Tuesday, February 26, 2008

tooting my own horn

Shameless, I know. But if you've got a minute and feel thus inclined, go vote for the Seal in Evening Wear.

Monday, February 25, 2008

smiling girl, big boy, knitting

I've got a future post forming in my head about the role of singing in my life, but I just don't want to take the time for that right now. Be patient; I'll try and get that going in a day or two.

In the meantime, here are a few pictures for you to enjoy:


(It's not easy to catch an Anya-grin on camera.)


(No, I did not make this hat. It was a gift.)


(He built this entirely by himself with no prompting from me. He can also put together a 24-piece jumbo-sized jigsaw puzzle all by himself with no help. Sorry. Bragging a little.)


(Here's a little something I finished over the weekend for an online knitting contest - this one. You'd think if I am knitting a tuxedo that I have gobs of free time on my hands, but you'd be wrong. It's just a matter of my effed up priorities.)

It just occurred to me that putting up pictures of Daniel and Anya here is sort of like putting you on hold on the phone, only I hope these photos are in better taste than most of the elevator music you hear while you're on hold...what I mean is, I feel like I usually put up pictures when I don't have much to say or not much time to write, but I want to keep y'all on the line. Anyway, I hope you like these.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

tough times

Go send Steph your love, would you?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

ice

We had a bad winter storm on Sunday: ice, then snow, and now it's so freaking cold that the ice is thick and solid and won't melt with salt or sunshine and makes getting anywhere rather treacherous. In fact, I was carrying both Daniel and Anya inside a coffee shop this morning and I completely wiped out, dropping them both. Don't worry, we're fine. Daniel was a little hurt and a little scared, but recovered with some hot cocoa, and thankfully Anya was still strapped in her carseat, so she wasn't hurt at all, just startled. Anyway, as much as I hate this weather, I can't think of any new ways to complain about it, so here are some pretty pictures instead.



Sunday, February 17, 2008

confession from a collaborative pianist

Thanks for all the suggestions, folks. It's nice to know a few people are actually interested in what I think about music-related topics. I've got several potential posts brewing in my head, but for today I think I'll start with a list. This is inspired in large part by Feral Mom's recent post, a confessional of books she's never read, despite the fact that she is getting a PhD in English. (For the record, I've read every single one on her list except Moby Dick, and I'm sure I'll never read it. Blech. Melville + eleventy-thousand pages about a sailor = instant cure for insomnia...come to think of it, maybe I should have tried to read Moby Dick in late pregnancy. That might have done the trick. Ah, I digress.)

So here's my own list of Music That I Would Not Normally Own Up to Not Knowing. As of a few weeks ago, I have a doctorate, a DMA in collaborative piano, and there's a whole bunch of stuff I never learned, and it's a crying shame I got away with that. Some of this I avoided because I don't like it (though I'll be sure to do a separate "music I hate/strongly dislike" post sometime in the future), and some of it I just never got around to.

1. Winterreise by Franz Schubert. You'll notice that the first three items on this list are major song cycles. Not just that, but they're major song cycles from 19th century Germany. Winterreise (winter's journey) is 24 songs that take over an hour to perform, and it's basically a guy who dies of self-pity because things didn't work out with his girlfriend. Schubert wrote the cycle in the last weeks of his life as he was dying of syphilis at the tender age of 33. All this adds up to make one depressing piece of music. If you learn Winterreise in the winter, you seriously have to be careful not to get depressed. Anyway, it's one of the most important song cycles ever written. Why haven't I learned it? Partly lack of opportunity. Women don't ever sing this cycle because it's all from a man's point of view (as is most of the poetry from this period), and since there just aren't as many male singers out there, the chance didn't come up while I was in grad school. I should have studied it on my own, but I was always busy practicing for actual performances of other stuff. Plus, playing Schubert practically gives me hives, as I'll explain next...

