Monday, June 29, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

Oh yeah! Something else a little different for a change! Rhapsody in Blue is a good deal more modern than a lot of classical music we've ranted about before, and the whole aesthetic is a lot different. The whole feel is very urban and jazzy, and holy shnikes! Is that some righteous piano action, or not? But the piano isn't the only instrument that totally gets to showcase in this song. The opening clarinet solo is one of the most famous beginnings in all of music! In this righteous little solo, the clarinet player actually performs a glissando, which is a real stunt on a woodwind! And then there's the brass! There is plenty for the brass to do, and they totally go nuts! It must be fun to be a trumpet player in this song!
The moods of the piece vary, and it travels through several different emotions. The crazy piano parkour is contrasted with a gentle and swelling middle section.

Next Up: Turkish Fragments: 'Caravan' and 'During the Rest' by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Storage Room: Office Volunteering

I've done a bit of volunteer work at my orchestra's offices, and it's fun! Yeah, got to lug some string instruments to storage, and did a TON of music filing (which was cool, actually). It's pretty righteous. Sometimes office work gets a little tedious, especially when you have like, 15 cellos you have to drag to storage, but all in all, I think it was good work experience! And I got a comic idea out of it. ;)

If you can't read the writing, here's the script.

Rene: Allright, I'm here! Marisol! I didn't know you volunteered at the orchestra office!
Marisol: Yah! It's a good way to rack up favoritism points! So we have to sort through all these papers.
Rene: Last concert's program...
Marisol: Page nine of the Rhapsody in Blue score... someone's apple tart recipe, I think I'll keep this!
Rene: Fyodor Kovalchuck's Enemies List?!
Mr. Kovalchuck: Ooh, I was looking for that!
Rene & Marisol: .......


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

La Cenerentola

We watched the opera version of Cinderella by Rossini last week, and it was such fun!
I don't really like opera that much (Though a few years ago we got tickets to see the Barber of Seville, and it was GREAT!), but this one was really fun! I think that I might actually like a few operas, but I've been turned off just because it's usually so hard to understand what the deuce is going on. Thankfully, somebody invented subtitles. XD
So anyway, the DVD we watched was of a live stage performance, and it was really good! The actors all gave very solid performances, especially the Stepfather and Cinderella herself (actually named Angelica in this version!). The lyrics and dialogue were very witty, and I laughed out loud frequently! The music was pretty good. My main issue with opera is that the music is just kind of all over the place. Like, all the songs are just extended cadenza for the diva to show off her soprano-ness. But I didn't mind it so much in this one. Angelica, the lead, is a Mezzo Soprano (Yay!!), so there isn't quite as much insanity music-wise. The music was very peppy and in some spots, absolutely charming. I have to say, I really liked this take on the Prince!
So all in all, this was fun to watch!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: Trois Gymnopedies by Erik Satie

So! After all this intricately orchestrated music, I thought it would be fun to slow down and take a look at a Piano piece that is very quiet and low-key (And one that I can actually play with competence!). What better to fill that role, than Gymnopedie by Erik Satie, the poster child of eccentric French Impressionist composers!
So, there are 3 Gymnopedies. They are all basically the same melody, but each one is subtly different! The first one is 'Lent et Douloureux', or 'Slow and Painful, the second one is 'Let et Triste' (Slow and Sad),and the last is 'Lent et Grave' (Slow and Serious).
Erik Satie referred to his music as 'Furniture Music', meaning that he himself found his music to be very ambient and low-key. I really like the minimalistic nature of these pieces. It's very relaxing and kind of sends your mind on a little journey. It's pretty cool that there is so much emotion and depth in the simple-ness of these pieces. :)

Next Up: Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas

Oh yeah, who doesn't like The Sorcerer's Apprentice? Unlike some classical music, this piece is usually considered pretty accessible. Mostly due to it's use in Fantasia, but it was also very popular before that too.
Now, this piece is what we call a Scherzo (Italian for 'I Joke', or 'I Play'), and I think that is a really good way to describe it! The music ranges from very mysterious to light and playful, and eventually becomes dark and uncontrollable. This is of course, due to the piece's nature as a tone poem! We all know the story, which is basically about a young magician who decides to try out some of his master's tricks, and it eventually gets way out of hand.
In both terms of Mood and Technical stuff, this piece is tricky. On the Mood side, we have to create a playful, sometimes foreboding, always enchanting atmosphere. On the technical side, you have to deal with accidentals peppered all over the place, and time signatures like 9/16.
The orchestration for this piece is very good. There is a terrific part for Bassoon, and lots of action for the Percussion section, as well! Also a great part for our Chummy, the Piccolo. ;)

