Mostly Brahms
nodamecello
nnozomi
Thoughts on the 4th symphony and related issues:

1. This is silly almost to the point of blasphemy, but it cracks me up: there's a line of melody in the first movement, woodwinds and later violins, that has been reminding me of something else for a while. "Not classical..." "it has lyrics..." I thought vaguely, and then one day on the train it came to me. "Celia, you're breaking my heart, you're shaking my confidence, baby..." So now I grin to myself every time we rehearse that point, and have now privately christened it the Cecilia Symphony, which is only appropriate homage to the patron saint.

2. Listening to the 2nd symphony on the radio the other day was a strange experience; they're both wonderful, but it's the gap between comedy (in the classical sense) and tragedy. I kept thinking, oh, right, Brahms does have happy endings sometimes, it's not all leading to the stalwart recognition of despair...

3. I'm still waiting to hear a rendition of the flute solo as good as the one I heard at sixteen, although our flutist is not bad. It needs to be completely three-dimensional, not a melody line, a whole melody plane...

4. The third movement, unlike the others, is more satisfying to listen to than to play. Not sure why this is; maybe because the cello line is comparatively simple and accompaniment-esque compared to the others; the violins get most of the excitement. I am dissatisfied with the way our first violins (of whom I'm normally a big fan, what with one thing and another) are handling the sweet second theme; not singing enough.

5. The second movement doesn't give me quite the same sense of the numinous as the second movement of the second symphony does, but it is still utterly amazing in the emotional range it covers, the polyphony, the variety.

I think that'll do for now. Oh dear.

Another Sunday night post
nodamecello
nnozomi
Tomorrow I'm probably going to regret not having gone into work on Saturday, but I did have a fairly productive weekend on non-work-related terms.
The apartment is somewhat cleaner, or at least tidier, than it was, I took a load of dry-cleaning and got it back, I made a pot of pseudo-chili that I can eat for dinner tomorrow and the next day, meaning I don't have to deal with shop/cook after work. Yesterday I went into Kyoto and did some food shopping, including a couple of packets of the non-sweet, non-sticky dried apricots that are my preferred work snack (along with roasted almonds, which are easier to get hold of).
What else? Afternoon naps (this is what happens when I lie on the bed to watch baseball), not actually very pleasant--waking up with a headache. Not sure why, maybe my body not enjoying the weather's switch to pre-summer mode. [Oh my goodness, there's a guy playing violin in the NKyo concert on TV with an honest-to-goodness Mohawk. The concertmaster, in fact. What next.]
I got a couple of minor freelance things done; I also stuck my head in at a local band concert in which a colleague was playing sax. They were very respectably competent (a few clarinet tunings that M-from-orchestra would have winced at, but basically decent), but my goodness, the boringness of band music, why would anyone even bother (she said snobbily). Join an orchestra, or a jazz band, why not?
Orchestra rehearsal this morning, strings, Brahms. So much going on and it's all fascinating...I keep telling myself that I have to practice more, not even so that I can play my own part properly (sure, that would be a nice bonus, you know?) but so I'll have the leeway to listen to what other parts are doing. Caught myself making a snide remark to M afterwards about something completely pointless, talk about a vicious circle.
Saturday night I had what I can only describe as a ?date? with the handily named Tanaka. Dinner at a yakitori place (what Seiden-sensei, deliberately, calls "burnt chicken"), to a "jazz session" in a little underground place, with expert amateurs doing "Summertime," "My Favorite Things" (reminding me of Y, who loved that movie, and of my father, who used to say dryly "When the dog bites or the bee stings, you're better off going to the doctor than thinking of your favorite things"), a couple of other tunes I didn't know as well. Then a walk to a nearby park (where someone kissed me once) and a long talk.

This and that
nodamecello
nnozomi
1. I made two identical pots of chicken soup: one for today, with barley in and therefore no longer soup but barley stew (sort of mess-of-pottagey, actually), and one for tomorrow, to go in the fridge and get its share of barley then. Still not quite as good as my mom's, but nice for a rainy February, I mean March, evening. Also featuring the incredible vanishing leeks: I put in TONS of leeks, or things in the supermarket called 岩津ネギ doing a good leek imitation, and they disappeared entirely in the final product, but probably contributed materially to the sweet/savory vegetably goodness.

2. I've been making the same damn decision (or being even less productive) every Sunday afternoon for about a million years: the next thing to do is set myself a timetable, or it'll never get done.

3. I figured out (though I'm sure it's not the actual historical explanation) why the Tragic Overture is tragic: it sounds all the way through as if things are going to work out and there's going to be a happy ending, and then at the very end it all comes crashing down. The end is that much worse because of all the hopeful major-key stuff earlier.

