May 22, 2007

and you never would have thought in the end how amazing it feels just to live again

....because my semester is FINALLY over!!!!! *And there was much rejoicing ....*

Ok. Well, since my last post, which wasn't so long ago, A LOT has happened.

The first thing is that I have a new job. I stopped working at Payless a few weeks ago because I am now working as a barista at Starbucks at Union Square in Manhattan. The people I work with are great, and there are lots of fabulous benefits, so I'm thinking this is going to work out very well.

Two weekends ago, May 12, I performed at the Brooklyn Public Library with the Baroque ensemble I've been involved with this semester. We performed Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #2 for piccolo trumpet, recorder, and violin, with me, of course, playing the solo violin part. We also performed Vivaldi's bassoon concerto, with my friend Antonio, who was preparing it for his upcoming recital. The concert went very well and was rather well-attended for being in a stuffy room in a library on a hot day. Our coach, plus several Brooklyn College music faculty and friends were in attendance, as well as many library patrons.

Here in this picture you see most of the Baroque ensemble: from left, Ryan (harpsichord), Antonio (front-recorder/bassoon), Louis (pink shirt-cello), Gabi (violin), Adelquis (trumpet) me, and Brian (viola).

The following Monday was a composer's recital, in which I helped to premiere two compositions. The first piece was called Subtle Stench and was written by the same guy that wrote the can-cutting and scratching on a gong piece from the Contempo concert. This piece was just as interesting, being written for cello, violin, flute, bass, and percussion. We were each given a timer, and the durations of our music were to be timed out. Best of all, he wanted us to play 'out of tune' as in, by quarter-tones and micro-gradations of pitch. It was quite interesting, and easy to put together because all of the parts were independent of each other. The second piece was a string trio written by an Orthodox Jewish rock band-guitarist. Needless to say, the entire process of learning this piece was an adventure, and he (the composer) ended up having to re-notate a sizable chunk of the piece so that we could count and play it better. Anyway, this piece was second to last on the program, and went extremely well. We re-recorded it a few days later, because the Orthodox rock-band-guitarist composer also knows a great deal about recording, so he was going to splice and edit his little heart out to make us sound fantastic so that he can post it on his myspace page. The point of all of this extra information is that I am going to try and either post a link to the piece, or try and post it here so that you all can listen to it, if you like.
That Thursday (5/17) was the orchestra's composer's concert. This semester, the orchestra had two composers in residence, each of whom wrote a piece for the group. They were each uniquely interesting, and the concert- which was more of a public reading/ recording session- went very well. After this, the chair of the music department presented some annual awards to students.
One of whom was me. Twice. The first award I received was the Orchestra Award, presented to a student who contributed significantly to the ensemble. The second award was actually a composition award, which was a Memorial Award to a student who has excelled in contemporary music.

So there you go. I had no idea I was going to win any awards, let alone two. Everyone assured me afterwards that both awards were well-earned, and I'm sure they probably were. Surely, though, there were students who didn't get awards that really deserved some, and, having been one of those students in the past, appreciate both my awards and the efforts of those that weren't recognized.
Last night was my friend Antonio's basson recital. He played to an exceptionally enthusiastic audience, who clapped loudly every time he walked on and off stage. We performed the Vivaldi bassoon concerto again, and he played a Mozart sonata duet with his teacher. Afterwards was one of the most decadent recital receptions I have ever attended, complete with cold cuts, veggies, hummus, shredded meat, empanadas, a chocolate fondue fountain, and the most fabulous selection of amazing cakes and tarts I've ever seen at one time.
This week is finals week. It's only Tuesday, but I am now finished. All of my school-related performances have been completed. My 20th century analysis final was a paper, which I presented last week and handed in yesterday, and my jury was this morning.

My summer plans, in case you were wondering, are rather vague at this point. Next semester I'll have language and comprehensive exams, so I'll probably be brushing up on French and music history stuff; also, I'll have my pre-recital jury in December, at which time I have to perform at least 2/3 of my master's recital program, so I'll be figuring out what the heck I'm going to play for that. Also, I'll be doing a concert or two with Musica Bella, which is a volunteer orchestra in Manhattan, and a friend just gave me a lead on some sort of off-Broadway production. My lease is up in August, so I'll be apartment hunting again very soon. In addition, I'll be returning to Iowa at the beginning of August for my sister's wedding.
And that's about it.

Title lyrics by The Used "Blue and Yellow"

May 8, 2007

Glory Denied

This past weekend was the world premiere of Tom Cipullo's opera, Glory Denied. It was presented by none other than the Brooklyn College Opera Theater workshop with the Conservatory Orchestra, which of course involves yours truly as concertmistress!