Next Up!: Gymnopedie by Erik Satie

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jean Valjean Appreciation Post

Sometimes we all get so enraptured by the boundless and interesting side characters in Les Miserables that we forget all about the main character. You know, Javert is cool, Enjolras is blonde and blue eyed all revolutionary-like, and Gavroche is just so dang cute. But aside from being as strong as the Hulk, is there anything fun about Jean Valjean? He's saintly and admirable, but is there any conflict in him? Is he even relatable? I've been giving it some thought (Yes, I waste my time thinking about stupid things, shush), and the answer is yes.
I'd say that the perception of Jean Valjean being a flat saint is mostly due in part to the musical *cough*bringhimhome*cough*. But even in the musical, Jean Valjean is a very interesting character. You see in the Prologue that he's hardened and bitter from 19 years in prison. Then that act of unexpected mercy from the Bishop of Digne turned his world upside down, we all know the story, right? Valjean's Soliloquy is a very dramatic song because it shows a change of character that happens in a very short time. Even though he makes his decision to try and live a good life, Valjean still struggles with temptation, just like all us. I mean, Who Am I anyone? This song is one of my favorites from the musical, and I love how at the beginning he's tossing around his options, but eventually realizes that he must do what is right. Of course, for the rest of the play, Jean Valjean's is pretty much French Santa Claus, being good and saintly.
It would have been interesting if Bring Him Home was more about Valjean begging God to give him the strength to do what's right, that way the audience could see him once more fight his way through temptation. In the book, Jean Valjean hated Marius even as he was carrying him through the sewers. It was very brave of him to do what he knew was right, even if he didn't particularly want to. But you know, Bring Him Home is pretty, so I guess that's okay too.
At the risk of sounding morbid, I'd just like to finish up here by saying that I like how the story ends with Jean Valjean's death. I know, it sounds weird, but hear me out. There are a ton of subplots, some bigger than others, but all serve the same purpose in the narrative, and that would be the furthering of Valjean's journey to eventual salvation. I think that the book (and musical) ending with Valjean's death makes for a lovely, complete, and ultimately satisfying end to his long struggle.
I think Jean Valjean is relatable, even though I'm not a sixty year old man who spent a heckuvalotta time in prison. He's relatable because he's a person who made some mistakes in the past, and is doing his best to overcome them. He's scrupulous, he's scared of giving into temptation. To some that might seem like self-righteousness, but c'mon. Self-Righteous is the last word I would use to describe Jean Valjean.
So! I guess that's it, I hope you enjoyed reading my gargantuan text bricks. :)

