Sunday, November 30, 2008

You know you like it when I'm flirting with you, or, I'm gunna beat your ass with my pipe wrench

What do these two titles have in common? This video, a literal translation of A-ha's video for their (only) hit (that I know of), "Take On Me." A song I've always rather liked, by the way. When I lived in Indiana, there was a Ska band that did a cover of it. They were called the Skalcoholics. Get it? I'd go hear them play just to hear that cover. Fun times. (Hearing that band, not living in Indiana.) 

I know, I know, two posts in one day, after you spent weeks of wondering if I'm still alive or not. Wanted to share that funny video with you before I forget. Also I'm winding down from doing my homework, which was reading 14 chapters of post-tonal theory. YEP. And I even finished it before 11 p.m. Who knows what other surprises I have in store? 

And now I feel itchy

This is a useful and gross website, especially if you are traveling.

And yes, now my scalp, back, upper chest, and feet itch.

Something weird: when I opened up the blogger page today, all of the non-Ann scripts were in Spanish. That's never happened before.

I have been having the strangest dreams the last two nights. Yesterday I woke up super tired and felt like I was processing the dream the whole day through, which sort of interfered with interactions with real live people. Most of the day was spent driving 300 miles, though. Luckily I drove yesterday, since today it's snowing!

Best dessert of the week: amaretti (don't know if I spelled that correctly) cookies at Coca and Mark's on Thanksgiving; Coca's parents brought them from a, to quote Catherine, "fabulous Italian bakery." YUMMY.  

Your opinion needed:  do you use this kind of quotation mark: '   
or this one: "

Monday, November 24, 2008

Apologies to my loyal readers ...

... all three of you, for not fulfilling my duties as a responsible blogger. This has been a very hellish semester. To spare you the gory details, suffice it to say that the Cloud Of Doom has descended upon the University of Iowa, specifically the School of Music. This is in addition to me foolishly thinking I could be Wonder Woman and tackling TOO MANY PROJECTS this fall. Looking on the bright side, the only place to go is up! Anyway, I do often fondly think of blogging and sharing funny, witty, interesting anecdotes from the life of Ann with you, and then instead I play Scramble on Facebook, or fall asleep twitching from stress. Well, it's Thanksgiving break, I've cleaned my house, I've done my laundry, I have a pile o' stuff ready to be packed in the morning for a trip to the great white north. Thus tonight's options: 1) blogging, and 2) watching Simpsons episodes (if consciousness permits when the blogging has finished) from the Conan O'Brien years. (Ok, how many ideas can I fit into one paragraph?)


Yeah, it's sucky that it wiped out the Voxman Music Building. There are many reasons why this is so, the two foremost in my mind being 1) no direct access to the Rita Benton Music Library (although I hear this is going to change come spring semester) and 2) the School of Music is in nineteen different locations in Iowa City. That's right, you read it, NINETEEN. They're not even all downtown. But, as we all know, the Voxman Music Building already had a lot of problems to begin with. We may soon hear that we are getting a new music building. Cross Your Fingers! Not that I'll be here to enjoy it, since it'd take 4 or 5 years to build it (although I have been toying with the idea of a graduate degree in music theory ... however, since my most favorite brilliant theory prof took a gig at Eastman, that is looking less and less likely). So anyway, one of the locations is Clinton Street Music. At Clinton Street Music East there are the Wenger Practice Rooms. The small ones with the upright pianos are nothing special. We do have, however, a handful of Virtual Acoustic Environment Practice Rooms (with Steinway grands). See below: 

Apologies for the sorta blurry picture. So, this panel. Doesn't look like much but is kind of amazing in its features. One can record herself practicing, and play it back, and the speakers in the room play it (the room is about 8 x 8, I think). You'll also notice the USB port in the lower right hand corner of the panel. The coolest feature is the actual 'virtual acoustic environment' settings that you will see below the rewind/fast forward buttons. From left to right, top row to bottom row, they are:
Practice Room 
Baroque Room
Medium Recital
Large Recital
Small Auditorium
Medium Auditorium
Large Auditorium

The Practice Room setting is pretty dead, but after that, they increase in resonance. So you're in this tiny little box, you press the Cathedral button, and ka-pow, sounds like you're in Köln. (Granted, I don't use the fancy features of this rooms often when I rehearse by myself, because with a piano it just sounds like the damper pedal is stuck. But it's still cool.) 

Speaking of practicing, I keep a practice journal. Since beginning my doctorate in piano, I have recorded myself as practicing 2286.5 hours. This does not include lessons, keyboard harmony, choir accompanying, voice lessons accompanying, that damn Puzzle Master opera, or the chamber music festival in Bulgaria last summer. I'm not sure if this is an impressive number or not. I mean, sure, it's big. I also noticed when tallying this that my summer practicing is Pathetic (yes, capital P). Also this semester has been lower overall than previous semesters (part of its suckiness, but I don't feel like going into that now). I read once on an internet discussion board that if you do something for 10,000 hours you become a virtuoso at it. (I admit, I am a virtuoso sleeper.) By my calculations, when I finish my doctorate, that'll be approximately 4000 hours during that degree alone. Hey, maybe by the time I reach 40! That would be sweet, seeing as how my new goal is to learn the Goldberg Variations when I turn 40, a slightly impossible task if one is not a virtuoso. 

