amsterdam

Jul. 17th, 2013 11:59 am
clevermynnie: (smile)
I had one last trip, to cap off a month in which I visited five other countries and filled two pages of my passport: to Amsterdam! This actually got planned further back than all those other trips, before I realized that I wouldn't be able to travel much in late July and August. But I really wanted to see the newly renovated and reopened Rijksmuseum, and the Van Gogh Museum, so I recruited some like-minded friends from Dublin, and we headed over just for the weekend.

The museums were great, just so good. We went early to both and pre-booked tickets, because I had heard some horror stories about lines, but we had no lines at all! I loved all the Dutch golden age stuff--Rembrandt, Vermeer, Hals, Steen, Ruisdael--and actually there was a lot of historical context that was really helpful. And the Van Gogh museum was great; I loved a lot of what I saw, but was especially surprised and pleased to find that Van Gogh had actually painted versions of two Hiroshige woodblock prints that we have up in our house. And I loved lots of the pieces they had, and the context, though I found the omission of any discussion of Van Gogh's mental state kind of weird in the areas that focused on his later life. And we went to this concert in the Royal Concertgebouw, which is apparently famed for its acoustics. They did some Brahms variations I didn't care much about, and then the Ravel orchestration of Pictures at an Exhibition which is always enjoyable, but the really amazing part of it for me was Isabelle Faust playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. I saw the piece in the program and thought, Mendelssohn, cool, violin concerto, yes! But I didn't realize until the opening notes that, oh, I know this piece, when I was a kid we had a recording of Jascha Heifetz playing this and the Bruch violin concerto and we listened to it a lot on weekends. Hearing it performed in person was rapturous.



We also had a lot of fun poking around Amsterdam, going to little shops or outdoor markets, having nice food and beer, and just wandering up and down canals. I think I was a bit prejudiced against Amsterdam, which is part of why it took me this long to get there; it's often the favorite European city for people who are really into partying, who will enthuse about the open availability of drugs and prostitutes. And okay, fine, but that's not my thing so I kind of assumed I would not click with Amsterdam. But actually, there's so much culture and history there, and it's such a lovely place, that I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed being there! I would totally go back, though in the near future I will just be sticking around Dublin, where I can enjoy lovely summer weather and have ice creams and go swimming and spot urban foxes.

top ten

Apr. 14th, 2013 02:32 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I'm in the process of moving over to a new home computer, which among many other things has precipitated a move away from iTunes (which I have hated for who knows how long). But, one of the things I regret every time this happens (or whenever iTunes decided to delete its data, which was a few times) is the loss of playcounts. Those are really interesting to look at! So without further ado, here are the ten songs I've listened to the most (in one specific place, at least) over the last five years.

1. Muse - Hysteria
2. The Octopus Project - Truck
3. The Octopus Project - Black Blizzard/Red Umbrella
4. The Octopus Project - Mmaj
5. Janelle Monae - Many Moons
6. Muse - Apocalypse Please
7. Ekova - Siip Siie
8. Ekova - The Chase
9. Janelle Monae feat. Big Boi - Tightrope
10. Muse - Knights of Cydonia
clevermynnie: (see us waving)
My improv comedy class wrapped up while I was in Philly, and I was pretty sad to have to miss the last class. But, the instructor is offering a second-level course which starts next week, and I am signed up for that! It's another six-week course, and I'll have to miss a day of that too, but I'm excited because the first course was such an enjoyable experience for me. It was interesting and fun and surprisingly, a lot less stress than I thought it would be.

And, I signed up for a jazz improv course on Coursera which runs for six weeks too, starting in late April. I am pretty stoked about that. I tried to learn some jazz improv skills on the piano early in grad school, on my own from a pretty decent book, but I found it a huge challenge. This is probably thanks to 20+ years of rigorous classical piano instruction, but I love jazz piano and would like to be able to do some of it myself, and I certainly have the technical ability. After signing up for the course I sat down with that book again this morning, and actually, making stuff up is less difficult than I remember it being! Thanks, grad school! I mean... thanks improv?

Also somehow I have a race in less than three weeks. Ohhh yeah. I'm not where I wanted to be mileage-wise, because of backing off when I was having Achilles tendon pain last month, and then travel and processing so much stuff. I do have enough of a base to run, though, and maybe PR since my 50k PR is kinda soft, but there's also the possibility of this being a more leisurely race later on. So I'll get my runs in beforehand, and during the race just try to focus less on results and more on having an open, accepting, and positive attitude. Which is basically what I'm working on in life at the moment.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
These two songs are so embedded in my brain after the last month that a concerted effort is needed to dislodge them. Or a total brain reset, which you'd think would mean sleep, but not the way I've been sleeping.

