Saturday, April 25

musical memories

So, a little background.

Back in 1995, when I was a college student, I spent a summer interning at Glimmerglass Opera. I was on the stage crew, along with 6 other interns. Glimmerglass is a professional summer company that runs in rep, meaning that every day they do a different opera. The summer I was there we did 4 operas, all appealing to very different tastes: Don Giovanni (Mozart), Paul Bunyan (obscure 20th century Britten), Yeomen of the Guard (Gilbert & Sullivan) and Tamerlano (Baroque/Handel).

This experience was huge: it confirmed that I wanted to spent my life doing theater. Everything there was exciting, new and big.

And I also formed a very important friendship with Joanna (aka Jojo, though at the beginning of the summer she was still Joanna). She and I were the only women in a group of rowdy and somewhat lewd college boys. (To be fair, there were some women on the crew, but they were not interns and therefore had more responsibility than us.) Neither of us were particularly rowdy. Joanna had recently moved to the US, having transferred from a French university the year before. She had listened to all of the operas before she got there that summer, and during the operas she would let out a little sigh or coo every once in a while, when the music was particularly good.

She was also rather outgoing, and became friendly with some of Tamerlano cast. I remember us having breakfast with one of them at a coffee shop in downtown Cooperstown, and another time the soprano invited the crew (through Joanna, of course) to the house where she was staying for brunch.

Since we both were staying at the same residence, had similar work hours, and had only one car between us, we frequently went to work together or came home for lunch together or went grocery shopping together. Basically, we were inseparable.

The operas. In the case of this blog post, there is only one opera worth discussing: Tamerlano. I don't think I was at all familiar with Baroque opera before that summer, but I was blown away by it. So soft and lilting, so unexpectedly beautiful. As a crew member on Tamerlano, I spent the duration of the opera behind a very tall gold folding screen with 2 other crew members. At certain musical cues (once each act, I think), we moved the screen. Otherwise, we played cards or napped. On stage. I am serious.

There were two musical parts that we would wake up for and listen to intently. One was David Daniels' aria. The other was the show finale. I've found a YouTube clip of some other singers singing the finale and strangely they are wearing the same costumes as our production. (Looking at the credits, it has the same director, Jonathan Miller)It's not very long, and it is beautiful. Listen!

That fall, I went to study in Italy. My college had a very intensive, immersive junior year abroad program in Florence, where I studied art history and Italian language. It was very hard, especially going from Glimmerglass (where had I finally found people who loved the same things as I did) to a country where I barely spoke the language and didn't know anyone. How I got through that year is another post (and I did get through it, and loved it), but I have to stick to my story. Joanna (who had by then been nicknamed Jojo) sent me a ton of letters. Along with being a great friend, she knew about culture shock and she knew Europe; she understood what I was going through. And she sent me things, tapes of music she'd gotten out of the library: Purcell (Dido and Aeneas) and Bach (St Matthew Passion), to be exact. And I listened to them on my walkman, laying in on my bed writing letters or walking the Sede for class. The music was so surprisingly different from Handel (unfortunately I have little music education and have no way to discuss this. I can just tell you that is very modern to me.)

Years passed, and I stopped listening to my cassette tapes. I met Christopher, and was surprised when one day he put on the St Matthew Passion. Apparently when he was in a chorus in DC they sang it, and he loved it. He plays it regularly, and I always think of all of these things when he does.

A few weeks ago he sent me an email while I was at work. A staged version of the St Matthew Passion is being done at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and he wanted to get tickets. He had been listening to the director, Jonathan Miller, on the radio and it sounded really exciting. Jonathan Miller! The same guy who directed Tamerlano! St Matthew Passion! Needless to say, we got tickets to see it, and went last night.

It was beautiful. I guess the piece is usually performed as a choral work, very staid. Miller made it a little more dramatic, separating the two choruses and orchestras so that they each faced each other in a loose sort of circle, leaving the center open as a performing space and for the conductor. Musicians would enter the stage for solos as well, and everyone was in street clothes.

I found a YouTube clip of an older version of the production, and it just doesn't do it justice because I think the spacing is so important. I suppose you can hear the music though. It's interesting to me how connected I feel to this music. Listening to it last night brought back so many memories of different times in my life. Times that are pretty far in the past...

Wednesday, April 22

a second panorama

I think we (ie my father) have solved the problem of how to post the panorama on a blog. Here is a view of the street I grew up on, and where my parents still live.

I recommend viewing this very large. Just click on the X at the bottom of the image.

I have been tempted to change the layout of this blog for a while; I have found the column rather narrow and the colors overwhelming. Please let me know how you like this simpler layout.

Monday, April 20

blankets for Afghans

I've mentioned before that I sometimes knit things for Afghans for Afghans. Their latest drive, which started early this year, is for baby items. I usually send a mass email with the appeal to my knitting group, and then collect a few hats and mittens. This time when I sent the information, Tony (the group organizer) smartly thought we should make and sew together blanket squares.

Tony keeps giving me credit for organizing this, but in reality he wrote up a bunch of blanket square patterns and has taught group members how to make them, plus he collected the squares and has kept them at his apartment. It only seemed fair that I host a piecing party, the first of which was on Saturday.
It turned out that Tony had to go to a party with his girlfriend that day, so he brought the squares over before everyone arrived.
The squares were of varying sizes, so we lay out one blanket of small squares and anther of large ones and had a tall stack of mixed sized squares left over.
Our piecing group was small (just 3 of us!), but we had fun chatting and sewing everything together. When Lizz and Lisa left, there was one blanket that still needed a final center seam; the second blanket was only partially sewn.

On Sunday morning I finished the seam and sewed in all of the ends, completing our first blanket. Voila!I really love the combination of squares, and the number of different styles it incorporates. I am also really taken with the crocheted ones. I wish I knew how to crochet!

The second blanket is now in strips (I couldn't resist it). It's really tempting to finish it too, but I'm being encouraged to wait so it's more of a group effort. Now to have another piecing party...

Friday, April 17

mitts for spring

This spring seems to have taken a long time to come. Actually, I think that I always expect spring to come earlier than it does. By the time April rolls around, I think there should be daffodils and warm sunny weather, but there never is. This year seemed especially rainy and cold, especially on days when I planned to be outside running. (I'm still running! But that's another post.)

A few weeks ago, when Lisa came over I showed her the yarns I'd spun. She really loved some merino I spun sometime last year, some hand painted stuff that I got at Downtown Yarns when I first started spinning. (I can't remember the brand, unfortunately. Though maybe you can recognize and identify the tag.) This is how it looked unspun.And this is it spun, last May.Lisa thought I should make some mitts. I don't usually take other people's advice to heart, but I cast on for a pair of mitts within a week. And I improvised the pattern as I went.
They fit perfectly, and I've been getting quite a lot of use out of them for the past month or so.

Unfortunately, I can't seem to photograph them very well.

They are squishy and soft and so cozy, and wearing them makes me smile. I made these. I spun the yarn and made up the pattern and knit them. And they fit me. They warm me.

Saturday, April 11

self cure

We've been slowly working on our apartment. I bought myself a new computer desk on Craigslist, and on Tuesday I put it together and cleared a space for it in the den. The reasoning behind this was to get the taxes done, and though it took a while, yes, I made some progress on that too. The rest of the room is still in progress, so it's not worth showing just yet. Hopefully this weekend we'll finish moving everything around and I can begin to settle into my new work space. I have hopes of artistic inspiration once the clutter has been removed.

