Sunday, December 30, 2007

In Memoriam, 2007

The New York Times Magazine devotes the last issue of the year to people who have passed away during the previous twelve months. Usually they create one short article for the really important/famous people, and then a series of smaller articles for lesser-known but still influential people. I have my own, somewhat more personal list, that coincides a bit with theirs, but not completely.

Eleanore Schoenfeld
Tara Davis
Molly Ivins
Gian Carlo Menotti
Norman Herzberg
Kurt Vonnegut
Boris Yeltsin
Mstislav Rostropovich
Berverly Sills
Jerry Hadley
Michelangelo Antonioni
Ingmar Bergman
Merv Griffin
Luciano Pavarotti
Madeleine L'Engle
Eudice Shapiro
Benazir Bhutto
Clarence Ching

Seems like we lost a lot of good people in 2007.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

happy birthday lone oboe

heh, i kind of forgot, but, happy birthday to my blog! it's a year old now!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Got the DVD made, thanks to a wonderfully helpful employee of the Leavey Library at USC whose name I never got. It was complicated and took two hours, but I finally got my 6-minute recording done. What a lot to put up with for such a small DVD.

First semester is over, THANK GOD. Just one left, and only on academic class at that!!

Meanwhile, I'm transferring my recital (back in May) from MD to CD. I am amused to hear my friends' voices at the end of the first half all debating how to turn off the MD player. How many musicians does it take to operate a MiniDisc? Lets see, I heard Kim, Jamie, Carla, Ben, Shirley and Ginni. That would be six :) The recording, well, the recital had its ups and downs. But it will make an excellent Christmas gift for parental types.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


So on Friday I found out that I had to make a DVD recording before I leave on Wednesday. My friend was kind enough to let me borrow her DVD recorder, and I have made the recording. However, she has a PC. I have a Mac. Apparently, her camcorder is not compatible with macs. I googled the issue, which led me to this website, with many varied, complicated, confusing, and sometimes costly ways to get around the issue. She's going home tomorrow, so she won't able to help me. I have to give the camera back to someone else before I leave so that she can have it when she gets back in January. I have a final tomorrow morning at 11, and I really need to study for it. It is now 2:15 am. I also have to have lunch with one friend whom I might not see again for a long time, and dinner with another. I need to pack. I need to make two other recordings, one definitely before I leave, and one hopefully. I need to return library books to USC and UCLA. Oh yeah, and I need to pack. AAAAAUUUUUUGGGHHHHH.

Monday, December 17, 2007

international gig

Yesterday I did a gig with a Bulgarian, an Albanian, a South African, a Belgian, a Venezuelan, and five other Americans. There was also a hummingbird stuck in one of the churches.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

yay jobs!

I have a few more friends that have won jobs, and I thought I should mention it. In the past few months, Alana (horn), Natasha (oboe), Eric (trumpet), and Jonathan (clarinet) have all won jobs, so congratulations to them all! Plus two YOA friends that I don't keep in touch with but have updated their facebook pages to include job information: Harrison (bassoon) and Patty (cello). Congratulations to them, too! It makes the music world seem a little less discouraging to see friends win jobs.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

no more papers (/school), please!

I finally finished my horrible paper today for my Stravinsky class. I have never really enjoyed writing papers, but there have been times when I've actually been quite interested in my topic, and thus the writing process was not so excruciating. There have also been times in the past when I would have been intrigued by the idea of writing a paper on Stravinsky. After almost twenty straight years in school, two degrees and very close to a third, this is no longer the case. I wrote a really bad paper, but at least I turned something in. It's the only paper I've had this semester, and considering I used to have to write them on an almost weekly basis, I don't know why I've suddenly developed such intolerance, but I have. Anyway, hopefully I will only have one more paper two write ever in my life, next semester, before bidding academics adieu forever. At least that's how I feel right now. While the prospect of graduating, getting a job at Starbucks or equivalent, and taking auditions doesn't sound thrilling, staying in school is simply no longer an option for my sanity. Anyway, there are just a few things to do now before I go home for Christmas. Maybe I'll actually be able to see a few friends, go shopping, finish The Rest Is Noise. Oh yeah. And work on reeds. Not now though. I am in dire need of some sleep. Goodnight.

