Aug 12, 2011

Testing, testing ...

Trying out some new software - I just want to see how it works. (Or whether it works, for that matter.)

Powered by Qumana

Jan 27, 2010

*crawls under table to hide*

OK: news flash. I'm ditching the three-point format. It's too time-consuming to think of ways to fill in two slots when what I want to do is focus in on one thing ... maybe? Eh. Try this:

I. See below.

II. I meant the other below.

III. This below.

_____ is an amazing instructor. her enthusiasm just makes you want to go to every class and learn more. The course is really well structured, and the material is very stimulating. Musical History can be a really dull subject but _____'s video clippings are fantastic. She really tries to involve the class, and the homework assignments are creative as are the class activites. The amount i've learnt in this course is tremendous, and this is coming from someone who's had no training in an intrument. I've learnt a lot of technical terms and i can listen to a piece now and tell which era its from. One thing too- _____ assumes you know close to nothing, so its really good for people who do know absolutely nothing. Some of my other friends taking the class with other instructors struggle for they're too techinical. I really look forward to going to class and doing my homework. This class has been an amazing experience, and has only furthered my interest in music.


Ultimately, I think this class was too easy - not so much in terms the amount of work, but rather in terms of the level at which it was taught. The curriculum seemed to cater to a high school or even middle school class: given that this is an elite university, it seems that we should be asked to think at a sophisticated level and to challenge ourselves with difficult concepts and materials. Teaching Beethoven's Fifth Symphony using a YouTube video that compares the masterpiece to a baseball game doesn't just insult Beethoven - it also insults to us. I think we can handle a mature discussion of history and art. Other times, I feel that our instructor wanted us to find connections that, given the course's lack of focus on critical thinking, we weren't prepared to identify. As a result, class discussions were more like games of Guess What the Teacher Is Thinking. While the course has so far been an easy A, the disservice it does to the music and the students overshadows the relief of having a low-stress class.


People who know me well know that taking criticism in stride has been a real challenge throughout my teen and young adult years. There are many reasons for this; said reasons eventually clotted together into a big knot of anxiety surrounding *any* feedback I received, at all, at any time. That's why dealing with constructive criticism is a challenge.

This crit hits home on two levels: first, I wanted to be able to reach all students. The positive review states that this was the case for the beginners, but the critique points out that I set the pace to the absolute beginners and thereby "lost" some of the more advanced ones*. Second, the style of the critique makes me think that it is one of the individuals I knew to be smart, and capable, and (and here's the biggy) whose respect/liking I wanted to obtain. That's a stilted way of saying I wanted her to like me. L-I-I-IKE ME-E-E-E.

And that's not why I'm here, really, yes? So I'll try to put the critique into context, and move on from it.

Keyword: "try." I suspect that large amounts of chocolate might be involved.

Jan 11, 2010

Getting started again ...

Part I: Meh

It's odd - I always feel a bit out of sorts, before a new semester begins. This time around, even more so, because I've been sleeping too much. The cats woke me up this morning by nudging a nice ornamental teacup off the top of a cabinet. They are lucky it didn't break! >:(

Part II: Bleh

So I'm trying to cook more, and one recipe called for cream of mushroom soup, to be poured over chicken with white wine in the slow cooker. Why didn't anyone inform me that the product would look like someone sneezed on it? Ugh. I'm doing my best to think of ways I could liven it up, but the texture is too, *too* horrid.

Part III: Feh!

Can't think of anything more to say. :) Perhaps more later!

Sep 5, 2009

"I Don't Recall ..."

So, it's been a while, hasn't it? I left off blogging because, well, I thought that it was mostly me nattering away into thin air. That's the case, sure - but why not pick it back up when I have something (hopefully) a mite interesting to say? Why not, indeed. So I'll jumpstart the Labor Day weekend with shout-outs and a review.

I. Mad Props -

To Diego the Dreadful, for finishing his MA thesis, and to Enrico, for pulling down a Fulbright! Hi to stalwart Pedro, and to the lovely Rev. Also, hi, Mutti und Vatti, if you're reading this.

II. My Cats are Adorable

That is all. Except for this cartoon, which I find amusing:

Finally, the meat of the matter.

III. "The Gonzales Cantata"

So many different things went through my mind as I listened to this work, composed by the talented Melissa Dunphy, and performed at the Rotunda (on Walnut & 40th) for the Philly Fringe Arts Festival.

