7.27.2010

My 1st Dictionary Milestone

I've finished the A's! One letter down, 25 more to go :) I know I'm not even close to done, but at least I finished one letter, and it makes me feel like if I can do this much, surely I can do it 25 more times. No problem. Here are some last little A tidbits... it blurs into the B's too.

-There are lots of instruments. LOTS. And I've noticed that a good amount of the non-western-classical music instruments have some kind of drone aspect to their instrument/music. Interesting...

-There are lots of organ stops. LOTS AND LOTS. I have no idea how anyone can play the organ. Piano is challenging enough. But throw in multiple keyboards, tons of foot pedals, and a boatload of various stops, I can't even comprehend. Let alone, how on earth does someone get their doctorate in organ performance??? (in case Elaine ever reads this... I doubt it though)

-One big problem I'm having is that there are times when I want a more tangible grasp on what I'm reading. It would be nice if I could have like a score or CD to accompany some of these entries. There are occasional music examples, which help a lot, but just not enough. For example, the entry on Bailecito (A Boliovian coupled dance) mentions that there can be a combination of simple triple and compound duple elements. I totally understand that in theory, but how does that work in practice. Hmm... I just feel like I'm missing a piece of the puzzle. Incidentally, when I looked up the idea of combining the two meters I just found a hit on Google Books that showed me the exact same page I was reading from my dictionary. Not so helpful.

-B.A.C.H. : This was like the 3rd entry in the B's. I thought for a split second that maybe since Bach was so crucial in music history they were giving him his own entry (there are no biographical entries). But it turns out that since Bach was so important many other composers have used his last name to created motives and fugue subjects using the letters in his name. It's probably important to point out that in German the letter B refers to Bb and the letter H refers to B natural (a little tidbit I picked up in the As, though I kind of remember that from music school). So the motives consist of the notes Bb-A-C-Bnat. Interesting.

-I forgot all about fugues. It's kind of like when I started studying for the GREs. I opened up the book to the math section and the first problem was : x times x = 4. solve for x. I immediately thought, "well duh, 2." only to find out that it could be 2 or -2! I had totally forgotten that negative numbers even existed. Yikes, I had a lot of studying to do. Well apparently I've managed to forget all about fugues. At least I had until I got to the entry on real and tonal answers. Then it all came rushing back to me.

I'm excited to see what the B's hold in store for me :) I've stopped for now on the Ballet entry. It's LONG. I think I'll tackle that another day, I've accomplished enough for now.

Why I'm Loving Yoga

Lately I've been getting more and more into yoga. I started taking a weekly yoga class at the rec center in February and it didn't take long before I was hooked. It wasn't my first attempt at yoga, I'd taken several beginner classes a few years ago. And I also took prenatal yoga while I was pregnant. Both of those classes were great and I'm definitely glad I took them because the class I"m in now is not really geared towards beginners and I'm sure I'd be completely lost if I hadn't had some background. There are several reasons I love going to my yoga class

1- It's an hour and fifteen minutes each week in which I get to just focus on myself. I don't have anyone else to share my attention with... no family, no friends, just me alone. It's somewhat selfish, but at least it's a healthy selfish activity. I don't really even talk to people in my class all that much because I really just want to appreciate my alone time. And I do.

2- I'm actually getting better. Last night we did the wheel pose. I remember the first time we did it in class... I was not at all successful. Then the next time we did it, I kind of pulled it off, but it was pretty shaky and I couldn't really go up as far as I was supposed to. But in the last month I have been able to do it the way it's supposed to be. And last night, it wasn't even hard. There are lots of poses I could say the same thing for. It makes me excited to see that I'm progressing.

3- It challenges me. Similar to reason #2. For everything we attempt that I can't do (all the way) I get motivated to improve. Honestly my biggest challenge is that I can't touch my toes. But I've been working on that and getting much better. I really think once I master that a lot of the other poses I have difficulty with will get much better. And the really nice thing about the class is that the teacher doesn't push you to go beyond what you're comfortable with. So I don't feel like a total loser when I can't do something. It's a nice environment for a work out.

4- It feels good. I finally found something that helps manage the lower back pain I've felt since high school. But my legs, arms, etc all feel better too. I think yoga is a really good balance between stretching and strengthening (our teacher also mixes in a good amount of pilates which helps with the strength part for sure). And I find myself doing certain poses and stretches at home throughout the day whenever something bothers me. It's kind of addicting once you know how good you can feel.

5- Corpse pose. Seriously... what other work out ends with several minutes of laying on your back in a dark room with your eyes close while you learn to relax your entire body? None that I know of, but I'm starting to think that every work out should end that way.

I think that's it for now. Dylan is being less than cooperative this morning. So I'm gonna go tend to him for now.

7.25.2010

Arpeggione

This was an instrument similar to a cello at one point. Schubert wrote a sonata for it, but since the instrument is no longer around it's usually now played on the cello. I actually (successfully) accompanied a violist on this piece in college. Well I thought it was successful anyway. About 10 minutes before we played it in a recital one of the piano teachers listened to us go over it and told me I had completely interpreted it wrong. Then she showed me how I should have played it. Even though we played the same notes it sounded night and day different. She was probably right, but I still liked the way I was doing it, so I didn't change anything. Nothing quite like someone telling you how wrong you're doing something right before you're about to get up in front of all you peers. Oh well.

I could never remember the name of the piece though, (Sonata in A minor by Schubert, D. 821-- not too catchy. but I think I remember Arpeggione Sonata) so I'm really excited that I came by this entry.

