Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Scythian Empires

My crush on Andrew Bird has recently been renewed, precipitated by the Gezelligheid concert that I caught last week in Minneapolis. I was expecting more singing and less instrumental music, but in fact the mostly instrumental show was nothing short of fantastic. Goodness, despite listening to Armchair Apocrypha on just about every road trip from Minnesota to Iowa and back again, I had no idea this man has such beautiful violin tone. Also, he's got some mad whistling skillz, and you probably know that, but recordings just can't quite convey the extent of it. Once again, live music FTW.

A picture of his monkey on the altar/stage (the concert was at an Episcopal cathedral):

The ticket said 7 p.m., so I showed up early (5:30) so I wouldn't have to wander around downtown Minneapolis in the cold to find a parking spot. Little did I know that the doors opened at 7 and the concert started at 8. So I got a fantastic parking spot and an even better seat inside the church (4th row!), having paid the price of waiting outside for an hour and a half. Yes, during this time, my toes became very, very cold, despite wearing Smart Wool socks; I don't know what's so smart about them if your toes get cold. Some wandering around occurred. For instance, this bridge with the cool poem. I wandered over there. I have always loved this bridge with the cool poem that spans 94 from Loring Park to the Sculpture Garden:

Unrelated to Andrew Bird, but equally if not more wonderful, here is the beautiful Freya, and her adoring aunt:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Let's hear it for Norse Paganism!

I have a new niece! Her name is Freya Elizabeth, and she was born at 12:49 p.m., November 12. Welcome Freya! She joins her older brother Thor (yes, my brother-in-law likes names from Scandinavian mythology) and Katie. Katie's the middle child, incidentally. Hope she won't feel left out!

Speaking of Katie, here is a my new favorite picture: Halloween '09 with Bat-a-rina.

Pictures of Freya to be posted when they 1) arrive via email from my brother-in-law, and/or 2) when I visit the baby myself.

Yay, a baby!

* * * * * * * * * *

Dessert of the week: the apple crisp I just made (spent almost an hour peeling apples), hot from the oven, with vanilla Haagen Daaz. Perhaps the best part is that when I went to the store to buy the ice cream at 9:37 p.m., I didn't need a jacket!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Piano Bench on the Prairie

Well, hello there. Remember me? Whether you do or you don't is irrelevant, because now I have a brand new life. At least that's what it's felt like, although I'm adjusting pretty well. Allow me to back up a moment, remember this job I applied for? To make a not-that-long story shorter, that all turned out successfully,* and now I live on the prairie. There are still cornfields around here, but the sky seems so much vaster. Most notably when the wind blows the low, gray, rain-filled clouds across it like a time-lapse movie scene, or when one gazes at stars in full-blown constellation mode from the backyard in the city limits proper while drinking late-summer microbrews.

*Jobs = successful, right? It's strange, I'd been very, very much looking forward to another year of grad school in Iowa City, a year of reduced course load, and a year of no-TA duties, allowing me to practice my desired goal of 6-8 hours a day, while still enjoying the rest of life (i.e., having time to visit Prairie Lights and go to the Bijou occasionally). That remains all a lovely dream, as now I have returned to being a real-live grown-up, much like before the reentry to graduate school. Which is only a little sad, and mostly super cool, because 1.) I reached my goal [college-level teaching] before I ever thought I'd get there, 2.) these jobs are almost impossible to get, 3.) I love my new job, except that I'm always wiped out at the end of the day when I get home, to which this is taking some adjusting, 4.) I have a new (new for me) house, which will be very cute and wonderful, when I get all the things in their proper places [note: this should be happening today, but this post is providing a respite from reorganizing the linen closet in the front hallway].

So anyway, I'm "back" to "blogging," for whatever that's worth. Evidently it's been about four months (FOUR MONTHS?!?) since my last post. That's a frickin' third of a year. That's kind of a long time. And often, changes within a period of four months aren't necessarily that noticeable on a day-to-day level, and even after that third of a year has passed, changes are small and perhaps negligible, at least in a big-picture sense. Not for me! In addition to a new job and new house, I also had the Summer of Epiphanies. Maybe this is what happens when you turn 35? Definitely much preferred to a Summer of Existential Crises.


There is no way I can properly articulate in a way that satisfies me (and quite probably, you) exactly *what* was so special and amazing about this summer, so perhaps just a brief factual listing of major events (essentially: piano boot-camp followed by meditation boot-camp) will suffice.

1. Went to PianoSummer at New Paltz. Got many different perspectives about my pieces, which inevitably led to my observations of many different perspectives about piano, and technique, and pedagogy, and music, and philosophy, and life. Met new, amazing, inspiring, passionate friends. Had many great piano lessons, and had a definitely life-changing piano lesson that illuminated many things for me, which is always an incredible and fascinating experience -- to be aware that this teacher is showing up to give you the information you need and are ready for at that time.

2. Went to Kripalu, a gorgeous, restorative retreat center in Western Massachusetts, to study mindfulness-based stress reduction. And all I can say about that (other than that I cannot wait to go back) is that one entire day of silent meditation can change your entire life. Also, yogadance, corny as it may sound, is really profound and powerful.

Yeah, ok, that description was as unsatisfying as the sixth Harry Potter movie. Oh well, you'll just have to believe me that the Summer of '09 was good for Ann.

