Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Composer Highlight: Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944)

For the past hour or so, I have been listening to a fantastic choral piece that just has me listening to it over and over again. It is Salvation is Created by Pavel Chesnokov, Tschesnokoff, or Tchesnokov (whichever makes most sense), or for those of you that are studied up on your Russian, it is Спасение Соделал by Павел Григорьевич Чесноков. This is one of my favorite pieces ever by a fantastic composer, so I decided that I would blog about him and in the future about any other composers that I was interested in.

Pavel Chesnokov was born just outside of Moscow on October 24, 1877. He was very musically talented and spent nine years studying solfege alone! This amazes me so much. For anyone that doesn't know what solfege is, it is a system of singing designed to teach notes, rhythms and singing. Also known as sight singing. Everyone, well, almost everyone at one point in there life has seen the part of the Sound of Music where they sing "Doe, a deer, a female deer; ray, a drop of golden sun..." Those first words are solfege, representing a specific note in a diatonic collection, but spelled differently. So, a major scale would be {do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do}. In Russian, just slightly different. The ti is a si {до, ре, ми, фа, соль, ла, си, до}. Anyway, I'm amazed that he studied it for nine years. I am a music major and I barely have four semesters of solfege under my belt. It is very difficult stuff.

On top of studying solfege, he has seven years of training on violin and piano. Also, his composition training includes four years of harmony, counterpoint and form. What??!!! Four years of each. No one studies these this intently anymore. These are three areas that I feel are being blown off in the composition world, as well as some other things. New composers get so excited about creating their own stuff, that they don't learn the essentials and basics. Most all great composers have a very strong foundation in harmony, counterpoint and form. Especially counterpoint.

Most of the music that we have from Pavel Chesnokov is sacred, liturgical music. My favorite piece, as mentioned earlier, is the piece that he is best known for, Salvation is Created. It is simple, yet profound and powerful.

Спасение соделал еси, посреде земли, Боже. Аллилуия!

(Salvation is created, in the midst of the earth, O God. Alleluia!)

Take a listen to it here. I hope you like it as much as I do.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Architectural Spectrum

I am fascinated by architecture. Were I not studying music, I would probably study architecture (both kind of dead end subjects as far as careers go, but they are fun). Anyway, I saw some pretty awesome buildings while in Korea and Japan. There are literally two worlds of architecture in these countries: modern and traditional. Here are a few examples of some interesting things I saw in Korea.

Here, we have a very traditional building. It has the classic Asian, tiled rooftops. It is amazing how these magnificent structures were built so long ago.

Then, as you travel down the street a little bit, you find this rising up out of nowhere.

Then, when those two worlds are combined you get this.

This is seen everywhere in Asia, where there are many traditional buildings among the modern. The places where these traditional structures stand were usually places of great importance or where the heart of the city was located. The Asian people take a lot of pride in these buildings and structures and are putting out tons and tons of money to have them preserved. If I remember correctly, this area is currently being restored. Most of it was destroyed in war. 

Now, time for the winner of my favorite building in Korea (there's another in Japan that I think is a lot cooler, but this one wins architecturally). Most buildings that are put up have a lot of glass. My thoughts go out to the poor window washing boy.

(Isn't this just so awesome?)

It's almost like they were building it and didn't realize they weren't quite going straight up, then just decided to correct it by slanting back in the other direction. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what happened. That's my guess.

Now, we turn to Japan. I saved some of my favorite pictures for the specific part. As far as coolness goes, Japan wins by a long shot (sorry to any Korea fans. That's just my opinion). The Japanese are just so hip and modern and cool, yet humble and silent but powerful. They really know how to make things awesome. 

Traditional Japanese architecture is slightly more elegant than traditional Korean architecture. How so? It just feels that way. The Japanese have more attention to detail and use finer materials. For example: Koreans tile their roofs with clay tiles. Japanese will use copper, because they know that in a couple hundred years you get one of the most beautiful shades of green you will ever see.

