Saturday, December 10, 2011

A pianist, a bassoonist, and a soprano take Georg Friedrich Haas to Niagara Falls...

(An image of the Toronto Christmas parade a few weeks ago.)

Oh oh oh. (Ho ho ho?) It sure has been a while. I vacillate between wanting to update this blog every few days and forgetting about it for weeks. I think many things have happened recently, though I typically have forgotten most of them. We celebrated American Thanksgiving here a few weeks ago, on the Sunday after normal Thanksgiving. It was strange to be here and to know that everyone in the States was gathering for big meals and family while we were in classes, as usual. Luckily--thankfully--the Comrades upstairs joined us in a feast a few days later. I bought a free-ranged, Mennonite-raised chicken from Gasparro's meat market and made a dizzying array of dishes including: the roasted chicken (simple, with herbs), polenta stuffing (both vegetarian and with meat), a warm cabbage salad with pomegranate, a mushroom bread pudding (for the vegetarian entree), and two kinds of desserts (an apple-pear pie with a cheddar cheese crust and almond/chocolate macarons). Ryan made some mashed potatoes and Comrade MM made a delicious "sexy squash soup" and really fantastic Brussels sprouts, both from recipes in the New York Times. My recipes came from Gourmet magazine; though I changed most of them heavily I think they're all very interesting and you may enjoy clicking the links above to see them for yourselves. The bread I used in the bread pudding was also home-made and has been quite a hit recently--it's the one from a few posts back that we ate with soup. This is my third time making this recipe, and I've been changing it up with a few other additions/substitutions including wheat berries, sunflower seeds, oats, molasses, yogurt, lower-fat milk, etc., as well as making loaves instead of rolls.

(Ye olde Canadian Christmas tractor? It reminded me of Davis.)

Originally I'd thought I'd write a post about Christmas in Canada. It seems to come awfully early here, though perhaps I was largely sheltered from the holiday marketing in New Haven, Connecticut. There was is little in the way of big-box retail downtown, within student reach, and I was so busy that I guess I avoided it. Here, though, it smacks you in the face on November 1st. It felt a little forced in the beginning, but now that we're actually midway through December all of the lights and decorations are beautiful. There are a number of lit-up houses on our street and of course the department stores and malls all have lots of displays. Many of the corner groceries sell Christmas trees and wreathes, so the air is perfumed when you ride by. Ryan and I went to the Distillery District last weekend to have dinner and discovered that it is turned into a Weihnachts festival, complete with Weihnachtswurst and little wooden stands selling little gifts. It was rather lovely, though cold. In fact, winter seems to have finally arrived--today was positively (negatively?) frigid! It has also snowed a few times over the past few weeks, though nothing has stayed for long. My voice teacher, Monica Whicher, gave a beautiful recital last weekend of holiday music with harp (a bit like the album I recently recorded). It was wonderful (and instructive) to watch and hear her sing. She has a commanding stage presence in that she invites you into the space she creates and holds you rapt from beginning to end. I was very glad I had the opportunity to see her perform.

We've also had a smattering of excellent master class artists recently, most notably Sir Roger Norrington. Perhaps some more musings on him later, as what he had to say about period performance practice--particularly vibrato--was very interesting, but I think I would like to move on to the joke which I began in the title.

It is not so much a joke as real life, as Ryan, a bassoonist friend from The GGS, and I did take Mr. Haas to Niagara Falls. But it was a funny, somewhat surreal experience which I shall recount here:

After a few mishaps with the renting of the car (the bassoonist doesn't have a license but wanted to use his credit card, and the two names had to match; Ryan was to drive but doesn't have a credit card; and I arrived to help them out of the mess by officially renting the car myself) that put us a bit late to pick up Mr. Haas, we were on our way. He is extremely soft-spoken (and for those of you who don't know, he's an Austrian-born spectralist composer best known for the piece "in vain" which the New Music Ensemble performed a few days ago and which occurs, in parts, in complete darkness) and kind. His English is good, though he worries it is not good enough. He is always able to make himself understood, though, and I had fun talking to him a bit in German. He was happy to talk about his music and about his inspirations, though he seemed more animated when we started discussing Death Valley.

As a side note: when my dad and I were in the Southwest this summer we realized that about 80-90% of the people we encountered similarly exploring the Great Outdoors were either French or German. A bit of a mystery, I guess. How do you explain a bunch of Germans in southeastern Utah? Is it because the Euro is stronger than the dollar? Why aren't they in New York? Haas explained that it was his first time in a desert, ever. Perhaps we are too quick to dismiss the profound (and unique) natural beauty of our own country, even when we are enjoying it. Recalling the German landscape, and perhaps even the Romantic ideals of nature, it does make more sense that they would want to see our country. Anyway, I digress...

The day was overcast and cold and the trip relatively uneventful. We arrived in Niagara Falls City, a garish strip of blinking lights and towering hotels advertising breakfast specials. It's hard to imagine an uglier city, except maybe Las Vegas. They're rather similar. There are a lot of casinos and such. But, just as we passed an Alpine-themed restaurant advertising a $1.99 breakfast special and covered with murals of people in Lederhosen (closed, but up for sale!), I caught a glimpse of the falls. And they really are beautiful. I'm sure because we were there with a composer I was more attuned to the sounds they made than I might have been otherwise. Standing above the falls, the crashing sound of the water is not very strong. The sound of the river as it flows along is full of higher-pitched, gentle sloshings in counterpoint with the rumble from way down below. The volume of the water and depth and breadth of the falls is incredible. I know there are bigger ones out there (Victoria Falls, Iguazu Falls, probably others), but I haven't seen them. Haas pointed out that it is hard to train your eyes on one particular spot on the falls: you want to keep following the water, making that continuous glissando that appears in so many of his works. It was a little like being in a stationary car when a truck is pulling forward. Though you're immobile, you feel like you're going backward. In the same way, the water made you feel as if you were shrinking and the falls were growing. A little Alice-in-Wonderland-esque.

We walked around them for a while and eventually decided to try to make it to the other side of the gorge, America! So we walked to a bridge which had a little building with a funny little turnstile and a 50 cent toll. After collecting the proper change, we all pushed through and walked across the bridge. On the other side we passed through customs and I was finally in America after so many months! How exciting! I called home! On the other side of the gorge you can walk along the falls and the river, and over a series of bridges, to traverse the span of the island and falls. When we finished exploring it was almost nightfall (and very cold) so we looked for somewhere to eat. Nothing gave. There was a pitiful Christmas market, like in the Distillery, but on a Wednesday no one was out and about save ourselves and a few hardy vendors. Eventually we reached a giant casino, bedecked in stained glass and architecturally rather similar to a mega-church from the 1970s. Slightly creepy. Across the street: a TGI Fridays. Ryan and I had never been and Haas was hungry, so we went in. There literally wasn't a single vegetarian item on the menu, though they accommodated Ryan's request for a vegetarian pasta without question. Mr. Haas, luckily, seemed very happy with his steak (he is German, after all... and then I remembered the meals I had in Regensburg which, despite my efforts to the contrary while ordering, always seemed to result in a boiled hotdog floating forlornly in a soup tureen).