Now, back to organizing. As tedious as it is (and it is! I know! Hence the procrastination!), I also know that I will be so much happier when it's all put away.

* * * * *

Listening to: whatever Pandora's serving up for me these days, today's top picks are Elvis Perkins ('While you were sleeping'), and Iron and Wine.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Inspiration in two parts


About a month ago one of my dear friends visited me. One of the many things I appreciate in this friend is his love of fine dining. He likes to eat -- and eat well -- as much as I do, if not perhaps even more. Since most of my friends in Iowa City are also graduate students, I rarely find other like-minded people on this subject. And if they are like-minded, some of the best options become cost-prohibitive for those of us who have to cough up tuition each semester. But enough about that. Ben visited, and many delicious meals were had by all. They were so good, I'm going to write about them here so that they live forever in my memory and on the world wide interwebs. 

Tuesday night, post-violin recital (also, end of semester celebration!): The Sanctuary. Him: short ribs, Templeton Manhattans (I think?). Me: cod, Peche Lambic. Mmmm, Peche Lambic. 

Wednesday: a delectable day of decadence: brunch at Hamburg Inn, an afternoon Simpsons-fest with my friend Sam, including beer (Beer! In the afternoon! While watching many favorite episodes of the Simpsons! And no homework!) and Hawk Wok*.  Dinner of tapas at Devotay included patatas bravas, chorizo, and chevre with pear chutney and crostini. (Sadly, too full to partake of dessert.) 

Thursday: Breakfast at the Bluebird Diner. Ben and I took a little road trip to the Maquoketa Caves State Park. What a cool place! The plan was to post 4 or 5 pictures from that afternoon here, but what with all the pictures of food (forthcoming), Blogger's cap of 8 MB has been reached. So they will be posted in a subsequent post. Here's a teaser: 

The plan was to take a more scenic way home; we drove through Anamosa and then went to Mount Vernon for the express purpose of eating at Lincoln Cafe. I've been wanting to eat there for three years. Finally!  

Before our meal began (Thursday dinner time, there was a bit of a wait and we didn't have reservations), we had some wine at the Lincoln Wine Bar, just down the block. When it was time for dinner, we ordered this amazing appetizer (no pictures, sadly) of fried oysters and something else (jicama?) and grapefruit slaw. Over the past few weeks I have craved this on a regular basis. Dinner was AMAZING. Oh wait, that's the second time in as many sentences that I've used the same adjective. Perhaps this will begin to convey to you the awesomeness that is Lincoln Cafe. I had sturgeon with shrimp, bacon, fava beans (close plate) and Ben had chicken, asparagus, can't remember what else (far plate). 

We also had to order dessert, of course. I had lemon-basil-chocolate pie. Ben had a buttermilk scone, maple ice cream, and applewood-smoked bacon. That's right. Bacon as part of the dessert. I asked Ben if he wanted to try some of my chocolate pie, and the response was, "I'm sticking with my ice cream and bacon." 

Friday: brunch at the oft-mentioned Fair Grounds. Dinner at one of my Iowa City faves, Atlas. Crab and cream-cheese spring rolls with mango sauce started off the meal. Ben had the special, which was a half-chicken, potatoes, and I don't remember what else. I had some pork, which was delicious. Chocolate cake for dessert. And don't forget the mojitos! Atlas makes the best mojitos ever. 

Saturday: lunch at Motley Cow. Yes, another Iowa City fave! (Told you this was a week of gastronomic wonderfulness.) Ben: salmon salad; Me: salmon sandwich with avocado and fries. After a lovely, leisurely afternoon (leisure! who'd have thought there is such a thing! it feels so very foreign while in school) perusing the downtown comic book shop (that was all Ben) and Prairie Lights book store, we saw a movie (Monsters vs. Aliens, 3-D) and went to the Coralville Reservoir. (Incidentally, my first time being there since last year's historic flood.) Saturday night we went to the Mill to hear The Pines. Good times!

Sunday: I bid farewell to my friend, after brunch at Lou Henri's. They don't seem to have a website, but you can find out info on them here. Ben: some sort of ham-egg-hash brown concoction called a Jackson; me: omelette with tons of veggies (tomatoes, avocado, broccoli, carrots, celery) and sausage. Coffee and orange juice all-round, because what would brunch be without coffee and orange juice? Also:  that Sunday marked the start of a return to exercise for me. Before grad school, I exercised almost every day. For the year and a half before I moved to Iowa, I only missed 17 days out of over 500. Then I came back to school and gained twenty pounds of lusciousness. I have now exercised about 75% of the days since then: walking 40 minutes, doing sit-ups and modified push-ups. Trying to make this lusciousness a little more seemly. 

The following Sunday, during a practice break, Rebekah and I ate brunch at the Motley Cow. I like the salt shaker:

* Ok, Hawk Wok does not qualify as fine dining. They do have some pretty good doughnuts, though. 


Did you know that the Van Cliburn piano competition finished about a week ago? It did. A person can go to the website and watch the archived recitals.  In fact, I watched many of the recitals streaming live. So cool! Some of my piano friends and I had totally geeky and awesome piano-pizza parties involving this competition. Right now I have Lukas Vondracek's recital on, but goodness, with all the volume controls turned up as high as possible, it's still awfully quiet. And for as lovely as his Bach is, does he really need to hunch over so much when he plays? What, does he fancy himself Glenn Gould? He's going to need a personal chiropractor on call if he continues that. 


