Friday, September 18, 2009

all Fached up

So I knew that coming to conservatory would bring a whole number of interesting changes. Size of fish and ponds, type of studies, whatever. But I was not particularly expecting a major fach change.

I went to my first lesson, which was after a sing in for my studio class (we all sang for each other, it was nice!). We sat down and basically the first thing that he said to me was that all of my repertoire was wrong and that we had to choose all new. His point was that my voice was just too big to be singing the rep that I sing.

You have to realize, that I still operate under the impression that I am a small voice. But the last year and a half has brought a lot of changes to my voice.

I have been singing this character (which I love, also yay bizarre staging!), but if I'm singing that, the "smaller" of the two soprano roles, who is going to sing this role, the supposed bigger. The answer is apparently no one.

so I have to stop thinking of myself as Zerlina, and start thinking of myself as Donna Anna.
Super hard, because the roles that I had been doing are teasing coquettish sort of roles, and the roles that I'm headed into are more tragic types of roles. Not something that I relate to quite so well.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

great day!

I had an amazing excellent day!

I had an interview for an awesome job, and they called me with in less than an hour to offer it to me! I'm going to be working for a really neat radio show that features super talented kids! I'll tell you about it if you want to know more.

Then my studio class had a sing in (where everyone who studies with my teacher sings for each other) and I thought that I was going to sing like crap because I hadn't warmed up, but then I ate part of an apple and sang quite well!

Apples are magic!

The only "bad" thing about my day is that my calves hurt all day. But it's for a good reason! I'm changing my running style to be completely toe striking from heel striking. I have done this before, but I had fallen out of the habit. Anyhow that means that my calves are getting all sorts of new muscle attention.

I thought I'd document my good day so I don't forget, and can remind myself on not so good days that sometimes days can be super awesome!

Friday, September 11, 2009

new time and place

I thought that maybe when I moved away from everyone I would fall back into the habit of blogging as a way of keeping. Thus far this has not proven to be the case.

I do want to go back to the goals that I made on my birthday last year. They've been on my side bar all year. So I'm going to see how I did. I will make new goals for this year, but I don't think that I have it all figured out yet, so that may have to be a future post.

  • 1. Be in at least one production
Yes! I was Mabel in Pirates of Penzance! fun!
  • 2. Apply and get into summer program
I did apply and get waitlisted, but I did go to Egypt to visit Lisy. This is a goal for next year now.
  • 3. Win a competition
I did not win a competition, but I did win money in a competition
  • 4. Apply and get into Grad school
Yes! Totally accomplished! In Grad school!
  • 5. Blog weekly
hahahahahahahahahaha! ...... no
  • 6. Give a recital
Yes! I sang a recital of new music written by Michael Thorn in October!
  • 7. Stay in touch with friends
I think so...?
  • 8. Learn to knit or crochet
well you see...the thing is I tried, but then the cat swallowed a yard of my yarn, and I had to keep it in the closet, and I forgot about it. But for alittle bit there I was totally getting better
  • 9. Run 3 times a week
Sometimes I did well with this, sometimes not so much...this is a constant goal in my life, I'm happier when I run
  • 10. Mail Cards before Christmas
This was something of an epic fail. Noel and I decided to make a CD that we wanted to send as a christmas card, so I held off for that to be's still not done
  • 11. Be useful at work
I got a fantastic review from my that's good. I always feel like I need to do more for them though.

Soo, lets see:
3 definite yeses
3 definite noes
the rest are somewhere in between.

I don't feel too too bad about this. I think that my most important goals were accomplished, namely I applied and got into grad school.

