Note: I posted this music around Halloween last year. It’s too perfect not to post again, so here’s a repost of it. Enjoy!
As I was trying to come up with what piece to share with you this week, I remembered Camille Saint-Saëns’ Danse macabre, Op. 40, which is just perfect for the week of Halloween. I played this piece back when I was in an orchestra (yes, our concert was right around Halloween) and enjoyed it a lot. Here’s a bit about it.
Saint-Saëns wrote this piece in 1874. It’s based on a French superstition that every Halloween, Death calls the dead from their graves to dance for him.
The piece originally had a vocal part, but Saint-Saëns reworked it and replaced the vocal line with a solo violin.
The piece was not well-received initially. In fact, one critic mentioned the “horrible screeching from solo violin.” Just to let you know, the solo violin part is not screechy at all.
Enjoy! It’s a bit quiet at the beginning, so you may not hear the music if your volume is too low. It does get louder later, though.
A couple Fridays ago, while having a nice relaxing afternoon, I realized I hadn’t done much intensive study of Russian grammar recently. Now, I read in Russian every day and listen to podcasts regularly, but I hadn’t done any of the focused that I used to do. I immediately had to rectify the situation, so I looked up the declension of a noun that I was unsure of. (Longtime readers may recall this post in which I explain what exactly makes Russian nouns so… frightening to English speakers.) The noun in question is гнездо [gnezdo], which means nest in English. So let’s study some Russian together. First, here’s the declension. I always found declension tables useful while learning Russian, so I’ve put one together here. (As an aside, why are tables so difficult to make in HTML? To me, they’re just not intuitive. It’s like someone invented them in 1990 in a completely illogical fashion and the code hasn’t changed since then.)
ед. ч. [Singular]
мн. ч. [Plural]
The stresses in Russian are marked with bold letters because I couldn’t figure out how to get those nice accents over the letters the way I did with the transliterations. I’ve put transliterations in Latin characters in case you can’t read Cyrillic. (Though if you can’t read Cyrillic, I definitely think you should learn!) Before doing this exercise, I also hadn’t realized that гнездо was irregular in the plural with that stress shift. As an avid bird lover, nests are a pretty important thing for me to talk about, so I’m glad I found that out.
Now, for the fun part: some related words.
There’s a verb form гнездиться [gnezditsa] that means to build a nest or to live in a nest. It conjugates as follows:
Я гнежусь [Ya gnezhdus]
Ты гнездишься [Ty gnezdishsa]
Они гнездятся [Oni gnezdyatsa]
(I am too lazy to code another table with the full conjugation. Those three forms should be enough to show the verb’s conjugation.🙂 )
Have you ever heard of the Swallow’s Nest castle in Crimea? Crimea was a favorite vacation spot of the Russian imperial family and other nobles and this crazy castle belonged to a Baltic German noble at one point. In Russian, it’s called Ласточкино гнездо [Lastochkino gnezdo]. Here’s a picture of it. It’s amazing and absurd-looking!
See how much you can learn when you dive into reading about just a single Russian word? I’ve barely even scratched the surface here. There’s a lot more to this word than I’ve talked about here. There are adjectival forms, different verb forms I don’t fully understand, and (probably) a lot more nuances to the word. Now you understand why I had to spend hours and hours studying Russian in college. Imagine going through this declension exercise on a whole group of nouns for homework.
If that didn’t scare you off… stick around for more Russian-related posts. And if you enjoyed that, consider studying Russian! The whole language is complicated like this!😉
I know, it’s been a while since I posted Wednesday Music… but it is back, dear readers. Today’s piece is kind of frightening, which is appropriate for the month of October (even though the theme is technically summer-related, oddly enough). It’s scary to listen to—and to play. I played an arrangement of this back in my youth orchestra days. We played it in the summer, I think, so I guess someone was familiar with the inspiration for it. Anyway, here’s a bit about the piece.
Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky wrote this piece on June 23, 1867 on the theme of a Witches’ Sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve, which (probably not coincidentally) is on June 23 in the Julian calendar. The holiday relates to the Summer Solstice.