Friday, November 30, 2007

la pioggia

It's raining!!!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

kein musik ist ja nicht auf erden, die unsrer verlichen kann werden

I'm back in LA after a lovely and relaxing respite with my parents in Houston, even if it was a bit muggy and then suddenly quite cold. There was another fire in Malibu, but that's under control now, thankfully. I am currently doing what I do best of anything: procrastinating. I am a world champion of that most wondrous sport. I have a paper due a week from today on Stravinsky and . . . well I guess I need a definite topic still . . . yeah . . . anyway. I also am trying to get the Berio Ricorrenze up to snuff for Monday, and this weekend is AYS concert weekend (aka no weekend at all). But it should be a good concert--we're playing Mahler 4. What a gorgeous piece of music. I love it, although the last movement has an almost morbid text. I love playing those lines with the violas, so satisfying to play low on English horn! And those funny little tidbits Mahler puts in the part. Even if he also likes to have quick changes for just three notes on English horn that are also doubled in the bassoon. Pointless, but he wrote them, so I'll play them! I wish AYS payed extra for doubling. OK, maybe I should get back to searching Google Scholar.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bill Nye in the Jungle

From IMDB:

Nye Requests Restraining Order Against Former Fiancee

TV star Bill Nye has requested a restraining order against his former fiancee after she allegedly tried to poison him. Nye, also known as Bill Nye, The Science Guy, sought the order in a Los Angeles court on September 4, after spotting his ex, Blair Tindal, dressed in black and acting suspiciously near his home. The order would prevent Tindal from coming near his California house and contacting him. The legal papers filed state Tindal "emerged from my backyard... carrying two plastic bottles filled with some sort of solvent. Apparently she was trying to poison my plants including some vegetable(s). She fled on foot and then a car sped away from the scene." Tindal had driven by his house twice in the previous three weeks. Nye also complained in an abuse report that Tindal "left a coffee pot on my porch" on August 16. However, Tindal filed a response on November 13, disagreeing with the terms of the restraining order. A hearing has been set for December 20.

(Bill Nye married Blair Tindal, author of Mozart in the Jungle, the tell-all book about the classical musician scene in NYC, a few years ago. Guess they're divorced now.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

No Country for Old Men

Last night I saw the newest Coen brothers movie, No Country for Old Men, based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy. It was the best movies I have seen in a long, long time (not a fan of Lawrence of Arabia, which I finally got around to watching this week. Seems like a lot of hype for a big, bloated, boring movie, whose only bonus is Peter O'Toole's beautiful blue eyes). I would highly recommend No Country for Old Men for Coen brothers fans: it's their best work, a bit like Fargo and Blood Simple but even better. I would really love to read some Cormac McCarthy, I just haven't gotten around to it yet. I did see a play by him at Steppenwolf before I left Chicago last year that was excellent, I think it was called "The Sunset Express." Anyway, I'm sure the source of the movie was wonderful, so the dialogue was beautiful, and the acting was excellent. The Coens are masterful at keeping tension at a max, and every frame was a piece of art. OK, I'll stop raving now. But seriously, if you don't mind violence in movies, go see this film. (It is really violent. And the villain, played by Javier Bardem, is one of the scariest ever. So it's not for the faint of heart.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

bergman, von sydow, new operas, and more

So I have a string of unrelated things to blog about today. First, on Sunday I saw an Ingmar Bergman double feature at the Aero, part of a tribute to Max von Sydow. We started the evening with The Seventh Seal, which I've seen before, but not in the theater, and ended with The Virgin Spring, which was new to me. It was a dark and heavy evening, spent pondering the existence of a divine being and if s/he exists why so many awful things happen in this world. It was nonetheless very enjoyable, and I highly recommend these two films. The evening would have been even better had Max von Sydow been in attendance to answer questions between the two films, as he had originally been slated to do. Alas, his son's grandmother, therefore his mother (!! Max is 88, according to IMDB, so how old is his mom????) was ill in Sweden and thus he had to return home early, as his son informed us.

Ok, next unrelated idea: this article in the New York Times caught my attention, so I looked for Charles Ward's thoughts in the Houston Chronicle. Intriguing.

Also of interest, there have been a few more articles about Gustavo Dudamel and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra, including this and this.

Finally, a fellow oboist pointed out the above YouTube clip. I have no comment for it.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

radio, youth orchestras, maestros (maestri?), etc

Local radio station KPCC has had some interesting pieces on Gustavo Dudamel lately, including this article online, and this week's edition of Off-Ramp. That program, which aired on Saturday, included bits on Dudamel, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the youth orchestra festival (and it can be podcast). As for the youth orchestras, why are neither AYS nor Debut mentioned at all? Not that they're really "youth" orchestras, but the Simon Bolivar and the Sibelius Academy orchestras also include many musicians in their early 20s. I'm sorry I missed the latter orchestras perform, but Art went to everything.

