Little Braun Blog…

I have wanted to record the Braun “Solos” for two years and I finally have a window of time in mid-August that fits with David’s window of time.

I am often asked about the recording process, how I get things done and why I do it. Of course, what people really want to know is how much it costs and how I can afford it. We can talk about that too, though later.

Aside from money, some of the major orchestral section bassoonists have told me that they are reluctant to record solo works because they want to be evolved enough to produce a definitive performance. My thought process is entirely different.
No performance is definitive but a deeply considered one is always interesting and is always one more step along the way.

Instead of wondering if it is “right” (as we so often do with Baroque music), I ask instead, what could this music say? How could it be said? And some of that has to be done by trial and error yet the eloquence of the music always emerges though it may take many hours for me to find the voice that transmits this eloquence. It is an alchemical process.

And somehow the act of recording allows for immersion in “third person” listening… this can be very healthy if I am listening with interest, patience and curiosity.

This season, I have recording projects that range from bassoon alone (I pay for these from my loonie jar) to large concertos with orchestra (funding from OAC and from generous sponsors). Instead of trying to make sense of it all afterwards, this will be a running notebook and maybe you can send questions to help me address the areas that are of wider interest. Sometimes the only time that I really have answers is when I am in the middle of it all.

My life has been so busy in the last two years with an epic journey from the old to new — new management, new house, new website, new ID documents, new bank account, new life. Same cat (Diva) and phone numbers. I am feeling ridiculously good at the moment. Stupid as it may sound, throughout the chaos, I kept making reeds (though far fewer than usual, as one of my students pointed out when he read my reed journal) and exercising (sweating is always good). My old Dad always calls me at 7:00 every single night, even if I can’t always answer. These are the things that kept me sane, along with the Braun solos.

I find that when I am going through dark times my musical goals stay very strong though it can feel very very hard to get to them. Sometimes these ideas have existed in my mind for so long that I neglect to tell the other participants that we are going to start recording next month, but sometimes luck is on my side and my chosen team is available!

When Guy Few and I first began working together, I wrote up a five-year recording plan that ended with a film project. The plan still exists but time has stretched to fit around funding challenges. Anyway, we released two of the recordings, won a big prize for the first one and generated record sales on our recital tours in the 2009/10 recital season. We premiered the new concerti for our third project and got a grant that covered part of the costs, but it has taken me two years to build up enough savings to finish this project.

Since then, other concerti have been written for us and other projects have branched out from our original plans — Guy and I have recorded a recital CD (Afterhours) that has been awaiting my editing attention… this disc will be ready for Christmas 2011 too. On other fronts, my organizing skills were honed during our two-year tenure Grand River Baroque Festival for two years (we resigned after our highly successful 2010 season).

The large scale of our creative projects is so stimulating, but the contrast between these full-scale, very expensive productions and the simple, show-up-with-my-bassoon solo projects is a pleasure in itself.

But it all comes back to one thing: I love to play the bassoon. And I love working with hot musicians, even dead ones though that sounds weird and gross. Composers (wanted: dead or alive), soloists, orchestras, engineers — they are all musicians to me. Even the hot backstage guys, yeah, Chris dragging me around as he pulled my wing swab free at the River Run Centre and Gill holding up my dress’s long train so that I could dance on the opening night of the Grand River Baroque Festival… music in an intensely social activity that comes from individual dedication.<

Like the Telemann “Fantasias”, I play the Braun “Solos” daily as a way of finding my voice, the one that always eludes yet tantalizes me in various degrees, a voice that projects warmth, loft, flexibility, agility, suppleness of thought and expression. Sometimes it is so good to pursue these things in solitude before returning to join the bigger chorus. And sometimes, you just need a room of your own before you can start anything. And when I am out of shape, these works sound so wooden and heavy. Yet by playing them every day, and sometimes stopping at a church in an unknown town, and playing through the whole opus, I become better. At this point, recording the music is my way to live my choices… it really feels necessary and in no way does it feel like I have frozen the interpretation.

If you want to record, here is my equation:

Recording = Music (practise it all the time even if you cannot make the recording for 10 years) + Planning (writing budgets for grant applications will really help you figure it out — writing concert programmes will really help you figure out a good CD programme) + Filing (create order in your practical materials and you will find the actual production quite straightforward.

Believe it or not, money is not needed until you have done all of the above.