Saturday, November 14, 2009

this is not, i repeat, NOT back-door bragging:

PARADOX and the ARBITRARY are my two bestest friends. they are the only friends that give me a surprise party whenever i need it. Thanks guys! you're swell. (too much mad men). back in grad school/audition days you guys were around a LOT and saved my ass countless times. i remember thanking you profusely for helping me get away with murder. then i remember it became a blind trust that maybe you'd be there, and the more i thought about something totally totally different than my task-at-hand (like thinking of a spring meadow, the sun on my face, the smell of nature, a happy place that is purely sensory---btw, i never thanked him, but boris berman man!!, thank you thank you---his chamber music coachings (since he was overtly appalled at my lack of theory/counterpoint/ear-training skills -- "Lisa, you must take a REMEDIAL class immediately"--well, the highlights of his coachings, were his method acting. this frikin BLEW! MY!!MIND!!!!! (and remains one of the biggest items stored in my head-file i guess i entitled "MAGIC : believe in it" --consulted when my faith in it starts waning (when i start defaulting to asian models of success---like repetition, pain, repetition, self-lashing, etc--really insulting to humans really. we are not trained monkeys (though in orch it sometimes feels like it---"ON the string" "off the string" "more legato"-- blindly follow MAN on podium--your job is not to engage or judge these instructions; cuz your individual input is not really appreciated, cuz we can't have 100 ppl weigh in, right? we have our LEADERS (who, in this non-democratic system (our violin principals were voted in, yes, but not by audition, just by acclamation (only name on ballot is PLENTY OF CHOICE, mein gott!!) --are always right, because there are no checks and balances, NO MONTHLY/YEARLY/DECADELY EVALUATIONS (JUST A FRIKIN SUGGESTION )..
oh my god, keep it together, i have gone way off course. i WANT to talk about PARADOX, the underlying theme of my life, which i've only been aware and appreciative (and able to USE and CULTIVATE) of since about......1999.. no, it actually started with my crazy (nicest way) russian teacher (he was BEST, i can see that in retrospect---i'd be dead in a ditch without him) in college --it took him 4 yrs to convince my stubborn 18-yr-old stupid self, but the lightbulb finally came on and he convinced me of a lot of f*ckin A-M-A-Z-I-N-G stuff that i initially resisted as ridiculous crazy-talk i had my own work philosophy. and i was not as open-minded as i thought i was. (i really only believed in work back then---the serious kind that is done only in isolation and with tons of self-lashing ---work work work, repeat, also don't eat if you're really going for the "virtuous feeling") yeah, maybe i'm a late-bloomer. (i was NOT deemed smart enough for the Talented and Gifted (TAG) Program in elementary school, tho' my parents made me re-take the test---it IS quite ridiculous that the mix of their genetic material (physics, EE, math, ambition, organizational wizardry) didn't produce a talented and gifted child. but you know, i may not be able to count and i got a C in AP Calc (the prof, a japanese green beret, was obviously racist)--but i like type real fast and have well-formed ears)
shit, i did it again! ok, i really wanted to talk about those moments where it hit me big--like on a whole phys/ment/emot/inner-child/abdominal-core/girlyparts (like davin and his bikram yoga, and sorta like freud excavating your childhood and subconscious -- i mean, it was on all those levels (physical, mental, etc) SIMULTANEOUSLY and in UNISON...and the elements were pulled together by THOUGHT! whooppeeee! how amazing! we have the equipment designed to understand MORE (THANK GOD. OR Universe or whatever u'd like) - i lost my ego and felt so FREEEEE-- anyway, these are experiences which are tabbed as x-tra special in my brain-file, "MAGIC-believe it stupid".---synaptic fireworks! axons on FIRE! --- and it finally sinking in in HUGE LIGHT-BULB (actually--many lightbulbs, more like a shitload of multicolored xmas lights, the blinking kind) ---- MY POST THIS MORNING WAS SUPPOSED TO RELATE THE MOST PROMINENT AND REAL-LIFE ITEMS IN MY
INDELIBLE BRAIN-FILE, "MAGIC: I GOT PROOF". [this once again, is mostly for me, since i have forgotten about this file and perhaps thus i have been lost and flailing, late for work, trying every day to get it together, but the harder i try, the more lists i make, the more i strictly control myself---i am f*cking up. and i really am F*CKING UP (or else i wouldn't CUSS) you know, there is a non-communicative, shit-starter part of myself that causes lotsa trouble for my conscious self. it doesn't cooperate, definitely NOT A TEAM PLAYER! and wants me to try something else or will keep throwing rocks at me and laughing mockingly... IS HE FRIEND OR FOE ???]
anyway, here are some of my direct-experience examples (none from the sub-file of tv or book revelation file--hugh laurie/House/Bertie Wooster and Don Draper featured predominantly in this file):

