sigmastolen: (ter'angreal)
omg i had the most traumatic dream this morning

so for whatever reason i was going to play bassoon and contra with ucla for this concert (not at the hollywood bowl but at a venue not unlike the bowl) -- the first piece was some kind of partially-staged concert version of la boheme which they didn't need me for, then, like, a strauss and a mahler? i don't actually know. anyway. because this was a dream, my parents were coming to the concert and so we were all driving together and also i think i hadn't been to any rehearsals and was going to be sightreading in the concert (which maestro generally wouldn't permit in real life).

anyway so we get to the venue and find our seats (in the second or third row, but on the end -- this was due to some complex seating algorithm involving how close to the concert date you purchased your tickets) and i take out my contrabassoon reed to soak it and realize at that point that i don't think i brought my instruments, and i start to freak out. so i take the car keys and run back to the car and, yep, they're not there. so then i run back to my parents to give back the keys and it's a few minutes after 8 (when downbeat was supposed to be) but on my run i saw "rolling hills" curtis in the audience and i might be able to borrow his instruments, so i tell that to maestro and promise to be right back. i go and find paul and ask to borrow his horns, i have my own reeds, and yeah, i can borrow his bassoon, it's right here, but he doesn't have his contra on him (because who would, honestly), and so i say thank you thank you thank you i can make it work (and i see dan a few seats away and he looks hurt that i'm not asking to borrow his bassoon but he doesn't even have a contrabassoon and two birds with one stone, man) (and i'm also mentally swearing and thinking i'll never get a gig in this town again) and i grab his case and start to run back to the stage

and then i woke up in a cold sweat
sigmastolen: (Default)
My bassoon quartet played a gig at a senior center recently. After the performance, while we were packing up, we did some Q&A with the audience. Someone asked how we all started playing bassoon, so we went around the arc to answer, and it mostly went, “it was the biggest one!” or “my band teacher conned me into it.” My story, however, went a little like this:
I used to play clarinet, and in elementary school, I was the best one. But in middle school, I stopped being the best. I didn’t like that very much, so I decided to find something new to be the best at. One day we were watching Fantasia in class, at at the beginning of the Rite of Spring sequence — you know, the one with the dinosaurs — the teacher asked us what instrument was playing the solo. I said, “Oboe!” and I was wrong: it was a bassoon. And I decided that that was the instrument for me. And nobody else at my middle school played it, so I was automatically the best again!

And power-hungry Slytherin loved those of great ambition
… I know how you guys like to tell me I'm a Ravenclaw, and it's sweet! But inaccurate.
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
So I realized I didn't cross-post the last twelve days of the 30 Days of Classical Music meme, because I am the worst. So! Here we go!

Day 19 - A classical music piece from your favorite album )

Day 20 - A classical music piece that you listen to when you're angry )

Day 21 - A classical music piece that you listen to when you're happy )

Day 22 - A classical music piece that you listen to when you're sad )

Day 23 - A classical music piece that you want to play at your wedding )

Day 24 - A classical music piece that you want to play at your funeral )

Day 25 - A classical music piece that makes you laugh )

Day 26 - A classical music piece that you can play on an instrument )

Day 27 - A classical music piece that you wish you could play )

Day 28 - A classical music piece that makes you feel guilty )

Day 29 - A classical music piece from your childhood )

Day 30 - Your favorite classical music piece at this time last year )

So!  This has been a meme!  I feel… very liberated, now that it's over.  It's a weirdly heavy obligation, posting a specific thing every day.  Next time I do one of these, I'm going to plan it out beforehand, instead of jumping in with both feet and winging it.  Then again, the next time I do one of these, it will probably involve essays and/or picspams, because that's supposed to be the point of these memes, right?  …. I think I'll take a while off.
sigmastolen: (Default)
Is this a musician thing? maybe? or am I just the worst?  idk but I really, really can't stand listening to people who speak in an aesthetically displeasing way.  Tonight, I overheard two people in rapid succession who were just the worst at speaking, which I suppose is why this is on my mind.  First there was a girl who was very guttural and very disjunct -- she didn't connect any of her words together; it was like every sound was a separate grunt.  All I wanted was for her to stop talking (or possibly use more air to support her voice).  And then on the bus there was this dude with a really low, gravelly voice -- it sounded like it was painful for him to make noise.  Dude, drink some water, get a lozenge, stop smoking, something, because that sound your voice is making is not healthy.

