Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Somehow I Knew This ...

Seeing as I'm a short, part-deaf misanthrope who was born in '70 and loves the piano, it makes sense that the "Which Dead German Composer Are You" quiz said I was Beethoven. :)



Take the Dead German Composer Test!



P.S. To all and the person who e-mailed me: I know about the Heilengenstadt (sp?) Testament, and I know there is evidence that Beethoven wasn't really a misanthrope. He occasionally acted like one, from what I've read, and I'm playing on a common impression (if a misperception) of him. I'm not a true misanthrope either, but I sometimes feel and/or act like one. It's all part of the humor. Ha ha ha.

Sheesh.

Which Dead Russian Composer Are You?

If I were a Dead Russian Composer, I would be Dmitri Shostakovich!

I am a shy, nervous, unassuming, fidgety, and stuttery little person who began composing the same year I started music lessons of any sort. I wrote the first of my fifteen symphonies at age 18, and my second opera, "Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District," when I was only 26. Unfortunately, Stalin hated the opera, and put me on the Enemy Of The People List for life. I nevertheless kept composing the works I wanted to write in private; some of my vocal cycles and 15 string quartets mock the Soviet System in notes. And I somehow was NOT killed in the process! And Harry Potter(c) stole my glasses and broke them!

Who would you be? Dead Russian Composer Personality Test

Monday, February 27, 2006

Pizza Party Report

It was a lovely pizza party. My three favorite people (Me, Myself, and I) attended and, as always, we had brilliant, intellectually stimulating discussions replete with striking observations and clever witticisms.

Seriously, we put our bad-haircutted blonde heads together and got a lot of work done. The English Lit test is written, and I'm getting ready to start on the peer-editing worksheet.

I love writing multiple choice tests. Sometimes, however, I get carried away. Here's a question whose silliness got it booted from the final version of the test:

_____ Which listing most accurately describes the pictures on Keats’s Grecian urn?

a. Achilles, Hector, and the pursuit of Helen of Troy
b. Odysseus, a Cyclops, and a storm on the Aegean Sea
c. eleven pipers piping, eight maids a-milking, and six noisy geese a-laying
d. one piper piping, one youth a-wooing, and one poor, doomed cow a-mooing

Whoever guesses the right answer first wins a slice of cold pizza!

Update: The peer editing worksheet is all done. Now it's time for a break (one George a-calling ...), and then I'll start grading essays!

Pizza Party Tonight!

Woo hoo! I'm having a happenin' pizza party tonight! Guests will include Me, Myself, I, the cats, maybe George (but probably not), and maybe Hubster if he can stand all the excitement.

I have a gazillion papers to grade, two gazillion homeworks to look over and record, and an intellectually stimulating peer-editing worksheet to write.

I'm going to be up late. Pizza will make it so exciting and fun!

Fun! Fun! Grading papers is so much fun! Hooray for fun!

(Can you sense the forced enthusiasm here?)

My Beautiful Son



This is my scary-looking attack cat. Isn't he just the sweetest thing?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Practice Update



Ha. As if you haven't had enough practice updates yet.

I said a sad farewell to my G-minor Sinfonia this week. Deborah said we can "leave it," meaning I am to quit working on it as part of my lessons. How sad. It's like being told I'm not allowed to hang out with my friend so much anymore. Sniff. Sob. I will have secret meetings with G-minor Sinfonia. Shh ...

B-minor Sinfonia: Ah, this one is coming along. There is a part of my ego that keeps saying, "This shouldn't be too hard," and consequently, I'm tempted not to work that hard on it. I really fought against that little voice in my head all weekend and drilled the broken chords to death. As mentioned in the previous post, such focused practicing is therapeutic, as well. I've memorized the first page (it's one of those pieces that are just easier to memorize than to keep following the score) and most of the second. It's sounding good at a slow tempo. I can play it at 72, but it starts to sound sloppy. So I've been staying at a slow pace and really doing nothing on this piece except drilling, drilling, drilling.

Ständchen: It has been a challenge to switch from "Listening-to-Horowitz-play-Ständchen" mode to "Listening-to-Waterfall-fumble-hands-separately-through-Ständchen" mode. I've gone through the entire piece and written in the fingering (penciled very lightly--fingering was a particular challenge on this piece because it seems the left and right hands do a lot of switch-hitting). I've gone through and written in the main chords and thought about the chord changes and how they work (the "theory" of the piece). I love this piece. I'm so happy to finally start it.

C#-major P&F: Oh my, my, my. The Prelude is a joy. The notes feel very natural under the fingers, and switching to "C#-minor mode," with its six sharps, hasn't been as difficult as I'd thought it would be. I've written in all the fingering and did a bit of theoretical analysis tonight. I don't think it will take me long to get the notes down for this one. The fugue is another story. I know the definition of subject, counter-subject, episode, etc., but I've never really sat and analyzed a fugue in my life. I'm definitely going to need some help from Deborah on this one. Meanwhile I'm also working on the fingering and hope to start working on it hands-separately before my lesson on Wednesday.

I easily got several hours of practice in this weekend. I try to make the most of my weekends, because it's rare that I get to touch the piano during the week, other than when I'm at my lessons.

Life is good (piano-wise).

Recital Thoughts

What shall I play for my recital? I'm going to give it in spring of 2008. That seems like a long time from now, but it's barely enough time to learn new pieces and plan a recital (considering I, um, work full-time).

I'm thinking of finding other adult amateurs who might be interested in putting on a few little concerts for the local community as a way of "warming up" for the big Waterfall Recital in '08. Maybe we can do something every 6 months, or every three months, or somewhere in between. I think it would be fun.

So I've begun thinking about what I will play for this recital. Here are the things I have learned or am working on, with comments. The titles in purple are the ones I'm pretty certain I would want to include.

Chopin Nocturne in B-flat minor (Op. 10, No. 1): This is a beautiful piece of music. I started taking lessons again because I wanted to learn this piece. It's definitely in.

Mozart Fantasie in D-minor: I really do not like this piece. I learned some important technique-related things in the course of learning it, but the piece as a whole ("piece as a whole" ... is that an oxymoron?) doesn't do much for me. It's probably not in.

Bach: Inventions and Sinfonias: These pieces aren't really written for performance, but I wouldn't hesitate to include some of my favorites--the A-minor invention, plus all of the sinfonias I've learned (E-flat major, G minor, and B minor). However, because I've just begun working on a Prelude & Fugue, I would probably play the P&F as the "Bach" piece of the recital.

Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C# Major (No. 3): I'm just starting these pieces and am assuming I'll be able to play them well before spring 2008 rolls around. If I am, then they'll definitely be in.

Dett: Juba Dance: This is a fun, loud, frantic, and rather difficult (FLFARD) piece. There are other FLFARD pieces out there, and I may consider learning something else before the recital. Something bigger and more involved. But the Dett is probably in (if I can ever get it sounding as good as I know it should sound!)

Liszt Transcription to Schubert's "Standchen": Brand new piece. Beautiful piece. Harder-than-I'm-used-to piece. Providing I can learn it and play it well, it will definitely be in.

Chopin Ballade No. 3 in A-flat: We're supposed to start this one this summer. Again, providing I can learn it and play it will, it will definitely be in as well.

Now. I need to think of other pieces that I might want to include. I don't have anything classical (except for the Mozart I don't want to play), and I have no sonata, so maybe a Mozart or Schubert or early Beethoven sonata would be good. Or ... I've never played a Haydn sonata, so that's an idea as well.

At the risk of overloading the recital with romantic stuff (sigh ... is there anything else?), I would really, truly love to learn the Chopin D-flat major nocturne at some point. Wouldn't it sound nice next to the Bb-minor nocturne?

I need to balance out all of the lush, beautiful pieces with fast, crisp music. Maybe a Haydn sonata really would fit the bill.

I don't have anything impressionistic in there, either. Oh, what to do, what to do?

This is so much fun!!

The Big K



An early-morning view of Mt. Katahdin, from Hubster's picture archive.

