Thursday, May 28, 2009

In memory...

I found out this week that my thesis adviser and the chair of the Music History department at SMU, Dr. Donna Mayer-Martin, passed away on Sunday, May 24th. I've felt a wide range of emotions over the last few days. Dr. M-M was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year but her death was sudden and unexpected.

I began studying musicology midway through my masters degree in piano performance and pedagogy mostly because of her influence, inspiration, and encouragement. It is a strange feeling to know she'll never read my completed thesis - a document covered with her fingerprints on a subject inspired by her passion for both medieval and nineteenth-century French culture and music.

The last time I saw my teacher and adviser we spent a day together at her house eating croissants from her favorite bakery and talking about music, my thesis, life, and books. I was able to give her a letter that day letting her know what she meant to me and I had the opportunity to say goodbye. I'm very grateful for that experience. She told me then that just in case her treatment did not go as planned she had compiled a list of the music she wanted played at her memorial service.

It was harder and more emotional than I had expected to hear that music in a small campus chapel today at a truly beautiful service in her memory. Here is a quote I included in the note I gave her and a piece that was sung today (an excerpt from G. Fauré's Requiem that has long been a favorite of mine).

We are never real historians, but always near poets, and our emotion is perhaps nothing but an expression of a poetry that was lost.”
~ Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space


"Merciful Lord Jesus, Grant them rest, rest everlasting."

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

This guy does not look like Igor...

Admittedly, this movie (that closed the Cannes festival this week) looks a tad predictable and tedious and I'm not terribly impressed with Mad Mikkelsen's Stravinsky from the little you see of him in this trailer. Regardless, I can't wait to see it, if only for the first 30 seconds of the preview. After that, meh...

The 1913 premier of Le Sacre du Printemps is one of the most famously dramatic artistic events in history and is a great setting for the beginning of a film.

"We warred over art," wrote the New York Press critic, Carl Van Vechten in his account of the evening.

Interestingly, in Rites of Spring, Modris Eksteins suggests that while there was certainly an uprising of sorts, the audience's response may not have been as impassioned as is often suggested. In fact, he points out that several "first hand accounts" are likely fabricated. "Some people," Eksteins points out, "like Gertrude Stein, so captivated, even if in restrospect, by this early twentieth-century "happening," have implied that they were present when they clearly were not. Can one blame them? To have been in the audience that evening was to have participated not simply at another exhibition but in the very creation of modern art, in that the response of the audeince was and is as important to the meaning of this art as the intentions of those who introduced it."

Aleatoric minimalism (a la YouTube)...

It's like Terry Riley a whole step lower. DO try this one at home, kids.

Click here.

Oh, and this is fun, too.

On fines and fees...

Rules. I like them. I make them all the time. For instance,"I can only eat ice cream once a week this summer," or "I am not allowed to download anything else on iTunes until July," or "I will stop using so many ellipses in emails and blogs."

You get the point.

Probably the only thing I enjoy more than making rules is breaking them. One of my biggest rules is, in fact, that all of my rules are meant to be broken at least on occasion. Afterall, according to one of my favorite clichés, rules were made for that distinct purpose.

This month my trusty always-break-the-rules rule bit me in the proverbial ass. Or, more accurately, it cost me a pretty penny.

First, I got a speeding ticket and waited too long to call about it (Because I was busy, yo! I need more than 15 days to deal with shit like that. What's the hurry Plano Police Department??). Anyway, the speeding and the not responding combined was enough to put a rather sizable dent in the old bank account. On top of that, I wracked up insane amounts of library fees (as is my M.O. and an annual end of the school year frustration).

Today I decided to face reality and pay some fees and fines like a responsible adult. What happened? I left the library and found a parking ticket on my car. Now, I have used this parking lot for over 3 years and NEVER gotten a ticket. But today, on my day-of-fines-and-fees-reckoning, I got a giant yellow ticket. Seems they changed the rules on me. Stupid big shiny new white sign explaining this switcheroo, why did I not see you even though you were, actually, big, shiny, white, and right in front of my face?

Insult, consider yourself added to my injury.

In conclusion, I'm still a big fan of breaking rules.** I will probably eat ice cream 3-4 times a week (Texas is too hot. There's no way around it). I will also probably download the new Grizzly Bear album on iTunes today (even though it is streaming free on their myspace page), and I will never...ever...stop using ellipses....

