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Dear Zonk,

I’m drunk. Kind of. And I’m also happy. And I have a lot to work on tomorrow but also, it’s okay.

:)

Love always,

Kitu.

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No bugs

Dear Zonk,

Pest control sucks. But I’m sleeping my bed after ages tonight, and it feels good.

G’night!

Love always,

K.

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Time, please.

Dear Zonk,

It’s been ages. I know I say that often, but this time it’s true to an alarming extent.

2018 was supposed to be The Year Of Taking Out Time. I’m unemployed and not commuting and so on and so forth. But things haven’t quite turned out the way I planned for them to. I’m not working a part-time writing gig. I’m not making Bleak posts in my spare time. Instead I’ve ended up with two freelance projects, and I’m always either working or worrying about working.

Don’t get me wrong — most days these are good problems to have. I’m just saying, though, that this is not what I thought I’d be doing right now.

In other news —

  • My laptop seems to have died. I need to fix it and I’m afraid to know what it’ll cost.
  • My violin project progresses in spikes and plateaus. I’ve stopped getting worse though, so that’s something.
  • I seem to have lost my Kindle and my Kobo doesn’t work well and I’m not reading very much at the moment. Which makes me very sad.
  • I work late several nights to make up for having wasted too many mornings. it makes me very aware of my slipping discipline, and of the fact that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I hate it. Serves me right.
  • I find comfort in our flowering bougainvillea and the hibiscus and the sparrows that hang out in our balcony.
  •  Too often now I feel inadequate.
  • I still miss home sometimes.

 

That was a bit all over the place. But that’s what you get when someone writes you a letter at 11.46 p.m. I’m sure that you’ll understand.

Goodnight, Zonk.

Love always,
K.

 

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Music, Unsorted

Goodbye, Level 0.

Dear Zonk,

I’ve been practicing my violin a lot lately. And also both my guitars. I’m beginning to feel that old familiar restlessness again. And I really, really wish I didn’t have to work right now.

This week I went off course a bit with practice. I composed a piece to go with one of my songs, and did a rough recording and took it to my teacher to have him hear it and give me tips. I thought he’d spend a few minutes with it, and then move back to the book. But he didn’t.

Instead, he taught me how to write out the piece, and figured the best bowing pattern for it (which is a bit too hard for me to manage yet), had me record a video of him playing it (for reference) and told me to practice just this all week. And also one tiny piece from the book, but I already know that, and so my focus stays on this.

2018-03-13 13.21.35

If I ever learn to play this well, Zonk, I’ll record it and put it up here so you can listen to it. I believe that you learn to play instruments in sprints. You go through the motions and follow the rules and get better at it bit by minuscule bit – and then one day you have a breakthrough of some sort. The instrument starts to fit your body suddenly. It feels more like a natural extension than an object you need to wrestle into place. Things become easier beyond this point. Partly because you’ve become used to playing it. But mostly because everything hurts less and it finally starts to be more about the music and less about the mechanics of it all. It begins to be fun.

And then you’ll be stuck on that plateau for a long long time. Until the next breakthrough happens, and you suddenly hit a point where you become good at playing the damn thing. (And then you’ll be stuck there, and so on.)

Anyway, my point is, I’ve finally powered up to Level 1. It took me 8 or 9 lessons to get off of Level 0. That’s 2 months. Of which I spent at least 3 weeks not practicing very much at all. It’s a shame – all these years that I’ve wasted – but I can sort of play now. I mean, if I pick up a violin today and start to make some sounds, you wouldn’t need to drop everything and run into the next room. That sounds sad, I know. But with this painful instrument, it definitely counts as progress :)


I realised today that I lucked out with both my music teachers. My guitar teacher taught me to play with blood and instinct and not worry about breaking rules at all. My violin teacher teaches me the math and science of music playing. But he always places it in the context of improving my art.

If ever I learn to do both simultaneously, I will be satisfied.


In other news, C’s piano teacher is organising a little homey open mic sort of event. Well, the mic’s not really open as such, but that’s the vibe. And she’s asked me to play a bit. Which is why I’ve been working with both my guitars so much lately.


All of this is a lot of fun. But it’s also very distracting. And I have a ton of work to do right now that I should really not be ignoring.

And so, goodbye. Be good, Zonk. Practice hard and follow the rules and keep your fingers round.

I’ll see you again soon.

Love always,
K.

 

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Music, The Violin Project

My very many violin woes.

Dear Zonk,

Learning to play the violin is a bit like learning to drive a car. Sadly for me, I can’t drive at all.

Before I get into this, here’s a brief timeline of the events leading up to my third violin class this morning.

A brief timeline of the events leading up to my third violin class this morning.