Mania & Depression

It was just over a year ago that I was (again) diagnosed as having bipolar disorder. I say "again" because the first diagnosis came in 1991, but I was in a severe depression and the diagnosis of bipolar was based on what I had told the doctors, and not anything they'd observed. They gave me lithium and I promptly suffered a painful allergic reaction. They gave me something else (I can't remember what it was), and it didn't work, either.

Antidepressants have been somewhat helpful, but they've had their shortcomings, too. I'm not on anything now because I'd rather be depressed and not have side effects than (1) to be emotionless and blah and (2) to have to deal with side effects.

Last year, after a few particularly bad episodes (which I'm sure were related to my unhappiness at my job), I went to a shrink and he put me on yet another medication, this one an anti-seizure med that they sometimes prescribe to bipolars who haven't responded to the more common medications. I suffered a severe allergic reaction to that medication, and once again swore off all psych meds.

I haven't taken any pills for anything (other than daily vitamins) in over a year now. I would love to say that I haven't needed anything. I don't intend to be on medication again, ever, even though I still have the ups and downs. I just try to live with it.

It's stressful, and it's even worse with my life situation is stressful. Some things have come up at work lately that have caused a great deal of stress, not just for me, but for everyone. So on top of that stress, I'm doing the yo-yo thing with my moods--one morning I'll be brimming with energy and joy, and three hours later I'll be fantasizing about crashing my car. Sometimes, when the low moods hit at school when I have an "audience," it is nearly impossible to hold it together. I've only had one day when I've actually had to leave school as a result of a crash. Overall, having an "audience" has been good for me, I think, because it forces me to deal with the crashes and work through them.

I find that exercise is the best "treatment" for the mood swings. When I'm "high," I just get on the elliptical machine or the Stairmaster and just go for an hour or more. Then I do weights. All of the physical exertion helps to temper the adrenalin (or whatever) overflow. If I'm "down," I'll get on the treadmill and just walk at a slow pace. After a while, I start feeling better. I may not feel good enough to do a real workout afterward, but at least it beats sitting at home thinking morbid thoughts.

So it's been a "crash" weekend. I spent about 30 minutes at the gym yesterday, walking, but didn't have the energy to do anymore. I pretty much spent the whole of yesterday in the Inner Sanctum, drilling measures of my B-minor sinfonia. When I'm depressed, I find it very therapeutic to drill my piano pieces.

I went to church this morning and practiced with the praise band. My playing was awful. I was on the verge of tears and couldn't focus. All I could think about was wanting to go off and die somewhere. My throat kept closing up and I couldn't breathe, which is a sign that I'm headed for a panic attack. I left church and came home. I'm going to take a walk in a little while and see if that helps me to feel better.

Energy is a problem. I could go to sleep right now and stay asleep all day. The thought of all the work I have to do today (grading papers, planning classes, writing a test) is just overwhelming. I don't know how (or if) I will get it done. All I really want to do is sit in the Inner Sanctum and drill my arpeggios.

I feel so tired and worn out today.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Tonight's Hot Date

I'm hanging out with this fellow tonight. (Sorry, Hubster.) I have played one other Franz Liszt piece in my life: Consolation No. 3, which I played one summer while I was in college. Now I'll be starting a new Liszt, the "Standchen" transcription (the original is a song by Franz Schubert) that I've long dreamed of playing.

I want to describe this piece, but words fail me. It is so unbelievably beautiful. I first heard the Liszt transcription on the Horowitz CD, "Horowitz at Home." When Horowitz plays it, it's as if two or three pianists are at work in the same piece. I'm amazed that Deborah thinks this piece is within my capability, but she's the teacher. Also, I've talked with several other pianists who say that this piece isn't as difficult as it sounds.

I've looked through my Peters Edition publication of the transcriptions and am just amazed by them. I feel like I'm at a huge buffet full of wonderful foods that I'll never have time to eat or appreciate. I just want to start plowing through all of the pieces--not necessarily to play them, but just to analyze them and see where the voices are going and how he has them work together.

I'm so eager to get started on my new Liszt piece, too. I'm taking a short break while I wait for the clothes to dry. Then it's back to the Inner Sanctum to write in the fingering for this wonderful piece. Liszt awaits!

Playing with Emotion

"You want to play with emotion? Read literature, go to museums, discuss art and life with people smarter than you. Have children, give to charity. You will not play beautifully if you do not leave the practice room. Your emotion will always be forced if you are "applying" it to the music. Develop as a human being and your music making will develop. There are no shortcuts. This is why music is a lifetime pursuit."

Posted by Dave Spelvin of the Piano Forums.

Summer Fun!

The Brevard Music Center's summer concert schedule is up!

Here are a few of the performances I hope to see:

Mozart's Cosi fan tutte
Brahmsfest! (Peter Serkin, piano)
Variations: Burt Bacharach
Beethoven's Pastoral
Lehar's The Merry Widow
Pictures at an Exhibition (Christopher Atzinger, piano)
Shostakovich Fifth Symphony
Prokofiev's Fifth Symphony
Rodgers and Hammerstein's The Sound of Music
Rachmaninoff Second Symphony
BMC Piano Competition
The Planets
Bizet's Carmen

Plus, there will be many faculty chamber recitals to see!

Yippee!

    Weekend ... Almost ... Here

    My brain is already off for the weekend. If I were a good teacher, I would spend this planning period writing Tuesday's English test (since most of the weekend will be devoted to Bach and Liszt grading papers for English Lit and Composition). Alas, I'm playing with my blog template, listening to "Elvira Madigan," and thinking about how nice it will be tonight to curl up on the couch and watch Amadeus or Shadowlands or some other movie I love.

    I just feel very happy today. I'm exhausted and look it, but that's OK. I'm listening to beautiful music. My date with George last night really did a lot to restore me spiritually and emotionally, if not physically.

    A Date with George

    We're reviewing, reading, and watching movies today at school (mostly), so I didn't have the usual hours of "homework" last night. Hubster had a meeting that ran until 9:30, so I was alone at the house, with no school work calling me.

    What's a poor girl to do in a situation like this?

    George and I had the most wonderful date. I poured myself a glass of good merlot and went to the Inner Sanctum at around 7:00, and I didn't come in until long after Hubster had returned home.

    I played Hanon. I love that warm, itchy, tingly feeling the fingers get after a few rounds of Hanon exercises. Then I did my scales. I'm currently on 66 on the metronome, four notes to a beat, contrary motion, all keys (but only a few keys per practice session). That's not very fast--not nearly as fast as I played scales in college--but these are contrary motion, and progress has been slow. Also, my focus isn't so much on speed as it is on accuracy.

    I've been having some difficulty with technique. Apparenty, I'm twisting my wrist when it's time to bring my thumb under in the course of the scale. I don't know why I do this. I don't think it's something I've always done. I can't seem to stop doing it. My hands should be smooth, my wrists straight, but they want to do the twisty-wrist dance. Even though they're not allowed.

    Next, I worked on the Suzuki Bach. It's a minuet in G that I played in the third grade. The notes were easy enough to learn, but Deborah is a stickler for technique and articulation, and that's what I'm focusing on. The easiness of the notes makes it easier for me to focus on those things without having to worry about missing the notes.

    Then ... sigh ... it was time for sinfonias. I'm feeling a little sad because it will soon be time to say farewell to both of them. I definitely have a sense of transition right now, knowing that I'll soon finish the sinfonias and start in earnest on the P&F and the Liszt (in spring) and the Chopin Ballade (in summer). At the same time, I am so excited about working on such challenging music.

    The G-minor sounds lovely, just lovely, if I may say so myself. Even so, I drilled a few parts that didn't quite sound "perfect"--the phrase didn't sound clean, or the notes weren't exactly even. I love practicing this way. I love drilling the heck out of little bits and pieces of music, and then working them back into the whole. It's kind of like spending lots and lots of time getting to know just one person in a huge circle of new friends.