On a side-note, I've noticed that everyone calls Esa-Pekka Salonen just "Esa-Pekka," most of the time (myself included). I find that amusing. In Chicago, people called Daniel Barenboim "Barenboim," not "Daniel." Then again, "Esa-Pekka" is a far more unusual name in the US then "Daniel," maybe that has something to do with it. Anyway. I wanted to point out the LA Phil's tour website, since I did for Chicago. It's more personal than the CSO's, which I like.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

ney & zorba

Last night I attended a LACO concert at the Alex Theater in Glendale with my roommate. She won free tickets off of KCRW, local public radio station extraordinaire. LA actually has three public radio stations, which I think is pretty cool. Anyway. We heard Prokovief's Classical Symphony, Mendelssohn Symphony No. 5, and a new work, a concerto for the Persian ney, which is sort of an ancestor of the flute. (Incidentally, Wikipedia informs me that the ney is made of Arundo Donax, the same plant used for oboe reeds.) It was an interesting piece. The accompanying orchestra was fairly large, with full brass and percussion. The ney was amplified. This instrument has a lot of accompanying airiness in its sound. If one were to hear it in its natural setting, unamplified and with other instruments of its background, I'm guessing the airiness would not be noticeable. But the mics seemed to pick up the airiness almost more than the actual pitches of the instrument, which I found distracting. Perhaps the concerto would have worked better with a much smaller orchestra that would allow the ney to remain unamplified. It was also a somewhat odd juxtaposition of western 12-tone (as in we use 12 notes, not serialism) music and traditional Persian music. I'm still not totally sure what I thought of the piece.

I also watched Zorba the Greek this weekend. It wasn't quite what I was expecting. In fact, it was sometimes a little upsetting. I don't want to give anything away, but, gosh, widows sure had it rough in post-war Crete. It does have some good moments, though.

Ukulele Orchestra of GB - The Good the Bad the Ugly

This is for Jan :)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

recital rep

I'm looking for something contemporary-ish to play on my recital. Possibilities and other people's suggestions so far:

Antal Dorati, Cinq Pieces (eek, parts of this are really hard!)
Antal Dorati, Duo Concertante
Benjamin Britten, Temporal Variations
Luciano Berio, Sequenza VII
Bohuslav Martinu, concerto (or if I could find a theremin-player . . . I wonder if David or Lara could do it . . .)
Dana Wilson, Mandala
Paul Patterson, Duologue
Elliott Carter, A 6-letter Letter
Bernard Rand, Memo 8
Witold Lutoslawski, Epitaph
Makoto Shinohara, Obsession

Any input?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

CSO vs LA Phil; gender balances

Friday night I had the good fortune to catch the last of the Sibelius Unbound series at the LA Phil. They played symphonies 5 & 6, beautifully. They're taking all 7 symphonies on tour next week. It's funny, within the same week I've heard two top orchestras play music to which they are most suited while in top form. I mean, Chicago is all about Mahler and always has been, and they'd just returned from a tour when I heard them. LA plays a lot of Sibelius because of their Finnish music director, and they're just about to leave on tour. They're very different orchestras, and I must say the LA Phil has a huge ally in Walt Disney Concert Hall. It has a much warmer sound, and they don't have to struggle to project. Plus I'm a still a little bitter that I had to be on the main floor under the overhang in Symphony Center in Chicago. I wanted to try and move at intermission, but it was too well-sold. I mean, that's a good thing, I suppose, but still, I hate being under the overhang.

Also of interest: both orchestras have recently hired new principal oboists. One was even in the finals for the other. I think Eugene Izotov sounds beautiful and is a great fit with the CSO. I'm not as familiar with LA, but perhaps a younger player suites this youth-obsessed town and its orchestra, while the CSO continues to have a somewhat good-ol'-boys atmosphere to it. Well, they've finally hired a female horn player, which they haven't had since Gail left, but she's the only female brass player. And I was happy to see that their new principal percussionist is a woman, and she got to hit the sledgehammer in Mahler 6 :) The only women in the woodwinds remain concentrated in the flute section, although upper strings have a good gender balance. It will be interesting to see who wins the English horn and principal clarinet positions at the CSO.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

mini-vacay OVER

I'm back in LA, and not necessarily all that happy about it. It's hot and VERY dry. My hair is static-y like in winter in Chicago (taking off your coat and then touching your metal locker to get your instrument sometimes produced visible sparks). I had a gig out in Glendora today, and there were little pieces of ash floating around in the air. The sky is a weird color from the smoke, and it smells funny in places. So far, no one I know has been affected by the fires, but I know lots of others have, and I hope that those horrible Santa Anna winds die down soon for their sakes. I saw some of the fires from the plane and they looked scary, way too close to populated areas.

