Monday, January 31, 2005

Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

Franz Schubert was born on this date in 1797. Like Mozart, whose birthday was just last week, Franz Schubert was a brilliant and phenomenally prolific composer who died at a tragically young age.







One of my favorite pieces by Schubert is also one of his most well-known, the Impromptu in Gb, Op. 90, No. 3. You can hear a recording of it here. (Link to midi file is from The Internet Piano Page, which I only just discovered via a Google search.)

Favorite Poem O' Day

This poem isn't exactly a "hiking poem," but it was one of the ones that often came to mind as I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail a few years ago. Some days I felt like I could just float away into the sun, backpack and all.



***************************



I taste a liquor never brewed,

From tankards scooped in pearl;

Not all the vats upon the Rhine

Yield such an alcohol!



Inebriate of air am I,

And debauchee of dew,

Reeling, through endless summer days,

From inns of molten blue.



When landlords turn the drunken bee

Out of the foxglove’s door,

When butterflies renounce their drams,

I shall but drink the more!



Till seraphs swing their snowy hats,

And saints to windows run,

To see the little tippler

Leaning against the sun!



--Emily Dickinson (1830–86)

Poor George, Part II

George’s tuning has been rescheduled for next Saturday. He was very upset that the tuner had to cancel again, this time because everyone in western North Carolina was snowed and/or iced in Saturday morning. So George was in a foul mood. The more I played him, the crankier he got. And he reached his nadir of misery when I drilled single measures of the Dett piece over and over again. Parts of it are rather dissonant, and they can sound really annoying when you’re practicing the same measure or half-measure twenty times over. Even on an in-tune piano. George didn’t appreciate the 20th-century-music treatment at all.



Then the D-flat two octaves above Middle C—the one that plays a vital role in my Chopin Nocturne—went out. Stopped playing altogether. No matter how lightly or cajolingly I struck it, I only got complete silence in return.



That was George’s way of saying, “If you won’t take care of me right, then I’m not going to talk to you anymore.”



Then the Hubster came into the Inner Sanctum to visit, and when he sat down next to me on the piano bench, George lashed out at him. Popped him on the knee, and now the Hubster has a big ole bruise on his knee.



I don’t blame George. It’s not completely my fault; I called the tuner well before Christmas, but the tuner was busy with Christmas-tuning and couldn’t come until January. And now, for two weekends in a row, we’ve had ice and snow. Poor George. Poor, pitiful George.

Severus Bach

You’d think that, with George so down in the dumps, I wouldn’t have practiced very much this weekend. But I did. Why?

Because I had a dream. A vewwy skehwwy dweam.

I dreamed that I died and went to heaven, and heaven was nothing less than a huge university with a world-renowned conservatory. Most of the professors were the Dead White European Males that we know and love—Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, etc. And I was signed up for daily piano and theory lessons with Bach.

So Bach and I met at some German pub to discuss the progress that was expected of me. In the pub, he was the young, nice-looking Bach whose picture is on the cover of my Inventions/Sinfonias book. He was easy-going and friendly, and he sounded like he would be a dream to work with. I was all excited about studying piano and theory with this nice-looking (albeit bewigged) young man.

Then, when I got to my first lesson, which took place in something like Severus Snape’s potions classroom, my beloved, adored Bach had been transformed into his harsh-looking (but familiar) old image, and boy, was he a bear. A little sign on his desk said, “Severus Bach: Musical Potions.”

So I sat down on the ornate piano bench. I was so nervous. It was really a scary dream. Huge cauldrons lined the room, and strange smoke came out of them. Hands shaking, I started to play.

He threw fits and test tubes whenever I missed a note (of course, I was having to do contrary motion scales). Even when I thought I played perfectly, he would find an excuse to yell "Ach!" or throw a test tube. When I played something I’d composed, the cauldrons would emit a belching smoke (I think the Hubster’s snores were working their way into my dream again there). And Bach would grumble or groan, always with unmistakeable disgust in his voice.

So yesterday morning, after waking up from the dream, I started writing in my journal about it. And ended up with a sort-of story about reincarnation. Now, I don’t think I believe in reincarnation, but it’s interesting to think about. So I was writing that when souls die (or before they are born), they go to this wonderful heaven-university and study whatever it is they want to study with those souls who have been most accomplished in their fields. And then when the souls come to earth, they have no memory of their heaven-university education, and it’s just the luck of the draw whether they’re born into a family that recognizes those “innate talents” that they honed long before they were ever even "conceived.”

Then I thought, “Wouldn’t that be cool? To have studied with Bach in a former life, or in the heaven-university-conservatory?” What if that did happen? Maybe that’s why people just seem to have inborn talents—because they've studied them all before.

Even if we each only have one life, maybe we’re only born after going to the heaven-university. It’s there that we are given gifts and potential, where our potential is maybe even realized. And then we come to earth and can only hope to connect with whatever it is, deep and buried within us, that we knew so completely before we were born.

Wait a minute. I’m having vague memories of “Introduction to Philosophy” from my freshman year of college. I think Plato or someone has already thought of this idea. Or something like it.

It’s fun to think about, though. And I ended up writing ten pages of pretend before I knew it.

And when I practiced piano, I couldn’t get the image of Severus Bach out of my mind. And boy, did I push myself. Wanted to work toward my potential, whatever that is.

You know, it was kind of a scary dream that I had, but it sure got me motivated. And my contrary-motion scales are sounding better than ever.

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Sunday Night

1. Today is a wonderful day. Was it not so amazing to see the Iraqis voting?? Unbelievable.



2. The weekend was relaxing. We prepared to be snowed in all weekend, and even though we weren't, we used the time to relax and get some things done around the house.



3. I can feel the Depression starting to eat away at me again. It starts out feeling like a missing tooth, you know, like there's just a small empty space where there shouldn't be a space. And then it grows bigger and bigger and eventually turns inside out and swallows me. And then I'm stuck in that stifling darkness for who knows how long--sometimes days, sometimes weeks. Oh, joy. The last few days have been "up" days, so I've been thankful for that. I do hate this prescient feeling I get when the Depression is coming on, though.



4. I finally finished Twenty Years After. It had its slow sections and its good sections. I kind of lost interest after Mordaunt was killed, but then I gained interest again in the last few chapters, when d'Artagnan, Porthos, and Athos escape imprisonment with Mazarin as their prisoner. I think I am in love with d'Artagnan.



5. Why am I numbering my paragraphs?



Time for bed. Hoping the Depression with slip away in the night and I'll wake up feeling good.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Snowed-in Saturday

Goals for the Weekend*



1) Dril, drill, drill those contrary motion scales till they're perfect better.

2) Learn the latest by-ear piece from Suzuki.

3) Continue fine-tuning the Mozart by memory.

4) Drill, drill, drill the Dett.

5) Exercise Dance like a maniac in the living room for an hour.

6) Journal (I hate when "journal" is used as a verb ...)

7) Do Genesis/Precepts studying

8) Finish Twenty Years After (finally) .



I'm sure I have more goals. The #1 goal, however, is to spend time with the Hubster, whose weekend away-from-home schedule was shot through by this snowstorm. I have him to myself all weekend. Woo hoo!



Weekend goals? What weekend goals? :-)



*Note to Nimbus's mom: I completely forgot about your resume. Please forgive me. It's on my computer at work. If you send it to me at home (and would still like me to look at it), I can look at it this weekend. I can add it to my goals for today. I am so very sorry. :-( I can be such a blonde sometimes.

Friday, January 28, 2005

... How "Awful Tune" Made Us Famous ...

I'm at work and just learned that the guy down the hall has had the latest version of the software I've needed for some time now. Meanwhile I've been told that it's not available and have therefore been delayed in my work on this project for almost a month.

Grumble, grumble, grumble.

I try not to complain about my job on this blog, for two reasons: (1) it's actually a pretty good job, all things considered, and (2) for all I know, my boss could be reading this right now (Hi, Boss!).

For my theory lesson this afternoon, I've completed an 8-measure piano arrangement of an awful tune from the workbook. I downloaded Finale Notebook (music notation software) recently but had never really used it, so I transcribed my chicken-scratch arrangement into Finale. I titled it "Awful Tune." So when it printed, it showed this professional-looking sheet music with "AWFUL TUNE" at the top. It's kind of funny.

So then I fooled with Finale some more and had the violin "sing" the melody with piano accompaniment. It sounded OK--not the way I imagined it would sound, but I think that's partly because a Real Person wasn't playing it.

Now, if George and I ever manage to make "Awful Tune" sound beautiful, I'll be sure to post it on this blog. Maybe it'll be a hit. A best-seller in the music world. Eternal and everlasting. Our claim to fame. Everyone will love us. George and I will be featured together on Oprah. The music critics will fall to their knees. Grown men will burst into tears of longing. All because of a simple little piece of music titled "Awful Tune."

Hm. OK, so maybe that won't happen.

Then again, maybe it will ...

TGIF.

Poor George, the Imaginary Concert Grand

Snow and ice are expected all weekend long. So I guess the piano tuner won't be able to make it tomorrow as planned. So George's special day will have to be postponed, once again. Poor George. Poor, sad, out-of-tune George.



