Flute update: celebrating Bach's birthday, using a Thumbport, improvising to bossa nova

It’s been eleven days since my last blog post on my flute progress. During this time, there have been various changes in my life, including radical changes in my musical life. It will take me a couple of additional blog posts to discuss these changes, but for now, I’ll talk only about today’s snapshot of my flute activity.

(Update of 2012-03-12)

I had ended up quitting the CMU AUO, and then having a wonderful musical experience a birthday party.



Today I received a Thumbport II I ordered recently. It’s a snap-on device that helps with holding a flute, by making it easier to balance the flute on the right thumb, thereby decreasing rolling of the flute and pressure on the right pinkie finger. I tried it for the first time today and it seems useful. We’ll see if it helps a bit with my form and injury issues.

I celebrated the 327th birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach

I don’t follow celebrity birthdays, but I could not avoid hearing about the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, born in 1685, thanks to some music blogs I follow.

How to celebrate? The last time I celebrated a composer’s birthday, it was last October, for Franz Liszt’s 200th birthday. Then, I listened to a piece of music by the composer and wrote up my impressions of it. Today, I again had the option to read about Bach or his music, and but I mostly chose to play his music, in order to celebrate as actively as possible.

Playing the cello suite no. 1 in G major, BWV 1007

I sight read a bunch of old Bach’s music that eventually I should practice seriously to play well, including various minuets and bourrĂ©es.

But the main piece I sight read was the full cello suite no. 1 in G major, using an arrangement for flute by Peter Billam. (I had actually obtained this a long time ago intending to play it on alto recorder.)

This music is deceptively simple but really quite beautiful. Even visually it is pleasing: check out Bach’s handwritten score:

Bach cello suite no. 1, first page

Visual animation

By the way, you must check out the following unconventional visual animated representation of this music (see the creator’s blog post about its construction).

Baroque.me: J.S. Bach - Cello Suite No. 1 - Prelude from Alexander Chen on Vimeo.

Bossa nova

Latin Jazz: 10 Latin Jazz Classics

Today I also picked up from the public library another play-along score/CD set, this time a “Latin jazz” collection. Apart from the famous mambo “Ran Kan Kan” by Tito Puente, the rest was actually bossa nova, which was what I got it for. Recently I decided to get more into playing jazz and working on improvisation. Since I love the harmonies and tunes of classic bossa nova, I decided this was a good place to get started.

I had a lot of fun playing around with the accompaniment CD. Actually, I would also like to sing this music, but unlike with salsa and bolero, where I am completely comfortable singing in Spanish, I am not proficient in the Portuguese language and it trips me up.


I just thought I’d provide a short update on some of my current musical activities, until I have time to write about the big changes I’ve made in my musical life.

A musical tangent: Bach’s Goldberg Variations

In turns out there is a whole series of posts on the NPR music blog about the Goldberg Variations. I could not resist dipping into this series, because I am a Goldberg geek. I would like someday to get good enough on piano to play much of it.

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