He very generously treated us to dinner in America and we traipsed back in the cold, over the bridge, through Canadian customs, and back along the river. By then the falls were illuminated in colored lights. Perhaps it was only in contrast to the beacons of consumerism--the giant guitar of the Hard Rock Cafe, the flashing signs and neon lights--but they were actually somewhat beautiful. It was nicer when, just as we were leaving, the lights became just white and the brilliance of the cascading water was illuminated further. In the huge plume of mist that results from the falling water in the Canadian falls the lights created circles of rainbows which seemed more like nebulae, images from the Hubble Space Telescope, than anything else.

The next night was the first performance of "in vain." I had heard slips and snatches, bits here and there, but not the whole piece. The effect was incredible. I haven't had an experience like that for a long time, probably not since hearing El Niño live at Carnegie Hall a few Decembers ago. There were moments of extreme beauty despite all the microtones grating against each other, something that usually gives me a headache. Because we often categorize those sounds as "noise" rather than music, parts of the piece were distinctly non-human and sounded more like machines than anything I'd heard in a concert hall. I had one strong mental image of an airplane flying happily through an Alpine meadow. Not a real airplane, but one which was native to that clime. I don't know why. The parts of the piece that were to be played in complete darkness were wonderful. I don't always like the dark. I'm not afraid of it, but with my bad eyes I think I value the light even more than I might otherwise. I especially love the sun now, when sunset comes so early. Anyway, I wasn't sure if the whole "pitch black" thing would come across as a gimmick. When the first period of blackness came, I was actually more frustrated that they hadn't achieved a true blackout. The exit signs were covered but light seeped around the edges, and the person controlling the light cues in the box was apparently inattentive and some light entered from there. I closed my eyes against the distractions and listened. In many ways it felt like a more true concert experience than what I normally enjoy. My mind often wanders, which I don't feel to be a detriment, but sometimes it wanders to inconsequential things and I begin to watch people. With a blackout, you are both alone with the orchestra and together with the other darkened bodies, but you are free to listen in a sort of stillness that comes from this sensory deprivation. The second blackout section is interrupted by flashes of light which become stronger and last longer as the piece progresses. These too were strangely powerful, another form of percussion. They were also very beautiful. You do not want the blackness to end, to be returned forcibly to the humdrum of people and clothing and faces and instruments and walls and chairs. I was so grateful for the opportunity to meet Mr. Haas, to see Niagara, and to experience his music.

Finally, here is a link to some beautiful pictures (and a little information) about one of my favorite types of squid.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


What an interesting few days it has been. This week saw another visiting master class artist, this time Timothy Noble. Working with him was illuminating and I feel like I made some fantastic progress. Hopefully I can keep it up! The issue with "quick fixes" on technique, as Ryan and I were discussing, is that one can become overzealous (or over-reliant) and then a fix can quickly become another fault. Such it is with life as a whole, I think. Anyway, it was once more a fascinating experience to work with yet another great teacher privately and to hear and watch him work with the other students in the master class on Friday. We're very lucky that, in the AD program, we'll get to work with both Timothy Noble and Wendy Nielsen (the previous master class artist) again in the spring. We're very lucky that we get to have master classes with so many talented musicians and teachers! And private lessons too! Ryan was busy as well, as he played at Beethoven sonata for Leon Fleisher, who is a quasi-faculty member at The Glenn Gould School, on Friday morning and with his trio for James Boyd, another visiting master class person, on Thursday. (Clearly I was also rather busy in the office last week.)

After the hustle and bustle I was looking forward to a relaxing weekend. I will begin rehearsing La Calisto next weekend so I was hoping to polish up the first act and learn some more Schubert and Messiaen (and continue working on technique, using my new tools!) in relative calm. However, I woke up feeling a little inexplicably sorrowful on Saturday. Nothing was really wrong, so I wasn't sure what was pressing on my mind. It was the day of The Game, so I was following along on my computer in the morning and absentmindedly waiting for the noon kickoff. I wasn't particularly concerned with the outcome; in fact, I expected we would lose (again... we haven't won since my freshman year). Quite frankly, I'm proud that my university devotes more resources to providing a stellar undergraduate education than to the football team. That's why we're better than Harvard. Ahem...

Anyway, I was poking about facebook when I first came across this video of the student protests at UC Davis: (warning--the video is graphic and disturbing, particularly at the beginning) . I haven't been paying that much attention to the Occupy Wall Street protests. I saw a bit of footage of the Oakland riots and of course the New York Times will post photographs and articles from time to time. I knew that UC Berkeley students and been treated unfairly but I must confess that I didn't watch any of the videos (of them being beaten with clubs and assaulted by the police) at the time. I'm happy that the Occupy Wall Street protests are happening, and I definitely believe that we all--especially the top earners--need to be paying more taxes, but I don't have a problem with people making money or being successful. So, it would perhaps be safe to say that I'm really glad other people are doing the dirty work for me. Perhaps--though it is unlikely--you have not heard about what transpired. Though news reports are often conflicting, it seems that a group of students decided to camp out on the large quad area at UCD on Thursday. They received permission from the chancellor to do so. They provided food to many people, including passersby and the police (even the police officer that later sprayed the students. He was, by a student account, quite friendly at the time). On Friday the chancellor decided that the students could not stay. She ordered them to leave. Most of the students did disperse and most of the tents were packed away. It seems that about 10 tents remained by 3:30, when the police arrived. I believe that at this time they were told to pack up their belongings, so they put the tents away. However, the police still wanted to arrest some of the students. So, they began to arrest people. The students that were there (initially about 20) began to form a seated circle, with their legs crossed and arms linked, but left a pathway for the police to move in and out. More and more students began to arrive to watch the unfolding scene. Eventually, and without warning, the police began to spray the seated students with pepper spray. When the students did not move, the police sprayed into their mouths. When they tried to protect themselves with their clothing, the police sprayed under their garments. The police held people to the ground. I believe that 11 students were taken to the hospital to be treated for pepper spray-related injuries. Some were reportedly coughing up blood over an hour later.