I began this post a long time ago, maybe three weeks ago. Something didn't quite feel right about it and then I ran out of steam to revise it. No, I don't usually revise my blog posts, only my research papers. Anywho, originally, the next part of this post was:
but I have decided to eliminate most of what this chapter contained, even though it took me about two hours to write it. But it might be something you hear of in the future. Then again, it might not be. 

I finished a book recently (coincidentally given to me by the aforementioned Ben) called The Know-It-All: One Man's Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World. A. J. Jacobs, the author, undertook the excruciatingly arduous and admirable task of reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Actually, this sounds like the sort of thing I'd have been interested in when I was a teenager, back in the days before I became really serious about music. Anyway, there was a really hilarious sentence early on in the book, he said a particular person he knew had a "very casual relationship with the truth." Ha! I know some people like that. Although I'd be more inclined to say that they have very casual relationships with sanity. 

So, speaking of sanity, casual or not, have you seen the movie Synecdoche, NY ? I watched it last night and though maybe not utterly confused, I did feel fairly confused. Can't decide if it's a brilliant post-modern meta-referential film or a self-indulgent piece of clap-trap. Need to watch it again. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Blogging as a cure for insomnia?

You'd never know it from reading this blog, but I rarely suffer from insomnia. If you do read this blog, it may appear as though I have it all the time; this is not true. What is true is that when I can't sleep and don't have the mental capacity to do anything else, I blog. Lucky you. I am unsure why this is happening right now; I did have tea today, but it was before 1 p.m. No outrageously long naps (in fact, no naps at all). Hmm. Maybe it's post-choir concert adrenaline rush? I think I played pretty well, aside from one really LOUD clunker in the piano solo in 'Homeland'* (what can I say? It was a crescendo to ff, at least I played musically) and a little bit of rushing in Alma Caribe, which, oh yeah, was put together YESTERDAY for the first time. Lots of tricky rhythms in that one, like one downbeat followed by four measures of syncopations. But overall I was happy with how I played. After six semesters, this was my last Camerata concert (bye-bye TA, bye-bye funding, sniff). Anyway, I looked and looked for someone to go out with me after the concert, and no one would (seriously, I don't care if your boyfriend has 'pneumonia'), so instead of going out to eat pizza and drink beer, I came home and ate a handful of wasabi almonds and some dark chocolate. Maybe I should have had a beer. 

*Gustav Holst's 'Jupiter' from the Planets is one of the greatest melodies written. Ever. No one should be allowed to set patriotic clap-trap lyrics to it. Ever. And yet a certain Z. Randall Stroope did. His name says it all. Why oh why did Dr. Stalter allow this to be programmed? I hope that I forget these awful words immediately if not sooner. And if I don't, Z. Stroope, if I am cursed to forevermore associate you with 'Jupiter,' I wish only that there might be a special place reserved for you in the seventh layer of Dante's Inferno. 


Play a million and one voice recitals, check
Take listening exam* for post-1960 music**, check
Play choir concert for Camerata, check
Play portative organ for Kantorei, tomorrow (didn't have my camera handy tonight, but I hope to score a sweet picture to post here re: this organ)
Play penultimate voice recital, Sunday
Play ultimate voice recital (of the semester), sometime in June? [thanks be to incompletes]
Play C minor violin sonata by Grieg, Tuesday
Fail piano lesson because I've been doing too damn much accompanying, Tuesday
Go to Hawk Wok and have a Simpsons and beer marathon before collapsing, Wednesday 

*If I have calculated correctly, I think I got a 93 on this exam. Not as stellar as the 100 on the mid-term, but passable nonetheless. 

**What I loved on this exam:
Berio, Sinfonia, 3rd mvt. I think I could listen to it all day long.
Rochberg, String Quartet No. 3
Tan Dun, Death and Fire, Insert 2: Senicio (incidentally, Paul Klee's Senecio happens to be one of my favorite paintings)
Schnittke, Concerto Grosso No. 4, 1st mvt

What I liked on the exam:
Elliot Carter, String Quartet No. 3
Boulez, Notations, 2nd mvt
(both surprises, yes?)

What I never want to hear again:
Crumb, Night of the 4 Moons (bongos? seriously?)
Takemitsu, Piano Distance (Boulez already did all that, and I don't want to listen to that either)
Berio, Piano Sonata (Too. Damn. Long. There is no need for 23 minutes of this)

Finally, finally, my eyelids are drooping. I still sort of want that beer, but I want a complete REM cycle even more. Let's hope this attempt at sleeping is successful. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

Meet Me in St Louis


Actually, I was in St Louis yesterday, so it's too late for us to meet there. At least for this time around. This brief two-day trip was my first time ever in Missouri; I played a recital with my friend in Jackson, about 90 miles south of St Louis yesterday afternoon. Despite a few wrong notes, I felt that I played pretty musically and was able to stay in the moment -- so I consider it a success (especially at this crazy-busy time of year). On the way back to Iowa we detoured briefly through downtown to look at the arch and get some dinner. Here's the arch; it was a little rainy (sadly, the vignetting has crept back into my camera, since I STILL haven't had it fixed). 

