Here in the blog, I’ve been describing my progress through Feldman’s For Bunita Marcus one section at a time. I’ve gotten through page 19, which is about halfway through the piece. In reality, I’ve been much further ahead of the blog. A couple of weeks ago, I finally reached the end.
My way of learning the piece has been to identify a coherent chunk of music and work on learning the notes of just that section. When I’m comfortable with that chunk, I identify the next one and continue the process. When I started this, I would practice by beginning at page 1 and play through however much I had learned so far, then spend time on the details of the latest section to get it in my fingers. But the piece is so long that, after a while it took too much time to start at the beginning and playing through to my stopping point. I have to squeeze my practice in among various other work and home activities, so I couldn’t spend all my time just playing through parts of For Bunita Marcus that I had already learned. So I started the practice of dropping a section from the beginning of my practice once I had blogged about it. I’d do some analysis and write about that chunk, and then the next time I practiced I’d start from the next chunk and play through. This means that my practice sessions were a moving window into the piece. Since I’ve blogged about everything in pages 1-19, I now start my practice with page 20 and go forward from there.
But I’m slow blogging, and besides, I find it better to write about the music after I’ve been playing it awhile in the context of the music around it, so in my practice I’ve always been ahead of what I’ve written about. When I got to the latter part of the piece, its beauty was so seductive that I kept moving forward and as a result reached the ending sooner than I’d expected. I’ll blog about it eventually, but wanted to put this quick post out to signal the milestone.
Another practice that I’ve started relatively recently has been to try to play through from page 1 through my ending point once a week, usually Saturday or Sunday. After reaching the ending, it meant that my weekend summary was a true end-to-end performance. I timed it and it clocked in at 1 hour, 19 minutes. My next steps are to firm up my command of the final pages, blog about the second half of the piece, and play through the whole thing more frequently (where will I find the time?) so that I learn how concentration and energy are managed over that span of time. I hope to wind up the descriptive blog entries before the end of the year.