Clunks and twangs notwithstanding, George got lots of attention yesterday evening because I wanted to work hard on memorizing the Mozart last night (after doing my contrary motion scales, of course!).



So I worked at it. It really wasn't as much of a struggle as I thought it would be. Having played it so many times and having written a harmonic analysis of the whole thing, I guess it shouldn't be that difficult to play by heart.



And by heart, I played. It's been so long since I've memorized anything. I forgot about the freedom that comes with playing something from memory. Once you've stopped looking at the page, and once you've quit worrying about whether you can remember everything correctly (I'm not 100% there yet, but I'm close), you can really begin to listen to yourself and hear what you're playing. You can focus completely on the real music. And your brain can do theoretical gymnastics as it gains new insights and plays through old ones. The imagination can finally soar to its heart's content.



And soar it does. Playing a well-learned piece by memory can be a transcendent experience. An ecstatic experience. It's kind of like bathing in warm chocolate. With Mozart.



OK, maybe not with Mozart. :-)



Anyway, for a few minutes last night, I was a (chocolate-covered?) concert pianist and George was a (somewhat) perfectly tuned concert grand. Neither of us will ever be either ... but we both think it's fun to imagine.

Waterfizzlemusik, Yo

Can y'all hear this? Someone let me know if this works. If it does, then my most heartfelt thanks go to Cuz LaVronica. It's a folky-sounding song arrangement by this friend of mine who goes by the moniker "MC Waterfizzle Mo," performed by MC and the Appalatchin' Sistah.



Update: Glad to know that the above is hearable. My apologies to those for whom it sounds too midi-like. It's not the most sophisticatedly made file, so it ain't perfect. And again, many thanks to that computer geek chic and hipster cuz of mine, LaVronica.

Two of the Three Most Important Men in My Life

This picture of the Hubster and Beau, a.k.a. Mouse Breath, isn't of the greatest quality, but I thought it was cute. Also, I haven't posted a picture of The Most Important Men in My Life for some time now.







(Mr. Hugh wasn't able to make it for the sitting.)

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Astronomy Picture of the Day

Tom from AT-L pointed us to this amazing photo of the setting moon and Earth's shadow.

It Was 249 Years Ago Today

Today is the birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.







I was going to write a touching little essay on What Mozart Means To Me or some such, but I couldn't even begin to write such a thing without sounding silly and melodramatic.



For something decidedly not melodramatic (but decidedly silly, in a good way), here's a rather odd but amusing fairy-tale type of biography of "Wolfie," complete with midi clips.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hiking Photos

A photographer from my AT list recently pointed us to his updated hiking pages, which link to some beautiful photos he's taken while hiking in the Adirondacks. He has more Adirondacks/North Country photos here.



His main page isn't quite finished, but the photos there are worth the visit.

It's Jeanette's Fault

It's all her fault that I played at work for a few minutes this afternoon. But it's hard to resist fun time-wasters in which one can make idealized replicas of oneself.









This is a picture of me as a doll, and at my feet is Beau as my doll-pet. Ain't we jest the sweetest thangs?

Songs I Done Wrote

I found a diskette last night while rummaging through some old papers, and it's titled "Songs I Done Wrote." I apparently made some midi files of some tunes back in the days when I had a Yahama clavinova.



I brought the diskette to work today and have been listening to it on and off. These are mostly (1) songs I started to write and forgot about, and (2) just random improvisation.



As we listen (Positive Self, Negative Self, and I), Positive Self exclaims, "Ooh, that's really pretty!" Negative Self disagrees and tells me, with her usual grumbling: "You cheesy, teshy new-age pianist type, did you really write this soft-toned, over-arpeggiated garbage?!"



So anyway, Positive Self wants me to post it on this blog (though Negative Self swears I'll do little more than embarrass myself), but I can't figure out how to post midi files. And can I change these to .wav or .mp3 files? I have no clue. If any of you musical people who read my blog can enlighten me, I would much appreciate it. Just e-mail me at infpeace at gmail dot com.

Cursed Animosity

Warning: This frightfully long post may be unbearably boring for non-piano players. Heck, it may very well be boring for piano players. But please give it a try. I'm thinking of making an essay out of it.
I think it was Ruskin who coined the phrase, "the cursed animosity of inanimate objects." Hmmm ...

I hate to think of George as my opponent. He's my beloved and treasured piano, after all. But lately, he's been rather uncooperative. It's these blasted contrary-motion scales. They're easy enough in C major. But add a black note or two ... and I'm struck with a weird musical aphasia. Major and minor scales--the playing of which comes as naturally to me as driving or writing--seem to have become complete strangers. Let's look at A-flat major, for instance.


Waterfall v. George, Round 1

Object: To play A-flat major ("Ab") two octaves, first in similar motion, and then in contrary motion, and then again in similar motion. (Phases 1, 2, and 3)

I (Waterfall) approach George confidently, but George is unmoved. He shows no fear. I begin playing the Ab scale in similar motion (both hands going the same way). Easy enough. I can sail through this without thinking, and I do.

Then Phase 2 (Contrary Motion) begins. If I was skimming and sailing before, I seem to have quickly sunk into knee-deep sludge. I slow down ... and stop.

"Now, do I play that white key there (C natural), or that white key to the left of it (B natural)?" I know note names better than my own name, but I seem to have gotten a sort of musical aphasia.

"So I'll try the note to the left."

Plunk. CLANG. Cacophony ensues for a split second. Combined with poor George's out-of-tune state, it's not pleasant for either of us.


Waterfall (0) v. George (1), Round 2
I sigh hard in frustration. This can't be that hard. It's freakin' Ab, for goodness' sake. I've known Ab since the fifth grade. Maybe longer than that. Ab is one of my favorite keys. Or used to be.

So I try again. The hands move thoughtlessly through Phase 1, sail once again, dance like Wordsworth's daffodils on a breezy day.

And then we get to the Phase 2 sludge. Thick, deep sludge. Nasty, smelly sludge. Slow down. Pick my way through those contrary motion notes. Get the "C" right this time, purely by a stroke of luck. Then ... I play a G-flat.

Plunk. CLANG. Cacophony ensues, this time a little longer as I melodramatically bang the offending G-flat several times in a row.


Waterfall (0) v. George (2), Round 3

Get up. Pace. Sit back down.

I've played the piano (on and off) for 30 years. Why can't I do this?

OK. Ab apparently has a C-natural and a G-natural. Who knew? I knew. But it's not something I really think about. Even with all the music theory I'm studying. Ab is just Ab. It plays itself. It's played itself for years. In fact, my mind seems to turn off completely as I begin playing the scale.

I look at George, determined. I cannot bear to think of him as my opponent. We're working together here. But why won't he cooperate?

"This time," I tell myself. "I'm going to THINK about C and G."

I start playing. Phase 1. My mind flits away and perches somewhere on the curtain rod. Or the bookcase. I don't realize its absence until I hit the Phase 2 sludge, slow down ... and ... stop.

Real cacophony ensues, only this time it's a groan from me, not George. I give up and try to move on to Mozart, but I'm tired and more than a little disheartened. Plus, it's late. So I go to bed.


Waterfall (0) v. George (3), Round 4

Next evening, I skip the preliminary practice stuff (Suzuki, regular scales, inversions, etc.) and go straight to yesterday's Ab contrary motion drill. It's no longer just a drill for me; playing this stupid scale has become a mission.

Ab is still a stranger. Not the docile, easy-on-the-hands Ab that I've always known and loved.

Predictably, I sail through Phase 1 and hit the sludge just a few notes into Phase 2. No cacophony ensues. I stop before playing a wrong note. I don't groan in frustration because I'm not frustrated yet.


Waterfall (0) v. George (4), Round 5

I take a deep breath. This time I'm going to con-cen-trate.

"OK," I tell myself. "Every time I get to Ab, I need to use the third finger of each hand on it. That's the anchor. Third finger.

Sludge. Etc.


Waterfall (0) v. George (5), Round 6

I continue talking to myself. "It's C-natural, not B-natural! Not C-flat! Just plain old, oldest-friend-in-the-whole-world C-natural! And"--wonder of wonders!--"both hands use the first finger (a.k.a. Thumb) on C!

So I try again. Slowly. A-flat ... B-flat ... now a white key ... which white key? "Um ..."

Yup. You guessed it. Sludge-fest.

Plunk. CLANG. Cacophony ensues.


Waterfall (0) v. George (6), Round 7
I can't even play the scales in Phase 1 now! WIth all my knowledge of basic theory and key signatures, with all my experience playing this supposedly inanimate object I call George, I've forgotten how to play a simple Ab scale in the normal way.

So I look at the keys, stroke my imaginary beard, and realize I've been thinking of the D-flat note as a C-sharp all this time. And that's why I'm getting confused. Though right now, it doesn't seem natural to think of it as a D-flat, any more than it would to think of B-natural as a C-flat.

But back to the scale. "Self, you need to think this time."

And this time, I manage to keep my mind focused, and I make it through D-flat before ... yup. Sludge-o-rama.

Plunk, etc., etc.


[... time-lapse blogography ...]


