Lots and lots and lots of thinking going on. The experience of starting a Masters is turning out to be very different from either starting my BMus or my Graduate Diploma in Design. The main difference is the questions it’s raising about how I define myself and what I do, what I want to achieve, who I want to be at the end of it.

I absolutely never expected such big questions to be raised so soon into the degree, and I suspect that when I get time there’ll be a blog post or seven in there, but for now I’m just mulling over things and thinking about what I want to do. In a way the huge workload is good – plenty of work means plenty of learning, but until I get into the swing of things, I’m a bit concerned about how I can manage to compose as well as getting all the prescribed work done!

I’m doing OK though this week. VERY glad I started the reading I knew I’d have to do early though! And I basically ordered the CDs for the Adler Study of Orchestration book as soon as I walked out of the class – literally, went to the library, pulled out my iPad and bolted to Amazon! – with 5 chapters to read this week and having done 2 of them and knowing how long it took to get through 1 chapter with examples, it’s going to kill me if I have to do that in the library every week. Not to mention the pain of the train fares to go in on my days off if I can’t get it all done on the days I’m there. But I’m getting through this week’s work at least and am pretty confident I’ll have everything done on time.

The listening tasks I’m actually finding very difficult. Not because the listening itself is hard, or assessing what I’m listening to, but simply mentally justifying sitting in a beanbag listening to beautiful music and calling it work. I know this is something I need to do. I know that doing it while not doing anything else is the best way to do it, but still it feels unbelievably decadent and my guilt chip kicks in. So I need to push myself on that. I’ve managed to do listening sessions with two of the pieces off the Simply Terrifyingly Enormous Listening List.

Yesterday I spent some quality time with Beethoven’s 3rd symphony (he gets a C – the first two movements rated a C+ to a B but the Finale was really far too long and brought the whole score down).

Today I had an interesting encounter with Robert Schumann and his Piano Concerto. I pulled out the CD of it I had – it’s one of those ones that come with BBC Music Magazine – usually decent performances – and listened through with the score and by golly was I bored. From about 10 minutes in I just wanted the whole thing to stop. Awful. And I thought to myself, “well, this has been put on this list for a reason. I’m really not seeing why at all, so maybe I need to find an alternate performance of it”. Then I remembered that I’d bought the Martha Argerich Concertos set (I highly recommend – she is AMAZING) and lo and behold, it was in there too. So I put Martha on (with Rostropovich, in case you’re wondering which one) and WOW! It was like a completely different piece! I still don’t think it’ll go onto high rotation, because it’s got that German Romantic thing going on which I just don’t generally relate to but I can totally see that it’s really very lovely and I’d not avoid listening to it again. Martha rescued it from the obscurity of a D- rating and brought it up to a C 🙂

We have to rate each piece we listen to: A down to F for a true stinker. I was a bit sceptical at first but it’s actually a useful exercise, because rating the piece means you don’t just think “do I like this?” but “do I like it and is it actually any good?”.

Other stuff on my listening list for this week is Brahms’ 4th symphony, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard. I do rather enjoy his 1st but the 4th I don’t have a recording of and can’t think of any time I’d have heard it, so that’ll be all new. The other one is Shostakovich’s 5th, which it surprised me to find that I don’t seem to have a recording of, but I’m sure I’ve heard sometime. And, hell, it’s Shostakovich. I love it already.

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