Monday, January 15, 2018

Prague Adventures

    We bid farewell to Vienna for the time being and hopped on our first Eurorail train to Prague. As my most anticipated city, I had high hopes for what it was going to be like. And Prague did not disappoint. In fact, it exceeded all my expectations. Prague definitely has a more historic feel to it than Vienna did and everywhere you look, you can see castles, church spires, bridges, and colorful buildings. A view of the city is something I don't think I would ever get tired of seeing.
    Upon our arrival, we attended a performance of the Czech Philharmonic at the Rudolfinum. We heard a piece by Antonín Dvorák and Symphony No. 10 by Shoshtakovich. Talking to the music majors on this trip and Dr. Powell allowed me to better understand the context of what the symphony was about.
    Day two of Prague included a rare daytime concert; a performance by the Benda Quartet, all string instruments. After getting slightly lost and confused -who knew there were two Lichtenstein Palaces? No one on this trip -we made it for the second half of the performance. I was lucky enough to have a front row seat, close enough for me to see the cellist's sheet music. Pictured below is the stage from my seat.
    After the concert, we took a walking tour of the Little Quarter of the city and Prague Castle. Inside the castle complex was St. Vitus Cathedral and it was astonishing. It was by far the largest cathedral I'd ever seen. The ceilings were so tall, it was freezing in there. And it had an organ that just may have beaten PLU's organ in terms of its splendor, and that is really saying something. Just to think that this gothic cathedral is still standing and still so important to this city had me awestruck.
    Within the Prague Castle area is a street referred to as "Golden Lane". It is said that alchemists once lived in these tiny houses and all they needed to turn metal into gold was in the street outside. Today the houses of "Golden Lane" are small shops dedicated to jewelry, handmade puppets, and Christmas ornaments. Additionally Franz Kafka lived on this street for a time; you can even buy his books in the house that he lived in. If given the opportunity, I would gladly live in this small blue house.
    And last, but certainly not least is a statue update. Courtney and have seen statues of Kafka, Dvorák, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor (who funded the construction of the Charles Bridge), and the first president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel. Courtney appears to be winning, as I failed to recognize Kafka, but neither of us is very good with our Czech historical figures.
I can't wait for more adventures in Prague.

Symphonie Fantastique

On Thursday we saw the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. They played Mahler 10 and Symphonie Fantastique so you know, it was okay. Not to mention the fact that it was in the Golden Hall so I guess that was cool.

In all seriousness though, I cannot believe how freaking amazing that concert was. I wish I was able to post about it sooner but I’ve been so busy running around I just haven’t found the time.
Symphonie Fantastique is one of my favorites pieces so to hear it played at such a high level with that much musically was mind blowing. The string bass section nailed it, especially during the Witch’s Sabbath. In my completely unbiased opinion, they were probably one of the best sections in the ensemble. That being said, the low brass section was face-meltingly good, particularly during the Dies Irae. By the time we got to the symphony we had already walked all day so I was dreading having to stand for the concert a little. However, by the time the symphony actually started I felt like I could have stood there all night.

The cherry on top of all of that would have to be the fact that I found and bought the full score to Symphonie Fantastique at the music store on Wednesday and was able to look it over the night before.

We’ve been in Prague for a couple of days now and I could have probably added to this post about how much fun it has been, but I felt the symphony deserved its own post. I'll make one about Prague once we leave and I find the time. Loving this trip so far!

A Moment of Thanks and Taking a Step Back

Today is our free day in Prague, and we have done so much that it is really hard to document it all. Back at home I have such a hard time getting anywhere, and all of that is in my native language, so being here, trying to decipher other languages to get around is really disorienting. With that said, it is absolutely gorgeous in Prague. It may be dark and dreary, but I still appreciate how beautiful the city really can be. Everyone on this adventure, music major or not, is having a great time here too which makes me incredibly excited. The non-majors particularly have been amazing to be around on this trip. They notice so much more about the music than music majors do, and it really helps someone like me take a step back and look at performance from a different side of things. Last night I was out to dinner with my roommates and we were talking about all the different performances we have been listening too. The Benda String Quartet came up and the non-majors brought up that one of the pieces they performed sounded off, or like the group got lost in the middle of the piece. In reality, the piece was more modern and the music was supposed to sound a little funky, but as a person who listens to this stuff quite frequently, I never would have noticed that. The non-majors have such wonderful insight into these concerts, moreso than those of us studying music, so I am thankful that they were able to go in this adventure with us.

