Monday, October 29, 2007

Mahler was a rockin' guy.

I'm in a music appreciation class in school. We are required to attend two formal concerts during the semester, and to write a review on it. It is perfectly acceptable to go to one of the free concerts put on by our school....but, you all know that I don't usually settle for simply 'acceptable.'

No, I couldn't do things the easy way. I just HAD to spend a bunch of money and time, and drag myself (and my cousin Stacey) up to see the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

I had an amazing time. ;) Figure I might as well post my concert review that I will be turning in to my teacher (best teacher EVAR!) tomorrow morning. :)

Without any further ado: (you'll just have to imagine it correctly formatted and whatnot! :P )

The mood upon arrival at Symphony Center, home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, was one of anticipation and excitement. Or perhaps this observation was, in part, a misinterpretation of a projection of my own enthusiasm onto that of my fellow concert-goers. After checking my bag and buying a three dollar bottle of water that could not have been much bigger than a shot glass, my friend and I made our way to our seats. The view from the second row of the main floor seating area was not the greatest in the respect of being able to watch the entire orchestra. The conductor, however, was in my direct line of sight, as our seats were towards the end of the left side of the stage. I found him to be captivating, and having the ability to see his face was a valuable part of my experience. Overall, the seats were not bad for the nominal price paid.

Looking around me, I found the majority of the audience was comprised of older generations, many of them dressed up to the nines. Well rehearsed in the way of fine art spectatorship, these seasoned symphony patrons were well composed, knowing exactly when to clap, when to stand, and when to snore. Also catching my eye was the younger, jeans and t-shirt clad crowd that was interspersed amongst the assembly. I found this interesting mix of young and old, casual and formal, hip and traditional, to be an enlightening experience in and of itself. It intrigued me to learn that, over one hundred years after their peak, the music of the two great composers on the agenda for the night could still enrapture such a broad span of generations.

First on the program for the evening was a piece from the Romantic era by Richard Wagner, called Siegfried Idyll, which was made for a chamber orchestra. Instruments included in the work were violins, viola, cello, bass, trumpet, horns, bassoon, clarinets, oboe, and flute. It was the strings that softly and slowly brought us into the world of Siegfried Idyll. The melody began smooth and flowing, somewhat reflective in mood. The woodwinds joined, and then the brass, adding to the gradual rise in dynamics. Crescendos and decrescendos, sometimes somewhat subtle, were present throughout the entirety, and usually provided a slight tension in the music that helped to keep your attention and lead you through it. Solos during the piece had simple melodies and helped to enhance the intimate mood that was being put forth. The ensemble put on an exemplary performance, with no errors that could be picked up by my untrained ear. It was pleasant and calm, and lulled the audience into a sense of serenity that was not to last.

Gustav Mahler’s Sixth Symphony then came marching in with vengeance. This Romantic Era symphony of gargantuan proportions was full of intense emotion, from dark triumph to quiet introspection to tense caution. The score calls for a full orchestra, which also includes cowbells, rute, celesta, and a hammer. The dynamic range is wide, utilizing crescendos and decrescendos, as well as sudden shifts between loud and soft that kept the crowd engaged, and the elderly awake. Changes in mood and tension are created with the changes in rhythm between each movement, and also within them. Melodies are somewhat complex at some points, and simple at others. In fact, there were very few elements that remained constant throughout the entire eighty minutes, making for, overall, a very complex work that rendered my attempts at note-taking useless. It was performed beautifully, with the exception of one squeaky note from what sounded like a clarinet, during the first movement. The players were poised and professional, not even missing a beat when quickly restringing a violin bow that came unstrung during the finale.

A component of my symphonic experience that must not be forgotten is that of conductor Bernard Haitink. Watching him mold an entire stage full of players and their instruments into a beautiful and intricate work of art was an experience I will not soon forget. It was fascinating to see his facial and body expressions as he gave precise orders as to what he expected from each and every orchestra member. When a particular player or group of players especially pleased him, he would give them a nod and a slight smile, a gesture which I imagine brings great pride to those who received it.

Finally, though I may still be inexperienced when it comes to recognizing flaws in musical performances, I feel fairly confident in my assertion that I had been presented with a good display of talent and artistry. If the goal of a musician, be it a composer, a conductor, or an instrumentalist, is to evoke emotion and inspire interest, then the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Bernard Haitink achieved that goal with this performance. I also have them to thank for introducing me to the brilliant composer, Gustav Mahler. I have fallen in love with his sixth symphony, and anxiously anticipate soaking in each of the rest of his works of art.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

My life, in more than a nutshell.

I've been lax about posting on here. REALLY lax! By the time you finish reading this, you'll know why.