I had a party on Saturday night. Well, a 'party' -- a convivial gathering of conversation and great food and drink, which included artichoke dip, pumpernickel bread, pomegranates, Lindt truffles, black bean and banana empanadas, and cardamom coffee cake, as well as wine from Hawaii that is made from grapes grown on the side of a volcano. Hmm, I guess that qualifies as a party, even if it was only 8 people. It was so much fun! I think I've had some fun parties before, but in terms of sheer laughter quotient, this one wins, hands down. These quotes probably won't be as hilarious out of context, in fact, you may not get them at all, but you get to read them anyway:

I know how to cadence, Bitch.  -Allyss

I have a stretchy woman.  -Allyss

That wasn't a crazy homeless man, that was Michael Eckert.  -Art (probably not funny unless you are in the UI SoM)

What do you think, panties or no panties?  -PianoGirlAnn, but I don't know what the hell I was talking about 

If I were a woman, I'd do it right.  -Samantha

LOL  -Art
That means Lots of Love, Asshole.  -Casey

Baboons could play Uno.  -Art
They do, they call it 'Baboono.'  -Samantha

~   ~   ~   ~   ~  ~   ~

Best dessert of the week: the cardamom coffee cake at the party, of course! Thank you to Sam. I just finished it. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"Socialist Baby-Killing Maggots"

Last week a drunk Hawkeye Fan told me that I look like Sarah Palin. SARAH PALIN. WTF. I was so angry by that I could barely squeak out words to explain why she is one of the most evil women in history, with the possible exception of Phyllis Schlafly. Grr. Grrrrr. Anyway, I just read this post, maybe there is hope and I don't have to become totally disillusioned with our country yet.  

This is a short post, and I've been absolutely meaning to write for a while. When in the first week of school you get only 5 hours of sleep a night, you know that things are busy. So I'm off to learn some more of Prokofiev 2nd movement.

Currently listening to: 

Barber Violin Concerto, 2nd movement, played by Hilary Hahn

Also on heavy rotation: 

Pieta Brown, 
Tim Buckley, 
Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps 

Best dessert of the week: 

Pistachio Rosewater cake at Fair Grounds. YUM.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Wednesday night, or, the last gasp of freedom

TA meetings tomorrow. Actually, there were some yesterday, but today was a bit of a respite, since from here on out, there's school stuff. Every day. Until December. (Sigh.)

But I like school! And anyway, that's not the reason for this post. The reason for this post is so that I can rip off someone else's idea while simultaneously avoiding going to bed. Which is this: type "your name + needs" into Google and see what happens. You probably discovered this a hundred years ago, but I discovered it tonight.  

I get (I just start where my name is; sometimes it's the middle of a sentence):

Ann needs men's clothes
Ann needs a forever home
Ann Needs Your Help!
Ann needs donations
Ann needs a ride to Baltimore airport
Ann needs a Blackberry
Ann needs 3 Loves now
Ann needs to "practice what she preaches"*
Ann needs you?
Ann needs to recognize and name that she is lonely
Ann needs a "dark skies" policy
Ann NEEDS to be retrained*
Ann needs to plan for that happy day when she is debt free
Ann needs to stop talking so much*
Ann needs a helping hand
Ann needs a milkshake

and my personal favorite
Ann needs a spanking.

*I think they're referring to Ann Coulter. Now she needs a spanking.

Currently playing on iTunes: Glass Vase Cello Case by Tattle Tale.

It's the end of the world as we know it

Man, I went to the Canary Islands a few months ago, we flew there from the Madrid airport. This could have been me. Scary!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

War and Peace.

No, the title of this post isn't anything as lofty as great Russian literature.  

It's just links to interesting things:

1.  Ok, it's not war exactly. For one, there's a piano involved. But let's just say I prefer my Steinways without Hummers or AK-47s. (I'd found this picture a few months back and remembered it now ... so here it is for your amusement!)

2. Here's a recent interview with Noe Venable. She writes lovely music, I like it very much. Plus she's in grad school for literature and comparative religions at Harvard Divinity School, so she's super duper smart.  

That's all for today, folks! But to give you a tantalizing preview, I've been summoned for jury duty, one week from today. 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Caffeine-induced insomnia

It's my own dang fault, I should not have had that second cup of super-strong Earl Grey Tea at 4 p.m. Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's not that late in the day, but since the semester hasn't started, I'm not yet sleep-deprived enough to have it not affect me.  

So I went to the library again today and got more DVDs from the list:

Across the Universe
Thank You for Smoking

Watched Across the Universe with my friend R. after we had this splendid afternoon*: the aforementioned tea complemented by delicious chocolate muffins, the aforementioned trip to the library, then a long walk through Iowa City that included stopping by the new music digs and the large and wonderful Hickory Hill Park.  

*Even before getting together with R. the day was rather splendid -- finished memorizing the first movement of the Prokofiev; it took only 10 days!

So -- Across the Universe. This is a movie that I should like, in theory. In execution, I'm not so sure. The concept is brilliant: take a bunch of Beatles' songs, string 'em together to form some semblance of a plot. In reality, the 'plot' was a bit thin, I thought. Also, some of the effects that might have looked cool on the big screen seemed real cheesy when watched on a laptop. And using some of those songs to further drive the plot along was a reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal strrrrrrrrreeeeeeeeeeeettch. But, what this movie did do for me was rekindle my latent interest in the Beatles' music. I've always liked them (maybe not the early stuff as much, but definitely their mid-late period) but don't have a lot of their music in my personal collection. I have Abbey Road; when the movie was over I came home and listened to it twice. And I think I might get some of their other albums -- for instance, Revolver, Rubber Soul, Sergeant Pepper's -- from (where else?) the library.  

The other thing I've been listening to tonight is this amazing song, Hallelujah. So far I've listened to Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, K.D. Lang. I know it's a Leonard Cohen song, but my favorite, so far, is the first Jeff Buckley link posted. I think. Or maybe the second one. And this one, which has been added late, is nice. The Rufus Wainwright one is good too. This is one of those songs that I've been listening to over and over and over tonight. Do you have songs like that? It's like when I get a new CD, and I listen to my favorite song on repeat, like, a thousand times. Hallelujah is currently that song. I think that when I buy a guitar, which might not happen soon but will probably happen sooner than you think, this will be one of the first songs I'll learn on it. 'Course, I can always learn it on the piano. Then I'll sing it and break your heart -- 'cause it's a cold and broken hallelujah. 

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Raisin Brahms?

