Thursday, July 23, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: Bolero by Maurice Ravel

I am so pumped out about this piece!
Bolero is a relatively modern piece, written around 1928, and originally commissioned as a ballet by Ida Rubinstein. The interesting thing about this piece is that it is the same two themes repeated over and over and over again (about 8 times each, I think), but it is always building and changing orchestration. The piece grows from very quiet, with various solo parts, to absolutely massive with the whole orchestra playing! There is also some brief bitonality! Bitonality is where two or more instruments are playing together- but in DIFFERENT key signatures! At the Piccolo's entrance two measures after Rehearsal 8, the Piccolo is playing in G major, second Flute (doubling Piccolo also) is playing in E Major, and the Horn is playing in C major! The result is a sound you don't usually hear in classical music; a very odd sounding harmony that doesn't sound quite right, but nonetheless just works, despite all your music theory knowledge is telling you.
All through Bolero, the snare drum (and other instruments) are playing a rhythm that never stops at any point in the whole piece. This gives Bolero a rather mechanical, or determined sound. Maurice Ravel envisioned an open air setting with a factory going calmly in the background while writing this, which I think really matches the tone of the music.
The instrumentation is for a large orchestra, including a couple of Saxophones! So cool!

Next Up: Finlandia by Sibelius

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky [1866]

Well, okay, where to start.
So, I've read three and a half (lol) Dostoevsky novels, and this one is about the second best. It's not a very fun book, though it is really good. Crime and Punishment is about a young man named Rodion Romanovitch Raskolikov who murders the old pawnbroker woman brutally with an axe. The real kicker here, is that the old lady's younger sister walks in at the wrong time, and ends up being murdered too. Raskolnikov's reasons for killing the pawnbroker are vague, and various reasons why are alluded to many times. It could be for money, it could be for the benefit of the poor people that she's swindling, or it could just be that Raskolnikov desperately wants to be one of those 'great men', who are above the law and morality. So it's interesting to puzzle that out in your head as you read the novel.
Something I really like in Dostoevsky's writing is his ability to make you feel exactly what the character is feeling at any given moment. In this particular novel, he really nails this neurotic, paranoid mindset. Especially in the aftermath of the two murders.
The characters are pretty well written in this book. Not all of them are as multi-layered and complicated as the ones in The Brothers Karamazov, but the main characters are very interesting. My favorite characters were Razumihin and Dounia. Razumihin is Raskolnikov's friend, though Raskolnikov ends up pushing him away and being horrid to him most of the novel. Razumihin is very much Raskolnikov's opposite. Razumihin thinks of others, and he's also very friendly and warm. Despite his slacker persona, he's very intelligent. Dounia is Raskolnikov's sister, and she's a really cool female character. She's hot headed and proud like her brother, but she's a much kinder person than him. I like Dounia because she's very blunt, and she doesn't take junk from anyone. She also is revealed at the end to have been packing a gun the whole time. O.O
As for Raskolnikov himself, he's a titanic a-hole and the novel knows it. We're not expected to like him, at least not in the beginning, but he's interesting enough to keep you hooked. Without giving too much away, I didn't hate him too much by the end of the book. ;)

The Verdict: A-
Pretty good stuff! There are lots of very good quotations in this book that make you stop and ponder, and I really like that in my books. This one isn't really that much of a doorstopper, at around 400 pages. So if you were looking to start Dostoevsky, this one is probably the best to start with.

Content Advisory: Towards the end of the book there's a character with a very creepy attraction to teenage girls. Also, there's a somewhat graphically written murder scene. This book is worth reading, but only for mature readers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Inside Out [2015]

Inside Out was very, very, very, very good.
The End.

Okay, I'll elaborate.
So we all know the basic premise, right? There's a girl named Riley, and her family moves to San Francisco from Minnesota, and we get to know the five major emotions that live in her head (and supposedly also live in ALL our heads!).
So the animation was amazing, as per usual! And the difference between the 'Head' World and the Real World was quite sharp. In the real world the scenery is more realistic looking, while in Riley's Head, it's more cartoonish and soft looking. The music, by Michael Giacchino was just lovely! Especially the main theme that plays at the beginning and a few times later. It's very tranquil and sweet, and has a rather unique ring to it. Very nice. The acting too, was great. Joy was effervescent and optimistic, but never over the top or annoying. She was always very likeable, even when she was making her mistakes. Sadness' actress gave delightfully morose performance, and the other emotions were so spot on!
Pixar movies usually have good humor, and this was no exception. There were so many laugh out loud moments! And of course, the emotional poignant-cy.
I'm not really eloquent or anything like that (what do you expect from somebody who says 'righteous' in every other sentence?), but this movie got me in quite a personal spot the way only a few movies do. I'm talking about the whole Joy/Sadness dynamic. The movie shows that yes, we do need Joy very much, and being joyful is important. But sometimes we just need to be sad. Not sure how else to explain it. The Family dynamic was well played, and it's really cool to see a movie where the kid's relationship with her parents is important and portrayed as something beautiful.

