Saturday, December 20, 2014

unconventional christmas

if you've been to my house, you will notice that many parts of it are labeled.  this is thanks to my mother.  if you set her loose on a room with a label maker, stuff will happen.  however, after time, these labels are not always followed.  the vast amount of our earthly possessions have been altered in some way, and certain labels are rendered obsolete.
societal labels work in the same way.
what i have here are items that i am adding under a label, even if they may not fit there.  to me, they fit.
christmas brings up many thoughts and feelings to many people. to me, mostly positive thoughts: happy feelings that cannot be explained.  i am sure i am not the only person who feels this. that's why there are so many movies and albums dedicated to this season.  given that many of these pieces of media are over-used and over-recycled, i only enjoy some of them.  the season just has a feeling to it: with the weather, the stress, and the abundance of family.  but here is where we get to the labeling thing.
if something conjures up similar happy christmas-y feelings, to me it is a christmas item.  it may not be called "christmas movie no. 663," but to me, if it has all the essential ingredients to christmas cheer, and only lacks the label, it is a part of the christmas canon nonetheless.
here are some unconventional christmas masterpieces.

the grand budapest hotel
yes, this movie is set in a snowy mountainous area.  it could be assumed that it is set during christmas time. but no explicit references are made to it.
this is a quirky, adventurous movie about a hotel, and its concierge. it is elegantly humorous, while equally touching.  i saw this film for the first time in may of this year.  and all i could think was, "wow, that was a beautiful film."  it employs discerning narration, and the wittiest of dialogue.  that, with perfect casting has me entirely intrigued.  i have placed myself on a personal mission to spread the joy of this movie.
the quick wit of this movie is what first drew me in; unexpected humor that is also touching in some unexplainable way.  the bulk of the plot follows a man who as it says was one of the "faint glimmers of civilization in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was known as humanity."
i rewatched this film again recently, and i remember remarking that "someday i will be able to talk like that."

the heart of saturday night
tom waits is a genius.  he is one of the most prolific musical artists i know, and has been putting out music for over forty years and yet remains original and clever with every album.  his musical style has also drastically changed over his career, from a lazy-sounding heartbroken jazz balled man to a gravelly story-telling bluesman. one thing that i enjoy most about him is his attitude.  he usually addresses the common parts of life. but he describes the common in the most uncommon way.  tom's second album after he landed a record deal was called the heart of saturday night.  it came out in 1974, long before i could claim title to any part of this earth.  come to think of it, my mother would have been five years old.  i do not know how waits went about making the record, or what he had in mind when he wrote the material on it.  but i can describe what i feel when i hear it.  to me it is a christmas adventure.
the beginning starts off on the west coast.  the first track describes a night out on the town. perhaps one in california.  but it also has feelings of loneliness.  the second track being titled "san diego serenade," is obviously also in california, but here waits is moaning about the "grass is always greener" concept. the third track is where he decides to go back east, and the fourth is him saying goodbye. the middle tracks are all little details of his journey across the country; he is still depressed, and perhaps sadder for leaving all his family and friends, but he is set, and taking it all in as he goes.   the ballad "drunk on the moon," is about the solace he finds in travel. the final track is about the end of his journey.  he is somewhere–perhaps in the midwest.  but instead on an epiphany, the song is just a description of a normal night at a pub.  a little anticlimactic, but it reaffirms a viewpoint of "it's not the destination, but the road you took to get to it."
for me, the christmas is in the descriptions of life.  tom waits does a fantastic job of seeing life in an interesting way.  the album also mentions that it's cold outside, so the christmas in this does not come out of thin air, but it rather draws on the winter season, and in turn, stubbles upon christmas too.

disney's fantasia
this may just be because i have associated the nutcracker music with christmas.  for a few years i got to see it performed live every mid-december.  and fantasia has some nutcracker music on it.  but this trippy (somehow child-approved) multimedia music presentation brings many christmas feels to me.  christmas is a time filled with old, classic stories.  and that's what fantasia is– combined with old, classic(al) music.  if you get into it, watching it is quite the ride.

none of these have the label, but to me they do. christmas can be enjoyed in many different ways.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

more free stuff

i do not normally attribute many things to luck.  but it would seem as though sometimes i become lucky.
not too much luck, of course.  just random special honors that occur infrequently.  
i have to visit fifteen approved music concerts a semester.  it's for my music degree.  that's quite a few when there are fifteen other things you could be doing instead of going to concerts.  
i do enjoy most of them.  but there are times i would rather sleep.  
a few weeks ago i was walking across campus to a concert.  i was almost late so i was walking at a faster-than-usual pace.  i passed up someone on my way there.  i did not really notice who he was; the focus was on not being late.  
when i walked into the building, i saw people exchanging tickets for entry.  
wait, this is a ticketed event?
oh well, i'll go practice.  
so i asked the guy who just walked in behind me, "is this a ticketed event?"  
"yeah, you need a ticket?" he said as he held two tickets in his hand.  "no one i knew would come with me."  
this was the guy i passed up in my haste to not be late.  and, if i had not passed him up, he may have gone in, simply having an extra ticket.  so, in a way, my fast walking saved me, and in a way, i got lucky.

the next day, i endeavored to go to another concert.  this one was downtown.  i got a ride with someone else in the music program.  but, i seem to have a rancor with planning ahead.  so i had not purchased my tickets ahead of time.  so had someone else who carpooled with me.  we were on our way to buy our tickets when someone stopped us: "have you bought your tickets yet?"
now we had free admission to see the des moines symphony.  but, more importantly, i was given free tickets two days in a row.
thank you lord.  that made me feel special.