Waterfall (0) v. George (?? I've stopped counting), ad nauseam

Practice, practice, practice. Would you believe I've had to think hard on every single note? And I had to play it ever so slowly, the whole thing. And when I'm creeping along like that, my mind wants to flit away and perch somewhere, anywhere, besides the inside of my head where it belongs.

But I did it. I kept my mind in place, engaged it in every note. Didn't let it wander one bit, no-sirree.

Perfect. I played the whole thing perfectly. Well, almost. The timing is off. I'm scared to use the metronome.


Waterfall (1) v. George (??), as nauseum

So I click the metronome on. It's on 40, the slowest speed. I stumble through the contrary-motion scale, feeling like I'm in a race against time. Funny how the metronome makes one feel that way. Kind of like a ticking bomb.


[... time-lapse blogography ...]


By the end of the practice session, I can play the Ab contrary motion scale perfectly and in time. It's 9:30. Time to get ready for bed.


Waterfall v. George, Final Round

After turning the metronome off, I can't resist playing the scale just one more time ... at a nice, brisk pace.

And George can't resist taking that final jab. Of course I hit the sludge. I look for my skittish mind. The quick motion scared it off. It's under the bed.


Waterfall v. George, Overtime Rounds

Mind back in place and metronome off, I play the scale slowly a few more times, usually without missing a note. The faster speed will have to wait.

Upcoming Event

I'm supposed to drill the F minor contrary-motion scale tomorrow.

I sure hope George is ready for it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

This Project at Work

(bubbling noises as I rise to the surface ...)



Help! Help! I'm drowning in work!



Actually, I'm happy to be drowning in work. It gets my thoughts off the fact that I'm not reading, writing, studying music theory, snuggling with my cats, huggin' and kissin' The Hubster, hiking, baking something yummy, or playing piano.



We have a four-person team getting this presentation ready for tomorrow.



The woman doing the Power Point slides is POWER GIRL!



The guy doing the software build is BUILDER BOY!



I'm doing Visio charts, so I'm the VISIO VIXEN!



Our boss is THE PONTIFICATOR! because he plans to pontificate tomorrow at the presentation.



That's my exciting day. That's my exciting workplace. Going back under now ...



(gurgle, gurgle, glub, glub, glub ...)

Mardi Occupé

Very, very busy day today. My dear boss has a huge presentation to make tomorrow and I've been called upon to make lots of cool Visio flowcharts to include in the Power Point presentation.



Meanwhile, check out Bunnie Diehl's recently posted pictures of yesterday's pro-life march in Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 24, 2005

Piano Lesson Today

Piano wasn't so great today. I really must fit in more practice sessions if I'm going to improve at all. Today wasn't a bad lesson, but it was disappointing. I'm not so much disappointed in myself as I am in the fact that my schedule has been particularly inflexible these last few weeks.

I want to set a goal to practice for at least an hour every day. It's not the most realistic goal in the world, but it's something to shoot for.

The piano didn't get played very much at this lesson. After the usual scales, arpeggios, etc., and the hated contrary-motion harmonic-minor scales, Deborah gave me a quick refresher course in memorization. I realized today that this Mozart piece is the first thing I've actually tried to memorize in about 15 years. So it's been a challenge, needless to say. The big measure-by-measure theoretical analysis I worked on this weekend has really helped. Now I have to combine (1) theoretical understanding, (2) muscle memory, and (3) auditory memory. To do that, I'll just study my theory notes and play the same measure over and over and over and over again, ad nauseam. Or at least until it's memorized!

The Dett is still slow. But it's getting better--slowly, ever so slowly, but surely. I need to relax my hands more. There are some big reaches, and I let my hands tense up and then my hands hurt. I need to cut a note or two here and there from the big reaches and remember to stay RELAXED.

I'm not good at staying relaxed.

So piano was okay, but not great. Next week is the group class, so I want to practice a lot before then so I can play well for our little audience.

Tonight I'm going to the gym at 6:00, making groceries at 7:30, cooking dinner shortly thereafter ... so hopefully I'll be able to squeeze in some practice time between dinner and bedtime. Whew. Makes me tired to think about it.

Monday's Poem

In honor of my finally starting the Genesis study, and because I seem to have Paradise Lost on the brain lately, I'll quote the first stanza of Milton's great poem. (Remember to read it s-l-o-w-l-y. Milton ain't something to be gulped down in one swell foop.)



*********************************



Of Man's first disobedience, and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought death into the World, and all our woe,

With loss of Eden, till one greater Man

Restore us, and regain the blissful seat,

Sing, Heavenly Muse, that, on the secret top

Of Oreb, or of Sinai, didst inspire

That shepherd who first taught the chosen seed

In the beginning how the heavens and earth

Rose out of Chaos: or, if Sion hill

Delight thee more, and Siloa's brook that flowed

Fast by the oracle of God, I thence

Invoke thy aid to my adventurous song,

That with no middle flight intends to soar

Above th' Aonian mount, while it pursues

Things unattempted yet in prose or rhyme.

And chiefly thou, O Spirit, that dost prefer

Before all temples th' upright heart and pure,

Instruct me, for thou know'st; thou from the first

Wast present, and, with mighty wings outspread,

Dove-like sat'st brooding on the vast Abyss,

And mad'st it pregnant: what in me is dark

Illumine, what is low raise and support;

That, to the height of this great argument,

I may assert Eternal Providence,

And justify the ways of God to men.



*********************************



This little fragment is posted here without permission, and without any intention of making any money on it. I promise!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Happiness

Several reasons for happiness today.



1. It's Sunday. I love Sunday.



2. This blog has been linked by The Blowhards and Proverbial Wife, both of which are among my favorite blogs. Thanks, guys! (and girl!)



3. The bad weather kept us inside all day yesterday, so I "made do" with George. Spent the entire day on the piano, out-of-tune as he is. Wrote an analysis of Mozart's D minor Fantasie. I wish I were in music school so I'd have an excuse to write a term paper on it. I may write one anyway. Just for fun.



4. I spent half the day today working on music theory, writing a piano arrangement of this awful tune in the Music Theory workbook. I'm starting to enjoy those awful tunes. It'll say, "Write a piano arrangement for this awful tune, and incorporate X concept." So tonight the concept was secondary diminished sevenths. The cool thing is, if I work hard enough and long enough, I can make that awful tune into something beautiful. The one I wrote tonight is beautiful and longing, only it begs for a violin to be singing it and not a piano. So I'm floating on imagined violin music.



5. We watched Shadowlands last night. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, and the Hubster had never seen it, so I finally got to share it with him.



6. Cats exist. Isn't life grand?



7. It's really cold. Cold weather just brings me to life.



8. The Hubster is a wonderful man. Even though he has this weird Sunday-afternoon ritual of planting himself in front of the TV for several hours to watch football.



9. My Aunt Joyce is well and not sick like she was last week.



10. There's this girl at church named Lorraine who has the most beautiful voice. It's one of those voices that just give you chills, it's so fluid and smooth. Emmylou Harris's voice has a similar effect on me. So listening to her sing this morning made me happy. She's an alto ... a low alto. A contralto?



It's time for bed. I would normally write the above in my journal, but the journal is in the car, and it's cold outside. 'Night, all.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

George's Special Day

No, I'm not talking about the presidential inauguration.



George is my piano, and he---



STOP THE PRESSES.



Today was supposed to be George's special day. Alas, no more. He was supposed to be tuned today, but the piano tuner just called and asked if he could come next week instead.



Why?



I'll tell you why. The weather's gonna turn nasty any minute, and he must, must be in Brevard this afternoon to tune the piano for Christopher Harding's performance tomorrow afternoon.



I wanted to go to the Christopher Harding performance--I desperately need to see Someone Really Good soon, as it inspires me and makes me better--but, as I said, the weather's turning nasty (think ice and sleet and snow), and a drive to Brevard just ain't gonna happen tomorrow.



Also, even if I could go, I'd only be able to stay for half the program because I have to be back here for 6:00 in the evening. Which I'd do in a heartbeat, but the tickets are $32. Ouch. That's not that much money to see a talented pianist and a talented cellist perform, but to only be able to see half the performance ... nah.



It makes me feel a little bad, because I try to support classical music performances in the area. But lately it seems like I've had to miss a lot of them because of prior engagements. Or lack of funds.



OK, I'm rambling. George is getting tuned next week. Good thing, because he really needs it. He sounds plunky and plinky and not like a his sweet piano-self at all.

Friday, January 21, 2005

How Cool is This?

Today I got an e-mail from my cousin Debra, who is blind. She plays piano and is the only other person in my family that seems to have the same intense love for music as I do, so I've always felt like we had a kind of bond--even though we haven't been in touch with each other for ages.



Anyway, she has a new e-mail system through a company called InternetSpeech, which allows you to read and write e-mails by voice. When I sent her an e-mail yesterday, she "heard" what I'd typed. And when I got my first e-mail from her today, I clicked the attached .wav file, next thing I know, Debra's voice is telling me hello!



Trés kewl!

Today is Supposed to be Music Theory Day

But it's not. Due to a scheduling snafu with a member of the medical profession, I won't be going to Music Theory today. Sadness.



