Bees

Last week was busier than I like. I can tolerate going out about once a week, and I was busy every single day last week, due to a rare alignment of regularly-scheduled events (yoga class, cello rehearsal) and occasional, random cultural events (theater subscription, concert subscription 1, concert subscription 2, interesting concert 3).

On Monday, we (my wife and I) watched a performance of Anna Karenina at the Volkstheater in Vienna. Although I was familiar with the story, I found it very hard to understand the actors. It was a good production, the Volkstheater is generally a safe bet since Michael Schottenberg took over there as manager, we’ve been fans of his for decades. I slept very little, although I get up pretty early in the morning.

Tuesday I had yoga class. I slept very little.

Wednesday we went to the Beriosaal at the Konzerthaus for a live performance by the ensemble Phace of a new musical piece composed by American composer Gene Coleman to the 1926 Japanese silent film A Page of Madness, using both Western and Japanese instruments, if there can be said to be such categories. It was very good and I slept very little.

On Thursday we watched Bach’s St. Matthew Passion at the Grosser Saal of the Konzerthaus, performed by the Collegium Vocale Gent / Herreweghe. They were very good, the orchestra played period instruments (I noticed Baroque celli and a viola da gamba – which had a wonderful solo). It is interesting to observe how the crowd varies from event to event. It can be youngish/middle-aged and snooty but trying to appearcounter-culture, or old and cultured and somehow less snooty, and so on. The Bach crowd struck me as quite elderly and generally well-to-do or at least well-dressed (there was a lot of jewelry on display, though), quite slender in general, and very slow-moving until the concert was over, at which time they were t the coatcheck very quickly.

Friday’s event was the most interesting for me – there is a series in the town of Krems called Imago Dei, concerts in the Minoritenkirche there. We watched a performance by cellist/composer Frances-Marie Uitti, the ensemble Extracello, and Buddhist monks; the event consisted of a Buddhist Puja ceremony (ceremony to honor the creative spirit?) and composition(s) by Uitti. For this performance, Extracello tuned (according to the program) their cellos to unconventional tunings, and played primarily open strings and flageolets (which resonate longer than when you are fingering the strings), and Uitti is famous for playing with two bows in one hand. I expected her to do that to be able to play all 4 strings at once, but she somehow manages to coordinate the two bows in unexpected ways and it was quite fascinating.

For your viewing pleasure, I will include a few Uitti links here:

her website

Video 1 (Vimeo)

Video 2 (Vimeo)

Video 3 (Vimeo)

It was an interesting week, but it was too much for me and I will be digesting this for some time to come. A lot of images and ideas were poured into my head while I was in a trance state this week, as if the creative spirit unscrewed the top of my head and poured in a basket of bees, which now fly through my mouth and make honey in the empty spaces inside.

(PS: as you can see in the videos, Uitti has an ALUMINUM CELLO from the 1920s. With an awesome dent.)

I played the cello last night

I played the cello last night.

I had a cello lesson last night in the backroom of a music store near my house. It is a small shop crammed full of fascinating instruments. If I have time before my lesson I stand in front of the singing bowl rack, hitting the variously-sized singing bowls with the little hitter things, wishing I had spare money for a couple, and a few other things. I wonder if it drives the woman who runs the shop crazy, or if she is used to it.

The backroom is the most crammed-full room in the store, with lots of merchandise boxed on shelves and a carpet on the floor, and just enough room for my teacher to hold lessons. I couldn’t say if the acoustics are good there, or bad, although I supposed if they were terrible she wouldn’t be holding lessons there.

I have been learning a cello sonata by Benedetto Marcello. We sat there last night, playing it, and I’ll be damned if it didn’t sound beautiful.

Not just better than the previous lessons. It sounded really nice.

I always low-ball and so on but I had to smile while we played and think, this is what I have been taking lessons for ten years for.

Twelve years, whatever.

Although, it wasn’t actually why I took lessons. I took up the cello thinking I might learn something about the cello, and appreciate music better; get a peek through the window into the House of Music or something.

I thought I’d try it for a few years and give it up.

So it wasn’t exactly the attainment of a goal last night, it was more like a pure, unexpected bonus, that blessed little moment.

I would have hugged my teacher afterwards, but the room was small and I didn’t want to knock over a cello or freak out my teacher.

So, yes, despite jetlag and so on, I played the cello last night.

Thanks, Alena.

Thanks, Uncle Phil.

Thanks, Ruth.

Thanks, family.

Thanks, friends.

Thanks, life.

Metropolis

Alpha and I watched Metropolis at the Konzerthaus in Vienna last night, while a 66-piece orchestra played the music. It was neat. I didn’t fall asleep once. Metropolis was shortened rather drastically after release, and the original version was lost, I guess. The film was (IIRC) restored in 2001. Then a longer version was discovered in Argentina, so it was restored again. The Argentine version was, however, only 16mm so there are quality and cropping issues. The discovery of the longer version also made it possible to restore the score, pretty much, which had also been incomplete.

Or something.

I should be a journalist, shouldn’t I.

We will be seeing a few more silent films with live music at the Konzerthaus, we bought a subscription. I really like the idea of composing film music, so I am looking forward to seeing them.

Tuvan throat singing progress report

Surprised myself the day before yesterday by actually getting it right while driving home from work. It only lasted a few seconds, though, and I sort of scared myself. It’s an awesome sound. Haven’t been able to repeat it since, but am still trying. It was very encouraging. All the different tutorials on youtube have helped, but only to a somewhat limited degree. All they seem to have in common are they can sort of get you started, but you have to take the leap to actually figuring it out all by yourself. That, and they are filmed in absolutely filthy bedrooms.

This is definitely the most irritating thing I have tried to do yet, and that’s saying a lot. I can only try it while¬† driving alone, and that’s sort of dangerous because besides giving me a sore throat, it also makes me dizzy because I forget to breathe, and requiring a lot of concentration my driving suffers. Also I thought I was going to give myself a heart attack yesterday so I stopped for a while.

Composition

A friend in Australia has requested permission to use the recordings some of you sent me in 2009 reading your shopping lists for a piece accompanying a university dance performance and I mailed them to her (all but one recording, from one of you who recently denied me permission to use something else, so don’t worry) with the caveat that I would post this to the blog today informing you and if any of you contact me letting me know that you prefer your recording not to be used that I would tell her and it would not be used. Otherwise, fire away. So let me know if you have any objections, thx.

The perfect way to spend St. Patrick’s Day

Watch the music videos Gamma and I have made:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE6D425DBE5B6623E

Maybe don’t watch them all at once. They could, potentially, get a little monotonous. Gamma thinks maybe I ought to try a little structure.

Goldschmutz – Jar of Bolts

And St. Patrick drove the serpents from Ireland.

Some theremin and accordion (and a cereal box and a jar of bolts and a screwdriver) for St. Patrick’s Day. Footage shot by Gamma, and taken from the Prellinger Archive.