    The B-minor isn't as far along, but I've worked it up to 72 on the metronome. I can play it faster than that, but it starts sounding sloppy above 72. I have worked so hard on the broken chords, and it feels good to be able to rip them off and having them still sound clean and ... Bachian. It's funny, because I know for a fact that I would have hated this piece had I learned it as a teenager. It's a piece that doesn't look that hard on the surface (and in truth, it's not the most difficult piece in the world), but it takes a lot of painstakingly focused work to get it just so.

    Ah, but isn't all of Bach like that?

    After practicing my pieces for a couple of hours (including taping myself for self-critique), I poured myself second glass of fine merlot and returned to the Inner Sanctum. I turned off the lights and lay down lengthwise on the piano bench with a pillow, which feels wonderful on my back. I hit "play" on the tape deck, shut my eyes, and listened to the recordings I had just made. Not perfect--I'm robbing a measure of the beat here, or the intended melody doesn't come out strongly enough there--but certainly nothing to be ashamed of. And some parts--many parts--sounded quite good. The broken chords, on which I've worked so diligently, sounded smooth, clean, and flawless.

    After listening, I sat up and played some more. Didn't turn the light on. Just played stuff--songs I'd written, my Chopin nocturne in B-flat minor, some slow jazz improvisations, some easy-cheesy New Age crap ... it was a very pleasant way to end the evening's date with George.

    Just think ... I'll get to do a lot more of this kind of thing in the summer. I can't wait!

    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Please Excuse the Ugly Colors

    I'm currently messing with my template and, as you can see, am experimenting with colors. I don't have the know-how to do anything particularly fancy (even if I did have the time), but I do want to get a different "look." So please bear with me as I play with screen colors over the next few days!

    Piano Class Tomorrow!

    Yay! Piano! My weekly trapdoor to sanity! Granted, piano class isn't nearly as great as individual piano lessons, but it's still piano. I have a light load at school tomorrow, so I'm spending my time tonight communing with my beloved Bach.

    Sigh. Isn't Bach wonderful?

    Time to go drill my broken chords in B minor! Life is good! Ta-ta!

    Wednesday, February 22, 2006

    New Blogs, and PhD Thoughts

    I have "New to the Blogroll" category, where I'll tuck away blogs that I like on first glance. I recently added a few blogs of college-level teachers, mostly of English and/or composition.

    Speaking of college-level teaching ...

    A couple of weeks ago, I e-mailed several universities, asking for information on their graduate programs. Friends, I am a grad school dropout. I was a few credit hours into my PhD (in English) when I said, "To heck with this" and permitted myself to be sucked into Corporate America and the lucrative world of technical writing.

    Now that I am teaching, I'm remembering how much I truly love studying, writing, and research, and what a good "fit" grad school was for me. I did well in grad school, making A's in everything except, ironically, Technical Writing Methodology. When I first entered grad school, I had a bit of a shock because my college, wonderful as it was, hadn't prepared me for literary study on the graduate level. They'd prepared me to think, but the whole concept of literary critical theory was entirely new to me, and I spent my first year feeling like the dumb kid in the class (although others in the class often did, said, and asked things that made me realize that maybe I wasn't so dumb after all).

    So, I'm planning to go back. It won't be next year, but it will be within the next few years. Hubster will eventually have to transfer out of western North Carolina. I want to stay at my school for the rest of our time in NC. After that, I'll go back to grad school. And one of these days I'll get that PhD in English. Now, the subject of whether I'll go for English Lit or Rhet/Comp is another matter for another day ...

    Tuesday, February 21, 2006

    No Wonder I'm So Tired ...

    From "Keeping New Teachers from Dropping Out," by Ellen Myers. She writes:

    "Teaching has never been the cushy job imagined by the public, which mistakenly believes that a teacher’s day ends when school lets out. People outside the field often do not seem to understand that teachers spend hours of additional time making lesson plans, reviewing homework, grading tests.

    ...

    "How can we expect people with minimal preparation to be successful in a profession that requires the skills of “parent surrogate, nurse, police officer, detective, psychologist, mediator, bathroom monitor, toilet paper dispenser, janitor, room decorator, quartermaster for school supplies, manager, organizer, lesson planner, cheerleader, lunchroom monitor, negotiator,” as one experienced teacher has put it.

    "Teaching is all about relationships — the building of relationships between teacher and students. That’s why it is so hard. One elementary school teacher must have relationships with up to 35 very different individuals, each with diverse learning styles, needs, and levels of engagement. A high school teacher will typically teach 150 students.

    "There is research on the extraordinary number of decisions that a teacher has to make at any given moment —- more decisions minute-by-minute than a brain surgeon. The most conservative estimate from this data has teachers making approximately 130 decisions per hour during a six-hour school day, and this reflects only those decisions made within the classroom. This is extraordinarily daunting and often intimidating for new teachers."

    I know I sound like a broken record, but I have never worked so hard in my life as I have as a teacher this year. When I was a tech writer, I worked, really worked, maybe three or four hours a day. Now it's more like an average of 15 hours a day, seven days a week.

    I love it. But I am running out of steam. I'll make it through the year, and I sure hope the few weeks I'm off for summer will be enough to restore me in time for next year.

    Read more of Myers's article here.

    My Composition Students are Brilliant

    They really are. They are coming up with challenging and interesting topics for their research papers. Most of them actually seem interested in their topics. And when you're interested in your topic, you are much more likely to write an interesting paper!

    For their comparison/contrast papers, they're comparing Gospel accounts and biblical interpretations in reference to abortion, as well as short stories, poems, and movie reviews. One girl is comparing/contrasting a movie review from a Christian site to a review from a secular site. They're coming up with good stuff. I'm actually looking forward to reading their essays!

    Morning and a Practice Update

    It's another grey, rainy morning. It doesn't look like we'll have another school closing or delay for a while, but that's fine with me; all of the schedule changes have really worked a number on my motivation. Having a full day yesterday helped me to get a little of it back.

    Yesterday, I worked out after school, then came home, where Hubster and I made dinner. It was so nice to sit down to a healthy meal (other than Healthy Choice soup) with Hubster. We cleaned the kitchen together, then he left for a meeting. I sat down at the table and did "homework" for about three hours. Then practiced piano. Weird. I got everything done. Why can't it be like that every night?

    Things will be easier next year, they tell me.

    It was a good, if brief, practice session. I've worked out the kinks in the G-minor sinfonia. When I play it at piano class on Friday, it'll probably be my last time to play it for that audience. Then it'll be tucked neatly into my repertoire. Yay!

    The B-minor sinfonia is sounding good, too. I'm starting to feel a greater sense of confidence when I play the fast runs. I feel like I have more control, and I'm no longer going into them thinking, "Ohhh, I hope it sounds OK this time." The increased control is the result of hours of drilling little bits and pieces here and there. I'm still not up to speed, but I'll get there.

    The Liszt piece wasn't in yet when I went to piano last week, so I haven't started it yet. I have, however, been reading about Liszt's Transcriptions and learning a lot.

    My assignment for the Bach P&F is simply to read the introductory information and start a theoretical analysis of it. I haven't had time for either this week, but I'm hoping to spend some quality time with Bach tomorrow after school.

    I've also started warming up with Hanon. I think those exercises are making a difference in my ability to play the fast runs in the B-minor sinfonia, too.

    Prayer Request

    Please remember North Carolina poet and mommy Erin Monahan in your prayers today, as her little boy is undergoing open heart surgery this morning.

    Monday, February 20, 2006

    Music of Nature

    We're reading "Ode to a Nightingale" tomorrow in English Lit. I don't know how it will turn out; I love this poem so much that it will be hard to avoid simply reading line after line, interspersing them with exclamations of, "Ohhh ... isn't that wonderful? Isn't Keats wonderful? Don't you love Keats?"

    I decided to find a recording of a nightingale singing online (ah, the joys of technology!), so they would have an idea of what Keats was hearing as he wrote the poem. I found a wonderful web page, part of The British Library's website: Listen to Nature. You can click all kinds of critters from crocodiles to dolphins, to marsh frogs, to cicadas, to gorillas, to purring cats, to all kinds of birds--including the nightingale. In fact, you can listen to a 1910 recording of a nightingale, apparently the oldest known recording of such.