Oh well, it's not like I was ready for it. This past week has been a disaster for music-related pursuits. The Depression Cloud descended on me several weeks ago, so I'm constantly overcome with fatigue and mostly sleeping when I get home. Last night I went to bed at 6 p.m. (ten minutes after arriving home from work) and slept hard till 6:30 this morning. This state of mind has not been conducive to creative pursuits, to say the least.



So now I'm sitting in Cubicle Land and can barely keep my eyes open. Luckily, my work for today involves picking things out of an existing document and creating several new, smaller documents from it. Not the most brain-challenging thing in the world, and that's what I need for now.



A druther: I just really wish I could stay home and focus solely on music and writing. It is very frustrating, feeling like those are what I am "meant" to do in my life, but then having to fit them in around a Real Job at which I'm not particularly suited. Then, with the Depression (which partly springs from the fact that I have little time for creative pursuits), I can't even stay awake when I finally do get time to write or work on music. Or else I'm just so overcome with an unavoidable and irrational self-loathing that I can't focus on the finer, skill-related aspects of writing and music. That cloud has descended and I can't see through the fog to save my life.



For people who don't understand Depression (and I capitalize it to distinguish clinical depression from "the blues" that everyone gets from time to time), this will probably sound like so much whining. For people who do understand it ... well, you probably know how I feel.



Oh well. Next week I'll probably be full of energy. It goes like that--up, down, up, down, up, down. Kind of like a roller coaster. It would be nice to get off of it every now and then and let someone else ride, you know?



Meanwhile, I'll get to work and listen to my beloved, bewigged, and bejowled one. His music never fails to uplift my spirit.



(Sorry for the dark personal flavor of this post. I know I usually don't post this kind of stuff. Will try to add more interesting things later!)

Sleeping Beauty



Thursday, January 20, 2005

Who Would Have Thunk

Hiking is good for you.

Beach Reading and Mating Signals

A recent OGIC article on reading books in public reminded me of this story:



August 1990 (or something like that)



Some girlfriends and I are at the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama for a week during the summer before our junior year of college. I've signed up for a fall-term course called "Milton and the Metaphysicals" and decide to re-read Paradise Lost in advance, so I've taken it with me to Gulf Shores.



(Now, I wasn't doing this for social status, or to show off to the rest of the world how I rejected their silly beach bacchanals and boring beach novels. I have just always been somewhat of an English lit nerd and just like to read, and I read anywhere and everywhere. Books are my introverted, part-deaf way of checking out from the busy world around me. So I do some of my most focused reading when in coffee shops, or on planes, or at parties. I never really think about what someone else will think of (1) my reading, or (2) the content of the book I'm reading.)



Anyway, we all go out to the beach in front of our five-way-rented condo and stretch out under the umbrella chairs that we've also rented. I get a Diet Coke out of the cooler and rub myself down with sunscreen. I have on my sunglasses, my swimsuit, my floppy hat ... perfect. I reach into my beach bag and grab my copy of Paradise Lost and a pen (as I am a chronic underliner). I open it. Soon I'm in the Garden of Eden and everything else--my friends' chatter, the music, the sound of the ocean--is a million miles away.



But I'm interrupted a few minutes later. One of my girlfriends has said something to the effect of, "Oh, what a surprise. Waterfall's reading Paradise Lost." None of them are surprised. They're amused, but not surprised. They make fun of me (in a nice way, 'cause they're my friends), I give them dirty looks (in a nice way), we all laugh, and then we all proceed to read/talk/listen to music/lay out in the sun.



So the lifeguard is ... a lifeguard. He's tall, tan, muscular, and curly-haired. Cute, cute, cute. Every now and then he walks past, and in his wake are our oohs and ahhs of admiration. (OK, so I was an English nerd, but I was also a 20-year-old female with a healthy admiration for buff lifeguards). He is hot.



I get back to my reading, though. After a while, Hot Lifeguard comes back, and he's walking in front of where we are. He walks right up to me. My heart skips a beat (I'm watching him out of the corner of my eye while reading about the great battle between God and Satan).



"Are you reading Paradise Lost?" he asks, somewhat incredulously.



Oh great. Here I am, in all my nerdiness, in front of Hot Lifeguard. Who knew that he'd look at the cover of my book?



"Yeah, I'm, um ... reading it for a class."



"Cool!" he says. "I'm just got my B.A. in English at Ole Miss!"



I can see my friends' surprised faces as Hot Literary Lifeguard and I chat for awhile about Milton and a few other poets before he walks off to resume his rounds.



My friends were jealous of me. Who would have thought Milton, of all people, would serve as a mating signal to Hot Literary Lifeguard?



Note to mom: No, Hot Literary Lifeguard and I did not mate.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

For Haydn Seekers

In discussing a recent article by Terry Teachout, Michael Blowhard writes a nice post about Joseph Haydn, Haydn's music, and the wonderful Prof. Robert Greenberg of The Teaching Company. Read it, and the Teachout article on the underappreciated classical master.



Come to think of it, A.C. Douglas wrote a bit about Haydn (and Mozart) today.



Funny, I've been in a Brahms mood all day myself.

Jump Start

"Self," I said this morning, "I've come to the conclusion that we need a jump-start. A tune-up. A new leaf needs to be turned over. Or something like that."



So. I'm thinking about working through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. It's basically a 12-week workbook for making your creative pursuits more of a priority. Actually, it's touted as a path to "creative recovery" for "blocked artists." I'm plenty creative these days, but it's been a challenge lately to make time for music and (particularly) writing. So I'm thinking about doing this and would love to find a person or two to commit to working through it with me. It might be fun, even though it's a lot of work.



Admittedly, the book is a bit too new-agey for me here and there. I ignore a lot of that aspect. I find that I benefit most from the non-new-agey, rigourous "work" aspects of it--the Morning Pages and Artist Dates.



Any takers? More info about the book is available at the links above. Please leave a note in the comments or e-mail me at infpeace at gmail dot com if you're interested in working through this book with me.

Poetry Game

I found this poetry game over at Reflections in d minor. Copy this list of first lines, then replace each unfamiliar (to you) line with the first line of a poem that you are familiar with, and bold your changes. When you put it on your blog, link to the post where you first saw the list.



Being the poetry geek I am, I recognized all of the first lines. That was no fun, so I've added the first lines of some of my favorite poems in place of those that I couldn't immediately place.



1. Two roads diverged in a yellow wood



2. You do not have to be good



3. I'm Nobody! Who are you?



4. Death, be not proud, though some have called thee



5. Do not go gentle into that good night,



6. In Xanadu did Kubla Khan A stately pleasure-dome decree



7. How do I love thee, let me count the ways



8. There are strange things done in the midnight sun



9. The world is charged with the grandeur of God.



10. ’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Monday's Poem, A Day Late

This poem, "Robert Schumann," was written by Mary Oliver and was published in Dream Work (1986).



Robert Schumann



Hardly a day passes I don't think of him

in the asylum: younger



than I am now, trudging the long road down

through madness toward death.



Everywhere in this world his music

explodes out of itself, as he



could not. And now I understand

something so frightening, and wonderful--



how the mind clings to the road it knows, rushing

through crossroads, sticking



like lint to the familiar. So!

Hardly a day passes I don't



think of him: nineteen, say, and it is

spring in Germany



and he has just met a girl named Clara.

He turns the corner,



he scrapes the dirt from his soles,

he runs up the dark staircase, humming.

This is Why They Pay Me

Original sentence:



Several specified functions within the ABC Systems Software system cannot be fully accessed by those users to whom the applicable permissions have not been assigned.



My knee-jerk rewrite:



Not all users can access all functions in ABC Systems Software.



It may get tweaked a bit more, but geez ... passive voice really sucks sometimes.



I know this is a lame blog entry, but I just wanted to let you, my faithful (if imagined) reading public, know what I'm doing instead of blogging.



Pity the poor cubicle dweller.

Links Updated

I'm rather snowed under at work today (snowed under by work, not actual snow ... though it is cold out). But I wanted to let y'all know (if you haven't noticed already) that I have updated the links on this blog. Most of them are hiking-related links. I've been needing to update the hiking links for a long time, and ... well, what do you know. I finally did it.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Piano Lesson

Had a great piano lesson today. I love my piano teacher. If you're in the Asheville area and are looking for a good piano teacher, I highly recommend seeking out this talented woman.



I played the Mozart pretty well. It didn't sound as good as when I played it for friends last night, but it was still pretty good. Not long ago, I asked Deborah why she doesn't "make me memorize things." (Every now and then I start sounding like a nine-year-old piano student instead of a mature adult.) She said she'll never make me memorize anything.



Well. I suppose I can memorize things on my own, but if I'm not being made to do it ... I'm not going to make time for it. And a big reason I'm even taking piano is so that I can sit down at any old piano and start playing beautiful classical music. Without using the sheet music as a crutch. I want to build a by-memory repertoire outside of my old stand-by pieces (Maple Leaf Rag and the middle section of Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu).



So I basically asked, "Please make me memorize things."



"Okay. No problem."



So now I'm to work on memorizing the Mozart.



Then we moved on to the Dett. Whew, but that piece is hard. I point-blank said, "I can learn to play the notes, but I need to know what's going on, theory-wise, in this piece. 'Cause it doesn't make a whole lot of sense right now. And I know it'll be easier once it makes sense theoretically."