And I feel that as a musician, communicating primarily (ok, lbr, exclusively) with other musicians on a day-to-day basis, this is not something one encounters a lot.  We're trained to be hyper-aware of sound, especially the sounds we are making, and we're trained to be aware of how we present ourselves.  And while we certainly don't all have velvety phone-sex-hotline voices or anything, I think we are aware of the way we speak: the pitch and timbre of our voices, the flow of our words and the fluency of our phrases, sometimes even our breath support (I'm guilty of this, and I think many wind players and most singers are, also).  And, consciously or unconsciously, we try not to make sounds that are displeasing or offensive, unless we're doing it on purpose.  (Some, of course, make awful sounds on purpose more often than others: brasses, singers, I'm looking at you.)

Anyway, I'm not sure where I was going with this.  Except possibly to lament the voices and speech patterns of random strangers I encountered today.  (I mean, people, please, pay attention!  Pitch, timbre, breath support, word flow, emphases, I beg you.)
sigmastolen: (Default)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 12 - A classical music piece from a band you hate
cut for all the awful ever )
Time To Say Goodbye (Con te partiró) | Francesco Sartori/Lucio Quarantotto
(video above: Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman and an unidentified backing orchestra from some television special)

I was going to say something about how weird this day is -- "a band you hate" is bizarre in that "band" is probably not the word to use and "hate" is a very strong word to use -- 

but then I remembered that Andrea Bocelli exists.  And then I came across this on YouTube and I knew this performance existed specifically to be this day of the meme.

… I'm so sorry this had to be here, you guys. So sorry.
sigmastolen: (WDCH)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 07 - A classical music piece that reminds you of a certain event

Overture to Tannhäuser | Richard Wagner
(videos above: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Sir Georg Solti)

Tannhäuser was the first opera I ever saw, so it occupies a very special place in my heart.  I actually saw LA Opera's rather infamous 2007 production during my second year of college -- you know the one, with the Venusberg populated by dancers wearing G-strings and nothing.  else.  Which, you know, also made the overture particularly memorable.

The entire production was really quite excellent, with a smashing cast and orchestra, LA Opera's signature minimal sets, and very striking and symbolic use of colour.  Wagner isn't my favorite in general, but Tannhäuser was such an important experience for me that hearing the overture brings me right back to that first time, sitting in the cheap seats in Dorothy Chandler Pavillion (iirc we were in the very last row of the orchestra level which sucks in so many ways but oh, the memories) and holding my breath in anticipation of finding out what's so great about this thing that we call opera.  It gives me shivers.

(my icon is the wrong part of the Music Center but w/e w/e)
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 06 - A classical music piece that reminds you of somewhere

Last Tango in Bayreuth | Peter Schickele (yes, he did publish this one under his own name!)
(video above: Tennessee Bassoon Quartet: Keith McClelland, James Lotz, James Lasses, Michael Benjamin, bassoons)

This one was a stumper, actually.  I don't strongly associate classical music to places, apparently?  Or at least, not that I was able to think of.  After much pondering, I decided to settle on a piece that reminds me of Idyllwild, CA, and the summer music festival.  My experiences at Idyllwild are completely tied up in the friends I met there -- we were called (or perhaps called ourselves?) the Bassoon Mafia, and our pastimes included reedmaking, crossword puzzles, Scrabble, Hearts, hiking, stargazing, being inappropriate in the library, and playing quartets (and other bassoon ensemble pieces).  This was one of the first pieces I heard "the guys" perform, and a couple years later I played it with the three other bassoonists I have stayed closest to.  Even after we stopped attending the festival, the four of us went up to Idyllwild just to be together in that place again.  I played a lot of music there, and I've played a lot of music elsewhere, but whenever I hear this quartet, I think fondly of Idyllwild and my beloved friends.

