Author Archives: Ceciliadlibitum

About Ceciliadlibitum

Musician. Belgian but living in Spain. Also crazy about books and ballet. Or just crazy in general.

From Chicago

A few weeks ago, while I was writing a presentation about the concept of melody in Stravinsky’s music, I noticed there were some essential books missing from my collection. I searched for cheap copies on Abebooks and bought a total of 7 books for 50€.  The last 3 arrived today. I went to the post office and they gave me this:

book bag

The contents of which translates to this:

Stravinsky 3

The package, which went from Chicago to Zürich to Madrid to Vigo (hence the video), was in a bag. So literally a book bag. Maybe Americans think it always rains in Europe (which is partially true, it has been raining non-stop for almost a week here in Vigo), in which case the protection served perfectly, but they could’ve done with a smaller bag (I could fit in this one).

Anyway, I’m glad all my new books have finally arrived. Look at them, my babies:

New Stravinsky

I rearranged my bookshelves to fit my new acquisitions:

Stravinsky shelf

Stravinsky (far right until the cat) and some other composers. I think it’s clear which one’s my favourite.

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New website and blog

Take a look at my new website!!! It’s still under construction but you can read my curriculum and my first blog entrance.

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Stravinsky in Spain

I knew that Stravinsky was in Spain in 1916 (a lot of Spanish people does’t even seem to know this), I knew it was with the Ballet Russes, but I didn’t know anything else about it. But now I read about it, as I’m in the process of reading Stravinsky’s autobiography, which I ordered via AbeBooks (along with 26 other books, as a Christmas/Three Kings present to myself), and I’d like to share with you the passages where he describes his impressions of what I nowadays call my country:

I awaited Diaghileff’s return from America with impatience and excitement. He sent me word in March of his arrival in Spain, and I at once took the train to join him. He told me of the terrible fears which he had experienced in crossing by an Italian ship, laden with munitions of war, which had constantly had to change its course by reason of warnings of submarines. They even had a rehearsal of an alarm, and I still possess a photograph which Diaghileff gave me in which he is wearing his lifesaving apparatus.

It was my first visit to Spain, and I was struck by much that I saw directly I crossed the frontier. First there was the change in railway gauge, exactly as in Russia. I expected to find different weights and measures; but, not at all! Although the railways were different, the metric system prevailed as in the greater part of the globe. At the very boundary the smell of frying oil became perceptible. When I reached Madrid at nine o’clock in the morning I found the whole town still fast asleep, and I was received at my hotel by the night watchman with lantern in hand. Yet it was spring. The people rose late, and life was in full swing after midnight. At a fixed hour every day I heard from my room the distant sound of a banda playing a passodoble, and military exercises always apparently ended with that sort of music. All the little characteristics of the Spaniards’ daily life pleased me immensely, and I experienced and savoured them with great gusto. They struck me as marking a vivid change from the monotony of the impressions generally received in passing from one European country to another, for the countries of Europe differ far less among themselves than all of them together do from this land on the edge of our continent, where already one is in touch with Africa.

[…] I must record the tremendous impressions made on my by Toledo and the Escorial. My two short excursions to them showed me a Spain for which I should have searched in vain in historic treatises. My glimpses of these two places evoked in me visions not so much of the horrors on the Inquisition or the cruelties of the days of tyranny as a revelation of the profoundly religious temperament of the people and the mystic fervor of their Catholicism, so closely akin in its essentials to the religious feeling and spirit of Russia. I especially noticed the difference which exist between the Catholicism of Spain and that of Rome, which impresses all observers by the impassive grandeur of its authority. I found a logical explanation of that difference in the consideration that the Chatholicism of Rome, as the Metropolis and center of Western Christianity, must necessarily wear a more austere and immutable aspect than the Catholicism of the outlying countries.

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My favorite things

It was one of those days that I had no interest at all in studying for my history. I’d actually had a stress headache for three days in a row. Yesterday before my technology class I was abusing the conservatory’s internet connection to listen to the audio examples for the exam. I was also reading the paper on my laptop at the same time when this came up:

Viderunt Omnes by Pérotin, the first important composer of the École de Notre Dame de Paris. But the first thing that came into my mind was: Steive Reich, Proverb. And indeed, the Wikipedia page about Pérotin mentions that Reich (and Proverb in particular) was influenced by Pérotin. See for yourself:

By the way, I also enjoyed the similarities between my former and my current music history teacher: they both can’t write without spelling mistakes and typo’s….