So we went through the sticky sections of the Dett, measure by measure, analyzing it. So much fun! Deborah even dug out her comp study materials from when she was studying theory for her D.M.



And guess what.



The music has AUGMENTED SIXTHS in it!!



Woo-hoo! That's what I'm learning in theory! I love it when things overlap!!



I doubt that Deborah has ever seen a student get so excited about an augmented sixth before. I nearly jumped off the piano bench. I was just so happy to have a clue as to what was going on musically in this rather dissonant-sounding (at times) piece.



How often does a piano teacher have a student ASK them to make her memorize things? And then say, "I want to understand this theoretically instead of just blindly playing it." And then shouts, "Woo hoo!" when the topic of augmented sixths comes up?



I am such a nerd. N. E. R. D. Nerd.



And, um ... I'm ... proud of it. I think. (gulp)

The "One of These Days" List

Last night, our friends Nomad and Dwinda stayed with us after the SoRuck weekend. Nomad has hiked many miles in the last few years, including two treks of the International Appalachian Trail, a jaunt from the Outer Banks (NC) to Port Loma Lighthouse (CA), and, most recently, a hike of the Lewis and Clark Trail. Amazingly, he did all of these hikes after the age of 60.



He often talks about the "One Of These Days" list that we all keep tucked away in our minds. "As we get older," he says, "that list seems to get longer. Best get started now."



I definitely have a "One Of These Days" list in the back of my mind. Some of the items on it are, if not common, somewhat achievable: Have an off-white Ford Econoline van with the license plate "HOMEWARD" (this one is still but a shimmery dream.) Marry a man who has the four B's: Beard, Boots, Backpack, and Brains. (Check.) Get a graduate degree in English. (Check.) Learn to sing. (Maybe someday?)



Some items are not so achievable, but that doesn't keep them from being on the list. Hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) was on that list. (Check.) Being a published author was on that list. (Check.)



I still have a long way to go. For instance, composing a symphony is on that list. I don't know if people even write symphonies anymore. I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it. Even if I do write one, I don't think I'll care if it's ever performed. I just think it would be the coolest thing in the world to write a symphony. It's one reason I'm taking these theory classes. Having a piano recital where I play Really Advanced Stuff really well is on the list, too. Just something I want to do. And something that just may be within my reach, if I work hard enough.



Writing a novel is also on the list. To be honest, writing more than one novel is on the list. OK, I really mean publishing a novel. OK. Publishing a good, intellectually stimulating novel that, despite its complexity, is still really successful and gets me on the talk show circuit and guarantees me a comfortable income for the rest of my life is what's really on the list. And it wouldn't hurt to write something so brilliantly true that it changes people's attitudes and ultimately makes the world a better place. Less ambitiously, getting a Ph.D. is on the list. And maybe getting an MFA. That one's not a major item, though.



Much of the talk this weekend was, naturally, on hiking. Many of the people there had 2,000+ miles under their boots, while others could still only dream of taking off on a long hike. The Hubster and I talked of our plans to thru-hike the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2006. That's on the list. So is hiking the Continental Divide Trail.



I don't know why I want to do all of these things, exactly. The AT hike was something I needed to do. I had to prove that I could do it, but I also needed time to think, to grow, to be pushed beyond my perceived limits. And boy, was I pushed!



I want to thru-hike the PCT for different reasons. I don't feel like I have anything to prove to myself by hiking it. I do feel like it's something the Hubster and I need to do together. It'll definitely push us and hopefully make our relationship stronger. I'm also planning a career change and see the PCT as an ideal cushion between two careers. It'll clear my head and I'll have a better idea of what's important. That's because long-distance hiking also reminds me of what is important in life. Rearranges my priorities to their right order. Gets me away from the cursed television. Gets me back to basics. I need that.



When I was a kid, my list was a little different. I wavered between be a teacher of reading, be a missionary in some godforsaken country, and be a rail-hopping hobo. Who knows if (or when) the invisible ink will reappear. I'm definitely leaning toward the "teacher of reading" thing again. That's partly due to the rather amorphous make a positive difference in people's lives/make the world a better place list item.



OK, so I'm rambling. Anyone wanna share? What's on your "One Of These Days" list? Have you thought about it lately? Hmmmmmm? :-)

Short Update

I had a great weekend at the SoRuck, visiting with hiker friends and meeting new folks who are planning to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in the near future. Especially enjoyed hanging out with our friends, Nimblewill Nomad & Dwinda, Clyde, Sly & Cheryl, Linda from Cullowhee, Not Yet & Macon Tracks, POG & Not To Worry, and Dutch Treat & Hummingbird, and Nocona. And lots of others. Dan is just amazed at how I catapult out of my shy-person shell when I'm among hikers.



I have lots to blog about today. Give me a few hours to work, then I'll try to post something over the lunch hour.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Gumbo

I never could understand why people post pictures of their food on their blogs. I mean, is it such a big deal that the maker of this roux actually got it right the first time, without burning it? Did she really have to take a picture and record the moment?







And so what if she made a good gumbo?







The only reason I posted the gumbo picture is because I think it's cute, how the bay leaf is standing up in the middle of the pot, probably saying "Hi, Mom!" in Bayleafese.



Time to go. I'll soon be Ruck-bound.

Isn't She Lovely?



Hideaway skeptically inspects the area beneath the lawn chair for its hiding-place potential.

Heh.

Instapundit links to this little guide on myths and facts about blogs and bloggers.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Shall We Start a Fan Club?

There's another blogger out there who has nice things to say about Robert Greenberg, Teaching Company Lecturer Extraordinaire.

Sabbatical

I'm taking a one-day sabbatical from the computer in order to look for my mind. I know I left it somewhere around here ... if anyone happens to see it, please let me know. And have a wonderful Thursday!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Grand Marching

The tableau theme was something like "The Hanging Gardens of Babylon." I was an attendant to the queen, along with Kathleen Weldon and another girl I didn't know. Our job was to walk across the stage, scattering sequined rose petals in preparation for the entry of the queen.



It was my first Mardi Gras ball. Ever. And I was in it. I was eight years old.



The night before, we'd had the one and only rehearsal. The dukes and maids stood around in jeans, drinking beer and laughing. My uncle pretended to be the king when it was time for the king to come out. Of course, no one knew who the king was, or the queen. No one would know until they were revealed at the ball the following night.



I didn't quite know what to think of all this. My performing experience before then had pretty much consisted of a couple of piano recitals and a dance recital in which I'd stood bowlegged in my leotard and bawled all the way through my dances. I was older now, but it was still a new experience.



The next night, I was barefoot, dressed in a shimmery green-and-ivory sequined toga that my Aunt Joyce had made. My brother, also be-toga'd, was acting as a cup-bearer to the king. And those giggling, beer-smelling dukes and maids were ... transformed. Gone were the jeans and sweatshirts. Now, these same folks, particularly the women, were dressed to the hilt. The ladies wore hoop skirts of lamé, chiffon, and sequins, and elaborate headpieces. The men's costumes were gorgeous and sequined as well. And the Civic Center stage had been transformed into a shimmery, sequined Babylon. Long tables circled the room. The men at the tables wore tuxedoes, and the women evening gowns. I knew because I'd peeked out from behind the door to the dressing room. We were all in the dressing room, nervously waiting for everything to start.



It finally did. I could hear music as I stood backstage. Louder still was some sort of a ruckus outside. A man went outside and I glimpsed the shadowy outlines of a huge truck in the darkness. People were murmuring. Someone else stood guard at the door and refused to let anyone go outside, other than the man who'd walked out a minute before. Something was happening out there. As the man came back inside, I ventured forward to see if I could see anything ... but it was my time to go onstage.



I walked, pigeon-toed, in front of the magical cardboard palace of Babylon and scattered my rose petals without incident. Once we kids finished our part, we seated ourselves on side of the stage.



Next thing I knew, there was an elephant in the room. No, not a proverbial elephant. A REAL elephant. A DANCING elephant. And on the elephant rode the queen of Le Krewe du Roi. Everyone gasped. Everyone cheered. The elephant shuffled a dance, delighted at the response of the audience. Still hiding behind a mask, the queen waved.



What I remember most, though, was the wonderful music that accompanied her (and the elephant, which had been borrowed from the circus that was in town that very weekend): the "Grand March" from Verdi's Aida. I loved it. At the end of the "show," we all stood up and marched in a procession before the cheering adults. The Grand March played over and over again as we walked, and I couldn't stop smiling as I looked from elephant and queen to my parents in the audience, to the fantastically costumed maids and dukes. I hummed the Grand March tune all the way home. I played it on the piano that night. I found the music to it a few days later and taught it to myself.



To this day, the Grand March from Aida brings back memories of a sequined, shimmery cardboard palace, masked kings and queens, and dancing elephants.



Why this shimmery memory? Because Aida is being performed in Asheville this weekend. Every morning I pass the Asheville Civic Center and see "AIDA" on their calendar. And the Grand March gets stuck in my head and I find myself thinking of kings, queens, elephants, and the unforgettable experiences of Mardi Gras in Plaquemine.



I have to miss the opera because I'll be hanging out with hikers. But that's OK. I think I'd be a little disappointed to hear the Grand March performed, but with nary a live dancing elephant.