2. Schönemüllerin by same. Schönemüllerin is one of the other Greatest Hits of 19th century German music. And again, one of the main reasons I've never played it is the opportunity thing. By now you might be wondering why I never took the initiave and sought out someone to sing this with me. Time for the truth: I'm not much of a Schubert pianist. (The professor I studied with the last five years is a great Schubertian, so I've never confessed this to her outright, but she's also quite a perceptive person and musician, so she's surely figured it out by now.) I know that Schubert was a genius in his piano accompaniments, and they all makes sense when someone else spells it out for me, but I'm pretty dense when I have to figure them out on my own. Like Graham Johnson at Songfest, for example (how I worship that man). What sounds to me like just another broken chord pattern turns out to be the chirping of a cricket or the babbling of a brook or the slow descent into madness of a man suffering from unrequited love (common theme in 19th century poetry and music, as it turns out). Another thing that makes Schubert really difficult is that a lot of his songs are strophic, particularly in Schönemüllerin. This means you get the same exact music for several verses, and since each verse says something different, you have to find a way to make the same notation sound different to go with the text. Some people see this as a worthy challenge. I just get a little weary of it.

3. Dichterliebe by Robert Schumann. Another 19th century German song cycle written by and for a dude (sigh), though the great soprano Barbara Bonney bucked the trend and recorded it. Go her! It's about time someone had the ovaries to do that. I've heard Dichterliebe, and I like it, but I have to admit that except for a few of the individual songs, I don't know much about it. Too bad, really.

4. 12 Songs on Poems by Emily Dickinson by Aaron Copland. Oh, Copland. How I've tried to like your music, I really have. And your Dickinson songs are favorites of many people out there, including my professor at the yoo-dub. Sure, I enjoy a good rendition of Rodeo and that piece with the Shaker melody (the exact title of which escapes me now), but beyond that, I just can't get excited about your music. That your Emily Dickinson songs are among the most famous of settings of her poetry, and that they are among the most important songs in the 20th century American repertoire makes me slightly ashamed that I've never learned them. But until someone pays me, and pays me well (they're hard), to perform them, I probably won't bother.

5. Kreutzer Sonata by L.v. Beethoven. This is probably the most famous sonata Beethoven wrote for violin and piano (there are ten in all). Man is it great, and man is it hard. Playing it, like much of Beethoven's music, especially the early and middle stuff, takes machismo. I want to learn it one day. I just haven't yet.

6. The Prokofiev flute sonata. Every flutist plays this piece, along with most violinists, so it's a wonder how I got through five years in a collaborative program without ever being asked to accompany it. I have no objection to the Prokofiev sonata, either. It's a nice piece, the scherzo movement is especially fun, and as Russian music goes, it's not even that hard to play. I'd certainly rather play it than some of the other schlock out there written for the flute (and believe me, there's a lot of it). But for whatever reason, this one passed me by.

I'm sure I could think of many more items to add to this list, but this is all I feel like owning up to today. Besides, it's taken me all weekend to get this post done, and the power in our house is flickering on and off (thank-you-very-much-stupid-ice-storm-have-I-mentioned-how-sick-I-am-of-Wisconsin?), so I better publish before I lose the whole thing.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

thank you!

Thanks to all who wrote comments and sent me lovely emails after that last post. If you emailed me, I will respond eventually, but be patient. I don't always have a lot of computer time! I know you all realize I am not in dire straights here, just having an adjustment period to having two chilluns at home in the Wisconsin winter and no piano gigs in the near future. It feels like a long adjustment, but I know that come spring, the time will pass much more easily. (If spring ever gets here.) Still, your support means a lot.

