eccomi

Bard summer, post 7

Lots and lots of things are happening here, and the closer to our departure the more intense things get, so I thought I'd pop in to the library and do another blog entry – because otherwise there's no chance I'll be able to tell you everything!
So, one small step at a time.
On Thursday we had quite a very special class about Mexican music, and our guide to the unique rhythms and the unique air of Mexican folk song was no other than Luis García Renart himself. We were invited to his house and met not just him but also his fantastic wife Katarina:
This is a memory I will definitely treasure for the rest of my life.
They are both such warm and open people, and the atmosphere in their house is unique. Luis collects a lot of traditional art from all over the world (especially Mexico), but the living room does not look like a museum or a place where people 'keep things', you know. It is full of light, life and love.
Luis has so much energy, and he looks so young! You can see at a glance that he is very active not only in terms of thinking, but also (and maybe primarily) in terms of feeling. You should see his face when he listens to the music! And when he talks.
And how he talks, too. There are a lot of things that he says that resonate with how I feel about music (and what I've been taught by Mr Hampson ;))). Like when Luis says that not all A-flats were created equal, or that there is no point in making the rhythm based on the beats of a metronome – because the beat is a journey, not a result.
'I don't like the approach when people say "This piece is better than that piece",' Luis said. 'This piece is the best this piece. Just like I am the best me, and you are the best you. There's no one else like you!'
Another thing that Luis said that kind of made me feel better about myself was that the better he knows a certain piece the more pleasure he can get from it. 'I went to see The Wreckers three times, and the last performance was the best, because I knew it better!' So it's not just me who tries to catch each new production more than once to really appreciate it. Real musicians do that, too ;))
Luis has been with Bard for 59 years now, and he's still teaching. Among the classes he teaches there was one called 'Listening'. I do wish I could attend that!..
Visiting Luis and Katarina is a bit of a Harry Potter experience. Like, you've been a muggle all your life and only knew this part of the world, and then wow! This is how the wizards live, when everything around you really feels like magic.
I'm totally in love with both Luis and Katarina! ♥ Katarina is so kind and friendly. You feel at home with her instantly.
And the Mexican dessert she prepared for us was delicious!
Which reminds me: freshmen have arrived. There are actual queues in the dining hall at Kline Commons now, and the place is pretty crowded (which I do not like, as I got used to the piece and quiet of the first three weeks, when I could have the whole dining room to myrself). But this also leads to meeting new people, which is cool. I also get to find out lots of nice things that were there in plain sight but I never really paid attention. For example, it turns out you can look up our menu and nutrition information online (and die of envy).
I've actually just returned from dinner; and it was an exceptional one because of a Tafelmusik concert organized by Masha at our dining hall.
Although it's summer, and everything had to be prepared on such a short notice, Masha found seven musicians (including a singer!) to take part in the event. And it was quite a success with the audience:

I really love to see such things happening. Children are much less uptight than adults, and then can kind of allow themselves to simply stand up and dance when they feel the inspiration. But what is really hard is providing this inspiration – and this event was really very motivating.
She's got some impressive audience for her concert, too:
(The person standing is Christopher Gibbs, and the person in red is my advisor, Peter Laki.)
Masha, if you are reading this, I am very proud of you! You rule!
Oh, and there's another shoutout I wanted to do for a while. I'd like to say 'hi' to my teacher, who is reading this and checking grammar every week. Hi, Denise! ♥ ♥ ♥ Thank you for the wonderful job you do, and for being so supportive! :))
(Oh, and my English class is going very well, and the only thing I am concerned about is whether I am being too loud (or 'vocal', as Bryan Billings tactfully put it). I hope I am not; but then again, maybe it's not really a bad thing to talk all the time when you are actually using a foreign language to talk. I mean, education-wise. I know everybody probably dreams of sewing my lips together or putting duct tape across my mouth. Oh well.)
Last but not least, I do not tell much about sports here, but among other great opportunities that we get here is the chance to go to the gym.They have everything, a swimming pool, treadmills, exercise machines... And instructional classes, too:
This is Mary Beth, a terrific fitness instructor who teaches Zumba, spin bike, and basic step classes. She is one of those rare instructors who can actually make someone like me do things I don't want to do and love it. I mean, like, can you imagine someone like me doing abs for ten minutes and asking for more? (I've also finally realized that Pilates is cool, and that I should do much more Yoga when I get home, and that going for a half-an-hour run in the morning is not as hard as I thought, and that doing ten push-ups in a row is not impossible. So many changes in less than four weeks! And wait till you see my biceps.)
Gotta run now! Or rather, switch to a different tab and work on my project.


