Backstage Vol. 10: Transitions

The first thing I thought after I wrote the title of this blog were eye-glasses. Yea, you know 'transition lenses', the kind of prescription lenses that darken when they are in the sunlight and lighten in the dark so you can have both sunglasses and regular glasses at the same time. (Yay UV protection!)

I should really wear sunglasses sometimes, I have those light-sensitive blue eyes. Oh well. I've only ever briefly had a pair of my own, and I'm not counting the ones bought for me as a young boy which I enjoyed wearing much more indoors when I was pretending to be a 007 style super-spy. You know. As it is.

Anyways. Transitions. This is a music blog, perhaps you expect me to talk about some music theory details in the transition section of a sonata form piece that I am currently working on.

Well, yes I have played pieces in sonata form, but I am not working on any at the moment. They are sitting in the vault, awaiting their comeback. And that will come, I like to think that everything I've decided to put a lot of work into will serve me more than once, or for more than just a short period of time.

No. What am I going to talk about?

This has been a hard and constant question over the last number of weeks. I'm sure you've noticed I haven't posted since the end of March. And yes I have been busy. Busy finishing my Bachelor's degree, performing concerts. Traveling. But I'd like to think I will always have time to write something.

I have been doing a lot of things; there are many things to share! New adventures, endings of old ones. So much that I'm not sure what is worth taking the time *today* to share. My mind is a whirl, and I am having a hard time settling it down.

I shared this with my grandmother. We were having a drink before dinner, and what she said was important. We talked about transition.

I had a pretty smooth transition out of my student world into the professional in May. I played my final recital at school in Montreal, and two days later I was in Kingston rehearsing with Melos Choir and Period Instruments as their guest lutenist for their 'Sound Grounds' concert. That was nice. It's not like I haven't been working as a professional musician all this time, it's just this time, I wasn't also a student. I had done the work, I had a degree, I had experience and I felt like I had something of my own to offer.

That being said I'm heading right back to school in October to do a Master's program in Barcelona.


Today I saw a black bear lantern for sale on a buy and sell page on Facebook. It was carved out of a log. The bear was dark black when you lit the lantern because of the shadows, but since it was carved from light wood it was rather white in regular light. $200.

Sometimes I have this hope that life works somewhat like Sonata form. There's the main theme, then the transition and then wow, you get the subordinate theme, lovely contrasting commentary on what just happened, and you know that towards the end of the piece the main theme and the subordinate theme are going to make up their differences and be in the same key and we won't need the transition for so much anymore.

Also I'm not so sure what a transitionary period is. As far as I can tell-even though I seem to be living some kind of transition; one stage of adult life to another-I am still me, and I am still playing music, theorbo, guitar, you name it.

Here's a transition I really didn't think about. Now that I'm no longer a student, I don't have access to the school's facilities for practicing. I am more or less required to practice at home. And that means considering not disturbing roommates; rather difficult for someone who likes to start practicing at 7:00 in the morning. So far I have been sleeping later.


I rode quite a few trains in the last two months. That was fun. I like trains. I like trains that take you on longer journeys.

When I arrived in Paris a month ago, I took the RER train from Aeroport Charles de Gaulle to downtown (of course not without needing to switch trains because of workers strikes). This train was in rather bad shape. Lop-sided. It looked like it was half floating, with one side weighed down and dragging on the riverbed, the other angled awkwardly in the air. It was purple and yellow. If you touched anything it would take a moment as you move for your hand to peel itself off the thick coat of accumulated neglect. I felt like I was walking into an old toy from a set of action figures; one that even when you were 6 years old you could tell was out-dated and damaged. Sometimes the train would be underground and it would be dark. Sometimes it would be above ground. I saw La Stade France, or at least the parking lot. I got off above ground and switched into another train below where we had stopped. This one had lights, and it was white and green. Underground again.

These aren't my favourite trains. If I really had to pick a favourite it would be big freight trains that shoot past you at a terrifying velocity, so that when you stand close by it jolts your heart into keeping pace with its spinning wheels and screaming metal cars. I like that feeling. I also like taking the train between Montreal and Kingston. There is space and you can get on a train that leaves the station and doesn't stop until you arrive at your destination. 


Another thought I had recently. Actually not just a thought, but a memory. We were talking about dense contrapuntal music, and whether some of it is too academic, mathematical to be beautiful music (my stance is no), and I was brought back in my mind to the first time I heard music for the classical guitar. I was used to rock, folk, metal, style playing which is either strumming or mostly one voice melodic lines. When I heard a recording of a classical guitarist playing music, music with many voices plucked with the fingers of the right hand, I was blown away. I was sure that there were at least two guitarists playing, but the CD cover only mentioned one artist! As I began to study the classical guitar of course I learned that polyphony and independence of voices is possible and standard to the style, and consequently I forgot about this experience I had. I lost that amazement, shock even, that I was hearing so many things at the same time. It doesn't impede me from appreciating the music, but my 'informed' perception of it is very different now. Complex counterpoint then can be satisfying to the trained ear that enjoys trying to pick out all the tricks and tools the composer has used, and how the interpreter exposes them, but my memory from the beginning of my journey with "classical" music was a sensory experience of a whole different kind. Yet, now that I have been reunited with this memory, my mind is open to hearing music in a new way. Maybe not entirely new, but somewhat changed from the way I have been perceiving it for the last little while.


The number of ways to experience one phenomenon is so vast that I am finding I discover things anew every single day. This is in a way both delightful, thrilling, and scary, sickening. It's hard to just sit comfortably on a rock that you are sure is not going anywhere, and be undisturbed by the constantly changing shapes and sounds around you, when you yourself know that you are equally as inconstant and also maybe not as stable as that rock you are sitting on. 

I really need to get new eye-glasses. They are in disrepair and the prescription is too light for me, and I'd rather not squint to read signs. It will be nice to see clearly again for a little bit, with the comfort of knowing that I am only at the very beginning of the next stage, and the disorientation and squinting is still a long ways off. And who knows whether when I do get this new pair of glasses if I will say, 'Yes, this is better, but it wasn't so terrible before.' or 'What is wrong with you that you didn't do this sooner!?'


In the meantime, I still practice every day, and that makes me happy.




Thanks for giving this a read today! I've been in and out of the online world a lot recently and I am very happy to be sharing with you again.


If you're wondering when the next time you can see me perform is, or what project I'm working on next, check out my events page, as well as my Facebook and the Cygnus Trio .

If you feel like leaving a comment or starting a conversation, don't hesitate to share or message me directly at

Until next time!

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