February 1st, 2008

Thing A Day 1: Making Music, Making Noise

I thought I’d “follow instructions” by sitting down at the piano and following along with some sheet music. I ended up playing several Chopin pieces out of the book my favorite piano teacher gave me for my high school graduation. (She inscribed it “To Jess, for your passionate nature,” which still made me a little weepy after all these years.) A couple of them I’d played before, a very long time ago, but I also tried to dig my way through two I’d never tried.

After that I figured it was time to make my own music, so I set up a mike and recorded three one-minute improvisations. If you’re hearing similarities between them, it’s because I was deliberately trying to improvise on a very simple theme!

Improvisation 1
Improvisation 2
Improvisation 3

(Er, I apologize for the terrible audio quality. I may try to do some music composition later in this project, but I’ll get myself a better recording device if I do!)

What I learned? I’m damn rusty when it comes to making music, but I really enjoyed doing it, too.

Reading List 2008 (8/20)

This week’s reading:

O is for Outlaw, Sue Grafton
P is for Peril, Sue Grafton
Q is for Quarry, Sue Grafton
The Overlook, Michael Connelly
Tales of Ten Worlds, Arthur C. Clarke
The Dragon’s Nine Sons, Chris Roberson
Therese Raqin, Emil Zola
The Time Bind, Arlie Russell Hochschild

You can tell I’m having insomnia issues because I’m reading a lot of Sue Grafton. I can count on her books to be easy-to-read, not too predictable, just compelling enough to keep my attention, and just not-compelling enough that I can put them down as soon as I get dozy. Q is for Quarry was, maybe, an exception; the ending felt forced and the secondary plotline, coincidental. But that’s okay - I can forgive her a lot for being a steady, reliable resource when I just need some entertaining words on a page.

The best book I read this week was The Dragon’s Nine Sons. Am I a bad person because I liked it more than the Zola? I’m a sucker for any book whose first chapter features the protagonist getting involved in a giant space battle - and promptly turning tail and running away. I also loved the spacefaring Aztec and Chinese cultures he invented, and I’m planning to read all the other books in this particular future history. It’s one of the best, most original, most human near-future histories I’ve ever seen.

The worst book I read this week was the Connelly, which was bad enough that I feel I need to reevaluate the worth of everything else he’s ever written. I guess he put it together as a newspaper serial, and then converted it to a short novel? But honestly, he shouldn’t have bothered. His attempt to be topical is fairly laughable (OMG THEY STOLEZ THE NUCULAR DEVICES) and his resolution is blindingly telegraphed starting in around chapter four. Maybe if I’d read it a chapter a week, it would have been less clear, but really, Mike. Your readers are not stupid.

The most depressing book of the week is a tie. The Zola was pretty damn depressing; a pair of lovers commit a crime for the sake of their relationship and thereby doom themselves. But even though no one dies in the Hochschild, her account of the time pressures on modern American workers is equally depressing - and entirely factual. I don’t mean to be flip! Her book has made me very sad and anxious, and it’s probably worth a post of its own.

That’s not going to happen now, though - I’m off for Shabbat. Abby is bringing cupcakes to dinner! Shabbat Shalom, and happy cupcakes to you all!