I agree wholeheartedly that Brahms is good for you, but this might be taking it a bit too far. Raisin Brahms? SERIOUSLY. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Strange, More Lovely


Yesterday I went to Palisades-Kepler State Park. It didn't make it into last night's post because my photos were still on the memory card in my camera with the malfunctioning lens.* This park was recommended to me by a guy named Randy who sold me some blackberries at the Iowa City Farmer's Market last Saturday. It is a very lovely park indeed, even though I did manage to get some sort of plant-induced rash on my left leg (perhaps I shouldn't have been wandering around out in the woods wearing shorts). Certainly I will have to go back in a few weeks when the leaves are changing -- it must be splendid in autumn. 

*I'm sure I'll get around to fixing this camera someday, maybe even before 2012. 


The other day I went to the public library. Hooray for the public library! Especially nice when you are a (very poor) graduate student. I didn't get any books, since I'm reading about 6 different books right now, but I did get a bunch of DVDs to watch. Perhaps my time would be better spent finishing these six books, but when I'm in memorization mode, I've found that downtime needs to be more on the passive side. Even when I am practicing, all of my practice time can't be spent memorizing. After about an hour, an hour and a half, my brain just stops. Partly this is because for the most part I memorize as I'm learning a piece. So this Prokofiev concerto, I'm memorizing as I go. And that requires a lot more brain power than rote memorization, which I've always been good at -- you know, you play a piece long enough, it's there. Anyway, as usual, I'm getting off my main topic. On my computer I have a list of about 50, maybe more, movies that I'd like to see. And this list just gets longer and longer, especially since I never have time to go to the theater anymore. I went to the ICPL to get some movies, and came away with seven DVDs; two from the list and a bunch of others that just caught my eye. Here's what I got:

Spellbound -- this was on the list. It's been on the list for, like, 5 years. It was good, I really liked those kids. Some of their parents were a bit too overeager for my taste. It's just spelling, for goodness sake! Speaking of spelling bees, I won the spelling bee in sixth grade. I didn't study for it or anything. In fact, I don't even remember being aware that it was even going to take place, it was more like I showed up at school and then there was a spelling bee that day. Surely that can't be an accurate recollection. Whatever. I won with the word "fugitive." When watching the movie, I was really cheering them on, not like it mattered. "Go Ashley! You can do it! C'mon, lycanthrope -- l-y-c-a-n-t-h-r-o-p-e." Oh God, I'm going to turn into one of those parents, aren't I. 

Melvin Goes to Dinner -- this was not on the list. It happened to catch my eye, since the front cover advertised SEX RELIGION INFIDELITY FETISHES GHOSTS. How could I resist? It was okay -- entertaining enough. Mostly satisfying ending, although I could totally see the big "surprise" coming from a hundred miles away. 

Three Women -- the Robert Altman film, which was also not on my list. File this under MORE STRANGE. A LOT MORE STRANGE. Desperate, pathetic characters. No really, that's the point of them. Then this sort of psychotic role reversal, and a totally perplexing ending. Lots of water too. All very symbolic. The soundtrack made me cringe. I wanted to shoot that flute player, no offense to my dear friend Martha who is an amazing flutist. 

Pompeii, The Last Day -- a production from the Discovery Channel -- again, not on my list. But I've been fascinated with Pompeii since visiting it two years ago. You should go there too, if you haven't been yet. So very interesting. Here are some webcams of Mount Vesuvius. Did you know that it's predicted to erupt in the next 100 years?

The Decalogue, by Krzystof Kieslowski -- this has been on my list for about a decade. (Ha! Get it? Decalogue/Decade? And I'm not even kidding, I really have wanted to see these short films for about 10 years.) Actually, I watched IV - X in June, but the first DVD with I - III was checked out of the library then. So I have I - III to watch now.  If you don't know what they are, I recommend them. They are 10 short films, each about an hour, and each one depicting one of the ten commandments. But a much different view of them than you might expect. 

And the other two DVDs I picked up because they interested me:

Sacco and Vanzetti -- I've been curious about these guys for a while. And not just because the idea of Italian anarchists is sort of sexy. Last year in my Intro to Grad Studies class**, I read a bit about them. My main topic of research for the semester was Ruth Crawford Seeger, who I find very fascinating on a whole bunch of different levels, and I wrote that specific paper on the song "Sacco, Vanzetti" from the Two Proletarian Ricercari. The title of the paper was: "Music as a Weapon in the Class Struggle" -- Ruth Crawford Seeger's "Sacco, Vanzetti" as Socio-Political Musical Narrative. Sounds appropriately academic, doesn't it? 

**Yes, the irony is not lost on me that in my SIXTH semester of graduate school, I was required to take the INTRODUCTION TO GRADUATE STUDIES class. Academia. Or, perhaps, Academentia. 

Finally, to file again under Lovely -- I got -- Rumi, Poet of the Heart. Here's the poem from the back of the cover:

I am so small I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me?

Look at your eyes. They are small, 
but they see enormous things.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Strange and Lovely

Right now I'm sitting on my (very clean) balcony* hoping to catch a glimpse of the Perseids. The odds do not look good. (Maybe I should turn off my string of white Christmas lights that hang on the railing.) Even though the moon has set, it still appears to be sort of cloudy. Ok, I'm turning off these white lights. Well .... maybe if I wait long enough some splendid meteor showers will appear.  

*I cleaned it yesterday, and it now looks totally awesome!  No more spiderwebs, and minimal dirt.  Plus all the geraniums are flowering.  


This is a strange thing that happens to me. Actually, I haven't had any sleep paralysis for a while, but I was reminded of it this weekend when I caught some of This American Life on Iowa Public Radio. Luckily for me, it only happens to me very occasionally, and doesn't disrupt my life in any major way. Good thing too, 'cause I sure love to sleep.  