*BORIS BERMAN coaching--BEETHOVEN SPRING SONATA/WARREN LEE, PIANIST/STOECKEL, CIRCA 1998,1:30pm, WINTER, NEW HAVEN-- didn't practice much, felt it was even too late too cram, ate pizza at Naples right before, hands freezing...resulting in: UNSPRING, no flow, awkward, sounded bad, felt physically bad, wanted to just jump out the window-- mr. berman says "PUT INSTRUMENT DOWN. LIE ON FLOOR." (i'm like, oh SHITSKY) and "RELAX. WE WILL TRY METHOD ACTING NOW."--huh?--"YOU ARE LYING IN SUNNY MEADOW. WARM BREEZE. SUN ON YOUR FACE. HOW DOES SUN FEEL ? HOW DOES BODY FEEL? ARE YOU DROWSY? WHAT DO YOU SMELL? WHAT DOES YOUR BODY FEEL LIKE?" ~10 minutes later~ "OK. GET UP NOW. PLAY." i pick up violin and holyshitwhat'sgoing on???-- i am like a passive observer, enjoying someone else's playing, someone whose vibrato is effortless and the exact way i want to hear it, bow that never ended-- no audible bow-changes; actually NO BOW (cuz i couldn't hear differences in speed, pressure--i couldn't even imagine a calculated technique of any kind--how silly, all that), flowing energy, phrasing new and for miles and made more DUH sense--a new piece, a new concept, i really wasn't there--i was just there, in the car--there for the ride, but not even trying to be a back-seat driver. *!*!*!*! oh, it was M I N D - B L O W I N G . please believe me, this is one of the few times i am not hyperbol-izing (is that a word?)! MY MIND WAS BLOWN. MY BODY WAS UNDER A WEIRD SPELL OF A THOUGHT, A TRANSPORTIVE THOUGHT. it wouldn't have worked w/anyone else, like syoko, parisot, frankl---with mr. berman i am so mousy i do his bidding whole-heartedly and am like blindly trusting submissive cult-member. Hey, it's not just me! if mr. berman says you're in a frikin SUNNY MEADOW and you are lying under his piano in his studio, you ARE THERE. the sun was warm on my face. i almost fell asleep it was so warm and sunny and nature-y (it was probably snowing outside, wind chill -10). ok, it helps that i am highly suggestible, but still, i believe sincerely that most students in berman's studio do his bidding unquestioningly. he is scary force to be reckoned with. when i saw him once joshin' around with peter frankl or maybe claude frank--laughing with belly-- i couldn't tear my eyes away. or if i saw him with his daughter and he was smiley.... ok, back to the story... playing spring in winter in berman's studio: it was like mr. berman just turned warren into a frog or something. he was enchanted and child-like too. i turned to him and eye-screamed, " CAN YOU @?!*&! BELIEVE THIS SHIT??????? THIS IS MAGIC ! THIS IS A MIRACLE! "