Dinner was at an Irish Pub: 

We split a pretty good dessert, but I don't know if it's blog-worthy. My dinner was, though. It was decidedly not Irish, but it was delicious: spinach salad, chevre (melted in my mouth!), strawberries, candied pecans, red onions, blackened shrimp (mmm, spicy) in a honey-lime vinaigrette. YUM!  


Ok, this youtube video is really cute. It's not very long and you should take the two minutes to watch it. 


5 big things down; 6 things to go:

1. Listening exam.
2. Choir concert #1.
3. Choir concert #2 (the easy one).
4. Voice recital.
5. Violin sonata.
6. Other voice recital, but who knows when that is really going to happen. 

In a week it'll be almost over!  

AND, what's even better than that is this: going to Oyama on Wednesday night (friend's birthday) for the second time in a week. Oyama = Best. Sushi. Ever. Current favorite roll = Bellisumo Roll. Who'd have thought that macadamia nuts would be so good in sushi? 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Get Down, Monkey Around!


One of my classes is the Musicology/Music Theory Colloquium. Basically, I show up for one hour every week, and listen to the 50-minute lecturer. Sometimes they are guests from other universities; other times, professors or graduate students from UI who are preparing to present papers at conferences. This week the speaker was Dimitri somebody or other from Princeton, who was not only an engaging speaker (he didn't need to actually *read* the paper), but he also spoke on an interesting subject ('The Geometry of Music'). Usually it's one or the other, and often I find myself wishing that I'd brought a double espresso with me to colloquium. The other really great speaker this semester was Alan Walker, when he spoke on Franz Liszt. He was animated, articulate, and interesting, and his lecture displayed his encyclopedic knowledge of Liszt (well, he's been researching him for about 50 years, and that's not even an exaggeration). Perhaps my favorite part of his lecture was when he said something about how musicologists rarely exhibit any sort of imagination in their work. Watching the reaction of one of the musicologists in the audience -- disbelief, chagrin, outrage, all within the space of about 1 second -- was priceless. And I must say, I concur with Dr. Walker. Although, at the first colloquium of the semester, instead of a speaker, we had cookies. And these awesome napkins: 

Every time I see this, I get a techno-funk beat in my head. If I were to notate it, it would be in 4/4 time, with the following rhythm and text underlay: 

eighth rest, eighth note, quarter note, 4 sixteenth notes tied to a quarter :||
(rest)           Get                down,               Mon-key-A-round!             :||

What can I say, it's been a long semester. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009


BTW, the previous post, while begun on Sunday, April 12, was posted today: Saturday, April 25, 2009, approximately 10:50 p.m. CST. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

And now, a word from our sponsors: Food and Procrastination


One thing that I find funny (funny in the way that I find absurd things hilarious when no one else in the room is laughing, not even on the inside) is that the physics building on UI's campus, or as I like to call it, Van Alien Hall, has about 6 churches within two blocks of it. Yes, for some reason, that strikes me as intensely hilarious. I didn't even realize this until I'd been hanging up some posters in the upper floors of Van Alien some months ago, and looking out the window I saw a church spire, and in another direction, a different church spire, and another direction ... you get my drift. 

Sadly, the university has taken it upon itself to eliminate this quite wonderful piece of graffiti. Luckily I snapped this before the paint police came in. 

Speaking of things meta-physical, here's a belated photo story of Easter Brunch. As you may remember, I was quite excited to eat at Devotay. As you can see from the pictures, it was quite lovely and delicious: mimosa, coffee, applewood-smoked bacon, patatas bravas, poached eggs covered with portabella mushroom cream sauce. I must admit, however, that in years past (ok, the last 2), they had a buffet, which had a wide variety of mouth-watering dishes, including fresh grilled asparagus and this amazing chocolatey-torte thing. So I'd been really looking forward to those. Sadly, no brunch this year. Got my hopes up for nothin'. So while the meal was great ... it did let me down a little bit. Sigh. 

To make up for my disappointment, I went to the New Pioneer Co-op and bought this chocolate bunny, which you will notice is really a chocolate cake with a big frosting bunny on top. Easter isn't Easter without chocolate bunnies. 


I don't really have a million things to do, it just feels like that. 

Here's what I've done so far in the Final Chapter of Spring 2009:

1. Voice recital
2. Ligeti Piano Concerto Presentation

Here's what I have left in the next three weeks, in order of appearance:

1. Another voice recital, Tuesday the 28th
2. Liebermann Piano Concerto No. 2 Paper (have I started yet ...? what do you think?)
3. Another voice recital, Sunday the 3rd, in Missouri
4. Listening Final Exam with a bunch of post 1970 music. I have listened to some of this, just not a whole lot yet. 
5. Choir concert.
6. Another choir concert.
7. Another voice recital.
8. Violin recital ("just" one sonata)
9. Another voice recital

Plus I'm applying for a job. Applying for a college faculty position = good. Time it takes to update CV and write letter of interest = approximately forever. Seriously, I think I spent 10 hours on it this week. Maybe because I'm the slowest person in the universe. 