This is another weird thing that happens to me. It happens a lot more than sleep paralysis. Although it kind of goes in streaks. For instance, it's only happened once in the last month, and that was in Bulgaria. For quite a few months before that, though, I'd say that street lights went on/off while I drove past/walked under them with almost alarming frequency. Definitely it was happening every week. For a while it was happening every day. One day I noticed five lights that went off in the span of my drive home from the university -- so 5 lights in about 15 minutes. Why am I posting this here? I dunno. So you can either affirm or deny my craziness. 

LOVELY (and dissonant)

Lovely may not be a word that you associate with Prokofiev's music. Dissonant, perhaps. I've even heard people use the term "cacophonous." Blasphemers! Ok, he does like a bunch of tritones and major sevenths and minor seconds, I'll give you that. But I tell you what: the development of the first movement of his third piano concerto -- GORGEOUS!! Check out 4:27. So I'm undertaking a new project: learning this concerto. It's pretty freakin' amazing.* Also pretty freakin' hard. Of course I've listened to this piece many times (as I am doing right now, wishing the clouds would go away so I could see the shooting stars), but only as I was memorizing this particular section the other day did I actual realize how inherently beautiful it is. It (currently) vies for one of my favorite parts of the piece...

The other current favorite part is the very end of the third movement. IT'S SO AMAZING!!! I like it a lot, as you have probably gleaned from the previous sentence. That link is only an excerpt, so you don't have to watch the whole thing. (Or you know, if you want to, then do another search and watch someone else play it.) Yeah, those glissandi, or whatever you want to call them (I mean, they are, but they're not played like traditional glissandi) are so cool. Yeah, today I was playing them at, uh, quarter = 72, and my left hand is not clean. It goes about three times that fast. I like how the poster for this video here inserts his own balloon comment the first time they appear (1:27; if you don't know the piece, the glissandi happen 4 times).    

*There are many good reasons to work on a doctorate, one of which is you get to learn a bunch of your favorite pieces.   

Well, sadly, there are no lovely meteor showers for my viewing this evening. Strange. Go away clouds! Maybe I'll go eat an oatmeal and dark chocolate cookie and then head off to bed.  

Sunday, June 29, 2008


This is really a rhetorical question since Technology, technically speaking, does not have feelings of any sort (and yes, I understand that it's the 21st-century and all, and there are robots and computers and things with very human-like qualities, but they still don't have feelings).

Nevertheless: I swear (and I am swearing because I'm so dang frustrated) that I must resonate at some frequency which causes machines to malfunction when I am in close proximity to them.
FIRST my computer spontaneously crashed, like, 40 times. Here is a big shout-out (wow, I don't think I've ever used the term "shout-out" ever before in my life. Do I sound like I'm 16?) to my fantastic friend B. who is a SUPER GENIUS and FIXED it. THANK YOU B. (He already knows that I thank him kindly from the bottom of my sometimes overly melodramatic heart, but I would just like to say again how awesome I think he is. He is awesome for a number of reasons, the one currently on my mind being his computer-fixin' skills.)  

Now it is not crashing. Hooray. (Incidentally, there were several times during the recent Iowa Flood that I wanted to blog/put up pictures, but with my Mac out of commission, I'm sorry to say that it didn't happen. Possibly in the future. Certainly repercussions of the flood will be discussed, perhaps at length. Stay tuned.)

TODAY, however, after a night of fun at Verde (which is ever so sadly being turned into a sports bar, of all things) in which my usually lovely Nikon Coolpix S10 worked great, my camera decided to be difficult. I turned it on, to take pictures of all of the stuff outside of the Voxman Music Building that is being trashed because of flood damage (three dumpsters full didn't even make a dent in the chairs, stands, piano benches, lockers, shelves, desks, etc. that sit in the parking lot, awaiting certain moldy doom in a landfill), and all I got was "Lens Error!" in orange on a white screen. Normally I would just sigh and take it somewhere to get it fixed, except, oh yeah, I'm GOING TO EUROPE IN A WEEK AND IT'D BE FREAKIN' NICE TO HAVE A WORKING CAMERA WHEN I GO.  


Friday, May 30, 2008

Rainy Friday Morning

My piano is getting tuned today. Right now! As I write this! My usual (favorite) tuner/technician was not able to come, however, which makes me sad. (Insert frowny face here.) He just has too much work to do before he heads off to Tanglewood for the summer. That's right! He's a piano guy at Tanglewood! You can maybe ascertain why he's my favorite guy. So the guy who's here (why are most all piano tuner/technicians men? I think in all of my thirty-some-odd years, I've only ever seen ONE piano tuner who is a woman) was recommended by Favorite Tuner. May I just say, however, that if you are scheduled to tune one's piano at 8:30 in the morning, that perhaps you should not arrive 14 minutes early. (Luckily for me, I'd finished my shower and had dressed just moments prior to the arrival. Breakfast, which will consist of organic strawberries from the co-op and Earl Grey with milk, will have to wait.)  

So, I had been intending to do some work. For this presentation I'm giving at a conference. On Monday. Three days from now. But I just can't summon up the energy to do work with a piano tuner in the house. Never have been able to do that. So instead I'm writing here. And after that, will probably go read Mimi Smartypants archives. That is this week's procrastination device. Do you know of her? I stumbled across this blog in a rather haphazard way, and now it's like Blog Crack. I read some of her most recent posts first, and then went back to the beginning in order to proceed in an orderly fashion. Which means, like, nine years of blogging history. I think I'm approaching somewhere close to the anniversary of year number two.  

Hey, I'm getting closer to finishing my German course! But you knew that would happen, didn't you? Yesterday I took the mid-term, which I could have taken technically back in January, but who has time to study for a German mid-term about which she is slightly anxious when an ambitious recital approaches and your music history teacher has no mercy? Three chapters and a final left. 

I had the strangest dream last night, not that I even remember it. It turned scary right at the end, so scary that I woke myself up with a scream. That's right, I screamed myself awake. Wonder what the neighbors think of me. And, though it may have been scary enough to wake me up, when I recollect it now, it's not really all that frightening, technically. Think, scary in a PG rated sort of way. Nothing terrible happened, there was just some unknown entity in the closet. OK, read into that what you will. (Ann receives numerous Freudian interpretations of said dream in the comments section.)