Wow, that was sappy.
sigmastolen: (Default)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 05 -  A classical music piece that reminds you of someone

Enigma Variations, Variation IX "Nimrod" | Edward Elgar
(video above: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim, in a performance dedicated to the late Georg Solti)

This may be a somewhat plebian choice?  But Nimrod always makes me think of my dear friend M.  We supported each other through some really tough times in high school, and we both are really deeply moved (usually to tears) by this piece.  The obvious connection is that this movement represents Elgar's close friend Augustus Jaeger.  It tells a story of friendship and encouragement in dark times, and that was what we were -- and are -- for each other. 
sigmastolen: (Default)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 04 - A classical music piece that makes you sad.

War Requiem, Op. 66 | Benjamin Britten
6. Libera Me  - Strange Meeting ("It seemed that out of battle I escaped"), Wilfred Owen
(video above: Peter Pears, tenor; Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, baritone; Melos Ensemble; London Symphony Orchestra; conducted by Benjamin Britten)

In the War Requiem, Benjamin Britten manages to celebrate the valour of individual soldiers, comfort a grieving, war-ravaged country (the Requiem was composed for the reconsecration of Coventry Cathedral in 1962, after the original was destroyed in a bombing raid in 1940), and mourn the senselessness of war in a single intensely powerful, sorrowful piece.  Britten, a pacifist, quoted Wilfred Owen, whose poetry is intertwined with the traditional Latin texts, on the title page of the score:
My subject is War, and the pity of War.
The Poetry is in the pity …
All a poet can do today is warn.

The selection I've chosen here is, arguably, the climactic moment of the piece.  The text is Owen's poem, Strange Meeting, which is narrated by a soldier "who goes to the underworld to escape the hell of the battlefield and there he meets the enemy soldier he killed the day before."  The orchestration is particularly sparse, letting the tenor and baritone soliloquies speak for themselves.  The line, "I am the enemy you killed, my friend," is the point in the piece at which I begin to weep inconsolably, every single time.  To listen to the entire thing in one sitting is a singularly harrowing experience.

Runners up:
Adagio for Strings, Op. 11 | Samuel Barber (yeah it's cliche but whatever it tugs my heartstrings.  what can i say, i'm easy.)
Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis | Ralph Vaughan Williams (it has a kind of stately melancholy that thrills me and sweeps me along and it doesn't exactly make me sad but it makes me…. well, melancholy (thesaurus fail, sorry)) 
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 03 - A classical music piece that makes you happy:

A Midsummer Night's Dream | Benjamin Britten
(video above: countertenor David Daniels sings "Welcome Wanderer - I know a bank," which is my favourite aria from this opera.  This is the Opéra National de Lyon production, under musical director Harry Bicket.)

Yes.  The entire opera.  Benjamin Britten is my favorite.  Gorgeous, ethereal "green space" music; text painting that makes me giggle; and, if you're lucky, singers who are also gifted comedic actors (especially the Rude Mechnicals).  Oberon is a major countertenor role, and I love countertenors, especially in music from the last hundred years.  (Of course, if you don't have a countertenor (as OperaUCLA did not when I fell in love with their production and saw five of their six shows), a sexy mezzo adds a certain something to the duets with Titania, particularly if it's not played as a trouser role.)  Also, Opera Does Shakespeare is pretty much ALWAYS GOOD.

RUNNERS UP (because this was a hard day to pick just one):
La Valse | Maurice Ravel (in which Bernstein gets down with his bad self.  La Valse is fun for the whole family!)
Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity from The Planets | Gustav Holst (Jupiter brings jollity.  It's true.)
Flight | Jonathan Dove (this link goes to's Music Sampler because I am a snob and don't like any of the five clips of Flight a that exist on YouTube.  The ending of this opera makes me sad, but I fell in love with it (while playing contrabassoon in the pit for OperaUCLA) much the same way I fell in love with A Midsummer Night's Dream.  I need more people to know about this opera!)
sigmastolen: (WDCH)
Posting late because I did this latelate last night on Tumblr and forgot to cross-post! Wooo!