I can't wait until on or around May 13, when I can finally concentrate on practicing solo rep again! It's been slowly simmering away ... even though this year has felt rather non-productive 
in this arena, I have learned (memorized) the following:

Prokofiev 3rd Concerto
Liszt Petrarch Sonnets No. 47 and 104
Beethoven Op. 110
Bach Prelude in G WTC II (working on the fugue)

It's not slouchy. It's also not at the level I want it to be at. 
Luckily May is not far away! 


I finally went to today for the first time ever. GENIUS! Now I can watch recent Simpsons episodes. And I have. Fastest 22 minutes of the day. 

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

Best dessert of this week (remembering that Easter was more than a week away): the chocolate espresso pepper cookie at Fair Grounds. A close second place is the vanilla cupcake with lavender frosting from Bread Garden Market. 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

An oldie but a goodie

A Musical Joke: 

C, E-flat and G go into a bar. The bartender says, "Sorry, but we don't serve minors." 
So E-flat leaves, and C and G have an open fifth between them. 

After a few drinks, the fifth is diminished and the G is out flat. F comes in and tries to augment the situation, but is not sharp enough. 

D comes in and heads for the bathroom saying, "Excuse me, I'll just be a second." Then A comes in, but the bartender is not convinced that this relative of C is not a minor. 

Then the bartender notices B-flat hiding at the end of the bar and says, "Get out! You're the seventh minor I've found in this bar tonight!"

E-flat comes back the next night in a three-piece suit with nicely shined shoes. The bartender says, "You're looking sharp tonight. Come on in, this could be a major development." Sure enough, E-flat soon takes off his suit and everything else, and is au natural.

Eventually C sobers up and realizes in horror that he's under a rest. C is brought to trial, found guilty of contributing to the diminution of a minor, and is sentenced to 10 years of D. S. without Coda at an upscale correctional facility. 

 * * * * *

I'm the first to admit it's silly, but it does make me laugh every time I read it. 

Currently listening to: Andrew Bird, the Swimming Hour
and assorted Ray LaMontagne, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, the Roches, Aimee Mann and Peter Mayer

Looking forward to tomorrow's Easter brunch at Devotay. Third year in a row, a lovely and delicious tradition. Mimosas, asparagus, sausages, chocolate. Is it Sunday morning yet? 

Friday, April 10, 2009

This is how it works: you're young until you're not, you love until you don't, you try until you can't

Have you ever been kept awake by a piece of music? I don't mean the obnoxious upstairs neighbors playing their crappy hip-hop music at 2 a.m. (luckily, this doesn't happen to me!). I mean, there is a song playing on a loop in your head and it is going so strong that your thoughts don't quiet down to the point where you can blissfully leave consciousness. If you look at the time-stamp of this blog post, you might guess that this is currently happening to me. And you would be correct. I am listening to, in both my inner and outer ears, 'On the Radio' by Regina Spektor. It was on the radio (somehow, I don't think this song intends to be self-referential in a post-modern sense, but because of my current music history class, that's how I have started to interpret things) a few weeks ago and I heard it for the first time and it was one of those songs whose lyrics captivated me immediately. Plus it has a real catchy tune. Today I downloaded the album it's from, Begin to Hope. I guess it's my own fault that I can't get it out of my head; I put it on repeat before I went to bed and it's already crept into my iTunes top 25 most played songs. I'm sort of (sort of?!?) OCD about new songs ... as you can tell, I put them on repeat and listen to them over ... and over ... and over ... until the saturation point is reached. This often happens with songs to which I have a very direct, a raw honest emotional response. 'On the Radio' fits this description aptly at the current moment. 

This is how it works: you peer inside yourself.

Well, since I'm here, and the music in my head shows no signs of abating ... 


Went to the eye doctor yesterday for the first time in five years. I've been wearing glasses since I was nine years old and went religiously to have my eyes checked when I was younger. But in my adult years, the lack of appreciable deterioration in my (let's face it) already pretty terrible vision has led me to become lax in scheduling check-ups. But recently I've noticed that my right eye is pretty fuzzy when I read music on the piano rack, especially when I'm in not brightly lit areas or when I'm tired. Turns out, my vision is mostly the same, but the astigmatism has shifted slightly in that eye. GOOD! I'd like to get some new frames, since the ones I have, while still in good shape, have some paint chips. Kind of a lot, actually. What I'd really like is the exact same frame, since the shape looks good on my face, it's a nice color (chocolate, but really the color looks good on me), they are lightweight, they are thin at the temples, they have magnetic clip-on sunglasses (that in five years I have not lost or broken, even with a four-year-old nephew). Guess what? They are no longer manufactured. BAD! So I ordered some new frames. They might be a little out of my comfort zone, since they will be black and red, but I figured that I really like red and it looks as good on me as chocolate (the color, not the food). Also, they are rimless on the bottom and I really don't want new glasses that will make me look remotely like Sarah Palin, but I think I am safe from that. 

This is the second time in three months that I've had my senses checked. Ok, auditory and visual. But really, who gets their senses of smell, taste and touch tested? I rest my case. Everything is functioning well. GOOD! One of the tests they did yesterday was to take digital pictures of my retinas, which looked so cool. I stared, one eye at a time, no blinking, into this hole in this machine, at a green dot, surrounded by black, surrounded by a red circle, and then there was this weird experience that included a green swath of light when possibly the aliens got into my head and extracted my brain without my knowledge or consent. And afterwards I got to see my retinas on the computer screen, and they totally look like pictures of the horsehead nebula.  