By the way, I could be playing if I wanted to. I've had a few requests for accompanying - nothing real exciting - and I've turned them down. The main reason for this is that finding childcare for a toddler and a wee babe is almost more trouble than it's worth. I'm breastfeeding Anya, and while I'm fortunate that she takes a bottle (not all breastfed babies will accept drinking from a bottle, even if there's breastmilk in it), it's a huge pain to pump milk to have ready for a sitter, so I do the bare minimum. When Anya's eating solid food in a few months, having a sitter will be a lot easier. As it is, I have a sitter come for two hours on Thursday afternoon so I can teach piano lessons, and it feels like it takes almost that long to prepare for her to come over. You know, making sure there is plenty of milk for the baby and food for the Danimal and a change of clothes in case of diaper leakage and getting supper ready ahead of time for the rest of us...I love my piano students, so it's worth it, but I can't really handle it more than once a week. And accompanying means finding practice time and I really don't know when that would happen right now.

As for starting a music blog? I don't want to start another blog just for that because I don't have enough to write about, especially now that I'm on a bit of a break from active playing. However, I like writing about music and about my experiences as a musician, and I know that several musicians read this blog, so I would like to make a point of writing about music on a regular basis. Let's say I try to do a music post of some sort at least once a week. I think personal blogs are more interesting when they cover a variety of topics anyway. (I know I have a separate knitting blog, but that's because knitbloggers are a special breed of people who like to talk and write about things that would bore the store-bought socks off the general public. Of course, anyone's welcome to go read it, but I just figure if I'm going to go on and on about knitting, I should do it in somewhere other than here.) Also, I most enjoy trying to write about music in a way that's readable to a general audience. I would venture to say that even parts of my dissertation would be interesting to someone with only a casual musical education (Steph, you read it. Would you agree?)

I hear my daughter waking up and she sounds hungry (like always!), so let me just put this question out there quick: What do you want to hear about from me? Singers are an easy topic (or shall I say, target), but there's a whole host of things I could write about, from music education to teaching piano to accompanying to why I love the harpsichord to why I like music I like and why I hate music I hate...anything goes. Comments welcome! Fire away!

Monday, February 11, 2008

on hold

This weekend I took Anya with me to Borders so I could drink a chai latte and space out. Daydreaming over a hot beverage is not such an unusual activity for me these days, but at least I had a change of venue and no toddler running loose to distract me. While I was there, I ran into someone I know in the piano accompanying/teaching scene in Madison. It must have been about three years since we've seen each other, because she didn't know I have a two-year-old at home, and I'm not even sure she knew I'd started a doctorate, much less finished it. She asked me if I was still playing and I surprised myself by saying "Not really, no." The conversation limped along for a couple more minutes while she told me she couldn't practice because she'd strained her wrist shoveling snow and I told her that I can't practice because I have no time and no gigs and then we had a rather awkward good-bye and that was that.

I feel like I'm putting myself on hold. I don't just mean my "career," such as it is. I mean ME. Don't get me wrong. I love my children more than I thought possible. Before Anya was born, I was afraid I couldn't find room in my heart for the joy and pride of a second child, but like all parents of siblings, I found all the room I needed and more. But I am staying at home to take care of Daniel and Anya because it is what's best for them and best for our family as a whole right now, NOT because it is best for me. I spend most of my waking hours doing whatever it takes to keep my children clean, freshly diapered, fed, and reasonably happy. My most significant goal every day is to have the dishes washed, the toys picked up, and Anya bathed by the time Daniel goes to bed at 8:00 so that I don't have to spend the rest of my evening cleaning up the house, only to do it all over again the next day. Except for my five piano students (none of them terribly advanced), I am doing absolutely nothing to further my career as a musician or as an academic. The only reason I'm not having a bigger identity crisis is that I'm too sleep-deprived and physically exhausted from carrying my kids everywhere to invest the emotional energy into it.

I know it will get easier, but it's hard right now, especially when I think about it too much. I miss working with other musicians. I miss talking with other musicians. I miss having conversations about things other than poop schedules, the effectiveness of time-outs, and baby gas.

I don't really know what I'm trying to say here. I hesitated to write about this at all, because people have kids all the time. What on earth makes me special? What gives me the right to complain?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Eye-candy Friday: birthday boy

Thursday was Daniel's 2nd birthday, so I'd like to share some things about him.