Monday, June 15, 2015

Book Memes Fer Dayzz

Hee hee, these are fun!
1: What's the first book you can remember reading as a child?
A Snow White and the Seven Dwarves board book. An also my little kid church missal. It was called 'My Picture Missal', but I misread it as 'My Priest's Missal', and proudly told my aunt what I thought it was called, saying "I can read!" Oops. XD
2: Do you have any playlists you listen to while reading?
Hm.... a lot of the time, music distracts me while I read, so not really. Sometimes I have on Claude Debussy.
3: Where's your favorite place to read?
4: Have you ever recommended a book that ruined someone else's life? What was it?
Whaaaaaaaat? Whaaaaaaaaaaat?! No comprendo!
5: Which book had the greatest impact on your life?
I have a book with Fulton J. Sheen's essays in it, and his writing really helps me to understand my faith better. :)
6: Which author would you be thrilled to go out for coffee with?
Dean Koontz!
7: What questions would you ask your favorite author given the chance?
I don't know! I do wonder what Fyodor Dostoevsky was going to with Alyosha's character in the other two books he was planning to write. And I'd like to ask Dean Koontz what the dealio with Annamaria is...
8: Which character can you relate to most?
My sister says I remind her of Meg from A Wrinkle in Time. I also relate a lot to Sophie from Howl's Moving Castle.
9: Do you have a goodreads account?
Considering it, but I do most of my book ranting on here.
10: Do you read fanfiction?
No, but I'm not so opposed to it that I would refuse to read some if a friend of mine wanted me to read her story.
11: Do you watch any booktubers?
Erm, I don't think so? What's a booktuber?
12: What's the prettiest book cover you've seen?
Well, there's this one! It has nice colors and a very ambient atmosphere!
This one is a very cute, and the design to me is very evocative of the ending scene!
I know this one isn't conventionally beautiful, but I love the composition. I'm no good at analyzing art, but there's something very interesting about how Sydney and the Seamstress are the only ones in full color here. It's like despite all the misery around them, it doesn't matter because they [cue romantic music] have each other. Aww.
13: Have you ever met any authors in person?
No, I don't think so. Well, I did meet a local author who autographed a dinosaur story book for me. I was like, 7.
14: If you had to switch lives with one book character, who would it be?
I don't know, all the ones I know are tragic! Oh wait, Emma!
15: If you were to live in any universe from books you've read, which would it be?
I really am enthralled with the universe that Howl's Moving Castle takes place in! But It'd also be cool to live in Alexandre Dumas' more fantastical and swashbuckling version of 19th Century Europe! Except for the fact that I would probably be dead in minutes from poisoning or dueling or both. XD!
16: What is the absolute worst book you've ever read?
17: Preferred reading format-- ebooks, physical books, or both?
I'm cool with both! I like paper books better, but when during the school year when I was taking classes up in the big(ger) city, my kindle was perfect.
18: When is the best time to read a book (in your opinion)?
Anytime. ;) I personally read most during the night hours, but I'm a Night Owl. ;)
19: Which movie adaptations of a book were actually amazing and which made you cringe?
Well, the Sense and Sensibility from 1995 is really good. So is the adaptation of Coraline! One that just made me cringe though was some version of A Tale of Two Cities from the 80's. They really just butchered a lot of the characters and plot elements. And the Tale of Despereaux movie was so awful!!
20: What are your top 3 favorite books?
Les Miserables, A Tale of Two Cities, The Brothers Karamazov, Emma, The City, and The Count of Monte Cristo. Sorry, can't pick just 3!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Storage Room: Auditions

Auditions are horrid. They're the lousy thing you have to go through to get to where you want to be, and I don't like them. I especially don't like the little clipboards that they feel the need to obsessively write down all your mistakes on. Grrrrrrrrrrr.
So then I thought, "Hey! What if they aren't writing down all my sins, but instead something harmless and/or funny?"
Hence, this.
If this is too blurry, then I'll replace the picture.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: In the Steppes of Central Asia by Alexander Borodin

“In the silence of the monotonous steppes of Central Asia is heard the unfamiliar sound of a peaceful Russian song. From the distance we hear the approach of horses and camels and the bizarre and melancholy notes of an oriental melody. A caravan approaches, escorted by Russian soldiers, and continues safely on its way through the immense desert. It disappears slowly. The notes of the Russian and Asiatic melodies join in a common harmony, which dies away as the caravan disappears in the distance.”
-Alexander Borodin's notes on the score

I think Borodin's note there says more about the piece than I ever could. I really love this song, because of the many layers and different textures, and the underlying theme of cultural harmony.
This song isn't very difficult to play; the difficulty rather lies in capturing the mood. You have to be very mindful of the setting. You can't just be playing in a concert hall, you have to envision yourself in this very foreign place, where you're not entirely comfortable.
The structure of the piece is quite interesting. We begin with the violins, playing a very high, but very quiet harmonic note, quite evocative of desert heat. The music grows from there, with the melodies becoming stronger, and going from being rather nervous and uncertain, to sounds of joy and harmony. As the piece begins its slow and gradual decrescendo, both the Russian melody and the Asian melody are played at the same time, and the violins start playing their harmonic again. The piece finishes out with a lovely flute solo, which is in theory, very easy to play, but look at the dynamic markings...
Wow, FOUR piano markings? Sheesh, howabout I just don't play at all? ;) But impossible dynamics aside, enjoy the music! Close your eyes, and let it take you somewhere far away!

Next Up: The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas or Gymnopedie by Erik Satie

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Still Life: Phones

Cell Phone sizes throughout the years!
I um... accidentally colored that guy's hair purple because I was coloring in low light. Which I shall never do again! :D

Monday, June 1, 2015

Still Life: The End of Orchestra Season

Heehee, I have been posting way too much about orchestra lately, n'est-ce pas?
But anyway, me and Libby are sad (in a relative sense, that is) because Orchestra season is over, and it won't be back until September, and orchestra sure has been awesome lately.
Then I remembered that the conductor probably needs us to go on break, to, y'know, preserve his sanity.
Hence, this comic.
By the by, that snapped in half object is not a banana. Or a breadstick. It's supposed to be a baton. XD