I'm getting really tired of school, and was not happy to have to cram for a midterm today. Since I got a break from driving this weekend, I haven't been freaking out about it as much, but since I went to Glendora today and tomorrow I might do Santa Clarita-USC-Pacific Palisades, I'm not sure how long that will last. And I'm super tired right now, so that's all I have to say. Yes, I'm grumpy about my mini-vacation in Chicago being over.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

CSO audition

Well, I am sitting in the Unicorn Cafe again, enjoying the beautiful Chicago fall. Yesterday, I auditioned for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra! Obviously, I was not in any way qualified for the job, but since it's relatively easy for me to stay in Chicago, I thought I should take the audition, and I'm really glad I did. It had a huge list, probably to discourage too many people from taking the audition. It worked. I've only taken four auditions so far, all of them for orchestras not as prestigious as the CSO, and three of them had around 70 people in the prelims. For this audition, "only" 51 people participated in the prelims, as far as I can tell (I was in the last round, and the last person to play was #51). However, from what I could tell from my round, these people were all older, more experienced, and more serious players, whereas at my other auditions, there was a wider variety in age and ability. I had to work really hard to prepare the list, and in a way the audition was exponentially harder for me than for people who already had orchestral English horn jobs and who would have therefore already performed most of the listed material with an orchestra. But now I've seriously prepared a bulk of the major English horn rep, so I can start preparing my next audition at a higher level. Plus I doubt there will be many other auditions I take in my life that will be as difficult as that one.

The CSO was relatively organized and friendly for the audition, which I appreciated. I was happy with my playing. It wasn't perfect, but I didn't mess up (I nailed Nocturnes, which I was anxious about since I miffed it at my last audition), and I was able to play with a decent sound, relatively musically, and I didn't have any funny embouchure problems. The biggest problem was dry mouth, which I find sometimes makes it harder for me to make proper attacks or tongue clearly. I actually sipped my reed water, it was that bad (I know, GROSS, but it was clean water and it helped! Supposedly you can also bite your tongue to combat it, but that freaked me out to much to try). I played three excerpts before they said "thank you," and I was grateful for that. My last excerpt was 3-Cornered Hat, and my articulation wasn't clear enough for it (plus I think I might have played an extra beat of that D-Eb-C#, oops. I don't feel too bad about that, though--my recording leaves out a beat of that!). I was able to stay relatively calm and focused, and oddly enough, I think I owe part of that to the audition monitor! He was a very sweet older gentleman who seemed intent on putting me at ease. He told me to relax and enjoy it, he complimented me on my playing, and he had a calming tone of voice and smile. So thank you, audition monitor, whoever you are! You helped. I am proud of myself for taking the audition, and for improving my audition-playing. I still need a lot more maturity in my playing, and to really own the excerpts instead of just playing them correctly, but that will only come with time. I still have so much work to do, as the playing of candidate #47 reminded me. He played beautifully (and he got to play Rite of Spring and New World in addition to Roman Carnival, Nocturnes, and 3-Cornered Hat), but even he didn't advance (no one in my round did). I recognized one other person in my round, a lovely player from LA. She said she didn't play well, and that might have to do with the fact that my audition number and hers got mixed up, so I ended up going before her even though she was brought to a private warm-up room before me. So she ended up waiting for 50 minutes in her warm-up room, even though it was only supposed to be 15-20 (I think I waited about 30). That would have freaked me out.

Anyway, audition's over. I am enjoying the weekend in Chicago despite the fact that I have a midterm for Stravinsky on Tuesday. I get to see some friends here and appreciate Chicago, what a fantastic city and a welcome relief from LA. Plus my parents happened to be here for a conference, so I get to see them (it's been since May, overdue). I decided to pop up to Evanston for a few hours today, but I didn't realize what bad shape the CTA is in. It took an hour and a half to get here, when it used to take 45-55 minutes on a Saturday. There's lots of construction, and the trains move slowly, and of course mine had technical difficulties. It's almost as bad as driving in LA, but not quite. And I bought Alex Ross's new book as a post-audition present, so I'll have something to read for the trip back. So I will enjoy my Unicorn (and internet access) and walk around Evanston, before heading back to hear MAHLER 6 at the CSO tonight ($10 student tickets, score!)!!!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

driving woes

So I found out today that there was a massive accident on the route that I usually take to get to my teacher's house for lessons. It made national news, actually. You can read about it here (NYTimes), or here (LATimes), or here (AP/NPR). It sounds horrible, and it scares me to think that something so terrible happened on a route that I travel so regularly. I am so tired of driving in LA. This week alone I have been to Altadena, Santa Clarita, and Orange County, plus closer trips to USC and LAX. I need a break from driving. Fortunately, I'll get one soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I'm still here, I just haven't been in a blogging mood lately. I've been obsessing over reeds without a lot of success. I've been experimenting with a few things, which always unbalances my reedmaking before I figure out how to use my innovations properly. Plus it's been really dry here and nothing's vibrating. Anyway. I did enjoy The Darjeeling Limited this weekend, as well as Double Indemnity. That's all for now, I'll post something better when I can.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Sesame Street fun on YouTube