Isn't this absolutely gorgeous? Now check out this next one. It's built over the water so that it has a cool reflection thing going on. The material used for this one is gold. Yes. This is a gold building. They sure went all out with this one. 

Here is one more unique building. This one houses the Big Buddha. Inside this one is a huge shrine and a gigantic Buddha. You'll hear more about this in a later post.

That's a little look into traditional Japanese architecture. On to the modern stuff. I'm so excited! 

There were cool buildings everywhere and they were even cooler at night when they were all lit up. Exhibit A.

Exhibit B. Not too exciting, but pretty cool in it's own respect.

Exhibit C. This one is cool, because I imagined it as being constructed from the top down. Either that or they built a small middle section and built out from the sides. I like the building from top to bottom idea. It makes the picture more interesting.

And finally, one of my Japan favorites. Exhibit D.

Now that I've bored you to death, here is the moment you have all been waiting for. My favorite building. The architecture is very, very simple. It's just a gigantic box. The reason I liked it so much was because it blended so well with nature. It was so interesting. I just happened to catch it at the perfect moment. Here is what I saw.

I thought that this was pretty amazing. I just love how it blends in with the sky. In the last picture, it's almost like there is no building there at all, or most of it is missing. 

Anyway, I hope that you were able to make it to the end of this post. There wasn't much explanation of the buildings. I just wanted to give you a little glimpse of what I saw and a little of what I thought about it. Even if you didn't read anything, I'm sure you enjoyed the pictures.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

City Life

I have never been to a big city before. Actually, that's a lie. I have been to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Those were pretty big. Especially, Moscow. However, I have never been to a gigantic city; one that houses more than 10 million people. I'll put it that way. I received my official introduction when I travelled to Korea with the BYU Wind Symphony. Our first stop was Seoul. This was quite the introduction to city life. There were gigantic buildings all around me. The streets were crowded with people going every which way. I wasn't able to really soak it all in until we checked into our first hotel of the tour. From my window, I saw this. 

I sat there at my window and just gazed out upon this. Even at night, this city was full alive. There were still cars traveling everywhere, people wandering the streets (not necessarily the kind you would want to meet), and the lights were bright and beaming. There was a lot of energy that was in this city. I could feel it and see it. I was extremely excited to be there and was ready for the next day to come so that maybe, we might get to venture out into the city.

I was blown away by Seoul. I had heard about such cities and their massive sizes, but being there and experiencing it for myself really put into perspective what I had heard all my life. Now, Seoul was absolutely amazing. I loved it there, but I wasn't really prepared for the experience that I was about to have when we finally traveled to Tokyo.

Oh my gosh!!! Tokyo is amazing! Now, whatever energy and excitement that Seoul had, take that and multiply it twenty times. There is so much going on in Tokyo. Being on tour was kind of restricting in that I didn't have as much freedom as I would have liked to run out into the city and check things out for myself. However, I was still able to get a good taste of life in Tokyo.

Tokyo has a population of about 15 million people... ... at night. During the day, there is around 30 million people in the city. At seven in the morning, out on the streets are only men. There may be a few women, but for the most part, only men. In the afternoon, there are pretty much only women out on the streets. By nighttime, around eight or nine, the men dominate the streets again. This is explained by the work hours. Most men work from about seven in the morning until eight, or nine or so at night. The Japanese are very efficient and productive and this is one of the reasons why.

If I were to ever live in a big city, it would definitely be Osaka. Sorry, I'm sure you all were expecting me to say Tokyo, because I've only talked about Seoul and Tokyo. Surprise! 

Osaka is one of the cleanest cities I have ever been in. It is absolutely beautiful there. Being in this city gave me the feeling of safety and comfort. It was so interesting. I only feel that at my home around family and friends.

While in Osaka, we met the mayor, who is one of the coolest guys ever. We had one of the most wonderful performances ever here. It was our final performance of the tour, which you will hear about later. 

This ends my new fascination with big cities. I love the energy, the architecture and tall buildings, and the fact that there is so much to do. I wish that I lived closer to one, but that's okay. Better reason for me to have a road trip or something, right?