The last 24 hours has been interesting. As I said in yesterday’s blog, we were about to head over to Trevor and Dot’s for dinner, and the evening turned out to be quite an eye-opener. Away from the studio room, and after a few glasses of wine, Trevor was an incredibly jovial host. There was a stunning and very fancy dinner: an entrée of crab paté followed by mini pancakes with salmon, quail eggs, ginger, caviar and sour cream (of the make-your-own variety). Then came an amuse-bouche of lettuce with walnut oil, fresh walnuts and a pinch of salt (messy but oh so yummy) and a cooked banana dessert. All washed down with plenty of wine and liqueurs to finish off. After dinner we watched Jean de Florette, an old but stunningly-shot French film set in Provence. The whole thing was a bit surreal, especially when it came time to walk home along the little footpaths!

This morning, thought, it was back to Trevor the teacher. My rendition of the Aus liebe obbligato from Bach’s St Matthew Passions was pronounced un-expressive, though by the end of my time out the front I think it had improved somewhat. I did better in the afternoon with Dopploer’s Hungarian Pastoral Fantasy, which I knew well enough to really go for in terms of expression and style. The problem is that I need to be confident enough to do this with every piece, even if I’m not totally on top of the notes! I ended up getting through quite a bit of the Doppler and having a really constructive lesson, and we were able to talk about a variety of things in my playing rather than just the one, so I left class much happier. I like Trevor’s approach to the piece: play the written rhythms because Doppler took an awful lot of time to write them all out! Yes, there is some flexibility of tempo, but never at the expense of what’s actually written on the page. Compared to some of the recordings I’ve heard, I find this stoic logic very appealing.

Our other activity in class today was taking a pitch perception test. Melodic transcription have never been my forte, and so I was relieved to find that it was a simple case of comparing pairs of pitches and identifying which ones were higher or lower. There were 50 tests, in sets of 10, and as we progressed the pitches got closer and closer together. Starting at a quartertone, by the end there were only one or two cents difference. I surprised myself by doing quite well, with only two wrong (and let’s face it, I’m sure the last one was actually just the same pitch twice), which according to Trevor puts me in the 96th percentile. He then went on to tell us that he believes the ability to perceive pitch in this way is fixed from the age of seven, giving the proof that conservatoire students will test almost exactly the same at both ends of their degree. Interesting food for thought, though I hope that my ability to perceive the pitch of my flute continues to improve!

We’re off to explore Canterbury tomorrow morning, which I’m rather looking forward to. Hopefully my sudden late-night desire to practise will carry over to the morning with similar vigor!

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