4. Oh my God, the trombones in the Brahms 4th (big Brahms day today). The whole symphony feels like it's beyond my powers of emotional understanding (like the hapless oboist who says "Natalie, this is bigger than both of us!" in that very good Ursula LeGuin short novel), which doesn't stop it from making me cry.

5. Have I been reading anything worth mentioning? I must have. Nothing comes to mind, except maybe the latest issue of Ookiku Furikabutte, which I'm reading very slowly because it's one of the game ones and they always make me tense. Someone--Mizutani?--says to himself, damn, it feels good doing something you know you can pull off because you've worked so hard at it.

Leave it at that for now.

3 lines
nodamecello
nnozomi
Because I never post and I should, and everybody seems to be doing the "lines from 3 WIPs" meme and I actually have them:

1. Draco was the only person she’d told, back in fifth year, about what he called her big romantic crush (it’s none of those things, she said crossly, and he asked if he should then call it her little sexual fantasy and she hexed him).

2. “Weyrleader” had been synonymous with “T’kul” for so much of her life that it seemed incongruous for the Weyrleader to be a man of more or less her own generation.

3. Ertrex’s head came up so fast that she saw him flinch in pain for a moment. He swore softly in the harsh Vallusian slang she had occasionally heard—never directed at her—from the young guards. For a moment she missed Dalterk and Texek so much that tears came to her eyes.

Other people have, like, consistent fandoms...

Yuletide letter 2014
nodamecello
nnozomi
Amended from past years:
Thank you for writing something for me. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

Details belowCollapse )

Fic Corner letter
nodamecello
nnozomi
(Excerpted in part from past Yuletides)
Thank you for writing something for me. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

Do not like: darkfic in general, incest, humiliation, NC-17 for either violence or sex (no moral objections, it's just not what I enjoy reading), blatant out-of-characterness, rape/dubcon.

Enjoy in particular: snappy dialogue, families of choice, playing with language(s), cuddling, work (in all definitions) and people being competent at it, scenes from everyday life.

I tend to prefer genfic, but--depending on the fandom, that is--have no objection at all to background romance/relationships, or even a slow-burn romance fic with a high gen ratio, as it were. Any pairing you want to throw in (m/f, m/m, f/f, threesome, you name it) is fine as long as you can make me believe in it.

By fandom (characters), in no particular order:

Archer's Goon (Erskine, Torquil, Hathaway)
I'm sorry to be so unhelpful, but I honestly have no idea what you could do with these characters; just that anything in which they appear should be fun to read. (Torquil doing music? Erskine's travel book? Oooh. Hathaway beta-reading Erskine's book for him, with snarky side comments from Torquil? OOOH. Maybe I had some ideas after all--but don't feel bound by them if you have ones you like better.) Go to town.

Echo Company (any)
Realistic or not, I'd like to see Rebecca and the others doing well in the future--finding happy lives for themselves, I guess. Maybe epistolary fic, or a meeting at the Wall, or...? What does Maggie Doyle look like through her boyfriend Richard's eyes? How does Walter Hanson put his life back together? (I imagine him ending up as a teacher or a coach or some job with kids, for some reason, but you have no need to stick to that.) What does Michael write to Snoopy, and vice versa--and how do they deal with race now they're back in the World? What would Rebecca's brother Doug make of Michael? And so on.

Marlows (Rowan, Miranda, Peter, Jan, Anquetil, Foley)
These books have been on my "best of" shelf for ever, and it delights me that people are writing such good fic for them. Please take the character list as "any of the above" rather than feeling the need to include all of them. I'd be happy with futurefic (or pastfic in the case of Anquetil and Foley), with a scene from canon seen from a different perspective, with an innovative way for Rowan to escape Trennels, with Peter getting to be competent at something, with Miranda and Jan (also interested in the way canon looks at Miranda's Jewishness and religion in general), with anything else you'd like to write.

Melendy Series (any)
There's an entry a few back in my LJ which describes my feelings about this series in detail; you can refer to it if necessary. Would like to read about any of them, especially Rush (even better if something musical), or something centered on Willy for a change. Futurefic would be fascinating, a missing scene etc. from canon likewise. Caveat: I would very much prefer genfic here, with romance, if any, being kept firmly in the background. Possible exception thereto: if you feel strongly about giving Willy a love life, that might be very interesting to read about, as long as it's not with any of the Melendys.

Again, please take all of this (apart from the do-not-like list) as guidelines rather than iron requirements, and write what you'd like to; I will be very happy with most anything you come up with. Many thanks.

Schumann stuff
nodamecello
nnozomi
I don't know why so many people are anti-Schumann--the symphonies, that is, most people seem to approve of the piano music. As an instrumentalist, okay, I can kind of see it--the man was a pianist, and he doesn't seem to have taken much in the way of advice about writing for other people's instruments. (Is there historical background for this? Must ask musicologist friend, though it's not really her period.) So the lines don't always sit comfortably on the instruments you're supposed to play them on (even so he's NO WORSE THAN Rachmaninoff, spare me).

