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.