Category Archives: Music

Sixth flutiversary

If you find today a bit heavy, courtesy of the one year anniversary of a certain event, you can instead join me in celebrating my sixth flutiversary!

I wrote about my lustrum last year during my lunch break, and published it right as history was unfolding, and I can't blame my readers for paying more attention at that point to US politics than my blog for once. I hope this year there are no such distractions.

I already wrote elsewhere about how learning to play the flute has made me a better teacher.

This year, I am proud to announce I am finally closing in on 700 hours of personal practice time. That's not counting regular lessons, 45 mins a piece, which puts me well over that threshold of combined fluting time. I also had 5 months time off after shoulder surgery in 2021, my longest hiatus – turns out you hold flutes at a very awkward angle and they are heavy instruments so recovery is a bear. And my flute is extra heavy: nice silver and heavy walled, for that deep sound. Nearly a year after surgery I can still get fatigued during a session, although I regularly practice for up to an hour and it doesn't hurt, unlike before the surgery. Progress!

Scale exercises
Scales in thirds

So what does (almost) 700 hours get you? I'm afraid I'm not ready to give any recitals yet. Maybe if I had started aged 12 we'd be there, but for adult learners, development is at a snail's speed. According to my teacher, though, adults have the advantage of having a more developed sense of music, and I have to admit that usually I am most frustrated because I know what the music is supposed to sound like, I just can't get my fingers and breath to cooperate and play it like I hear it my mind's ear.

I am currently working my way through the final parts of Bloch's Suite Modale, and have made a gentle dent in the first movement of Hindemith's Sonata for Flute, but I am unable to play them as a single flowing set of movements that connect neatly. For the time being, Telemann's Fantasias are in the background but I have played through a couple of them (they're fun but hard, like all the rest), and I've played a couple movements of his . Currently I have my eyes on the Mozart prize (either of the two flute concertos will do). But really, the ultimate goal is just all of CPE Bach's flute repertoire. I am not sure if I want to perform or play with other people, I am just having fun as is right now and still practicing without further incentive so we'll see. If I get round to performing, you'll hear about it here!

Good things come to those who wait

Thing 1:

Proof of that arrives every month again when I see a little purple package in my postbox, with my tea club inside. It's absolutely gorgeous: a feast for the eye, and the teas smell divine and taste great! It's like a little parcel of zen-moments, because these teas deserve to be sipped with care and attention.

Close-up of black tea in a box, with specks of blue and white
Clementine grey tea from Plum Deluxe - you should smell it!

A year-long subscription was my little reward to myself for surviving Quarter 1 of 2021 (including making it halfway through another semester from hell, and single-handedly at that!)

Although I know of purists who don't like their tea "adulterated" with flavours, I was a bit bored with the selection on offer in the local supermarket and I also suffer from decision fatigue because I already need to decide so many other things in my life/job. Outsourcing what goes in my (nearly) daily cup was a great decision I haven't regretted yet: every month I get two different flavours (other formats of the club available) and after three shipments I yet have to encounter a flavour to give away because I don't like it.

I first encountered Plum Deluxe years ago as a sponsor on the Knitmore Girls podcast. Give them a listen! (Another good thing that comes at regular intervals!)

Thing 2:

It turns out cats are like buses: you don't see one up close for 15 months, then suddenly you get to spend time with 4 in one weekend! I have missed the furry friends in NYC, because we don't visit due to Covid-precautions. And visiting other people's cats wasn't really an option until I was vaccinated. Right as I got to that point, my friends asked if I could look after their cat for 2 and a half days. And then their neighbours asked if I could look after their three cats as well, for two meals. Ooooh! I didn't realize how low I was on Vitamin C in cat-form until I had some quality time with these kitties. I even levelled up in cat-sitting skills, and can now add "feeding three cats at once" and "insulin injections" to my cat-sitting resumé. [I didn't ask permission to post pics of said cats, just imagine cute furry friends here 🐈 ]

Thing 3:

Flute lessons resumed two weeks ago! Close to five months after surgery I finally had enough muscle power to hold up a flute long enough make it through a 45 min. session. (I have a heavy flute, but it does sound great). And you know what's even better? Because my teacher and I are both vaccinated, we can meet in person.

Oooh boy. Scales. It's been a while since I climbed these!

We managed to do pretty well with Jamkazam, which like its open-source counterpart Jamulus cuts back on latency and allow for much higher sound-quality than your average video-chat app. (Flute on Zoom is a tragedy/travesty). But Jamkazam became a paying app, and we couldn't get Jamulus to work, and ... in person is much better. We're back to our regular flute-"disputes" about sound quality, such as "No, I didn't hear that." - "Well, it's what I tried to do." or "Which note was the weaker one in that run?" - "Beats me, I was just trying to get them all in the right order!", rather than chalking it up to the computer messing with the sound.

Good things to come:

  • swimming: not until a year after surgery
  • a visit to Belgium: no idea when because I'm stuck in a cross-over of pandemic travel-ban mess and green-card application waiting room hell that's too boring to explain here.