I want to end this post by saying how thankful I am for the friends I have here. I have been handling some heavy personal issues from back home since I pretty much got here in Europe, so naturally it has been on the back of my mind the entire time (which sucks because I have been wanting to go on this trip since I first learned about it my freshman year at PLU). However, my friends have been absolutely amazing helping me through all of this, and helping making it fun for me by all of our silly jokes about it. Without my group, I think this tour would have been ruined for me but because of them I am still having a ton of fun. Thank you Paige, Kara and Tomick, if you read this, you three are the best.

Lost and Late in Prague

Since getting to Prague, the class has been lost many times. The best way to experience a city is to get lost and just wander the streets. This is exactly what we did, as a whole class, following our hopelessly lost Professor.

The first night we saw a wonderful performance by Czech Philharmonic. After a long day or travel, the concert was very relaxing. So relaxing it put a few people to sleep.... After the concert Dr. Powell wanted to show us the main square of the Old Town of Prague. It's the center of the city and such a beautiful sight. What should have been a 7 minutes walk quickly turned into a 30 minute walk as we walked parallel to the square. We then turned away from it as the very tired class was walked around the city except for the part we wanted to see. Eventually we made it the square, exhausted and ready for bed. However then we had to find the hostel which is another story.

The next day we had a morning concert to watch the Benda Quartet. We left the hostel at 10:00 to find the performance venue. It should have taken 10 minutes. However, once we got there we found that it wasn't the the performance venue. The next 50 minutes would be spent running around, asking random stores where the concert was and rinse and repeat. We finally found the concert and only missed the first song and was able to catch the last 2/3s of the concert. We got to see a lot of Prague this way. I just wish it would have been in a little less stressed way.

Throughout this trip, we have had some issues with people showing up late to when we need to leave. However the best one, was when everyone was on time. We were set to leave at 10:00. Then out wonderful Professor who is leading the trip realized he forgot his camera. Now enjoy this photo of Dr. Powell arriving 6 minutes late to our "we are leaving at 10:00."

Turtlenecks - Promo Post

Hey guys! If you have time to read this I would be very grateful. My friends and I in Prague have been inspired by a wonderful snack called “Trdelník”. It is generally made with a deep fried outer shell covered in cinnamon and is filled with various ingredients, usually chocolate or ice cream. As I said before, my friends and I were inspired to come up with our own invention based on the original called Turtlenecks! They are baguettes stuffed with whatever you really want! You can have savory or sweet, and as long as what you want exists, we will make it! We have for the past 3 days been making them for breakfast, and have had the idea to bring this to America! These are pictures of what they look like, and we really enjoy what we’ve made. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or message. We’re very excited to start promoting at PLU, and then hopefully someday move to having a food cart possibly in Portland or the Tacoma area! As our motto says, we are Turtleneck and we care about what goes down your neck! Thanks for reading! - Aaron, Brett, Alex, Matt, Jeff, Carl

Rich history and meeting my Rock Stars!

So I have seen many different sites, attended a ton of concert, and tasted so much good food, but nothing could really compare to seeing Beethoven's, Brahms, Mozart, and Schubert graves! These great men created the mind-blowing music that we play and love to listen to, and I was right next to them. Seeing their graves was jaw dropping and I had never felt closer to my music. A truly magical moment and I shall never forget it. This was while we were still in Vienna, which was a great city.

