Rubato-ing all the way to the exams

Rubato-ing all the way to the exams

There’s a musical term called “rubato”. It’s an Italian term that literally means “robbed time”, in other words that you can “borrow” time from one part of a musical phrase and “pay it back” later. In a bar of four beats you could play the first two a bit slower and then the last two a bit faster to catch up. That’s a bit like how I’m approaching my study plan.


It’s been a hectic few weeks. The orchestra hit a really busy period with performances with Pink Martini, a tour a programme of Beethoven and Philip Glass, playing live for a screening of The Bride of Frankenstein, another with the first Lord of the Rings movie, as well as other concerts and recordings. In my parallel career as a writer I was busy reviewing dance performances and writing features, including a really interesting examination of charges of plagiarism against Beyoncé. And that doesn’t include the other day-to-day stuff being a father to two kiddies under four.

Sometimes in the orchestra I have to play very strictly in time, like during recordings. Everybody wears headphones and listens to a “click-track”, which is like a metronome that every musician follows. It’s very precise and every note you play has to precisely co-ordinate with the clicks in your ear. At other times more flexibility is allowed. At last week’s screening of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring the conductor had certain amount of flexibility. Even though he had to co-ordinate specific changes of music with certain scene changes he still had freedom. Not every note of music had to be synchronised, so he could conduct some sections a bit slower and then catch up by conducting other parts quicker and vice versa.

This is a long preamble into telling you how my study plan is, well, in tatters. I’ve fallen behind in my self-imposed deadlines for reading and writing (and my regular blog posts dried up for a few weeks). Am I worried? Not a bit.


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