But the music is so, so awesome. I've played the Third and Fourth symphonies and am waiting hopefully--with my neck stretched out, as we say in Japanese--for a chance to do the First and Second too. The Schumann symphonies are very melodic--not so much in the sense of big hummable melodies, but there's always melodic movement going on and it's always interesting, and the orchestration (while not necessarily considerate of the orchestra, as I mentioned) is fun, with the oboe solos in the First Symphony, the horns rocking the house at the end of the Third, the violin solo in the slow movement of the Fourth (I have a soft spot for that one because my secret-pointless-crush M was concertmaster when we did it), and so on.

It's funny--it doesn't fit with my image of Schumann-the-man at all, but there's something almost...conversational? about the tone of the music. I am a die-hard Brahms-lover, you can't beat Brahms for me with much of anything, but one of the differences for me between Schumann and Brahms is the sense of...the numinous, I guess, in the latter. I cannot listen to the second movement of Brahms Two without believing in some kind of God. Or the slow movement of the First Piano Concerto with the piano chords moving transcendentally over that long, long pedal tone, Jesus Christ, no pun intended. The Schumann symphonies feel much more on an earthly plane. Not a value judgment, just a difference in sensation, if you will.

Although there's always the fourth movement of the (five-movement) Third Symphony, with its dreamy baroque fugality and killer high trombone part. I always think of it as if it were a painting with a caption: "The people grieve as Bach ascends into heaven." But then you snap back into the cheerful allegro of the last movement... I don't know. Down-to-earth, conversational, often happy, but in jewel tones, not primary colors--darker, richer strains underpinning the whole thing, never just light-hearted. Life is more like the Schumann symphonies than like most composers, I think. (God forbid one should have a life like a Rachmaninoff symphony, oy gevalt. A life like the Musical Offering, say, that I could dig.)

Yuletide letter 2013
nodamecello
nnozomi
Amended from last year’s letter:
Thank you for writing something for me. With the exception of the do-not-like stuff, please take any and all of this as optional suggestions only, and do what works for you. Not all of the stuff I like, for instance, may be applicable to all the fandoms I've requested; choose what makes sense to you.

SpecificsCollapse )

orchestra stuff
nodamecello
nnozomi
Been listening to our last orchestra concert and the one before that (inadvertent 2-CD set, long story). I think honestly we're pretty good, for an amateur group with three hours' rehearsal time a week. There are occasional slips in the winds, but when they're good they're good, and the strings have it better with several of us on each part, and just enough good players scattered through the parts that the weaker sisters, like me, have something to hold on to.
"Like me" is partly true and partly disingenuous, I guess. We don't have a standout cellist, but T and S are very solid, and Y, K, and Little K average out to around as good as me--not spectacular, but hanging in. (We just started the new music last week, and I was shamefully delighted when T, our first chair, said to me "N, come and sit next to me, you're the best sightreader by a country mile" or words to that effect in Japanese. Trouble is, I sightread well but don't move on much from there...) Anyway, so our cello section is not brilliant but solid, and T's good-natured, slightly goofy energy seems to motivate all of us.
The violas are damn good (no viola jokes here), second violins and basses adequate, and the first violins have M...the concertmaster and human tuning fork on whom I have a longstanding hopeless crush...his wife A, cute as a button and also an excellent violinist, and the other K, a pianist at heart but still a good concertmistress. So on their good days they kick ass.
As for the winds, there's N the oboist (another longstanding hopeless crush, I've always had a weakness for oboe players), there was Iz the horn player except he's gotten divorced and moved away (but his solo in the Stravinsky "Kiss of a Fairy," you should've heard), there's his ex-wife playing trumpet, there's K the concertmistress' ex-husband on trombone and his current girlfriend KM on clarinet...sorry, I couldn't resist the soap-opera-yness of it all but it's a fact. And other good players, all in all.
The orchestra is honestly one of my biggest reasons for not wanting to move anywhere else, even though I would have a much better chance of finding the kind of job I want in Tokyo. I mean, you can't throw a stone in Tokyo without hitting an amateur orchestra, but it wouldn't be the same people.

理不尽
nodamecello
nnozomi
I have two young dead men in my head. For various reasons both of them have been on my mind for a while now, making me cry when I think too hard about them—which isn’t a bad thing, because they were worth it. I didn’t meet either of them. One I might have done; I was ten years old when he died, and he was a friend of my father’s for a while, but we never intersected. The other died more than seventy years ago. They were both far too young, only thirty-three—almost the same age at their deaths, down to a couple of months. One succumbed to chronic illness; the other took his own life.