Since my last entry, I've been to the east coast twice. I have spent time in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, and also Chicago.

I’ve started my first semester of my long journey called college, and I am loving every second of it.

I’ve gone through health problems with both my mother and my grandmother, both requiring hospital stays at the same time.

I’ve gotten to meet, for the first time in real life, one of my best friends, Stu.
I was the official photographer of the benefit concert for the domestic violence shelter at which I am employed.

I couldn’t even begin to think of everything I have done since May….it’s been a lot!

Now, to go into more detail. We’ll start with the first of the two trips to the east coast.

I rang in birthday number 25 in Philadelphia with two of the greatest men alive. Joe and Sky made me feel like royalty the entire week, and REALLY amped it up on my actual birthday. The week started out in Baltimore (on a Thursday)…I flew in, and Sky took the train down, and the two of us explored Baltimore a tad bit while waiting for Joe to come home from work that evening. Friday, again, Joe had to work….but this time, Sky and I tagged along to DC with him, and explored that city, instead. :P We went on a quest for Nutella and baguette, and found places to hide from the heat every chance we got. The weekend was spent in Philly, and my birthday was on Saturday. I was thoroughly spoiled! The guys took me to Morimoto for buri bop and sushi….best meal anyone has ever bought me! It was DELICIOUS as always. Morimoto never disappoints! And on top of that, Joe and Sky spoiled me with great gifts, too!
Aaanway, on late Sunday night it was back to Baltimore….Monday we spent more time in DC while Joe was working, and Tuesday Sky and I kinda rested up and were just generally lazy until we both had to leave for our respective states. I had a hard time saying goodbye to both Joe and Sky, but that was nothing new.

Fast forward a tad bit…in early August I took my little cousin Nicole for a day of exploration and shopping in Chicago. We had a blast at Shedd Aquarium, laughed our asses off at the wait staff at Ed Debevic’s, and wore holes in our shoes. It was a GREAT time, and we WILL be doing it again sometime!

August 20th. That day changed my life. Why, you ask? Because it was my first day as a student at Illinois Valley Community College. Very few decisions in my life have impacted me as much as this one has. This sounds a bit corny, but I feel like a butterfly opening her wings for the first time, and flying out into the world. I have been imprisoned behind these giant stone walls I have unconsciously created for the past 25 years. I felt there was no hope of climbing over those walls….so instead I obliterated them. I am standing up and taking control of my life.
I now have a goal of graduating from IVCC with honors. I plan to pay for all of my schooling, starting with next year, through scholarships that I will earn with those fantastic grades. I am going to learn an instrument, and dive into my newly re-sparked interest in music. I am currently searching for a piano that I can afford, because that is what I want to learn first. (yes, I said first…I will learn more than one instrument before I die). I am going to go to a good university in a city…either Chicago or the east coast…when I finish IVCC….and I will remain in college until I, at the very least, get my Master’s degree.

I dreamed about all of these things before, but I have never said “I AM doing this!”

That is by far the biggest thing that has happened since my last entry…I suppose I should have left that for last, but I’m attempting to go chronologically here. :P

Leeet’s move on. I was back on the east coast again for a weekend over Labor Day, to see Joe. We had a really great time, and pretty much just hung around Baltimore having fun. It was a bit of a ‘food’ meetup…we satiated my newfound adventurousness for FOOD. I had Indian food for the first time, and fell in love! It wasn’t at all what I expected, and I am still craving it over a month later. The next night we had Afghan food….not quite as good as Indian, but not far off! We found time in there somewhere for some really great sushi at a new place Joe had never tried….oh, and crab cakes! I’d never had crabcakes before! On top of all that, we fit in a trip to Vacarro’s for some DEEELICIOUS Italian dessert! I STILL don’t know how we fit all of that into 3 days, but we did….I believe Ethiopian food is on the agenda for next time!
….almost done here, I swear.

Two weeks ago, I was in Chicago again….this time to meet up with Stu for the first time ever. He came all the way from Toronto JUST TO SEE ME! Ok, that’s not true…he came for a Bears game….but humor me here!

Unfortunately, our time together was much too short, and I’ve missed him a lot ever since…..but we did make the most of the time we did get to hang out….we checked out the museum campus…Millenium Park…Navy Pier….The Museum of Contemporary Photography (or something like that)…oh, and Ed Debevic’s, of course. :P I am REALLY looking forward to going to Canadia someday (soon, hopefully) and seeing him again!

….and, we’re going to skip over the rest, because, 1) I don’t feel like going into detail on the negative things, 2) I already hit pretty much all of the big events, and 3) I’M TIRED, DAMMIT! LET ME GO TO BED ALREADY!

So…there you have it. I’m posting for the first time since May….it’s one big ramble, but, whatever! :P