I loved the transportation system there. It makes me wonder why the states have not taken this idea and made a subway system in the major cities. Also, the architecture was beautiful. I loved seeing every piece of history and learning about what makes this city such a rich piece of history. Finally, seeing the Vienna Philharmonic was unlike any other concert I have ever attended. First we were in the standing room only section which made it a little challenging, but the music was amazing. Seeing Dudamel again in live concert was also incredible. He is still a master of a conductor and jaw dropping to watch.  I can’t wait to go back at the end of the month and see it all again.
Now we are in Prague and wow it is great! Firs we saw the Czech Philharmonic orchestra and that was a great performance. There was a violin soloist by the name of Jan Mráček and he was amazing! He played the Antonín Dvořák Violin Concerto in A Minor which was amazing! He then received a massive applause and came back out and played another piece which was also amazing. The orchestra then performed Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 in E Minor which had a amazing sense of energy to it. All in all, it was a great performance.
The next day we then attended the Benda Quartets concert and when they performed the Mendelssohn quartet, I was blown away. I thought they performed it perfectly and it sounded so luscious. Another incredible concert. The next day we saw another great piece of history. Beethoven’s original copy of the Eroica symphony! I could not believe that this great piece of history was right in front of my eyes! Again jaw dropping and inspiring! Prague has been an amazing city and I absolutely love it here! So much history and such beauty in the buildings. It will be hard to leave this city!

Team work makes the dream work

The first five days in Vienna were filled with excitement and innovation. Most of this not to mention the incredible innovation that took place during breakfast. The team that made all this possible included our mighty leader Dr. Powell, Brett, Mariah, Rachel, Alex, and myself. All these incredible individuals came together to create something truly magnificent…...a wombomb. What is a wombomb you ask? The simplest picture I can paint for you is a stuffed bread roll then put in a panini press for a toasty and delicious treat. We came up with two different kind of wombombs a special breakfast wombomb and a lunch/snack wombomb. The breakfast wombomb consists of one hard-boiled egg, some spread cheese (chives), and a few slices of ham. First you make a small slit in the roll and hollow out the inside. After that you then take the hard boiled egg and cover it in spread cheese. Now you take the ham and stuff it inside the roll along  with the egg in any fashion you desire. The last step is to warm it up in a Panini press to warm and to seal (no longer than a few minutes). After that you are ready to eat with a delicious and easy to carry meal. The other wombomb we made consisted of what we like to call wombomb sauce (peanut butter & jelly mix). Again you make a slit in the roll hollow out and stuff. Once finished you can seal the slit with a little wombomb sauce and in the press it goes. The heat will help seal the wombomb and now you have a normal looking roll with melted peanut butter and jelly inside that should be a go to for anyone who is a fan of the classic PB & J.

Got Stuck in a Tire Tower

What does it really mean to experience culture? This is a question that philosophers, scholars, and laymen have considered for ages. Yet in other instances, 'how to experience culture' is a question that serves to produce an overly pretentious intro to a blog post about how I got stuck inside a tower of car tires...

If you don't know what I'm talking about, ear not- I struggled to explain the playground device that I got stuck in to many of my classmates. The tower was was made up of five tires each suspended about a foot apart by three chains all hanging down from a platform on the wooden jungle gym. After climbing down the tower feet-first through the top four tires I arrived with my toes on the ground, and my shoulders firmly wedged atop the middlest tire. It was at this point in my endeavor that I ended the fake vlog I had been composing throughout the day- from Schonbrunn Palace to a random park probably some 5 or 6 miles away.

The point here is that experiencing culture can be so many different things that I think it is unreasonable to set out in a city unknown to you with any expectations as to what you will encounter. For me, I find that just walking and spending time with whatever peaks my interest is the best way to get a feel for the world of the culture I am witnessing- whether that be a palace with 1,441 rooms, or a tower made of 5 tires. At the end of the day, the "culture" of historical monuments, nationalistic art pieces, and the like is only a small insight into the daily lives of people who live today- people who may sometime find themselves stuck inside of a tire tower (but probably not).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Lets Keep Going and Going

Something I’ve loved so far about this trip is that everywhere we go and every place I look, there always seems to be something amazing. Our last day in Vienna, we went to the Schoenbrunn Palace. The palace was fantastic, every inch, inside and out, was exquisite. However, my favorite part and one of the parts of the day that resonated with me the most was when we walked outside, through the garden, and up a huge hill to what essentially used to be a gate to the palace. Despite it being cloudy, the sun still shone through a bit and the gate and view of the city was beautiful. 

