Dec 28, 2006

I'm too busy for this blog......

too bus-y.

As you can probably see, it's been a rather long time since my last post. In all fairness, I did warn you that I might be infrequent in my posts, and it would seem that this is one of those times. But, lest you think I'd fallen off the face of the earth or some such thing, I decided I had better write something here, and fast.

something

hahaha. Anyway, my first semester as a graduate student has officially come to a close. Among other things, I have discovered that juries and finals at the graduate level aren't much different from the finals and juries of my undergraduate days, except that in the case of my class, the entire grade is the final exam, which was a new and stressful experience for me. I'm sure that everything turned out well, but I can't say that with any certainty since I can't get into my BC web account, and the paper copy of my grades is probably sitting in my mailbox......in Brooklyn.

Meanwhile, I'm back in Iowa for two and a half weeks, to experience the winter holidays in all their glory and craziness, and also to take care of a project or two. After a busy semester, I must admit that it's a pleasant change of pace to be able to relax and visit some of my family in the quiet cleanliness of the Midwest.

Wait...so why am I writing so much in here?! I should be relaxing and enjoying myself! So I'm going to go back to doing just that!!!

Happy Holidays and New Year to all!

Dec 7, 2006

I'm so happy I can't stop playing!

A few weeks ago, a certain rather embarrassing circumstance necessitated that I change out my strings. The circumstance was this: One day, amid all the weather changes of late, I was in the middle of a lesson and my strings went horribly out of tune. While I was trying to retune my poor violin, M.K. remarked, "D string sound old." (Yes, he really does talk like that.) Needless to say, I ordered new strings that very same day and put them on as soon as they arrived.

Changing strings, aside from the annoyance of the strings settling, is always something I look forward to. Among other things, I'm always in a good mood after I put on the E string. Why? Because on the inside packet, there is the following inscription:

It makes me smile every time I see it; while it's not THE reason why I use the Pirastro Gold E, it's certainly a very important benefit!

As for the inscription itself, it sort of describes what next semester will be like for me: instead of "I'm so happy I can't stop playing", however, it will be "I'm so busy I can't stop playing." My performing commitments for next semester include my lessons (in which we'll be stepping up the repertoire considerably), orchestra, and a Baroque ensemble which will perform Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2 (for piccolo trumpet, violin and recorder) and some other Baroque orchestra works. In addition, Contempo will likely be doing a quartet for piano, violin, cello and clarinet by Paul Moravec entitled, "Tempest Fantasy." And while I'm not signed up for the course itself, I'll probably end up involved with it anyway, just to take advantage of the opportunity to perform new music. I registered for classes yesterday, and in addition to the craziness I described above, I'm also taking a 20th century theory/analysis course. And over the summer, I'm going to have to study French and history/theory like mad in order to pass language and comprehensive exams next fall.

Nov 27, 2006

Messiaen, molto appassionato e agitato al fine

Today I forgot my camera.

Here is where you ask why--no, how-- this is relevant to anything exciting or useful in Devora's life. And you're right: normally such a thing would be completely irrelevant, except that this evening was the long-awaited performance of Contempo, featuring Messiaen's Quatour pour la fin du Temps.

I had intended to visually commemorate this performance for posterity, and was upset to discover, upon arriving to rehearsal, that, in fact, I did not have my camera. And because I arrived well before anyone else, I had ample time to ponder my upsetted-ness.

It occurred to me that many people I know are rather obsessive about pictures, and that I would do well to not follow their example by placing too much emphasis on visual reminders in order to remember the things that I have done. But then, my main purpose in taking pictures tonight was to post them here, where you all could see me in action, and then I thought I could just paint you a picture with words, and that would be good enough. For even if I had taken pictures this evening, words still would be necessary in order to explain the people, place, and circumstances, in which case one could almost get away with no pictures anyway. And then one of the clarinetists walked in and startled me, at which time I concluded I should stop with the philosophical discourse and just go get my darn camera.

So, without further ado, I present you with all but two members of Contempo:
From left: Professor Feltman; Jessica, flute; Antonio, bassoon; Tonia, clarinet; Devora, violin; Louis, cello.

As you can see, my pink shoes made another appearance, much to everyone's delight. The last time I wore them to perform in a concert, it was the source of great consternation (some genuine) among many of my teachers. In this case, everyone thought it was a nice touch, and after all of the hard work I put into preparing for tonight, I certainly felt entitled to a bit of fun!