    Be sure and listen to the musician wren, which has a beautiful birdsong. It's on the Wrens, Chats, and Thrushes page--which is where you'll also find the nightingale recordings.

    Blahs

    Amazing. Everyone at this school is gray and depressed-looking. Everyone wanted a snow day today, and nobody got one. It's gray and cold outside, and no one wants to be at school today.

    But it's also Northern Hemisphere Hoodie-Hoo Day! At high noon today, everyone is supposed to go outside and yell "Hoodie Hoo!" in an attempt to chase away the winter blues. I'm ignoring the "high noon" part. My science girls and I celebrated this morning, and I think my ninth-graders want to do the same this afternoon.

    Meanwhile, I'm frantically trying to put together today's class plans. So I guess that means I need to quit blogging and start planning!

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Birthday Weekend

    My friend Ed "Not to Worry" Speer and I celebrated our combined 95th birthday at Hot Springs (NC) Campground this weekend. We had snow and freezing rain--typical of our occasional Hot Springs gatherings! Here are a few pictures ...



    Not to Worry and POG sitting at the campfire. Not to Worry, of course, is the birthday boy, and he and his lady-friend POG (his POG-friend?) were responsible for making it such a great weekend.



    While it snowed outside, we huddled around the heaters inside Mr. Worry's tent. These folks are, from left to right, Not to Worry, POG, POG's brother Brian, and Betsy and Michael, whom I'd never met before this weekend. Is that a giant flying mouse getting ready to attack POG from above?



    Here I am with John G. Young, one of Hubster's Rowdy Friends.



    More rowdy friends: Pat and Bob.


    Analisa and Pat gave me a travel edition of ScrabbleTM for my birthday. As you can see, I liked it! Springer the dog lost interest when he realized it wasn't food. We played in the tent, and it was so cold that we had trouble snapping the letters into place.



    I called my sister and brother, who had said they would be there this weekend. They weren't able to come because of the weather. That's why I look so sad in this picture.



    Hubster and I got away for a little while and took a short hike on the Appalachian Trail south of town.



    If I'd kept walking, I would have arrived at Springer Mountain in Georgia after a while.

    I really wanted to keep walking.

    Blogroll Revisited

    Because I have a few minutes of free time, and because I am too utterly depressed to do anything else, I've been looking through my blogroll--something I haven't done since before I quit blogging (and started again).

    I've switched everything to bloglines, which has been mostly successful. A few blogs, such as Jeanette's blog and "A Sweet Familiar Dissonance" won't add successfully, for some reason.

    I've also removed a few blogs from the listing, mostly those that were never updated anymore, but also a few that I've lost interest in reading.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    Blow-Off Day

    I've never "blown off" a day at school before. But I'm kind of doing that today. Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm tired. I'm just not up to it.

    I spent the morning writing the most hysterically funny quiz for my ninth-graders. It's on verbs (ha ha ha!). Seriously, it really is a funny quiz.

    I played "Totally Gross" with my seventh-graders. I talked about Byron for about 20 minutes in English 12, then thought to myself, "I don't feel like talking about Byron." So I let them get a head-start on their Shelley homework.

    To be honest, I haven't felt like talking about Byron since I was about 20 years old.

    In Composition, I let a student lead the class as we went over the homework, then let them work in groups on a comparison/contrast exercise. Then I let them leave a few minutes early.

    In English 9, I'm going to give them their funny quiz, then we'll read a short bit of Shakespeare.

    I'm just ready to go home and start celebrating my birthday!

    Thursday, February 16, 2006

    You Know You're an English Teacher When ...

    ... three of your red pens run out of ink. All on the same night. (I don't care how traumatic red ink is for students. I use it anyway. And ever so copiously. Bwa-ha-ha-ha-ha!)

    I've been grading papers on William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience, and on some of Wordsworth's sonnets. I love Romantic literature. I even love grading papers about Romantic literature. I just wish it didn't take so darn long!

    I'll be sad when our unit on Romantic lit ends. We're doing Byron tomorrow. Then Shelley. Then my beloved Keats. Oh, Keats. How I love Keats.

    Want to hear something neat? We discussed The Rime of the Ancient Mariner on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then today, we discussed The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader," which includes a scene in which the "Dawn Treader" is led from danger by ... an albatross!

    How cool is that?

    I still think about Wild Turkey 101 and giggle every time I read Coleridge ...

    George

    This is George. He is my best friend, next to Hubster and the cats. He's old, he keeps falling out of tune, and he isn't much to look at, but he's mine. He's the first piano that I ever played. It was on George that I discovered my love for playing in the first place, back in 1974.



    (The room isn't nearly as Pepto-Bismolly pink as this picture makes it look.)

    My New Bach is Here!

    It arrived at Deborah's a couple of days ago. And now it's mine.

    It's my big book of the Well-Tempered Clavier, Vol. 1. (Ignore the fact that the picture to your right is of Vo. 2.) In it is, officially, the first prelude and fugue that I will ever learn. I say "officially" because I've learned bits and pieces of the "WTC 1" in the past, but never formally, and never completely.

    The WTC is another one of those things that I should have started working on in late high school or college, but I was anti-Bach at the time and refused to learn anything by him. It's probably better this way; I find that I'm a better pianist, and that I learn music more thoroughly, now that I'm an adult. So it was probably meant to be.

    I'll be learning Prelude and Fugue No. 3 in C# Major. As we looked briefly over the music yesterday, I asked Deborah, "Are you sure this isn't too hard for me?" She felt confident that it wasn't. Still, I'm a little intimidated, as it has seven sharps and lots of ... well, notes. Lots of notes. Not too many notes (this is Bach), but a lot of them.

    I'll be posting on my process of learning this "P&F." It will be a slow process, but I think it's going to be an intellectually challenging and fulfilling process as well.

    By the way, I had a piano lesson yesterday. It went really well. The g-minor sinfonia is sounding great, and the B-minor sinfonia is coming along. I have the notes and the lilt and have increased the speed. I just need to keep drilling and keep drilling, and the speed will happen.

    Music-wise, life is very good.

    Tuesday, February 14, 2006

    Jen's "Interesting Quotient"

    Jen of Run Jen Run has a hilarious (and rather sobering) post on how exercise has made her boring. I know exactly what she means; today, as I finished up my elliptical-machine workout, I found myself thinking excitedly about how to rearrange the "80's Workout" playlist on my iPod so that the beats of the different songs allow for less strenuous "breaks" at intervals. Fun, fun.

    Of course, if I think about my muscles and pore over article after article of Shape magazine, does that make me any more boring than if I sit and read about the history and development of Liszt's Schubert Transcriptions, or the many instances of symbolism in The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader" (both of which I did yesterday)?

    Yeah. I guess it does. :)

    I found Jen's blog through the 2Blowhards, one of my favorite blogs out there.

    Adoption Blog

    haggardoldpsycho is a blog that focuses on the subject of closed adoption. I haven't had a chance to read much of it, but they were nice enough to post something from my blog, so I thought I would return the favor. As many of you know, my birthmother put me up for adoption when I was a baby, and I was adopted through a closed adoption system. I finally met my birthmother, Sherry, when I was nearly 30, and it's been a strange and good experience. So, if you're interested in the topic of closed adoptions, check out haggardoldpsycho's site.

    Monday, February 13, 2006

    Visions of Summer

    I am looking forward to the first summer of my new career. It always seemed wrong not to have summers off when I was in Cubicle Land; now, wrong will have been made right.

    I've been thinking a lot about summer this weekend. I think it's because I've felt a sense of freedom that I don't usually have, seeing as I (rightly) anticipated a snow day today. I keep thinking, "Will summer be like this? Will I really have this much freedom?"

    I shouldn't be thinking about summer yet. I have nearly an entire semester left of this school year. So, I'm going to write down my summer plans here, and maybe that will help get the summer thoughts out of my system.