In other news, I have a crush! This, I understand, is interesting for no one but me, but you know, it's *really* interesting for me. Hasn't happened much lately. (I don't know, because I'm a grown-up? Nah, that's not it. Because there's no one that I see on a regular basis that is worth crushing over? A more plausible reason. Perhaps my standards are too high? I require a partner who is: intelligent, fun, honest, and has Good Personal Hygiene. Considering the men at the school of music ... yes, perhaps my standards ARE too high.) Surely this crush will be over soon enough, but since the piano tuner is not leaving any time soon (I don't want to admit how many months it's been since my baby's had an oil change) that means I need something to write about.  [Maybe this entry should fall into the "How-many-topics-can-I-squeeze-into-one-post heading," which seems like sort of an anti-blog attitude, but then again, as you know, I've never been one for technology. Yes, I include Blogs under the umbrella of Technology.] So, anyway. Crush. Let us call him the Man-Boy, since I'm not entirely sure of his age. Somewhere around mine. I'm not entirely sure of a lot of things about him, even after googling him on several occasions to see what sort of dirt the internet holds. He's pretty much adorable right now, probably because I don't really know him. This is a person that I have been occasionally running into since moving here, but I'm not going to tell you where I run into him! Lends an element of mystery, eh? (Or element of stupidity, however you prefer to describe it.) Maybe it's the bus, or work, or the co-op, or my favorite coffee house. Hmm, this is turning into the longest non-story ever written. Anyway, when I first started running into M-B, he'd just smile at me. Then a few months ago it was a smile and "Hello." Progress! Then a few weeks ago, he started addressing me by my first name. And then just a couple of days ago he struck up, out of the blue, a conversation with me. Funnily enough, the topic of conversation he used to start talking to me is one that I myself had considered using to start a conversation with him, months back, and then I discarded that idea because it felt school-girlishly silly. Guess it wasn't after all. And I was only moderately socially awkward in this conversation! Also progress! As you can see, I have a rich though not entirely varied fantasy life. What can I say, I like to indulge myself and think of his curly hair (oooh, curly hair) and über-cute dimples. So sue me. If you're still reading.

Ok, well, I'm going to indulge myself some more with some Mimi Smartypants. What can I say, she makes me laugh out loud.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Yes, Let's Go to the Cinema

As seen in Lisbon, Portugal.  


Yeah, so, I'm still uploading pictures from last winter's trip to the Canary Islands. Who knows if I'll ever finish.  

These are two pictures from various museums in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.  

Would you like some eyes with that?  

Those all used to house brains.  

(Thank you, Ann, Mistress of the Obvious.)  

The End of Year Number Two

Recently, about ten days ago, I finished year number two of a doctoral program in music. Finished! Year Number TWO! Of a DOCTORAL PROGRAM! (That's me being excited, and disbelieving. Mostly disbelieving.) Still have probably two more to go; since I'm an overachiever, I'm tacking on a theory minor in addition to the piano major. Since I'm not completely insane, I'm going to stretch out that academic course work for an extra year. Then again, when all that is done, I'll still have comps and the dissertation to write ... but for now, done with year number two!  

I am, however, still working on my independent study German course. Yep, you read that right. The one I was trudging my way through last December? Yep, same one. I found it impossible to do German in addition to the eleven credits I was taking in my recital semester. You saw the recital I gave (last post). (Addendum to first paragraph -- yes, I am completely insane.)  So. I now have to hurry up and finish it before my incomplete turns into an F. And I can assure you, it will do no such thing. Thursday is the mid-term; send me good thoughts.  

This past weekend, instead of doing German homework, I drove to the suburbs of Chicago to visit my dear friend E., who was giving her first doctoral recital. BRAVA, E! It was truly great. She'd played it in Iowa a few weeks back, maybe six, and it grew a lot since that performance. The Brahms (Handel Variations) was a lot more organic, there was more breathing time and indeed, it was a solid, lovely performance. What really improved was the second half of the program, Prokofiev's 8th Sonata. It was amazing! Especially since the first time I'd heard it -- the lines were much more clearly delineated, more layers, more melody, more shaping, and the phrases just made a lot more musical sense. And the COLORS, wow. Yay, E! I'm so proud of you.

Whilst in the suburbs of Northern Chicago, I visited an Apple Store and went to the so-called "Genius Bar." My laptop, which I am normally quite fond of and happy with, has been spontaneously and intermittently crashing on me these past two weeks. Said "Genius" (ha! not even close) was not particularly helpful, performing a "diagnostic test" that I myself (remember from my first post and how I said I really don't know anything about technology? Nothing has changed on that front since December) did with the help of my user's manual. So now .... guess I'll wait and see what happens and hope that I don't need to spend some ridiculous amount of money to fix it. I need my computer for a presentation I'm giving this upcoming Sunday and I didn't want to ship it off to the Apple Depot, at least not just yet.  

And so after having an unfruitful visit to the Apple Store, I had to do one of my least favorite things ever, which is drive through the Chicago Suburbs on the Tollway. Answer me this: why, on God's green earth, when a person spends so much of her hard-earned TA money on tolls, are the roads so crappy? Plus, there's always road construction in the Chicago Suburbs. My jaw clenches just thinking about that, the concrete pylons on one side of you and speeding semis roaring past on the other. At least the weather was decent -- it wasn't lightning and hailing as had been predicted. And I had my usual laugh at the absurdity of the "Oases" just off the tollway. Because, you know, when you're driving along on the concrete tangle of tollroads amidst the Illinois cornfields, nothing screams OASIS louder than a McDonalds, Mobil, and Starbucks. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Anaga

I know I've put up one picture from my hike in the Anaga in a previous post, but it was such a gorgeous hike that I'm putting up more.  (Need to inject some beauty into my life in the form of blue skies and greenery, since pre-spring in Iowa has been consisting of grey skies and brown grass and very dirty snow which has not quite melted away.)  