7.24.2010

More from the A's

Appoggiatura

I learned a lot from this entry (not the least of which was the fact that an appoggiatura is not quite what I thought it was)

#1- I always thought that my college piano teacher called grace notes "verschlags," and every time I tried to look it up, I could never find the definition. Clearly I was doing something wrong, which isn't surprising since ornaments confuse me to no end. But now I know that she was saying "VORschlag." Which makes a whole lot more sense. I've also learned that there's more "-schlags" out there. I initially assumed "schlag" meant note but I cheated and looked ahead... it means "beat," which also makes more sense especially since I know enough about German prepositions to know the following translations:
-vorschlag: before the beat
-anschlag: on the beat
-zwischenschlag: with (another note on) the beat
-nachschlag: after the beat

#2- There's no clear right definition for an appoggiatura. Apparently I'm not the only one totally confused when it comes to ornaments. Seems like everyone is. Not only do they change throughout time, but different countries, different composers used them differently even if they used similar notations. And at one point they didn't even notate ornaments at all, they were either implied so that a knowledgeable musician just knew when and how to use them, or they were improvised. But I'm very grateful when piano music has little footnotes that write out the ornaments note by note, so I stand a chance of doing things right.

#3- Ornaments for vocal music are even more confusing.

7.14.2010

Some reading down, LOTS more to go

Lately I've been reading a lot. I tend to go through spurts when it comes to books. I'll read about a dozen books one month and then I won't read another book for 3 or 4 months. I also tend to read obsessively (but I am NOT a fast reader). If I can't finish a book in 3 days then I figure it's just not good enough to keep reading. This is because during the three day time period I will read every moment I can. And since I don't have much available reading time during the day anymore this usually means I stay up late, sacrificing precious sleep just to see what the next page brings. And then once I find that out I just HAVE to know what's on the next page after that... it's a never ending process that only stops when I realize that I'm SO tired I've read a paragraph three times and still have no idea what the words are.

So my most recent reading spell is coming to a close. I don't really want to mention most of the books I read because I know that many of them are silly books geared towards FAR younger girls, but I also managed a few adult reads. Two stand-outs were by AJ Jacobs-- The Year of Living Biblically (I highly recommend) and The Know It All. In The Know It All Jacobs writes about his quest to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. After I read it, I was looking up a musical term in my New Harvard Dictionary of Music (for a question my piano student asked) when I found myself reading a few entries beyond the one pertaining to my question because I just found it all so interesting. Then it hit me... I should just go ahead and read the whole dictionary, a la Jacobs. It's not quite as grand a challenge, but it will reconnect me to something I love (music) and challenge me. There were a few other books I wanted to get through first, but now that I've finished those I have begun to tackle my music dictionary. Today I started reading while Dylan was playing with his trains. I didn't get very far because he kept interrupting me to show me all the cool things he was doing (putting trains through the tunnels, correctly operating the toy crane, and when he really wanted attention he'd just come up and hug my arm). So I've only made it up to Accidentals after my first day. I've learned a few interesting tidbits, but mostly it's just making me wonder why I didn't do this earlier. I mean, I love learning about music, for some reason in just never occurred to me to open up my very well respected Dictionary, even though it's been sitting on the bookshelf in my living room for years.

First thing to know, you definitely need at least a college degree to have any idea what most of the entries are talking about. I'm glad to know that my schooling is at least paying off in that regard. Second, this isn't like a Webster's dictionary. A true dictionary (here's some library knowledge for you) is actually more like an encyclopedia. They can even be multiple volumes. The real definitive music dictionary is known as the Grove (or New Grove), and it's HUGE, could easily rival the Encyclopedia Britannica. But this is probably the top single volume dictionary of music. So I feel like it's worth reading. I also love the the entries are short enough to get to the point, but long enough to actually provide information (as opposed to just a definition).

For example, the entry on Absolute Pitch. Matt and I have debated for YEARS about whether or not absolute pitch (aka Perfect Pitch) is something you're born with or something you can learn. Turns out that there are theories supporting both arguments. I guess that means neither of us are right and neither of us are wrong. Good to know.

So I'm looking forward to all the gems of musical knowledge I'll get to unearth. There's a good chance I won't actually complete my task (it is 942 pages of VERY VERY VERY small type afterall), but at least I'll have some fun for now. I'm sure I'll be sharing more tidbits along the way.

7.03.2010

Delicious Dinner

Last night my sister Sarah and her boyfriend joined us for dinner and a night of Pinochle. We have this type of get together every so often, just infrequently enough to make Matt have to reexplain the rules of Pinochle every time. But we had a good time last night. We also had good food :)

I've made a recent attempt to refocus my creative energy from piano playing to cooking. Mostly this is due to the fact that it's hard for me to spend any amount of time at the piano. I'm hoping it's just a temporary hiatus and once Dylan is a little older I'll be able to get back into it. But in the meantime I decided that since I enjoy cooking, and it's something I have to do every night anyway, I may as well put a little more effort into it. I've been trying to challenge myself to use a brand new ingredient as well as a brand new recipe once a month. It's a pretty easy goal to accomplish, but it helps me push myself outside what I'm used to. Some of the new to me (to cook myself, I've eaten them before) ingredients I've tried include tomatillos, Anaheim chiles, lamb chops, swordfish. New recipes: french style lentils, roast chicken, biscuits from scratch, and various ways of preparing fish. So far everything has been fairly successful. I think my least favorite was actually the lamb chops, I'm just not a big fan of lamb.

Last night I made a new first: gazpacho. I've never even had gazpacho before so I really had no idea what to expect in terms of how it should taste, or what the texture should be. But I think it turned out pretty good. Sarah also helped me make salmon burgers with honey mustard sauce, those were really good too :) And as a nice after dinner treat, sarah brought over a coconut-rum cake, which was AWESOME. She left us two pieces and it took all my will power not to eat a piece for breakfast.

Here are some pics:


Coconut rum cake


Gazpacho


Salmon burgers