BAD: stress I am starting to feel at all of the impending end-of-year school events. I can tell I'm stressed out when I'm playing piano, and my foremost thought is, "I don't want to be here doing this." That's called doing-too-many-things. Some of these things are recitals that people told me would happen long, long ago, before spring break, and they didn't happen then, and now they are being postponed so that a whole cluster of events in which I am performing will occur within, like, a four-day span. AAAAACK. Ann no function well. I think this means I need to raise my rates.   

SEMI-GOOD: some of these performances include Brahms. This is only semi-good because the Zigeunerlieder are bloody difficult. I suppose that's because I haven't actually PRACTICED them, per se, I just show up and sight-read them at tempo for lessons, and end up leaving out notes and playing quite a few wrong ones. Still have one month before that performance. GOOD! 

GOOD: only one page left of Beethoven Op. 110 until it's all memorized! VERY GOOD! 

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

Currently listening to: Regina Spektor, 'On the Radio,' but you already knew that. 

No desserts to report this week ... but I do think the London Fog at Starbucks (which is basically an Earl Gray Latte) conspires to empty my bank account. Rarely do I go to corporate coffee shops, but I happened to go on a recent road trip out of convenience. And now temptation in a 10% post-consumer-waste paper cup beckons to me. 

-I laugh until I cry, I cry until I laugh. 

Friday, April 3, 2009

'Yes, Iowa, the shining star of radicalism.'*

You've probably already heard about today's ruling from the Iowa Supreme Court (try this if the previous link doesn't work, you might have to dig around in the archives instead of going straight to the article). That's right, folks, in three short weeks, gay marriage will be legal in Iowa. I think people (myself included, before I moved here) assume that Iowa is of no special import. Well, we did choose Barack Obama in the January caucuses, and we have now recognized that marriage is about love between two people, regardless of gender. Hooray for Iowa! 

*quote from Gilead, Marilynne Robinson

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Beauty and gratitude, no fooling***

Today I decided that I would think about five things that I am grateful for each day. What with the post-flood-trauma of this school year (So! Many! Dreams! About! Floods! All this anxiety and it didn't even affect my house) on top of the ordinary insanity of graduate school, this seems like a simple way to keep stress under control. These lists probably won't all make it to this screen (I am an old-fashioned girl who keeps a paper-and-pen journal; actually, about four of them scattered about my place) but today's will. 


*the sunshine and the warm weather (especially since parts of North Dakota and Minnesota are, evidently, still blanketed in snow) 

*beginning my day with yoga practice

*Rose Petal Tea for the Queen of Hearts (with organic cream) this morning - beautiful.

*having memorized 14 of 18 pages of my Beethoven sonata ... almost there!

*receiving an unexpected gift of a free hour this afternoon in which I treated myself to more tea, a snack, and a really great musicology article. Yes, that seems like an oxymoron, I know. This might be the best musicology article I've ever read (not that I'm a musicologist, but I've read my share). In case you are interested in it, it is called "Text, Music, and Meaning in the Third Movement of Luciano Berio's Sinfonia," authored by one Michael Hicks and published in the 1981-82 Perspectives of New Music journal. This article has inspired me to (one day) read James Joyce's Ulysses. That is one darn powerful article. 


Everyone's idea of beauty is subjective, of course. But this website lists the 100 most beautiful words in the English language. Here are my favorites from the list:

Diaphanous (although it always reminds me of The Puzzle Master)
Evanescent (... guess I like the "E" words)

This list feels somehow lacking to me, though. So check back for my personal updates to it. Such as 


***Happy April Fool's Day to you! No jokes played on me this year; however, I did manage to fall off of a chair in public (don't ask), so I'll probably have a lovely rainbow-colored bruise on my butt by tomorrow morning. 

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

Best Dessert o' the Week: Chocolate (duh) Rosewater (notice any trends?) Cake at Fair Grounds Coffee House (surprise, surprise)

Currently not listening to: Pieta Brown playing live at the Mill, as I type this. Sadness. Too much homework. 

Currently listening to: 
Lowell Liebermann Nocturnes in my car (prepping for my lecture-recital/dissertation, which is at least a year out, but doesn't hurt to be prepared); 
Anne-Marie McDermott playing Bach English Suites and Partitas; 
Andrew Bird's new release Nobel Beast on

Friday, February 13, 2009

It probably won't help me translate those scholarly Ligeti articles ...

... but here is a German site that is amusing. Amusing in that whole I-find-humor-in-the-absurd way (which I do). 

And you know, for pianists, this maxim is certainly true:

"Gute Handgelenkarbeit ist sein größter Vorzug." 

Thursday, February 12, 2009

File under "Hilarious"

Before I forget, I stumbled across this rather good blog by pianist Jeremy Denk the other day. This post made me laugh and laugh. 

Things I Fail to Understand

This list, of course, is obviously much, much longer than what I can write in any one single blog post. Let's edit the title ... how about "Things I Fail to Understand on This Particular Thursday Night." 

1. Why is there home construction in the middle of winter, all winter long?

2. Why do they start working at 6:30 in the morning?

3. Why are they even building at all, when the recession has not only slowed the housing market down to a veritable crawl, it's a veritable crawl backwards? 

