This week, we will be discussing a book that pertains to an extra-musical hobby. We may feel guilty taking time off from the instrument, but having a hobby outside of music that provides musical inspiration makes this time well spent!
(Image from executivesecretary.com)
The Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway
My favorite writing to spontaneously spend time with is a collection of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories. I keep my collection of his short stories on my desk, and I routinely use these short stories to refocus myself when I’m juggling multiple responsibilities or projects. I love Hemingway’s ability to convey aesthetics with his choice of sentence structure and length, and his consistency of symbolism and imagery make his writing very engaging to me. If I can bring myself to Hemingway’s level, I can mentally handle the juggling act that is my artistic career.
Wordplay, symbolism, and the subtleties of the english language fascinate me. I’ve spent a considerable amount of time studying stand up-comedy, and I feel like the ability to appear charismatic and engaging in a performance or masterclass can be drawn back to the same finesse that Hemingway displays in his writing. While A Farewell to Arms is not a genius act of comedy by any measure, Hemingway’s ability to alternate between focused, terse comments and long, vivid descriptions is one of the hallmarks of comedy and public speaking as a whole.
Hemingway is a master of phrasing and musicians can learn to replicate his writing style in sound! A short and impactful phrase can be far more emotionally rewarding than a lengthy sonic tirade, and musicians could look towards Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, For Whom the Bell Tolls, or The Old Man and the Sea for short phrases that pack a punch.
Serious Strength Training by Tudor Bompa, Mauro di Pasquale, and Lorenzo Cornacchia
Serious Strength Training by Tudor Bompa, Mauro di Pasquale, and Lorenzo Cornacchia is one of the staples of weight training literature that presents a clear methodology on how to best approach this sport in a scientific and sustainable way. In 2017, I made a conscious decision to begin prioritizing self-care and health in the midst of what had been an arduous journey through various responsibilities and commitments in graduate school. I began my fitness hobby strictly as a runner, but I soon wished to grow physically stronger - a feat that could perhaps allow me to gain physical stamina as a tubist, or at the very least allow picking up the instrument to become easier!
After defeating my preconceived notions of weight-training stereotypes and realizing that no singular personality exists for its accessibility, I decided to research a clear plan of development as to how best organize my journey, avoid injury, and seek optimal results. “Serious Strength Training” achieves just that - gauging the necessary requirements to tailor one’s own weight training to meet specific goals, whether training for mass, strength, or stamina. The academic nature of the book succeeds in separating myths (colloquially regarded as “bro science”) from factual information, which in turn promotes a sense of inner calmness in simply trusting the process. Despite this book - along with the overarching hobby of fitness - appearing radically distinct from musical application, I believe that many parallels can be drawn toward enhancing musical performance. In essence, time spent at the gym is not time idly spent, but rather time that gains a practical application in learning to distribute one’s practice sessions when tailored toward a certain goal.
As a case example, the aspect of planning is as paramount for success in the gym as it is in the practice room. One would not attend the gym daily to only work on arms, as this would be impractical. Time is needed to regenerate a specific muscle group and one would not observe growth if only tackling a singular area of the body. Similarly, the idea transfers to the practice room in the fact that solely focusing on long tones or lip slurs every day would not yield desirable results, but would ironically be counterproductive to our ultimate growth because of fatigue, both physical and mental. When discovering a split-routine, such as a biceps/back or chest/triceps/shoulders combination that matches our individual needs, we develop sustainable habits that become physically observable over time. Much of the parallels between a fitness hobby and musical goals amounts to a process of self-discovery in learning our individual tendencies, how our minds work, and how our bodies react. Based on this process, we determine a prescription for success and design a methodical plan that turns merely perfunctory gestures into actions that are actively goal-oriented. Finally, by keeping a daily log of our strength numbers, repetitions, or practice achievements, both disciplines allow us to gain a visual representation of our progress in short-term goals, which then dictates how we approach the adjustment of our long-term journey. Whether a fitness aficionado or simply one seeking to structure one’s efficiency and time management in the practice room, “Serious Strength Training” is a worthwhile read!
Miyazakioworld: A Life in Art by Susan Napier
Miyazakiworld is a biography about the famed Japanese animator and auteur Hayao Miyazki. The term “miyazkiworld” is used by the author to describe the essence of his oeuvre: themes, Miyazaki-specific tropes, aesthetics, visual styles and motifs, etc. The work alternates between biographical information and pertinent detailed analysis of films that show the correlation between people, relationships, and events that influenced his art.
Miyazaki’s most famous works came from his tenure at Studio Ghibli, a studio he founded alongside fellow director Isao Takahata and producer Toshio Suzuki. Studio Ghibli has a strong international presence. It is recognized as one of the world’s elite animation studios, garnering critical acclaim and amassing an international fanbase.
I didn’t grow up with Studio Ghibli movies like many other fans. I watched my first Miyazaki film when I was in college. I was immediately drawn to the unique narrative and creative features of his films. Despite being relatively new to them, I have a strong sentimental attachment to all of his films. To paraphrase British film writer and podcaster Michael Leader, these films feel like old friends that you can revisit any time and feel a sense of comfort.
There are many elements of Miyazaki’s filmmaking process that are inspiring. The one that jumps out to me is his treatment of transcriptions. His adaptations aren’t cheap dilutions of a novel, edited almost beyond recognition to fit the length of a feature length film. Rather, he uses elements of the novel (plot, character, and settings) as raw source material. He’s telling the story the way he thinks it should be told.
I think of this approach when I am working on standard solo literature or transcriptions. I ask myself: "How can I imbue a sense of identity through my interpretation?" As John de Lancie, a famous oboist and pedagogue, observes: “the sheet music we see is the recipe for music, just the basic framework. It is our role to take that framework and turn that into living sound.” Even in a work that is saturated with expressive markings, there are creative choices to be made. Tell the story the way you think it should be told.