The Verdict: A+
Aaah! I'm in my Post-Pixar movie emotional high right now! Inside Out has pretty much everything I like in a movie. Great acting, a pretty soundtrack, imaginative scenery, and plus! There's HOCKEY! Woo!
Oh, and the short! The movie was preceded by a little short called Lava, which was very cute, and featured a Ukulele song! My sister plays the Ukulele, and she thought it was really cool.

Righteous Classical Music: Entr'acte/Waltz from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky never ceases to amaze me with his ability to create gorgeous melodies of varying moods and texture. They all seem to have a unifying 'Tchaikovsky-ness' that I can't quite put my finger on.
This song is from an opera that he scored called Eugene Onegin. The opera is based on a story by the Russian poet, Alexandre Pushkin (who's work also inspired another work of classical music that I really love). Pushkin's story involves a man who spurs the romantic advances of a very kind and all around wonderful woman, and of course he later regrets it, tragic Russian-ness, and so forth. I don't know how good the opera is, but this Waltz from the beginning of Act II is a masterpiece in and of itself. The main theme is very sweeping and romantic, played at a moderate tempo with lots of bounce. But there is also a lot of strife present in the music, reflecting the turbulence in the story.

Next Up: Bolero by Maurice Ravel

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Katerina Ivanova's Taste in Men

Hee hee, I'm proud of my little added character, Darya. Mostly because I like her color scheme, it's quite summer-y if I dare say so myself! :)
I might replace the picture, because it's... really blurry!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Creepy Fireworks Safety Pamphlet!

Our town has issues with people bringing up fireworks from Mexico and setting them off in their backyards. So those of use who buy the legal fireworks that stay on the ground have to read these creepy pamphlets about not setting yourself on fire. :P

So without further ado, I'm going to make fun of it! XD!

Celebrate Safely! This Square-Jawed Champion of the Government's Caring Justice (never mind that he's extremely white and he's bossing around this minority-looking family!) shall be here to assist you ALL through your State Approved celebration! And when I say State Approved celebration, I mean that in the most literal of senses. Because, erm...

Looks kind of like a donut box, I hope that no drunk relatives try to
eat fireworks tonight!

Yeah. State Approved Fireworks. To go with your State Approved Beer, and your State Approved Hamburgers to be eaten and enjoyed by your State Approved Friends!
 And you'd better behave this 4th of July! Because Aryan Authority Figure Man is always watching. And he is ready and prepared (even EAGER!) to use his big muscles to discipline any n'er do wells who dare to do something that isn't State Approved!
But throwing fireworks at your brother is all the fun!
Aryan Authority Figure Man will be there, watching.

Skater Dude: Radical man, State-Approved Explosives!
Always watching, ever present...
Check it out, kids! I'm setting this top hat
on fire!
Always watching, never quite gone...
Aryan Authority Figure Man is wondering if any of those
kids want to go on a 'ride' with him...
 Always watching...

[shudder] Creepy. Hope you all had a great 4th of July! Happy Independence Day!!
Here's my Dad and younger sibs being crazy!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

God Bless America. I might not like where my country is headed now, but I can at least thank God that the ideals it was founded on were good and solid. Please help us return to them.
Oh, and HAPPY FIREWORKS AND HOT DOGS!! No, seriously. Enjoy the fireworks and hot dogs. There's nothing wrong with a lot of fun and delicious food if you take the time to remember why we're having them in the first place! :)

Friday, July 3, 2015

Righteous Classical Music: Turkish Fragments, Caravan & At Rest by Mikhail Ippolitov Ivanov

Woo! I love these pieces! It's a shame that hardly anybody performs these anymore, because they really are something awesome. Ippolitov Ivanov takes after Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (who he studied under for a time), in that his music is pre-occupied with the East, and is very colorful and rich.
Turkish Fragments is really in four parts. Caravan, At Rest, The Night, and Festivities. We played the first two in our most recent concert though, so I feel like these first two have a special place with me. XD I'll get around to listening to the others someday, for sure.
Caravan is a really cool piece, and it is tremendously successful in suggesting through music, the slow, lumbering journey of a caravan across the desert. It's also very tranquil sounding. It's like, we know where we're going, and we're having a good time getting there!
At Rest begins with a slow, beautiful melody that has great chord structure. Then it halts, making way for a very energetic middle section that involves some really cool percussion techniques. There is also a REALLY neato piccolo part! It's not really a solo, because the flutes are playing it too, but this excited tune has some crazy fingering acrobatics, and sparkles with electric energy! I was sitting piccolo for this one, and let me tell you, it's hard to make it sound so good. You have to practice it a LOT, and if you leave it for a few days then you're going to start losing it. The last part of this movement is a lot more mellowed out (like it ran out of energy! XD), and features a lovely Trumpet solo that showcases the instrument's higher range. At last, the movement settles down into a lovely little woodwind bit. The bassoon takes a motif and passes it to the clarinets, who pass it to the flutes, who pass it to the piccolo, and it sounds like the stars coming out... :)

Next Up!: Entr'acte/Waltz from Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky