an ode to coffee

"Les buveurs de café," by Flemish painter Paul-Joseph Delcloche (1716-1755)

Les buveurs de café,” by Flemish painter Paul-Joseph Delcloche (1716-1755)

Ah, coffee! The drink adored by artists around the world for centuries: musicians, painters, philosophers, writers….Without the late-night spurts of energy fueled by this fragrant, smoky black drink, who knows how much more barren our libraries and museums would be?! (Pardon my hyperbole…maybe I’ve had a little too much myself this morning.)

Coffee came from the Middle East to Europe through the trading ports of Venice, and even Pope Clement VIII could not resist its allure, saying, “Why, this Satan’s drink is so delicious that it would be a pity to let the infidels have exclusive use of it. We shall fool Satan by baptizing it and making it a truly Christian beverage!” Thus, in 1600, he declared coffee Christian, ignoring protests to ban the “Muslim drink,” and opened the door for coffee to saturate the West. (Thanks, Pope Clement. You the real MVP.) Coffee houses throughout Europe quickly became popular places for social gatherings, and the Zimmermannsche Kaffeehaus–or “Café Zimmermann”–in Leipzig is one of the most famous, for hosting public concerts in which many of J.S. Bach’s secular cantatas were performed…including:

The Coffee Cantata.

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the piano teacher’s guide to student misbehavior

Most musicians teach young students at some point in their lives, if not throughout their careers, and it’s certainly one of the best ways to make a positive and direct impact on a child’s life. But don’t let anyone tell you it’s easy money! Teaching children requires you to navigate an endless array of emotions and learning styles, and requires the patience to understand where a student (particularly a misbehaving one) is coming from, so that you can guide them to the place where they are ready and able to learn. That’s why I was so happy to stumble across this list of ideas for dealing with misbehaving students, and hopefully they will help some of you too.

Read “The Piano Teacher’s Guide to Student Misbehavior” here.

How do you deal with difficult students?

musical excerpt: mendelssohn string quartet no. 2 in a minor

This quartet was written in 1827 by an 18-year-old Mendelssohn. How incredible it is that such an early work has the ability to take its audience captive from the first chords: wood and strings breathing and moving together, chorale form, through reverent, earnest harmonies that make you want to lean forward, hold your breath.

After this brief hymnal introduction, we are introduced to the motif that runs throughout the work: a dotted-rhythm question that speaks and then waits, perched breathless on the dominant, before repeating itself in hushed tones. The question is “Ist es wahr?”–“Is it true?”–and is taken from “Frage,” a song Mendelssohn had written a few months earlier.

Above: the opening motif from "Ist es wahr?" Below: the motif as quoted in the string quartet Op. 13.

Top: the opening motif from “Frage,” Op. 9 no. 1
Bottom: the motif as quoted in the string quartet Op. 13.

Ist es wahr? Ist es wahr?
Daß du stets dort in dem Laubgang,
An der Weinwand meiner harrst?
Und den Mondschein und die Sternlein
Auch nach mir befragst? Ist es wahr? Sprich!
Was ich fühle, das begreift nur,
Die es mit fühlt,
Und die treu mir ewig,
Treu mir ewig, ewig bleibt.
Is it true? Is it true
that over there in the leafy walkway, you always
wait for me by the vine-draped wall?
And that with the moonlight and the little stars
you consult about me also? Is it true? Speak!
What I feel, only she grasps —
she who feels with me
and stays ever faithful to me,
eternally faithful.

This motif opens and closes the quartet, bringing us back in cyclic form to the same profound, unanswered question.

(Motif is heard at 0:47 of the first movement)

on closed doors

15BRUNI-blog427

Hello again, dear readers! I’m back to posting after taking a month off to focus on auditions, and I know many of you have just finished the same process. Admissions decisions will be rolling in within the next few weeks, determining where we will be for the next 2-4 years–but unfortunately, for many of us, there will inevitably be some rejection letters in the mix. That’s why I wanted to re-share this article, published almost a year ago exactly, in which Frank Bruni raises some excellent points on the benefits of taking second-choice paths.

People bloom at various stages of life, and different individuals flourish in different climates….For every person whose contentment comes from faithfully executing a predetermined script, there are at least 10 if not 100 who had to rearrange the pages and play a part they hadn’t expected to, in a theater they hadn’t envisioned. Besides, life is defined by setbacks, and success is determined by the ability to rebound from them. And there’s no single juncture, no one crossroads, on which everything hinges.

This goes far beyond easing disappointment with “sour grapes” excuses. Personally, I think rejection has been one of the most strengthening elements in my life. Sure, it sucks in the moment–but it teaches you resilience; it gives you the assurance that you are pursuing your passion for the right reasons, and not because of any external validation; it trains you to face reality and accept all its good and bad parts with open arms.

Best of luck to all of us. Read the full article here.