*AUDITION/1999/STL. thank you dan krekeler. and jeehoon kim. honestly. it's all due to you that i have a job today. i practiced for 5 days for this audition. i am not a ninja. also, i have no confidence usually. so i cannot wing. but, since i only invested 5 days (and the last night before i left for the audition i decided to skip practicing and go out to Anchor and have a drink, cuz one shouldn't interrupt your life for an audition. um, life is to be lived today. i could be hit by truck tomorrow. i was SUCH a pro at auto-rationalizing during school. better than now even. now i'm too aware of my self-trickery. plus, i hate myself more now, which makes it harder to believe what i say to myself. ) --no skin off my was saint louis anyway. i would never even get past the prelims so who cares? i have job in colorado set up anyway, and i like larry loh, and colorado has fresh air and beautiful mountains. dan k. dropped me off in newark. i ran into Janie Choi at the gate. she was going to audition too. i hadn't seen her since taos (4 yrs). we chatted about not being prepared and how we could care less (defense mechanisms fully in gear). we chatted too long and missed our flight. she was like, "I'M OUTTA HERE. I'M GOING TO CENTRAL PARK WITH MY DOG, seeya!". i waited 6 hrs hours zoning out at newark airport til the next flight to st. louis. now i felt the total jinx--i mean, there goes my plan of arriving in the afternoon so i can unplug my ears, see if i can play the violin, do some valuable and needed cramming.. oh. well. zone zone zone zone zone zone. 6 hours. then finally got to st. louis at around 10pm. checked into best western. saw my friend HELEN, yay yay yay!! we stood around outside watching this chaos of ambulances and police cars and siren-noise (welcome to st. louis!) and i thought, "Seeeing helen makes this trip worth it." (helen and i have been friends since we were 15). next morning i get-- surprise!!--early monthly visitor and must schlep in a cab to walgreens and back. now it is practically time to go to the hall. helen forces me to eat some breakfast and commiserates with my attitude of life being SO SHITTY SOMETIMES. i haven't even touched my violin yet. so, my brain kinda flips-out, or FLIPS anyway. left brain couldn't handle the hard details, the limited chances, freaking out that i do not have time to even play a scale, go through hard spots. so, luckily, out of pure pure survival and my limited experience (see above anecdote) of this MAGIC---my right brain comes to the rescue. i relax, since it's all messed up and since this was a great opportunity for me to wildly EXPERIMENT with life and myself. violin was just vehicle. i am not violinist but a researcher/scientist now. in the cab i think like this, smile like a mental patient, and think about what i WANT to think about--total indulgence to make me happy---unapologetically, i don't think at all about the audition list (don't remember exactly which ones were the problem ones)---i just let myself drift to happy place (person--dan)and think of how i admired his neck and how he smells mildly like aveda in the morning and replayed/reviewed recent conversations we had which i thot were successful. anyway, at the hall i was pleased to remember that i had written a word on the top of each excerpt (don greene, audition success)--stuff like "flowing" "connection" "sparkly" "warm"and "choreography" and embarrassing but effective longer cues--"fragile perfect beauty" "unadorned starkness" "imperceptible effort" "frighteningly simple" "ever reach-ing" "unfearing exuberance"---
(sorry, i just went through my old excerpt-book and just wrote them all)-- then, anyway, we drew straws, i waited around with everyone else, feeling the energy (panic) in the room and how lots of people were doing that freaky medley of all the hard parts of the list--sounds crazy and feels crazy cuz it stops and starts, starts something different, stops at out of tune note, repeats that note checking with opening strings and other notes, repeat-repeat-repeat as if to GLUE it there, skips to something remembered that was similarly hard, does that shift 10-20 times, next next next next----all done in frantic "efficiency". i zoned out and thought about dan, cuz it was what my brain wanted to do (la la la). also, i considered the psychic abilities of my genius/crazy cellist-friend jeehoon.
[back then he wasn't blond--this is the only pic i could find on google]
he spookily came into my practice room the week before, popped his head in, said "Chong, you're going to win this. i know this." anyone else, i'd be like oh shut up, but this is jeehoon, he communicates with beings on other planes of existence, and he can hear GOD through certain chords at piano recitals. also, the devil has come to him in dreams, fighting God for his soul. i'm not kidding. the DEVIL tried to lure him away, promised him the rewards of the dark side. he was pretty irresistible and frightening, jee hoon told me. anyway, i was zoning. i wanted to talk to Jenny Thompson, who i saw, but she sprinted away to a warm up room and was in no mood for chit-chat. i kept actively maintaining my idiot smile and idiot open-mind-feeling. i didn't think of violin in any terms but as a thing i used to (don't laugh) express truth and beauty and love and hippie stuff. i wanted to have a positive audition experience. one for my files as truly classifiable as *Experimental--positive. so after zoning sans violin in the cattle-call room, later i was moved to the penultimate warm-up room-- there i reviewed the "moods" i was going to be in (felt them in my body. reviewed the mind-to-body transitions), also played some slow scales and played as huge as i could on the G-string. at the ultimate pre-audition room, i played Meditation from Thaïs, czardas and made jokes with ron moberly and jeff neville (andrea d. doesn't joke) . when i actually played i truly did it sinatra-style (MY...WAY..) and felt really good physically. and i was in a dreamy place mentally. i played nutcracker seriously dedicated to the ones i love...not for this job---my attention (because it was attention to fun things my brain likes (flowers, love, shiny things, sunshine), not NOTES and SHIFTS and POSSIBILITIES OF FAILURE) never lulled because i WANTED to be there for my sincere offering. i was a NUTcase, i know. i didn't even feel like myself. i played up the NUTCASE thing. i thought, if i was seriously crazy (insane/out of touch with reality) then, well, i wouldn't feel nervous and i wouldn't be trying to read the mind of the committee and getting neurotic. so, logically, nutcase was the way to go---so i WENT there. to CRAZYland. i was behind a screen, right (well for the first 2 rounds), so i could spin around, do a pirouette, touch my toes, cross my eyes, kneel down in prayer, whatever (only jeff neville would see and he was really nice and supportive--- the best vibes ever--i must thank jeff neville also, for not starving and living off my parents now)--as long as i made no noise, didn't talk. so i ended up feeling so freeeeeee so great---i thought of jeehoon, of dan, of the spiritual ghosts of objects and feelings/thoughts that made me feel like i had a shot of espresso. i had a fun beautiful time. i loved the violin in that moment. also, powell's acoustics is like a big bathroom. resonance reverb ---SUCH a boost.
so, anyhow, how can i NOT be a fan of paradoxical thinking/living--to resist is..