It is one thing to read about what happened and another thing entirely to watch it unfold, if only from the safety of your computer screen. I almost started crying, not just because you can clearly hear screams of anguish from the sprayed students but because watching their reaction to the police is also deeply frightening, even if it is ultimately uplifting. Perhaps that's a funny way to express my feelings. I don't mean to imply that I believe the students were in the wrong, or that the actions of the police were in any way justified. In fact, I believe the students have provided a shining example of bravery and calm in the face of brutality and oppression. They're amazing. What is frightening is the sheer power they exude, the power of a group verdict, the power of a clan in the face of this armed, hostile other. Perhaps awesome (in its original sense) is a better word for them. The students prove here the impact of nonviolent protest. Though the video is disturbing, I highly recommend that you watch it to the end.

So. All that is unfolding, and I watch the video, and the football game begins, and we are typically losing... and then I hear that a woman was killed at the tailgate. It seems that some student (who was sober) lost control of a UHaul truck and crashed it into three women, killing one and injuring two others. Yet the festivities continued. I suppose I understand why they wanted to continue The Game, but it seems awfully callous. I don't know. What a tragedy for the family and friends of the woman killed and for the poor student, who will have to live with the consequences of his mistake for the rest of his life.

Oh, and then we lost the football game, 45-7. Oh well.

With all that, my sadness upon waking suddenly seemed rather justified.

In other (happier) news, a Toronto outlet will be selling the Etherea CD (now released in hard copy), which is still performing quite well. We got a really wonderful review in Opera News, also rather exciting. I did manage to learn the music I wanted to learn. Comrade MM made a wonderfully delicious Indian meal in which Ryan and I shared on Saturday night, full of various curries. I had originally planned to write my next post about Canada and Christmas, as Canadians seem to start celebrating awfully early, and indeed Ryan and I encountered their big Christmas parade today (Santa was there!), but it all seems a little trivial now. I will post pictures and thoughts at a later date, though.

In closing, I do highly encourage all of you to read about the UCD protests and to consider contacting the chancellor if you feel strongly about the situation, no matter where your loyalties lie. If you are interested in writing to her, here is a link to an online form:

Here are also some links to articles which I have found interesting or illuminating:

an article by a UCD professor on militarization of the police

an opinion editorial by UC Berkeley professor and poet laureate Robert Hass, who was beaten by the police

an interview with a student who was pepper sprayed at UCD

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Encounters with the Pantheon in Downtown Toronto

So. It has been a really long time. I think a lot of things have happened, but I've been busy so I haven't noticed. Really, the most eventful moments have probably been in the kitchen. Oh, and the CD I released with Etherea that has been selling rather well. The digital release was on November 1st and it is available in hard-copy starting on Tuesday, the 15th. Currently we're 14 in the nation-wide "Billboard" charts and still number two (after falling from number one, which we held for a week) in the "traditional" new releases on iTunes. Ahead of Lang Lang and behind Hélene Grimaud.

Otherwise life is chugging along at its usual pace: lots of singing mixed in with some learning and then the boring "life" stuff. Halloween came and went; Ryan and I didn't do anything eventful (other than make dinner and help to hand out a little candy) because it fell on a Monday. November entered the picture and with it came the end of daylight savings. Now it is pitch dark by 5:30, which is a little sad. On the plus side we didn't get any of that pre-Halloween storm that blanketed the East Coast and the weather has been perhaps unseasonably warm. It might snow later in the week, but if it does it will probably just be a dusting. Otherwise I've been chipping away at learning La Calisto, thinking about technique, and working on some shorter assignments for school.

We have another ADP master class this Friday with the baritone Timothy Noble but luckily for me there is slightly less pressure as I'm not singing in the class itself, just in my coaching with him (we alternate, so all of us sing publicly in three classes but in private lessons for all six visiting master class artists, plus there are two extra classes this year, with Susan Graham and Ian Bostridge). I'm not sure what I'll be working on for Mr. Noble, but I've had Schubert on the brain of late so it may be some of that. My teacher recommended two songs of his to me: a short but beautiful one called "Florios Lied" (the only drawback being that about 45% of it sits on an F-natural, right in the passaggio...) and a 13-or-so minute long Blumenballade (or flower ballad) called "Viola." "Viola" is pretty awesome. It is somewhat like a giant version of the Goethe poem/Mozart Lied "Das Veilchen," but grafted onto a piano sonata or something like that. The poem (and song) alternates stanzas of storytelling with a refrain that, as one eventually realizes, rings with funeral knells for the dead violet. Per usual, the song is not so much about the different flowers of spring as it is about unrequited love. Poor Viola just gets too excited, stops paying any attention to anything but the coming of Spring, and then freezes to death. The music that falls between the refrain stanzas (there are a few strophes between each refrain) changes from strophe to strophe, with different textures and figurations in the piano reflecting the changing sentiments. It is rather nice. Highly recommend a listen.

So. I'm sure there are more things to talk about and think about, but for now I will segue to a photo essay, which will surely prompt memories...


Long, long ago, in a galaxy far away, we made butternut squash ravioli for dinner. Ryan and Comrade J are working the assembly line:

I went to see Mlle P. in a ceremony at her school a few weeks ago because she was nominated for an award and her parents couldn't make it. Her school is French immersion, so it was interesting for me to witness both Canadian public education and also hear a little Ontario French. Here she is proudly displaying her certificate!

That Friday, after attending the ceremony, I went to the Royal Ontario Museum (we had the week off for a fall break/extra rehearsals). It is the subject of some controversy, as a prominent architect was hired to update the building and he wound up designing this "crystal" that juts out from the original facade. The museum is next door to the school and I happen to think that it looks very pretty from the outside, but I have to agree with some of the critics when I say that I'm not sure it does much for the interior. The museum is somewhat confusingly organized, with a collection that is very strong in some aspects but lacking in others. The crystal is made of big windows, as the name might suggest, but these are also blocked to prevent harmful light from damaging the collections. So, one winds up wandering amongst dinosaur skeletons in a sort of strangely white atmosphere. Not my favorite. There were some smaller collections of art of all sorts, including a few beautiful early pieces and some interesting folk art, as well as a large collection of Asian pottery. Some of the most interesting pieces of Asian work were the early "native" pottery examples, actually, not the beautifully-formed pots with jade-colored glaze. Perhaps unsurprisingly, early Chinese pottery looks a lot like Anasazi/pueblo work from the American Southwest.

One of my favorite pieces, however, was a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary standing with the infant Christ in a crescent moon. It struck me as oddly similar to the Artemis/Diana-Selene conflation that occurred in the post-Classical era...

The trees are less golden now than they appear here, but there are still leaves left on the branches:

Since then, I've clearly been busy with some interesting food.

On Halloween, I baked "Pane Francese," following a recipe from Mr. Hitz's book, to have with roasted vegetables and buckwheat groats:
One loaf is topped with poppy seeds and the other with sesame seeds.