Afterwards we continued to walk around Vienna and found high market square, a channel filled with graffiti, and a market that probably spanned the length of a football field. That day we just kept going and going, at least it felt that way, and I’m so glad we did because I got to see things and places I likely wouldn’t have seen had we stayed closer to our hostel or around places we’d been before.

Something else that was really interesting to see was the juxtaposition between the traditional and the modern. Everywhere I looked there was old and new: historical architecture, churches, statues, and the modern world with graffiti and buildings with loads of glass windows and interesting angles.

Even though it’s only been about a week (wow we’ve already been in Europe for a week), and I feel like I’ve already seen so much, I know there is still so much to see and I am very ready. I am definitely exhausted after each day here and part of me would like to take a break, but at the same time, I just want to keep going everywhere and see everything that I am not used to seeing or living in or experiencing in the US, or any other part of the world.

Lost and Found

Today we went to a mansion displaying a bunch of art. My favorite rooms were the armory and the music room which housed more violins than I cared to count, two cellos, two basses, several lutes, a couple trumpets before they had valves, flutes made of wood, clarinets, an English horn, and a bassoon. The room also housed Handel’s Messiah rearranged in Mozart’s hand, the actual score that Mozart wrote. As well as a few things written by Beethoven.
Then we had the adventure of accidentally taking the wrong team trying to get to the old square. By chance we ran into Caroline who got left at the mansion on her own and was very lost. She stuck with us for a while then said she was going to find Wi-Fi and head back to the hostel. We walked around the square for a while after we ate then were trying to figure out what team to take back when one opened and there was Caroline (2 hours after she had left us) still lost and we quickly told her to get off and come with us then we made our way back to the hostel.
Tonight we say The Bartered Bride. It was a fantastic and funny opera. Anything with a song dedicated to how beer is a gift from god is going to be funny though.
Tomorrow is a free day and we are looking forward to exploring the city then shopping in the square.

Do You See What *eye* See? - Surrealism and Op Art in Vienna

(Oops, this post is a little late & does not correspond with our travel schedule, but if you want to read a Vienna post in the middle of Prague posts, here ya go!) 

      Being on a trip called “Music Centers of the World,” I was looking forward to the operas and the sounds of the city, but I was blown away by the sights and the quirky art and architecture I stumbled upon. On our first day in Vienna, it was amusing to see unconventional styles juxtaposed with the traditional buildings. Surrealism and optical illusions are a few of my favorite art styles, and when I discovered that an optical illusion museum existed in Vienna, it immediately became my first priority.
    Caroline and I arrived at the museum after a lovely tour of the St. Stephen’s Cathedral, a visit to "Demel" (a swanky café that served the best coffee I’ve ever tasted), and after a pleasant stroll through the beautiful Volksgarten. The museum was more interactive than I expected, making me more enthusiastic about the featured artwork. Upon entering, black and white paintings of various patterns filled the walls. 
Further into the room, there was a space leading to the infinity mirrors. A little boy came up behind us and slammed the door, “locking” us in the small mirrored room; there were a few children running amuck (but it still added to the character of the place)! 
Infinity Mirror
      Various photo-taking stations were inside the museum, along with a large rotating tunnel splattered with multiple neon glow-in-the-dark colors, which caused some disoriented reactions. Optical illusion art is fantastic for its fun, whimsical essence, and its ability to challenge perceptions of what reality is. Surrealism holds similar qualities, but with an added element of the uncanny and a general “eeriness”.   
Some wacky, slanted room

