It seems we’re having an early spring this year. Often February comes with snowfalls and heavy frosts when temperature drops to -20…-25 degrees. Last year I had to take a break in my running routine because of this. But this February was unusually warm with a lot of sun. Plenty of snow was carried away from the city, so I enjoyed the spring vibes)
I started off the month with Bach. I’m used to having some light music in the background, morning till evening. But I’ve also discovered that I need to listen to Bach at least once a week. My favourites are the Well-Tempered Clavier (mostly Book I) performed by Richter, violin/ piano and Brandenburg concertos and now the Goldberg Variations by Andras Schiff (or have a look at the Aria, the first piece of the variations, below).
This music has a most amazing, smoothing effect on my brain, especially in the times of stress or when I get overloaded by unpleasant and loud music (say, in the streets or at city events). It’s like everything falls into place, peace and harmony after being brought into chaos. But interestingly, as I listen to Bach, I usually can’t do anything else (even though I know the pieces well). There’s so much to follow in the music that it’s impossible to put it in the background. I really don’t understand people who say that classical music is relaxing…
The Well-Tempered Clavier performed by Andras Schiff was another incredible discovery. It sounds so different from Richter’s… Richter’s performance is absolutely cosmic and somehow very abstract. It’s like he was just a conductor of Bach’s genuis on earth. Also, in my recording I can hear birds chirping in the background at times and it always adds the warmth of late spring/ early summer and makes Richter so much alive… I can easily picture him playing next to the window in spring with sunlight glinting in through a large window and the fragrance of flowers from the street. Magical!
Schiff’s interpretation sounds to me more down-to-earth, with more vigour and human feelings. And I have definitely heard many notes, phrasing, pauses and the interplay of voices that I never noticed before. Very interesting!
It’s also unbelievable how Andras Schiff just sits and plays, oblivious to the surroundings and completely in his own world conversing with this great music. To recite all 24 preludes and fugues in one go (that’s almost two hours non stop) is quite an act of memorisation, but by the looks of Schiff it seems just a child’s play as it’s well expressed in this comment by Andrew Wiemken:
“I’ve never found memorization difficult, and any pianist knows that with difficult repertoire it’s automatic and necessary to memorize. But Schiff is ridiculous. I would bet money he could keep going for another 11+ hours with Book II, all 18 of the suites/partitas, French O + Italian C, the Goldbergs, and various smaller works. And this is all hard memorization with complex counterpoint.”
And a reply to this comment – “Every morning he wakes up and plays the whole Goldberg Variations for “Warm-up”” =)
With classical music, I always look for a performance that resonates with me and then listen to it for years. Now I have two different performance of my favourite Bach music and I switch between them depending on my mood.
I also sat to play the piano a couple of times. I went to music school as a child and since then I’ve managed to keep my skills even though I might sit at the piano only once or twice a year. Maybe because I play the same 5-6 pieces and exercises. But I never stop wondering how solid muscle memory is. If you ask me where I should begin a piece, I’ve no idea until I put my hands on the keyboard. It also means that if I make a mistake and misplace my fingers, I’ll have to start from the beginning…
It’s very difficult to break the habit of memorising pieces mechanically, but I’m making baby steps in that direction. I started learning Prelude h-moll from Book I of the WTC in a new, more conscious way. It takes longer (and I haven’t learnt anything for ages), but I feel more in control. I wonder when I’ll be able to play the piece with my current frequence of practice =)
As I was reading the TechSparks channel with IT news, an idea struck me – why not create one by myself? When I write articles for this blog, they come up long. It takes a lot of time, so it’s not so easy to get down to them.
Texts for Telegram, on the other hand, are not the same format. The posts can be more like notes, or short summaries with reference to other resources. Plus there’s a limit on the number of characters – 4096 (I learnt it so well because I’m finding it more and more difficult to write within it..)
Well, I decided to give it a go and first started a channel for fellow teachers with the idea to share interesting finds about language, natural language processing technologies, psychology or EdTech. The first post was written with a lot of enthusiasm and numerous edits =) I found my first readers and it all seemed fun.
Then, thought I, why not create a similar channel for my students? I could share useful resources, learning strategies, techniques or some materials. So I did. And invited more people. I even “bought” some subscribers because I so wanted to get some feedback.
Feedback I got not, but it became more interesting to write for 50 people and not for 5. I got the sense of responsibility, and soon the feeling of fun turned into a slight obsession with the channels. I don’t mind it. I came up with many ideas for future posts, took notes of them, wrote the strategy of development of my channels and thought of ways of monetisation.
Afterwards, I, predictably, got tired and had to slow down, but I think my plans will be enough for another month or two. And yes, writing short texts is very good practice, both for my English and for my writing skills.
Books and Movies
Not much here.
I struggled further with The Language Instinct that I started in January. Trying to understand why it’s such a difficult read for me, I checked lots of reviews. I mostly looked up the negative ones because I think they give more information about the book. If it’s said to be too long, or with too much detail, or condescending, or boring, it may be fine for me. But with The Language Instinct I’ve come across things like “presenting a controversial view as undisputed fact”, “the brilliance of the writing conceals misleading accounts of research, elementary ignorance and patent nonsense” and “not really supported by current research”, so I got stuck even further.
Also, it seems that I need to find out more about approaches to language to understand the debate and Pinker’s view better. Well, maybe I’ll get to it later. I don’t like to abandon books halfway.
In the second half of February all my reading “energy” went to the articles I used for my TG posts.
As for the movies, we watched Arcane: League of Legends, an animation series telling the story of “the origins of two iconic League champions-and the power that will tear them apart”. I know little of the game and that universe, but, for me, the series present an interesting case how a child, who suffers a traumatic rejection in early age, develops an irremediable split in her psyche and what comes out of it. Good series, I readily recommend it.
Finally, at the end of February the world, and especially my country, came into another crisis. It may seem that people who write in the public space have to give their opinion on this or take a side, but I won’t.
I can only tell that I have very poor knowledge and understanding of politics, geopolitics, economy, history or military science. I don’t read the news, watch current affairs programs or interviews. So how can I form an opinion without going into that massive amount of information? Also, I know that ordinary people have suffered at the actions and ambitions of political elite throughout the entire history, so sadly history is repeating itself.
I’m staying with what I love and keeps my mind busy – my languages, books, movies, music and other interests, as I’ve done for many years. My energy reserves are still low, barely enough for myself or my immediate zone of responsibility, so I really can’t afford to direct them at trying to make sense of what’s going on in the world.
Hopefully, March will bring something more positive.