Wednesday Music: Schumann’s Piano Concerto In A Minor

These week’s piece of music is another classic from the Romantic era I’ve loved for a while: Robert Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54. You know the drill–before we get down to business and listen to the thing, let’s learn a bit about it first. :)

  • Though Schumann worked on several piano concertos in his life, this was the only one he actually completed. The prior ones were in E-flat major, F major, and D minor. Luckily, he managed to complete this on in 1845 with the encouragement of his wife, Clara Schumann.
  • Some have said Edvard Grieg may have used this concerto as a model for his own concerto. I could see that possibly being true, as the opening notes of Schumann’s and Grieg’s concertos are similar. They’re both in the same key, too.
  • Schumann attempted to commit suicide in 1854, nine years after finishing this concerto. He had mental health problems and never recovered. He died in 1856 at the age of forty-six.

Or click here to watch on YouTube

Enjoy! Also: Happy July!

I’m Learning To Outline. Slowly.

I finished a draft of my novel. I didn’t mention it on here because even though the draft is “finished,” I use that term loosely. I know there’s going to be a lot of editing for this book. I haven’t looked it over, but I’ve made a list of things I remember that I want to fix and that list grows by the day. Keep in mind I haven’t even read over the thing in its entirety yet!

The reason why I haven’t started editing is I want some time away from this book before I dive back in. A ton of sources online recommend getting some distance, which I did for all of last week. I was very unproductive with my writing and that made me sad. Finally, I realized that the obvious course of action is to begin outlining the next book in the series. (It’s going to be a trilogy.) I started that last night and all I have to say is: wow. Outlining this next book is making me realize even more things I need to fix in the first book.

It’s also helping me become a better novel outliner/planner, which is great. I made so many mistakes while outlining that book I just finished. What kind of person groups scenes together that she doesn’t intend to have together in the final version? (I’m embarrassed to say I’m that person.) And if you promise that a novel is science fiction—well, it darn well better be science fiction. (Hence I need to tone down some of the political elements that don’t do much for the story.)

I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh. The draft that I just finished marked the first time I seriously attempted to outline a novel. I had one vague attempt before that. I noticed that even a vague attempt made the writing go faster, so I tried it again. And now that I’m doing it yet again, I am slowly refining the process. I’m putting the scenes in the order I envision them for the final draft. Of course, this may change, but hopefully I won’t need to change as much as with the first book in the series. (Ugh!) I’m also building a timeline into the outline. Beside each scene, I have the day and time of day noted. I’ve found it is very easy to lose track of the overarching timeline of a novel during the writing process, so I want to nail this down early.

I have slowly realized that the more planning you do up front, the better of a draft you can produce the first time around, which makes things easier in the editing stage. This may be an obvious point, but it’s an important one and something that’s very easy to forget.

Random Changes

I’ve been meaning to update my blogroll for a while and I finally got around to doing it last night. I took a couple of sites off and added some onto it. The two I added are Chapters in Flux, started by a fellow Writing Challenge person, Kiera, and Ten Penny Dreams, an amazing blog by a woman named Amy that I just discovered today. Kiera actually asked me a lot of blogging/WordPress questions before starting her blog, so I feel as if I had a hand in helping create it. :) And Ten Penny Dreams is cool because it’s described as a “literary lifestyle blog.” I’m all about literature and lifestyles, so something that combines both is amazing, if you ask me.

For the blogs that I took off my blogroll, all I have to say is this: the most common reason for blogroll removal are unexplained absences. That is, if you’re going to be gone for six months and can’t post, but you say this on your blog, that’s fine. Many people, though, just completely vanish from their blogs, never to be seen again. And that’s just sad. I always stop reading blogs where this happens (since there’s no more new material to read), but I wish it didn’t happen.

Moral of the story: don’t randomly stop posting or you will probably lose readers! And if you want me to read your blog, leave a comment or send me a tweet on Twitter so I can check it out. I can’t read every single blog ever, obviously, but I will at least take a look at it because I’m always on the lookout for interesting blogs and bloggers.

