There is something to be said about bringing a project full circle.
I recall my trip to Boston to premiere and record Mathew’s Double Concerto for Saxophone and Percussion.
One of the most difficult things about this project was how quickly everything came together. I recall only having about six weeks to learn the work, rehearse it with Ken
and get on the road to Boston for the premiere. I’m not one who loves winter, nor am I one who loves below zero temperatures but we got both during the week of the premiere. The Steelers (my hometown football team) were in the Super Bowl., and there was an extreme freeze that had taken over the northeast. Previous to showing up for the week, I was practicing the concerto up to 12 hours a day in some instances. Not only was I handed a new piece with little time to spare, I was also given the task of figuring out the architecture of the percussion set up (something I’ve become quite good at over the years). I love the challenge, I love envisioning the set up, more than that, there is nothing that describes the feeling of bringing it all together as we did on that cold evening in January. Being that I’m not a native of Boston, I remember taking a wrong turn and walking way out of my way carrying my heavy bag of cymbals, music, and small percussion instruments. Maybe it was the circumstances, but it will forever be ingrained in my head as one of the coldest experiences I’ve ever had.
With little time to bring this mammoth work together I was given only a dress rehearsal in the actual performance space and one of the things I’ve often had to deal with as a solo percussionist is conductors not wanting the percussion on stage during the rehearsal of other works.
Here’s what it was, and is, typically like:
-Move a stage full of instruments, set them up in all the right places, within a two hour time frame. (Yes, I’m moving these instruments…not to mention the detail in getting the setup perfect…)
-Have a run through of a 20 min concerto that has never been performed.
-Strike all the instruments off stage
-Don’t forget the 12 hour practice sessions leading up to all of this..
-Two hours later, set the gear up again.
-Play in the hall for one hour on this massive set up to hear the acoustics and tune the instruments.
-Go out on stage for the world premiere.
At this moment, my body and mind are on a different plane all together. I’m on auto pilot, something that I have from doing this my whole life, I liken it to an extreme sport. I muster up my soul, the spirit within to premiere the work. Because it takes extreme efforts at this point bring out the music I’ve worked so hard on, before the work begins, I have images of death and that if I make it through, it will be okay to die. Not because I want to, but because when you have worked so hard physically and mentally for something, your mind starts to think things like this. Perhaps it’s because I am so close to sheer exhaustion, I imagine this is what extreme athletes feel right before they cross the finish line after a triathlon. To me, this is when the best performances happen. There is no ego. There is no fear. There is no self. There is only what the soul can provide and what is left is a performance that is as close to the divine (whatever that may be) as one will ever see next to death. Needless to say, it is rewarding beyond words, which is why I keep doing it… Having gotten the finished product in the mail brought back this flood of memories and I wanted to share. For those out there in the classical industry that may think women are weak
I challenge you to come live a day in my life. Not only will you be sorry to have thought such things, but the sheer amount of physical strength, perseverance, and determination it takes to do what I do will have you on your knees begging for mercy.
by Mathew Rosenblum
, It’s on the Mobiüs Loop Album. Take a listen or 2, or, 3…..