    School should get out somewhere around May 31 or June 1 (107 days from now!). Immediately after school lets out, my friend Lite Shoe and I are going to spend a few days hiking the Art Loeb Trail here in western North Carolina. For much of June, I'll be working on two books: I'll edit Lite Shoe's book on The Long Trail, and I'll finish up the "field work" for my own book on Haywood County hikes, plus I'll start writing.

    In July or August, I'm going to D.C. to visit my dear friend Amy Powers. I also plan to visit several of my friends from high school. Strange how, even though we all went to high school in Louisiana, many of my friends ended up in D.C.

    Of course, I'm going to resume work on my novel that I started last year. I wrote about 250 pages before school started. I hope to get further along than that this year, since I won't have to work at a real job.

    I'm also going to practice lots of piano. It will be so nice to have time for it. My piano plans were dashed last summer because I had to get a job. That's not gonna happen this year.

    Finally, I'll need to prepare for my second year of teaching. My principal has indicated that she'd like me to keep teaching my same English classes, but that she always wants me to add two new English-related classes to my load. Still, next year will be so much easier. Two new classes will be so much easier than the five new classes I had this year.

    So that's what I'm planning to do this summer. No vacation for Hubster and me--as a camp director, he has to work all summer. Poor Hubster. The bright side is that I'll be home more and will actually be able to fix him a real dinner on occasion.

    I want to put together a summer reading list for myself. Perhaps I'll do that later today. I love snow days.

    Sunday, February 12, 2006

    Saturday, February 11, 2006

    Dream Day with George!

    During summers and holidays when I was in high school, I would go to the MVSIC AND DRAMATIC ARTS building at LSU, find an empty practice room, and practice my little fingers to the bone for hours and hours. I'm not sure why. I wasn't planning for an audition, and I wasn't involved in any competitions. I just liked practicing and pretending to be a Music Major.

    When I started my college career at Tulane, I quickly became very depressed--miserably, desperately, suicidally depressed. My only moments of sanity were when I was at the library, studying, or at Dixon Hall practicing. Again, I would find an out-of-the-way practice room and play for hours--sometimes drilling things I was learning, and sometimes just playing pieces I already knew.

    At Mary Baldwin, I'd go to the Deming Fine Arts Center or to the chapel in Wenger Hall to practice. When my friends couldn't find me, they knew where to look. They'd say, "OK, Waterfall, you've been in there for three hours. Don't you want to go have a beer with us or read Shakespeare or something?"

    At Oxford, I managed to find a piano and talk The Lady (whoever she was) into giving me a key to the room where it lived. Again, monster practice sessions were my sanity savers. If I thought I was depressed at Tulane, well, I didn't know what was coming when I went to Oxford. I hit rock bottom there, and it was all I could do to get out of bed in the morning. I studied Renaissance literature and history when I had to, and spent the rest of my out-of-bed time in that piano room.

    I've only had a few times in my life where I could really put a lot of time into practicing. Those times have helped; not surprisingly, I make huge strides when I have hours upon hours to drill, listen, and play. Sometimes those monster practice sessions were an escape from Life In General; sometimes it was just fun to pretend I was a Music Major. Most of the time, I just practiced because I love to practice.

    I had the most wonderful day today. I've probably played for four hours today, on and off. Maybe five. Deborah told me to "drill the hell" out of my B-minor sinfonia, so that's what I've been doing, among other things. It's so much fun. I can't believe there was ever a time that I hated to practice.

    So it's been a dream day with George. Do you hear anything? I think I do ... yes, I think George is calling me for more playing!

    Snow Day

    It's Saturday, so I don't know if it really qualifies as a "snow day" since I don't have to miss school ... but there is a LOT of snow out there!

    I'm going to spend much of the day with George the Piano; I treasure every little bit of practice time I can get, and today is perfect for practicing. I'll be working on my usual Bach sinfonias, plus "Pomp and Circumstance," which I'll be playing for graduation in late May/early June. It's very easy, but I may as well start learning it now. I am so anxious to begin Liszt's transcription of Ständchen, as well as the Bach C#-major Prelude and Fugue. Maybe next week!

    I also need to plan next week's activities and lessons for school. :) Of course, that includes re-reading The Silver Chair, planning a lecture/discussion on The Voyage of the "Dawn Treader", studying my beloved Romantics (Coleridge and Byron for this week), planning a fun lesson based on imagery in Romeo and Juliet, and writing an entertaining test on Classes Mollusca, Arthropoda, and Echinoderma for my seventh-graders. (I love, love, love writing entertaining tests. I'll write more about that in another post.)

    But before I do any of that, I'm going to sit here and finish listening to the Mass in B Minor.

    Yep. I love this life.

    I'm Not an Oboe ... this Time

    You scored as Cello. Cello.
    Not much to say about the cello. apologies.

    Cello

    92%

    Oboe

    83%

    trombone

    83%

    Flute

    67%

    String Bass

    67%

    Viola

    58%

    Tuba

    58%

    Clarinet

    50%

    Violin

    42%

    French Horn

    42%

    Trumpet

    42%

    Bassoon

    42%

    Percussion

    17%

    If you were in an orchestra, what instrument would match your personality?
    created with QuizFarm.com


    OK, so the first time I took the quiz, I was an oboe. But poor Patty has been bemoaning the vast number of oboes out there (she's a viola), so I took the test again, just to make sure ... and I turned out to be a cello.

    Actually, I was kind of hoping to be a bassoon.

    Friday, February 10, 2006

    And I Really Am Thinking About It ...

    You Should Get a PhD in Liberal Arts (like political science, literature, or philosophy)

    You're a great thinker and a true philosopher.
    You'd make a talented professor or writer.

    Thursday, February 9, 2006

    My Petty Little Haircut Nightmare

    I'm not one to look in the mirror all that often. I like to keep my hair long because I can pull it back into a ponytail and not worry about it. I am a prime candidate for "What Not To Wear" because I put very little effort into my appearance. I'm just not a person who puts a lot of thought into how I look.

    That's what makes it weird that I have haircut nightmares. Yes, I'm talking about those really bad dreams that occur when one is asleep. Nightmares. I don't often have nightmares, but I do have one recurring one: I wake up one morning to find that my hair has been cut.



    In the dream, it's either been cut very short, or I've been given very short bangs. The dream varies little. Generally, I'll remember that I actually let someone do this to my hair. Only I can't remember getting it cut.

    I got my hair cut today. I've been wearing it shoulder-length these days, which is much shorter than is normal for me. When I got it cut in Baton Rouge in December, I got very long, slightly layered bangs. I liked them.

    So when I went to get it cut today in Asheville, I told my hairdresser, "just trim it so that it's shoulder-length in the back and I have long, slightly layered bangs." She cut the back a little too short, but I didn't worry; it would grow out soon enough. She was cutting the front, and there was one piece of longer hair that kept interfering with the bangs.

    "Do you want me to just cut this?" she asked. "Sure, go ahead," I said. Then--snip--the longer hair was gone. The longer bangs were gone. I don't know if I misunderstood her question, or what. But I suddenly had short bangs. And chin-length hair. I hate it.

    I didn't hate it immediately. At first, I thought, "I'll get used to it. And it doesn't look bad ... it's just not the haircut I expected." So I went to work out, then came home, then took a shower and dried my hair.

    Now I hate it. I have really thin hair, and I last had short bangs when I was about 16. I never get short bangs because (1) in hot weather, they curl and frizz; and (2) in cold weather, they get all staticky and are virtually uncontrollable unless I put a bunch of goop in them.

    So I have short bangs now, just in time for my 36th birthday. I tried brushing them to the side but ended up with a feathery thing across my forehead, reminiscent of Donald Trump.

    Whenever I wake up from the haircut nightmare, I'm relieved that it was just a dream. Now I'm just kind of depressed. OK, more than kind of depressed. I actually cried over my haircut. I haven't done that since I was a teenager, either.

    :-(

    Snow Day!

