Sounds Like Now
A blog by saxophonist Brian Sacawa
Archive for June, 2006
On the eve of the start of the 2006 Tour de France in Strasbourgâ€”the first TdF in seven years sans one dominating American rider, the first TdF since Pantani in 1998 that could complete the “double,” a tour that was simply oozing excitement before it even startedâ€”bombs were dropped in the wake of the now infamous OperaciÃ³n Puerto affair. Under immense pressure from the UCI, the tour organizers, sponsors, and non-affected teams, teams have suspended their riders implicated in the biggest doping scandal since Festina at the 1998 Tour. The initial list totaled 31 riders, with more being tacked on as we write. And we’re talking big name boys on the list. Jan shall not be redeemed. Basso can kiss his double hopes goodbye. It’s really incredibly disappointing that the first Tour in the post-Armstrong era has to be run under this cloud of scandal, whose outcome, no matter how special for one rider, will always contain asterisks and “what if’s.”
The biggest loser: Alexandre Vinokourov (currently kicking himself for choosing the doomed AstanÃ¡-WÃ¼rth (formerly known as Liberty Seguros) over Ag2R). The biggest winner(s): Discovery Channel (currently licking its lips), Floyd, and Levi.
I’ve uploaded several of my “artsy” photos from Korea to my Flickr page. Happy viewing!
I was pleasantly surprised to see that my pet project, Bags In Trees, received a mention on the off kilter news source Weird News Today. And our three-week vacation-induced absence from the blogosphere even incited a passionate reaction from one Baltimore reader. There’s only one thing to glean from this: people love bags in trees.
I have a confession to make: today was the first day I played my instrument in a month. Hard to believe? There were a variety of reasons for my not-really-forced hiatus from the saxophone, including the conclusion of a tiring concert season, the stress of a job search while still teaching full-time, and a much-needed, extremely wonderful vacation to South Korea.
I’m not upset about it. Nor do I feel guilty. In the summer I usually take some time off from the saxophone—and I mean completely away from it. I do this 1) so I can recharge my mind and 2) ease off from all the hectic music-learning I have to do during the year. However, it’s nice to come back to it—after having time away—because I can just take it slow, at my own pace, with nothing pressing, and it also gives me time to really focus on what are the problems with my playing. I like that a lot. A chance to rebuild and make myself a better player. So often during the year I don’t have the time to really “practice” because all the time is spent learning new music for the next concert or series of concerts. This is magnified because I am mostly a new music performer, meaning it’s hard to just fall back on repertoire I already know—I am constantly learning new music that has no performance history or precedent. I have to make the performance history. And often I have to make it with just one week to learn the music! It’s all fun and exciting (and sometimes very stressful, like SPARK festival preparations) but I always like the time to dig back in to the basics of my instrument.
I learned this lesson of balance rather early on in my musical career. It happened the summer after my junior year of college. That year—and the two years prior to that—I lived, breathed, ate, drank, slept, and dreamed about the saxophone and its music. I practiced compulsively, until I was kicked out of the music building at night, swallowing my meals whole because time eating meant time not in the practice room, fingering through my music while riding the bus, not walking around without a set of headphones on, avoiding any sort of extracurricular social activity that didn’t involve listening to or making music, waking up in the morning feeling like I hadn’t slept at all. I had also just spent a year on the competition circuit, which meant keeping nearly 90 minutes of music memorized and at my fingertips all year long. Needless to say, at the end of that year I felt like I was headed for burnout. I was just sick of it all.
I realized pretty quickly that what I had been doing was a little unhealthy and that I needed to have some balance in my life—another interest to stimulate my mind and to transport me away from music. For me, that came in the form of tacking Japanese language and literature—a subject I’d already been doing coursework in—onto my schedule as a full-fledged academic minor. That summer I read Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji and got my wish. I was transported away, completely absorbed and engaged in the book. to make a long story short, I went on to write my senior honors thesis in Japanese literature on The Tale of Genji, but more importantly, I learned that achieving a sense of balance in one’s life is not only healthy, but necessary.
I’m back from South Korea. Photos to follow.
Tim Page on Marin Alsop as she prepares to take the helm of the BSO:
“Right now, if I were asked whether I’d rather hear Temirkanov or Alsop in Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Sibelius, Shostakovich—in virtually any of the masterpieces in the standard repertory—I’d go for Temirkanov in a hummingbird’s heartbeat. But if I were asked who was more likely, over time, to bring in new audiences and board members, to win over Baltimoreans who may never have attended a classical concert, to help revitalize both the orchestra and the city in which it is rooted, Alsop might get the nod. These are important duties for a music director, too—especially now, especially here—and Alsop is nothing if not ambitious.”
This past weekend I raced in the annual BikeJam / Kelly Cup criterium in Baltimore’s Patterson Park. The one-mile course was pretty tame as far as criteriums go—just two little chicanes and only one corner that bordered on technical. But it was fast and flat with the exception of the hill up to the line. I’ve been coming into form so I was itching to race and to represent Team Aggress on the east coast.
This criterium went off like all criteriums—a blistering pace for the first few laps to shed the excess baggage, then a general slowing in the main field, followed by a gradual acceleration up to the red line until the last lap when it’s pretty much all out. Since I haven’t ever raced in Baltimore, I wasn’t sure what level of fitness riders would have, especially at this point in the season. I became a little concerned when the first time up the hill we were rolling at 26mph. I’d gone to the park to pre-ride the course and do some practice sprints to the line earlier in the week to get my gearing straight and I was clocking around 29-30mph in my sprint practice. That began to worry me, but once the selection was made (and I made the selection) the tempo eased off ever so slightly. At that point I just decided to sit in, do no work, and see how the tactics would play out.
Sitting in near the front of the bunch (blue jersey w/ red & yellow)
One thing that I found very different racing in Baltimore as opposed to Arizona was the aggressive team racing. There were at least three teams with greater than 5 riders in the field. In the Arizona Cat5s it’s rare to see such organization. The teams that were well represented kept sending riders off the front one after the other. Since breakaways hardly ever succeed in a Cat5 race, it wasn’t surprising that the field was able to bring back each attack.
In the last lap things began to heat up as expected. We clocked 36mph down the back straight. I moved myself up to about third wheel with no problem to be in the right position for the final critical corner. Here’s where my unfamiliarity with the Baltimore/D.C. racing scene came into play. In Arizona, I know the guys I’m racing with. Therefore, I know whose wheel to be on leading up to the sprint. I didn’t know anyone in this race so it was a complete crap shoot as to where I’d position myself. As we hit the bottom of the hill, I picked the wheel of an LSV/Kelly rider, knowing that they are a serious team. He took a line to the left and as I came around him (see below) I got boxed in behind a rider that was being lapped. This rider should have been pulled so he didn’t interfere with the sprint (which he did!). I didn’t protest and wound up with a 6th place finish. Not bad for my first race of the season.
Sprinting for the line—heart rate at 200 BPM
One of the really cool things about BikeJam is that they host a Pro 1/2 race that is actually on the national calendar. This draws some of the best domestic cycling teams as well as some of the best domestic riders, including J.J. Haedo this year. It was extremely exciting to see these guys race. There is so much more action because of the great team organization and the pace is simply blistering. Wow.
I made it on to CyclingNews!!!