Big-time stuff

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– FRIDAY, MARCH 6TH, 2009 –

The weather here has been unseasonably pleasant the past couple of days and a student photographer caught my horn students and me taking full advantage. For the record, we were rehearsing the Hindemith quartet as well as an arrangement of a Chopin "afterbeat" etude by one of my students (I forget the opus number).

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– FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26TH, 2009 –

Last night we had a DMS rehearsal at the Temple for the Performing Arts in downtown Des Moines. A couple times each season we hold rehearsals in one of the ballrooms of this grand old hotel and invite young professionals to listen, enticing them with an open bar and a drawing for some sort of prize at the break. Usually we'll just read down a couple pieces programmed for the next concert and our conductor will schmooze with the audience. The room's acoustics and lighting, akin to that of an underground parking garage during a brown out (but with fancier plaster filigree!), are too harsh and diffuse for any sort of productive ensemble rehearsing, thus the point of these rehearsals has always seemed to be getting young adults interested in the orchestra.

Last night however we proceeded to rehearse John Adams' Lollapalooza for a headache-inducing 45 minutes while the dazed audience uncomfortably drifted away leaving behind their half empty wine glasses. It's sad because this is a cool piece – after it has been polished and is working like a well oiled machine. Before which point, I believe, forced hearings may actually be expressly forbidden under Articles 3, 17, 87 and 130 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

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– SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23RD, 2009 –

L. and I got back from Chicago tonight fueled on honey roasted cashews, falsetto renditions of Elton John and, finally, silly mouth sounds, which is the road trip entertainment equivalent of coasting in on fumes. We missed the opera but saw a couple of plays. Being new to the medium my initial impression was that theater – drama or comedy – is mostly just staged arguments. Which means people must find arguing to be among the most interesting forms of interaction. Enough so that they are willing to spend their spare time and money watching actors fake argue. So long as the jokes are funny or their is enough onstage nudity. Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the plays. Mainly because of the jokes and the nudity.

We also spent a few hours each day at the Art Institute (free in Feb.) which was having an Edvard Munch exhibition (for $10). Other than the lack of The Scream in any of its painted incarnations (there was a small woodcut version) it was quite interesting and somewhat "demarginalized" the artist in my mind. That and a great Indian buffet made it a very nice trip. Oh, and the view from our hotel room of the city on the river was absolutely astounding.

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– THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 19TH, 2009 –

After teaching lessons all day I left the music building and went out under a dark, deep blue evening sky filling with black crows flying to their roosting trees for the cold night. There were several layers of the birds at different heights going in different directions, crisscrossing each other in front of shining Venus. My walk to the car took me near one of their trees, packed with hunched, black squabblers. No one likes to sleep alone in this season. On the drive home I listened to Edith Piaf and imagined making black and white silent shorts for each tune. Tomorrow L. and I head to Chicago for a weekend of plays (Art, Desire Under the Elms) and opera (Tristan).

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– WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 18TH, 2009 –

I finished The Old Man and the Sea last night and boy are my arms tired. I wonder why Hemingway didn't just have the damn fish shot, like everything in The Green Hills of Africa? Oh well. That's why he's the genius I suppose. My next literary stop should be The Great Gatsby, thus completing my self-taught course called American Fiction from the first half of the 20th century: Hemingway and Fitzgerald, "Literary Frenemies". I say should because I think I'll divert to something else first to sort of cleanse the palate. In order of decreasing thickness, either: Anna Karenina, Madame Bovary or Shopgirl, by Steve Martin. Which would you pick? Tonight's exciting events include eating risotto and performing Heldenleben.

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