t win over the Pianist and Flautist with my personality, but you’d think by now, in point of the fact that I play the pieces quite well (!!) that they would at least give me a little credit. Right? I’m not alone in thinking that I’m playing well, either. We get coached every week and the coaches seem to really like what I’m doing.

Still, I got nothin’.

One of my only problems was finding my pitch at the beginning of all of my phrases. The hour before the performance, the professor solved this problem.

“How soft can you play?”

I gave her my softest note.

“You can hear that?”

I nod.

“I can’t hear that. I would NEVER tell a string player to do this, but they do it anyway, sometimes string players find their notes quietly in the measure before they begin to play. DO THAT.”


Problem solved.

7pm was game time. There were about 7 people other than my Chamber Group in the room.

I’m exhausted and frustrated but I know that I can play the pieces. Before we start, I answer everyone’s questions about the theremin.

“What is that?”

“Oh, Have you seen the movie?!!”

We play. VERY Sucessfully.

Everybody loves it. I answer more questions.

“What is that?”

“So, there’s no singing involved at all?”

To my surprise, the next group, a Piano, Flute, and Viola, were not as polished as we were. They had to stop and start several times. No offense to the Violist, but I don’t think he’d been playing very long. Weird. The group after them was really wonderful!!

When I auditioned for this class, I filled out a form that asked me to list all of my past experience. I jotted down all the instruments that played with, to which the professor responded, “So, you’ve been playing mostly Downtown Music!.” The she explained that her daughter played this so-called Downtown Music and that it was perfectly legitimate music, as if I was beginning to feel shame about it or something. . .(?)

Anyway, in rehearsal one day, we had a substitute Pianist, a young Japanese girl who played very well but didn’t speak fluent English, I guess. One of the first things that the professor says to this poor girl is, “Jen has been playing Downtown Music. Do you know what I mean when I say that? Downtown Music?” The Pianist shakes her head, “no.”

“Jen, explain to her what that means. Explain to her what I mean when I say Downtown Music.

Flummoxed, I pause.

I looked at the girl, bewildered, added some Jazz hands and said, “you know, Downtown Music!!

We all laughed.

On Wednesday, the professor did it again before the third Chamber Group, a young Pianist and a young Vocalist, performed.

“Well we have more Downtown Music – types here today than ever!”

Maybe that’s why the other musicians in my group don’t like me. They’re not only afraid of my personality and my theremin, they are also in grave danger of being infected by the dreaded Downtown Music.

On Sunday, for the class recital, I’m gonna give myself a mohawk, drive into the [A Paradigm of Higher Learning Specializing in Classical Music Education] concert hall on a Harley wearing a leather bedazzled catsuit, with my E-PRO in the sidecar and a Super-Soaker full of Jack Daniels under my arm. Then, 15 minutes later, when they’re all passed out on the blue concert-carpet, soused on a whiskey high, their ears blissful from the concoction of Ravel and Moog, they won’t know what had hit them . . . Until they look up at the ceiling, at the configuration of Balloon Animals floating above them, and notice that they spell out, in messy cursive, “Downtown Music, Bitches!”


4 Responses to “Downtown Music”

  1. Jon B. Says:

    Jazz Hands make everything funnier. Great story, and good luck on Sunday!

  2. jenhammaker Says:

    Especially when you play the theremin. Thanks Jon!

  3. I didn’t know what Downtown Music was until a few minutes ago.

    Apparently the acid test is to whisper “John Cage” in a musician’s ear and watch his/her head carefully.

    If it nods appreciatively they are Downtown.

    If it explodes violently in an apoplectic fury of righteous indignation, they were probably Uptown.

  4. jenhammaker Says:

    Thank you Gordon, that does sound like a legitimate test. “She just walzed in here from downtown with that instrument and everyone’s head exploded!”
    The greatest part about all of this Downtown Music business is that the music I have been playing on my theremin, although peppered with some indy rock and folk genres, has been mostly of the hilarious-covers-of-80’s/90’s-hair-metal/rock ballads variety.

    “Oooooh!! DownTOWN Music!!”

    (please nobody from school find this blog!)

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