Oh! and I totally got an article published in a news paper!!!! (sorry the link to the actual article is long gone, it was published in November)

So here I am in Boston. A new adventure in a new city. I'll try to let everyone know how it goes.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

things get churchy

One of the first indications that old Cairo is old is that you have to go down a flight of steps to get there. I love that old cities that have been here for centuries have built on top of themselves. There are a series of Coptic churches built on top of places where the holy family stayed while they were hiding out in Egypt. One church had a well that they had used. I find it interesting that flight to Egypt is a recurring theme in the bible. Abraham and Sarah go, I think Rebekah and Isaac go, the entire Jewish people go, and the holy family goes. I'm sure I could find a ton to read on about this. Almost all of the churches there are the church of St. George, because they are built on top of the Roman prison in which St. George was held prisoner and tortured. I'm pretty sure this happened after he slew his dragon. The biggest and most oppulent church is actually a Greek owned and run church. There was also a beautiful Synagoge.

The next trip we made was my favorite so far this visit. We drove out to the Sinai Peninsula to St. Katherine's. We drove under the Suez Canal and through miles and miles of empty desert. The first stop we made was at the plave of Moses' bitter wells. There were Bedoine womenpedaling handmade beaded ware and other such things for cheap. As we continued we watched the red sea, or the bit that leads up to the Suez canal go by. There were tons and tons of resorts on the water. It was interesting to see the desert meet the sea. No trees of any life to greet the ocean. First desert, then water. Not even a dune. We drove to a place that Wahied called the bath of the Pharaohs. There were hot springs that flowed out from under the rocks straight into the sea. There was a cave that you could go into that was like a sauna. I walked up and down the beach, enjoying the sea, and collecting a few shells. Mostly the ride was unremarkable desert that slowly gained rocky mountains. We did drive through an oasis though where there was a Bedoine village. THey had a date farm and plenty of goats running about. Finally reaching the hotel was a relief. We were in the mountains where it wasn't as hot, the air was not polluted, and there was a huge beautiful pool waiting in the evening sun.

As I hopped into the pool I quickly realized that 100% of the other tourists there were Italian! For once I was the one of our tiny crew that could understand the chatter all around me. We ate our dinner with gusto, then went straight to bed. We all had to wake up at 12:30 to head to Mount Sinai to beat the sun to the top. We climbed the mountain in the dark with a Bedoine guide and a pliveman. (all Americans and Israelis are escorted by the secret police or whatever). The Bedoine guide played prayers all the way up and down the mountain on his phone. Presumeable asking for a safe passage. The policeman was a nice guy who joked with us. He however felt license to grab my hands at certain points. If I were in the US it wouldn't have mattered because it was to guide me away from camels or over rockes, but here it is not ok to touch women, so I was not so pleased. The walk was not too hard at all, and even going very slowly to wait for Marc with his bad knees and his huffing and puffing, we made it up with nearly two hours to wait for sunrise.

(sidenote: Marc had just earlier been telling us how he was in good shap for a 55 year old man, but my parents, who granted are not yet 55, would have scampered up hyst as fast as I did. Well, perhaps Mom a little slower, but she has little legs.)

At the top there are two little chaples, everyone sits in the cold waiting for the sun to rise. The sun rises a lit faster here near the equator tha it does in the north, so when the sun did rise it just popped right up! The mountain rock formations are different than anywhere I've ever seen. Infact I had seen biblical paintings of Sinai and aasked myself what sort of mountains they were since I hadn't ever seen the like. They are dramatic, yet rounded. I don't know how else to describe them. The walk down was uneventful, but obviously much better for taking pictures.

After a hot shower and breakfast we went to St. Katherine's Monestary, built some time in the 3rd century. There is a teeny church, a mosque and the burning bush. They say that that bush is the only one of it kind on all of Sinai. The drive back was a brutal one for the drivemer. Imem is a really good natured, handsome young man, my guess is that he is perhaps 22. Everyone else slept in the car, but I stayed awake and made facces at him in the rearview mirro to keep him company. The poor kid was exhausted when we got home. So was I and all I had done was sit...and climb a mountain at one in the morning I guess...