The concert went very well. Antonio and Jessica performed on the first half of the program, and after intermission (at which time I forgot to hand off my camera to get some action shots), the five of us walked onstage and played the heck out of Messiaen.
That's not to say that the performance was without a couple of unglamorous moments, but overall, it was very impressive, so much so that we got clapped back onstage for a second bow and a quasi-ovation. People were particularly impressed with the last movement, which was a violin solo with piano accompaniment. The clarinet and cello each have a solo movement as well, which are embedded within the rest of the piece. The interesting thing is that each of these movements is exceedingly slow, so that they give the physical impression of lasting an eternity. In the case of my movement, that impression was something which preoccupied me throughout rehearsal. While the tempo markings of the other solo movements are much slower than mine, the actual note values in my movement are longer, and the piano has a very minimal accompaniment; so it seems like the very last movement lasts an eternity. This, plus the fact that the violin part ventures into the stratosphere, plus the fact that I was more or less responsible for closing the concert meant that I was a little stressed out towards the end.

Thank goodness I made it to the last note.



Nov 15, 2006

substitute teachers

Today was lesson day.

In general, lesson day is my very favorite day of the week, largely because I think that M.K. (at left) is the cat's meow. Meow. Anyway, this week and next, M.K. is out of the country and therefore unable to attend to his regular students. In situations like this, most teachers do one of two things: either they will have make-up lessons, or they won't. M.K., however, is not most teachers, and so M.K. does a third thing, which no other teacher I've ever heard of actually does, and that is to call in a stand-in.

That's right. M.K. has a substitute teacher handle his lessons while he is out of the country. This sub is actually a former student of M.K.'s named Matthew Reichart. As it turns out, M.R. is the first person I've met here in NYC who is also originally from the Midwest (Minneapolis, to be exact). In addition, he taught at University of Iowa for a year, and one of his students there was the son of a lady with whom I played in the Sioux City Symphony. Small world, no?

Back to M.R. He teaches at the CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan and the pre-college program at Brooklyn College, as well as subbing for M.K. While he is very familiar with how M.K. teaches, he has his own teaching style, and so stand-in weeks are a unique opportunity to get another point of view. In September, for example, at my first lesson with M.R., we talked about shifting, and I witnessed the most creative demonstration of said skill which I have ever seen. Ever. We also talked about ways to practice shifting, namely one-string arpeggios, and also etudes, via memorizing them and also practicing them exceedingly slowly to nail articulation.

M.R. is very easy-going, much nicer in his comments than M.K. usually is. Today, for example, I played the last movement of Messiaen for him. While he isn't familiar with the Quartet, and while I wasn't able to procure a score, he still had useful comments. That's the nice thing about teachers: they always have something to tell you to help you improve. Teachers also challenge you to the point of your limits sometimes, and M.R. did that today as well when, after working through the first movement of Mozart, he asked me to play it (just for kicks) memorized (which it will be when I perform it, but isn't quite there at the moment). So I did.

Nov 12, 2006

M-O-U-S-E

Devora Geller has a mouse problem. And not a small one, either.

The trouble began almost a month ago when Devora returned to her apartment and walked into the kitchen to discover a partly eaten roll, some partly eaten candy bars, and a large pile of mouse poop on her counter. Prior to this, there had been some occasional mouse droppings on the counter, which had been dutifully cleaned up and largely ignored, in the hopes that perhaps this predicament might solve itself. The aforementioned fateful day, however, changed all of this. Devora was quite disgusted, actually, at the audacity of the mouse helping itself to her food. After that, the boxed goods in her cupboard took a vacation to her refrigerator for a few days so that the mouse wouldn't go on any more eating binges. After a day or so, Devora had gone back into denial, until she actually saw a mouse run from her stove to under her refrigerator, at which time she could no longer deny, in any way whatsoever, that she had a mouse problem.

So she left a note for her super to come visit her and tell her what to do. The super came up the next day and put out some glue traps. Devora got the feeling, since she had meticulously cleaned up all of the mouse poop and there were no other outward signs of a mouse, that the super didn't believe she had mice at all. But he left the traps, and Devora went about her business for the rest of the day. That night, she walked into her kitchen to put away a glass when she saw, in the middle of the floor, a little gray mouse in the middle of the glue trap, which was now in the middle of the kitchen. Devora was not pleased about this, since it was now 11:00 at night and she wasn't sure who she could politely call at that hour to ask how to dispose of her pest. She finally decided to call her super and convinced him to come up and get rid of the mouse (at this point, of course, the super realized that there had been, in fact, mice in Devora's apartment).

