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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.
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One of my favorite things to do when I am bored (or procrastinating) is to look back at the titles of papers I have written, and laugh at how awesome/pretentious I am.  Some greatest hits:

How the World that Is Came to Be: Mythological Roots of Middle Earth
What do Revelling Fairies have to do with Anything?  An Analysis of the Metatheatrical Dimensions of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Bewitching Macbeth with Ambition: The Weïrd Sisters as Objective Correlative
Bushisms: Executive Neologistical Patterns
Rife with Rhetoric: Text Setting in Handel's Ode to St. Cecilia
A Sound Structure: Sonata Form in Haydn's String Quartet in G, Op. 64, No. 4
Schubert's "Gretchen am Spinnrade" vs. the Standards of Greatness, or, Nobody can ever be as good as Beethoven (this was extra sassy because I was really pissed about this class)
Bizet & Tchaikowsky, Nineteenth-Century Musical Isms, and the Panromanogermanic Bias
In Babylon, Gentle Voices Wail Their Sorrow: Schoenberg's Love Life and The Book of the Hanging Gardens
The Ceremony of Innocence is Drowned: Ambiguity, Homosexuality, and Exoticism in The Turn of the Screw (including section headings "Homosexuality in Britain" and "Homosexuality and Britten" because I like to think I'm clever)
Death and Disorder: The Sacrificial Victim in a Corrupt Community, and Why It Doesn't Work
Peter Grimes's Interludes: A Love Song
Renaissance Polyphony for the Modern Bassoonist: John Steinmetz's Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, II. Browning
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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: (octopus)
so potter 7.2 was pretty great. i was basically only annoyed by the things that annoyed me in the books -- no new annoyances, yay! and there were a lot of things that turned up in the film that i really appreciated. and i shed many tears (as usual). so. good film, all told. i guess i'll sleep on it and see if i have more to say tomorrow?

it really feels like the end of an era.
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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: (dalek-o-lantern)
I just called the police on a group of people setting off fireworks the block over.

FIREWORKS ARE ILLEGAL IN LONG BEACH OKAY I DO NOT CARE IF YOUR EIGHT YEAR OLD DAUGHTER WANTED SPARKLERS.
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 Amazon.com'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!)
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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: (dalek-o-lantern)
(Does this count as meta? idk mostly it's me ranting pseudo-intellectually)

In my newfound summer-break free time, I'm basically turning to Netflix to fill my brain with mush -- which is obviously completely different from what I do during the school year. I watched Dollhouse, for three main reasons: (1) I love Eliza Dushku, (2) I love Tahmoh Penikett, and (3) I wanted to see it for myself instead of letting meta discussions about Joss Whedon and feminism tell me what to think about it (yes: Echo and Adelle are both complex, strong characters. yes: it is always rape o'clock at the Dollhouse, and this is very troubling.). And I want to talk about it (though not as much as I want to talk about Angel ALL THE TIME), but the first thing I have to say is: Joss Whedon, I have Problems with Amy Acker's characters.

Okay. I don't have problems with all her characters. But I do have big big problems with the characters we're presumably supposed to like and identify with, and miss when they're gone, and because Amy Acker seems to represent Whedon's Ideal Woman (or at least her characters do) (given that he has said her face is the most beautiful thing he has ever captured on camera or something), it stands to reason these problems extend straight into Whedon himself.

SO MANY WORDS BEHIND THE CUT. AND SO MANY SPOILERS. )

In other news, I love Adelle best, because I am predictable.
sigmastolen: (dalek-o-lantern)
that 90s x-men cartoon, part the first )

that 90s x-men cartoon, part the second )

full disclosure time: most of my "classic" x-men knowledge probably came from this cartoon. i didn't buy the comics until middle school, and i have not by any stretch read a great deal of the "x-men canon". trufax.
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: (bassoonists do it with their thumbs)
Dear whoever writes episode blurbs on imdb.com:

"Dance troupe" ≠ "ballet company."

kthx,
s
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,
Sigma
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.

Cut for EPIC RAMBLING! )

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.
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My winter break in movie reviews. YAYE :DDDD

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The King's Speech, Black Swan, The Fighter, and The History Boys )

A last note: Marvel has a few movies coming up that I'm pretty excited about -- Thor and Captain America for this year, and apparently The Avengers for 2010? I'm totally down with Thor (esp. since Chris Hemsworth (AKA GEORGE KIRK YES PLEASE) is totally gorgeous), and I'm super gleeful about Cap, but I'm a little weirded out that Captain America -- you know, super-wholesome 1940's All-American super-soldier beefcake -- is being played by Chris Evans, who is also Johnny Storm, the Fantastic Four's playboy Human Torch. I'm a little worried about this whole playing-two-characters-in-the-same-franchise thing (or closely-related franchises, at least), and I'm also concerned that I won't be able to stop seeing the Human Torch while he's supposed to be Cap.
.... Man, all this is making me want to watch Iron Man II again. You know, for the Thor & Captain America teasers. And also for Scarlett a little. Okay, a lot for Scarlett. I could almost watch The Spirit again, for Scarlett. Maybe if there was a good-parts version, with just Scarlett & Samuel L. Jackson's scenes. *sighs dreamily*

In other news: although Days Where I Don't Leave The House make me feel incredibly lame after they happen, they feel so good while they last. :D
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Dear Tenor Who Sounds Like A Goat:

What you just sang was definitely not the same thing as the arpeggio you played on the piano. Please go warm up somewhere else. Alternatively, quit school and go work at Burger King because you fail opera forever.

With bleeding eardrums,
Sigma

MDW

Nov. 28th, 2010 01:14 pm
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In Chicago's Midway airport. Judging from the waiting area crowd, my plane is mostly going to be full of college types. Also, full in general: they're asking for volunteers to give up their seats. Yeah, no.

Also, whoever is doing the general intercom should be shot: every time she mentions a flight to San Jose, she sings, "do you know the way to San Jose la la la la la" which, also no. I'm pretty sure what's happening there is Not Quite A Song From RENT.

Chicago Vacay was AMAZING. Can I just not go back to grad school?

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After my second viewing, I can safely say that I liked it (shut up you guys, you know it's hard for me to tell with the HP films! I'm still flip-flopping on the fourth one!).

(FYI: I am in Chicago, spending the Thanksgiving holiday with my dad's cousins who live here! They're super cool. One has a baby named Malia who is pretty much the best thing ever: 1.5 years old, adorable, loves music, and so, so smart. She blows me away. Pictures later, maybe. Also: Today the two babyless cousins took me to the Art Institute of Chicago, which. Amazing. Pictures later, definitely. But omg my feet. And all this after an extremely fruitful two-hour shopping trip this morning -- things I now have: a winter coat (OH THANK GOD); warm, fuzzy, tall boots that actually fit my calves omg)


okay now the movie )

Things for which I am hoping in HP 7.2:
-- lots of flashbacks to cover all the plot they've skipped in the films so far
-- lots of flashbacks of young Snape & other grownups <3

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