I also must have made stir-fry of some sort involving zucchini, and then noticed how beautiful they are in cross-section!

Last Sunday I made a pie crust with a little whole wheat flour because apples were on sale at Economy Fruit. So, I made an apple pie augmented with some leftover Thanksgiving cranberry sauce and some almonds and oats.
Not pictured is the quiche I made later in the day with the remaining half of the pie crust. Talk about a fancy dinner! Quiche and pie! It was a good quiche. To make it less eggy, since Ryan doesn't really like eggs, I spiced it up with some garam masala. Yum!

The next night I decided I wanted to have some aioli, so I made it and lightly cooked some vegetables for dipping. It was reminiscent of some very good meals I had this summer at a friend's house! However, I was at a loss as to what I should do with the remaining egg whites. Until I decided to make French macarons: almond cookies, of course, with a raspberry-dark chocolate ganache. And they were pretty much divine. I highly recommend them. They are also apparently notoriously difficult to make but really behaved quite well. Not too tricky! I followed a recipe from but made a few changes to their ganache.

Another picture, just for good measure:

A few days later I made my usual sojourn to Economy Fruit and picked up the following cornucopia-worthy items for only $6.50. The woman who works at the checkout might just actually be Demeter/Ceres. Seriously. Cere-ously.

The one drawback is that I have had to get very, very creative with the cabbage. Cabbage salad. Cabbage in couscous. Home-made falafel with cabbage. Andddd... that brings us to last night's dinner: minestrone soup.
I made vegetable stock by roasting vegetables and then made soup and bread in the evening. Here's the soup, bubbling away (before I added the cabbage):

And the bread, which was made following another recipe from Gourmet magazine involving bulgur wheat (and let me tell you... it is delicious!! I literally pulled one of the rolls out of the oven and ate it. The recipe made 12 medium-sized rolls and one medium-sized loaf):

And that, folks, is all for now. I need to spend some more time thinking about cabbage-filled recipes.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


More busy days following each other, and falling faster than the leaves. It's hard to believe that it's past the middle of October. I actually wrote the first half of this post around the 12th or so, thinking I'd finish it a few days later, and here it is already the 23rd.

A few weekends ago was Thanksgiving, a seemingly less-entrenched holiday than in the States but with the same general traditions and customs: turkey, stuffing, lots of different vegetables in rich autumnal colors, and a cornucopia of desserts. What are missing are the less-savory features of American Thanksgiving: the crazy shopping day, the sports games on television, even less marketing of food... The Communists planned a big dinner with five other adults and another child, plus us and the three of them, so Comrade MM was busy in the kitchen for days. Because they can't have gluten she has been experimenting over the past weeks with different pie crusts and finally found a very delicious alternative. It doesn't behave quite like the crusts I'm used to (those have much more elastic dough, whereas this crumbles a bit), but it bakes beautifully and has a pleasing nutty color and taste. I made my favorite flourless chocolate torte (from The Joy of Pastry, an excellent book given to me by my Aunt Karen when I was in junior high and still in much use. And if you follow the link you can see that it is now rather inexpensive on Amazon! Get a copy for yourself!). I make a few changes to the recipe and I've included it below in case you're interested. It's simple, reliable, and really delicious. Comrade M got her free-range turkey from the Italian butchers down a few blocks on Bloor Street, Vince Gasparro's Meat Market (retail & wholesale!). I went there a few weeks ago when Ryan was out of town to buy a few sausages and had a great time chatting with them in Italian. Vegetables came from Economy Fruit and the grocery store, and table decorations were provided by Mlle P and myself. Comrade MM's old dog, Millie, (both elderly and no longer hers full-time) came to visit too. So, overall, the house was full of people, activity, and good food. The only bummer was that I was rather sick and had a fever and my nose was running like a champion marathoner.

The first vocal master class happened last Friday too, with John Mac Master. This was for the (generally) younger students in the Performance Diploma Program. I wasn't sure what to expect from him, having spent a while looking at his somewhat imposing photograph and redacting his rather thorough bio, but so thoroughly enjoyed hearing and watching him work with the other singers. He was very generous with his time and delightfully funny and self-effacing, but most importantly he was able to work very effectively with them on technique problems. Most voice master classes seem to skirt these issues for fear of stepping on the toes of their usual teachers or frightening the singers, but he chose to focus on the most basic element, breathing/support, and talk about it effectively and clearly. Despite going through about a roll of toilet paper for my running nose and running a fever (I did my best to sequester myself to a deserted section of chairs in the back row; we're required to attend all master classes and I thought it would be bad form to miss the first one) I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I went up to thank him afterward and was tickled to discover that even he had noticed: he told me he'd been hoping I would sing because he could see my face and it was very expressive. (Which hopefully also means that he couldn't hear me honking away...)

So that was Friday the 7th. The following Friday we had auditions for the spring opera, coincidentally Cavalli's La Calisto. For those of you who somehow managed to escape hearing me talking about this opera for an entire year while I was writing my senior essay, this is an amazing work that (in my opinion, at any rate) provides an insightful commentary on the state of moral decrepitude in Venice at the middle of the 17th century. I first heard/saw the opera in my junior year when I was taking Professor ER's class on Cavalli and was entranced by both the audaciousness of the libretto and the beauty of the score. That led to a term paper about the work, which I further developed into my senior essay, and the rest is history. Or something. Though if I get a DMA, just think: an entire real thesis about Cavalli/Faustini's mythologically-themed operas. Yes. So exciting. So anyway, we had auditions; I sang that incredible recitative/lament/recitative bit from the end of Il Giasone about being hacked into little pieces and hoped that the panel would glean from that my (perhaps unreasonably) undying love for Cavalli in general, and for La Calisto in particular.

And then it was a busy weekend of concerts (Gidon Kremer and his trio playing wacko Russian music by everyone's favorite, Gubaidulina, and Louis Lortie tickling the ivories throughout the entirety of Liszt's Années de pèlerinage). (Oh, and Lortie gave a masterclass on Friday as well. I went, and really learned a lot. I must confess that I'm not a big Liszt fan, but Lortie's discussion of voicing and color helped me to appreciate the music and the importance of Liszt as a composer and artist.)