Devora was sure that the problem was solved. The mouse was caught, and for ten days her kitchen was back to normal. Until last weekend.

Last weekend Devora decided it was absolutely necessary to clean her floors. In fact, her floors were dirty, and so it actually was necessary. So Devora got her Swiffer out of the closet and proceeded to clean the floors. In the process of doing this she moved the remaining glue trap that was in the kitchen. A few hours later, as she was relaxing in front of the television, she heard some sounds coming out of the kitchen that sounded very much like a mouse. So she went to investigate, and sure enough, there was another mouse, stuck in the glue trap and trying to get free. Although Devora was equally as disgusted as her previous mouse encounters, she figured that since she had seen how her super had disposed of the last mouse, that she could probably bring herself to dispose of this mouse, without troubling anyone. So she did, and after that she proceeded to get rid of all of the trash in her apartment and wiped down her kitchen again.

Since Devora was now out of glue traps, and since the mouse problem hadn't gone away, she left a note for her super to bring her more traps. On Tuesday, when Devora returned from rehearsal and errands, she discovered that one of the traps was missing. This was puzzling, since she was sure that she hadn't moved the trap, nor that a mouse could get out of the trap. So she went to investigate. She looked under her refrigerator, and saw a corner of the glue trap. She tried to pull it out, but it was stuck. So she grabbed a flashlight, and when she looked again, discovered that there was a MOUSE on the glue trap under the refrigerator. Devora was even more disgusted than the previous times. Not only that, she wasn't sure what to do: she couldn't leave the mouse under the fridge, because eventually it would die and attract bugs and stink. Nor was she willing to pull the mouse out herself (she could handle a mouse on a glue trap in plain sight, but she had to draw the line somewhere). So, on her way downstairs to fetch her super (who wasn't answering his phone), she called her sympathetic mother to complain about how unlucky she was with this mouse problem. The super kindly came up to her apartment and got rid of the mouse, although by now it was becoming clear that the super didn't like mice any more than Devora did. Before he could retreat to his own apartment, Devora made him look around with her to try to figure out where the mice were coming from. They decided that the mice were probably coming from the opening in the wall under the sink, which the super promised to come fix on Friday. On Saturday, Devora heard squeaking in her kitchen. Thinking that a mouse got caught in the trap, she went to the kitchen in time to see a mouse run under the dish drainer, along the counter, into the stove, then out from under the stove to under the refrigerator. When Devora first saw the mouse, she was sure that it would get caught in the glue trap, so she just stood and watched and waited for the little mouse to get its just rewards. However, the mouse came nowhere near the glue trap. Devora nudged the glue trap nearer to the fridge, hoping that the mouse would get caught on its way out. When Devora went to bed, the trap was still empty.

On Sunday, Devora woke up to discover that in the middle of the night, a mouse had gotten stuck, but that it probably wasn't the one she saw the evening before. So she disposed of the mouse. By now Devora was really annoyed. Who wouldn't be annoyed at audacious mice coming into one's kitchen? So instead of shuffling back to bed, as she would liked to have done, Devora got dressed and went shopping.

She went to the drugstore, where she bought rubber gloves and steel wool. Then she went up the street to the hardware store, where she proceeded to buy a large quantity of glue traps. When she returned to her apartment, still in a less-than-cheerful mood, she put on the rubber gloves, opened up the box of steel wool, and proceeded to plug up as much of the opening under her sink as she could. Then she opened up the glue traps and put a whole row of them in front of the stove, and a couple more in front of the refrigerator. Now she lies in wait, ready (and hoping) to hear the chirping squeaks of little mice caught in glue traps. The end.

Devora's tale probably does not have a moral. In fact, this tale really isn't even at its true end. Devora most likely still has mice, and will as long as there is an opening of any sort under her kitchen sink. From now on Devora plans to nag her super until he finishes the repairs. She will not be leaving any food out on her counters. Nor will she stand by idly the next time she sees a mouse running around her kitchen. Devora thinks that she has had enough pest ordeals the past six weeks to last her for many, many, many years of her adult life. The end (again).

Nov 8, 2006

The Beginning..... A Very Good Place to Start

Dear everyone,

As some of you may know, my sister, Riva recently began a blog with the idea that she could keep more people informed in a more timely fashion of her goings-on. Our family thought that this was a great idea, and requested that I do the same. Despite my initial reservations, I decided that the happiness that would be achieved through conveying information about my life far outweighed any concerns I may have about the (in)frequency of my postings. But surely it will be easier for me to update my blog on a periodic basis than to worry about juggling emails to people.......right?

