Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Pit stop on the Kreisler Highway

Yes, I'm still playing with that idea of a "Tomb Raider: Legacy" Main Title track. I just read a thesis by a fellow named Pieter Smal on "Unifying Elements in the Tomb Raider Trilogy game soundtracks." Of course the three Crystal Dynamics/Eidos games were composed largely by the same person, who gave them extensive continuity -- and as well, one of them was a remake of an earlier Core Design game, and Troels Folmann consciously stayed close to the original score.

The games are internally well-connected as well. In addition to the extensive re-use of a relatively small number of motifs, these different motifs often share melodic and/or rhythmic templates.

So there is a good bit of material to mull over from this paper; use of certain rhythmic elements like the tresillo, for instance. And one very important thing to think of; the incorporation in the Legend soundtrack of the Ailein Duinn, a traditional Scottish song. Of course the song is a wee bit overused already, including in a surprising number of games. But this lament is so thematically appropriate both to Lara coming back to England and her roots, and for her to reach closure on the disappearance of her parents, it is hard not to include it.

I also did a little research on the tin whistle/penny whistle/Irish whistle. I guess fork fingering is allowed on it, although half-holing seems more common, so my recorder instincts won't totally betray me there. However, it is also apparently rarely tongued for articulation, and there my years of the recorder are going to be a problem.

There are also various grace notes, trills and slurs to be properly idiomatic. And some very interesting notes about how shaping the airway is essential to achieving a pleasing tone. As always, there is more to learn than is visible at first glance. So move back any chance of me using the tin whistle in a recording by many more months of practice.

In re the fiddle, I brought it to work yesterday and that got me almost thirty minutes of practice over my break periods. I'm going to try that again tomorrow. I'm still experimenting with the basic hold and the hand position to try to get a comfortable and secure grip but most particularly get my hand somewhere that is comfortable enough to practice for longer than fifteen minutes (but allows me to reach the majority of the notes.)

I could probably use a tutor. But I can't see affording it, time or money (or, rather, the fuss of trying to schedule it, trying to get to the tutor, etc.) Plus I might have to search for a while to find the right kind of tutor. There's a sort of classical ballet flavor to violin classes and I don't learn well in that environment.

How to explain? The postures and moves of classical ballet are relatively recent and were developed by avid experimentalists. But they are now codified in a strict "do not question the old masters or their representative, your teacher" way that would make the most traditional Japanese craft blush. And violin appears to be taught the same way.

In defense, it is a difficult instrument. There's a lot that has to be grasped and it doesn't make a lot of sense for the student to waste time trying to reinvent the wheel. In fact, that's an even better defense; although the various holds and positions and etc. seem weird and arbitrary when someone attempts to describe them (or even show them on video) they actually make great biomechanical sense once you get into them.

But that's how I would want to be taught violin; how I personally need to learn violin; from finding what makes sense, what works. And I see a lot of people with books and webpages and the like who do approach it from this direction. I don't know if that would work well for a kid, but this old boy has quite literally decades of embedded neuromuscular experience in a variety of other seemingly awkward, even non-intuitive postures and motions, from cutting into wood on a lathe to climbing rock faces. I may lake the plasticity of a child, but I have a lifetime of potentially similar trained instincts I can leverage.

So I have a certain amount of confidence that I can self-instruct. I have hope I'm not going to get myself stuck in a sub-optimal "wrong" posture because I'm constantly questioning and experimenting, and I'm reading and watching instructional videos and observing performers to see how they are doing it. Still, I agree with the general consensus; young or old, and ultimately dependent more than anything else on how much practice time you can put into it, playing well enough to play with others/play in front of others is going to take at least a year.

What a strange species we are, to be so attracted to things that take a significant fraction of our lifespan just to reach the same point millions of other human beings have already reached.

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