1. His favorite game is peek-a-boo/hide-and-seek. The funny thing about it is that he'll show you where he's going to hide and show you where you should sit, and then he goes to hide and waits for you to say "Gee, I wonder where Daniel went. Is he in the kitchen? Noooo. Is he in his room? Noooo. Did he go to the park? Nooo." and so on until he pops his head up from wherever he's hiding and says "Booo!"

2. He has a vocabulary of at least three dozen words, if you count all the sound effect words ("baa" instead of "sheep," "woof woof" instead of dog, etc). He knows several words in sign language in addition to those.

3. He's crazy about his little sister:



4. He can take off his pants by himself.



5. The list of "things Daniel will eat" still only has about 5 items on it. However, one of those items is broccoli.

6. He loves any appliance that makes noise: the vacuum, the coffee roaster, the coffee grinder. In fact, yesterday I was using the blender and he got so excited about it, I thought he might hyperventilate.

7. He loves music and loves being sung to. We have several books by Iza Trapani with added verses to well-known children's tunes (such as "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and "Row, Row, Row Your Boat") that we sing over (and over and over) throughout the day and before bedtime.

8. He can operate every CD player in the house.

9. He likes to imitate the sounds Anya makes: the gulping noises she makes while nursing, the little grunts while she's sleeping, and the unceasing wail she sometimes emits while getting her diaper changed.

10. He is so full of joy and affection and curiosity. I love being his mom.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

fecking snow

From the National Weather Service:

TRAVEL IS EXPECTED TO BECOME VERY DANGEROUS OR NEAR IMPOSSIBLE

BY THIS EVENING. TRAVEL IS STRONGLY DISCOURAGED THROUGH LATE THIS

EVENING. IF YOU MUST TRAVEL...TAKE A WINTER STORM SURVIVAL KIT

WITH YOU AND TELL SOMEBODY WHEN AND WHERE YOU WILL BE TRAVELING.




ETA: Even the UNIVERSITY closed this afternoon and the city transit is shutting down tonight. That's major around here.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

where we live

I swiped this from Steph.

When you walk in your front door, which room do you enter?

The living room. Ours is sort of oblong, so we've divided it into the real "living room" part and a sort of through-way to the kitchen. The latter is what you enter when you come in the front door, and there are usually about 6 pairs of shoes and a bicycle helmet to trip over while you're at it.

Do you have a dishwasher?

No, but my life would be a whole lot easier if I did. Then again, what would I do during naptime? (sigh)

Is your living room carpeted or does it have hardwood floors? 

Hardwood. Sometimes I think carpet would be nice because it's warmer in wintertime, but then again, hardwood is easier to clean up when your 2yo pees in the potty and then picks up the potty to take it back to the bathroom (because he has to pee for an audience, you see) and tips it over in the process so the pee drips onto the floor...yeah, it's a good thing we have hardwood floors.

Do you keep your kitchen knives on the counter or in a drawer?

On the counter in a wooden knife-holder.

House, apartment, duplex or trailer?
 House.

How many bedrooms is it? Trois.

Gas stove or electric?
 Electric.

Do you have a yard? Yes, and even though it's too shady to do any real gardening in, I try anyway, so it's kind of a mess. That's going to be a major project for me this spring, actually: cleaning up the landscaping.

What size TV is in the living room?
 Uh, medium. I don't know the inches or anything.

Are your plates in the same cupboard as your cups?
 Good grief, who thinks of these questions? Is anyone going to read this?

Is there a coffee maker sitting on your kitchen counter? 
There is an espresso machine. I know how to use it, but I have written down the NINE (count 'em, NINE) steps it takes to turn the thing on properly. This is almost exclusively Stuart's domain.

What room is your computer in?
 Which one? As the wife of a Mac geek, we've got a PowerMac in the office/guestroom and a little laptop sitting on top of the speaker in the living room.

Are there pictures hanging in your living room?