I was supposed to be reading about Stravinsky, but the reading wasn't especially interesting and alas, I got distracted by a YouTube clip someone posted on facebook. I remember seeing this particular sketch (is that the right word?) on Sesame Street as a kid, and I thought it was funny, but I didn't totally get it. It wasn't until much later that I connected this bit with the actual The Sound of Music and fully appreciated its humor. I just watched it and was literally laughing out loud (and also recognized the Masterpiece (Monsterpiece) Theatre reference). YouTube has all my old Sesame Street favorites, including "Splish splash I was taking a bath," with the elephants; the one with the little shark singing "Mack the Knife" (only in Dutch); and of course, Rubber Ducky. I also found Placido Flamingo--it took me a long while to figure that one out, too. And I didn't realize that those sketches were so clearly parodies of Metropolitan Opera (Nestropolitan Opera) broadcasts until I watched just now. Hmmm, the set for "Placido Flamingo Loves His Telephone" looks suspiciously like La Boheme. Actually, I enjoyed that one so much that I'm afraid I'll have to post it, too.

Sesame Street - Monsterpiece Theater: The Sound of Music

Classic Sesame Street - Placido Flamingo loves his telephone

Sunday, September 23, 2007

CSO tour

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra left for their tour today. My former teacher is bringing his parents on tour with him. His mom beat cancer earlier this year, and this will be her first time to Europe. They'll be stopping in Rome, Paris, London, Munich, Essen, Verona, and Torino. Although the musicians might not have a lot of time to enjoy these fabulous places, I'm sure she will!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

question for anyone who cares to answer

So I have an audition coming up with a ginormous list, including several excerpts that are exceedingly long as well as some pieces where the whole part might be fair game. I need to come up with a better plan to practice these excerpts, and I was wondering if anyone had suggestions for practice strategies. How do you prepare for auditions with these intimidating lists?

Monday, September 17, 2007

come on, Brahms

why didn't Brahms write for English horn? it's really been bothering me lately.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

musician cards

OMG I love this. (you can hear about it, too.) I totally want my HS musicians trading cards already!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

the best oboe solos ever

Listening to recordings for some excerpts, I am reminded why Allan always says that they're not "excerpts," they're "the best oboe solos ever" :) Embedded in some some of the best music ever written, I might add. Though my Brahms recordings are making me nostalgic for the old HS days before Eschenbach and half the orchestra left. It makes me sad that those same players will never play all together again. Nothing against any new players, but those players are the ones who made me want to be a musician, so they'll always be special to me. At least some of them are still there :)
I really liked this oboeinsight post.

Friday, September 7, 2007

enough already

OK, my day hasn't really gotten better. I found out yesterday that Pavarotti died, but just now I read that Madeleine L'Engle has also passed away. And apparently Claudio Abbado is ill. I am beginning to think that there is some sort of conspiracy to kill off as many of my favorite musicians and writers this year as possible.

dogs do not belong on the freeway!!!!

Today didn't start off so well, I'm hoping it ends up better. I took my roommate to the airport at 8 this morning. On the way there, on the 405 - South after Manchester but right before the Century Blvd exit I was to take, as I was zooming along at 65 miles an hour, I suddenly saw two dogs on the freeway. I started to freak out, so did Shirley, they were only fifty feet away, and they didn't seem to be moving out of the way. They looked really confused. I have no idea how they got on the freeway; I have the nasty feeling that someone dumped the poor creatures there at some less trafficky time of day, because it's not easy to just wander on to the 405. They were a pretty golden color, possibly pit bulls, but I'm not sure, and they looked like siblings. They were standing in the little V between the cars merging on from the Manchester entrance and the rest of the freeway, but they started to walk into the right hand lane that I was in. I tried to stop, but I was going too fast, and to stop suddenly on the freeway like that is very dangerous. I couldn't get into the other lane or swerve out of the way because there were cars there. So I slowed down as much as I could and hoped they would get out of the way. One did. But I heard something thump against my car as I continued, and I'm sure the other one must have been injured at the least. I didn't know what to do. Shirley called 411 to get the non-emergency LAPD number, but apparently they don't have one. The lady said we should call animal control, but then we didn't have any paper to write the number down. I felt terrible. I've never had that happen to me before. Those poor animals. I called animal control when I got home, but it was already 9:30 by that time. I hope someone else was able to call in sooner and help them. Poor doggies. I think I'm gonna go cry now.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Terry Gross & Gene Simmons

OMG, this interview is incredible. I don't even know what to say.

