As of this week, I've officially started intensive work on my dissertation!
Ever since my proposal was accepted in January, I've been mainly doing very light research, and mostly just letting ideas marinate in my brain. But with my Japan visit coming up very soon (mid-August!) I thought that I should buckle down and get this done.
I'm actually on Day 4 of NBR (nothing but research), and perhaps 15% of the way through a first draft. Of course, that percentage is fairly arbitrary, because who knows how long this monster is going to take?! My goal is to have most of it done by the time I visit Satoh-san in Japan (again, just a rough draft!); that is, everything except the analyses of the two Japanese instrumental works, possibly. I haven't yet decided whether I'm MORE or LESS intimidated by this dissertation than a week ago. Either way, it's much more real!
Well, it's probably time to stop procrastinating and start writing. Wish me luck!
Thanks, Mr. Woolfe, for my second mention in the NY Times!
It's always interesting to read a review of a performance that one has attended. Woolfe did not seem to be very impressed by the music he heard, though he did take care to praise the NJE's "vision," "committed performances," and "one of the loveliest spaces in New York... even lovelier now that a tall spindly, witty Isa Genzken sculpture of a rose has been installed 'onstage.'"
I sometimes wonder how my participation in a performance affects my appreciation for the music. I did enjoy the program, finding that composers balanced new sounds and ideas with accessibility. I understand Woolfe's complaint about the works being "long-winded," though I don't 100% agree with him. I appreciated his compliment of the violin solo in Strindberg's "One Child" ("While [the finale] has a sinuous, swooping melody for violin (played by the excellent Alex Shiozaki)..."), though I wish he could have left off the final clause! ("...even there the work is long-winded.")
All in all, I suppose this is a review that I'm happy with. But my favorite part about the article? The title: "A Sound Tour of the World, Accompanied by Birds." Oh, the infamous birds of MoMA's Sculpture Garden.
Aaron Rosand on recital programming: http://www.theviolinchannel.com/vc-masterclass-aaron-rosand-curtis-institute-lost-art-violin-recital-programming/
There's a lot on that page that I disagree with. But instead of arguing with him point-by-point, I thought I would explain my own approach to the art of programming.
1. COHESION. Something must hold the recital together. On recent programs, I've used theoretical concepts (polystylism), dates (music after WWII), and even a cultural narrative (Japan grapples with Western influence) to tie a group of works together. "Alex's favorite pieces" only sells well to my friends; it's hard to market a program that a random piece generator could come up with.
2. CONTRAST. Except under unusual circumstances, I prefer to present contrasting works--no all-Minimalist programs from me! Even when choosing works from a particular time period--say, 1942 to 1952--I look for composers whose differences in style belie the historical proximity of their compositions. Luckily for me, this is very easy to find in the twentieth century!
Antithetical to my vision of contrast is a program that consists of three or four violin sonatas. Also antithetical to my vision of contrast are the formulaic recital programs of the past--unless this is done in homage to those old recital programs!
I know that any list should have at least 3 items, but I've run out of relevant ideas already. So my last point has not to do with programming, but with recital performance:
3. MEMORIZATION. Not necessary. One should not be glued to the music, but I don't see any reason to show one's memorization skills. (I have on occasion performed from memory, but with music in front of me. That is, I gave the appearance of reading music, while actually performing from memory. Why? To show solidarity with the pianist, who could not memorize as easily as a violinist.) (And why didn't I just use the music? Two words: page turns. And two more words: were impossible.) I do concede occasionally performing from memory, but I am more likely to do this with a contemporary work (Lutoslawski's Subito and Schoenberg's Phantasy) than with a Classical work.
These are my thoughts as of today, April 29, 2014. I wouldn't be surprised if I had a completely different approach in 5 years. But this is a snapshot of NOW.
I spent last week in the Bay Area, where I grew up. Far from being a vacation, though, it was one of the busiest weeks of my year!
I was in town with Chamber Music by the Bay, an outreach quartet founded by old friend and violist Jessica Chang. Every day we hit several schools and/or libraries, sharing our love of chamber music, both as a performer and as an active listener. (I had many opportunities to hone one particular line about Tolstoy's novella The Kreutzer Sonata: "He came back in the middle of the night, and walked in on his wife... [dramatic pause] ...and the violinist... [even more dramatic pause] ...having an intimate... [most dramatic pause] ...dinner together." [groans from the students.]) Across several different presentation, we covered melody, harmony, program music, and how to dance like a crazy person.
This isn't my usual audience, and these days I'm more likely to play something post-WWII than pre-French Revolution (another big part of our outreach was Haydn.) Still, it was great to engage with so many different groups of people, from toddlers to seniors. I don't think I have the energy to do this 52 weeks a year (especially the instrumental petting zoo!) but one or two intensive weeks is perfect! A part of me does wonder if they'll ever be ready for Schnittke's Second Violin Sonata, though...
...I'm doing all sorts of gigs! This is the stage at DROM, shortly before we started our soundcheck. Though it's hard to make out the details off the cellphone picture, you can definitely get a sense that this is not your usual "classical" concert. The computers you see will be part of the music; not pictured are the electric guitar, bari sax, and boxing gloves. At least I didn't have to sing into the mic this time! (My last gig at DROM also happened to be my solo vocal debut.)
Today I fired off an email to composer Somei Satoh, whose music will be the topic of my dissertation.
I have to admit that I feel quite self-conscious about communicating with my doctoral topic. I intend to present Satoh's works as an intersection of the Western and Japanese musical traditions, and I'm pretty sure that the evidence is in his music. But I haven't yet heard his opinion on this idea! He may be fully in support of it--or he might find the idea ridiculous.
Composers are unpredictable when it comes to their music. Some composers, like Elgar, were very relaxed when it came to their music. (Menuhin told a story about preparing a new work by Elgar for its premiere. In the middle of a run-through for the composer, Elgar stopped Menuhin and said something along the lines of "You sound great. It's a beautiful day--I'm going to the races!") Others, like Stravinsky, pulled out their hair when musicians "interpreted" their music. When working with a living composer, I never know which type I'm going to get. (My favorite composers are the ones who leave a small--yet significant!--footprint in my interpretation.)
At least when one is writing about Beethoven, one can be certain that the composer won't come running up with a wagging finger! I hope that Satoh-san will be open to my ideas about his music. Fingers crossed!
(Wouldn't it be ironic if Satoh read this post?
This is my second attempt at a blog. The old one fizzled out a few years ago, probably because I tried to make every entry deep, meaningful, thought-provoking, insightful--everything this one won't be, right?!
Actually, the reason I decided to start this back up is a TV show (well, pilot): Mozart in the Jungle. The show is about classical music, but with a greater emphasis on sex and drugs than has typically been displayed. I found it intriguing, and perhaps 80% realistic. But that got me thinking: does anybody know what musicians actually do for a living?
I can't speak for everybody, but I can show you my life. Sanitized and presenting me in the best light, of course.
In all seriousness, I'm hoping to share with you a slice of life as a musician. I won't be posting a practice log, but I may post about rehearsals, teaching, the backstage experience, dissertation work, pieces I'm working on--and maybe even something on practicing!
Basically, I'm lowering the bar. But I'll try to keep things interesting. And going. To facilitate the latter, I'm not even going to go back and read what I wrote. Readysetpost!