Wednesday Music: Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor

Today’s piece for Wednesday Music is a bit… different than what I usually choose. For one thing, it’s chamber music. For another, the composer is a lot more modern than those I often feature on here. (That’s not saying much, considering most of my choices were written by someone who died in 1791.) I’m not great admirer of Gustav Mahler—I don’t dislike him, I just had to play a lot of his work and did not particularly enjoy playing it!—but I do like this piece. Here’s a little bit about it.

  • Mahler wrote this when he was fifteen or sixteen, during his time in school. It’s supposed to be the first movement of a full piano quartet,* but he never finished the quartet.
  • There are three known performances of this quartet in the nineteenth century: all took place in 1876. After that, the piece was sort of forgotten and not performed until his widow rediscovered it in the 1960s.
  • If you don’t normally listen to classical music but think this piece sounds familiar, you may have heard parts of it before. It’s on the soundtrack for the film Shutter Island. Confession: that’s actually where I first heard it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Or click here to see on YouTube.

*Note: in classical music, a piano quartet means a piano plus a string trio (a violin, a viola, and a cello). It doesn’t mean four pianos playing together.

Viktor Yanukovych Interviewed By The BBC

No, I haven’t watched the interview yet, but I plan to. See article with embedded videos here.

Dang, I don’t know about you, but I would love to interview him! The best part is I wouldn’t even need an interpreter. I’d just speak directly to him in Russian.

A New Russian Novel

So, remember when I boldly announced that I was going to read Fyodor Berezin’s War 2010: The Ukrainian Front? Well, I started reading it that very day. And at first, I liked it, I really did. Unfortunately, I lost interest about twenty percent of the way in. (Kindle tells you what percentage of a book you’ve read, so that’s how I know I was twenty percent in.) Honestly, I got bored with it. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s bad writing and I picked up on that. Or maybe it’s just not to my taste. I don’t always like English-language novels that focus heavily on military elements.

The Argentine by Elvira Baryakina
The Argentine by Elvira Baryakina

I’m not afraid to quit books when I don’t like them, so I quit this one. I’m reading something else now. It’s called The Argentine [Аргентинец] by Elvira Baryakina. So far, I really like it. It’s about a Russian guy named Klim who ran away from home when he was seventeen and ended up in Argentina. He learned Spanish and writes for a newspaper and seems to have a good life. He inherited property back home in Russia ten years after leaving and is going back because of that. That doesn’t seem so radical, does it? Well, it is because he’s returning to Russia in 1917, after the Russian revolution has taken place and deposed the tsar. It’s quite a dangerous time, especially for someone with enough money to own property. I found all that out in chapter one, which I read last night. I’m loving the book so far and learning some new words and sentence constructions. Plus, I don’t know if I’ve ever said this explicitly, but the Russian Revolution and ensuing Civil War are some of my favorite historical eras to study. That was what I planned to study in graduate school, had I pursued a PhD in history. I’m very excited about this book. Hopefully it won’t get boring like the prior one I stopped reading!

Thank You!

Last Thursday, I wrote a blog post about the Russian language. I’d been thinking of writing it for some time, but hadn’t really sat down to do it. I had immense fun writing it and hoped that at least some people would like it.

Well, some people did like it. In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement. A lot of people liked it. I’ve had some of my best days for page views since publishing that post, and it’s all because of you, my readers. Some person (or multiple people) shared that post on Facebook and then a ton of other people must have shared it because I had an incredible amount of hits on Friday, the day after I published it. Though Friday was the peak day for my page views, Saturday and Sunday haven’t been anything to scoff at.

Thank you for sharing my writing. It really means a lot to me. I was happy to see the positive response to that post because it was a bit of an experiment I wanted to conduct. (Not in a mean way, like the Facebook emotional manipulation experiment.) Namely, I wanted to see how my blog traffic did if I wrote a heavily foreign language-focused post—and I can see now that it did pretty well. I’m not talking viral like tens of thousands of hits (I’ve never had that many hits on any blog, ever), but it was a decent amount compared to what I usually get.

This all means that I’m going write up some more language learning stuff. It won’t be the only thing I write about—if there’s one thing you’ve noticed about reading this blog, it’s that I have multiple interests!—but there is more I want to post about language learning in general and Russian learning specifically. So stay tuned for more awesomeness. :)

And to any new readers who may have found me through that post: welcome! Or, as we say in Russian: Добро пожаловать! [Dobro pozhalovat!]