Saturday, August 15, 2009


this is not the great pyramid! I climbed up inside the great pyramid. It was hot and muggy and a little creepy inside. A lot of people mistake this one for the great pyramid because it looks taller, but it is only built on higher ground the first one is actually the great pyramid.
The sphinx was not damaged by time, it was defaced by a man trying to prove to the citizens who were worshiping it that it would not hurt them, and that it was not a real god. So he took off the beard and the nose. He was killed by these people.
The casing on the pyramids was not broken, but taken off by later Pharaohs to build different things. All of the royal chambers were found completely empty. The grave robbers came within the Pharaoh's time though. It's funny how a giant pyramid helps grave robbers find your stuff. This is one of the reasons why the later pharaoh's were buried in the valley of the kings down in an attempt to hide their stuff. Still most tombs were broken into.

the citadel and beyond

I was lucky enough that the folks that Wahied's touring for the time that I'm here didn't mind me tagging along.

Sunday we went to the citadel and the Egyptian museum. the citadel is a huge fortress built on one of the highest points of the city. Inside the citadel is the mosque of Muhammad Ali. It is made all of alabaster and the domes are covered in silver. Upon reflection I don't know why the domes weren;t tarnished. Muhammad Ali is actually interred at the mosque. It has a very western feel, employing the same configuration of domes as the basilica in Rome. there are three pulpits called members, of different sizes. The tall one is beside the back dome, the second tallest is at the back of the dome, and the smallest is intended to be by the door. The tall ones help amplify the sheik's voice, and the small one has some one repeating what the sheik says so that those outside can hear. Now of course everyone has speakers.

Next came the egyptian museum. There Wahied's friend, also named Wahied, took me into the royal mummy room while Wahied started Marc and Nico's tour (the folks who Wahied is taking around these weeks). I have to say, for people that have been dead for 4000 years, they look pretty good!. Ramses II in particular. His hair is still there, he might have been loosing his hair during life, but not in death. Their finger nails were well manicured, and their ear lobes intact. The finery from king Tut's tomb takes up an incredible amount of space. His tomb is the only one that was found in its full splendour. From the amount that was found in his tomb, a fairly insignificant pharoh, one can imagine all that was in Ramses II's tomb. It was fantastic to see all of the treasure up close and personal after having seen pictures of it in National Geographic. Some of the neaterst things were: the camping bed that folded using hinges that are nearly identical to the design that is used today. The precise base relief carving on the sarcofoci that we still can not imitate with all of our powerful modern tools and technology. Finally something that I saw when I was wandering around by myself for a bit. There was a period of time, during the reigns of the two pharoh's previous to King Tut when the art style was noteably different. The notes marked it as more naturalistic. The body shapes were more pearlike and their skulls were elongated, their lips fuller. On the whole it looked more like the art work that yo usee from the rest of the continent of Africa.

Sunday also happened to be my birthday so Lisy and Wahied took me out to dinner. Afterwards we sat in the garden of the Villa that the restaurant was in and hade ice cream cake and sheesha. The evenings here are quite comfortable. It has not been too hot at all, and there is always a lovely breeze.

That is all that I have written so far. I'm woefully behind, as I have visited old coptic cairo, and climbed mount sinai since then.

Friday, August 14, 2009

more on egypt

I would find it hard to believe that anyone really has fun at the pyramids. It's really hot in the desert, you need a car to get through from one place to the next. But then, you can't not see the pyramids...just don't do it on your own, that's my recommendation. Lisy spent a lot of the time convincing the guards that she was married to a curator at the Egyptian museum and was therefore entitled to go in for free. Eventually people were convinced. Perhaps the best part was the boat museaum. The found a full sized bost buried outside the great pyramid. It was dismantled with instructions as to how to put it back together. After seeing the Sphinx and climbing in the great pyramid (a little creepy, and a little empty) we returned for lunch and naps.