well, it's confusing sometimes--
when i re-wrote krishnamurti re: DISCIPLINE, i realize that we need more--- more than just eww "discipline" and yay "openness" and "vulnerability"--- paradoxically (har), to achieve even the idea of open and vulnerable you need courage, persistence, resilience, and even a little DISCIPLINE. also vulnerability-- no protective devices allowed--means you gotta prepare yourself for punches, disappointment, rejection, sadness, mean people... that's tough. i feel like we're built to make walls around yourself, cuz it's just natural---it hurts, so i'll shield myself. never get hurt again. i'll just take this pill. i'll just watch law and order and eat pringles.


  1. i feel like homer simpson when i read your posts like this one. i don't watch the simpsons at all (cartoons freak me out), but i know homer isn't the brightest, your brain goes a million miles a minute and i read your words and my brain slows to almost a complete halt. will caffeine help me?

  2. i finally found the perfect analogy! when i read your super smart and inspired and inspiring posts, i feel how i did RIGHT before my parents let me drop physics in high school. i knew there was cool stuff going on but i just could not keep up :>

  3. First the front page of the Post dispatch and now this, I can't seem to keep the paparazzi away. Part of the reason I've been reading all these brain/body books is to understand the 'Magic.' I think I misled you the other night when I said I don't like descriptions of 'clouds, grassy fields etc' to achieve an effect. I find this doesn't work in orchestra because you have 100 people executing their clouds according to their own definition. On a personal scale I do believe in the power of finding a desired mental image that creates a sensation in your body. I only really started believing this recently though because I was reading about how the brain focuses on a desired result to organize/prioritize your muscles. The more you strive for specific action from a muscle the less effective it is whereas imagining the result (even if that result is a sound you associate with seeing clouds) allows your muscles to work without that familiarly annoying voice that can tell you a thousand too many things at the wrong time (and in your case Lisa, about 6 million I'm guessing). One thing I am constantly amazed by (and kept thinking of as I read about your 'idiot smile') is how the correlation between muscles and feeling is a two way street. We all know that if you are happy you smile but if you are frightened/depressed/sad and you force yourself to make a big HUGE idiotic smile it's overwhelming likely that you will feel better immediately. Try it. I find it so useful that I hold a big fatty on my face for a good ten seconds right before I begin an audition (this does work better in the screened rounds... I think they may have thought I was a mental patient in Chicago).

  4. HA! to Davin: 1. your first line is total back-door bragging--were you really in the post-dispatch? well, u are photogenic... 2. your comment made me feel good (even though you hinted that i have Neurotic Tendency Level 11)...3. interesting about the muscle paradox thing---how super interesting! how coolly f-ed up is that?-- 4. i was thinking also, if you are mostly a right-brained person by nature or by nurture (a fun childhood with lots of finger painting?) maybe you don't have to go to these extremes of smiling like a nutball or holding a fatty right before you have to play something stressful. maybe you're like ALREADY THERE. wouldn't that be nice? i gotta work at this fight every minute of my life. i think that's where i got in the habit of coming as late as possible to work (as if this is a reasonable excuse, but IT IS)--cuz i found that if i took a nap or just lazed around for the afternoon before a concert instead of drilling hard parts or even warming up--i ALWAYS played better, had higher percentage of nailing things. now, i think i took it a little extreme and barely make the concert, and my heart's pounding and my fingers stiff-- NOT optimal. i am so so thrilled that you like (?) to discuss this stuff. most people just tell me to go practice more. i'm serious.

  5. kva--these are just advanced ways to shortcut neurosis and lack of practicing. don't be fooled! you are not homer simpson, you are wonderwoman--you probably just do this already. i enjoy talking about this part, since violin as violin is just too intimidating and i'm violin-phobic if i am really honest about it. it's like ice skating in shorty skirt at the olympics without even having taking a lesson.
    COFFEE is a must for this sort of thinking. Davin is also my coffee consultant--nice sleuthing there, chibi! also, this is important: have you watched WHAT THE BLEEP DO I KNOW? cuz that is critically important to getting in this zone.

  6. Are you going to write your tell-all now and tell us you've been on Crystal Meth the WHOLE TIME?? :) Loved reading about how this stuff works in your mind/body. I never knew it was this complex.

  7. no, i'm not andre agassi... this ain't USWeekly (a great publication, btw)

  8. i saw u on korean tv sitting beside dennis for a seoulphil concert. great bow control. next time ur in kimcheeland gimme a shout

  9. is this jeehoon? i will throw up with excitement if this is jeehoon. if you're not jeehoon, that's ok too i just won't vomit probably

  10. risa this is jeehoon. you can vomit now.