First and foremost, I had a fun time hearing bits & pieces of different composers in this work. An obvious influence is Handel - I had pegged the French overture at the beginning as almost a Matthew Passion reference, but with the much faster middle section, I changed the ID to the overture to the "Messiah." There was a moodily arpeggiating violin that almost cried out: "Albinoni's Adagio in g minor!" Really, though, the entire piece read as quite original; my penchant for identifying "references" is simply that: a penchant. I blame last year's spots exams.

Secondly, there were some really talented musicians at work! One particular standout performer was Mary Thorne, the soprano, with a crystalline voice, who sang Alberto Gonzales. (More on the gender reversal later.) In a fabulous aria, "I Don't Recall," Gonzales' 72-fold iteration of that same phrase was given full coloratura treatment. It. Was. Awesome. Later in the cantata, Gonzales trills that "this" (i.e., the hearing) is "not about Alberto Gonzales," rather, it is about "performance." Ironically, the very virtuosity of "I Don't Recall" highlights the *lack* of virtuosity in Gonzales' own performance before the irate senators. A more capable, or, at least, more Machiavellian politician could have slithered around quite a bit more in attempting to get off the hook. (An excellent companion to "The Gonzales Cantata," in the 18th-century practice of linking short works - see Strohm, "Dramatic Dualities: Metastasio and the Tradition of the Opera Pair," 1998 - would surely be a musical setting of Clinton's impeachment trial. Perhaps with an aria di bravura on: "It Depends on What the Meaning of "Is" Is.")

OK, one last point. Interestingly, Dunphy states that "In protest of male domination of American politics, the genders of the performers have been reversed in relation to the characters they play." (See one of the headline quotations on the cantata's website.) Now, anybody who knows me knows that I have no beef with pointing out gender disparities wherever they occur. However, I thought it ironic that this reversal should take place in a Baroque work. What it does is highlight one vast difference between 21st-century audiences and late 17th and 18th century ones: namely, that the latter would have *expected* treble and alto registers for the "heroic" roles. This was mostly because of the prominence of castrati in opera seria of the time. (Scholars and opera-goers alike have wrestled with understanding this phenomenon; for as interesting and sensible an explanation as any, see Freitas, "The Eroticism of Emasculation: Confronting the Baroque Body of the Castrato," 2003.)

The audience's reaction to the three patriotic songs, arranged by Dunphy and sung before the cantata, was quite telling. The songs themselves were crafted quite ... craftily. :) The first was "America the Beautiful," sung over the first prelude (C major) from the WTC. That *or* the Gounod backing for "Ave Maria" (which is itself that same prelude, with one measure added or taken out, I forget which.) The third was "God Bless the U.S.A./I'm Proud to Be an American," set over the ritornello-form "Sheep May Safely Graze," from Bach's BWV 280 (the secular Hunting Cantata.)

Now, one drawback of the artful wedding of the Baroque instrumentation with the patriotic texts and tunes was this: I had to bite down hard on my cheek to keep from snickering out loud. Particularly awesome was the third: various Baroque flourishes on "stand up" and the long fermata on "land." The movement to flat-VII in the verses posed no problem; in fact, some other harmonic variation in the chorus caught my attention even more! (I'm sad to say that I lost what it was as the audience guffawed. It's definitely not in the original song, though.)

But the audience guffawing is the most intriguing part. I laughed to myself because it was ingenious - but how many people laughed because the singer was a countertenor? Again, during the Baroque, this range and tone color (albeit one with even more force, perhaps, though the singer, Dan Williams, projected well) would have been *accepted* as heroic - as supernatural, powerful, and erotic. I wasn't quite sure whether or not Dunphy intended it as a joke; the third song made me lean a bit more toward the "intentional" side. In it, the singer starts out in the "normal" male range on the second verse, then zooms up an octave to belt out the final chorus. Hoots of audience laughter and applause accompanied this; I was disconcerted.

I'm pretty sure the audience appreciated Williams' voice, as well as the joke. I just thought it was interesting to reflect on how this shows changing musical conceptions of heroism over the centuries. If Farinelli had sung "God Bless the U.S.A."/"Sheep May Safely Graze," he would have inserted a long cadenza (or "division") on the final "land" - one that would have brought down the house, and led to the audience calling "One God, One Farinelli!!" (as an 18th-century lady is said to have shrieked at one of his performances.) One nation, under God, full of sheep? Perhaps - but full of excellent music, too.