The drive through Cairo to get to Giza is almost eyeopening. Thre are unfinished buildins that are absolutely everywhere, they have been that way and will continue to be that way for years. They will crumble before they are finished. The apartment buildings only have windows on one side, the brick work is done by hand and is visibly shoddy. They legally only have to leave a meter between the buildings, so there are building on top of each other. Each building is like a series of brick shanties built on top of oneanother. Most buildings are unfinished, so they have to proper roof. You definitely understand that you are traveling through a third world city.

Cairo traffic is what you might expect; lots of high speed weaving bumper to bumper. Intersting to note are headlight habits. Few cars have headlights and when they do they are flashed to tell the person infront of you that you would like to pass them. Otherwise if people see you with your lights on they will signal for you to turn them off, even at unreasonable hours like two in the morning. The high ways aren't limited access, so there are street cleaners, men with brooms walking along dodging traffice while cleaning the roads. Also people catch vans, the local public transport along the highway Jumping over medians and hanging out under bridges. There are even some vendors hanging out under there.

Monday, August 10, 2009

writing from Egypt

I'm writing in a journal, the journal is at this point a day behind, and I'm copying it, so I'll get as far as I get today and start up the next time I have internet, which will probably be Thursday.

As soon as I exited the plane I could feel the burn of the pollution in my nose and lungs. I have never been anywhere so polluted. It took about an hour to get through customs, even though we were the only flight there. It was because there were no instructions telling people they needed to buy a visa. Lisy has told me, however I still had to wait in a line of confused people. They are super scared about the swine flu here, and you pass through a quarentine check point before getting your passport checked. They look at you through an infrared camera to make sure that you aren't glowing too orange.

The first day I slept until noon, found that the internet in the apartment did not work and took a small walk around the neighborhood. Lisy lives in a very beautiful and upscale part of Cairo. Here there are lots of trees and villas. Many diplomats and ex-pats live here. Lsiy says there is no other place quite like it in Cairo. I believe her. Looking out from her balcony are lots of trees, some of them Mango! Compared to the rest of the city it's a green paradise.

The drive home from the airport was unremarkable except for passing through the city of the dead. The city of the dead is technically a huge graveyeard of tombs. the tombs are like small homes (perhaps for the afterlife? more so living reletives can visit) Many of the tombs are guarded by a member of the family or a hired guard who lives in the tomb itself. These are generally people without any other options. The city of the dead is a dangerous place that has little to no electricity, no water, the police don't go in, and it spans an astonishing 20% of the city. Needless to say, no one will notice an extra dead body in a tomb.

The weekend started nice and slowly. We went to Cardouf, the Egyptiann Walmart for the weekely grocery and thing shop.. CArdouf is built in the middle of the deasert and is surrounded by new developments that will aparently be quite expensive. Building materials are so valuble here that they hire villagers to live in the unfinished buildings and guard the materials.
We also walked through the neighborhood and got sandwiches and mango juice from street vendors. 36 hours later my tummy was a little yucky, but nothing that has stopped me from treking about the city. falafel here by the way is way yummier than any falafel I've ever had. IT has fennel seed in it which is delicious!

Saturday Lisy and I went to the pyramids in the morning. In typical Embly fashion I forgot my camera, but Lisy saved the day with her camera phone. I've since stashed my camera in my purse so that I can't forget it.

ok I have no more time, but I will continue later!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Things Fall Apart

The center can not hold?

All technology in my house is slowly deciding that it no longer wishes to reside you. First the modem died and there was no more internet. Two days ago the remote to the converter box on the TV went MIA. No sign. Searched the couch, under it etc. can't find it. As a result I get to enjoy only the fine programs on Fox. The no TV choices would be a problem if there was internet...but we already covered that.