**Please note this personal policy no longer applies to rules for which the consequence of breaking said rules involves inordinate fines and fees.

Friday, May 22, 2009


It's Cliburn time in Texas. Over on the Art and Seek blog Olin Chism reviews the contestants' repertoire choices and points out that there are no fewer than 36 potential performances of Liszt (not surprisingly, Chopin and Beethoven are tied for second with 34 potential performances each). For more on repertoire, read this post. Other Cliburn news/schedules are here.

I have mixed feelings about the Cliburn competition and piano competitions in general. Judging at this level is subjective (as is the nature of judging in the arts) and the outcome of the Cliburn competition is rarely a true measure or predictor of future success. Scott Cantrell of the Dallas Morning News wrote a great piece on this topic. Read it here. To add to my mistrust of the Van Cliburn in particular, I was really surprised by the selections made for this year's competition. After watching the screening auditions in Fort Worth earlier this semester, I felt the judges chose personality and celebrity over musicality and technical ability. I was pretty shocked by the selection of performers who I felt gave clearly sub-par performances. It seemed apparent that judges had favorites going in, and did not judge solely on the audition.

That said, it seems appropriate to listen to this today:

(Van Cliburn playing Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12)

And in related news, I can't help but love this song. I tried to resist, but it gets stuck in your head and it really isn't half bad. I'd say this is one of only a handful (if not the only) musicologically-themed music videos around. It's a band (black skinny jeans, shaggy hair and all) playing on the steps of Bayreuth and visiting the Liszt museum. Now THAT is a music video...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ira says (quote of the day)...

"Teaching music is like any teaching except that when you fail, it is loud. And failure is so easy. Every note is a chance to mess up."
~ Ira Glass

From an old This American Life episode on music lessons. You can listen to the entire episode here (it includes an excerpt of David Sedaris singing commercial jingles in Billie Holiday's voice).

Monday, May 18, 2009

Time (killing it)...

1. "Paint" (click to change color and drag)

2. "Compose Music"

The person who did the above clip is currently my hero.

3. Watch TV

"No duh to the max, Dick..."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Deep Blue Sea, Darlin'...

I love a rainy Saturday...especially just before the inevitable onslaught of the oppressive Texas sun. I've had this song on repeat all day. I will never tire of this song and I just decided that I've loved it long enough and hard enough to move it over to my "all time fav" playlist. It's a very exclusive list. Happy induction to the list, Daniel Rossen...

Deep Blue Sea - Dan Rossen of Grizzly Bear

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A day in the life of moi...

6:00am - Try to wake up in time to go for a run.

6:10, 6:20, 6:30, 6:40 - Fall asleep, hit snooze, repeat...

7:00am - Give up on the run and make coffee instead. Grade, grade, grade.

10:00am - Sign lease on new apartment.

10:30am - Get more coffee.

11:00am - 1:00pm - Meeting with professor about thesis. Discuss methodology, minimalism, and nineteenth-century French fascination with the occult.

1:00-1:10 - Daydream about the dissertation I will write at Columbia in 3 years...

1:10 - 3:00pm - Eat Mexican food and drink a margarita (or two) with a friend visiting from out of town.

3:15pm - Get coffee to cure lingering buzz from margaritas.

3:30pm - 8:30pm - Teach 7 piano lessons. Give very serious and thoughtful feedback about such pieces as "The James Bond Theme," "Singin' the Blues," and "Sonatina in G No. 3."

9:00pm - Sit down to finish grading papers. Too tired. Make a cup of coffee. Still can't focus. Read things on the internet. Blog. Grade two more papers. This is boring as hell. Answer emails from piano student's parents about scheduling and what type of cupcakes we want at the recital Saturday. Write a final exam. Grade one more paper. Seriously, boring as hell.

11:00pm - Give up on papers (these kids can wait two days for their effing projects!). Set alarm for 5:30am (so I can maybe-just-maybe get these papers graded by tomorrow morning at 8am after all...)

11:05pm - Head. On. Pillow. Goodnight, moon!

Friday, May 8, 2009

You know it is the end of the semester when...

1. You are averaging 3-4 hours of sleep a night.
2. Um...I don't know...I'm too tired to think of a two.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

You know what's worse than catching swine flu?

Listening to this composition based on the genetic sequence of the H1N1 virus by Stephan Zielinski. Read about it here.