Of course right! So let me tell you a little about life so far in Brooklyn:

School:

I attend Brooklyn College, which is part of the City Universtiy of New York (CUNY) system, as a graduate student. With any luck, I'll have a Master's Degree in performance by spring of 2008. The music department is a nice size, neither too small nor too large, although I was hoping for more violinists. I'll tell you a little about the classes/lessons/ensembles with which I am involved.

*Style Criticism: This class meets on Monday afternoons. The purpose of the class is to develop skills to identify works from specific compositional periods (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, etc). The majority of one's grade in this class will be determined by the final exam, which will consist of excerpts of several unidentified pieces. Students (i.e., me) will have to identify the composer, time period and genre by pointing out specific features of the piece which support our claim. Each week we look at several pieces, and students are assigned a different work in each unit so that in class, they can discuss stylistic details of the pieces.

*Contemporary Ensemble (Contempo for short): Meets on Monday evenings, after Style Criticism. The purpose of Contempo is to study and perform works by living composers. There is a research component of the class which involves presenting pieces which the group could perform (including details about the composer and the piece itself), and everyone has to present at least two pieces during the semester. This semester, the faculty picked out a rather demanding work to fit the unique instrumentation of the group: Quator pour la fin du Temps (Quartet for the End of Time) by Oliver Messiaen, written for piano, violin, cello and clarinet.

The Messiaen Quartet is fascinating for several reasons. First, Messiaen composed the piece while in a P.O.W. camp during World War 2. The unique instrumentation results from the fact that these four instruments were what was available to Messiaen at the time. Second, Messiaen's two major influences in life were religion and nature. In the Quartet, there are several moments when the clarinet and violin imitate bird calls, and several of the movements in the quartet have religious themes. The title of the Quartet is interesting as well. Messiaen meant "la fin du temps" in both a religious sense and also a metrical, musical sense. One movement in particular has no meter (or time) and every measure has a different (lopsided-sounding) number of beats.

There is also a bassonist and a flutist in Contempo, and they will be performing some duets on the concert.

*Orchestra: Meets on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons. The orchestra is kind of small, and for concerts the orchestra manager has to hire extra players to fill in the remaining wind/brass parts and fill out the string sections. As we all know, I made concertmistress of the orchestra, an accomplishment which amazes me and frustrates me all at once. The conductor is very accomodating, so I'm able to coach my section as needed.

*Lessons: Wednesdays at 12:30. My lessons are the main reason I'm at Brooklyn College. I study with Masao Kawasaki, who is a very well-known violin (and viola) pedagogue. Many of his students have gone on to very successful performance careers. He also teaches at Juilliard. M.K., as I like to refer to him, is an amazing and inspiring teacher. His comments are often simple, but the details to which he refers, once corrected, make an enormous difference. Right now I'm finishing up a Mozart violin concerto (#3 in GM) and reviewing an astonishing number of Kreutzer etudes all at once. A couple of other pieces floating in the background are the Franck violin sonata and Kreisler's Praeludium and Allegro.

Work:

I work at Payless, which is about a block away from my apartment. My neighborhood is predominantly Caribbean, so of course that's the clientele at my store. It's an interesting change from Des Moines, but the people I work with are quite nice, and so far it's worked out pretty well.

Home:

My apartment is a block away from the music building, also right near Payless. The building is kept in great condition by the super. A piano teacher lives across the hall from me, and a cellist lives on the third floor. I jokingly remarked once that the three of us could start a trio. I met the piano teacher about a month ago, and finally met the cellist on the elevator one night last week. As for my apartment, it's pretty large, with wood floors, south-western exposure and large windows that let in a lot of light. So far the people I've had over to visit have been impressed with it, which pleases me. A couple other perks about my neighborhood:

There's a fantastic bagel place on my way to class. They make bagels fresh every day, and I often find it hard to resist the temptation of a fresh toasted bagel with cream cheese for a very low price! Also, many cops frequent the pizza place next door to the bagel place, so I feel very comfortable coming and going at any hour of the day (or night). There are several different buses that stop within a block or so of my apartment, and the subway is a block away as well, so it's very easy to get around the City.

Well...... aside from a large amount of practicing (unglamorous and hardly worth mentioning here), I think that about covers my life in Brooklyn. While I can't promise to faithfully post each week, I can promise that whatever I tell you will be quite fascinating. So stay tuned for more, and enjoy!