Upd: I decided I'd add this here rather than make a new entry ;))
The Chavez and His World festival started last Friday, and I still haven't told you everything about last Thursday! It's really hopeless. I'll try to be brief this time (but you know, my wit kind of has no soul ;)).
On Thursday we had a meeting with Christopher Gibbs (you can see his picture above). It was very exciting for me, not just because Christopher is such a well-known person, but also I kind of feel a special connection to him: in December, when there was a conference at Smolny, I edited the translation of his speech, but did not get to meet him in person other than to briefely say 'hello'.
Christopher is a brilliant speaker (which I already knew from the conference). He told us a lot about how the SummerScape both from the historical point of view (come to think of it, this is the 26th year that it's being done) and in terms of getting the festival together.
It is always important to know how things are seen from inside the process, not simply learn the facts like 'the first SummerScape was dedicated to Brahms' or 'Puccini will be the first Italian composer on SummerScape'.
A lot of things are special about the SummerScape.
For instance, they put out a book every year about the composer and his world, putting the context together like a jigsaw puzzle. This trace in the academic field is unique, and a lot of materials that were not available in English before, or were not covered at all, are added to the academic discourse.
The SummerScape as a project is tailored to show you a broader context in which the composers' works can be put. You would hear music by their friends, enemies, teachers, students, by those who had a major influence on them and so on. But this way of creating a broader outlook is not limited to creating a versatile program; the versatility lies in the way this project is carried out – there are chamber music and orchestral works, piano recitals or string quartets, but everything is mixed together, it happens on the same stage within the same concert.
When we were meeting with Leon Bostein, he mentioned that they choose a composer who kind of 'needs help' in terms of being uncovered to the general public, or when there is a new approach that he sees that can be implemented, or a new topic to be raised. You would often hear the pieces you cannot hear anywhere else, because they are unjustly neglected or forgotten, and that is what the audience comes from. And although most of the time this means that you hear a lot of good things, it might sometimes turn out that to really explain the context something not so good would also need to be performed.
Context-wise, I particularly like how several years ago Wagner was surrounded by Jewish composers he was so fond of putting down – which I told you about earlier; Christopher added a cherry on top of that story. He mentioned that they did Wagner's piano sonata. The sonata is not really a masterpiece and Wagner is definitely not at his best here, but Leon insisted on it being played: he felt that people needed to hear that the great and flawless Wagner was comfortable with putting this out, actually publishing this kind of music.
Did people turn away when they heard this piece? 'Our audience is curious,' says Christopher. 'We do the ridiculous things nobody else would – that's why the audience goes along with us.'
He said that 1/3 of the audience is the same every year, and they really do come to hear something they haven't heard before.
The meeting was especially productive for me personally, as Christopher gave me a few reading suggestions. Or, to tell you the whole truth, some suggestions were made by him and other by his bookshelves, as I just was several book titles that caught my attention immediately. belta, I know you'll like this one. And this is my current book – I start really regretting I couldn't attend the seminar Mladen Dolar was doing in St Petersburg in spring. But then again, it wasn't about opera ;)))
На здоровье) И с возвращением!
Покажи мишку зелёненького, который рядом с бардовской кружкой?
Он не мишка, он кот! Всюду со мной ездит всегда, так что за последние лет пять объехал четверть ойкумены ;)) Зовут Джордж.
Покажу потом фоточек обязательно!
Кот?! И как же ты нас раньше-то не познакомил?! Ой, неудобно как получилось, скажи молодому человеку, что я извиняюсь, что обозналась)
Он редко попадает на фото: не любюит ходить о городу, любит сидеть сторожить жильё. А жильё я фотаю редко ;)
Твою книжку я тоже хочу )).
А "моя" стоит как два самолета (((.