Guess what, y'all. Mardi Gras is coming up!



Listen to a sampling of the Grand March here.

"Christians" Again

Here is an interesting article by Ronald J. Sider in Christianity Today. Titled "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience: Why don't Christians live what they preach?" it discusses "scandalous behavior" among evangelical Christians and sort of touches on some of the questions I was asking yesterday.



It even puts the word "Christians" in quotes in one instance.



Read the whole thing here.

Recommended Reading

I don't even know this guy, but I LOVE his writing. His post for today reminds me of why I got irritated at the hubster when, shortly before the wedding, he went and bought a great, big TV without so much as consulting me first.



I quit watching TV in 1985, at the age of 15. When I was in grad school, I proudly slapped a "Kill Your Television" bumper sticker on my car (along with "Question Reality" and an upside-down "Why Be Normal?". And Grateful Dead dancing bears. )



When thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, I often found myself in TV-related conversations to which I could contribute absolutely nothing. Usually, the conversations revolved around "Friends," or "Seinfeld," or "Frasier," all of which I'm sure were very amusing shows. People would repeat snippets of conversation from these shows, or talk about the characters as if they were mutual friends. And I didn't know any of them. But that was fine with me. I kind of liked the fact that my mind wasn't filled with all that garbage, even if it meant I was out of the proverbial loop with the rest of America.



I did buy a TV in 2001, shortly after 9-11. But, because I tended to get my news from the internet anyway, the TV turned out to be a wasted purchase.



Now that we have a TV, I am addicted to Law and Order: SVU. I'd never seen it before, until after we got the great, big TV. And the great, big TV is always on. Usually, it's on Fox News or football, but I've been guilty of switching the channel to VH1 so I can watch "I Love the Seventies" or some other fun but mindless program.



I hate it. If I lived alone, I would not have a TV. I hate how it sits like an idol in its shrine at the focal point of our living room. I suggested switching the TV and the piano (which is tucked away in our guest room, a.k.a. The Inner Sanctum"), but the hubster laughed at the idea.



My brain feels dead a lot of the time, and I think part of it is the mind-numbing effect of TV. During my pre-TV days, I would spend my evenings reading, writing, thinking, making music, listening to symphonies while following the score. Now I seem unable to resist its mindless spell. Except for when the hubster is out of town. When I'm home alone, I pretty much return to my pre-married ways: reading, communing with George the Piano, etc.



Last night I actually quit my exciting composing at 10:00 because Law and Order: SVU was coming on. And I knew exactly what I was doing. Said to myself, "Self, you just closed the piano and quit after two hard-earned measures of music composition to watch a television show that's going to keep you up past your bedtime and make you cranky and tired tomorrow."



"Yes, Self, that's what I'm doing. Live with it."



I like Law and Order: SVU. It's not a waste of my time. But, compared to composing, it is. Compared to working on my novel, it is. Compared to just about anything, it is.



So maybe it is a waste of my time.



"Self, something is very wrong here. Self, we should plot to kill the television. What do you think?"



"Why, Self, I do declare. You've hit the proverbial nail on its proverbial head."



"You sure do love that word "proverbial," don't you, Self."



"Yup. Sure do."



Back to work.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

"First Snow," a la Schumann

I have a new best friend. His name is Robert Schumann.



Seriously, I was listening to the Teaching Company lecture about how Schumann wrote little portraits, little tiny pianistic sketches of things. Apparently, he was equally drawn to both music and poetry.



Well, shut my mouth. So am I.



Why do I feel like every major composer is a kindred spirit? Particularly the tortured ones??



Anyway, I dug up my favorite poetry book (other than the Norton Anthology of Poetry), New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver. And opened to a page. It happened to be the poem "First Snow."



So I just read the words and played musically what the words said. Pretended to be Schumann and "drew" a picture of "First Snow."



It was beautiful. And it wasn't just my usual boring, uncreative New-Agey beautiful. It really was pretty. And interesting. Schumannesque and not sounding of the 21st century, of course, but still ... it was very nice. So I've started writing it down. I played it four times: twice for me, once for Dan, and once on the phone for my mom. I played different notes every time, but the senses of movement were the same. So now that I've started writing it down, I'll be more exact.



But not too exact. There's nothing exact about a first snow. 'Cept that it's beautiful.



And I like writing beautiful music. Particularly when it's not (in my opinion) musically boring.



La la la! I'm a happy girlie tonight.

Stuff to Do Today (in no particular order)

1. Snuggle with cat. Snuggle with cat again. Snuggle with cat again. And again. Ad infinitum.

2. Do open-score exercises for music theory.

3. Practice scales/arpeggios/inversions for keys o' day.

4. Practice Mozart, Chopin, and Dett.

5. Clean guest bathroom and make sure it's well stocked for when guests get here Thursday.

6. Work out, unless I forget my sports bra at home. Grr, grr.

7. Make dinner.

8. Figure out what to serve guests Thursday night and plan grocery trip for tomorrow.

9. Do augmented-sixth harmonization exercises for music theory.

10. Buy organic pinot gris wine on way home for pinot-gris-loving guests.

11. Do dishes.

12. Watch the new, non-rerun Law and Order: SVU tonight! Woo hoo!

Classical Music Milestone Site

I just discovered MUSIClassical.com. It has a section called CLASSICALmanacTM that lists major classical-music events for every day of the year. Here's a sampling of what's listed for today, January 11:



1642 Birth of German organist and composer Johann Friedrich ALBERTI in Tönning, Thuningen.



1754 FP of second version Jean-Philippe Rameau's opera Castor and Pollux in Paris at the Palais Royal Opéra. (I think FP means "first performance.")



1801 Death of Italian composer Domenico Cimarosa, in Venice at age 51. b-Aversa, 17 DEC 1749.



1837 Death of Irish pianist and composer John Field in Moscow, on tour. b-Dublin, 1782.



1843 Death of Francis Scott Key, composer of Star Spangled Banner, at age 63.



1856 Birth of Norwegian composer Christian SINDING in Kongsberg, Norway. d-Oslo, 3 DEC 1941.



1895 FP of Johannes Brahms's Clarinet Sonata, Op. 120, no. 1. Richard Muhlfeld, clarinet and Brahms at piano, in Vienna.



1906 Birth of composer Johannes Paul THILMAN. d-1973.



1906 FP of S. Rachmaninoff's two one-act operas The Miserly Knight and Francesca da Rimini in Moscow.



1909 Birth of composer Gunnar Johnsen BERG.



1910 Birth of American conductor Izler SOLOMON in St. Paul, MN.



1925 FP of Aaron Copland's Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, at Aeolian Hall in NYC. New York Symphony, Walter Damrosch conducting. Nadia Boulanger was the soloist.



1940 FP of Prokofiev's ballet Romeo and Juliet in Leningrad.



Et cetera. The site also includes links to composer information pages (the names in all-caps are links on the page) and CD info (amazon.com links).

Another Teaching Company Commercial

I'm feeling a little neurotic today, so I hope you will bear with me, dear blog readers.

Maybe it's low self-esteem, or true modesty, or what--I don't know--but I always assume that, if I know something, then that "something" must be common knowledge for the rest of the world. Like yesterday, I figured I was parading my true ignorance of well-known things when saying I'd only just heard Chopin's Op. 2 variations for the first time ever.

So it always amazes me when I know something that someone else doesn't know.

The other day at church, the anthem was a pretty baroque-sounding thing for three voices. The poor pianist was turning her own pages as she played, and there were apparently a quite a few repeats. The pages wouldn't stay turned, so she kept having to slap them back in place as she played. After the service I went up to her and said something like, "Hey, next time you need a page-turner, just let me know!" She laughed and said she could have used me. Then we talked about composers and pieces with repeats ... and she said something about how they'd done a piece by a Michael Haydn.

"Who knew there was a Michael Haydn?" she said.

Well, of course I know about Joseph Haydn's little brother, Michael. Doesn't everyone? Apparently not. So I told her an interesting little tidbit about how a symphony that had been attributed to Mozart was actually written by Michael Haydn. And that it's too bad that no one has ever heard of Michael Haydn. If he was good enough to be mistaken for Mozart all these years, he couldn't have been too shabby of a composer.

Then she said that they'd done an anthem recently by J.C. Bach, and that the music director had expressed surprise that there had even been a J.C. Bach.

Well ... doesn't everyone know about J.C. Bach, the youngest son of J.S. Bach? And that he was known as the "London Bach" and was wildly popular in his time and was friends with Mozart, to boot? His sinfonias are wonderful, and I listen to them pretty often at naxos.com. But it seems no one has heard of him now. It is a shame. Is there a J.C. Bach Awareness Group out there that I can join?

Because not everyone knows there was a J.C. Bach.

The good news is, the knowledge I'm gaining from the Teaching Company lectures are becoming a part of the encyclopedia of my brain. Some things (like J.C. Bach) were already in the encyclopedia and are just being reinforced. Other things, like much of what I'm learning about Robert Schumann, are completely new.

Either way, I forget that I haven't always known these little facts about composers and music. It seems like I've known these things forever.