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Childhood memories

I remember we had this cd at home; a compilation made by a radio person. If I remember well it wasn’t even all classical but kind of a mix. But it had this amazing ‘song’ on it, classical, with a big orchestra and choir. And I used to make choreographies to the music; sometimes improvised, sometimes I spent hours and hours looking for the right steps. You probably won’t believe me when I say that the piece I’m talking about is Verdi’s gypsy chorus from Il Trovatore. I still find it fascinating.

This week has all been about the orchestra. Wagner. Prelude from Lohengrin, Sigfried Idylle, and symphony in C major. I play third clarinet in Lohengrin and second in the symphony. I love not playing first; it gives freedom to experiment. Not really experiment, but the second is always a little more free in interpretation, because it doesn’t have the typical melodic lines; I have to look for the lines, and that’s quite interesting. And I am not the lead, I am the one that is supposed to adapt intonation to the people around me. I love it, and I love playing in a non-hostil environment for the first time in over a year.

But than we started rehearsing the encores: Radetzky (of course) and Verdi (slave chorus and gypsy chorus). I have sung both choruses before. In fact, I have sung ‘Va pensiero’ so many times that I still know the lyrics more or less by heart. For these last pieces we changed roles on request of my colleague and I got first clarinet. Again, I love it. It’s not such an important part as in the rest of the program so I don’t have anything to worry about.

The slave chorus has two runs together with the flute, and as long as I play loud and slow enough she doesn’t run. The rest is mostly the chorus melody. As I have already sung this chorus the phrasing comes easy and I play exactly as I would sing it. I like to think that maybe the chorus listens to the orchestra and will copy the phrasing, but maybe that’s too much to  ask. And than comes the gypsy chorus, and it is just as I remember. There’s not much interesting stuff to do for the chorus, especially the women, but I remember that I sang it so passionately a few years ago that I began to cry. And playing it is even better. It’s very impressive, just as I remember from my childhood. Too bad the piccolo player is a runner (and worse then the flute player; fast notes don’t necessarily mean that you have to play faster), because she takes the whole orchestra with her, including the conductor. Not such a great thing for the clarinets, as our part is transcribed from clarinet in C, and at the end of a three hour long rehearsal my fingers barely keep up with me. The transcription got us stuck with and F#-G# trill, that is followed by E#-F#-C# (so no tricks there) and later on we have the B-C# trill, where I trick the change of register but my C# is a quarter tone too low. I guess it’s the effect that counts….

Anyway, today is the general rehearsal (let’s see how many people don’t show up) and after rehearsal we are all treated to the traditional orchestra dinner. It’ll be a night of fun and good food. I hope you all have a great ‘day of the innocent children’ (I was told that’s something like April fools here in Spain).

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The equaliser

If I was given the opportunity to ask Igor Stravinsky one question I would ask him if he really intended to use the strings in Le sacre du printemps as percussion or if that’s just an invention from others. Because, honestly, I think that’s not true at all. He does use rhythmic blocs of chords as melodic material, but that doesn’t have anything to do with percussion. Most people accept what they are told and don’t look further. But if you do look further you find that the actual “strangeness” in the string part is that they are not the main group. All instruments are equalised. Even though they often work within their own group (woodwind, metal, strings) the have the same function within the score.

Mister Stravinsky, I keep running into you over and over again. Music history, counterpoint, analysis, instrumentation. But I absolutely don’t mind. There’s still a lot to learn about the ‘Bach of the 20th century’.

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A Composer’s Jokes

Very soon I’ll be starting my composition studies. In order to prepare a bit I’m currently reading A Composer’s World, Paul Hindemith’s book based on his Norton Lectures at Harvard University in 1949-1950. Even though I have the text in pdf I decided to buy the book when I found it at a second hand book shop. I like old books, and this one is from 1961, more than 20 years before I was born, so that’s quite special to me. I also still like to read on paper (or e-reader) more than on the computer screen, because that way I can easily underline the special passages. Like this one:

There still are, and always will be, composers who are more than mere arrangers of sounds. Among the multitudes of listeners there exist large groups who demand more from music than a permanent lulling accompaniment to their most banal activities. And not all performers are as godforsaken as many of our virtuosi with their limited repertoire of circus tricks.

