Monday, May 11, 2009

Sickly Beginning To The Week

12:15PM April 25

Sunday night we hung around for probably an hour after the gig, talking over the performance and sharing a drink. Now that we're playing gigs with one another and have time to kill before and afterwards, we're spending more time with Piero, our Italian bass player, just getting to know him. We've built up a real friendship now with a local which goes beyond just the music.

Needless to say, staying up till 2:00 or so after the gig did leave its consequences the next day. If it weren't enough that I was sick, I went ahead and added sleep deprivation to the mix, and in the afternoon we worked on Schoenberg in music theory. If you're not aware of his music, it should be noted that Schoenberg was essentially the composer who decided to take the grand leap into complete atonality. He did, at least at first, write music that conformed to more traditional structures, but he saw it as almost his divine right, as the next in a long line of great German composers to take music to this inevitable juncture. By atonal, I do not simply mean dissonant, in the way that Stravinsky is dissonant. In fact, Schoenberg had a great grudge against Stravinsky for being too regressive in his thinking—and also because Stravinsky was more popular. Schoenberg took classical music to the point where I and many others can't bare it anymore, with no key center, and often no strong rhythmic structure. I actually came to appreciate this music more over the course of class, but suffice it to say that this grand combination of Schoenberg, sickness, and sleep deprivation was giving me a headache, and Monday tends to be a long day for me regardless.

After music theory I tried to get a quick nap before heading off to ensemble practice. Of course, this only reaffirmed to myself how tired I actually was. Practice was good though, and it did lift my spirits a good bit. It takes a certain amount of energy to really put out music you're invested in and care about, and playing with other people really got me going again.

Unfortunately, John wasn't home to make dinner that night, as he usually is on Mondays, so I stopped by the store and picked up some some pasta, arrabiatta sauce, and a bottle of wine. I threw in a bit of mascarpone and some peas to give the store-bought sauce a little more punch. It turned out pretty good, and by the time I finished whipping it up, John arrived to join me. The only problem was that the bottle of what I thought was red wine, actually turned out to be a sweet after-dinner wine. It just didn't work at all alongside our pasta, but Dallas was kind enough to let us share some of his wine.

That evening I made sure to call my parents one last time before they flew over just to make sure they were set and to give them a few tips on the cultural differences here in Italy. Of course, that meant going over to the girls' place to use Jaimie's phone, and she had plenty of work to do that night, so it wasn't until almost midnight that I got to go over. I'm glad I did though, as I think my call was helpful, and we set up a time and place to meet on Wednesday afternoon.

Tuesday morning I had my presentation on Philadelphia in Italian class. It went off without a hitch, and I even impressed a few of my classmates, speaking in discernible Italian without any notes other than the slideshow of pictures I had behind me.

After Italian class, I got the idea to re-tune the nylon string guitar that Antonio had acquired. As previously noted, I accidentally snapped off one of the plastic knobs on the low E-string's tuning peg as I tried to crank it into tune. It was permanently fixed at a pitch just below E-flat. Fortunately, the two pieces I was spending the most time on were in drop D tuning, which would be not even a half-step below the fixed pitch, so I tuned all of the rest of the strings up that amount sharp to match it. It was really fascinating to hear these pieces I was playing changed to a different tonality.

In politics class we learned about the EU, which was a large reason why I wanted to take the class in the first place. As our teacher put it though, even in the two-plus hours we spent learning about it that day, we were already far more knowledgeable about the system than most Europeans. This lack of knowledge has been one of the downfalls of the EU. To boost interest, they have lots of teaching materials for school students on their website. We took a look at the fifteen and older section in class and found a comic strip, called "Troubled Waters," about "the adventures of a Member of the European Parliament as she gets embroiled in a water pollution scandal." It was a sad sight. I did find it fascinating that more than eighty percent of legislation in European nations, even those which aren't in the EU, comes from the EU. I had no idea they had this much power in law uniting the continent. The union is essentially stuck in limbo right now though, as leadership wants to push the union into having more political power. The Treaty of Lisbon, from 2007, sought to fix the problems in the system after the addition of the Eastern states, while also re-building the system on a single constitution—as opposed to a series of several thousand-page treaties—with a head of state and a foreign minister. Every nation signed the treaty except for Ireland, which found that in order to do so, they needed to have a national referendum. Given that kind of power, and a lack of information, the Irish people voted against the treaty. The EU is based on system of unanimous consent, so they are stuck in a position where the system cannot evolve further without Irish cooperation.

That evening was also the talent show, and John Spencer and I put together a little battle which followed the evolution of music. I started out by playing Bach, then he interrupted me at the piano with some Mozart. We then went back and forth, from a neo-classical Barrios waltz, to a romantic piece by Liszt; then I played a very Spanish piece by Tárrega, and John responded with Gershwin. We then joined forces to move straight from Gershwin into Cream's "Sunshine Of Your Love." I was only disappointed that I flubbed a good number of notes on my classical pieces. I got nervous on stage like I haven't felt in a long time, and it didn't help my confidence that my guitar had a lot of buzz to it through the amp. Nonetheless, we played off the duel pretty well, and I heard from several people afterwards that we were the most fun to watch, bringing a lot of humor to the performance. We failed to win the show though—based on audience voting—which would have gotten us a 50 Euro gift certificate to Acqua 'all Due, a restaurant we love. We didn't even place in the top three, which would have gotten us girl-scout cookies, but that's all right. I know we gave everybody a good time. Actually, the top two performers both did some sort of Bollywood-style dancing, which I can't say was anything I loved myself, but the audience certainly enjoyed it. While they were counting the votes, I got to accompany Tryson, who was the host, one more time with his take on John Legend's "Stay With You." I think that was as much fun as the show itself.

The Limonaia at La Pietra, where the talent show took place.

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