Jan 23, 2008

Who could ask for anything more?

I. I've got rhythm ...

Well, technically I don't have much rhythm - but last night I attended a rehearsal of the department's samba group. I got to play the tambour (a small drum), the bells, and the shakers. Pretty enjoyable! Some of the call-and-response rhythms were especially cool.

II. I've got music ...

And lots of it! The new semester is just revving up - I'll try and write more regularly about what's going on; in sum: techno, Weelkes, Berlioz, Landini, the Clark sisters, and much more!

III. I've got my cats - who could ask for anything more?

I know, I know. I go on about those fleabags quite a bit. Suffice to say: I'm very glad to have them nudging me awake every morning, giving me their best "Feed me ... I'm starving ..." looks. The more so since Athena died over Christmas break.

So. Who could ask for anything more? Well, whoever's reading this probably could - so all I can do is say that I'll try to write more this semester ... :)

Dec 25, 2007

Merry Christmas!

Here's to projects being completed, to family and friends, and to music!

Merry Christmas!

Oct 25, 2007

An affectionate heart

I. Rain, rain ...

I'd say "go away," but I think the ground over here could use it. That and the S. River appears to be flushing itself out - when I walked over the bridge yesterday, I saw a whole slew of flotsam, jetsam, and junk bobbing along out to sea. Good times.

Besides, with SoCal currently going up in flames, I will not knock rain. :/

II. I can't believe I'm getting paid to do this ...

Seriously - writing about operas? Going to operas? Looking at medieval chant and doing the sort of analysis that is old hat, thanks to Bible study? Gotta love it!

Gotta love it all, except ...

III. An affectionate heart

So I had the members of my class over for dinner yesterday. When we had finished up the salmon (mmm - the recipe worked, which is great, because I had neither teaspoon nor tablespoon measure and guesstimated all the spices), rice and asparagus, and were sitting around chatting, the kitten wandered by and hopped up into my lap. As is my tendency, I immediately started petting her. She snuggled up to one of her favorite places (her head on my shoulder, and then tucking itself beneath my chin), and went to sleep, purring.

Now, at that point, would you have put the kitty down on the floor?

Hm. I ask only because one of the guys there, from another country, remarked about how he didn't understand the American way of cooing over pets, and how he'd never seen anyone hold a cat that way. I good-naturedly asked if he could resist this adorable kitten; he agreed that she was cute, and we changed the subject - or I thought we did. Because then the kitten decided to roll over and loll backwards over my arm (she sometimes does that) and he said, again, how weird he thought it looked.

And then everyone at the table looked at me.

I immediately felt self-conscious, and put the kitten down, and threw a jingle ball for her to chase. Later on, when I was clearing the table, I asked my housemate whether she thought I fussed over the kitten too much. She smiled (she's nice) and said that I did tend to spoil her, and she could understand the guy's point of view, because "the PDA was a bit much."



OK. I will not pick up the cat to pet at the dinner table, in front of company, unless they're all vets, or something ...

... and I know sometimes I can be overly cuddly with pets ...

... but it's like this: I miss my cats at home - one especially was my particular friend all through high school. I have a picture of her sprawled across my AP Chem homework. I always fussed over her, because she would just sit on my lap and purr, regardless of how crappy a mood I was in, or how much I would grump at her.

There's this moment in Austen's "Persuasion," when the heroine, Anne, learns that a secondary character in the book, Captain Benwick, is going to marry another secondary character, Louisa. Some tsk over the relationship, since Benwick had been deeply in love with another woman who had died not a year ago. (Side note: throughout the book, I get the impression of Benwick as being a bit tone-deaf, socially; leaving aside his tendency to gush about poetry to complete strangers, he asks the brother of his dead fiancee to get his own (Benwick's) portrait in miniature (completed for the dead fiancee) "set" (i.e. framed) for the *new* fiancee. Not the best choice ...)

Anyway, after Anne learns about this, she muses: "She [Anne] was persuaded that any tolerably pleasing young woman who had listened and seemed to feel for him [Benwick], would have received the same compliment [his romantic attention]. He had an affectionate heart. He must love somebody."

So it goes.

The last hug I've had was from my dear friends, who visited from NYC over a month ago, for my birthday. (Thanks, guys!) ... And I can't really go about getting a hug from random strangers. So, if I want to cuddle a kitten, I will, with no reference to anyone so wholly unconnected with me - and *whenever* I please.


well, maybe not at the dinner table. :)