And now! last night the phone stopped getting a dial tone. sigh. Yes I unplugged and replugged. Last time this happened the squirrels had eaten through the phone line outside the house. But it took a ton of cojolling to get the AT&T guys out to my house. Plus once they came he covered my wires with anti-squirrel devices. (sheet metal wrapping)

So here I am, packing, trying to make sure that everything is set up with my loans for school, trying to get things done with the Doctor and I can't get anything done at home because I have only my cell phone. Just 14 more days. Then I'll be home where there is shiny shiny internet and phones. Then I'll be in Cairo, where I won't care if I don't have access to the internet at all times. But until then, I feel like everything is just breaking around me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009


I'm currently reading a book called The Defenestration of Bob T. Hash III by David Deans.
It's a bizarre little book about a land where a parrot turns into his owner when his owner strangely disappears. They live in a book that teaches English, and mangled other languages apparently. The author has taught English as a foreign language in various countries and he's clearly straining against the ridiculous exercises that most texts make the student do, and how sometimes there are no answers that make any sense in the exercise.
The language is very clever, and inserted within the plot are faux exercises that are in the book that they live in. I think that sometimes the book suffers for all the clever language, and funny interludes, especially since that means that frequently nothing is happening at all.

In completely disperate news, I went to the dentist today and had my teeth cleaned. They looked very clean, I got good marks for taking care of my mouth. However in stead of polishing my teeth in the normal way, they blasted baking soda at them at high pressure. They said it's more effective and quicker. It also is really uncomfortable. Baking soda flying all over the place hitting you at high pressure in the uvula and whatnot. Generally unplesant, not recommended by embly.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

meal of a dozen

I like meals with themes. Not ones that I necessarily plan, but a common thread that I find in the food that I eat. It amuses me when the food that I eat is all related to each other in some way.
For instance; when I was working at an overnight summer camp, we had a cookout every session. The food that we ate was, hot dogs, cheese sticks, and twix. Everything was long and cylindrical. That pleased me to no end, we might have had carrots as well, but I have to admit that I don't quite remember. The meal was also one of the more tasty ones that we got to eat.

Last night was another example. Just about everything that we ate came in 12. We made jerk wings on the grill. We had a recipe, but we didn't have some of the more important ingredients, like all spice, scallions, and who knows what else. So Alex and I decided to (pardon) wing it.

We had such success. Honestly I think that Alex have some sort of magic that lets our food turn out so well, because we just mess around.

But back to the point. we had 12 wings, 12 beers, 12 cupcakes....that might be it for the 12. I'm positive that there were more than 12 asparagus.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Taste of Hell

Oh the taste of Chicago. I guess it's ok to go to once, but really, after that it's just a giant nuisance. Traffic is hell, down town is full of tourists, filling the streets with a sort of "vibrance" that I could really do with out. Vibrance here really means other people sweating on me.

That said, I'm going to really miss Chicago and all of its shenanigans.

Now that summer is really here (today maybe a bit of a regression into spring) it means that we can chill at the beach again. I can't think of many cities where you can walk from work to the beach in a few short blocks. Sure Boston will be on a harbor and whatnot, but I'm pretty sure there are no beaches that I can get to from the T (that's entirely unverified, I'm just guessing)

Thursday, May 14, 2009


There is something to be said for singing with professionals, or amateurs with strong training.

I sang in a concert a few weeks ago with a group of professional singers. The thing that really stood out to me was the way that consonants were placed on and between words. Without being told a thing by the conductors we all put consonants and shadow vowels in the same places. It was a really neat feeling. I think there was a specific place where between words d-uh-v happened in the exact same way every time.

I really like thinking about words. I don't think so much about the way they sound, but rather the way that they feel in my mouth. The way an "L" should feel, sort of flicking in the front of the mouth rather than stuck on the back of the tongue. I think about that a lot when I hear the song "Halo" on the radio. I mean does Beyonce sing that "L" in the front of her mouth? it sure sounds like it.

In other news, when I was singing for a potential new teacher in my new city and the comment that I got was "you have ring for days" so that was fun.

Monday, May 04, 2009


So I was on the bus home from down town this evening and I was munching on some cheetos. I have a love hate relationship with Cheetos insofar as they're delicious in a really disgusting way.
I noticed though that as I was eating them that they were really warm in my mouth, warmer than my mouth.
Yet another reason to not eat cheetos; they have an exothermic reaction in your mouth.

