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

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to add re the Occupy Protests: I don't believe that they are against success or business per se, but rather are concerned with the corrupting influence of all that money on politics and thus our lives. That's why there is a 99% vs 1%! It's become another gilded age, with the gap between really rich and poor widening to a kind of sea of misery for the people at the bottom. And the middle class is rapidly disappearing.
    The reason for protest is that there is really no other way to express dissatisfaction because our whole system is dysfunctional! (including the media, mostly owned by large corporations as well.) Thanks for all the information on UCDavis, and hope it all helps to change things!