Sunday, February 03, 2008

Lynn Harrell lecture

Today my friend and coworker Theresa took me to a free lecture by the world-renowned cellist Lynn Harrell at the AFM building in Hollywood. It was a fun experience in many ways. First of all, Theresa and I commented that many of our friends from other states get excited when we tell them that we live in Southern California, and immediately say something like, "So you can go visit HOLLYWOOD!" Well, I can tell you that Hollywood itself is nothing glamorous. It's mostly graffiti-painted pawn shops with bars on all the windows and riff-raff hanging around outside, and places like that. Theresa and I wanted to take a picture of ourselves in front of Pete's Lube & Tune to say, "Look, we went out on the town, to Hollywood!"

The musicians' union building is no better. It's an excellent example of dilapidated midcentury boring architecture. The lecture was held in a large room, not even a recital hall. Theresa and I arrived early because we didn't know what the parking situation would be like (it turned out that the area was un-glamorously deserted on a Sunday afternoon, so we were able to park right in front of the building), so we got a seat on one of the front rows. Harrell strolled in about 20 minutes before the program was about to start, in khakis and a pullover sweater, and proceeded to warm up right there on the stage while the audience came in.  He spent the next two hours lecturing about how bow hold and left hand positions affect tone quality, and showed close-up pictures of many different hand positions on slides to go with it. Some interesting points he brought up were that you can actually play louder and stronger with the bow without making a crunching sound if you add more vibrato, and that left fingertip placement (whether on the bony tip or the fleshy side of the finger) influences sound a great deal. He also equated string instrument sound with vocal styles; for example, when he's playing French music he plays with narrower, faster vibrato to imitate the slightly "nasal" tone that the French language has. I was expecting him to play more, but it was mostly just a lecture. It was very interesting to us, though, and even though it was mostly cello-oriented there were some interesting points I'm excited to try out on the violin.

After the program Theresa took me to her favorite vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in Rosemead or San Gabriel or something, where the wait staff didn't speak English. As usual, she ordered far too much food for us. We had very yummy noodle soup and curry soup and spring rolls; and also as usual, she jumped to pay the check and threw in some special Chinese New Year rice wraps for me to take home. I'm so blessed to have such a generous friend like Theresa. 

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