A little variety

Every now and then when you’re playing Debussy over and over (and liking it), doing the Leopold Mozart trick with yourself to inch up the metronome, you need to cleanse your palate:

You Gotta Believe

It’s like the Italian trick of eating a slice of orange with a titch of olive oil and black pepper sprinkled over it between courses. It just refreshes.

And you know, I continue to be shocked at the effectiveness of the Mozart trick. I use two little ceramic dishes (which I bought in a San Diego antique store as “personal ashtrays for dinner guests,” which tells you about when they were made) and ten pennies instead of dried peas, but the way this whole trick forces me to focus is always a revelation for me.

I should just always do it, instead of doing it, having an epiphany about how great it is, stopping doing it, and then being re-shocked every few years when I haul out the ashtrays and pennies again to work over a sticky spot. Just keep doing it, woman. Hopefully, the fact that I am taking lessons and have an esteemed someone for whom I am expected to improve will help the “peas+metronome” epiphany stick for good this time.


In less depressing news …

I’m almost convinced that Carlos Salzedo’s mother was frightened by a hitchhiker when she was pregnant with him because to judge by the fingering on his arrangement of the First Arabesque, damn does that man hate thumbs.

Assimilation is a poison chalice.

This is the sort of thing that depresses me more than I can describe.

My whole family is here, I am here, because of “chain migration.” My parents were called dagos, wops, greasers, guineas, and half-n*ggers, and so was I when I was growing up. My grandfather, a peaceable and inoffensive tailor, was forced to register as an enemy alien because he was born in Italy. My grandmother had actually forgotten that she wasn’t born here and ran to the courthouse to nationalize in terror, frightened that her kids would be taken away from them. In today’s climate, they would have been — and my mom and uncle would have grown up in an orphanage.

And now, we have people named Giuliani, Gianforte, Scavino, Scalise, and Scaramucci saying the same shit, trying to get other people’s families ripped apart.

They lynched us as well, and not in small numbers — but we drank that poison cup, and it managed to make us forget our own history. Now, people named Picciolini are joining white supremacist movements. (Thankfully, he got out, but how the fuck was he ever so ignorant of his own history to join in the first place?)

There is no hope and nothing positive in assimilating to the American way of life. It is a poison chalice. Our grandparents drank it because they knew no better, but it’s poisoned the minds and hearts of their grandchildren. We came to this country, with its history of racial and ethnic hatred, of importing human beings with human dreams like furniture, and it poisoned us. Like radioactive calcium, it’s crawled into our bones, and we’ll die with it soaked into us. How could it be any different?

Assimilation to the American way of life just means hating anyone darker than yourself, or anyone newer to these shores. In a country the history of which is so entwined with slavery, all it means is becoming white. And whiteness kills. It used to kill us, within the memories of family members still alive. It kills others. It’s killed our hearts and crushed our capacity for human kindness. It’s powerful enough to wipe our memories of our own roots and our own families’ experiences. Whiteness only ever destroys.

There is no hope in this. Seeing Italians falling for this and forgetting their own history sickens me in ways I don’t know if I can recover from. I really don’t think there is anything to this “melting pot” bullshit anymore. Assimilation into the American way of life is destructive, period. And it didn’t even take that long! We’re talking about people whose grandparents — people they knew — were put through this, and who are now stepping up and slobbering like rabid animals to do it to the next people in line. I have cousins I will never speak to again over this. I can’t. I can’t even look them in the face.

Humanity kills hope, every time. Love in fact does not trump hate. People will throw their own families into the bin, ignore their own memories, if they get a luscious, chewy, rich serving of hatred to enjoy.

Getting this message out is impossible. The only Italian-American organizations that exist are in the iron grip of angry, ugly, loud, middle-aged males who spit and snarl when they talk and have shit between their ears. Big, mean, loud bullies who are stupid enough to embody the Al Capone stereotype own the Italian-American dialogue. The days of old left-wing lions who remember their roots like Mario Cuomo and Geraldine Ferraro are long over. The poison has soaked in.


The first bits on the Arabesque are driving me nuts. I need to reach around a string to keep from buzzing in two similar cases, and sometimes I can get it without trying. Sometimes, I cannot make it work if my life depends on it. And I can’t figure out why. I do something that works five times in a row, and then when I sit down and try to do it again, it fails five times in a row.

Plainly, I am not sussing out what makes this work correctly.

I think I’m going to try the Leopold Mozart trick tonight when I get home and see how that does. Otherwise, I’ve got to ask my teacher when I see her this week.

Jeez, I’m only nine bars into this thing, and I’ve already got six months of work on my plate.

Pozzoli, Ortiz, and the First Arabesque

So my teacher asked me to pick up a couple collections by Ortiz, the Pozzoli studi medie, and started me on Salzedo’s arrangement of the First Arabesque. I sort of blew out his fingering in places, but he’s dead so he’s not going to complain. 🙂

I feel like I might be turning into a real harp student.

I also figured out a kind of inchworming technique in the very beginning of the Arabesque that makes it easier to play without buzzing, where instead of placing in one direction and then in the other, I replace the fingers on the correct strings as I go down. This isn’t something I’d do if I were moving quickly, but it’s a slow piece, so I’m okay and it feels comfy and buzzless.

The issue is that it comes and goes, and that out of the first nine measures that my teacher has asked me to work on, my brain has trouble stitching them together into one continuous bit. There’s the first bit, which involves avoiding buzzing and making some reaches, and there’s the second bit, which involves:

  1. Counting 3 against 2, which isn’t really that bad,
  2. Blowing Salzedo’s fingering out in the left hand because he does several things that make absolutely no sense there, and
  3. keeping my right hand from climbing the harp.

I should add that his right-hand fingering in that section makes much more sense, but that I had to derive it on my own. The left hand, though? No sense at all, and the best way to do it is to use mostly 1 and 2 in the Eb section, and then 1-3-2-1 in the Cm section.

It’s fun — but it’s a lot to keep conscious of, and still think musically. And it’s also occurred to me that part of the problem is that I hear the stupid thing in 6/8, at least the very beginning. It’s in 4/4. Only my weird triplet-loving noodle could possibly parse a 4/4 piece as 6/8. I could parse a Sousa march in 6/8.

In other words, I’m enjoying myself. 🙂