    Yes, I'm disappointed that it snowed on Narnia Day, but I really shouldn't complain. I slept till 9:30 and didn't get out of bed until 10:00 because I was buried under a mass of fat, purring cats. I always tell the cats, "Next snow day, I'm snuggling with y'all all morning long." So that's what I did!

    It's going to be a day of reading, grading (I know, I know), and piano-practicing. And maybe a little house-cleaning (though I do hate to waste a perfectly good snow day scrubbing the bathtub).

    Wednesday, February 8, 2006

    A Real "Waterfall" Lesson

    I had a good piano lesson today. Funny how I always have a good piano lesson when I'm able to practice during the week preceding it.

    The B-minor sinfonia is coming right along. Deborah said that I'm slowing down on the third page, and that I should save the final ritard for the final measure (I've been ritarding several measures from the end). She said the broken chords sound good, and advised me not to worry about speeding up the tempo--just to keep playing and loving the piece, and that the faster tempo will just come when I'm ready for it.

    Sounds good to me. I didn't mention the idea of a recital because I was a little frustrated over how I played the G-minor sinfonia. It sounded so good at home. She said I'm too focused on the individual notes and the beauty of those harmonies, and that I need to get out of the piece and focus on the movement and the line. I exhibit the same super-focused behavior when hiking: I get so moved by the intricate beauty of the fungi on the rocks that I forget about the trail itself, and the fact that there are awe-inspiring views all around, and that the miraculous tiny curves, colors, and ridges of the fungi are just a small part of the whole.

    So I need to focus on the whole. That's the goal. See the whole.

    But it was a good lesson. When I finished, Deborah said, "Wow, that was a real 'Waterfall' lesson!" Meaning it was a really good lesson, reminiscent of my pre-teaching-life lessons.

    Another goal: More "Waterfall" lessons in the future. That means making more time to practice during the week.

    More practicing.
    More "Waterfall" lessons.
    Focus on the whole.

    A tall order for a busy teacher girl. But I'll see what I can do!

    Please, No Snow for Narnia Day!

    I usually pray for snow days, but I don't want one tomorrow. It looks iffy, though ... the forecast for tonight and tomorrow morning includes "scattered snow showers."

    See, tomorrow is Narnia Day (and, since Aslan returned, it's not supposed to snow on Narnia, right?). :) I'm having my students read one book from the Chronicles of Narnia each week, and each Thursday is "Narnia Day," where we discuss certain aspects of the book of the week. Tomorrow we should discuss Prince Caspian. I don't want a snow day, and I don't want a 2-hour delay. I want a full day that allows us to cram in a few interesting tidbits about Prince Caspian.

    Next week's Narnia Day will be devoted to The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and the next week will be The Silver Chair. Then we'll take a break the next week (the end of the 6-week period) and spend three classes watching Shadowlands. Then we'll return to the Chronicles and study the last three books over the next three weeks. Pretty cool, huh?

    Tomorrow we'll discuss myth, archetypes, faith, and biblical parallels in Prince Caspian. It's all so much fun ... I wish I had more time and more resources to seriously study this stuff!

    Tuesday, February 7, 2006

    The Hard Stuff

    Someone from the Piano World group e-mailed me a copy of a page from the non-easy version of Liszt's "Standchen" that I want to learn. I just muddled through it a couple of times.

    Oh my. It is definitely a non-easy version. I think it is a little above my level, so I'm a bit intimidated by all the hand-sandwich (handwich?) action. But at the same time, I'm stoked (do people use that word anymore?) about the challenge of a harder piece.

    I'll also start the seven-sharp C# major prelude and fugue in a couple of weeks. That, too, will be more difficult than most pieces I've ever worked on.

    Then, this summer, I finally start that Chopin Ballade that we've been talking about for a year now.

    Challenging pieces all. I really need to make myself focus. School and life are important, but piano needs to be more of a priority. If I'm going to do a recital--heck, if I'm even going to play these pieces with any skill--I need to make time for practicing, and I need to take my practice time seriously.

    I just love having a goal! I can't wait to start "Standchen" and the P&F and the Ballade!

    My First Prelude & Fugue

    I start learning my first Bach prelude & fugue in a few weeks. I should have learned my first one back in high school, but I was a stubborn little piano student who, after being scarred for life by Bach festivals, refused to learn anything by Bach (much to my teachers' chagrin).

    At 34, I saw the error of my ways and have been making up for it ever since.

    So now, at 35 or 36, I get to learn my first prelude & fugue.

    I'm actually excited about this. I've been listening to Book I of the Well-Tempered Clavier constantly for days, trying to figure out which pieces I want to learn.

    I'm most in love with the C#-major prelude & fugue. Scary, because it has seven sharps, but it's just so exuberantly joyful that I can't stop smiling when I listen to it.

    Music-playing and -listening readers: do you have a favorite prelude, fugue, and/or prelude & fugue?

    Monday, February 6, 2006

    Practice Update

    I've really had some good practice sessions in the last few days. I've spent most of them working on the B-minor Sinfonia. It's a quirky little piece. Parts of it are very simple, but there are a few fast arpeggio sections that have proven to be a challenge for this creaky-fingered old woman.

    I've been practicing a LOT in rhythms, and it's been good. My fingers feel almost limber.

    I don't feel like my hands have the power that they need. Deborah doesn't have me do finger exercises other than a little bit with scales and arpeggios. After Dulciana posted about Hanon the other day, I wondered if maybe I should be doing a little bit of Hanon-type work each day. So I sat down the other day and did the first couple of exercises (sad how I have so many of them by memory, after all these years), and my hand ached almost immediately.

    So I guess this means that I could probably use some Hanon-type drilling. I don't know. I've had piano teachers that swear by Hanon, others who hate it, and still others who preferred other composers for finger exercises--Philipp, Moszkowski, Czerny.

    I must say that I got the most out of playing Moszkowski. Very difficult stuff, but woo boy, playing his "Etudes de Virtuositie" made me a better pianist. Back in my pre-creaky-fingers days.

    Visitor #30,000

    This blog's 30,000th visitor stopped by around 4:38 EST yesterday. Their domain was comcast.net (Comcast Cable), and they seem to have hailed from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

    Thanks for visiting!

    Sunday, February 5, 2006

    Thinking About a Recital

    I know. It's silly. No one wants to hear a thirtysomething nonprofessional give a piano recital.

    Still, I'm thinking about it. Hubster's job commitment is for two years, and then we transfer. Two years is enough time--only two more years with my piano teacher--to plan a recital. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. It can just be for friends, and friends of friends. Nothing earth-shattering.

    I'd like to give a recital for many reasons. One is that I missed most of my senior year of college due to depression, and I therefore missed my senior recital. It's been nearly 15 years since then, but I've always felt sad about not having given that recital.

    Another is that no one but no one ever hears me play. I guess that's not completely true. I play for the "praise team" at church on Sunday mornings ... but that doesn't count. I learn those songs the day before we perform them, and few consist of more than three or four chords.

    Every now and then, someone will tell me I played well at church, and I want to say, "That mess of chords? That's nothing. You should hear me play Chopin."

    Of course, I usually don't play that well at church. One downside to being part-deaf is that I'm a less-than-ideal accompanist. I'm also a less-than-enthusiastic accompanist. I would even go so far as to say that I hate accompanying.

    But solo performing? In front of a crowd, where it's just me and a piano? Ahh ... I love that.

    So. I'll be perfectly honest. Part of me craves the attention. That may seem weird since, as much as I practice and talk about piano, few people have ever heard me really play besides my mom, my dad, Hubster, and the cats. Maybe that's why I'm craving the attention. I just want to play for people. In a recital. Not just at the nursing home or in the school lunchroom for a few minutes before the morning bell rings. In a recital. Where people show up to hear me.

    So I'm going to mention it to Deborah this week at piano. We can plan a recital. If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen. If it does ... well, I'll be able to cross off one more item on my "One-of-These-Days" list.

    Anybody want to come to my recital? It'll be in 2008.