Friday, October 31, 2014

the past week or so

quite a bit has been afoot lately on the drake campus.  here is a short overview.
someone threatened campus through seemingly anonymous ways.  these avenues of course turned out to not be as anonymous as was hoped.  he was caught.  there's your equal and opposite reaction.  everything has repercussions.  
i participated in something called paracticathon.  an all night practice party in the fine arts center.  quite a ride.  red bull abounded.  as did music.  i did not get back to my room until 6:30ish.  then i slept two hours and went to church on sunday morning.  
i worked out for the first time in my college career.  it felt good.  it helped that they had tvs.  burning those calories is much easier while watching big bang theory. 
i got to see a lovely group known as johnnyswim.  for free!  yes, my friends are pretty cool.  especially when they can get me in to see johnnyswim for free, and get me a poster.  
i worked out again.  actually a couple more times.  maybe this will turn into some sort of a regular thing.  me.  healthiness.  
i went on an adventure.  and by that, i mean i took the bus to downtown des moines with a friend and visited a pub and got proper (iowa) fish and chips.  munis the beverages.  it was, nevertheless, an experience.  
the power went out all across campus.  pretty surprising at first.  i decided to play a mini cello concert in the lobby of my powerless residence hall.  and the power came back soon after. 
i fasted for a day.  no food for a day.  it was a spiritual exercise.  a good one.
at the cafĂ© were i broke my fast, i, and those who were with me, witnessed the death of a squirrel.  r.i.p. little fella.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

sightreading highlights

yesterday the drake symphony orchestra read through beethoven's seventh symphony. . . for the first time.  it did not go too well.  what follows are some of the most memorable moments that ensued.  (this is, of course, from the perspective of the cello section.)

the orchestra begins playing.  the conductor stops everyone, then informs us that the piece is in a major.  if half the ensemble is playing c natural and the other half is playing c sharp, the result is not a pretty one, and is defiantly not beethoven.

my stand partner informs me that i have been playing a bow stroke incorrectly for most of the piece.  oops.

at a key moment in the first movement, someone in the bass or trumpet section says in a loud stage whisper: "dammit!"

before we read through the second movement, i tell my stand partner that it is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.
after we read through it, the conductor states that it was supposed to be one of the most beautiful pieces ever written.

before we go through the third movement, the conductor informs everyone about the repeats we will be taking.  as soon as we start playing, half the orchestra misses the first repeat.

the conductor confesses to us that "this used be my favorite."  we can only assume this is due to how well the rehearsal was going.

the hour was ended with a hearty encouragement for everyone to go and practice their part.  for the sake of beethoven, i hope everyone does so.  

Thursday, October 2, 2014

free stuff

college students like free things.  people like free things.  i like free things.
so when i receive the text "i have leftover pad thai if u want it" i get very excited.  i not only enjoy pad thai a lot, i really enjoy not paying for it.
making something free is a great incentive.  that's why every organization that is looking for members offers something for free.  and, if it's food.  i usually take it.
i've received many free things in my life.  many of which i do not deserve.  I even enjoyed the pad thai with a pair of bamboo chopsticks my aunt gave me as a graduation gift.
free stuff.
food isn't the only item that's free on campus.  advice is plentiful as well.  advice on almost anything. advice from people who have experience.  it is great.
but if i ever mention free things, it always makes me think of the most important free gift i've received.  grace.  god's forgiveness.  a god loved me so much that he would give his son to save me.  i may not have deserved the free pad thai, but i definitely did not deserve salvation from an all powerful god.
so i attempt to be grateful for everything i receive.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

time alone

when you are a music major you must practice.  it is not optional.    
when you are a performance major, you must practice many hours a day.  
when you practice, you are alone.  
alone with your instrument. 
i'm here for improvement. truthfully, improvement in everything. communicating, writing, playing, learning, connecting, reciting, performing, thinking... sleeping....
for me, much of that improvement has to be done alone. 
i can study in a group, but i study better alone.  i get through material faster, i complete assignments better, and i memorize much quicker.  of course i still need to study in a group.  sometimes.  college offers a unique availability of people.  if i want to study in a group, i  can, if i need a secluded area i can have that too.   

and, if i'm lucky, i can have a big, resonant room to practice in.  

Friday, September 12, 2014

there is a lot of people here

yes there is.  i graduated from a class of 46, if i remember correctly.  i knew almost everyone there.  that's not very many.  it would probably only take just over fifteen minutes to take individual selfies with each one of them.
here, there are 900+ entering first year students.  that's a lot more people.
so many names.
i've re-met people many times.  "oh, you're another kate!" is usually what i say.  there are more than a few kates here.
i already see people that remind me of others that i have known.  it almost makes me feel as though i know them because i knew someone like them.  such is only partially the case.
so many people are joining organizations because "it's a good way to meet people."
you can meet people anywhere you go.  they're everywhere.  
my first assigned paper was a comparison between my new experience at college and the circumstances of immigrants coming to ellis island in the 19th century.
there are a lot of similarities.  we are both dealing with an entirely new environment; we have heard what this new place is like, but have never seen it; we are finding out what it is really about; we are living with entirely new people; and even eating new food.  both our new worlds promise prosperity.  and with work, that will come.
 it will come.