No, I do not work for the Teaching Company. This is not a true Teaching Company commercial. Those folks have just really enriched my life. And I'm learning that I'm not such an uninformed doofus after all. :-)

I love, I love, I love Robert Greenberg. I think I am his biggest fan.

BTW, you can hear Michael Haydn's Symphony in G, previously attributed to Mozart, here. (Mozart wrote the Introduction to the symphony for his friend, but Michael Haydn wrote the rest).

Pet Peeve: Concerned Christians on Misguided "Christians"

So I'm at a local diner this morning, writing in my journal and drinking coffee. At the table next to me is a group of women who meet weekly for their morning Bible study. I am not much of an eavesdropper, but because their table was right next to mine today, I couldn't help but hear some of what they were saying.



And the conversation was on what seems to be a common topic of choice for Christians: Other "Christians." With "Christians" in quotation marks. Because those other "Christians" (the folks that they're talking about) may not really be Christians, or at least that is the impression that I get. The "Christians" that they're talking about may be churchgoers, may be active in the church, may even be their friends, etc., and definitely claim to be Christians, but those "Christians" are misguided. They only think they're living a Christian life. Or, when they pray, they only think that God is hearing them. They only think they're going to heaven. But it's obvious from their behavior that those "Christians" are only imposters.



Thing is, these ladies aren't being mean. They are always very friendly, and they sound genuinely concerned for these "Christians," and sad that the people they're talking about don't have the wisdom and humility that these ladies believe is alive and well in their morning Bible study.



Now, if you were to talk to one of those "Christians" being talked about ... they would probably tell you they THEY'RE the real Christians, and that those gossipy ladies at the morning Bible study are misguided "Christians" who aren't really sincere.



It's very confusing. Say you're hanging out with Christians and looking to them for guidance. How do you know if they're real Christians ... or merely "Christians"? And how do you know that they're not talking about you behind your back ... or that, even though you think you're a real Christian, that maybe, perhaps, you might only be a pseudo-"Christian?"



I took an entire Bible study class that promised to answer these questions, but much of that conversation seemed to focus on the misguidedness of other "Christians."



Are there just a lot of misguided people out there who are rock-solid in their misguided beliefs? Or do I happen to only meet the real, true Christians while somehow managing to miss all of the imposter "Christians" who claim to be Christians, who believe they're Christians, but who, at bottom, are utterly clueless?



Anyway, it's a real pet peeve of mine when Christians start talking about "Christians," and how they are on the right path and the "Christians" are sadly misguided. They make the little quote marks with their fingers and everything when they say "'Christians'." They don't realize how destructive and confusing such a practice can be.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Delightful.

I don't remember ever having heard Chopin's variations on "La ci darem la mano" from Mozart's Don Giovanni, Op. 2, until I heard a snippet of it on The Schumanns--Their Lives and Music, the latest Teaching Company course I'm "taking." Apparently, after hearing this piece, Robert Schumann reviewed it, writing, "Hats off, gentlemen. A genius!"



And Chopin wasn't even famous yet.



These are delightful. I'm glad I have now "discovered" them for myself. Better late than never. Hear snippets for yourself (Tracks 7 through 13) here.

2004 Reflections

I found this set of questions at About Last Night. Feel free to answer them yourself in the comments section, if Blogger allows long comments.



1. What did you do in 2004 that you’d never done before? (1) I took a writing workshop. (2) I started lessons in music theory and composition. (3) I started blogging.



2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? My New Year's resolution was to write more, and yes, I did that. I haven't decided on a resolution yet for 2005.



3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No.



4. Did anyone close to you die? Yes. Cleo the cat.



5. What countries did you visit? None.



6. What would you like to have in 2005 that you lacked in 2004? (1) Some sense of fulfillment in my day job. (2) More income from my writing and music.



7. What date from 2004 will remain etched upon your memory? None, that I can remember.



8. What was your biggest achievement of the year? The publication of 50 Hikes in Louisiana.



9. What was your biggest failure? Didn't complete The Artist's Way ... again. Didn't finish my "Surface Tension" essay to submit for publication. Didn't hike much at all. (I know, those aren't really "failures." But they are things I wish I'd done.)



10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Nothing physical, other than a few allergy and sinus nasties here and there. I smashed my thumb with a 25-pound weight at the health club. And the usual Depression lurked and settled in whenever I wasn’t looking.



11. What was the best thing you bought? (1) Shipment of George the Piano from Louisiana to my house. (2) Music theory lessons. (3) Subscription to naxos.com.



12. Whose behavior merited celebration? My husband's. He put up with a lot of crap from me during our first year of marriage.



13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? My husband's. But everything is fine now.



14. Where did most of your money go? House payments, paying off the credit cards, GA$ for the daily commute.



15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Bach. Music Theory. Piano.



16. What song/album will always remind you of 2004? (1) Bach, Mass in B Minor, because I was addicted to it for most of 2004. (2) Probably the Chopin Nocturne in Bb minor because I learned it in 2004 and have played it endlessly ever since.



17. Compared to this time last year, are you:



• Happier or sadder? Somewhat sadder.

• Thinner or fatter? A little fatter.

• Richer or poorer? Richer.



18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Looking for a job more suited to my interests and talents. Playing with children.



19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Surfing the internet. Watching Law and Order.



20. How did you spend Christmas 2004? In Louisiana, with family.



21. Who did you spend the most time on the phone with? Probably my husband. And my mom.



22. Did you fall in love in 2004? I lived in a perpetual state of being in love in 2004.



23. How many one-night stands in this last year? None.



24. What was your favorite TV program? It would have to have been "Law and Order," (and SVU) since that's just about the only TV program I watched.



25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? I can't think of anyone that I hate. There are certainly people that I like less, though, now that I’ve gotten to know them. And even more people that I like more.



26. What was the best book(s) you read? (1) The Clearing, by Tim Gautreaux. (2) Property, by Valerie Martin.



27. What was your greatest musical discovery? Geez ... I don't even know where to start. It was a year full of musical discoveries for me, particularly in music theory.



28. What did you want and get? Proficiency in playing Chopin's Bb-minor nocturne.



29. What did you want and not get? A completed essay to submit for publication. A little box for storing good recipes.



30. What were your favorite films of this year? Napoleon Dynamite (just about the only film I watched, other than things I rented)



31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I turned 34 and went to lunch with the hubster because he had to work that night.



32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? An immeasurably more satisfying job. More time in the woods, less time in the cubicle.



33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2004? My job requires me to dress boringly. So I usually wore variations of what I call my chocolate-point Siamese Cat outfit: brown sweater, khakis, brown socks, brown shoes. Yawn. I also got my hair cut short in 2004, for the first time in a long time. But it's grown back out by now. I ran out of eyeliner in July and haven’t replaced it yet.



34. What kept you sane? Piano. This blog. J.S. Bach. The Hubster.



35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Benjamin Bratt on the Law and Order reruns.



36. What political issue stirred you the most? The election. Annoyance at Bush-haters. (Is that a political issue?)



37. Who did you miss? My Louisiana friends. Amy Kellam. Mom-D.



38. Who was the best new person you met? A beautiful little girl named Savannah.



39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2004.
I need drugs. And I’m not as dumb or un-talented as I imagine myself.



40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.



“January through December” –Ronnie Milsap, “It Was Almost Like a Song.”



Hee hee. I couldn’t resist.

Monday Morning Feature: Favorite Poems

I'm starting a new feature on this blog for Monday mornings: favorite poems. Every Monday, I'll post a poem (or a link to one), and it'll always be a poem that I consider one of my favorites. It'll help me (and maybe you) to take a deep breath and relax a bit as the crazy work week begins.



By the way, I have a LOT of favorite poems, so this feature will be around for a long time.



Today's feature is a poem on poetry itself:



I, too, dislike it: there are things that are important beyond all

this fiddle.

Reading it, however, with a perfect contempt for it, one

discovers in

it after all, a place for the genuine.

Hands that can grasp, eyes

that can dilate, hair that can rise

if it must ...




These are the opening lines to "Poetry," by American poet Marianne Moore. You can read the whole thing (with the correct indents and line breaks) here.



Sunday, January 9, 2005

Depression

Wrecked the whole weekend. Hit me on Saturday morning after a two-day hiatus, and I'm not sure how I managed to get out of bed and actually move around (and paint) both days.



Hopefully I'll be my happy self again tomorrow. But this weekend was tough.

Saturday, January 8, 2005

'Turday Night

This is the color (approximately) of our living room now. Pretty, huh?

Friday, January 7, 2005

Creepy

Did Ted Kennedy really say this?

The World is Opening Up

I wonder, does this feeling ever get old? I swear, each time I learn a new concept in music theory, I become ga-ga over it. I play it over and over again, in different keys. I call my mom and say, "Listen to this! Isn't this cool?"



So last night I reviewed augmented sixths and secondary diminished sevenths. Did a few written exercises, but I mostly just messed with progressions on the piano. I throw my hands at the keyboard and think, "um ... F major." And start improvising in F major so that the sound of the key is established in my short-term memory. "Now ... what will it sound like when I go from here to a vi to a V/ii to a ii to a vii°7/V to a V7 to a I? OK. That sounds good. Now do that again. And again, changing around the inversions. Improvise on it just to see what happens. Oops, missed a note ... but that didn't sound so bad. Augment the sixth this next time around. Ah, nice. Now play something similar in ... C# minor!"



