Macaulay Seminar One at Brooklyn College
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Category — Music

Final Project

December 20, 2012   No Comments

The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela


For my independent visit to some sort of exhibition of art, I chose to accompany a seminar class from Queens College to Carnegie Hall to watch the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela on Sunday, December 9th. This symphony is from a school in Venezuela called “El Sistema”. This school is virtually free of charge and offers children a vigorous musical curriculum. From what I understood of the school, one of its primary goals is to keep children from taking part in harmful activities and it strives to give the children a safe place where they feel they belong. The group we watched ranged in age from 18 to 21. They all wore very colorful jackets representing their country. At the end of the show, they actually threw them out into the audience. Their selection consisted of seven pieces, most of which were purely in Spanish. The pieces were mainly based on different Latin styles of dance. “Mambo” by Leonard Bernstein from West Side Story was one of the two pieces they performed in English. They performed this lively piece in a very sprightly manner and did it justice, I think. The piece is very upbeat and suspenseful. During the performance, many of the players began to twirl their instruments when they were not actually playing. Additionally, they tried to involve audience participation by screaming “MAMBO!” at the correct time and inviting the audience to do the same. I thought this was very nice because the audience was mostly kids, because Carnegie Hall had a day inviting mainly kids to come watch performances in an effort to promote appreciation for music among the youth. I also found out towards the end of the performance that there is a chapter of El Sistema in New York City, and there were members present in the audience, supporting their Venezuelan counterparts. I did find host of the event to be a bit irksome, to be honest. In between each song, she would try to relate each song to some story from her personal life. I think this may have been an effort to connect with the kids in some way, but I feel like her approach was a bit too self-centered. She rambled for so long in between each performance that her words sort of began to take away from the experience of listening to the orchestra perform. However, she did conduct some brief interviews with a few of the musicians onstage in between certain songs. This provided an interesting perspective for the audience I think because she asked the musicians about their backgrounds and what instrument they play and their views on certain pieces. I feel like this gave me (and I’m sure, many others too) a chance to relate to the musicians in some way and to understand their culture. The musicians spoke virtually no English, however, so she had to translate all of their responses for the audience.

All in all, I really enjoyed the experience. I think I can safely say I would not have enjoyed going to some sort of art gallery on my own because I wouldn’t know what to look at and I would just glance over everything there; I would not know how to interpret anything. Listening to lively ethnic pieces, however, really reawakens my senses. As a pianist of thirteen years, I generally only listen to Western classical music and some popular music. This experience gave me a chance to understand the music and culture of another nation in a mere two hours. I feel like this was art not only because of the music that was played, but because of the passion that the performers showed for their craft. They really seemed to enjoy playing their instruments. Even one of the conductors, who conducted Mambo (there were two or three total conductors who individually conducted different pieces) was going wild, flailing his arms vigorously. Even though his back was turned to the audience, I felt I could appreciate how much he was enjoying what he was doing. I feel like when live performers clearly seem passionate about what they are doing, the audience would enjoy the show more.

December 20, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

I had an interesting experience during our visit the Metropolitan Opera. Going into it, I was pretty excited. This was mostly because I had previously attended an opera and I had thoroughly enjoyed it, but I felt a little differently about The Tempest. This was probably because the previous opera that I attended was actually geared for children so it was kind of funny, and was based a well known children’s story (I think it was Cinderealla). In contrast, I found The Tempest to be a little boring; probably because I wasn’t super familiar with the story. Also some parts were a little difficult for me to follow, and I actually had a little trouble following some of the different characters (there were two, whose names I forget, but they had some pretty similar costumes). I’m also not sure how well a medium opera was to convey a Shakespeare play. Some of the rhyming scheme wasn’t too great. Also, the singing itself made it difficult to actually understand a lot of the words, and I found myself paying a lot of attention to the little screen on the seat in front of me, and not so much at the actors on the stage. I felt that the singing also caused a lot of the words to be stretched out too much in order to fill the length of the music, and that kind of bothered me, too.

There were however aspect of the opera that I did enjoy, however. I did like the grandeur of the opera; I kind of liked dressing up for the night out, and the building itself was beautiful, both from the inside and the outside. I also enjoyed the musical aspect of the opera. I spent a solid amount of time averting my eyes from the stage and into the orchestra pit, watching the condutor do his thing, and orchestra making they’re wonderful music. I also liked the stage design, especially the very first scene depicting the tempest, and costumes a lot. And the secret backdoor exit was pretty cool, too.

December 13, 2012   1 Comment

The Tempest

When we went to the opera, what struck me first was how fancy everything is. I was surprised I’ve never been to Lincoln Center, even though I’ve been living in New York almost my whole life. The place really displays grandeur, having the opera buildings overlooking the patio, with a fountain in the center. Inside the building, people were dressed very formally. We headed up the stairs, passing through an indoor balcony (which reminded me of the staircase scene in “Titanic”) to our seats.

staircase in “Titanic”

I laughed at how the chandelier in the auditorium rose to signify that it’s time to be quiet. I’m sure people who consistently go to the opera are familiar with it, although it was new for me.

