Sunday, March 15, 2009

Birthday awesomeness!

Wow, I'm actually less motivated then I thought I would be to write in this. Still, it's fun and less obsessive than trying to write Supernatural fanfiction or something...
I'm officially 19, as of Friday! I had a really great weekend, not too much homework so I was generally free to do whatever I wanted. I had a dance competition Friday night, which was great - my partner Joel and I were awarded third place in Latin (which was cha-cha and jive). I think we get a lot of extra points for musicality as most people in newcomer level have a hard time staying on the beat. It's actually really funny how much musical influence I have; Joel stays on the beat perfectly without me counting in his ear, and he finds it hard to watch the waltzing couples who are rushing so much the beat is hardly recognizable. I am very proud of his journey.
Saturday was a little crazy, won't go into too many details just in case certain people read this, but there was definitely a few margaritas and some chair dancing involved. And an octopus tentacle at the sushi restaurant, which I didn't enjoy because it was very rubbery. Last time I give into that kind of pressure, I hope.
Today I slept in for obvious reasons, did some shopping, and went out for dinner with my grandpa, his friend, and her grandson. I got a trombone for my birthday! I'm extremely excited as it has an attachment that means I won't have to use seventh position anymore. I can't wait to try it out in band tomorrow, hopefully it won't be too heavy or anything. It's actually a used trombone, but anything seems new compared to what I have, which is an instrument (in excellent condition) that is almost twenty years older than me.
On the music front, I have a busy week ahead of me. My chamber music project is due tomorrow, which is a performance of a violin sonata; I have learned the first movement of Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata, which is fairly pleasant but also somewhat challenging with only about a week to truly prepare it. It's interesting to play with string players, which I have had the least experience with, so it's a good opportunity for me besides being worth a fair bit of my grade. I am accompanying a couple friends of mine, a violin player and a bass player, in their juries so it's best to be prepared.
Another exciting development is that I finally get to play a piece with an orchestra! It's the third thing I've checked off my list of life goals this month, the other two being a position in the pit band of a musical and playing a song cycle. It's basically a percussion part, but it's kind of a riot because it has a lot of showy figures such as full keyboard glissandos and low tremolos. The piece is the Red Cape Tango from Dougherty's Metropolis Symphony (based on Superman - my favourite superhero! Of all the luck), it's mostly based on Dies irae, which seems to be a theme on the program of the concert. Totentanz is also being played, and Beethoven's seventh symphony, which I believe is not based on Dies irae but I am not certain.
The final exciting thing for this week is the first movement of the Poulenc sextet, which I am playing in a recital on Friday with a group of my peers/friends. It's an incredible piece, playful but at the same time with a lot of depth and emotional scope. We'll be playing the entire thing in a recital in April; the final movement is actually my favourite, as it is utterly insane as well as expressive. It also makes use of the C Major seventh chord in the most effective way I have ever heard...definitely a piece worth looking up!
Ah, well, off to bed. Life returns to normal tomorrow, lots of practising to do. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Joys of Italian Opera...among other things