Read more... )

porousness

Dec. 16th, 2012 09:18 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I have been feeling increasingly closed off recently, as if I were folding in on myself. There's really no better way to describe it, but the feeling has made me nostalgic for times in the past when I felt more able to be open. I like the feeling of openness, the simplicity of it but also the ease with which you are able to connect. I had been thinking about this and then came across a wonderful description of the feeling I had in mind, written by Zadie Smith in the New Yorker talking about something completely different:

This is the effect that listening to Joni Mitchell has on me these days: uncontrollable tears. An emotional overcoming, disconcertingly distant from happiness, more like joy—if joy is the recognition of an almost intolerable beauty. It's not a very civilized emotion. I can't listen to Joni Mitchell in a room with other people, or on an iPod, walking the streets. Too Risky. I can never guarantee that I'm going to be able to get through the song without being made transparent—to anybody and everything, to the whole world. A mortifying sense of porousness. Although it's comforting to learn that the feeling I have listening to these songs is the same feeling the artist had while creating them: "At that period of my life, I had no personal defense. I felt like a cellophane wrapper on a pack of cigarettes."


I've never listened to Joni Mitchell, but feeling that way used to be a more regular feature of my life, and I'd like to cultivate that again.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
My dad was the one who first introduced me to Dave Brubeck, back when I was very small. Over the years I accumulated a lot of recordings, saw him perform live back in 2005, and then got even more recordings since it was clear he had become better and better with age! And now the news that Dave Brubeck has died is making me very sad, even though he obviously lived a long and really awesome life.



I have got to get some Dave Brubeck sheet music.
clevermynnie: (Default)
The piano concert Thursday was so inspiring that I decided to try to play piano every day in December! It's not that I haven't been playing, just that I haven't been playing much so I just futz around with the same pieces, and it would be nice to play regularly for a little while. It's hard for me not to attach goals to something like this, to aim to make recordings or finish pieces or something, but I want to just make time to play without worrying about the results. Starting today!

piano feet


What's sad/awesome is that these aren't even the only piano key patterned socks I own.
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I had been musing about how I haven't gone to many classical music concerts since moving to Dublin, and then saw the following program which seemed perfectly tailored to both my instrument preferences (piano, naturally) and composer preferences (late Romantics):

Chopin: Nocturne Op. 27, No. 1, Berceuse in D flat major Op. 57, Barcarolle in F sharp major, Op. 60
Grieg: Nocturne Op. 54, No. 4, Bell Ringing Op. 54, No. 6, To Spring Op. 43, No. 6
Debussy: Ballade, Valse Romantique, Clair de Lune, L’Isle Joyeuse
Liszt: Au bord d’une source, Sospiro, Après une lecture du Dante

Ben didn't think it'd be worth the ticket price for him, so I went alone to see Philippe Cassard play at the National Concert Hall. He's recorded a lot of Debussy so I had high expectations for that, which were completely met. And the Liszt was swoon-worthy! The Chopin and Grieg were quite nice but man, the later pieces were just amazing, and reminded me how very, very much I love piano.

clevermynnie: (al fresco)
Today it was so clear outside, and I wanted to just sit in a park and look at the sky. But I had to do a ton of microscopy. So this weekend will have to suffice, with this song on repeat:

clevermynnie: (al fresco)
Today it was so clear outside, and I wanted to just sit in a park and look at the sky. But I had to do a ton of microscopy. So this weekend will have to suffice, with this song on repeat:

clevermynnie: (Default)
Every time I get sick I notice what seems like a lowering of my voice, so this last time I actually noted my vocal range to compare to my own vocal range when healthy. I was surprised to find that my vocal range when sick, A2-A4, is not particularly different from my normal comfortable range, A2-C5. (No, that's not a huge range, and yes, I have a low voice for a woman.) There did seem to be more of a dropoff at either end when I was sick, with my voice just giving out instead of getting warblier if I tried going outside my range... but no real difference in achievable tones.

I was surprised by that since my experience (and most people's experience I think) is that your own voice sounds noticeably lower when sick. Of course, the tone is usually altered as well, and I wonder if something about the way the tone changes also makes it sound lower. Or, have you noticed that there is a certain sound in people's voices when they are nearing the bottom of their range? I sometimes notice this in songs and then try singing the same note, and find that my own voice doesn't have that quality because the note is at a different point in my range. So it's possible that the physical changes in the throat and vocal cords bring out that quality higher in the range. Another possibility, though, is that something about having a cold makes it more comfortable to speak lower, so even if your total range is relatively unchanged, your speaking voice drops a bit.

It would be cool to look at frequency maps of the same person speaking while healthy and while sick.
clevermynnie: (Default)
Every time I get sick I notice what seems like a lowering of my voice, so this last time I actually noted my vocal range to compare to my own vocal range when healthy. I was surprised to find that my vocal range when sick, A2-A4, is not particularly different from my normal comfortable range, A2-C5. (No, that's not a huge range, and yes, I have a low voice for a woman.) There did seem to be more of a dropoff at either end when I was sick, with my voice just giving out instead of getting warblier if I tried going outside my range... but no real difference in achievable tones.