  • 2001 (or maybe it was 2000 or 2002) – went to the annual Book Exhibition at school, where my sister picked out a book for me. The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff. In the book, a 12 year old violinist participates in a Mozart contest, plays a concerto for her dead Jewish grandmother, discovers that she’s an endangered species, finds a lost song, and practices her violin a whole lot. 13 (or was it 11 or 12?) year old me decided to learn to play the violin some day.
  • 2004 (or 2005) – 18 year old me got distracted and bought a guitar instead. Turned out I was reasonably musical. Stuck with the instrument, practiced for hours every day, got pretty good at it even, and wrote some semi-decent (and a few slightly shitty) songs. My violin dreams were shelved for a while.
  • November 5, 2010 – 22 year old me was kinda bored. I was writing better songs by then, but hardly ever practiced. I wondered if it was time to find new focus in my old ambitions. Asked my family for a violin on my birthday, got a cycle instead.
  • November 5, 2011 – 23 year old me asked for a birthday violin again. This time I actually got one.
  • Later in 2011 – found a violin tutor who had great expectations of me, and totally disappointed him. I went for 4 – 5 classes, made rapid progress, and then quit and decided to go the self-taught route. Terrible decision. Never try to teach yourself violin, Zonk. Especially if you’re a lazy bum and entirely lack the discipline and rigour required to master this cruelest of instruments.
  • 2012 – 2016 – Picked up the instrument and dropped it again roughly 234 times. Figured out how to play Scarborough Fair and May It Be (Enya). Felt momentarily accomplished. Accomplished nothing.
  • 2017 – Planned a bunch of life changes for 2018, including but not limited to – marriage, moving out, quitting my job, going freelance, becoming a person who understands money; and learning to play the fucking violin.
  • January 2018 – Called up Furtados, got a list of numbers for violin teachers, arranged to meet the first one that answered his phone. Luckily for me, he turned out to be excellent. He told me that adults can learn to play pretty easily too, and that I do have an ear for music. Which was quite a relief to hear, because by this point, I’d almost entirely stopped playing anything. The last song I composed was written at least 2 years ago, and the fingertips of my left hand were smooth as baby’s bum. I’d figured my musical ear must have rotted itself off my head by now. I paid up immediately, and started going to class.
  • Today, 8.30 a.m., January 30, 2018 – Class #3.

My teacher introduced me to sight reading, adding one more thing to do to the growing list of things one is expected to do simultaneously while playing a violin. Keep the bow parallel to the bridge. Keep your bow hand flat and loose whilst not dropping the bow. Put your middle finger in the curve of the heel and your pinky just so and with your ring finger, you must poke the frog in its eye. Keep your thumb rounded. Keep your left hand loose (I cannot). Keep all four fingers curved, and find the right note with absolutely no markers to help you do it at all. Keep the scroll pointing up. Bow surely, at a consistent speed, and ease the pressure up at the right times. Use the right section of bow, at the right distance from the bridge. Keep your right arm still from elbow to shoulder. Pay attention to the sound you draw out – try not to sound like a dying cow. Do all of this simultaneously, of course and oh! Slow down! You have to be playing in time! 

I’m not very good at multi-tasking, Zonk. Nor am I good at Math. I realised today that musicality can really only take you this far when it comes to music. And with the violin, it probably barely even counts. So much of this is technique and practice and hard hard hard work. It’s a bit overwhelming. But, let’s be honest. It’s also kinda exciting to think that if I keep up with this, I might actually be able to play respectably someday.

So my aim this week is to get as close to an hour of practice every day as I possibly can. I think it should be doable. I doubt it’s gonna be fun. Either way, it’s time to buckle up.

*grimly puts rosin on bow*

Love always,
K.

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Schrodinger’s Career (or First World Problems)

Dear Zonk,

I’ve spent most of this past month worrying about work, thinking about work, planning around work; and not doing any work at all. And now January’s almost done, my strange little vacation’s drawing to a close and actual, serious work is about to begin in full swing.

Or, you know, half swing. Because I’ve taken up a part time retainer and a project, both design and copy, and I’ll have 4 days in every week that are all my own. My part time dreams are finally coming true. For the next three months at least. And now that I have all of this Time on my hands and money’s no longer an object, I’m beginning to feel a little bit afraid.

You see, it’s easy (in a way) to feel creatively unfulfilled and overworked and unhappy with where you’ve ended up in life. But sometimes, if you’re lucky, life gives you a chance to make more of it, and all the resources you’ll ever need to do so.

And that, Zonk, is both exhilarating and terrifying.

Because imagine if all the excuses get taken away and you still end up falling short.
If you have it all and fuck it up anyway, who’s left to blame but you?

Love always,
K.

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Violin-ing and so forth

Dear Zonk,

I went for my first violin lesson today.

I’d planned to make a detailed post tonight– about how more than half the lesson was spent holding the violin and the bow just so, about the exercises I have to do and about my teacher, who is excellent. It’s all very exciting. And I did well and it made me wonder if maybe this year I’ll end up actually keeping a resolution.

But the day’s almost over, and I’m suddenly sort of blue. So I think I’ll go watch a shitty show instead.

And so it is.

Love always,
K.

 

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