Atsushi Nakajima died in December 1942, of the asthma which had troubled him since his early twenties. Such a goddamn waste; if I had a time machine to go back and bring him modern treatment methods… . He was a writer, although he never made his living at it, and he needed to make his living: his family was well enough off but not rich, and he had a wife and two young sons. Takeshi was nine when his father died; Noboru was only two or three. Atsushi taught Japanese and English at a girls’ high school for several years, and seemed to enjoy it, popular with his students and fellow teachers and happy with his family, plus an avid gardener in his spare time.
His stories are spare and abstruse and difficult, drawing heavily on (Chinese) history and literary myth, and it can be surprising to find out that, while unenthusiastic about spending time with people who didn’t meet his standards, with friends he was a life-of-the-party type, interested in everything, active, merry. His story “Sangetsuki” appears regularly in high school Japanese textbooks, which I think is a terrible shame. It’s a story written in old-fashioned Japanese and set in old China, about a poet who turns into a tiger, and it’s wonderful, but not for teenagers: it’s for people who have learned, or are learning, about the way life turns and twists in your hands to betray everything you once expected, for good or ill.
They should have the high school kids read some of his letters to his wife from Micronesia. He was already in his early thirties when worsening asthma made his teaching job difficult; hoping for an improvement, he took a job editing Japanese textbooks for children in the Micronesian islands which were then Japanese colonies, Palau, the Chuuk Islands, Saipan and so forth. He spent a year or so traveling around the islands observing schools (both the “public schools” for “native” children and the “national schools” for Japanese children), finding that the tropical climate was not as good for his health as he had hoped, and writing quantities of letters to his wife and postcards to his sons. The letters are much easier to read than anything else he wrote, because his wife Taka probably had only about a sixth-grade education; she was a girl from the provinces whom he gave in and married after getting her pregnant (or so at least one source would have it), and in some ways it’s amazing that the marriage worked at all. Perhaps if he had lived longer it wouldn’t have, but at that date it’s very clear how much they cared about each other. And he was absolutely nuts over his sons, there’s no other way to put it, an absorbed, loving, thoughtful father.
The letters from the South Pacific make me cry every time; they’re vivid descriptions of what he sees and who he meets there, but they’re also spilling over with homesickness and longing for Taka and the boys, I miss you, I want to come home between every line, and when I think that he lived less than a year after returning to Japan, it’s unbearable. God, I would have loved to know him—not as “the great writer Nakajima Atsushi” but as a colleague in the school staffroom, or one of the guys a few years ahead of me in grad school. Why are there no time machines, or why do those whom the gods love die young.

I’ve written about Ohira-san—another Taka, although only a nickname—here before. If the gods ever loved someone it was him, surely: born in a well-to-do Osaka family, a violin prodigy from his early teens and a student at one of the most prestigious schools in town, winning or placing in two national violin competitions in junior high and high school, going to Tokyo University—the ultimate academic success—and serving as concertmaster of the orchestra there, eventually becoming an associate professor at the same university while still in his early thirties. And then killing himself at the age of thirty-three, leaving his wife of six months to find his body in the morning.
I’m not sure exactly why Taka died, because it’s a thing you can’t ask without more of a need-to-know than I’ve got. The most I can infer, from people who knew him, is that the intensely competitive pressure of high-level hard science research—in Japan in the late eighties—came to be too much for him, especially in an environment where his superiors gave him the fisheye for carrying a violin case to work with him. Maybe he regretted not having become a professional musician, but felt that it was too late to go that route. Maybe there were other things happening. I don’t know. He might have been clinically depressed. His wife, twenty-five when they married, was getting her master’s degree in piano performance at the time of his death; she took her exams, got her degree (in spite of collapsing into tears during one performance, and who in God’s name can blame her), and then, only a year later, entered a nationally well-regarded medical school to study psychiatry. Given the stiff entrance exams for any medical school (Japanese medical school is a six-year combined undergraduate/graduate degree), this would be a remarkable feat even without the tragic background. She gave up playing the piano professionally, and is now the head of psychiatry at a major eastern hospital.
Everyone I’ve been able to get in touch with—friends at the American university where he did postdoc research and played music with my father, friends in Japan, colleagues—seems to have fond and admiring memories of Taka. Where is that damn time machine? To go back and say, Taka, you have so many paths to take, you’re so gifted and so loved, there are other ways out, don’t do this, don’t take yourself away from us, from yourself.
I had one recording of Taka’s violin—playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with a student orchestra, under my father’s baton. The recording quality is lousy, but you can still hear how his sound shimmers. An unexpected benefit of asking around about him was that people gave me other recordings of his playing—Brahms, Schubert, Prokofiev, Dvorak, Bach—and they’re all wonderful. Not perfect, because nobody is, but brilliant, and with his passion for the music, sheer love of what he’s doing, shining in every note. And yeah, they make me cry. Oh Taka. 

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