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:


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.


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.


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!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Devora....its your cousin barbara (jeff's wife)...I am happy to hear that you will be joining us for Thanksgiving Dinner! We are all looking forward to meeting you! If you need to get in touch with me for email is BSOL111@AOL.COM