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Opus 4: Episode 5 – The Neverending Story

The final episode of Opus 4 is all about the end. How do we know we’ve gotten there? For musicians of all levels, it can be extremely tricky to know when something is ready, when the practice and rehearsals are over, and when a performance is fully prepared. In Episode 5: The Neverending Story, Skyros Quartet explores being done. Brandon and Willie share a discussion about composers who either did or did not struggle with this in their music. Next, Justin looks at healthy ways to recognize achievements by setting specific goals within an artistic endeavor. Our special guest is a close friend and our first repeat The Counterpoint Club guest, Greta Gothard of the Gothard Sisters. Sarah and Willie share a fantastic discussion with Greta about being done and evolving performances. And finally, Skyros offers suggestions on how to approach perfectionism.
History Segment
In the history segment, Willie and Brandon look at several composers and how they approached doneness. Johannes Brahms was famous for his insecurities and was known to have burned up to 20 string quartets, feeling that they weren’t good enough. We can only wish that he had not, as the three string quartets that he did publish are all amazing. (Correction: In the segment, Willie accidentally misspoke and stated there are four Brahms quartets. As much as Willie wishes that was true, there are indeed only three.) Here’s a video of Brahms’ first string quartet, Opus 51 in C minor, performed by the Alban Berg Quartet:

Johann Sebastian Bach, on the other hand, just flat out didn’t have time to second guess the quality of his work. In his job as the Kantor of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, he was expected to churn out new repertoire on a weekly schedule. Yes, he had to write new music for each Sunday. Bach just didn’t have the time to burn things he didn’t like. There are over 200 surviving cantatas, as well as many other works such as oratorios, chorales, and countless other works. Take a listen to one of Bach’s cantatas, chosen almost randomly as an example from the many, many works in his portfolio. Here, Bach’s “Meinem Jesum laß ich nicht”, BWV 124 is performed by Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, conducted by Ton Koopman.

Willie and Brandon also talk about the way that more recent innovations of audio and video recording have added another dimension, putting extra pressure on performers to play at an extremely high level for the permanent record. In addition, a producer’s ability to edit and perfect a recording post-production has become almost endless, making it very difficult for many artists to call a recording “finished,” or “good enough.” On the other hand, recording technology can be a useful tool for practicing and improvement. Living composers of new music often use recordings, rehearsals, and performances to revise their pieces, and continue to make improvements, based on the performers that they are collaborating with! For example, Skyros Quartet recently performed a piece by Michael Laurello in collaboration with the arx duo (percussion duo based out of Seattle). The quartet has sent recordings of rehearsals and performances to Mr. Laurello, and the piece continues to be revised and modified based on that feedback!

And as promised by Brandon and Willie, here are a few samples of famous musicians performing in the early days of recording:

Technique Lesson
In the technique segment, Justin talks about “WOOP,” a goal setting method that can help break through obstacles and roadblocks that come up during the creative process.
W: Wish
O: Outcome
O: Obstacle
P: Plan
This method accounts for possible obstacles such as personal scheduling conflicts, family matters, mental and physical health issues, etc. that could arise in the creative process by acknowledging their possibility in the 3rd part (Obstacle) and making a contingency framework for them in the 4th part (Plan). You can download the worksheet for your reference.
Guest Interview
Sarah and Willie were thrilled to be joined by Greta Gothard of the Gothard Sisters in our guest interview. You may remember Greta from Opus 2, Episode 1 “Got Folk?!”, who was one of our guests along with her sisters Willow and Solana. Several years ago at a Skyros Quartet/Gothard Sisters hangout, Willie and Greta had a fascinating conversation about being done. Greta was gracious enough to join the podcast to have the conversation again, but on tape and in more depth.

Greta Gothard

photo credit: Ruth H. Photography

Trained in classical violin from the age of 5, Greta became captivated by the joy and vitality of Celtic music and picked up the rhythm guitar in order to make music with her sisters. She loves live performances and traveling to new places, and firmly believes in music as the universal language.

A voracious reader, Greta’s love of words and writing led her to become the songwriter for the band. Her interest in filmmaking and media production help her to create the band’s music videos, website, newsletters and more.

The official music video for “Dragonfly”, the title track from the Gothard Sisters latest album:

Click here for more information about their Dragonfly album, including places to purchase and stream online.

In Skyros Chats, the members of Skyros get a little vulnerable and share some personal stories about their own struggles with perfectionism, achieving goals, and lessons learned from these experiences.

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