And then all of that was followed by a busier week of classes (I sang in every single one, so lots of music to prepare), visitors (Ryan had a recital on Friday night and the composer of one of the pieces, Secrets of Antikythera, was staying with us), master classes (including one with Wendy Nielsen for the ADP voice students entailing individual coachings and then six of us singing in class, including me), recitals (Ryan's aforementioned), and trying not think about the audition results (which still hadn't been posted). The week came and went, I managed to prepare all of my music, I had an illuminating coaching with Wendy Nielsen (she's wonderful!), I made a lot of cookies for Ryan's recital, and finally it was Friday. There was only a minor disaster with the programs: misinformation had made it to the master class database and I'd prepared the wrong list. There were nine minutes to spare so a new set of programs were printed... good thing I was there... The master class was just as interesting as the coaching, and I was particularly impressed by Ms. Nielsen's ability to connect whatever technique point she was talking about with both the student singing and with the other students in attendance. Many of us have similar problems, of course, so she was able to help us fix the issues as we were working on them and also to use the other students with similar tendencies as further examples. Genius! Plus it's always incredibly gratifying to work with a teacher and feel like you're making progress, and to hear that progress so clearly exemplified by the other students as well. And in the middle of master class, right before I was supposed to sing, they posted the results of the opera auditions. And I'll be playing Calisto come March. I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity and still a little floored that I really, truly, actually get to sing this music.

Ryan's recital was wonderful and went off without a hitch, and then he and the composer left for the States, magnetic resonators in tow, and flew on an airline that gave him lots of free cookies and beer (Ryan was very happy). And he'll be down there for the rest of the week recording the piece and we have the week off at school so I'm going to maybe actually see a bit of Toronto, instead of just shuttling back between home and school.

And last night I saw Thomas Cooley (yay for Yale and people I know!) and Russell Braun sing beautifully in a concert of Mahler's Kindertotenlieder and Das Lied von der Erde. And this afternoon I'm going to see a concert of Zarzuela music performed by, among others, my Spanish teacher.

Oh, and I almost forgot: Ryan and I made lasagna from scratch this past Wednesday (Ryan made the pasta and I did the assembly) and it was really quite delicious. He has some pictures on his phone so I'll have to get them from him later.

Finally: the promised recipe for the flourless chocolate torte with candied ginger

1/4 c. butter
1 lb semisweet chocolate, in pieces
1/4 c. heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla
5 large eggs, separated
pinch o' salt
~1/2 c brown sugar (or a little less, depending on the chocolate. You can also use white sugar; I just prefer brown)
1/4 c ground hazelnuts
1/4 c finely chopped candied ginger
confectioner's sugar/cocoa powder for decoration, should you wish to use it


With the oven preheated to 350ºC, grease/flour a springform pan

Melt the butter and chocolate on a double boiler. When melted, remove from heat and add the cream and vanilla (and stir).

Beat the egg whites and salt until they form soft peaks, and then add the sugar and beat until the whites form stiff peaks.

Lightly beat the egg yolks and then fold them into the beaten egg whites. Don't over-mix. Then add the chocolate mixture and again stir gently. Add the hazelnuts and ginger. Don't stir too much! Don't let it deflate!

Pour it into the pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until it is set. Let it cool before you do anything with it. And if you feel like it, make a stencil and dust with the sugar/cocoa powder to make an interesting design. Or just eat it.

Mlle P dancing, with a maple-leaf flourless chocolate torte in the foreground (and an experimental pumpkin pie that was truly delicious and which we ate for breakfast on Thanksgiving).

Next time I'll have to post my cookie recipes. I've added a rather good peanut butter one to my repertoire.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Challah for the Holidays


More bread!

I guess I spent the past year focusing on the whole wheat bread recipe I published a few entries ago, because I had forgotten about the surprisingly successful challah recipe that appears in Mr. Ciril "I want to scare off your pants" Hitz' book a few pages later. I decided to make some last Sunday after realizing we were low on bread and out of whole wheat flour (and I was too cold to go outside in the rain and chill to get some more) and despite killing the initial yeast in the sponge, having to add more, and letting it rise for far longer than suggested, it turned out rather delicious! Slightly more dense than the cotton-candyesque challah one can find, but still delicious and fluffy. So that's all to say that Mr. Hitz really won't fail you this time. And you don't have to have a weird steaming tray in your oven.

One begins with a sponge.
1 1/3 c flour
1/2 c 75ºF water
~6 tsp instant yeast

Mix it up and allow it to sit, covered and undisturbed, for a half hour.

At this point it might be good to set out the following ingredients so that everything is ready to go.

Anyway, after a half hour, combine the following:
The sponge
3 2/3 c flour
1/3 c sugar (I always use brown sugar)
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp 70º water (have more on the ready)
3 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
4 tbsp oil (he calls for vegetable oil, I used olive oil)

Mix it up for a while. He says eight minutes on low speed with your dough hook and another 8 on a faster speed. I used my hands and had to add some extra water and was confused because the yeast wasn't working very well.

Anyway, after it's nicely mixed up, make sure your bowl is coated with a little oil and allow it to rise for 1.25 hours, or until doubled in size. If your yeast was dead like mine, you can always mix up some more instant yeast in some water, add it, and allow it to sit some more. Apparently this is forgiving bread.

After it has doubled, separate the dough into some smaller balls and let them rest for 20 minutes or so. Then, roll them into strands and braid them together. Be creative! Make it look pretty! Have fun! I've made this recipe a few times and have found that I tend to make a very large but compact loaf. I bet that it would work even better, though, and perhaps be lighter and fluffier, if it were slightly more spread. I'll try that next time. Or perhaps some smaller rolls... it makes a lot of bread...

Let it rest for another hour at room temperature, until it doubles again in size. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Before you put it in the oven, brush the loaf with a mixture of the egg whites and some milk and sprinkle with salt/sesame seeds/poppy seeds/other fun and delicious things.

And bake it until it looks pretty brown and puffy. It will probably be 20 to 30 minutes depending on the size of the loaf.

And there you go! It should emerge beautiful and resplendent and bedecked with little sesame seeds or poppy seeds or whatever you decided to put on top.

Just beware: it makes a lot of bread. See the pictures? Ryan and I haven't finished this loaf yet and I made it five days ago. If you're a single person, and particularly a single person who isn't carbo-loading for a marathon, you may want to halve the recipe. Or think of other uses... I KNOW! I need to make French toast!!! Just in time for Canadian Thanksgiving.

In other news, I have succumbed to the same cold that has had Comrade J in and out of bed for the past week it seems (perhaps not that long? but he has been rather ill). I'm trying to fight it off with goldenseal, spirulina, zinc, sage tea, and mental fortitude. However, my nose may have the better of me. We shall see!

And, in closing, an evil basement centipede (medium-sized):

(they get much larger)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

To Famous People: where are your short bios?

A short introductory note:

As part of my job, I compile biographies for the various visiting artists. These are used on our website (150 words) and also in our programs (we have about a page of space). I assumed that this would entail pulling said biographies off of the webpages of said famous visiting artists. But, surprisingly, not one of them had a short form biography! And I'm talking about seriously famous people. What gives?

So with that, read on...


