Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone! Okay, so it's not midnight yet, but I've just watched the ball drop in NYC.

Pitiable time zone issues.

And if you make resolutions, I do hope you break at least one. In fact, by breaking one, you'll keep two. See, it's a failed attempt to give up chocolate, anyways, especially if they're stuffed with maraschino cherries and topped with chopped almonds and caramel. The world needs less twigs out there to get blown away by 30 mph winds.

And who as ever been stressful after having a near-death experience via chocolate? Everyone's in a good mood after cocoa, whether it be white, milk, dark, or semi-sweet, so you can check "Be less grumpy" off your list.

But you should quit smoking, ne? We still want you around in 2010.

Monday, December 29, 2008

A fugue

In music, a fugue is constituted of two or more voices repeating a motif, or central theme. After a brief introduction by one, the other voices overlap and interweave, conversing with each other over the motif and accentuating all its eccentricities. Then, the music wanders from the motif and undergoes modulations, or "episodes." The hard structure melts, and what was originally a cut-and-dried theme is now a fluid mixture of sound, comparable to several conversations at once. The music becomes less and less distinct as the voices cascade over each other in counterpoint, swelling and falling to the mood with a life of its own. Then, after a number of episodes, there is a climax, a brief coda, and then the end.

This is the technical definition. Spiritually speaking, I believe it can be deeper than that.

Life, or, more specifically, history, is like a fugue - there is no single story independent from the others. One tale overlaps and influences the other; every action has a cause and effect, like a melodic pull-and-push factor that influences the present, future, and how we perceive the past. For example, we can't just study the American Civil War - we study the tensions between the North and the South, the white and the black, the slave and the free. Within the big picture there are little details, and within the little details, there are small emotions and drives within the individual. Sometimes we think independently; other times, we move as a body. And above it all, there are always recurrent themes, a motif, repeating without end, chasing itself in evermore complex patterns. But every so often, the motif wanders, fades, sometimes forgotten in our memory as we get caught up in the episodes. Then, when we least expect it, on the sudden, the motif returns, sometimes like an explosion, other times like gentle voice of a familiar friend chiming in from an unfamiliar crowd.

But that's just what I think. How about you?

Monday, December 22, 2008


Santa Baby? Naw. That's so last year...literally. Did you think I'd say something so blonde if it wasn't literal?

We used to have Christmas parties every single year, where all the piano nerds/kids-who-didn't-care-to-pretend,-just-doing-it-for-their-parents-to-ogle-at-and-snap-holiday-pictures-like-paparazzi got together and make fun sport hackneying "Jingle Bells," "Deck the Halls," and, Lord help us if someone brought it out, "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

And a par-tridge in a pear treeeeeeeeee.

Of course, whenever I played, I'd try something off-beat, the lesser-known stuff. Even some Hannukah songs about dreidels and Shalom, even though I'm not Jewish, just to stir things up a bit. And then we would get together for punch and cookies like little chubby five-year-olds. Luckily, it ended this year with the old teacher moving out of town.

But this is quite cynical of me, no? Heartless, maybe? Criticizing a little kids' tradition, say you? Grinch, I am?

Or Yoda?

Well, perhaps. Christmas isn't Christmas without the traditional music. In fact, solo piano with its fair share of wrong notes would do a world better than some mall/supermarket "atmosphere." I have heard "I'll be Home for Christmas" murdered four times in a row in one night, first by sloppy decapitation (taking twelve swings to finish the job), then by wild stabbing, next by a hit-and-run, and finally, by a merciful gunshot to the head. The gunman was the best.

Yep. Christmas music has become clichéd, whether we like it or not. What happened to the carolers in their humble groups, "a-wassailing," making real music with the real spirit? What happened to the children's church choirs, making real music in all of the season's holiness?

Well, we just have to look in the right places, I suppose. They say Christmas is everywhere - I say it's in little dabbles. Your ears just have to be tuned to the right wavelength to cut the static.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How to How not to prepare for a recital

  • Dress comfortably
  • Warm up several minutes before showtime with scales and arpeggios
  • Keep hands warm
  • Talk to the others to keep your mind straight
  • Take deep breaths, meditate
  • Above all else: Keep calm
  • Wear your tight little red dress just because it's a size four and you don't want to accept the fact that you're now a size six after Thanksgiving, thereby leaving your literally breathless.
  • Warm up several minutes before showtime - but with the piece you're about to play, thus racking your brains, raising hellish doubt, and causing you to panic.
  • Try sitting on your hands, thereby squeezing all the blood out and leaving them white, lifeless, and limp.
  • Mutter to yourself about how few hours you've spent practicing, and how doomed your performance is going to be, and how sure you're going to fail
  • Ask your teacher for the nth time how many people are in the audience, so you can count them as they fill up the seats.
  • Take deep breaths only to become so nervous you forget to breathe and feel dizzy within a few minutes (that dress isn't helping)
Looks like my score isn't too good...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Triplets Against Eighths

So I suppose many of you are wondering about the title of this blog. Some might think, what, identical triplets? Siblings...cut in eighths?

Sadly, I am not a cannibal, so that is not the correct definition.

Actually, as will many posts in this blog, the title refers to music: a triplet set of notes (dividing the beat into thirds) set against an eighth-note accompaniment (dividing the beat into halves). Now, at first, this seems to be a very simple concept; but only at first. Once you try to play such a rhythm, you immediately confuse yourself. The accompaniment tangles up the melody, and vice-versa, until you can't tell heads or tails of what is going on. The triplets are scrunched up, and the eighths take on a swing beat, that, frankly, doesn't belong in Mozart.

So how do you solve this? Sixteenths against eighths are fine, and so are sextuplets against triplets, but two against three? The person who came up with this rhythm must be taken out and shot, you say. I'll be willing to do it, you say, with your fists histrionically punching the air in golden Beethovenian defiance.

That is for the dramatists. For the mathematicians out there, you might decide to subdivide each beat into sixths, since, naturally, this is the lowest common denominator. And so you've again come up with a simple answer to a simple question...right?

Wrong. Still, the melody is in a hodgepodge, and the accompaniment is beyond description. So what do you do?

I asked my singular piano teacher for help once. After some thought (and considerable joking around, as always) he taught me that over-analyzing a difficult situation will only drag you down deeper. Instead, he suggested some gentle, repetitive exercises, where I just let it go, regardless of mind-boggling rhythms and what have you. "Why let yourself get floored by the complexity of a Rubik's Cube when you can just relax and fiddle with the pretty blocks until you get the answer?" he reasons.

Amazingly, within five tries of "letting it go," the rhythm straightened itself out. Now, I just need to figure out triplets against sixteenths...

But before this post becomes too long, I'll summarize it here: When faced with a difficulty, over-analysis can often worsen the situation and only bring stress and anxiety; nothing gets done. When faced with an obstacle, don't lament over yourself and your situation, obsessing over every detail and letting the black doom close in on you - get moving and fiddle with the pretty blocks first.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Post, Opus 1

Here it is: my very own blog. I really don't know what to write here - I guess it will just be some random conglomeration of whatever I feel in the mood to write, whether it be cynical, optimistic, or whatever. I won't be publishing every facet of my life for the world to see, but I will occasionally let my ego intrude and write something about yours truly.

Comments are welcomed - feel free to offer suggestions/complaints/chat/anything else. :)