4. There's this meme (meme? I think that's the word I want) circulating around Facebook, "25 Random Things About Me," or whatever each person who posts it chooses to name it. I occasionally take the time to read the ones my friends post.* **  So, I read two within a week of each other, in which both people, who have achieved/are very close to achieving their terminal degrees in music, write things like, "Practicing is a chore," or "I feel no joy in what I do," or "Composing is a process that makes me miserable," or "I've been waiting eight years to enjoy my degree program and I'm still waiting." Yes, this I totally fail to understand. Here's my thought on this: YOU DON'T LIKE IT? DON'T DO IT. It's hard enough to make a decent living being a musician if you absolutely love it. 

*And I've been tagged in a bunch of these lists, so now I feel sort of obligated to write one myself. Been too busy lately. Maybe someday. 
** "Friends" = "Facebook Friends" which opens up a whole other related category of things I don't understand, to be discussed in #5.

5. Facebook. Love it. Hate it. It sucks time away like no other. I do think it's nice to stay connected to friends, and for whatever reason, it holds more sway for me than email. Maybe it's just that you are connected to everyone's daily pulse. But anyway, that's not what I don't understand. What I fail to understand is this: someone, let's call her Mel, recently requested to be my friend. Mel evidently went to undergrad with me. I have only the vaguest of vague notions of who she actually is, probably I read her name in the alumni update or something. I have zero -- let me reiterate this, ZE-RO -- recollection of Mel from undergrad. And no, it's not because of any substances I ingested. This is a person I've simply never spoken to in my life. She didn't live in my hallway, she didn't have the same major as me, we didn't have any classes together. And more than a decade after graduation, when internet social networking becomes über-popular, she decides to be my "friend." Ok, fine. You're entitled to do that. But I am equally entited to reject your request. And thus I rejected the friend invite. Call me old-fashioned, but the people who are my friends on Facebook are people who I've actually spoken to. If only a couple of times, but still, I have spoken with them. I can recognize them on the street and say hi to them. A week later, she requested my friendship again. Why do you think I'm going to change my mind if you ask a second time? In that time, the amount of her Facebook friends more than doubled, from 200 to over 500. This makes me especially want to reject any friendship overtures, since I've now become part of the ooh-look-at-me-I'm-as-popular-as-I-was-in-fucking-high-school reason for joining Facebook. Anyway, I haven't actually clicked the "ignore" button on my home page. But I am ignoring it, by which I mean I am not going to confirm a non-existent friendship. 

6. Why does the ScrabbleBeta* application in Facebook** flip-flop the points from the penultimate and ultimate moves of a game, thereby rendering the players' scores inaccurate, and in some cases, changing the outcome of the game? And why does ScrabbleBeta, hereafter known as SuckFest, sometimes lose actual plays already made, like, three or four of them? SuckFest, get your act together. 

*Scrabulous was so much better. ScrabbleBeta does not even hold a candle to it. 
** Promise, this is the last Facebook rant. 

7. Why are people who joined and then subsequently left Facebook* showing up for a week in my search bar when they no longer belong to Facebook?  

*Okay, I lied. This is the last Facebook rant. 

8. What in the world possessed Karlheinz Stockhausen, God rest his soul, to compose a string quartet that is to be played in helicopters?
Probably the answer to that is that he was kooky, but don't quote me on that. 

9. Why did I come home and start researching my next music history presentation on Ligeti's Atmospheres when I could have had a beer and read something for pleasure?

10. Why are all of the relevant journal articles about Ligeti's Atmospheres written in German? Well ... I guess I can plow my way through one or two of them, but it won't be pretty. At least it won't be in Danish. Speaking of Danish articles, the nice thing about this Kreuzspiel analysis is that you don't really have to read the language to see the coolness of the matrices. [Kreuzspiel translates as Cross-play, and you can see the crosses evident in the diamond matrices, which show how Stockhausen serialized and transformed the rhythms of the tumbas and the tom-toms.]

11. Why am I still awake when I could have gone to sleep "early" after my imaginary beer? I think I'll go to sleep now, although it is no longer early by any stretch of the imagination. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

VI - IV - I - V :II

Now for your listening pleasure, Take on Me shows up again. Along with 30+ other songs. 
I have to think more about this ... does it demonstrate 
1) genius? 
2) the ignorance of the music-listening public? 
3) that humans as listeners are easily satisfied with this simple chord progression? 
4) that there is something innately beautiful and logical in its make-up (perhaps due to the overtone series), analogous to the golden section, which is why we are so attracted to it? 
I need more than 30 seconds to think about this, but that may come at a later time, since I have to run off and play the pianer for $$$ right now. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I haven't read this yet, but I'm putting it here so I don't forget that I want to read it. (The once faithful steel trap has been eroding lately ...) Don't have time to read it now! Must continue the new semester's discipline* and begin practicing! On to the scale marathon, Liszt, and Prokofiev! 

*I've gotten up before 8 a.m. and done yoga for two consecutive days now! Yes, you should be proud of me. 

