Being busy is

June 6, 2010

Diary entry:

This is a busy time of the year for teachers. Final lectures, final exams, final meetings, deadlines for various and sundry things, parties, and grading papers.
I lectured last week, the last week or the term, in MUSIC HISTORY, CULTURE and CREATIVITY about orchestration. The class must orchestrate a little piano piece I’ve assigned. They have a choice of the Ravel “Pavanne,” a movement from Stravinsky’s “Les cinq doigts,” a Schumann children’s piece, and the first Gymnopedie of Satie. On Tuesday I orchestrated two of my own piano pieces using SIbelius notation software. I had the piano piece already copied, so orchestrating involved copying, and filtering layers of the music and assigning and adapting those lines to the instruments in the orchestra. That process proved to be impressive to some and terrifying to others because of the additional terror of not knowing the software.

On Thursday, to balance the technologially-based demonstration on Tuesday, I passed out four blank orchestral pages and had students orchestrate the Stravinsky “Moderato” (from the same set) in class using only paper and pencil while the faculty and TAs walked around and guided them through the process. This was important because a number of students confessed to being terrified of having to write for orchestra. It’s true: I remember the first time I ever wrote for orchestra, having to “stretch” your brain to think for that many instruments, and it kinda hurts in the process. By the end of the class, I’m certain many felt more at ease.

My writing effort of late has been focused on editing and writing our department’s self-review––an exercise required of all academic departments. It is an interesting process to think about what we (the UCLA Dept of Music) are as a department: our strengths and weaknesses, and to see how much we’ve grown.

Last week at Royce Hall, James Conlon conducted the UCLA Philharmonia and Chorale in thrilling concert featuring Schoenberg’s “Survivor from Warsaw.” I remember singing that piece as a freshman and just being amazed by it. I can still sing it from memory. Nowadays it seems like “Survivor” is truly a protest piece, not so far from Bob Dylan, really. The piece was preceded and succeeded by short pieces by Schreker and Zemilinsky. I must say I LOVED the Schreker. It was a momentous day in the history of the department. It was also very cool to have the Schoenberg sons and their wives in the audience, looking very pleased. Neal Stulberg’s narration was captivating if not down-right creepy. It was thrilling. (I would have amplified the men’s chorus btw.)

I’m gearing up to do Joe Bauer’s new short film, AMBUSH, working on it today.
I graded 80 little piano pieces last weekend and have 80 orchestration to grade next weekend.
I get to go to Palm Springs later this month. Yes!
School has stopped but still a lot of meetings left, then graduation next Saturday, where I get into my Harvard drag and announce the names of our graduating students. My academic life will slow down significantly after that ceremony.

The day after my school’s graduation, my sister in law has her graduation and party at our house, so that will be a lovely way to end the year. Why I remember when she was just a girl! [Julia is SO smart––it’s amazing.]


I now have a nephew David Roger Johnson (2000)and a niece Hannahwho want to move to LA. (These pix from 2000.) It’s an expensive place to move to I’ve warned them, but if they can get on their feet, it will be nice to have family near by.

On Saturday, we had two little families over for dinner, one has a 12 month old boy named Julian, and the other has an 18 month old girl named Julia. Cool symmetry, and they liked each other quite a lot. Good fun to watch the kids and parents interact.

(Our dog) Cody is undergoing chemotherapy. One week injection, the next pills, the next he has off: this for four cycles. He’s doing just fine. Turns out, dogs to much better than humans having chemo, because they don’t know they have a life threatening illness.

Now that Susan’s and my husband have jobs that take them out of the city, we’ve become a fun couple for going to concerts. Last night we went to two: Lana Chae gave a spirited first performance of my THREE IMPROMPTUS for piano followed by a performance of the Goldberg Variations. (I composed the piece to be paired with the Bach.) After a quick dinner in Westwood we zipped back to Royce in time to hear the Missa Solemnis, with Don Neuen conducting the Debut Orchestra and the amassed UCLA Chorale and Angeles Chorale with four terrific soloists.

Last night I watched some foreign film before dosing off. The final image was amazing! It was an aerial shot of about 20 men in a wide open field trying to catch an escaped ostrich. So funny and fun to watch. It put me right to sleep with a smile on my face.

[Photo credits: Stravinsky image in Public Domain; #1,2,3 by Roger Bourland; #4 by Raymond Knapp]

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