I write you this blog post to PLEAD that you follow the advice of every single person I've ever heard talk about self-promotion and actually include a short bio on your website.

Now, if you're like me and have commitment fears and don't actually have a website then I guess you can pass for now. Though you should have a short bio rattling around on your computer somewhere... But if you're a famous person--say, one of the many famous people coming to our school to do master classes--PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE tell me where you're hiding your short-form bio!

The funny thing is, I know you all know you're supposed to have a short bio. People are always asking me for short bios. They need something small to fit in the CD jacket (that's right! forthcoming Etherea Christmas CD! to be reviewed in Opera News just in time for the holidays! More on that later in October, when it's actually released). They don't actually care about you that much. They want to have the wham and bang and recent stuff and they won't actually read about the past. So I know you're all writing them. I know they're somewhere. I know someone is using them. Why the heck aren't they on your website?

Yes, it's always really nice to know a lot of things about you, Mr./Miss/Ms./Mrs. famous musician. In fact, those personal details can really flesh you out as an individual and make me want to support you and enjoy your music even more. Though, Real Live Famous Person, that might not include your Maine Coon cat. I'm sure he's cute and fuzzy, and I like cats a whole lot, but even I think it's a little weird that he appears in your bio. But, for heaven's sake, when someone like me is writing a bio that will appear in your program for a public master class that you're teaching at a well-known school, I might just edit it down to a size so that only the part about your cat remains. I have that 150 word limit for the website, or that page limit for the program, and if you don't edit it down to a manageable size... who will? I can't include another page just to list the concert halls you appeared in on tour, unfortunately. The budget doesn't allow it! The trees are screaming in protest! And so poor hapless Lucy has to sit there with the delete key and try to figure out what actually matters. For some instruments that's easy, but sometimes (here's looking at you, wacky percussion/brass/harp players) I can't figure out what's what. And I might just take out that one detail that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. Like your cat.

So do us all a favor: include a short bio on your website! And if the cat's really important, put him in your picture like these stellar examples:

Simon Carrington
John Cage
(actually he has two)
Frank Zappa
Even David Bowie!
And Bob Dylan!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Continuing Survival in the Face of Giant Zucchinis


That graphic is meant to represent my gasping mouth rising (if ever so briefly) above water. I guess it has been one of those weeks... or two... Which is not to say that things are going badly--it's just been really, really busy. And I got food poisoning. And Ryan had a bad cold. And... yeah, I guess it's just been one of those weeks.

School has started, and with it an entirely novel (to me, at least) way of structuring classes and coursework. I'm taking Spanish Diction, Opera Repertoire, 20th c. Repertoire, French Diction, Acting, Concert Repertoire, and of course lessons and coachings. Add to that master classes and my job, coincidentally as the master class assistant. Regular courses meet for two hours, but only once a week, and most classes actually span both semesters. In fact, I believe that only my French diction class will last for one semester (to be followed by Italian and German in the spring). Instead of the lecture/student participation format to which I am accustomed, almost all of the classes are structured around performance. You might say, "what a novel concept for a music school!", but it really does seem different from the traditional class, including those I've observed at other programs. In general, three or four students prepare materials to present in class, discussing salient features of the piece and composer before singing. Then it proceeds in a largely master class-type format: critique (based on the subject of the class), discussion, and eventually someone new to repeat the format. Consequently there is more self-directed research that forms the basis of study and what is discussed in class pertains more to the execution of the music practically than theoretically.

Ultimately it should all culminate with our regular master class series--a sort of heightened rendering of our regular classes. There are six regular masterclasses for the ADV students (and I think an equal number for the undergraduates), plus three "special" classes with Susan Graham, Ian Bostridge, and Sir Roger Norrington. (For the complete list of masterclasses offered at school this year, please follow this link.)

Otherwise, things are chugging along. Ryan was out of town part of this week to go work with Andrew McPherson in Philadelphia and Princeton (he's performing and subsequently recording a composition of McPherson's for piano with electromagnetic resonators). I've started figuring out the best places to shop for various items, from Economy Fruit to No Frills to Strictly Bulk, and hopefully that will become increasingly streamlined. While Ryan was gone I even visited Gasparros Meat Market--the butchers recommended to me by the Communists--and had a wonderful time chatting with them in Italian! Our room is finally coming together, too. We purchased a wardrobe, so I'm no longer living out of a suitcase, and even moved the big brown couch out of here, giving us a little more space. It was an adventure requiring the removal of two doors and a bannister, carrying the couch up a flight of stairs into the kitchen, out of the house and down some more stairs (around the corner) back to the basement, and then maneuvering it into the craft room, but we were successful! A woman from Comrade MM's church kindly gave us a bed frame...

...which naturally segues to another topic: the communists upstairs! I have decided to refer to them henceforth as Comrade MM and J, respectively the mother and father of the house, in honor of their craigslist advertisement and to protect their privacy, and their daughter as Mlle P. Comrades MM and J use this name in their own online musings, so it seemed fitting to continue it here. They're really not communists, you know. Though they did play the Internationale at the dinner party we had last night... (Reproduced here in the original French!)

Given the amount that has happened recently, this post should probably be even longer. Unfortunately there are errands to run and laundry to wash and practicing to do, so I think I'd better go do something productive. More later, I hope! And with less of a delay.

Actually, a brief update from the kitchen:

Photo credit: Comrade J

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Food: Mr. Hitz's recipe for bread and psychological battery

To begin, a butterfly from the Toronto Islands (visited today and perhaps the source of a later post):

And now to the subject of the post:
I do love to cook/bake/make things in the kitchen, so perhaps one facet of this blog will be the odd--as in infrequent, though perhaps also strange--recipe. Those of you who have witnessed me in action (or know my dad's cooking) understand that recipes do not form the core of the Fitz Gibbon repertoire. My specialty, random things in a pot, generally turns out pretty well and doesn't require trips to the grocery store for extra ingredients.

Side note on random things in a pot: Dinner two nights ago. Ryan requested peanut sauce and noodles for dinner, I countered with peanut sauce and noodles on whatever cheap vegetables I could find. Enter: "Economy Fruit" and the $0.49/lb eggplant, plus the "No Frills" $1/head cauliflower. Exit: Stir fried eggplant with cauliflower, ginger, cilantro, garlic, onions, and peanut sauce/peanuts.

Anyway, there are some items for which recipes are useful, like saag paneer and cookies and bread. My mom gave me this neat bread cookbook a while ago and I made bread for myself last year. I don't eat much of it, so the whole wheat recipe I followed was perfect because it made three easily-freezable loaves and one batch lasted me each semester. Ryan, on the other hand, likes it a lot. That's good because I still like to make bread and making it more often means more experimentation. I was slightly dissatisfied with the results last year, mostly because the bread was always a bit bitter--and I don't even particularly like sweet things!--but I was rather pleased with this iteration and thought I might post it for those interested.