30 Days of Classical Music
Day 02 - Your least favourite classical music piece:

Turfan Fragments | Morton Feldman
(video above: Orchestra of the SEM Ensemble, conducted by Petr Kotik)

This was less difficult for me to choose than yesterday's.  I floundered for a short while, and almost chose Boulez's infamous Structures 1a (although, as spiky and unpleasant as it is, I decided that it didn't deserve this dubious distinction, because I respect what it represents) -- but then I tried to think of pieces that I really have not enjoyed seeing performed, and it was suddenly obvious.  I attended one of the LA Phil's Concrete Frequency series from January 2008, and heard Turfan Fragments.  Don't get me wrong, Concrete Frequency as a whole was fabulous and, in my opinion, a huge success.  Even the rest of the program this piece appeared on was great.  And I have enjoyed quite a few of Feldman's other works -- The King of Denmark, for example, which is not the greatest on recordings but is absolutely captivating in recital -- but not Turfan Fragments.  It was definitely the lowest-energy piece on an otherwise lively program.  I had a really difficult time keeping my attention on the piece, which is very hushed and disjunct and hard to follow.  I just plain didn't like it very much, and it was obvious that the orchestra didn't, either.  Sorry, Mr. Feldman, but Turfan Fragments was not a good time.
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
30 Days of Classical Music
Day 01 - Your favourite classical music piece:

Scheherazade | Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
Philadelphia Orchestra, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, 1978

"Favourite" is a really difficult thing to choose, because classical music (and all music honestly) has so much variety, and I love different things about all the pieces I love.  I ended up choosing Scheherazade because it is a piece that I am always excited to hear, and always excited to play.  I got to see the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra perform this in March, and it was so thrilling that I literally couldn't hold still afterwards -- I was bouncing everywhere waiting outside the artist's entrance, waiting for the bus, the entire ride home, and well after I was back at my apartment.  This is a suite that really has it all: poignant violin solos representing Scheharazade, weaving the captivating stories that save her life, meaty solos for the woodwinds and brass, swaggering heroes, a love theme that tugs at your heartstrings, and most of all, sweeping adventure and Rimsky-Korsakov's sumptuous orchestrations.
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)

Day 01 - your favourite classical music piece
Day 02 - your least favourite classical music piece
Day 03 - a classical music piece that makes you happy
Day 04 - a classical music piece that makes you sad
Day 05 - a classical music piece that reminds you of someone
Day 06 - a classical music piece that reminds you of somewhere
Day 07 - a classical music piece that reminds you of a certain event
Day 08 - a classical music piece that you know all the words to
Day 09 - a classical music piece that you can dance to
Day 10 - a classical music piece that makes you fall asleep
Day 11 - a classical music piece from your favourite performer
Day 12 - a classical music piece from a band you hate
Day 13 - a classical music piece that is a guilty pleasure
Day 14 - a classical music piece that no one would expect you to love
Day 15 - a classical music piece that describes you
Day 16 - a classical music piece that you used to love but now hate
Day 17 - a classical music piece that you hear often on the radio
Day 18 - a classical music piece that you wish you heard on the radio
Day 19 - a classical music piece from your favourite album
Day 20 - a classical music piece that you listen to when you’re angry
Day 21 - a classical music piece that you listen to when you’re happy
Day 22 - a classical music piece that you listen to when you’re sad
Day 23 - a classical music piece that you want to play at your wedding
Day 24 - a classical music piece that you want to play at your funeral
Day 25 - a classical music piece that makes you laugh
Day 26 - a classical music piece that you can play on an instrument
Day 27 - a classical music piece that you wish you could play
Day 28 - a classical music piece that makes you feel guilty
Day 29 - a classical music piece from your childhood
Day 30 - your favourite classical music piece at this time last year
(from Facebook)
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
In which I critical media studies it up and end up panning Puccini. Oops. )

But yeah. Sumptuous set and stunning costumes, though with a preponderance of Generic!Asian details and the colour red (BECAUSE THE ONLY WAY WE'LL KNOW IT'S IN CHINA IS IF EVERYTHING IS RED); very well performed by orchestra, singers, and dancers alike (EXCEPT YOU, CHORUS. YOU WERE NOT SO HOT.); and enormous problems re: racism, sexism, consent. THANKS BUT NO THANKS, PUCCINI.

