Monday, March 31, 2008

Dies Irae II

Apparently a whole lot of other composers use the Dies Irae plainchant melody in they're works. In fact its pretty much a musical idiom for death.
I was extremely priviledged to attend a performance at USC of Totentanz by Franz Litz. The work is a paraphrase of the Dies Irae. An astounding and jaw-dropping display of brilliant pianistic virtuosity. I was pretty much in awe for a day or two. Just listen to a recording of it! I also got a really good seat! All those octaves, jumps, glissandos, etc. Absolutely amazing. I was also able to listen to the live radio broadcast of Gustavo Dudamel's conducting. =] Prokofiev's first piano Concerto was amazing. At moments very lyrical and joyfully exuberant. I was reminded constantly of a child just beginning to learn his Alphabets. =] And then there was the Fantastic Symphony by Berlioz. And here's where the Dies Irae comes in. I think during the Movement known as the Witch's Sabbath. The Dies Irae does all kinds of transformations. Plus Berlioz has these awesome 2,500 pound church bells clanging away. Yeah. I'm sure there is so much more I'm unsure of. =]

Out of the Tunnel...for now.

I suspect that in most things, as in piano, there comes a moment or any particular lull of time where you can step back take a breath and proudly yet humbly look over what God has helped you to accomplish. It's like driving up a mountain and you're going through this long dark winding tunnel and all of a sudden there's light and boom! you're looking down at the valley you just came up from and if you squint you can barely make out the tiny little cars that are at the same place you were a while ago. =] The funny thing about this mountain is that the top is a long, long, long way off, and you still have to go through quite a few more tunnels. But it's nice to know you have a few behind you. =]
I was finally able to finish Anna Karenina and I realize now how naive my first thoughts were. Some more hopefully less naive thoughts: Tolstoy has an amazing ability to find the perfect analogies that just completely embody the situation! And the whole book is just permeated with reality. All the characters are so, so well, it's almost like I wouldn't be surprised if I met them. An example of this is how often the characters are doing this pendelum (I spelled that wrong, but you get the idea) between sanity and insanity, grace and damnation, truth and lies. Ahhhh! I certainly am not the first or the last to gush over Anna K (A good thing!) but I just couldn't help writing out how wonderful the book is. I still don't think I get more than half of it. (Not get as in understand, but the impact of the book, the depth the hidden gems to be mined, those.) Yeah. It was amazing.
Term Papers are due tomorrow.
Gotta go. =] Be well. God Bless.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

(Silly) Adventures while Jet-lagged

Here is an odd/silly/ridiculous series of videos that we created while certifiably insane (which is the norm). Please forgive any offense we may unfortunately cause. =] That being said, enjoy!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
P.S. I'm really not like this at all...most of the time!

Back from China

Hi! I love my room. I love Annabelle (the piano). I love Maple (my dog). I love my books. I love being home again. =]

Some quick points which are certainly not summaries. More like random thoughts.

1) In China, the great monuments and artifacts are treated more as a means of making money rather than invaluable pieces of history. This is partly because China emerged from the worst famine in history about 40 years ago which was caused by a communist government. I've seen more care given to an old 200 year old cottage in America than to the thousand some year palace... erg.

2) I watched Moulin Rouge for the third time on the plane. I was sobbing almost uncontrollably. That's new...I almost always cry more easily on the plane. My sister says it's the higher air pressure squeasing the tears out. =]

3) My 70+ year old grandmother is more fit that I am. (I got a lovely cramp climbing the Great Wall. She didn't.) Yeah...just slightly embarassing...

4) I am horribly out of practice at the piano. =[

5) Beijing is horribly polluted. The sun is a barely visible speck in the sky even at 1:00 in the afternoon. (Pictures at Out of the Blue on the right).

6) It's wonderful to be home. =]

7) I liked my trip, I learned alot, was spoiled, am trying to retain some things, and trying to unlearn others.

Well, more later. =]

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thoughts on Creation

(This came about while reading Emerson and loathing the twisted shadows of truth which he propounds for the real thing. Wishing to right his wrong, I (though if presumptuous, time will tell) endeavored to articulate feebly an aesthetic which is based upon Dorothy Sayers essay, but also, hopefully sheds some light on what creation of art, literature, or music is.
We esteem great men because of their ability to see what is true and to communicate that truth. By learning from them, we also learn to see the truth and hopefully will see more truth. But the truth is not new, it was not created, it always was. The truth did not come from men, but from God. Why then should I seek truth within when it is without? What I say will simply be feebly articulating what has always been and always will be. True, anything I create will have my unmistakable personal stamp, but what I do either conforms to the Good, True, and Beautiful or it does not. A story may have been born of the author’s personal experience, but we esteem it because it is true, good, or beautiful and because it says something that is universal. The very fact that we can recognize it as truth proves that it is saying what already existed in some form. By conforming to these principles, we articulate some aspect of reality in the unifying context of God’s goodness, truth, and beauty. By the mere fact that another man can recognize what I say as being true, I prove that all truth is God’s truth. When we see Rembrandt’s painting or listen to Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto and rightly agree that it is beautiful and admire the author for seeing what we did not see, we come to know and see what the author saw. Art is communication. Proving that by being able to see what he saw, there is an underlying reality of which he is only uncovering our eyes from. Human creation, if good and true is showing others the reality which we glimpse. If art is creation, then creation is a mirror through which we see God, Reality itself, reflected. A mirror because the there are varying degrees of light and truth which are shed from an object.
This whole argument needs clarification in that I still have not made the important distinction between good, true, and beautiful art and just plain bad music, art, literature, etc. This difference does exist, but I will need further reflection to come to an articulation of its cause.
The passage that specifically prompted this barrage of incoherency and muddled thought was this.
“Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession…Where is the master who could have instructed Franklin, or Washington, or Bacon, or Newton? Every great man is a unique.” (Emphasis mine, from the essay Self-Reliance page 199) I apologize for the pompousness of this post. Emerson’s radical individualism is starting to affect me. =] I humbly submit this little kernel of mine to the scrutiny of anyone who happens to read this. Feel free to rip, tear, and batter it to pieces, hopefully we will gain a sliver of silver from all this dross.