Teide in the distance.  

Looking south to the Atlantic Ocean.

The last three pictures are from the hike on Llano de los loros.  

Sunday, March 9, 2008

irritation with Blogger

I have just tried three times unsuccessfully to upload pictures from my Canary Islands trip. Grrrrr. Blogger, why must you thwart my plans? I'm totally awake, since it's really 9:53, and not 10:53 as the change of time would have me believe, and for once I can actually take some time to post a few more photos with commentary about the trip.  Why aren't you working? Why?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

A post about music, surprise, surprise.

Last night I went to hear Frederic Chiu play in Washington, IA. Washington, Iowa, yes, you read that right.  Frederic Chiu played there.  I was especially interested in hearing him because his recording of the complete solo piano works of Prokofiev (yes, COMPLETE) is pretty freakin' amazing. I was stoked that he gave a recital so close to where I live. My friend C., who is another pianist, also went.  

Chiu's program:

5 Chopin etudes -- Op. 25, 1; one that I don't know well (C. if you're reading this, please tell me which one); Op. 10, 4 then 3; Op. 10, 12.  

Debussy -- something or other from Images Book II (the program is in my car and since it's only 22 degrees outside, I'm not going to fetch it).

Ravel -- Un barque sur l'ocean from Miroirs

Prokofiev -- 3 of Chiu's own transcriptions from the Lieutenant Kije Suite, then the Toccata (almost a favorite piece of all time and space)

Beethoven/Liszt -- transcription of Symphony No. 5

Chiu has recently released a recording of that Beethoven symphony.  His programming (he seems to be going around the country doing these "community outreach" concerts) was sort of geared toward that -- in the first half of the program, he wanted to demonstrate the different colors that the instrument is capable of generating, and then end literally with the piano as symphony.  

Most of the concert was very enjoyable.  I have to say, though, that the Aeolian Harp etude was his throw-away piece.  As he was playing it, I could feel myself sinking in my seat and thinking, "C. is going to hate me for dragging him out to BFE and making him pay $15 for this subpar performance."  Well, it was the first thing on the program, I guess he needed to warm up.  After that it improved significantly. :)   The piano, however, certainly left something to be desired. First of all, it wasn't 9 feet. Yeah, that probably means nothing to you if you're not a pianist. But even a 7 foot Steinway (someone told me it was that size, but actually, I think it was even smaller than that) pales in comparison.  This particular Steinway has been rebuilt, but since it's housed in this barn of a community center with no heating or humidity controls, some pitches were out of tune, some mildly and some wildly.  And there was a huge sound-sucking-up-curtain behind the piano.  So a certain amount of was imagination was required while listening, you know, for places where the bass should ring a little (or a lot) more, etc.  But because he played so well and his intentions were overall pretty clear, that actually wasn't a problem -- because I really could hear (albeit in my mind) what it would have sounded like in ideal conditions. Now that's artistry.

Highlights of the program for me:

Op 10, 4.  In two places the left hand sixteenth note phrases rushed. But that is forgivable because the etude is just so damn hard.  And more importantly he played it with great clarity at his amazingly fast tempo.  

Ravel.  The beginning and ending of this were so beautiful they were orgasmic. Really, I almost cried it was so beautiful.

Prokofiev.  Everything was played extremely artistically, I thought. And Prokofiev runs a close second to Brahms in the favorite composer category.  I especially like his transcription of the Romance from Kije.  He really captured the orchestral colors.  (And afterward I bought a copy of these transcriptions for only $15!) 

Beethoven.  To paraphrase Chiu, audiences of his day thought Beethoven was a crackpot.  I don't know about that, but it did make me laugh out loud. Certainly Beethoven knew how to hammer home a freakin' cadence.  Good grief.  I think he could have been a bit more succinct with this symphony. But anyway, back to Chiu, his octaves were incredible.  They were so unbelievably good that C. started to laugh in his seat next to me, sort of an oh-my-god-can-you-believe-a-human-being-can-do-that laugh.  It makes me and my recital program that has its share of octaves pale in comparison.  

And his pedaling didn't bother me, but he didn't keep his heel on the floor! What was so weird about it is that earlier that very same day I sat in on a masterclass in which an experienced performer (Chopin B-flat minor sonata, first movement) also did not keep her heel on the floor. I don't know what that's about.  

Sadly, I have no pictures, because I've been forgetting my camera at home.  For about a month.  

It was a good concert to go to, in part because this week contained some suckiness of the devastating magnitude.   That Ravel definitely made me feel better.  Current soundtrack is Indigo Girls Rites of Passage, which I always and forever identify with, in part because I am a slow learner. Speaking of slow learner and octaves, major panic has started to set in for my recital.  I feel totally unready.  I think because there are some really technically challenging parts for me in the Ginastera.  Like the many measures of parallel chromatic third triplets at quarter note = 160, and which I now struggle to make clean at 112.  8 weeks.   On the plus side, today I played the Liebermann concerto for the first time in approximately forever. The first time through was rough.  The second time through I remembered a lot more without the help of the score.  And, very happily, when I played the Maccaber Dance, my slow tempo was at 104, whereas previously it had been around 88.  Good.  Hmm, maybe I should take before and after recital pictures of my forearms.  

Now listening to: Christopher O'Riley's transcription of Radiohead's (nice dream).  

And a postscript to the Puzzle Mastering post of a few weeks ago.  I ran into Joe the other day, who'd been our conductor.  He asked if I'd be interested in playing it again in the fall, this time with three performance opportunities (not as much cash as before, but still some remuneration). Since I've already put in the time .... 

and hey, I'll get to hang out with Superman's Dad again! 

Friday, February 22, 2008

I should be going to sleep, but instead ...

... I'm belatedly uploading pictures from the Canary Islands trip. 

