Practical notes on Five Sacred Trees: Tortan

Continuing on to the second movement. Here is the first part in this series.

Interestingly, much of the concertmaster solo part is marked in various shades of soft. Bassoonists, who are conditioned by Beethoven symphonies to know that “p” stands for “play out” and “f” stands for “fuck it, this is the someone else’s responsibility,” tend to take dynamic markings with a heavy grain of salt, which can be lent to a violinist friend in a time of need.

I don’t know why, but before this movement starts, I constantly have the urge to put the whisper lock on, and need to remind myself to... not.

Mm 12, useful to anchor the mind on the Bs.

Mm 22, it is tempting to get started early on these, but the B and the C take place on the second and fourth eighth notes of the bar, respectively.

Mm 29, I found it helped with overall cleanliness to: 1) out of all the notes that take place on the second eighth note beat, focus on the open F; and 2) on the first eighth note beat, play the E with the overblown single-finger fingering, not the full E fingering, and then flick the A that comes after it.

Mm 38, things are getting a bit heated rhythmically, and Chris Millard made the extremely helpful suggestion that, instead of feeling the first half of the bar as a triplet, that you continue feeling it in eighths (ie with the emphasis, internally, on the B.

Mm 39, theoretically the same should apply to the identical figure in he second half of the bar. For some reason, though, I was never able to feel it that way. Go figure.

Mm 43: so, is there a difference, practically, between the rhythm in this bar and in mm 11 et al? Reach for the stars, friend-o! Or don’t. I doubt anyone will notice or care. I think I tried to make a difference between the much more obviously juxtaposed 45 and 46, by which time the bassoon is accompaniment and it doesn’t matter anyway.

Mm 48, I found focusing on the E of the fourth eighth note beat made the thing marginally more likely to happen.

This cantabile section is a memorization nightmare. I went by the rule of thumb that most of the held notes have two beats happen during their tenure— whatever their actual length might be— and memorized specific deviations from that rule. Once I had it in my head, I actually had to look away from the part during the performance, or the visual would cause me to second-guess what I knew was correct.

Mm 101-102 it is very easy for the triplet-sixteenth rests in the middle of the beats to be too long, especially if you are attempting to play the rhythm in the latter half of 100 as a true sixteenth pattern. I found that these two bars had a tendency to drag, but then 103-105 are easy to rush. Neither option is particularly recommended at this point in the shitstorm.

Mm 108 should feel like it is happening in slow motion. The violin shot in the middle of it has nothing to do with anything.

I found it helpful to avoid breathing in the first eighth beat of 109.

Mm 114-116 more slow-mo. If you rush here, you are gonna experience some intense regret real soon.

The most difficult part of the next section is just not letting the excitement get you you. It’s pure movie-star John Williams but for 117-125 I just had to stay on the back of the beat, listen to the bass clarinet and section bassoons during the rests, and focus on anchoring on the G#s in 123 and 125.

The most difficult part of mm 130-131 is literally everything. By the time I performed the piece, I could play these bars correctly. It took two years.

Ways that I practiced it, at various points:

  • Slowly, obviously. Really slowly.
  • Omitting the entire upwards run, focusing on the interval between the first note of each beat, and the triplet at the beat
  • Omitting the triplet at the end of the beat, focusing on the septuplets as groupings of 4+3
  • Focusing on specific notes as anchors: for me, the ones that were most important to concentrate on nailing were the Bb and E in the first septuplet run, the C in the sextuplet, the A in the triplet immediately following the sextuplet, and then the final septuplet isn’t too bad with an emphasis on the octave between the Gs, and aided by the one-finger E and overblown open F.


Don’t let the wizard get you with the broom on your way out.