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. 

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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. 

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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! 

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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. 

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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