I’ve now read the first chapter and I love the book. It’s very interesting (with certain passages, like the above, more ‘usefull’ than others, but the others not less neccessary) and very well written. It’s a complicated use of language for non-English speakers, but excellent for it’s academic purpose, and at times even witty. Even though the text is mostly ‘scientific’ (meaning its destination is just within the intellectual atmosphere of the university), it is written to be both informative and entertaining, because how else would you best capture the attention of this kind of public. Hindemith uses some delightfull descriptions: phoenixlike ressurections, kaleidoscopic picture, esoteric realms of our musical nature, musical nitwits,…

But reading something by the hand of Hindemith made me think of something else. Jokes. Musical jokes. Composer jokes. Hindemith himself is mentioned in a German composer joke:

Ein Musiker will ein Zimmer mieten. Die Vermieterin lehnt sofort ab. “Ich hatte schon einmal so einen wie Sie. Der kam sehr beethövlich, dann wurde er bei meiner Tochter mozärtlich, brachte ihr einen Strauß mit, nahm sie beim Händel und führte sie mit Liszt über den Bach in die Haydn. Da wurde er Reger und spitz Vivalde und sagte: ‘Frisch gewagnert ist halb gewonnen.’ Er konnte sich nicht mehr brahmsen und hat sie geschubert. Und jetzt haber wir ein Mendelssohn und wissen nicht wo-hindemith.”

It was Rossini who said: “Give me your laundry list and I’ll put it to music.” But lists can be musical all by themselves. For those who prefer English, I’m sure you’ve seen various versions of the Chopin Liszt:

Gone Chopin, Bach in a Minuet

– Mozart-rella

– Cream and Ives

– new door Handel

– Strauß

– Clemen-tea

– Tchai-cough-sky drops

– Rossini and Cheese

– Schumann polish

– Bern-n-stein remover

– Satie sticks

– marsh-Mahlers

– Rossini in cheese

– Cui-tips

– Purr(a)cel batteries

– beethOven cleaner

– orange Schubert

– Rav(i)eli

– Bach of ‘serial’

– chicken Balakirev

And last but not least, for the ones who understand some Spanish, this hilarious short movie.

Maybe the best of all, because it hasn’t got anything to do with the rest of the ‘funny’ part, is when the priest says: “Otro domingo que no viene ni Dios.” “Yet another Sunday no one (literally: not even God) shows up.”

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Please release me

I’m busy planning my move from Belgium to Spain (in the meantime my computer also died, so that’s why I haven’t been writing). But I’m starting to get the feeling that Belgium doesn’t want it’s ‘bright young minds’ to leave the country. Exact information on what to do when you are still living with your parents and are moving to another country to study and (hopefully) work is impossible to find.

Today I have been scanning the website of the ministry of exterior business again. They tell me I have to change my status to ‘temporarily absent’ while I haven’t decided if my move is permanent. If I get a job, that status is only valuable for one year and after that I have to make a decision as to stay in Spain or return to Belgium. But as long as I study and don’t have a job, I can keep my status of temporarily absent and keep my official adress at my mother’s house.  My mum, however, called city hall, and they said that this information is not true, and ‘temporarily absent’ means that I will be cancelled from the city’s habitants list. So I’m planning to go over there and tell them they are WRONG.

Meanwhile the exterior’s website got me to the website of the  Belgian embassy in Madrid, and there I found a pdf, in which there was a part telling about how to file for a residential permition in Spain. I even found the correct forms on the Spanish exterior website to fill in and hand in at my local police station in Spain. Finally something that’s working out fine.

Now I still need a job, a moving plan, a Spanish phone number, a new computer, and the programm of the classes I took at the conservatory in Brussels translated to English and with a stamp of the school in order to not have to do filling courses like choir and history of music again.

Ugh, I wish their was a standard procedure I could follow, a plan for graduates moving away from home and their country. Maybe that’s an idea for a page on the top of my blog: How to move from Belgium to Spain after graduation. I bet no one would read it, but still, the information should be somewhere.

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This thing I was supposed to do when I got back from the sea, writing my analysis paper… it’s not going so well. I keep finding more interesting things to do. And also, I start to do a lot of things, but I never finish anything. These holidays are like limbo to me: I’ve more or less finished at the conservatory, but I’m not yet in Spain to start my new adventure. And so like every summer I sit at home procrastinating. Except that this year I really do have a lot of things I still have to take care of. Ok, so maybe the limbo thing is just to not feel guilty. But I do have this every year in summer. I like routine very much, and without routine I’m a mess. I’ll be happy when September comes (unless I never finish that analysis paper, then I start freaking out September 1).


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Long live the king!

Belgium has a new king. From today on king Albert II will be retiring and we will be reigned by king Philip and queen Mathilde. We now have two kings (Philip and Albert) and three queens (Mathilde, Paola, and Fabiola). Let’s hope they all live long.

As Philip said to his father, humour and music are two very important things in life, and for me as a musician, this kind of humour is the best there is, so I’ll share with you the complete Carmina Burana by the Frivole Framboos / Framboise Frivole.

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