to dma or not to dma? (#1)

Source: PHD Comics

To DMA or not to DMA? This question has been bobbing around in my head for the past few months as I’ve seen friends run the gauntlet of DMA auditions, talked with other friends about finishing up their doctorates or applying for jobs, and wrapped up my first year as a master’s student (it passed so quickly!). In response to my own uncertainties about the future after I finish up my master’s (no, I didn’t say quarter-life crisis…who said quarter-life crisis?), I wanted to start a series where I ask my older, wiser, cooler friends about their experiences with and opinions on the DMA. And then publish these responses in hopes that they will help others asking the same question.

My good friend Brooks Tran agreed to be my guinea pig for this project! So without further ado: Continue reading

musical excerpt: kinderszenen

As to the “Kinderscenen,” I owe to them one of the greatest pleasures of my life. You know, or you don’t know, that I have a little girl of three years old, whom everybody agrees in considering angelic (did you ever hear such a commonplace?). Her name is Blandine-Rachel, and her surname Moucheron. [Pet name; literally, “little fly.”] It goes without saying that she has a complexion of roses and milk, and that her fair golden hair reaches to her feet just like a savage. She is, however, the most silent child, the most sweetly grave, the most philosophically gay in the world. I have every reason to hope also that she will not be a musician, from which may Heaven preserve her!

Well, my dear Monsieur Schumann, two or three times a week (on fine and good days!) I play your “Kinderscenen” to her in the evening; this enchants her, and me still more, as you may imagine, so that often I go over the first repeat twenty times without going any further. Really I think you would be satisfied with this success if you could be a witness of it!

— Franz Liszt, in a letter to Robert Schumann, June 1839 (source)

andras schiff master class

YouTube is an amazing resource, and not just for hearing international recordings of musical performances–through YouTube, we have access to full-length master classes and lectures worldwide, led by great artists. Here is one taught by Andras Schiff at the Royal College of Music in March 2013.

Some favorite points I wrote down for my own reference are:

  • Slowing down before drastic harmony changes is a cliche to be avoided, particularly in well-known pieces such as the “Moonlight” sonata.
  • Beethoven’s sonatas are wonderfully balanced. Many composers, even Schubert and Brahms, fall a little flat in their last movements. Not Beethoven (consider the driving force and unbridled violence of the third movement of the “Moonlight,” or the divine voyage that is the last movement of Op. 109).
  • What is humor? Short notes. Adding pedal to short notes (to make them prettier or more elegant) ruins the humor.

It’s super long, but this would be a great video to watch over the course of a few days or even a week. Keep the tab open on your browser and just press play when you have half an hour to spare! You can even listen to it while doing housework. And please let me know if you have any favorite tidbits! 🙂

composers as you’ve never seen them before

We’re all familiar with the faces behind the music–music history books, program notes, and even the walls of music libraries and teachers’ studios are inundated with portraits of the greats. Without them we would be logging hours in a cubicle rather than a practice room, or sketching diagrams that didn’t include the terms “recapitulation” or “pitch set” or “inversion,” or counting change at a cash register instead of counting rests at a music stand (insert joke about how musicians can’t count past 4). Most of these portraits are weighty and austere and portray the composer reverently: Shostakovich at the piano, the clean, crisp shades of black and white highlighting the dark frames of his glasses and the stern, knifelike line of his mouth. His head rests in his hand, the quintessential intellectual pose (aka “My brain is too heavy for my neck to hold up all the time”). Or Chopin as portrayed by Delacroix in thick, rich brushstrokes–we, the viewers, gaze up at him from below as if aware of our inferiority in the presence of such a man. His gaze, on the other hand, is inscrutable and distant under elegantly furrowed brows, a mixture of both “tortured artist” and “visionary genius.”

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