(I did I little experimenting, it's not just when you munch on them as I first thought, but even if you let them just sort of melt in your mouth they get warm)

(also have you ever thought about how packing peanuts [the ones made out of corn] look exactly like cheetos? the only difference is the orange "cheese")

Monday, April 27, 2009

Be wary of the quick infatuation of the lonely heart
It knows not the promises it makes
Fears not the consequences
Hopes only to fill a now expected void
And will nigh return to its natural state

Monday, April 13, 2009

what is the purpose of music

I read this on Joyce DiDonato's blog and thought I might share it with you.

Welcome address to freshman at Boston Conservatory, given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division at Boston Conservatory.

“One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “you’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you; the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the Quartet for the End of Time written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.
He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art; it wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

In September 2001 I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome”. Lots of people sang America the Beautiful. The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heartwrenchingly beautiful piece Adagio for Strings. If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie Platoon, a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings—people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching Indiana Jones or Superman or Star Wars with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in ET so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important; music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago.

I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland’s, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterwards, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?”

Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this:

“If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's good to be an Emily

Apparently there are urban dictionary entries for names...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

preposterous panic

Today I encountered a bit of panic.

I went to the Harold Washington Library to take out some light reading. I had tried the Reg. but all of the books that I wanted were all checked out (of all the rummy things). So off I went to check out some books. I looked them up, not checked out! hooray! 7th floor fiction it says. I get there and double check the catalogue so I can get the call number, and there was no call number. All it says is 7th floor fiction. But, how on earth am I to find it with out a call number?! I was actually hit by a wave of what someone may call existential panic (Scheer is the someone). All books have call numbers! that's how you find them! You mean to say you're going to let me loose on a floor of books without any indication of how to find the one that I wanted?!

I wandered dazed for approximately 2 minutes (in all seriousness I did). I couldn't even find the fiction. I circled and wondered who would set a library up with out the comforting clarity of call numbers. Finally after wandering through foreign languages and Large print fiction I found the fiction. Ah says I; by last name of author. Now that's a terrible way to find a book by someone with the last name of Hamilton.

I found all my books, but was actually shaken. Why?! Why should it disturb and confuse me so that the books were alphabetized? That is in fact how they did fiction at the public library where I grew up if I recall correctly. It's simply that the Reg. is absolutely regimented by call number, and it's nice to know just where a book will be.

However, it is much easier to browse books at the HWL than the Reg.

it should be noted, that Alphabetization has been a bane of my existence since...oh...third grade. I'm just not very good at it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


As is true most of the time at the end of a work day at the library, I am cold and hungry. Cold because the stacks kept cool for the preservation of books, and hungry...well because I don't do well if I can't eat something every hour or so.

So I thought that I might share with you two discoveries that I've made recently. One is that I really love brusselsprouts. Tell you what...they're delicious, like cabbage but less likely to reap havoc on your belly.

I discovered a very delicious thing to do to my chicken breasts. Now, I profess to hate chicken, that's because it is what I can afford to eat and I get bored of it. However the other night I just pan fried a chicken breast with coarse mustard smeared over it and a touch of soysauce splashed on. Tasty tasty meal (I also had brussel sprouts)

I also may have gone on about my favorite soup that I crave often. It's Tom Yum soup, however some tom yum soup is too sweet, so you have to be careful. I fake it sometimes by adding rice vinegar to chicken stock that I have cooked chicken, shrimp, snow peas, and some other veggies in with hot pepper. This is good, but just adding vinegar can make your tummy grumble. They probably make it sour with lemon grass.

Aside for being hungry things are all quite the same here. I have about one audition a week. Work is the same as ever (though we're doing a little sleuthing for Juan Diego Florez, which is tremendously cool). I'm singing a bunch at the synagogue, which is always quite nice. So yeah. No news here...