    Superbowl Sunday

    Yay! After tonight ... no more football until after summer is over! Woo hoo! :)

    Saturday, February 4, 2006

    Grading, Vino, and Poppea

    I had a good day today. I slept in, for one thing. This past week and the week before have been my toughest weeks of teaching since I started this career past last August. The kids weren't bad or anything; I was just exhausted and barely holding it together. I was so relieved for the weekend to get here (and we might have a snow day on Monday! Hooray!).

    Hubster had to work at camp all day, so I had the day to myself. I played piano and blogged this morning, then I went to Panacea, the best little coffee shop in western North Carolina (except for its hours). I sat there for about three hours and graded a bunch of homeworks and a few papers. Then I went to the library to return about 100 overdue books. Then I thought to myself, "I'd love to have a nice, smooth glass of vino tonight."

    I started to go to the grocery store, then I decided to go to a little wine shop downtown. I'd never been there, so it was something new. I got into a nice conversation with the guy who worked there and ended up buying a couple of bottles--one for a special occasion, and one for practicing Bach and watching movies tonight with the Hubster.

    When I got home, I played with George a bit, then went to the computer to plug in and charge my iPod. I love my iPod. I don't have that much occasion to listen to it, but it's perfect for working out and walking. And I've downloaded soooo much stuff from the iTunes Music Store. Tonight, I found "Pur ti Miro, Pur ti Stringo" from L'incoronazione di Poppea, an opera by Monteverdi. When I signed up for "Music and Theatre" (an opera history/appreciation class) in college, I wondered if I'd ever learn to appreciate opera. One of the first operas (maybe the first) we studied was Poppea, and I was hooked: first by something called "Non morir Seneca," and second by a haunting love duet titled "Pur ti Miro, Pur ti Stringo."

    I've been wanting to hear that duet again for years, but, other than the rare playing of the Poppea on NPR, I haven't been able to find it. Oh, I could buy the entire opera on CD, but who has the money for that? Someday I will. Probably from the iTunes Music Store.

    So tonight I downloaded "Pur ti Miro." And I'm listening to it now.

    I'm going to be an opera singer in my next life.

    Oh, the Irony!

    Yesterday after school, I had a very productive meeting with my principal and one of the lead teachers. They were both concerned that I'm on the path to burnout, and we discussed ways that I might cut back on my work without compromising the educational needs of my students.

    After about twenty minutes of discussion (in which they said that they had heard very nice things about my teaching from the students--that made me feel good), I had lots of little tips to think about: spot-checking homework rather than picking it up and grading it, giving more multiple choice/true-false questions and fewer essay questions on tests, assigning shorter essays, etc.

    They were very concerned about the fact that I'm so tired, yet they could sympathize, since they'd been through the same struggles during their first years of teaching.

    As I got ready to leave, my principal said, "Oh, and we really want you to play the piano for our graduation ceremony in May. It'll just be about twenty or thirty minutes of classical music, then 'Pomp and Circumstance' when they're getting their diplomas."

    I took a deep breath, smiled, and said, "'Pomp and Circumstance'? Twenty or thirty minutes of classical? Um ... OK."

    Seriously, it will be an honor to play for the ceremony. But still ... I just had to laugh at the irony of it. :)

    Ständchen Mystery Solved

    I just got this response from Bruce D of the Piano Forums:
    ___________________
    Waterfall :

    I am sure you will find this of interest, and it may help in your search.

    I have three editions of Liszt transcriptions, all of which contain the Ständchen.

    - The first comes in Book 1 of a two-volume Schirmer edition: Schubert Songs Transcribed for the Piano by Franz Liszt, Book 1, cat. no, Vol 128

    - The second is in a Peters Edition : Liszt: Klavierwerke Band IX: Lieder-Bearbeitungen , cat. no. 3602a

    - The third is in the Editio Musica Budapest, Liszt: Klavierwerke Transkriptionen VI , cat. no. Z.B 13 358. (This one will set you back more than $45.00!)

    Here is the most interesting part, however. In the Editio Musica Budapest, throughout the transcription, there is an ossia più facile (an easier alternate) which, just as in your copy, does not include the last verse - the verse with the echo effect. The other verses also differ; they are "easier."

    In essence, then, what you have is the Liszt transcription; it just happens to be the transcription of only the easier alternate.

    ___________________

    Mystery solved. I just need to get my hands on the Schirmer or Peters edition, and I'll be home-free.

    The Thrill of a New Piece! The Agony of No Tinklies!

    I'll tell you now that the title of this post is far more exciting than the actual subject matter. :) (Pianists may find this post slightly more interesting than non-pianists.)

    The Thrill: Is there anything more thrilling than getting new sheet music in the mail? Than opening the book and methodically going through it, bending it back in all the right places so it will stay open in front of you on the piano? Feeling the clean new sheets with their bold black notes, as yet unmarred by pencil marks and eraser smudgings? Gazing upon that shiny new cover, which will soon enough be dull and nicked and smudged from being transported here and there? Writing "Waterfall" in beautiful English-teacher script on the top right-hand corner of the first inside page?

    Yes, it is thrilling. I had that marvelous experience last night. But first, we had piano class, where I played the two Bach sinfonias and a Suzuki Bach piece. I'm finished "taking" the Gm sinfonia; I just wanted to play it one last time for group. The Suzuki stuff is ongoing but easy, so I finish one of those every few weeks. The Bm sinfonia is still in progress, but I'm probably at the 75 or 80% mark with it. After these wonderful sinfonias, it's time to move on to other pieces.

    Deborah and I decided we should work on something that meets a few special criteria:

    1) Something that is not Bach, since I've been playing him almost exclusively since school started (and since I'm going to start a P&F later this spring)
    2) Something that will allow me to learn and practice new techniques, but that isn't particularly hard, since my practice time is so limited
    3) Something that's not super-long, since my practice time is so limited
    4) Something deliciously romantic that won't stress me out

    So, she asked, "Do you have anything in mind?"

    Oh, my. I only have so many "want-to-learn" pieces on my list that I'll stay busy until I'm at least 140.

    I really love Schubert. (Happy Belated Birthday to Schubert, by the way.) I mentioned the Schubert Impromptus, which are absolutely beautiful. I'd played a couple in college, but I've really played very little Schubert in my life. I also mentioned the Liszt transcription of Schubert's "Ständchen," a beautiful piece that I've written about on this blog before. I have several recordings of both the Liszt piano transcription and the Schubert song, and it's one of my favorite pieces of all time. It's one of those things I've always wanted to learn.

    So we decided on "Ständchen"! And ordered the music! And the music came in last week! And I picked it up at piano class last night! And I started playing when I got home! Oh, the thrill! The utter thrill!

    It was surprisingly, almost disappointingly ... easy.

    The Agony: I put on my Horowitz recording to follow along with the music, just for fun. And realized my copy doesn't have the the high, tinkly echoes of the theme in the third verse. Horowitz's third verse also has beautiful arpeggio tinklies.

    Hey, wait a minute ... my version doesn't even have a third verse. Hm, maybe Horowitz is just doing his own thing. I put on another pianist's recording. Same thing. Another recording. Same thing. I did some scrounging on the internet. A Liszt person on the Piano Forums at pianoworld.com said that my version isn't the Liszt version.

    Now, the version I have is beautiful, but it's not the version I want to play. It is either some other Liszt version (the Alfred edition that I have says nothing about this being a made-easy version), or it's ... a made-easy version. It certainly wasn't difficult to play. It wasn't a piece of cake, but I was able to sight-read the entire thing the first time I played through it, and it sounded pretty good for a first time.

    This is a nice version, but I want to play the Liszt version. I want to play the tinkly little echoes in the third verse. All those tinklies were part of the reason I even wanted to learn this piece in the first place.

    I'm trying to find that version online, but now I'm paranoid that I'll order the wrong music again. I think this Dover edition may be OK, but I know nothing about Dover's quality as music publishers. I know that their literature publishing leaves much to be desired, since they purposely go for putting out the cheapest books.