Usually I find it difficult to follow the plot lines of plays, but this one was different for me. I understood everything that was going on, and sincerely enjoyed the show despite my expectations. The only disappointing thing was that there was very little actual melody to the singing during the opera. The dialogue was always sung, but the only time there was a melodious tune was in one of the final scenes, where Prospero forgives Ferdinand.

One interesting thing I noticed is how subtle the transitions between some scenes were. At the end of one of the scenes, the crew of the boat left the stage very slowly. They left so slowly that one wouldn’t even notice how they disappeared, unless he paid attention to them.

The music went along with the plot well. I remember how sharp bursts were played by violins whenever there was an argument, and calming chords were played during the romantic scenes. Once again, there were rarely any tunes played. Mostly, there were chords being played in order to emphasize the characters’ points.

It’s difficult to rate this opera, since I don’t have much experience with them, and can’t compare it to anything. But this was an interesting introduction to this genre of art. It must be difficult to synchronize all the talents that had to be used in this opera. That includes the musicians, actors/singers (especially Ariel), the gymnasts, the people who do lighting, the playwright, William Shakespeare, the costume designers, and the multitude of others whose hard work went into this production. A work of entertainment presented as successfully as this one must always be commended.

December 2, 2012   No Comments

The Who… who? That’s right, The Who.


On Wednesday night, November 14, I went to see a Who concert at the Barclays Center.

(art performance outside of class that we need to post about… yeah, read the syllabus)

I was taken by surprise that night when a friend called at 7pm to tell me he had 4 free tickets to the concert which started at 8. Even better, they were VIP suite tickets in the brand new Barclays Center.

The state-of-the-art suite was amazing. It looked like a small apartment. It had a refrigerator, cabinets, couches, a flat screen TV, countertops and of course, a balcony with comfy seats to watch the show.

Cool picture in the suite

Even though I didn’t have enough time to listen to some Who before going to the concert, it was still a great show. While Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend are around 70 years of age, the 50 year old band lost two of its members over the years- John Entwistle and Keith Moon. During one of the feature songs the band jammed while showing a video of and old John Entwistle bass solo. His nicknames were the Ox and Thunderfingers -he played very fast:

Anyone remember the Who’s superbowl performance a few years back? Roger Daltrey managed to let out a few good screams. He did it again in the show last week in the song Love Reign O’er Me. reign A 70 year old man can still rock. He also still has the classic dance moves and microphone-throwing technique – something to do during a guitar solo. Pete Townshend’s windmill strumming on the guitar never gets old.

The beginning of the show had a mixture of slow and fast songs I didnt really know (except for the first song – The Real Me).the real me Towards the end, they played the more known classics like Pinball Wizard and Baba O’Reilly.

The newer members of the band did a great job. They weren’t exactly young (one of them was bald), but they were younger than the original members.

For any The Who enthusiasts, here is the setlist:

  1. Encore:

November 22, 2012   No Comments

The Tempest

“The Tempest” is the only opera I’ve ever been to in my life.

Thanks to a friend of mine, I had read “Maskerade” by Terry Pratchett, so I was prepared.

According to this book, a random person viewing an opera won’t know what’s going on at all without the little booklets that they pass out explaining it, so I looked up the plot online beforehand. The book was right- I would’ve never been able to follow the show without it.  I like my entertainment to be fun, and fun can only be had if at least half of your brain isn’t saying “OK…what’s going on….I don’t understand.” So I can read a book and not understand why a character did something because I know it will be explained later in the plot. Movies take this reliability to an extreme, recycling the same plots over and over again- you know what’s going to happen in a movie just by the title and poster. The opera seems to be the most brain-bruising form of entertainment by far. I wasn’t used to this, and I don’t think I like it.

“Maskerade” also pointed out that the singers in the opera have to worry about their appearance, and I noticed that everyone in “The Tempest” took good care of themselves, but maybe that’s just in acrobatic operas like this? I wouldn’t know. Either way, the Tempest involved a lot of  gymnastic skills, and I wasn’t expecting that- I guess I always pictured some fat lady singing high enough to break glass when i pictured “opera.”

The voices involved sounded good to my unsophisticated ears. The Ariel singer’s voice was annoyingly high- 2 people complained that they got headaches from her.

I liked the scenery, especially the sea and the forest. The idea of waving a sheet to portray the ocean worked out well, and the trees moved farther apart as singers walked towards them, creating and illusion of depth.

The costumes were intense. They were made so that even the people in the top row could see all the details.

I don’t know. Opera just isn’t my thing.

November 6, 2012   No Comments