This is a very cool looking auditorium in Santa Cruz de Tenerife. I think it looks like a particular kind of hat that certain sailors used to wear, way back in the days of exploration by boat. But I haven't found any information yet to substantiate this thought. (I also haven't looked very hard.) If you know what that kind of hat is called, please share.

This was taken in a cemetery in Puerto de la Cruz.

In the Botanical Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz.  Because plants deserve respect too.  

One day I went by myself up into the Anaga to go hiking and for solitude. It was gorgeous. That's the volcano Teide in the distance.  (The northern coast of the island is on the right side of the picture.) 

In other -- unrelated to the Canary Islands -- news, I've had my beloved MacBook for one year. One year already! They grow so fast. Happy birthday, Anntastic!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Run out and listen to this recording immediately

Sergey Schepkin playing Bach's Goldberg Variations.  

It's really wonderful. 

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Puzzle Master

A couple of weeks ago, one of my profs said, Hey Ann, want to play this gig? and handed me a score. I didn't really have time to do it, and normally wouldn't have thought twice about saying no, except that it paid a LOT of money. At least it seemed like a lot of money when I learned the amount; you must consider that I'm a graduate student and make approximately 600 dollars a year, to paraphrase a line from the Simpsons. So anyway, I said yes. 

Then I sat down to practice it. 

And subsequently wanted to kick myself, and seriously reconsidered quitting school to sell insurance. 

Ok, not seriously. 

Not *that* seriously. 

Most things I play are more user friendly than this was at first. Anyway, yesterday was the performance, and it's over, hallelujah! And ... much to my surprise, it was ... sort of fun. 

(Nope, I'm not on any drugs, although perhaps a lack of sleep and ample amounts of caffeine and sugar are contributing to this apparent state of insanity.)

Hmm, this is sort of annoying, Blogger has rotated this picture that I've imported from iPhoto and now you have to look at it sideways. Blogger, if you are reading this, please fix this bug. Thank you. So. Here's a photo of the score I used, as you can see it is titled The Puzzle Master. We did the one-act version; it's a multi-media opera, which means tape with electronic sounds, piano (that was me), five singers, and a conductor who did his damnedest to keep us together. He did amazingly well, considering he got the score on Wednesday, and the performance was on Saturday. Yes, that's right, three days to learn it. The people who were all performing were very fun and I think we all bonded over the sheer difficulty of the piece. I'd been intending to take some photographs of the score, and post them here, but then I realized that I'd probably be infringing on Mr. Chasalow's copyright, so I didn't. So instead I will tell you that it was really rather quite difficult. A bunch of leaps, all over the keyboard, often with no real discernible pattern. Mixed meter -- about every measure changed. Polyrhythms. Of course the piano part is markedly different than what the singers are singing, and often the tape is no help. And even if it was a help, it was a huge challenge to sync it up with the live performers, even with a conductor. [I will not comment here on the "success" of that during the performance.] And the composer certainly seemed to have an aversion to setting actual notes on the downbeat. Personally, I think that it should be mandatory for all contemporary composers to learn and then practice scales, chords, and arpeggios on the piano, every day. Until they die. Because, you know, when you write idiomatically for your instrument, then performers will be happier to play it. But that's just my opinion. It's really too bad, actually, that we didn't have one more week to work on it (not that I want to spend another week neglecting my Ginastera sonata!), simply because I felt that yesterday I was actually able to hear the musical motives and how they related to one another and how they reflected the text, instead of just playing in panic mode while I counted my ass off.  

Ok, so you will also see that that the libretto was written by one F. D. Reeve. Said Professor Reeve happens to be the father of the late Christopher Reeve. That's right, Superman. So here was one of the coolest moments of my life, last night, when we were taking our bows, Chasalow and Reeve walked out on stage to acknowledge the applause and they shook all of the performer's hands, and Professor Reeve said to me while shaking my hand, "Thank you, Ann."  I hadn't been introduced to him or anything, so he knew my name from reading the program. I thought that was pretty awesome. 

The text was also very sad and beautiful and weird, too. It was an adaptation of the Daedelus-Icarus (and to a lesser extent, Minotaur) mythologies. So consider Daedelus (in this story, Delling) and Icarus (Ingram).  
And how Icarus-Ingram flew, but then died. Since I was concentrating so much on the piano part, and since we only had 5 (that's right, only 5!) rehearsals, I don't have the text memorized. But the parallels between Delling-Ingram, and say, Superman's Father-Superman were eerie, and poignant.  You'll also notice that if Superman had lived to be in his 80s and white hair, that he'd look exactly like his father. Check out the uncanny resemblance:

At one point, Professor Reeve had pulled Joe (our conductor aside), and said to him, "This is unnecessarily difficult." [What really cracked me up was when Jacob, another performer, commented on this: "Leave it to an English professor to state the obvious."]   
I concur, Superman's Dad.  I concur. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

How I wish I were still there, Part Two

Damn it's cold in Iowa. But on January 2nd, I was here, and it was 30 degrees Celsius. This is La Playa de las Canteras in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Our pension was only about 4 blocks away. This is a great beach, and it's 2 miles long.  

Dunas de Maspalomas -- the sand dunes at Maspalomas, on the southern side of Gran Canaria. We hiked through them -- it's a park. This happens to be where the nudist beach is (the one that I mentioned in a previous post; it's not really noticeable in this picture though, sorry to disappoint). Women, of course, go topless on regular beaches in the Canary Islands. I didn't; I've been feeling a bit too Rubenesque lately to even don a bikini, so I made do with my modest one-piece. I tell you, I needn't have worried. There are all shapes and sizes of people on these beaches. Although, older women who've done a lot of topless sunbathing do not have attractive breasts, in my humble opinion, unless you consider leather pouches hanging off of the chest attractive. 

How I wish I were still there ....