A building that my roommates and I passed a day earlier had a very surrealistic feel.  The windows were covered in old photos of zoomed in faces and eyes that matched the overall grey appearance: it was the most intriguing modern structure I had seen that day. It held an intimidating, mysterious, and unusual effect, reminiscent of the television show, The Twilight Zone. I suppose whenever I see a single giant eye, it makes me think of surrealism haha 👁. It was an unexpected feature that I was happy to find.
Eyeball windows

       On the third day, the class visited Zentralfriedhof -the grave site of many famous composers - including Beethoven. The grave that caught my attention did not belong to a composer, but instead, the Austrian film actress and inventor, Hedy Lamarr who passed away about 18 years ago. The vertical rods with metal spheres clustered in the center formed a simplified version of Lamarr’s face (if observed from the correct angle). On the sign below, it shows an example of what the face looks like, which was helpful for figuring out where to stand and to recognize the purpose of the artful arrangement. 
Hedy Lamarr's grave

                                                                                                     Although these photos may not reflect what Vienna is usually known for, it was incredibly cool to see some of my favorite modern art styles with the historic landmarks, both contributing to the city’s eclectic feel. I cannot wait to visit Vienna again in February! 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

That Moment When...

You get so caught up in the astounding sights and sounds of the time that you forget for make a blog post. Even though you had 4 and a half hours by train. I should stop digging this hole. In any case so much has happened over the past few days that words can hardly describe it, but here I go anyway. In Vienna, we finished the week out with Dead Composers, Beautiful Palaces, Dead Royals, and Beautiful Music. We started Wednesday by visiting the grave markers of some of the most important composers in history, and enjoying the sanctity of the grandiose aura that came from those places. The end of that evening was filled with the music of the Opera I Puritani. The set and the music were pulled off perfectly, with beautiful solos and smart stage work, like the trees of the forest being presented as massive lamps that came down from the ceiling.

The next day, we found ourselves wandering the gardens, vistas, and halls of Schönbrunn Palace, home of the later Hapsburg-Lorraine Dynasty. The architecture of these rooms were resplendent, filled with intricate and detailed frescoes and molding that shone brightly under the electric lighting of the renovated palace. After our tour of these imperial halls, some of us took a journey to the top of the hill behind Schönnbrunn climbing all the way to the Gloriette and basking in the view of Vienna, which was an almost complete view of the city. That night, we traveled to the Wiener Musikverein, where we all stood and took in the Wiener Filharmonik, conducted by Dudamel. The Symphonie Fantastique was astounding, though the quiet parts almost sent me into sleep while standing up. An amazing concert none to say the least.

On Friday, we began our journey out of Vienna towards Prague, most of us sleeping or taking in the countryside. Many a card game was played, followed by the sweet disharmony that can only come from people being stuck in confined spaces for inordinate amounts of time. When we finally arrived in Prague, the city was shrouded in a cloak of mist, giving an air of mystery to the entire city, which finally lifted as we reached our hostel that afternoon. The Mosaic House however, could hardly be described as a hostel, it is more a contemporary hotel fit for the Bourgeoise with rooms large enough to be a hostel. That evening, we traveled once more, and took in a concert with the Czech Philharmonik with Jan Mráček as soloist. The Shostokovich was my personal favorite of the evening, with the conductor pulling as much energy and bombastity from his orchestra than I thought possible.

Finally, that brings us to yesterday, Saturday. The morning was filled with the air of a string quartet, the Benda String quartet to be exact. Those four musicians played with a fervor and camaraderie that snaked its way into the music, giving it a warm and welcoming feeling in the Liechtenstein Palace, which could be described by its cold and intimidating architecture. This was followed by a guided hike to the top of the hill, to the Castle Prague, home of the President of the Czech Republic. I say guided hike because that hill was steep. In the churches and alleyways of the Castletown, we found many a beautiful and interesting historical artifact, but most awe inspiring I thought, was a church erected in 920, which meant that it dated to the times of the founding of the first Kingdom of France, the Holy Roman Empire, and the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England. To see a structure that withstood such history was amazing. Many of the other sites in Castletown were not nearly as old as the church I described of, but still held a similar aura of power. Another church we entered held the sarcophagus of St. Jan of Prague, which was made from 2 tons of Silver, which had more worth than I should ever see in my lifetime. That evening, we ended with group dinner at the Brewery U Fleku, which, let me say, was absolutely delicious, I had their goulash with Bread and Speck Dumplings, and I was so full I fell asleep in the restaurant. All told, an amazing day.