Monday, August 27, 2007

moving on

Well, Saturday I left for home, and despite my arriving at Osaka-Kansai Airport two hours in advance, I nearly missed my plane, since the slow employees of Northwest took a good 45 minutes to check people in, then security, and my plane was leaving 10 minutes early (since when do planes leave EARLY?!?!?!?), and immigration-that-i-didn't-realize-was-necessary that caused me to panic since i couldn't read the signs and Aki wasn't with me after security and my plane was supposedly already boarding (they let me cut to the front of the immigration line) and then a tram to my gate. Whew. Then a twelve-hour flight to Detroit–fun times. Layover in Detroit. Flight back to LA. Finally home. Anyway, sorry if my blog hasn't been very interesting lately, unless you happen to be planning a trip to Japan. I wanted to get everything in order for myself to help me remember my trip. I'll get back to normal now. Not that that's more interesting, anyway.

Since I've started the Japan trip entries, the world has kept turning. We lost two great directors. Merv Griffin, who funds an orchestra I play in, also passed away.

I finished reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and I was so RIGHT about Snape, for the record. I enjoyed it, though I could have done without the epilogue, thanks.

I've taken an audition for which I was unprepared, but it helped me get ready for school, which starts tomorrow. My last year of school! Almost 20 years straight. Yikes. And it went OK, but gosh I wish I had a better reed! I mean, I usually do, but I REALLY do right now. I don't think I like this Victoria cane as much as I thought I should (or for its price). I might stop by RDG soon and get something else.

Several of my friends have now moved, and a few even have gotten their first orchestral jobs (congratulations to Jamie, Michael, and Julianne!!!). I will miss those who are leaving very much.

And I came across an interesting quote from Italo Calvino, in a collection of his short stories called Numbers in the Dark. This story is called "Henry Ford," and presents an Italian perspective on the quintessential American Man, Henry Ford:

"So, just as ecology originates in the culture that produced pollution, so antique dealing originates from the same culture that imposed the new things that have replaced the old."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Japan, part IX

My last day in Japan was spent primarily in Nara, another important ancient city. There is a really huge temple there, and a beautiful ancient forest, and deer. Lots of deer. The first place we went was a sort of collection of shrines in the forest. There was a main pathway to this place, lined with stone lanterns and guarded by lions (as always with shrine guards, one open-mouthed, the other closed).

We continued to walk on a path through a beautiful forest, where we passed some interesting shrines. One contained quite a lot of sake for the gods. They must alcoholics, these gods. Or maybe they're musicians. We also passed a shrine for womens health, which I found rather odd. Either women had unhealthy breasts, or the illness was located somewhere else on the body, but not the head. At least, according to the posts at th shrine. It was rather surprising to come across!

The forest in Nara had a lot of really beautiful, old trees, and one temple even had a tree growing out of it:

We also encountered some very interesting signage on our sojourn through the forest. Nara, as I mentioned, is full of deer. Apparently, the deity to whom one of the temples is devoted to arrived in town in style on a deer, thus the deer were treated as sacred animals in the city. They're everywhere, and they're tame, or at least not afraid of humans, whom they now see as a food source. You can buy food to feed the deer. However, they are still wild animals, so there are a few signs up warning: A) Don't get between a mom and baby deer. Though baby is just curious, mom will become anxious and upset (I'm interpreting this from the pictures, not from the Japanese on the sign that I couldn't read). B) Don't get between boy and girl deers at a certain time of year . . . this will seriously piss them off.

When I actually did come across deer, they seemed rather sweet. Especially the fawns. Awwww. (Those ferns must have been tasty . . .)

After seeing the forest and the various shrines there, we had some lunch at a place where they serve a special kind of rice dish. They steam the rice with vegetables and various meat or seafood of your choice. The rice takes on the flavor of the things it's cooked with, and it's served in the same container that it was steamed in. The rice that sticks to the side and bottom of the container gets slightly crispy and extra flavorful, and is therefore considered a treat.

After lunch, we headed to the huge temple, Todai-ji, supposedly the largest wooden structure in the world. The entrance is guarded by two huge figures (open-mouthed and close-mouthed). Inside, there is an enormous Buddha, and several other very large religious statues. It was quite impressive.

It was awe-inspring, actually. As was the gargantuan bell outside the shrine. I wish I could have heard it being rung.

After the shrines, Aki and I had some of those special thick green tea drinks and dessert. I had this gel stuff made of special plant with ground beans on top. It sounds weird, and to be honest, it looked really weird, too, but it was actually quite tasty, in an almost peanut-buttery sort of way. I love peanut butter. How American of me.

