burn, baby

So here’s the situation. On June 17, I fly back to NY and arrive in Millz at approximately 1am on the 18th. The 18th has me getting new glasses and riding the Adirondack Scenic Railroad’s Beer Train for my de-facto birthday party. My actual birthday, the 19th, has me flying to Switzerland for the Music10 festival in Blonay, which I am severely looking forward to. (Shoutouts!)

I was assigned to two pieces this year, got the music on May 15th (ish), and began learning promptly. I was pretty comfortable with it, wasn’t stressed, and had plenty of extra time to re-brush-up Cold Front for a masterclass. Late May, I was also told they’d like me to be a performer in Martin Bresnick’s *** trio. Holy cow, Yes, What an honor!

I got the piece that day. I looked it over, started working on it; started sweating. I haven’t had to figure out rhythms like this since Ligeti’s “Cordes à vide” etude. I now had three weeks left to learn the original two, brush up Cold Front, and learn this one.

So here I am, T-one week. The most difficult part of this whole thing is treading that very fine line between burning bright and burning out. Normally I consider myself a moderate-to-slow note-learner; I no longer have that luxury. I don’t have the option of asking if I can or can’t manage this. I have to, and I have to do it well, and I know I can, regardless of whatever excuses or hangups I thought I had.

I’m satisfied with how far I’ve gotten over the past two weeks, and I know if I keep on this track for the next week I’ll be fine. Musically. The thing is, it really is a fine line between me and burnout, and I’ve toed that line more than once this fortnight. As it is, I haven’t bothered to cook or eat: I’m living off sandwiches and cereal. I’ve taken up a heavier caffeine habit than I’m normally comfortable with. My shoulders are encroaching on my ears from tension, and my ears are really not appreciating the lack of personal space. And probably worst of all, I don’t sleep. I get home at 11pm, read until about 1am, I don’t drift off until about 3am, I toss and turn until about 8, and then I’m wide awake. Not good sleep.

If I recall correctly, I’ve only done practicing this ridiculously intense once before, it lasted about a month (all I needed), and for some reason I slept better during that one. I’m wondering, how long could I keep this up? How long before I wore out that line from sheer tension and hit pure burn-out? I’m making great progress, but I’m not particularly enjoying life right now. I’m actually not even considering life. I’m just getting these rhythms under my fingers.

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