So please don't ask me about either of these two. I'll just keep waiting. They'll come, like the other good things, won't they?

Hourglass in front of a bookstand with a Chinese book

Fifth Flutiversary!

Today it’s five years to the day I picked up a rental flute from a local music shop and blew my first notes.

How appropriate that today I found in the New York Times the feature “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love the Flute”. Click on the image below to have flutists (flautists if you're European and play a flaute?) and composers introduce you to some of their favourite pieces.
New York Times: "Five Minutes That Will Make You Love the Flute” And yes, flutes are bigger than you think.

I’m already in love, but perhaps you need some more convincing? Have a listen!

For me, it was the one and only Emmanuel Pahud who did it. (His official website needs to update a certificate, but you can read more about him if you do a quick internet search.) He was one of the youngest musicians to join the Berlin Philharmonic, in 1992, and I saw him first in 2015, at two concerts that took my breath away (scroll down to "new hobby"), and inspired me to pick up the flute. I'm currently at 636 hours of practice time (excluding lesson hours), so well on my way to 10,000!

While I enjoy some modern music with funky extended techniques (i.e. not regular blowing notes but clicks with keys, playing with micro-tones, and making noises that make you think "wait, is that a flute??"), the stuff that makes my heart beat faster and that I really have on my bucket list is from C.P.E. Bach, son of the great J.S. Bach. Some day, I'll play that Sonata in A minor for solo flute.

I could write for hours about flute music, but I won't. Instead, why don't you discover some of the repertoire for yourself, and let me know in the comments what you find?

The future is bright…

...the future is Mozart:

Shopping list for flute music

Earlier this week, my flute teacher gave me a little shopping list for music, and be still, my heart... Mozart K. 314, the second flute concerto in D major, has been on my flute bucket list since the very early days of flute-mania. Its final movement never fails to cheer me up. It's likely you heard the tune somewhere before, it's very "hummable" and it's hard to believe this piece was originally composed for oboe because it sounds so good on flute.

If you think it's just me who feels it's a joyful piece, check out the full concert with Emmanuel Pahud playing this in 2001 in Istanbul (starting at 25'), who simply dances his way through the whole thing with the Berlin Phil conducted by Mariss Jansons, making it all airy and light and happy.

Renaissance Music at ‘berg: A Brief Review

We are into the final third of the semester, and all the work the students have been putting into their performance courses is bearing fruit. Concerts galore! Free concerts, on campus, no less. What are you waiting for?

Tonight the spotlight was on Collegium Musicum, an ensemble that allows students to explore music from the Renaissance and Baroque. It is amazing to think that we have this semester eleven talented students on campus who are sufficiently interested in this type of music ("old and dead" to many) to dedicate their Thursday afternoons to weekly practice, under Dr. Ted Connor's expert guidance.

Yesterday's concert was big, electric, exploring (and exploding into) the space of Egner Chapel in search of optimal acoustic effects, with repertoire that roamed far and wide through space and time. The approach to today's concert Continue reading

Choir Music at ‘berg: A Brief Review

If you are a member of the Muhlenberg College community and you weren't in Egner Memorial Chapel on Friday night, what on earth were you doing that was worth missing this fantastic concert from the Women's Ensemble and the Chamber Choir? The work that Dr. Chris Jackson has done in three semesters with these two groups is phenomenal, and this evening the students showed how versatile they are as performers. If you weren't there, you missed out BIG TIME. (Disclaimer: Chris and I are in the same "cohort" of 2017 incoming faculty, I may be a bit biased, but it's still darn good choir conducting and programming.)

During the concert both choirs made clever use of the chapel's physical space, singing from Continue reading

SMART goal* for my flute practice

*Smart goals are:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-based


The flute is a cruel mistress (it's a feminine word in the languages I can think of that do gendered nouns). To be more precise: she's a harsh but fair one. She holds up a mirror and gives instant feedback on how much effort you have put in, and how focused you are. For me: three consecutive days of not playing, and the high notes in the third register become elusive; thinking of anything but the piece in front of me, and my fingers stumble in the search for notes as I try to speed up some passages. Continue reading

New job, new hobby, new me | Nieuwe baan, nieuwe hobby, nieuwe ik

Voor Nederlands, gelieve verder naar beneden te rollen!

It's been quiet on the blog, I know. This final semester at Princeton has been extremely demanding in different ways. Jobhunting and teaching are the most obvious ones, but there was also some travel (for fun and for work) and then the simple need every now and then to hide under a rock and listen to lots of good music to keep me human. Continue reading

Competition! | Wedstrijd!

Update 18 Dec. 2015

Due to lack of interest, no winner can be chosen. The 7-day ticket will go to a deserving friend.

Door gebrek aan interesse kan er geen winnaar uitgeroepen worden. Het 7-dagen toegangspasje zal naar een vriend gaan die het meer dan verdient!

Win 7 days of full and free access to the Digital Concert Hall!

Continue reading