 There is a lovely painting from Kenya that Stuart's parents gave us, a beautiful tapestry that my mom gave us, and a couple of posters in cheap frames. Plus a few family photos sitting on shelves, but they're not technically hanging from anything.

Are there any themes found in your home? Themes? No intentional decorating themes. I suppose a quick glance around our house would tell you the following: small children live here, someone in this house likes to knit, someone in this house is a musician, and we all like to read.

What kind of laundry detergent do you use?

All Free and Clear, and boy do we go through it fast. I also use Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda and white vinegar with the diapers.

Do you use dryer sheets?
 Yes, the unscented kind.

Curtains in your home? 
Some cheap blue ones in the big window in the living room that were here when we moved in, plus some that I made out of neato Japanese fabric. The rest of the windows have vinyl blinds that also came with the house, and about half don't work properly. They're annoying and ugly and also replacing them is pretty low on my priority list.

What color is your fridge?

Tehcnically, white, but it could stand to be cleaned.

Is your house clean? That depends on whose house you're comparing it to. I do my best to keep the floors swept and rugs vacuumed because we spend so much time playing on the floor, and every evening I tidy up the toys and clean the kitchen. But this house could definitely use a deep-cleaning and some areas are cluttered. Probably they wouldn't be so cluttered if I would clean them up instead of blogging.

Are the dishes in your sink/dishwasher clean or dirty?
 Uh, yeah, like I keep clean dishes in the sink.

How long have you lived in your home?

Since August 2004

Where did you live before? An apartment with a fireplace in the second bedroom where we put the recycling.

Do you have one of those fluffy toilet lid covers on your toilet?

Why yes! I crocheted it myself!

Not.

Do you have a scale anywhere in your house?
 Nope. Good thing, or I'd be checking my postpartum weight loss every 5 minutes. There, I admit it. I'm shallow.

How many mirrors are in your house? 
One in the bathroom, one attached to my dresser, and two bigger ones collecting dust in the basement (they were here when we moved in).

Look up. What do you see?
 Various office supplies we keep piled on the shelf above the computer monitor. Fascinating!

Do you have a garage?
 No, and never once in my life have I lived in a place with a garage. Sometimes I wish we had one.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Silent Poetry Reading (a day late)

Feb. 2 wasn't just Groundhog Day, it was Silent Poetry Reading day in blogland. I'm a day late with this because I kinda forgot about it. I'm not much of a poetry reader, to be truthful. I'm one for clear, direct prose, be it in fictional or non-fictional form. The one exception is song settings. I love the relationship between text and music in art song, so much so that I did my dissertation work on settings of several poems by E.E. Cummings (yes, the capitalization is on purpose, and here's why if you're interested). I made a recording of a dozen songs by various composers and wrote an 85-page paper about them. I've barely thought about either the recording or the paper in two months, but thinking about Silent Poetry Reading Day made me remember one of the more striking poems I studied, an angry anti-war piece called "plato told him."

I'm sharing this particular one with you today because I just heard that Friday's suicide bombings in Baghdad were carried out by two women with Down's Syndrome. The bombs were detonated remotely. That was the most horrible, horrible thing...I can't really find the words to express how sad and angry I am that there are people on this earth who would take advantage of those women and that the situation in Iraq is such that it could happen in the first place. So I'll let Cummings say it for me:

plato told

him:he couldn't
believe it(jesus

told him;he
wouldn't believe
it)lao

tsze
certainly told
him,and general
(yes

mam)
sherman;
and even
(believe it
or

not)you
told him:i told
him;we told him
(he didn't believe it,no

sir)it took
a nipponized bit of
the old sixth

avenue
el;in the top of his head:to tell

him

Friday, February 01, 2008

Eye-candy Friday: siblings

If Daniel and Anya are anything like me and my brother, one day they'll be fighting in the backseat over who crossed into whose space, who's "not touching" who, who gets more ice cream, who's allowed to do this and that, who cheated at Uno, and who gave the Barbie a shampoo with sawdust and Elmer's glue.

But for now...