Anyway. The opera is the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, the longest-held prisoner of the Vietnam War. The opera is unique in that it is based entirely on real dialogue and events. There are only four characters- Old Jim, Young Jim, and Young and Old Alice (Jim's wife). Here are the composer's notes on the opera:

Glory Denied may be the first opera adapted from oral history. As such, it presents no linear narrative. Rather, it jumps from moment to moment, as a man's mind might leap when subjected to horrific stress. Almost all of the dialogue in the opera is taken literally from actual statements by the people involved . . . . Based on a book by Tom Philpott, the opera tells the true story of Colonel Jim Thompson, America's longest-held prisoner of war. The story deals not only with Thompson's suffering in the jungle prisons of Southeast Asia, but also the tragic aftermath that followed his liberation. It is, above all, the story of an American family during one of our nation's most turbulent eras. In its review of Mr. Philpott's book, The New York Times stated:

Indeed it is not too much to say that Glory Denied and Colonel Thompson's mixed feelings about [the book] encapsulate something of the moral essence of the Vietnam War and the imperishable bitterness of its legacy.

The music was quite difficult to learn, both for the performers and the orchestra, but it was well worth it. Saturday night's premiere was rather well attended; composers such as John Corigliano and David del Tredici were supposedly in the audience, along with Tom Cipullo himself. Friday night's dress rehearsal was filmed by the school's Television department, and will be broadcast on the CUNY t.v. network at some point. The New York Times was also present on Friday, and I heard that they would be reviewing the premiere.


The performances really came together, and were exceptionally well received by the audience at both the Saturday night showing and the Sunday matinee. The composer was really enthusiastic about how everything went (he was around for many of the rehearsals this past month) and took the time to tell me (several times) that he thought I was doing a great job with the difficult violin part. Well ... the hardest part for me--the Entr'acte between the first and second scenes of Act II (scored for solo violin, clarinet, cello, bass and piano)-- was omitted, which reduced my stress level by at least half.

I was going to get a picture with Tom Cipullo after Sunday's performance, but it sadly turned out that my camera battery had died sometime over the weekend. Otherwise you would have gotten to see a very relieved Devora standing next to a very pleased Tom Cipullo. Since that obviously won't be happening .... I guess this is the end of the entry.

May 3, 2007

Tempest Fantasy

As promised, here is the second in a series of posts I'll be making this week. I bet you didn't think I'd really post again so soon ....

Well, as some of you may or may not remember, at some point I mentioned briefly that I was loosely affiliated with conTempo again this semester. I hadn't signed up for credit, but at the end of January, the professor called me up and begged me to be in it again (he couldn't find another violinist). So I agreed. I like playing new music, and he had promised an exciting repertoire. It turned out that things didn't exactly go as planned this semester, because the professor had some looming personal crisis that took up a lot of his outside attention; however, we did manage to pull together a concert, which we performed Monday night.

The interesting thing about conTempo this semester was the wide variety of people who signed up. There was the usual clarinet, violin, cello and flute, but there was also an accordian player and composer, a percussionist, and a tenor. Plus the professor, who plays both viola and piano and is a composer himself. At any rate, it was an interesting experience trying to find music for this group. The accordian player actually composed a piece for us called "as-i-de-step", which was based on the structural principals of the game sudoku. It was interesting to play because the percussion player kept time on a suspended cymbal, and the entire piece consisted of playing a set of musical systems forwards and backwards.

Another composer (from the composition department) wrote a piece for accordian and percussion, which was performed as well. The interesting thing about this piece was the gradations and types of sound that he required. For example, the percussion player had to cut open an empty soda can (part of the piece, mind you) and then scratch the two halves around on a gong. This of course, produced a very unique noise.

Then there was a movement from Tempest Fantasy, by Paul Moravec, a Pulitzer prize-winning piece for clarinet, violin, cello and piano which is based on Shakespeare's Tempest. It's actually a very pretty movement, and it's a pity that we were only able to perform the one movement.
The finale of the program though, was Vox Ballanae (Song of the Whales), by George Crumb. This piece is for piano with some effects, amplified flute, and cello.
The piece is indescribably amazing. For one thing, all three players are instructed to wear half-masks, in order to make the performers seem less human. The first movement is mostly the flute player singing into her flute, into the mic. But there are also a lot of piano and cello effects. At various points, the pianist dampens the piano strings with his hand while striking keys, and at other times plucks strings. There were also sections involving a chisel and a piece of string, but I don't know much more than that. The cello part had lots and lots of harmonics, and probably more fun things I'm forgetting.
And then there was this spot in the middle of the piece where the flute player whistled in this really high register, and then the pianist mimicked it a little later. Sitting sidewise in the audience, I could not figure out where the noise was coming from. At the time I thought it was a tape, because of course the concert was taped and there was a guy sitting at the soundboard... but afterwards, I found out it was actually the players themselves. Verry impressive.
The Crumb was very well-received, and now Ihave one less thing to worry about the rest of the semester.