I was surprised by that since my experience (and most people's experience I think) is that your own voice sounds noticeably lower when sick. Of course, the tone is usually altered as well, and I wonder if something about the way the tone changes also makes it sound lower. Or, have you noticed that there is a certain sound in people's voices when they are nearing the bottom of their range? I sometimes notice this in songs and then try singing the same note, and find that my own voice doesn't have that quality because the note is at a different point in my range. So it's possible that the physical changes in the throat and vocal cords bring out that quality higher in the range. Another possibility, though, is that something about having a cold makes it more comfortable to speak lower, so even if your total range is relatively unchanged, your speaking voice drops a bit.

It would be cool to look at frequency maps of the same person speaking while healthy and while sick.
clevermynnie: (smile)
Sunday, Ben and I went to Electric Picnic, a music and arts festival about an hour from Dublin in County Laois. I got the tickets as Ben's birthday present, way back in March! And the day was a lot of fun.

There were a lot of little carts with nice festival food, plus a tent where we watched some locavore food demos for awhile. They passed out Irish apples, tomatoes, elderflower champagne, and black pudding, and talked about foraging for seaweed and mushrooms. And there were cool installations as we walked around, like enormous mushrooms made from carved wood, giant Penguin classics books the size of tents, or the Amnesty Interional forced eviction shack. I also was happy to see a Science Gallery tent, but as I walk through the Science Gallery daily, they are not at the top of my list to visit at a festival.

But the real focus was music, and one of the things I really liked was the huge variety of acts performing. We spent a lot of time just wandering around listening to whatever we found, which had decidedly mixed results. But we found Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs that way, who had very fun electronic music (a genre which now reminds me of running or raiding). We also knew nothing whatsoever about Elbow but really enjoyed their set, and cheered whenever they brought the cellist or trombonist back out. Fatoumata Diawara seemed really awesome but the sound balance in on her stage was terrible, so I'll have to listen to more of her stuff independently. And the day's headliners were The Killers, a band that I've always enjoyed but never gotten super into because their songs have a certain sameness to them... kind of a predictable mania that always drives thing to the same conclusions, if that makes any sense. But a manic band is a fun one to see live, so I liked their set too.

songs! )

Ben mentioned that he prefers one-off concerts to festivals like this, in terms of length of time to focus on listening to music. I get that, but I also really like having a lot of cool stuff collected in one place for me. Although, if the festival were in a city, you could head home and back when you wanted, whereas the hourlong bus trip to get out to Stradbally prevented anything like that. Also, we lucked out that the weather was good; even with the sun out things got a bit muddy, and the unofficial shoe of choice seemed to be wellies because of the mud. But most of the venues were covered, so even in rain it would have been pretty fun. With the sun out, it was amazing!
clevermynnie: (smile)
Sunday, Ben and I went to Electric Picnic, a music and arts festival about an hour from Dublin in County Laois. I got the tickets as Ben's birthday present, way back in March! And the day was a lot of fun.

There were a lot of little carts with nice festival food, plus a tent where we watched some locavore food demos for awhile. They passed out Irish apples, tomatoes, elderflower champagne, and black pudding, and talked about foraging for seaweed and mushrooms. And there were cool installations as we walked around, like enormous mushrooms made from carved wood, giant Penguin classics books the size of tents, or the Amnesty Interional forced eviction shack. I also was happy to see a Science Gallery tent, but as I walk through the Science Gallery daily, they are not at the top of my list to visit at a festival.

But the real focus was music, and one of the things I really liked was the huge variety of acts performing. We spent a lot of time just wandering around listening to whatever we found, which had decidedly mixed results. But we found Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs that way, who had very fun electronic music (a genre which now reminds me of running or raiding). We also knew nothing whatsoever about Elbow but really enjoyed their set, and cheered whenever they brought the cellist or trombonist back out. Fatoumata Diawara seemed really awesome but the sound balance in on her stage was terrible, so I'll have to listen to more of her stuff independently. And the day's headliners were The Killers, a band that I've always enjoyed but never gotten super into because their songs have a certain sameness to them... kind of a predictable mania that always drives thing to the same conclusions, if that makes any sense. But a manic band is a fun one to see live, so I liked their set too.

songs! )

Ben mentioned that he prefers one-off concerts to festivals like this, in terms of length of time to focus on listening to music. I get that, but I also really like having a lot of cool stuff collected in one place for me. Although, if the festival were in a city, you could head home and back when you wanted, whereas the hourlong bus trip to get out to Stradbally prevented anything like that. Also, we lucked out that the weather was good; even with the sun out things got a bit muddy, and the unofficial shoe of choice seemed to be wellies because of the mud. But most of the venues were covered, so even in rain it would have been pretty fun. With the sun out, it was amazing!
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
I mentioned how much I loved the Franz Liszt Memorial Museum in Budapest. Liszt is one of my favorite composers for piano, and the museum contained several piano he'd owned, plus the audio tour had recordings of his works played on each piano so that you could hear what they sounded like. I can't see a piano without wanting to play it but that was the next best thing.