However, other composers, especially Mussorgsky’s mentor Balakirev, didn’t like the piece and refused to perform it. In fact, the piece was never performed during Mussorgsky’s lifetime.
It’s only because of another Russian composer, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, that this piece wasn’t completely consigned to oblivion. He copied some of it into his own work and eventually Mussorgsky was finally given credit and his version was performed.
Yes, I know, I had another semi-unplanned blogging absence. Two things happened: I got lost in some reading (what else is new?!) and my best friend came to visit last weekend. We had a lovely time together, though I wish she could have stayed longer. We ate out at some restaurants and then she spent the night at my place, which reminded me of the sleepovers we had when we were younger.
As for reading, I’ve been immersed in many, many books. It’s actually sort of ridiculous: I’ve read, according to Goodreads, over a hundred books this year. And while that is kind of awesome, it’s also putting a big damper on my writing. At this time last year, I had written many more words than I have this year. I’m going to try to slow down my reading in English, read more books in Russian, and spend some more time writing. I also have a certification exam to study for, so there’s that to deal with too…
Sometimes I wish I could take a month-long sabbatical from work so I could catch up on other aspects of my life. Like blog writing, writing, violin, and this certification exam that is hanging over my head. Unfortunately, I don’t think everyone at work would approve of my idea, so I’ll just have to keep trying to stuff everything in and hope that I manage.
There is one way to forcibly stuff writing in, now that I think about it: NaNoWriMo. Remember how I participated back in 2013? (When I was in grad school! I must have been crazy! A part of me still can’t believe I did that.) Well, my writing schedule has aligned (through luck, not through my own doing) so that in theory, I could do NaNo this year. Whether I want to put myself through the punishing schedule that NaNo entails, I am not sure… I will have to think about it further as I outline my next writing project.
Happy October, everyone! It’s finally started to cool off where I live—thank goodness—now that October is here. And a new month means it’s time for a writing report. I’m happy to say that September was a pretty good month for me, writing-wise. I wrote a total of 22,885 words, which is an average of 763 a day. That’s actually my best average this year! I took eleven days off from writing, which is pretty good since that means I had some pretty good word counts on the the days I wrote. (My highest was 3,357, in case you’re wondering.)
I also started working on a new short story at the end of the month (it’s in progress right now and I hope to finish it later this week) that I’m really excited about. I brainstormed the scenes in a different way than I usually do and I feel like it’s a stronger piece already. I plan to submit it to magazines, so if it gets published, I’ll announce it on the blog.
Who’s ready for a busy month of writing in October?! It’s the month before NaNoWriMo, which means if you’re participating, it’s probably time to start outlining…
Recently I’ve had the strange urge to play music by Vivaldi. I have played his music in the past, but recently I really have wanted to play the pieces that make up The Four Seasons. I’ve featured Vivaldi’s music on my Wednesday Music posts before (Summer!) and since there was a recent change of the seasons (hello, fall), today’s piece is Autumn, or L’autunno in Italian. It’s more properly known as Concerto No. 3 in F major, Op. 8, RV 293. Here’s a bit about the piece.
As you probably have guessed, Autumn is one of four pieces meant to evoke the four seasons of the year.
All four of the pieces have poetry to go with them. Vivaldi also included random little instructions. The one for Autumn is in the second movement and says, “the drunkards have fallen asleep.”
This piece is actually a violin concerto, as there is a solo violin part. See why I’m so keen on learning to play it?
I want to thank the person (people?) who shared my post about language learning that I wrote last week. From what I can tell, it’s been shared on Facebook (on Sunday, I think), which resulted in quite a few visits to said post and this blog in general. Seriously, I really appreciate it when my readers share things on this blog. Unfortunately, I can’t tell every single time someone shares something—it doesn’t usually produce the huge spike in traffic I recently had. But no matter how many (or how few) people visit the blog as a result of something shared on social media, I do appreciate it.
Thank you! / Спасибо! / Дякую! / Хвала! (I think that covers all the Slavic languages I’ve studied at some point in time!)