Tired from our trek through Nara, we took the train home and I packed my bags for my flight home.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Japan, part VIII

Thursday we spent in Kobe, where we went shopping again, eating, and to an art museum. Shopping in Kobe was an experience. Japanese young people dress VERY trendily for the most part, as I've mentioned before. Therefore some of the stores were a little over the top for me. Some even made me laugh, they were that ridiculous. But there were also some really nice places, and the department stores were way cool. They had everything, and everything was CUTE and clever. I particularly liked the lunch boxes, which had cool little compartments and were just generally cute.

I really enjoyed the art exhibit we went to at the Kobe City Museum, called Prussian Blue. It centered on the use of a particular shade of blue paint and how its arrival in Japan changed Japanese art. It had some beautiful prints and paintings, including works such as this and this by the Japanese master woodblock artist Katsushika Hokusai. Several of the prints came from his series, Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji, including those two linked pieces.

Japan, part VII

On Wednesday, we took it a little easier again after such a busy Tuesday in Kyoto. We headed to Osaka, to the aquarium there. It was an excellent aquarium, complete with:
•penguins•sea otters•dolphins seals•sea lions•giant sea turtles•eels (scary!!)•sharks•whale shark•tuna•manta ray•jellyfish•octupi, among other creatures. We spent quite a long while at the aquarium, actually. At the exit of the aquarium there was a seafood restaurant, which we found a little sadistic, especially considering how many excited children were at the aquarium. We proved a bit hypocrtical, however, since we had sushi for dinner! Even the tuna, who was rather cute. Cute, but so tasty!

After dinner, we headed over to the concert hall for a performance of the Pacific Music Festival, where we had a few USC friends playing. Actually, there were also several Northwestern acquaintances, and even someone from my youth orchestra, though for the most part I was unable to see them afterward. Oh well. The all-Russian program was interesting, and I enjoyed the performance. So many talented musicians! The oboists were all excellent. One of them just won a job in the Atlanta Symphony. Although it's true she does not have a Mack sound, it was clear to hear how she won the job. She phrased so musically and with such conviction. Inspiring and depressing at the same time!

Aki was babysitting one of our friend's basses when he went on vacation to China from Japan (Osaka was the last stop for PMF). We had an adventure getting the enormous bass (in its flight case, no less!!!) home from Osaka on the train. It was incredibly muggy that night, poor Theo was dripping by the time we got home. I'm glad I don't play bass. It's truly a beautiful instrument, but so difficult to travel with. Or move at all with. Anyway, that was our day in Osaka. Just two more days to enjoy Japan.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Japan, part VI

We returned to Kyoto bright and early at 10 am on Tuesday. (I say early because it takes at least an hour and a half to get there from Aki's place.) We had a reservation to see the ancient imperial palace, Gosho, in Kyoto. It was quite hot again that day, and the English tour had 130 people on it (though most of them were not actually native English-speakers, but Europeans). For the first time on my trip to Japan, I felt short. Perhaps because of the heat and the size of the tour, I wasn't as impressed with the Imperial Palace as I thought I should be. The tour guide didn't really say very much of interest–Aki would have made a better guide. But the palace was still intriguing and it had some nice gardens. It had several gates for several different purposes: there was a servants' entrance, an entrance for important foreign visitors, an entrance for the emperor himself, etc. Here is one such entrance (I'm not sure which!).

There were several places for the imperial family to live, but one particularly large building used for important occasions, like cornations:

It also had a nice pond and some pretty bridges. I have a thing for bridges.

I was glad to get out of the heat and on to the next site when the tour was over. First we decided to book a spot on the tour of the summer imperial palace, which has really famous gardens that we both wanted to see. Apparently, Japanese citizens must have a reservation three months in advance, but foreigners can get a spot the day of. So Aki needed my help for that :)

Next was Ryoanji, a temple best known for it's Zen rock garden, but which also had great gardens. And more turtles.

We had to get to Shugakuin Rikyu, the summer imperial residence, by 1, so we went through Ryoanji a little quickly, and moved on to Kinkaku, famous for its golden temple. It also had nice gardens and a very pretty waterfall.

Kinkaku wasn't as peaceful or mossy as Ginkaku, and it was possibly the most crowded place we visited, but it was still quite beautiful.

After Kinkaku, we headed out to Shugakuin for our tour. This tour was quite different. There were only about 12 people, and the tour was in Japanese, not English. The tour guide was a spritely Japanese gentleman of about 60, who walked faster than I did and said everything with a twinkle in his eye. I liked him better than the tour guide from the Imperial Palace, even though I couldn't understand a word he was saying.

The emperor who built Shugakuin put a lot of thought into his plans. He had rice planted on the palace grounds for the sheer beauty of it, and how it turned gold in autumn (I wish I could see it). He allowed farmers to care for and keep the rice. To this day, farmers care for that rice field. It has paths with short evergreen trees guarding them, providing shade without blocking the view. There are also small streams for irrigation that he had designed to make a pleasing sound of flowing water.