    Oh well. I'll figure it out. Meanwhile, I'm playing the heck out of my easy version. :)

    Friday, February 3, 2006

    Almost Through (Half-Awake Ramblings)

    School News: The school day ends in a half-hour. My seventh-period kids are reading. And listening to Naxos Radio.

    In Comp, we had a really good class on writing a Works Cited page. (Strange how sometimes the boring subjects make for good classes ... we had a surprisingly good class yesteray in English 9 on the perfect tenses). In English 9 today, we watched a few clips from the Zefferelli (sp?) Romeo and Juliet and discussed a bit of Friar Laurence's character. Half the class was gone because of a basketball tournament, so I just let the rest of them get started on Monday's homework.

    Piano News: After school, I head to Asheville for piano class, a monthly "recital" meeting of Deborah's piano students. Some of her college students have started to come, which is nice, because I like hearing other students like me who are at more advanced levels.

    Of course, I'm not sounding very advanced these days. For the class, I'm going to play the Gm Sinfonia (because I love it), the Bm Sinfonia (as a work in progress), and a Bach piece from the Suzuki book. It'll be all Bach for me, so I'm taking my Bach action figure with me.

    Hubster News: Hubster got a promotion a couple of months ago (he'll be running this place for the next two years), and he's had a hard time because they were slow in finding him a replacement for his old job. So, he's been working two full-time jobs since December. His replacement starts Tuesday, so that'll make for a bit of an easier time for the ol' Hubster.

    That's about it for this ramble.

    I'm Letting Them Read

    I hate that I am doing this. I don't want to let them read. It puts us yet another day behind. Most of the time, it's not my doing that we are behind schedule. Most of the time, it's out of my control. But not this time.

    I am just so tired. I can't see straight. Really. I'm seeing little white splotches float around in front of my eyes. In science, while playing "science jeopardy," I was supposed to be Alex and kept losing my place mid-question.

    Now we're in English Lit. We had Narnia Day yesterday and discussed The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It was a good class. We were going to continue the discussion today. But I'm too tired. They're too tired, too. I think everyone is exhausted. Besides, we rarely have "reading days" in this class.

    So I told them to get their Narnia books and get started on Prince Caspian. Or to read Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey." It's quiet in here, except for the clicking of my keyboard and strains of Haydn from Naxos Radio.

    They are really enjoying reading the Chronicles of Narnia. My English Lit students are walking around the halls with their noses in the Narnia books. It's supposed to be like this, because reading is supposed to be fun.

    So they're reading and enjoying it. As much as I love "Tintern Abbey," they probably won't enjoy it as much as they are enjoying Narnia.

    That's fine with me. It's nice to see them reading. Friday "reading days" really aren't such a bad idea.

    Thursday, February 2, 2006

    Favorite Romantic Poets

    Godsend and American Lit teacher Dana Huff asks after reading my previous post, "Who is your first (or second) favorite [Romantic poet], then?"

    Hm, that's a tough one. It's always a toss-up between Wordsworth and Blake. When I was a junior in high school, I "discovered" Wordsworth. I'd been in English Lit all year and liked it well enough, but, up until we got to the Romantics, I actually missed American Lit. (I'd "discovered" Emerson the year before and was still high on "Self-Reliance.")

    But then we got to Wordsworth. We read Blake first, and I liked him as well as I'd liked anything else. But when we read "Tintern Abbey" ... woo, boy. I was hooked. I couldn't get enough Wordsworth. The first two classes I signed up for in college were Shakespeare and Romantic Literature. The first class I signed up for in grad school was Early Romantic Writers. And in all the years in between, I read line after line of Wordsworth on my own--all of the Lyrical Ballads, the sonnets, The Prelude, The Recluse (OK, I didn't read The Recluse ... but I tried. I really did.)

    I read so much Wordsworth that his lines just rattle around in my head now. When we went to Springer Mountain for New Years a few weeks ago, I stood at the summit overlooking the north Georgia hills, and thought so myself, "Five years have passed; five summers, with the length of five long winters ...." It's really kind of sad, the way Wordsworth still seems to narrate moments of my life.

    So yes. I love Wordsworth. I think he gets a bad rap (I know very few people who are "into poetry" that actually like Wordsworth, and then there is that male chauvanist thing ...), but I can honestly say that his poetry was instrumental in my own development. I am who I am, in part, because of Wordsworth's poetry.

    Wow. That sounded really sappy.

    I was a late bloomer when it comes to Blake. I always liked Blake, but was never ga-ga over him ... until grad school. When I first started grad school, my primary interest was, of course, the poetry of the early Romantics. By the time I finished my first semester, I was poring through everything I could find on Blake, thinking about what aspect of Blake and his poetry I would focus on for my master's thesis. I had some fuzzy idea of Blake and C.G. Jung and archetypes which I don't really remember now ... once I switched from lit to Rhetoric and Composition, my focus changed.

    So sometimes Wordsworth is my favorite poet, and sometimes Blake. Whenever I take the time to read either, I end up on a manic high for days, thinking silly Romantic thoughts like, "There is nothing--NOTHING!--more important in this world than poetry! Except maybe music! No, not even music! Poetry! Poetry! I would die for poetry!"

    I know. It's silly and perhaps a little juvenile. I try to avoid public places when I get like that.

    Keats is my third-favorite Romantic poet, but when I'm actually reading Keats, I wonder why I ever liked Wordsworth, or Blake, better than Keats. Reading Keats's poems is like having wine or honey poured all over me while bathing in the moonlight on a warm summer night. And what's more pleasurable than that? So generally, Keats will edge out Wordworth or Blake (whichever one happens to be in Spot #2).

    The other three giants of English Romantic poetry are Coleridge, Byron, and Shelley. Coleridge probably holds spot #4 with me, though there are some passages in Byron that occasionally bump him up in the ranking. An oh, how his dark, delicious melancholy appealed to me when I was in my teens and twenties! I mean, does it really get better than this when you're a young, passionate, dark, and melancholy poet-type yourself??

    In my youth's summer I did sing of One,
    The wandering outlaw of his own dark mind;
    Again I seize the theme then but begun,
    And bear it with me, as the rushing wind
    Bears the cloud onwards: in that Tale I find
    The furrows of long thought, and dried-up tears,
    Which, ebbing, leave a sterile track behind,
    O'er which all heavily the journeying years
    Plod the last sands of life,--where not a flower appears.

    Then there's Shelley. I can't stand Shelley. I have tried so hard to like Shelley. In my Bibliography and Research Methods class in grad school, I made Shelley the subject of my big research project. I told my prof, "You know, there's something I'm not getting. It's not right for me, a Romantic poetry nut, to dislike Shelley. I'm going to do all this research on him, and read all the Shelley I can get my hands on, and figure out what I've been missing all this time." My prof nodded approvingly and said that yes, I would learn to love Shelley. I was certain that I would.

    By the end of the project, I hated Shelley.

    In "Later Romantic Writers" one semester later, I did final paper on Shelley's "Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills." I tried so hard. Perhaps I tried too hard. To this day, I simply cannot muster more than a mild appreciation for the poetry of Shelley. He just doesn't compare, for me, to the others.

    So. To answer your question, Dana ... :)

    (Oh, how I love to ramble and procrastinate. Time to go write a composition worksheet!)

    Wednesday, February 1, 2006

    To Sleep, Perchance ... No, Wait ...

    "To Sleep" by John Keats (my second- or third-favorite Romantic poet)

    O soft embalmer of the still midnight!
    Shutting with careful fingers and benign
    Our gloom-pleased eyes, embower'd from the light,
    Enshaded in forgetfulness divine;
    O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
    In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
    Or wait the amen, ere thy poppy throws
    Around my bed its lulling charities;
    Then save me, or the passèd day will shine
    Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;
    Save me from curious conscience, that still lords
    Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;
    Turn the key deftly in the oilèd wards,
    And seal the hushèd casket of my soul.

    Carnival of Education

    This weeks' Carnival of Education is up at Diane Weir's blog. Go visit!