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Insomniac grumblings from the bed (which is in a different room than the piano)


I have my doubts. This evening one of my little piano students, Daniel, from the Suzuki music school where I teach*, had his book 1 play-through party. Congratulations, Daniel! He did a great job, as I knew he would. Afterwards, his family had a dinner with lots of their friends over, as many people often do for play-through parties. After the beer, food, wine, and dessert, there was tea. It was very good tea, as Daniel's family is Chinese, they served Pu-erh from China. They assured me it was caffeine free. 4 cups and several hours later, I'm not so sure it was ...

*I have a lot of good students at this school. I had a lot of good students at the other school where I taught, but there were a fair share of, uh, mediocre and less-than-highly enthusiastic students there too. The ones that think that when I wave my magic wand that they'll instantly be able to play Linus and Lucy, or Für Elise, or whatever is the rage of the day. Anyway, I am quite pleased with my students at my current school. Now if only I didn't teach in the basement ...


After Daniel played, the family's friend Audrey asked me if I would play something. Uh .... ok. Let's see, I have the Prokofiev 3rd concerto memorized* and some brand-spankin'-new Liszt. As in I just finished memorizing it about two days ago. Since it wasn't a very intimidating crowd, I played it. [It = Sonetto del Petrarca, 47 from Deuxieme Annees de Pelerinage, forgive the lack of accents.] It went ok for the first time out, now I know what I have to work on. ** When I finished, Daniel handed me a card that said (this is his seven-year old spelling): "Your a super star." 

*On an upright and with no second piano, I'm not sure anyone would want to hear it (ok, really I wouldn't want to play it). 

**Since I'm playing it in about three weeks for the Franz Liszt festival our university is holding. Alan Walker is going to be here!  Yes, this Alan Walker. He is going to be here! And I am playing in a festival that he will be part of! And I'll get to meet him! So! Cool! 


You would probably be shocked to know that EVERY DAY I think about coming here and writing. I do. I think, "I should take a little jaunt over to blogger and write something interesting, or at the very least, show these three or eight or nineteen interesting links that I have recently come across." Obviously this does not happen. I think, in part, this is because I feel sort of identity-less here. In some ways, that's good, I mean, I like the level or non-level of anonymity I can choose and thus create. What I mean about my particular space being identity-less is that most blogs or online diaries or what have you seem to have some sort of purpose. You know, this person's blog is about ... (stealing my friends' topics as examples) wine. This person's blog is about photography. This person's blog is about new music. Sometimes you get someone like Mimi Smartypants* whose blog isn't about anything specific per se, but it's an interesting and humorous online diary that is worth reading. I have been wrestling (have I really been wrestling with this? ok, perhaps I'm getting too dramatic because it is in fact so late and I do in fact have too much caffeine rushing through the bloodstream) with the purpose, or more precisely, lack thereof, for this cyberspace entity. I think it's because whatever product that I put out there and ends up here, I want it to be articulate and interesting, and whatever shoddy showing I've done recently fails to accomplish even that. So. Here's to a new year** and a new resolution. 

*Yes, I know I've linked to her before. Her comic genius has made me laugh aloud several times. This is why she gets the multiple links, even though she trashed blogs that start with "Random thoughts ..." I defend my title. They're random entries that generally have no particular threads linking them. Also, I still consider myself a neophyte to some of the more, um, I don't know how to say this ... the internet phenomena that used to be real geeky and somewhere around five years ago turned normal/cool, so it's not like I'm even aware of these other blogs that evidently share my name. (Am I always this late jumping on the band wagon? Maybe I'm so late it's not so common anymore.) Also I'm not creative enough to come up with a different title for my sporadic entries. So there. The end. 

**It's still a new year, right? It's January. Also it's Chinese New Year next weekend. 


This has been a great break. I'd classify it as the most restful vacation I've had for two years. Here's what I've been doing:

Yoga, occasionally.
Practicing, 3-5 hours a day.
Little organizing projects around my house (I would have liked to accomplish more in this arena, but sleeping in on many occasions took care of that).
Eating out (Fair Grounds coffee house, Bluebird Diner, Devotay, Oyama Sushi). 
Borrowing DVDs from the public library and watching them on my MacBook.

Here's what I've watched, roughly in chronological order:

There Will Be Blood
The Book of Life
Maxed Out
The Manchurian Candidate
The Yes Men
Kilowatt Ours
Curse of the Golden Flower
The End of Suburbia
Everything is Illuminated

I think I will spare you my opinions and commentary this time around, but I will say this: The Yes Men made me laugh out loud. Zoo made me cringe. 


I hope it was as good for you as it was for me. 


For quite some time, I've been a little ... hmm, not sure "worried" is the right word ... how about preoccupied with the notion that my hearing has suffered some sort of a loss. Mostly because if I'm in a loud place and I'm trying to hold a conversation, it's all but impossible for me to discern what the other person is saying to me. Thursday I got my hearing tested (yup! I braved the -55 windchill for the sake of my hearing. I am a true musician) and I am happy to report that my hearing falls within the normal range. Although my right ear hears better than my left ear -- at some frequencies, by as much as 20 or 30 decibels (I guess this is kind of weird). I did notice during the testing that I am definitely right-ear dominant -- to listen to sounds in speakers, I leaned in with my right ear. Here's why I have a hard time in a loud place: the normal range for people is to be able to hear -2 to -5 decibels below the "noise", and I hear -1.6 decibels below the noise. Interesting. Whew, glad I'm not going deaf.