And now I have to be done because, damn, it's late, and my cat has dandruff.
sigmastolen: (Default)
I'm expanding my cocktail repertoire to include whiskey, because after reminiscing about how wonderful the Jameson we had last year on St. Patrick's day was (and also on the goodness of whiskey in general, cheers to this summer's Bassoon Camping expedition), I finally took it upon myself to buy a bottle. That was a week or more ago; until tonight I've been sipping it straight, which is smooth and boozy and good, but hey, it's Saturday night at the beginning of spring break, and I saw an incredible concert (FIREBIRD @ THE PSO, GUH) tonight, so -- cocktail tiem!

New York Cocktail
1 1/2 oz. Whiskey (translate to: 3 parts)
1/2 oz. Lime Juice (1 part)
1 tsp sugar syrup or powdered sugar (relatively arbitrary amount of simple syrup -- easy to make at home! It's been sitting in my cabinet for months.)
dash grenadine (smallish arbitrary amount)
shake with ice
garnish with orange twist (which I did not do because who the fuck has orange twists lying around? I sure as fuck wasn't making one.)

It's pretty delicious -- sweet with a burn of whiskey, and a tart aftertaste.

I originally wanted to do the Los Angeles Cocktail -- whiskey, several dashes sweet vermouth, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and "1/2 raw egg", but (a) sweet vermouth is vile and I don't keep it at home and (b) I am leery of making cocktails with egg. I had a White Lady at a bar a little while back (gin, cream, sugar syrup, egg white) and it was pretty great, but that was an actual bartender making it and I don't really want to do it myself, eh?

Other things I have drunk at bars and restaurants recently: Pomegranate Margarita (okay, so this was at the Cheesecake Factory, it still counts); Aqua Velva (equal parts vodka, gin, and blue curaçao, topped up with sprite) at the Harris Grill; Singapore Sling (gin, sloe gin, sour mix, soda, top with cherry brandy?) at Joe Mama's. All delicious. But what I recommend, next time you're at a Cheesecake Factory, is the blueberry mojito -- Dena got this and it is crazy delicious. Despite the fact that I haven't really been feeling rum ever since the fateful Pirate Party, years and years ago.

Mmmm, booze :)

AND ALSO!! Presents from YouTube:
The Most Overused Line In Cinema
Playing bassoon is cool. (Dan says this might be the most highbrow penis joke ever, but somehow (shockingly) I don't follow...)
Smooth Criminal covered by two BADASS cellists. Can I be this rock and roll? Pls?
Sammy Davis, Jr., does impressions of his fellow crooners
Do tigers like catnip? I WANT TO RUB ALL THEIR BELLIES. OMG.
sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
Dear whoever writes episode blurbs on

"Dance troupe" ≠ "ballet company."

sigmastolen: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
Dear oboist who I don't like that much who wants to stay at my apartment when you are in town for auditions,

When I grudgingly tell you you can stay at my place and ask you, two weeks prior to your dates of travel, to send me your itinerary (including when you plan to drive your ass to a city in another state to take an audition there, while still using my apartment as your "home base"), you should probably DO THAT. You know, instead of not responding to my message in any way, whether it be to tell me your goddamn itinerary, or to tell me that I'm off the hook and you're booking a fucking hotel. You're supposed to be arriving in two days, am I supposed to house you or not? Are you even still coming??? UGHHHHHHHHHH.

Decidedly ungraciously,
sigmastolen: (WDCH)
There are a lot of ideas that have been germinating in my head for a few weeks, and so I'd just like to get them down, I guess.

Maybe it started with a conversation I had with Steinmetz when I visited UCLA? It may have started before that, in various conversations I had with various people about CMU and how different it is from UCLA and how much I miss Los Angeles's peculiar focus on new music.


So yeah. Contemporary classical music, relevance of. Guerilla chamber music. Jazz bassoon. Summer chamber music concerts. Thoughts? Because I honestly have no idea how feasible all this is, or if I would be fruitlessly fighting the tide of classical music's (already steep) descent into elitist obscurity.


sigmastolen: (Default)

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