May 2, 2007

How do YOU want to be remembered?

Well, it's been another month of exciting-ness and not updating blogs in Devora-land. Never fear, though, because the semester is nearly over and excitement and Important Life Experiences are occurring at an astonishing rate! And it will all be chronicled here! So if you've been disappointed by the infrequency of posts the past few months, stay tuned this week, because there will be not one, but several updates detailing my most recent adventures.

Starting with the movie premiere I attended on Saturday night. As some of you may know, my uncle, Tony Wilson, has been working on The Final Season, an indie film chronicling the final season of Norway, IA's high school baseball team that won an astonishing 20 state championships and also sent a handful of players off to the major leagues before the district was consolidated by the school board. It stars Sean Astin, Rachel Leigh Cook, Powers Boothe and, of course, Tom Arnold. Anyway: the film made it to the Tribeca Film Festival, which my uncle, his family, the 'big' producers, the stars, and a long line of hopefuls all attended Saturday night.

I received a call at work Saturday afternoon from my cousin, who told me that they had an extra ticket for the premiere and would love it if I could come. As you can imagine, I did everything in my power to make sure that I got to leave early to get to Tribeca, to the point where I began to feel a bit like Cinderella trying to get to the ball. But never fear, thanks to the fact that I ran from the subway around City Hall Park in my tall turquoise shoes, I got there just in time. Well .. as it turned out, the viewing was delayed by half an hour because Tom Arnold wouldn't stop talking to the press. But the show finally began, and let me just say, it was incredible. And I'm not just saying that because I'm related to one of the producers. I even got shivers up my spine and teared up near the end. The film was very well received by the audience, and is on the Festival's list of 'encounters,' movies which will provoke conversation. Hopefully the end result of all of this good press will be that a distributor takes on the movie so that it can be released to the general viewing public.

Below: the actors and director discuss the film.

After the movie, the stars made a grand appearance into the theater, and, along with the director, David Mickey Evans, sat onstage and anwered questions. Again, Tom Arnold did most of the talking, with Sean Astin and the director contributing a little bit and Powers Boothe and Rachel Leigh Cooke barely getting in a few words edgewise.

And after that, there was an after-party several blocks uptown on Broadway. Originally I wasn't going to go, because my beautiful turquoise shoes had given me some uncomfortable blisters and I had a lesson the next day, but my cousin, who had returned to the States from a year in Russia for the premiere, begged me to come along so that she'd have somebody to talk to. Not that one can do much talking at this sort of party, but this was the only chance I had to see her, since she was returning to Iowa at the end of the weekend.

So we walked uptown, much to my discomfort, and when we arrived, discovered that the party, which was in a loft, was only accessible by a freight elevator that held eight people at a time. And there was a long line of party-goers wanting to go in. But, because we were with the producers, we got to cut to the front of the line. Which was just as well, because by that time, the loft had nearly reached maximum capacity, and they weren't going to be letting many more people in.

It was quite an affair. There was loud music, an open bar, sushi, and a coat check, where I deposited my shoes. That may or may not have been a mistake, because I was then, beyond any doubt, the shortest person there, which wasn't exactly an advantage. At least no one stepped on me. Anyway, I didn't really know anyone besides my family, and my cousin was off talking to people anyway, so after a glass of wine and some milling about, I decided that the best thing would be for me to return to Brooklyn so that I wouldn't have a terrible lesson the next day. As soon as I decided this, however, some lady got on the mic and announced that Alex Band, former lead singer of The Calling and singer of the theme song from the movie, was going to perform for us. It was very tempting to stay, because the guy has a fantastic voice, particularly live, but my feet really hurt, and I had already said goodbye to my family.

So, I retreived my shoes and a goody bag from the coat check, took the freight elevator back down to street level, and then, after a good fifteen minutes of waving at cabs with passengers, finally found an empty one and rode back to Brooklyn.

Quick sidenote: Some additional information relating to my post are available via text links. Any time you see a bit of text in a different color - on my computer it's blue - you can click on it to go to an outside website and check out more fun/useful/interesting things.