Sunday, July 20, 2008


We're now at the end of Week 5 (of 9) of the festival. Oh my, how time flies. I'm currently sitting on the lawn by the tent, enjoying the sounds of Aspen Festival Orchestra and Nadja Salern0-Sonnenberg performing Astor Piazzola's Four Seasons of Buenos Aries, meanwhile trying to figure out how to sum up all that's happened these past few weeks.

My job isn't particularly challenging. I contact people to get information about people, and compile all of that information into one document and distribute it. At some times, it gets complicated - scheduling interviews, for example (wouldn't it be so much easier if the interviewer and the interviewee just talked to each other about scheduling these things rather than going back and forth when you don't know both of their scheudles to begin with?). The perks, though are that I get to interact closely with the musicians that arrive and observe their rehearsals and performances. Alan Gilbert called me two nights ago and told me that he'd be happy to come visit BachSoc next year when he's in town conducting the Boston Symphony. Sarah Chang gave me a really nice bottle of face serum. I got to sit in on a live performance interview between Fred Child, host of American Public Media (and formerly NPR)'s Performance Today, and the Ying Quartet, who was up until this year Harvard's Quartet-in-Residence.

At the same time, though, I do find myself with a lot of down-time. It feels a little funny to me - I sit at rehearsals and wait for disasters to happen so that I can control them, but otherwise (as is mostly always the case), I sit and find myself reading or playing freecell or doing other things completely unrelated to my job. It's actually sort of nice to have that free time; I think I'm currently on my 6th Cultural Revolution memoir of the summer and I'm plowing my way though C++ for Dummies. But then again...this is definitely not the sort of thing I'm used to. Last summer, I was a PRISE fellow, working in the Schier Lab at all random hours of the day, meanwhile running to rehearsals of the Harvard Summer Chorus and the Brahms Society Orchestra, and finding plenty of time for excursions into Boston and surrounding areas with friends.

It feels, though, that in switching between the world of science and music, I've needed to change the way that I think about things. Science is about proof and consequence - every claim is put through a series of tightly controlled experiments for verification. On the other hand, music is about emotion and interpretation - as the composer Osvaldo Golijov said a few days ago as we lunched with the League of American Orchestras Management Fellows, music is about representing the entire palette of human emotions. Just the sheer number of musical genres that exist attest to the complexity of human nature. Because of that, though, I find it so difficult to criticize music. Experimental design and data analysis can very much tell us the differences between a "good" and "bad" science experiment, but how do you calculate whether a piece of music is "good" or "bad?" In my Postcolonial Classics class last semester, Professor Homi Bhabha spent a few lectures trying to categorize the definition of a classic novel. His opinion was that it dared to question the beliefs of the time, leaving readers with a sense of uneasiness that would transcend race and generation. That certainly seems to be the case with all the old masters - Bach, Beethoven, Schoenberg, Stravinsky - they were all revolutionaries in their day, exploring new forms, new chords, new techniques. But what is the case with new music today, when "Classical Music" as we know it is becoming more and more of an esoteric pallette of what my cohort Shelby calls "dings and beeps," and the popular music of the day always (excuse my over-generalization and over-simplification) seems to be a series of repetitive chord progressions?

I have no answers, and I don't think I ever will. And in the full manner of shirking all the heavy stuff (it is summer vacation, after all), let's look at some pictures!
Cottonwood. It's EVERYWHERE. Giant piles of the stuff have been floating through the air, almost giving the illusion of a soft winter snow. Now, if only the stuff actually melted like snow, instead of piling in every corner imaginable. Seriously, Disney should just plant a few cottonwood trees and they'd probably save a ton of money on all of that confetti that they sprinkle to simulate wonderland, meanwhile helping the environment. Think about it.

Hunter Creek. There's a trail that goes along the creek up to the valley at the top of the mountain. This is what the creek looks like at the bottom...

...and this is what it looks like at the top. Soooo pretty.

At the top of the creek, there's all these dilapidated log cabins. Kind of creepy, but it's be cool to camp out in one of them sometime...

As I was on my way home, I ran into a giant moose-on-a-truck. Errr. Coincidentally, last night I went over to my fellow liaison Jessica's house, and in her parking lot, I saw another one of these things. Trust me, it's a lot creepier at 1AM under a dim streetlight.

And, of course, the long-awaited picture of my new ride. Heck yeah. Sort of. (Actually, between the three of us Artist Liaisons, I'm the only one who hasn't yet had an accident this summer. I'd say that's pretty impressive, considering I failed my driver's test three times...)