The economy has been really getting me down recently. The play I recently designed closed, and I have just one more project coming up. I don't blame myself for this lack of work. In fact, everyone I know is slowing down and reevaluating what they'll do next. Last Saturday I had a meeting for my new project, and afterwards I hung out a little with the sound designer, who I have worked with twice before and am thrilled to be working with again. We were in Williamsburg and he followed me up to The Yarn Tree, where I bought some bamboo roving.

Broadway seems to be doing very well, and I'm not sure why. It's the little shows that are suffering, the ones dependent on funders for donations in order to survive. Non profits. This sound designer said that 6 companies that he worked with last year have now folded or lost their spaces, and are no longer producing. He also said that he did something like 25 projects last year, a mixture of assisting and designing, and now he only has a handful coming up. 2 projects that I thought I'd be doing were either postponed or downsized, pushing me out. We both found this terrifying.

The upswing of this, what seems to be in the air these days in the arts community, is that this might be a time for us to try something new. This sound designer was talking about how he'd always wanted to compose music, and now he has the time. I've wanted to try illustration (yes, and quilting and other fibery things).

Or perhaps we'll see unusual collaborations. Once we take the money aspect out of a theater project (ie someone hires you to do their project, and then they sell tickets) perhaps things can be a little more democratic and more interesting. "WPA" seems to be on everybody's tongue. I am not sure that the US government is about to give money for theater development this time around (though it would be wonderful if it did). But perhaps slow times call for self-motivation.

Sunday, April 5

the furniture dance (part 1)

You may remember a few weeks back, when I'd decided to to the Apartment Therapy Cure. Curers (curees?) can opt between the Deep Therapy or One Room cure, and instructions are found both in the official Apartment Therapy Cure book and on the site, where there's currently an 8 week Cure-Along taking place.

I borrowed the book from Terra this week, and skimmed through it fairly quickly. There are some really interesting ideas, and a lot about just slowing down and decluttering. I could use some serious decluttering; the advice about cooking at home is a little less necessary, seeing as I do that regularly anyway. But the book is really about how to love and use your home, and not just inhabit it.

We have plans to refinish the floors in our bedroom and office sometime in the next few months, so it seemed silly to cure those rooms. I quickly decided to focus on our "den," which has become less of a den and more of an office/fiber space for me. My thought is to make it mine, since I use the room more than Christopher does, and it seems to be taken over with my knitting anyway.

Quick history:

May 2007We once had a sofa in here, and it made more sense as a den. I would set up here and watch TV and knit, or maybe we'd watch an episode of Six Feet Under together. (this was before our Netflix subscription.)This is the view looking the other direction. Clearly this was right after the room was set up; there still aren't any books on the shelves.

In the following two years, we have moved the sofa to the living room, where it creates a very nice L with our other sofa, and the cat has claimed this room for herself. It's also become a bit of a dumping ground when we're cleaning up, since it's conveniently located right next to our living room. We've also gotten a nicer TV, which means that we're more likely to watch things (ie Netflix movies) together. Unfortunately, all there is to sit on is the office chair and that white armchair, which is now covered in cat hair.
If you are still reading this, you might see what I'm talking about. Time to throw stuff away.

This room is also mostly about my knitting and my computer, so it would make sense to move my desk and drafting table in from the office, where it's mostly in the dark. Plus Christopher flees every time I try to work in there. I see no point in sharing the work space with him if he's unable to work with me in the room.

Other than putting the old stuff on the curb, I have declared that the TV has to be moved out. Our den is no longer good for watching TV, but the living room is.
So TV and TV cabinet will go into living room, in a space currently occupied by a cabinet housing our linens. This cabinet will be moved into our bedroom. Once this happens there will be little access to the secretary, so it will also be moved. At the moment we want to put it where this mirror is (across the room) though I'm sorry to see the mirror leave the living room, and that corner might start to feel heavy.
On the other hand, it might be a nice little desk/bill paying space, and could work nicely.

There is more planned, but this is the first part of our renewal. I also need to think about how my new work space will function and how to organize it without overfilling it with stuff (which I have a lot of).