Well, here I am again, stuck in my room. Not entirely enjoyable, mostly waiting to feel better so I can go catch up on some practising, but meanwhile I'm memorizing history excerpts. A large part of my midterm is recognizing musical excerpts of works we've studied in class and identifying them by ear, which can be extremely frustrating and time-consuming. Mostly I just put them all in a playlist, hit shuffle, and I'm set!
Of course, I do have an advantage over others in my class in that I can tell what key the piece is in, which is a major hint. Still, I believe it's a ridiculous assignment and I cannot fathom what purpose it could possibly serve in our everyday lives as musicians. Honestly, do I really need to know by ear the difference between Italian operas that no one even performs anymore?
Okay, that sounds a bit whiny, so I'll change the tone a bit...I don't hate Baroque music, but I have to admit I like music that is expressive in a different way. In other words, I'm a hopeless Romantic. I can listen to pieces like Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet over and over (and I do) without losing it, because to my mind that kind of music is practically orgasmic. Also, it's very fulfilling to dwell on the kind of beauty that emerged from another mind just like mine (well...human, in any case), rather than on the more shallow infatuations that one comes across in everyday life. For this kind of feeling I recommend Vaughan Williams' Serenade to Music (reputedly made Rachmaninoff cry), Brahms' German Requiem, and the second movement of Rachmaninoff's second Piano Concerto. Just a few from an extensive list.
Anyway, to return to my history midterm. It's often very difficult to concentrate on this material, but as I go on I'm finding I can appreciate certain things more and more, for example the works of Handel. Everyone knows the Messiah, but the scene I'm listening to from Julius Caesar is equally beautiful; Cleopatra disguises herself as Virtue and sings an absolutely breathtaking aria in order to seduce Caesar, with whom she has fallen in love. Vivaldi, as well, is gaining more ground in the area of my appreciation, as for my last exam about him I was only required to listen to the Four Seasons. The textures and melodies he uses are captivating, and it's amazing to think just how many violin concertos he composed with the same formula, and yet each was identical and prized for its unique attributes.
Well, at this point I'm fairly certain I could take on almost any essay question for these three chapters that the prof can think up. Even though the class can be devastatingly boring (mostly because of his lecturing style, which consists of droning on in a monotone for quite some time and there every once in a while ACCENTING a word inexplicably), I am getting a well-rounded education on the subject. The books we are required to purchase are very useful, as is the online site where the prof prints off all our notes. And he wonders why so few people come to class.
Ah well, should be a busy week. I'm playing in my first recital as a collaborative pianist, which is exciting and a bit nerve-wracking, because someone else is depending on me to be perfect (typically, it's just me that asks that of myself...if that makes any sense at all.) We're performing the Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs and Beethoven's only song cycle, To the Distant Beloved. I'm also preparing for a major dance competition on Friday (my birthday, how fun), although my partner was gone all week so we didn't get to practise at all. I'm also playing in the rez talent show on Thursday evening, nothing Classical, actually my own arrangement of the song Round Here by Counting Crows.
Well, can't think of much else to dwell on at the moment. I'm off to practise now, I think.

Friday, March 6, 2009


So, this is a totally new idea to me, but should be interesting...let me introduce myself. My name is Erika, I'm a first year piano performance student at UBC, so music is pretty much my entire life. Hence the blog title, which is actually also the name of one of my favourite songs by Jack's Mannequin. Yes, it's true; I listen to music that isn't classical. I like to think of my iTunes as a well-rounded mix, except for the lack of country and rap, which I don't enjoy in the slightest.
Anyway, just having some fun on the internet this morning, found some very good piano quotes I enjoyed:

"Life is like a piano...what you get out of it depends on how you play it." Very true.

"Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music." Sergei Rachmaninoff, in my opinion one of the greatest composers of all time and one of my heroes. I recommend his second piano concerto and his Symphonic Dances.

They afterwards took me to a dancing saloon where I saw the only rational method of art criticism I have ever come across. Over the piano was printed a notice- 'Please do not shoot the pianist. He is doing his best.'” Oscar Wilde.

[The piano is] able to communicate the subtlest universal truths by means of wood, metal and vibrating air.” Kenneth Miller.

Hope you don't think this is Billy Joel unplugged. I'm a piano player. I'm already unplugged.” Billy Joel. He's friggin' awesome.

"When you play music you discover a part of yourself that you never knew existed." Bill Evans, also awesome.

"If you try to put into words what music is trying to say, then you have words, not music." Vladimir Ashkenazy. Great recording of the Chopin Ballades and Scherzi.

"I wish to lead a life free from care, and I see that I shall be unhappy if I cannot always work at my art." Clara Schumann, absolutely my hero, first pianist to play from memory.

Bye for now!