(oh except for that the CD I was going to send you all for Christmas is finally approaching completion!)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


I'll write about this in a day or two:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Last night...

I dreamed that I had to parachute out of an open cockpit airplane (you know the old kind made of canvas) to give medical attention to towns folk. my parachute was red, as was the plane.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Things I find stupid:

Tanning before you go on vacation so that "you don't burn". please. just use sunscreen properly.


forced air heating. I hate it.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

found in auction!

For my job I look through lots and lots of auction catalogues for very specific things regarding very specific opera composers. When I find them I take pictures. Sometimes I find things that are entirely unrelated to those composers that are too cool to not take pictures of, so here are some pictures I've taken at work:
Polar bears!
Upsidedown Jim Henson autograph, the upsidedown ones are very rare I hear...
it was the 60's I guess they still published literature like that?
look how big that was! It was from the 1890's too! alot of the pages were uncut!
God may in fact be puking sunshine onto Adam while Eve is being created from his rib. Or divine knowledge, or something. Really I'm unclear.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

lets talk auditions

Tomorrow I head into an exciting two months of auditions. Traveling here and there to sing for ten minutes for panels furiously scribbling while looking indifferent, bemused, haggard, tired, and if I'm lucky interested.

In the process I will get to visit my family, Margot, and a city that I've never been to before. I also get to travel to an ex-prison that is now a performing arts center, and a restaurant on the far north side.

What happens in these auditions?

Most auditions you will sit and wait with other nervous singers and make terrible small talk. That is really the worst part, because you never know if the person next to you is actually going to try to be nice or is just feeling out the competition. For the most part people are too consumed with themselves to talk too much. It is difficult to get a sincere conversation out of anyone. I for one couldn't care less about "the competition" it's all about how you sing and present yourself, there is nothing else that you can do. Guessing how you'll fare against everyone else is really a game in freaking yourself out.

So you're finally called in. You hand them your resume, repertoire list, and head shot, bring your music to the pianist and let the pianist know what piece you'll start with and mention if you remember how fast you'll sing if it is an unusual one. Then introduce yourself in a friendly formal, but not too formal way and let the panel know what piece you will be starting with. They will then motion for you to begin or say something to that affect.

This is when you should take a tiny moment for yourself. tiny moment. Some singers close their eyes and drop their head raising when they are ready as an indication to the pianist that they are ready to begin. I think that this is a bit contrived and silly looking. Some people nod at the pianist. This is strongly discouraged, as it is rude and silly looking. I tend to take a deep breath and smile at the pianist.


Do not over analyze. Do not read the panel's faces. Do not think do not think. Just sing. Involve yourself with the character. But do not let the second level of analyzing second guessing brain kick in. It will only freak you out and mess you up. Sing because it's the thing you're best and and the thing you love.

When you're done this is the time that the panel might ask you questions. Why do you think that their program is good for you? Or they might throw you a more difficult interview type question.

They will then choose your second piece from your repertoire list.

you're then usually done. Some auditions ask for a third piece. Some school auditions will have a sight reading type segment. Some show auditions will ask you to perform a monologue. However usually you are done at this point.

Thank the panel, thank your pianist grab your music and smile! Leave and eat something for goodness sake!

So there you have it, for all that were curious. That is what auditions look like.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

winter danger

I looked outside my kitchen window this morning to discover that we had acquired a very large icicle. We fondly now call it the "deathcicle".

What is not readily apparent from this photo is that it is seriously 6 feet tall.

Not only is it sitting there poised to fall on to some poor sucker's head, but the stairs at the bottom of the building are coated with about an inch of ice from these with a lovely layer of water to make it slick.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Music freak out

Every once and a while I discover an artist that I just freak out over and hit my head over the fact that I hadn't been listening to them for years.

Ted just introduced me to Janelle Monae, she is freaking amazing.

She is amazing! great voice and amazing concept album!