The recipe is adapted from Baking Artisan Bread by Ciril Hitz. The nice and also frightening thing about the book is that Mr. Hitz includes advanced techniques and explains everything very well, but he also INSISTS THAT EVERYTHING YOU DO WILL FAIL BECAUSE YOU DON'T HAVE THE RIGHT INGREDIENTS AND YOU DON'T WEIGH THEM AND YOU DON'T HAVE A SPECIAL STEAMING RACK but if you want you can do these other less-good things and maybe your bread will be okay. BUT NOT AS GOOD AS IF YOU DID IT THE RIGHT WAY! But then you make the bread, fearing the entire time that your efforts will be in vain, and in the end it's pretty tasty despite the dire warnings. Anyway, hence the psychological battery.

Once I conquer the most debilitating of my breadmaking fears, I do the following:
the night before, mix together the following ingredients in a big bowl to make the biga:
1 1/3 c. + 1 tbsp white flour
1/2 c 70ºF water
1.5*+ tsp instant dry yeast

*I say 1.5+ because Mr. Hitz wants you to use some special yeast that I don't have, and he says it will fail if you don't use it... but it won't. The only problem is the conversion isn't exact (it should be 1.56 tsp) so I fudge a little. And it still works out.

Anyway, mix it in a dough stand or get a strong spoon and combine all the ingredients. They will be sad and not want to mix together. You may need to add a little extra hot water if the flour or air is very dry. Put it in a bowl, or keep it in the bowl, coated with a little olive oil or something so that it can expand without drying out or sticking to the sides. Cover it with a dishtowel and let it sit out for 1 or 2 hours before going to bed. Press down on it to degas the dough before putting it in the fridge, loosely covered with some plastic, and wait until morning. Or tomorrow night, or whenever you have time to bake the bread itself.




Now that it is some other time after you have made the biga, you can make the rest of the bread, which goes like this:

Take your biga
and the following ingredients, which can be altered to suit your fancy provided that the general proportion of flour to other ingredients stays the same, but which at this moment reflects the bread I made on 9/6/2011:
3.5 c whole wheat flour (at the moment I'm using white wheat, a sweeter wheat)
1 c buckwheat flour
2/3 c spelt
1/3 c flax
1/4 c honey
1 tsp instant dry yeast
3 tsp salt
2 c+ 95ºF water (I often have to add a little more than 2 c)

Mix these ingredients for a while. Mr. Hitz says to use your bread stand and mix on low speed for four minutes and medium for two minutes. I generally mix until it is combined, which will probably take a little while longer if you're doing it by hand.

At this point, add the following nuts and seeds and things (unless you don't like them, in which case you can skip this step)
1/3 c sesame seeds
1/3 c chopped walnuts
1/3 c rolled oats
and mix some more until everything is combined.

Now, make sure that your bowl has a little olive oil or something coating it and roll your ball of dough around a bit to make sure it's sufficiently moist and happy. Cover it with maybe a slightly moistened towel or something and let it sit. Mr. Hitz wants you to check that the temperature is between 75º and 78ºF using your digital thermometer. I have no digital thermometer. It will be fine. Anyway, let it sit for 45 minutes.


Come back! Check on your bread, which by now should have risen some. Stretch it out a bit, fold it up a bit, and let it rest again for another 45 minutes. Mr. Hitz suggests preheating your oven to 450ºF at this point. That's probably not necessary.

Now that another 45 minutes have passed, you are ready to divide your dough into two or into sizes that are sufficient for filling the bread pans that you have. Make sure they're coated with some olive oil or something, or the bread will stick. Shape the pieces of dough into loaves. Generally I tug them out until they're flatish and then roll them up a bit. Don't handle them too much, of course. If you want, you can coat them with more rolled oats. Or you can just put them in the pans. Cover those loaves again with your slightly moistened dishtowel or plastic wrap or whatever you're using and let them proof for 1-1.5 hours. (When they're ready, apparently they should recover almost--but not entirely--from being pressed gently with your fingers. This never makes any sense to me, but if you wait an hour or so, I think it will be ready.)

While the loaves are proofing, you can start figuring out the oven stuff. Mr. Hitz suggests injecting your oven with steam, which can be achieved by putting a funky cookie sheet or something in there while you're preheating the oven and placing a wet dishtowel on it when you put the loaves in the oven. This will release a lot of steam and so you should definitely be careful that you don't hurt yourself, or fall in the oven because you can't see when your glasses are fogged up. Mr. Hitz thinks you will boil your arms off. I haven't done that yet, but you never know. I'd hate to create an army of armless breadmakers by suggesting this technique, so do be careful. Truthfully I have no idea if it actually helps, but I haven't tried not including it because I worry that it is the last step saving my bread from DISASTROUS FAILURE (Mr. Hitz really gets to you). In theory, the steam should allow the bread to rise more because the crust will not form as quickly. In reality, this is a dense bread that doesn't rise much to begin with. (Maybe it's because I'm not using the special yeast? I like dense bread, though, so I don't mind.)

Anyway, put your loaves in the oven and either do or don't include the wet towel. Bake for 20 minutes at 450ºF. After 20 minutes, remove the pan with the towel and reduce the temperature to 380ºF. Bake for another 20 or 30 minutes. If they start browning too soon, try covering them with aluminum foil. If, after this last baking time, you remove the loaves from the pans and they seem like they could use an additional firming-up, you can put them back in the oven--pan-less--and bake for another five minutes. Or you can just leave them for done! And let them cool.

This bread, as mentioned, freezes quite well when wrapped in plastic. And I hope you like it! And emerge unscathed from the process.

Here are some pictures of the finished bread from the 9/6/11 batch:

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A few thoughts on Canada

Having only been here for a few days, perhaps it seems premature to make assessments about the Canadian culture and way of life. However, it also might be the best time: things seem most alien, and the idiosyncrasies of loonies and toonies and closed vowels haven't been lost on my ears.

On the most basic level, the greatest discrepancies seem to be that Candians are always exceedingly polite, and that Canada is more expensive than the United States. The former is, of course, one of the stereotypes of this land to the north, but the latter I was not expecting to be quite so evident. Still, books, food, and bike supplies are much more than back home. Particularly annoying: you can't ship a lot of things here! Like the books you want (Nico Castel's Spanish Lyric Diction? Out of print, and only available within the US. Sebald's Austerlitz auf Deutsch? Well, will ship it to you--but it's from a seller in the states and S&H is $7.00) or a slightly better deal on a Kryptonite lock (apparently everyone's bike gets ripped off here unless bolted down, but you literally can't buy a lock at one of the many bike stores for less than $65.00 even though they would retail down south for $40.00). Ryan and I bit the bullet on the locks, but I'm shipping the Castel and Sebald to a composer in Princeton, NJ, that Ryan will go visit in a few weeks. He can bring them back for me, maybe along with some Trader Joe's delicacies? Please? Because of course there aren't any Trader Joe's here either.