In the end, our time here so far in Europe has been nothing but adventures of a lifetime, filled with journies and sights, sounds, smells, and tastes that boggle the mind. I hope that every day will continue to be as filled with adventure as the past few ones.

Living the Prague Life

          We started off our adventures in Prague with a bang: listening to the Czech Philharmonic. This had to be one of my favorite concerts so far—even though I was seated neatly behind a pole for half of it. I found myself particularly interested in the fact that there were both incredibly dissonant sections and beautifully melodic sections, and because the more melodic sections were so lovely, it made the dissonant sections all that much more impactful because you know the cacophony is very much purposeful. In any case, not only was the orchestra awesome, but it also featured incredible solos. The violin soloist in particular blew my mind because it sounded like there were two violins playing—the soloist was able to harmonize with himself! I haven’t been exposed to anything like that before, and because I couldn’t see him I actually asked my classmates near me if he really was playing just by himself (he was). It was insane.

As a side-note, I have noticed that at the concerts we go to, the audience tends to applaud for a very long time, and the performers go backstage and come out again multiple times. I don’t know why but for some reason I really like this—it just makes me so glad for some reason. At the end of the Czech Philharmonic concert, the conductor did this, and when he was given a bouquet of flowers he passed out individual flowers to the female musicians, which was adorable.
Rudolfinum: Czech Philharmonic concert hall

The next day we changed up our usual schedule and went to a morning concert by the Benda Quartet. And of course, we got lost. (Granted, the name of the location on the ticket matched like three different locations, but anyway…) We were so late we missed at least one song. Some of us got in before the intermission during an applause break, but others had to wait for intermission because they were super strict on not letting people in when the performers were playing—which makes sense but was still unfortunate. This was my first experience hearing a professional quartet, and I was surprised at how different it was from an orchestral performance. The experience seemed way more personal, and I was utterly amazed at how well the musicians communicated. They didn’t have a conductor or anything, but they still managed to stay perfectly in synch. This was especially impressive during fast sections—I have no idea how they managed it, but the effect was really cool. This performance also featured chaotic dissonance and melodic non-dissonance, which was an interesting connection to the night before. To me, it seemed like this switching back and forth between chaos and melody very quickly showed off the performers’ skills—I dunno, that just seems hard to me, also purposefully sounding discordant seems like it would take a lot of skill too. Suffice it to say, I was very impressed.

I was also impressed by Prague Castle and St Vitus Cathedral. The fact that some of these buildings are far older than the U.S. never stops being cool to me. And Prague (Praha in Czech) is so beautiful! The architecture—I just… Walking around in the streets honestly feels like being in a book. (From a distance the cathedral even looks like Hogwarts). Everything is so majestic and pretty, and the buildings bear the weight of history so nobly… it’s like magic, really, how beautiful these old buildings are. (I now have a favorite historical architecture type: Gothic, of course, because it is the most fantastical.) One last comment before I end this horrendously long postit is so awesome how the history here differs from the history of the US because of monarchy and nobility. These concepts I associate with fantasy novels are very much real hereheck, the evidence is all over the city in the form of palaces and castles. The way our Prague guide talked about dynasties and kings and how the baptism of royalty meant the official religion of the country changed... and how our guide for Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna talked about the royals living in a "golden trap" (which was why they liked paintings of peasants doing peasant things)these are things I read about all the time, just book stuff, but here in Europe they were real life! Man, it's so cool.

St. Vitus Cathedral: 

Prague Adventures

    We bid farewell to Vienna for the time being and hopped on our first Eurorail train to Prague. As my most anticipated city, I h...