Monday, September 20, 2010

The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling

... but I'm not going to play them, because there are things calling louder than they. For me, it's Highland pipes or nothing. All UCC offers is the uileann pipes, and while that would also be cool, I decided I had higher priorities.

I met with the woman who teaches tinwhistle this morning to discuss the timetable for those lessons, which was kind of a disaster because my individual schedule is kind of a disaster and isn’t set in stone yet anyway. I’m probably going to have to email her later tonight or tomorrow and say, “Well, on second thought, the times I’m free are actually these, which is totally different from what I told you before…” It was doubly awkward because she also helps coordinate other instrumental classes, so while I was there I asked about signing up for a second instrument even though I messed up and didn’t pre-register like I was supposed to. She initially said I should be fine as long as I went home and registered as soon as I could, but when I asked about Irish Harp she suddenly got an “Oh dear” expression, which got worse when we further established that I have never played harp before.* So I asked about bodhrán, upon which she seemed relieved and told me to go meet with someone named Colum on Thursday afternoon. So, bodhrán fans: you win by default because I couldn’t make up my mind in time to get into the harp class. (And the carillon class conflicts with my mythology class, to my great disappointment.) Hopefully the guy will take me on despite my never having played a percussion instrument, and hopefully some miracle will allow me to do both of those things and my archaeology classes. This is going to take a lot of hoping.

At any rate, after that I walked into town to buy a new tinwhistle. I’m rather annoyed with myself about this, because I already own three tinwhistles (although, admittedly, one of them is so crappy it hardly counts, and the Clarke my grandfather brought me from Norway years ago took a beating through all my middle school talent shows and class demonstrations and so forth and is probably not up to serious playing anymore), and I pulled them out when I was packing and for some reason decided not to bring even the nicest one. I guess I was assuming I was going to learn new instruments, but then I got here and NOT studying tinwhistle formally while I have the chance seemed pretty stupid.

Now, back in high school I used to walk around Celtic Classic with Tyler and spend ages staring at expensive tinwhistles and dreaming. As instruments go, even expensive tinwhistles are comparatively not very expensive, but considering the five or ten dollar ones are normally perfectly good instruments and even experienced professional players often stick with them, there’s really no need to shell out a lot of money. But I still always kind of planned that my next whistle, especially if I was ever going to really learn to play, would be a really nice one.

But, since it was an unexpected expense, and since I currently have no job, and since for the first time in my life I have to pay for all of my own food, and since, again, you can get a decent quality tinwhistle for under ten bucks, I just bought an everyday factory-made whistle for five euro. It’s an Irish-made brand I haven’t owned before, but it appears to be almost identical to the brass Walton I left at home. I contemplated a similar one made in England that I’m pretty sure was nickel, which I don’t think I’ve ever tried before, but it was slightly more expensive and I’ve heard that that company has some quality-control issues, so I went with the Irish one. I haven’t played it yet, but we’ll see if I can tell the difference between it and the one I already had. Maybe later in the semester, or after, I’ll experiment with other kinds—try a nickel one, replace my Clarke…

I’m probably boring the hell out of you, if you’re even still reading at this point.

My last music thought for today is that while I was at the music shop I looked very briefly at bodhráns. I’m still not sure I’m going to buy my own even if I get into the class and it goes well, but if I do, that’s another good reason to stick with inexpensive tinwhistles for now, because even an inexpensive bodhrán would be a major purchase by my standards, and probably the most inexpensive ones are not up to the same standard as the cheap tinwhistles are and I should plan to go for at least mid-range.

Besides, I held off buying new tinwhistles this long because I haven’t really played in so long, but if I learn to really play well this semester I might be able to better justify the purchase of, say, a handmade rosewood whistle once I have an income again…

Anyway, I’m still trying to figure out exactly what classes I’m taking and when, because of the difficulties of scheduling archaeology classes period and the added difficulties of scheduling them around classes in other departments with slightly less crazy timetables. Or with equally crazy timetables, as the case may be. In hindsight, I think trying to study archaeology and music simultaneously may not have been wise from a sanity perspective. From a “This is my life” perspective, though, I didn’t really have a choice. If I threw in an English class, this semester would pretty much represent everything all of college was supposed to be for me.

I wasn't really ready for classes to start today, though. Even though I’ve technically been back in school for a month, this has felt more like the longest summer ever, and I’m not ready for it to be over or to say goodbye to my wonderful archaeology class and start the real school year.

One last, off-topic thought for today:

“Dear Roommates: You can’t compost plastic. Please stop trying.” —the note I left on our kitchen counter this morning after fishing a plastic bag out of the compost bin for at least the third time since we moved in. I maintain that that was not passive-aggressive, because it was to-the-point and was simply an easier mode of communication than trying to tell all of them in person or figure out who was doing it and target her/them. And more importantly, I resisted the temptation to say “What exactly about the concept of compost do you not understand?!”

I mean, I realize that the fact that composting is common here is probably strange to a lot of Americans from places less environmentally conscious than Oberlin. (Personally, I was just excited.) But finding it novel and finding it difficult are two different things, and it’s really not that complicated. I’m pretty sure that at this stage of our lives, we should be able to tell what decomposes and what obviously doesn’t.

* Okay, technically speaking, I have played a harp before. Once. But even though the harp makes sense to me in a way other stringed instruments don’t and even though I successfully played a tune that first time with no instruction, because I’ve never had instruction I still felt the appropriate answer was No, I’ve never played before.

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