Food is somewhat variable. After being rather confused for several days by what seemed to be an utter lack of supermarkets (and a glut of corner delis, groceries, and butchers), I discovered that they do exist, but that the bodegas are also sometimes affordable. A supermarket from a chain of groceries called "No Frills" is just a few blocks away, but perhaps because we're living in a multi-cultural, middle-class neighborhood there are such gems as "Economy Fruit." Yes, that's right, a store... called "Economy Fruit." (Perhaps not quite as good a name as "Canned Foods," but that's long-since been changed to the somewhat more palatable "Grocery Outlet.") Economy Fruit is just down the block from us, on one of the main arteries of Toronto, and is true to its name. I walked out of there with a LOT of food today for $4.75--plus a free bag of string beans someone had left lying around. I did get a better bargain when I found a bag of spinach on the ground the other day, but still pretty good. Alcohol, though, seems to be inescapably, ridiculously expensive. Not that Ryan and I have been boozing it up--quite the contrary--but I did buy the least expensive 6-pack of beer from one of the alcohol stores (I think you have to buy from special stores) for $9.50. Ouch.

I'm sure the reason for the increase in prices has something to do with more government services, perhaps best illustrated by Labour Day. It's the same principle here as in the States, but whereas in America one celebrates by making store workers go in extra early for the big sales, in Canada people march in the streets and then all the folks in the labor demonstration get into the Canadian Exposition (like a big state fair) for free. And EVERYTHING is closed. Even the supermarkets! I did meet a transgender man named Alex that afternoon and buy a bike from him out of his van, so there are an enterprising few... but the rest of them are as good as the Communists upstairs, I suppose.*

But enough of such mundane (and perhaps crass?) matters! In other news, we have had a few orientation-type meetings at the school and received, in no particular order: t shirts! student planners! AND LOCKERS!! I am so excited about having a locker. They're big, beautiful, have coat hooks and a shelf... I'm going to put snacks in my locker. And tea. Oh my gosh. I haven't been this excited for a long time. I could even fit inside my locker...

We're supposed to go to the islands for a barbeque on Saturday and there's an orchestra concert and pub night tomorrow. The staff is so kind and lovely, and they even gave me a work study! I'm going to assist with the Friday masterclasses (there are masterclasses every Friday). So that will make the high priced bike locks in the land of the Communists less painful.

Because this post is so long, I think I shall sign off now and update again later with pictures of home and school and life and such. And perhaps some recipes? And the Communists?

*In reference to their Craigslist advertisement. They're incredibly wonderful people and I hope to write more about them later.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Brief Labour Day Update

Things have been busy recently, but nothing much of interest has occurred. The room looks better but is still disorganized; my shoelaces are in various states of tied-ness; and I'm still in Canada. However, orientation begins tomorrow and I'm sure that I'll do something fascinating soon. For the meantime, a photograph from the fourth floor (in the new wing) looking over the older part of the school and toward the Royal Ontario Museum's new addition (the infamous crystal). It's dark because today was surprisingly cold, windy, and overcast.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Basement _____ ?

Well. After that decidedly unsuccessful attempt at blogging, I write to the empty air about my next phase of life. I should probably change the name of the blog in alliterative honor of the new location, but I can't find a good replacement. Most words referring to women that also start with the letter "B" aren't exactly my style: babe, banshee, bimbo, broad... Regardless, here I am, with Ryan, in Toronto, in a basement. We do have a little window in the bedroom and, from the bed where I now sit, one can see the trunk of a tree and a telephone pole. Yesterday a squirrel was chattering at something, clutched to the side of the tree. We're hardly settled in--lots of furniture and object-storing devices to procure--but it is beginning to get more organized. We spent most of yesterday downtown, actually, practicing at the school and having lunch with some friends. The school is beautiful. Practice rooms with huge windows and lovely views, this wonderful combination of old and new architecture, and even a collection of musical instruments! Including several old harpsichords/a clavichord/an organ... AND serpents! How about that? I wonder if anyone uses the harpsichords.

We still need dressers and wardrobes and bikes and so on, but maybe I'll be able to post some pictures later.

But for now: a bee in Bryce Canyon

Oh and a short anecdote about my first interaction with a Canadian: We had to get our proper visas when we crossed the border, so we parked and jumped out of the car to get it all done as quickly as possible. As we walked from the carport to the immigration building, a guard stopped us to check that we had all the necessary documents. He then added "Oh, and I'm going to have to warn you" (at this point I got a little nervous... do we look bad? are they going to search the car and will we have to unpack the whole thing?) "that your shoes are untied."

O Canada.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


February already. I'm clearly not very good at keeping a blog. It doesn't help that you have to believe that your thoughts are important enough for others to read, and that you must furthermore solicit their attention through advertising yourself. Like an autobiography, I suppose blogging requires a certain amount of unabashed egotism--which is not to say that I am necessarily lacking in that department; I think I'm just too embarrassed to actually publicize. There is something romantic about the idea of one's thoughts floating through the atmosphere, to be absorbed and pondered by strangers, but that isn't exactly how it works. There is also the small issue that I don't actually do anything particularly interesting!

I had forgotten what winter usually means in New Haven: just cold enough to be miserable, and raining. We have been so lucky this year to get so much beautiful snow. Even the ice storms, though treacherous, have been beautiful. Walking through campus on Thursday, the sunny day after Wednesday's storm, was breathtaking. The trees were sparkling like so many jewels and, even better, tinkling as they rustled in the wind. That sound was perhaps even more descriptive of their sheath of ice than the reflection of color.

Today, on the other hand, was a little miserable. I do love rain, and falling ice can even be magical. A big splosh of something cold and wet hit me in just the right spot on my nose and, after the initial shudder, it was rather remarkable to think that I just so happened to be in the right place at the right time to receive it. However, now all the icy snowbanks and melting into the street with nowhere to go. My street has gone from looking like the frozen north to something out of Oregon Trail. I do secretly hope we get a little more snow to cover up what's left. There is something about snow--especially massive quantities of snow--that is absolutely delicious. Watching snow fall, and fall, and fall, and fall, and not knowing when it will stop, and interrupting daily routines with beauty and quiet and softness and huge piles of fluff, is really amazing. Then it stops, and the sun comes out, and it's beautiful. And then I secretly hope it will start snowing again, until it buries everything.