Iowa is experiencing some schizophrenic weather currently. Yesterday it was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, very lovely for January. In fact, much of the snow melted. Today, however, is not as nice. In fact, I think the windchill right now is -10, and may even get as low as -30. Sucky. So in an effort to stay warm, I will imagine that I'm still on a beach in the Canary Islands, one of the many that I visited.  

This is in Puerto de la Cruz. I didn't actually go to the beach there (we did other things that day, like went to El Botanico, the botanical gardens, and La Orotava), but it's beautiful, as you can see. I especially like the black sand. That's the volcano Teide in the background. We didn't ascend Teide, as the highest 200 m of roads were closed due to snow.  

Playa de los Americas, Tenerife, on the south part of the island.  This locale is very touristy and has lots of resorts. Read: expensive. At least, more expensive than Santa Cruz.

Playa de las Teresitas, just a few kilometers north of Santa Cruz. This is actually an artificial beach, which I would normally protest, except that the sand is imported from the Saharan desert, which I think is cool. It was softer than I expected. Speaking of the Sahara, there was a map in a museum that I liked. I didn't take a picture of, and I wish I had. It dated from ... can't quite remember, maybe early 13th century? This particular map, as you might expect, was very detailed in Europe and the Mediterranean. But south of Libya it read "End of Inhabitable Land." Clearly the authors of said map didn't ever visit Iowa in January.  

Monday, January 28, 2008

Einstein on the Bus

Tenerife has a great bus system.  They go all over the island, and as a bonus for non-Spanish speakers, the schedule is very easy to read (unlike Gran Canaria's).  You can buy a bono pass for 12 Euro, and use it on any bus or even the tram that goes from La Laguna to Santa Cruz.  And more than one person can use the same pass.  If you use the bono, you also get a discount on the longer rides, say, if you go from Santa Cruz to Playa de los Americas on the other side of the island.   Hey, even Einstein rides the bus.  

Night in Santa Cruz

We were in Santa Cruz the week between Christmas and New Year's; many decorations were still up (and some were in the process of being put up for Tres Reyes -- the Festival of the Three Kings -- or as you may know it, Epiphany).   One great thing about Spain is that everyone has this big late lunch -- sometime between 1 and 4, shops are generally closed then for lunch/siesta, and then open back up between 4 and 8 -- and then a late dinner of tapas and wine.  And everyone is out at night, enjoying life.  

View from the Bell Tower

La Laguna, Tenerife.  This is from the bell tower of Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion.  

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Just call him the Spanish Babe

Somehow, I don't think he'd be dancing if he knew where el jamon was coming from.  

The first time in Spain

While I've been in Europe several times by now, this was the first time I'd been in Spain. We landed in Madrid, then flew to Tenerife North. This is the Madrid airport, International Terminal. I think it's cool.  

This was at 8 a.m.; it was still dark outside.

naranja naturale

Ok, so, when you think of Spain, you probably don't think of orange juice. Let me tell you, I had the best orange juice of my life on this trip. Really. Every place had fresh squeezed juice.  Even the coffee shops at the bus and ferry stations had fresh squeezed orange juice. This particular photo is from a restaurant/coffee shop/bar we stopped at driving from Madrid to Lisbon.  The machine on the counter in the background is that most wonderful of inventions, the orange squeezer. Hmm, it just occurred to me now, three weeks too late, that I should have taken a video of it in action. Oh well, you'll just have to go there to experience it yourself. The best orange juice story is this: in Puerto de la Cruz, on Tenerife, we stopped at a cantina for lunch. I ordered orange juice, and the waiter shook his head. Then he turned around, said something to the woman behind the counter, then turned to me, nodded, and said, Yes, Ok. Then he disappeared for quite a while. Where were our drinks? We waited, and waited some more, and then he came up with bags in his hands ... bags full of oranges, so we could have our fresh squeezed juice.  Life was beautiful.  

You will probably not see all 603

So, a couple of weeks ago, as you probably know from reading my blog and/or being my friend, I returned from a 3 week long trip to the Canary Islands (Tenerife and Gran Canaria), Madrid, and Lisbon.  I took 603 pictures, a record for me.  Now that I have a fancy digital camera, I can take as many photos as my li'l ol' heart desires, and I don't have to worry about running out of film.   Probably you all discovered this in the last millenium, but since I'm just a nineteenth-century girl at heart, I haven't had my digital camera but for a few months. Anyway. The thought of posting this many photos (or half of this many photos, or a quarter of this many photos) overwhelms me, especially now that semester number 4 of ? has begun. So pictures will be posted at my leisure, most likely one at a time. This way you can really savor them.  

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The soundtrack for this picture is by Brahms

I have a good excuse, I was in Europe

So the Iowa caucuses are now long past.  Sadly I had to miss my first caucus as an Iowa resident. I was in the Canary Islands on that particular day (on Gran Canaria, as it were, hiking through the sand dunes at Maspalomas, which includes a nudist beach, and I am here to tell you that is not nearly as exciting as it sounds, but I digress). But even in Europe there was a lot of buzz about the US primaries. Pretty much that's all CNN reported on. They even talked about such ridiculous topics as the size of Obama's ears. (How about some real issues, people?)
Anyway, now I'm back in the Midwest, good ol' Iowa City, and the only two things that aren't swell are 1) it's absolutely freezing here and 2) I am feeling stressed out because I have 4 German chapters to finish, 2 German tests to take, 1 syllabus to write, a sonata to learn, a chapter of keyboard harmony to learn before Tuesday, 4 essays to read for 19th-Century Music, and approximately 100 emails to respond to.  Have I mentioned that the semester doesn't officially begin until Tuesday?  But I digress again.  The point of this post is the picture posted above.   I saw this while walking past (or, more accurately, running past in the freezing cold) the Hamburg Inn the other day. The candidate I support came in 4th, and my second choice came in 3rd, so maybe it doesn't matter quite so much that I was in Europe for this historic caucus.  Nevertheless, the results, though interesting as they may be, cannot bring a regime change fast enough for me.  

Monday, January 14, 2008