There are three levels of gardens, with lovely streams and ponds and bridges. And there are some lovely buildings, too. One has a panel painted with three laughing monks; another has beautiful golden clouds, and yet another has a lifelike carp. The person who slept in the room with the carp mural got a little creeped out by him–the carp looked like it might jump off its wall and cavort at night. So he had the artist paint net over it.

There was a nice gate to the path to upper level gardens. This path had high hedges planted on either side of it, so that you would be surprised by the spectacular view when you reached the teahouse on the top.

On the way back down, there as a lovely waterfall, and the pond with island was lovely. The imperial family boated on the pond, and the island had a very interesting bridge on it. It was not symmetrical: one half represented the common people, the other half, with a golden phoenix on top, represented the royal family. The bridge joined them.

I really loved Shugakuin. It was extraordinarily beautiful, and the emperor put such thought and care into it, it was rather touching. The tour guide so clearly loved the place, it inspired even further admiration. It was also a favorite of mine on my trip.

After Shugakuin, Aki and I took the Philospher's Walk along the river back to the bus to return home. It was a very satisfying, but tiring, day.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Japan, part V

On Monday, we went to Arashiyama, probably my favorite place on the trip, perhaps in part because it was also the least crowded. We also took a more leisurely pace here. The main attraction for us in Arashiyama was the majestic bamboo forest, but we found plenty of other things to distract us.

Since we got a later start that day, by the time we arrived in Arashiyama, we were hungry. So we got food in a Japanese convenience store. The food you find in a Japanese convenience store (such as Lawson, or or even 7-11) is very different from what you would find in an American convenience store. They have sushi as well as full meals in a little box that they will even heat for you. There are always rice balls (well, more like 3-dimensional rounded triangles of rice covered in seaweed), as well as pork and fish breaded and fried. It's not as good as a restaurant, but it's not bad, either! Plus they have all sorts of fun snacks and drinks, including Boss, some coffee drink that features Tommy Lee Jones' face on it (rather like Bill Murray in Lost in Translation).

So on our way to the bamboo forest, we passed a collection of shrines in temples that we walk through briefly, only looking at the free ones (entrance is usually only $3-5 but if you go to 5 0r 10 in a day, it really adds up). I particularly liked these statues by the road, and I also took a picture of a cicada, simply because when I think of Japan, I think of the sound of cicadas--they are everywhere, and they are SUPER loud. The little drunken raccoon statues were everywhere, and Aki couldn't really explain what they were about, but I took a picture one, anyway.

After passing through the group of temples, we walked on until we came to the entrance to the forest. It was truly beautiful there, and very peaceful. The bamboo made a really cool noise when the wind ran through it, almost percussive.

In the bamboo forest, there were a few more temples, including two that I really loved. They were both very quiet and mossy and had beautiful streams in them. The first was Joujjakoji.

After pausing at this peaceful pond, we came to the home of a a famous Japanese haiku poet, Mukai Kyorai. He lived in this place, Rakushisha, in the late 17th century. Apparently, Kyorai had a large number of persimmon trees there (several still exist), and one autumn the trees were particularly fruitful. He waited until they were ripe, and was planning on picking them and selling them. But a big storm hit one evening, and none were left on the trees by the next morning. Thus Rakushisha is the "cottage of the fallen persimmons." People still come here to write haikus.

Next we came to a small temple hidden in the forest. It was called Ghi-Ohji, and I remember that in the temple, a little white cat sat and faced the garden.

After leaving the seclusion of this temple, we pass by a rice field, and then went into a tea house, where I enjoyed vanilla ice cream with green tea powder (the nice man gave me extra) and Aki let me try one of her favorites, a kind of thick green tea with froth on top. It usually comes with a little treat. It was tasty.

The man in the cafe had suggested we go to a particular temple, Otagi Nenbutsu-ji, which had over 1,000 little stone statues of people worshipping.

This was our last temple in Arashiyama. We headed back toward Kobe, stopping in Kyoto at the Shimogamo festival (at the shrine). I'm not sure exactly what it was for, but there were lots of people, especially children, and the Japanese version of carnival food. Many people wore traditional Japanese attire, which I thought was cool. Aki had me try a large wafer thing with a sauce dripped on it and then seaweed and other goodies sprinkled on it. That was pretty good, but I refused to eat the part with mayonnaise drizzled on it. There was also a sort of pancakey thing with all sort of sauces and cheese wrapped in it and put on a stick, which was very rich and difficult to eat, since it kept falling apart. I guess it had a lot in common with American carnival food. For desert, we had a frozen, chocolate-covered banana. Pretty good, actually. And that was it for the day. We headed back home for the evening, preparing for another busy day (and early start) in Kyoto.