It hurts my brain to switch keys like that, but I do it anyway. I'm trying to develop a knee-jerk sense of playing harmonic progressions without worrying so much about what key I'm in. I'm pretty good at it as long as I stick to the diatonic stuff, but when I start messing with anything chromatic, it gets sticky. All of this is still so new to me.



During one of my few and far-between forays into piano study after college, I would put on jazz CDs, open the New Real Book, and practice improvising with whatever was playing. Now, I had a clavinova at the time and made sure the sound was down, way down. Because it sounded horrible. But there was definitely some improvement. And my Pretend Jazz Band didn't seem to mind my mistakes.



Yes, I am rambling. I'm just very, very excited. I was kind of depressed when I headed to the piano last night (how can one not get depressed after watching even ten minutes of the news?), so I didn't expect a very good "session." But, two hours later, I'd been transformed into my familiar manic, overwhelmedly joyful silly girl of a self. George often has that effect on me. (The link is to a picture of a piano that looks a little bit like George; not George himself.)



There is just this wonderful sense of possibility. Concepts in music theory really are like magic spells for a composer wanna-be like me.

More on "What Do You Believe Is True ...

... even though you cannot prove it? From Edge: The World Question Center.

Press Any Key

I thought this was kind of cute. Found it on Piano Forums.





Thursday, January 6, 2005

Random Life Happenings

Heidi and Beau ambushed me this morning. Not five seconds after I woke up, Heidi (the calico) jumped onto the bed and curled her sweet self up against my stomach and proceeded to purr loudly. Shortly after, Beau (the bobcat) hauled his huge self onto the bed and took residence alongside the back of my head and proceeded to purr loudly. I was stuck. Stuck, I say!



So I was rather late to work. And I didn't have time to write my Morning Pages. Pooh.



In my e-mailbox this morning: A bride-to-be has asked me to play the piano for her wedding this summer. I e-mailed back and said I would. So, I am no longer allowed to whine about how my non-chosen non-musical career in Cubicle Land takes up all of my energy for musical pursuits. And if I have the audacity to whine about the upcoming stress of playing the piano in public ... just kick me, OK?



Seriously, I am excited about this opportunity. I think it'll be fun.



Tomorrow resumes my Music Theory sessions. I don't know why I keep capitalizing "Music Theory." I guess it's to differentiate my classes with Vance from music theory in general. But anyway, Music Theory starts up again tomorrow. I feel like I should have some goals ... or something ... as far as music theory is concerned. Other than a seemingly unreachable pie-in-the-sky dream of composing symphonies. I'll think about that and perhaps blog more on it later today.



Meanwhile, I need to get some work done. I'm listening to my beloved Palestrina this morning. You can find samples of Palestrina's music here and here, as well as at Naxos.com. Actually I'm listening to a Naxos.com disc titled Jesus i musikken (Jesus Christ in Music).



Why doesn't my church play this kind of stuff?

Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Where, Oh ...

Where is Cuss'n LaVronica? Cousin Stacey the Poop Poet? Cousin Drew with his big red D? (Was that the Halloween costume?) Where is the illustrious and prolific Crawdaddy? Where is the not-so-prolific (web-wise) Cousin Shorty? Where are my long-lost sort-of-related-to-me blogger/webmaster folk? I feel like me 'n Miz Smith are a-bloggin in a fambly e-vacuum.



Someone please tell these relatives of mine they need to UPDATE.



Thank 'ee. Time for beddie-bye.



Hee hee.



'night.

Kim, Have You "Seen" This Site?

My former boss, Kim, will love this site: The Gallery of "Misused" Quotation Marks. Misused quotation marks are her punctuational pet peeve.



I've actually fallen into a "bit" of a "habit" of "misusing" quotation marks. And I "think" of "Kim" every single "time" I do.



They really don't "bother" me so "much." Know what I "hate"? Misused "apostrophes." Like on "mailboxes" that say The Roger's or The Jackson's and "bathrooms" that are labeled Mens' and Ladie's. Or when people say they "hate" misused apostrophe's. Those drive me "crazy." But misused quotation marks are "okay" with me. (Noooo ... not "really.")



(If Kim is "reading" this, she's probably tearing her "hair" out by now.)

What I Learned Today at Lunchtime

Ha ha! Hee hee! Ho ho! I spent my lunch hour reading the chapter in my music theory workbook on secondary diminished seventh chords. How very exciting they are!! I think some of these show up in my Mozart piece, but I'm not sure. Can't wait to get home and check! And find the "secondary diminished seventh" examples in my Music for Analysis book!



I know I'm just a novice, and I know I'm probably getting all excited over things that are but common knowledge for the more seasoned music scholars out there. But there is definitely a certain joy in being a novice. Kind of like being a northbound AT thru-hiker just making their way through Georgia. You're just barely beginning, and the distance ahead is daunting ... but at the same time, there is the expectation that so many adventures are waiting just around the bend.



La la la la la life is good!



Oh, I was trying to understand how these things resolve and accidentally came up with an algebraic-looking something in the process. It's kind of confusing because i and vii°7 refer to scale degrees & chords, and x can refer to any scale degree.



I (or i) of x = vii°7 root of (x + 1)



Does that make sense? The "I" of iii, for example, is the root of the vii°7 of IV. If you're in C major, then E-natural (iii in C major) is the root of the vii° chord of F (IV in C major).



Or something like that. I was never very good at math. Or music theory, for that matter.



The "equation" is actually an unnecessarily complicated way of saying something very simple. But isn't that what algebraic-looking things do? I still think it's neat-o mosquito, mainly because I haven't written anything that algebraic-looking since I took Math for Dummies in high school.



Guess I'll go back to my non-number-centered day job. :-)))))

Another Good Read

The Outer Life blogger posted on life goals and superfluidity today.

Music and Scheduling

One of the frustrating things about music being an "extracurricular activity" is that it's hard to schedule time for it. I whined a little bit about this in yesterday's post. But I'm not going to whine this morning. I'm going to make a plan. I'm going to take action. I'm going to make some choices.



But first I'll give you a long-overdue Music Update.



Holiday time was vacation time, and I didn't have access to a piano for much of it. So, I didn't practice as much as usual. I've resumed my regular practice sessions (somewhat) this week. I'm struggling with playing an even, measured Alberti bass in the last section of the Mozart. And playing the right-hand runs evenly in the middle sections. I can play everything fast, but not as evenly as I'd like. So that's what I'm working on in the Mozart.



As for the Dett, I have all the notes down and am working on the hands-together thing now. At the same time, I'm playing sections in different rhythms, emphasizing beats that aren't supposed to be emphasized. It's hard because there is a lot of syncopation in the piece. But this exercise definitely helps with muscle-memory.



Deborah has me playing contrary motion scales in addition to everything else, and they're a challenge. Oh, it's not a challenge to play C, or F or G or E-flat major in contrary motion ... but c# minor? f# minor? Oh my. It makes me feel like my brain is a big lump of slightly hardened pottery clay and the god of music is painstakingly molding parts of it into new and unfamiliar shapes. Intense but very exciting. Mental growing pains. When I'm playing with each hand at opposite ends of the piano, though, it makes me wish my eyes were further apart.



And then there is music theory. Poor, neglected theory. Actually, I've been doing a lot of "ear training"--I guess that's what you would call it. Playing LOTS of Bach chorales and saying, "Hm, here's a passing 6-4 chord. Listen to it." So I shut my eyes and play it and really focus on the ... color? ... of the sound. Get to know it. Learn to recognize it when I hear it in something else. Know what I'm imagining when I hear that sound in my mind. Same thing with certain suspensions or simple progressions.



I spent the week before Christmas focusing on how it sounds to go from I to IV to I, and how different composers do it without making it sound bland or hackneyed. Played things slowly, leaving out certain voices, raising or lowering one of the voices to explore how the tone color (am I using the right terminology here?) changes. Last night I explored some of how certain composers resolve diminished seventh chords ... and why the resolution works.



While no visible product is created by these hours of exploration, I think I'm learning a great deal. Thinking of the old noggin as a great, big iron kettle over a low fire. Right now I'm just throwing the ingredients in. And smelling the different combinations of aromas. And waiting.



Who knows, maybe I'll end up with something like booyah.



So, about scheduling and choices ...



I'm thinking about cutting back on the music theory "lessons." Vance and I have been meeting once a week, but it seems to make more sense to meet with him "just whenever." He's more of a coach than a teacher, really. I'm very self-motivated. He just nudges me along in a certain direction, points me to certain resources, and gives me guidance when I get stuck or confused. Then I'm off on my own again. Exploring. I think I would rather work for a few weeks or a month, then when I've written something, or have collected enough questions, just give him a call and see when we're both free to get together and go over things for an hour or two. Doesn't that sound like a good idea? Rather than meeting for a scheduled hour per week, whether I'm ready for it or not?



Much to blog about today. But I still have that work deadline hanging over my music-filled head. This morning I'm feeding my Mass in B Minor addiction while documenting IT software. Clay feet on the ground, blonde head in the clouds. Life is good today.