So I thought I would post some Liszt recordings here. The first piece is quite famous, the second is a joyride, and the third is just lovely. There are so many pieces of his that I like, it was hard to choose, but this is a pretty nice sample.





clevermynnie: (smile)
I was just reminded of a choral piece that I have wanted a recording of for years. I finally got one, and on top of that I finally found a version on youtube so I can post it here! I love this piece so much. The lyrics are from the words of an astronaut and a poet, about the earth from space, hence the space theme of this particular video.

piano

Jan. 16th, 2012 05:01 pm
clevermynnie: (al fresco)
As a graduation present, my mom got me a digital piano (a Kurzweil MP-10). It was delivered today and so of course I have spent the last three hours playing it.

The first half of grad school, I kept up with piano, but I started to feel bad about being anywhere on campus other than in the lab, and we never had a piano in our Philly home. So I sort of stopping playing regularly, doing guitar lessons instead since I had a guitar and wanted at least some facility at it. And I'm really glad I did! But I think it's no slight to the guitar to say that it doesn't hold the same place in my heart that piano does... I've played guitar for three years, but I started playing piano when I was not quite five years old. It is so, so good to have a piano again. There just aren't words.

I played through tons of pieces I used to know, some that actually came off pretty well, some of which were understandably rusty. I pulled out the Sonata Pathetique, which I learned in college, and wasn't sure if I would still be able to play it. And while it wasn't at its best, to play it again was such an indescribable experience. I connected with it so strongly, especially the first movement, and coming back to it moved me to tears. Here's a nice video of Daniel Barenboim playing it, whose interpretation I agree with for the most part:



I would like to always have a piano at home for the rest of my life.

cello wars

Dec. 7th, 2011 10:22 pm
clevermynnie: (mask)
I submitted that fellowship application. I feel good about it, though it was a lot of work to write up all the pieces. But that meant it was a perfect time for someone to send me this:

ten years!

Oct. 5th, 2011 06:49 pm
clevermynnie: (i carry your heart)
I've been really sick for the last few days, plus we got the keys to the new place and our lease started, plus our stuff arrived from the US, plus we have to move everything out of our temporary place and get some furniture... but I couldn't let today pass without comment, because this is the tenth anniversary of when I met Ben. I could tell the whole story of our relationship, but actually I did that pretty recently so you can just go read that again if you aren't tired of hearing it.

I'm very lucky to have such a perfect partner, and to be starting an exciting new part of our lives together. I love him more with each passing day.

notes

Sep. 22nd, 2011 10:02 am
clevermynnie: (Default)
The week before we came to Dublin, we stayed with my in-laws and I spent a fair amount of time playing their guitar and piano. Then we got here, where I don't have access to a piano, and my guitar had to be shipped because its size and irregular shape would have made it very expensive to bring on the plane. When my guitar does get here, that'll be great, but I think I'd also like to have a piano at home if possible. I was thinking about buying a used piano... though there's such a broad range of conditions a piano could be in, and the bad end of that can sound pretty awful. When I used the practice rooms in Berkeley, they had some amazing pianos and some that were painful to play. And then I don't know much of anything about how to maintain a piano, and we'd have to sell it when we moved because we're not really settled down at this point. Plus, what if we move in a year? It's expensive moving a piano. Alternately, I could get a keyboard; I wish they were a bit sturdier because they can really shake under some of my playing, but the nicer ones where the key action is closer to normal are really pretty alright to play, and I could use headphones if I wanted.

Which reminds me of something I've been meaning to write about for ages. I played music in basically two contexts growing up. I had the piano, which I practiced alone and was always pretty nervous about performing alone, and I had the violin which I mostly practiced and performed in a large ensemble. I didn't have many experiences of playing with a small number of people, or informally, or in a social setting. Which had firstly the downside that when I do play in front of a small group of people, I tend to get as nervous as if it were a large performance, and then I do poorly and get mad at myself. But it also kind of cuts me off from other people, musically; I'd love to play music with people at a party or be in a casual, small ensemble, or even just have a piano buddy to play four hands pieces with. It would be great to be able to connect to people on that plane. But my experience of music has been largely solitary, so it feels hard to initiate anything else.

That's one reason I took up the guitar, that it seemed like potentially a more casual and social instrument. Now if I can just get everyone to learn how to sing the songs I know accompaniment to.

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