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November 4, 2008

History in the Making - Signed Sealed & Delivered

Such an exciting evening! I wish I were in Grant Park celebrating this history-making event. After that acceptance speech, my heart is full of optimism I haven't felt in a long time.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:22 PM

November 8, 2008

"Terra Aria" by Giovanni Sollima

My thanks to Cynthia for e-mailing me about the music of Giovanni Sollima -- the Sicilian cellist -- and his piece, Terra Aria. She had read enough of my blog entries about my musical preferences to know that I would probably like his work - and she was right. Here is Terra Aria played as part of an interview with Dutch radio. I find the music hypnotic, soothing, mysterious, and energizing all at once. I'm not a huge fan of minimalist music in general - but this piece is in its own class. I look forward to learning more about his work. Be sure to listen to the entire interview with him - it's quite fascinating. Although he says he is connected to minimalist music, he sees his work much more broadly -- connected to ritual, influenced by the Spanish, the Incas -- and even the songs that the Sicilian fishermen sing all night long.

Here is a link to Sollima's official website.

Posted by hgroteva at 10:10 PM

November 16, 2008

Greetings from Lisbon

Lisbon skyline.jpg

I just arrived in Lisbon ... What a pleasure to arrive on a sunny, temperate (60s) day - after dealing with fog and rain in MA, rain and cold at the Detroit airport, and rain and yuck in Amsterdam. Here is a view out the window of my hotel room - I like it just because of the vivid blue sky.

I found a small store to buy some water, and the clerk knew as much English as I knew Portuguese. But we connected immediately. He said, "Americano?" I said yes. He said "Obama" with a huge smile == and I returned his smile and said how happy I was. We communicated perfectly!

Posted by hgroteva at 11:33 AM

November 17, 2008

Exploring Lisbon

I took a few hours to explore Lisbon today. I always find that getting oriented in a new city outside the U.S. is an energizing mix of excitement and coping with the unknown - especially when an unfamiliar language is involved. I took the metro (subway) toward the downtown area. The metro was bright and clean, and the trains ran frequently. I went to the Alfama district, which is the old town. Buildings are centuries old, streets are extremely narrow and hilly, and it's easy to get lost in all the twisting and turning.

I started a new novel just before this trip: Night Train to Lisbon by Pascal Mercier. It was originally published in German in 2004 and was just translated into English this year. It's about a midlife humanities teacher in Bern who chucks it all and goes to Lisbon in search of something ... he's not sure what ... but obviously in search of himself. I'm about halfway through and enjoying it. It's not a quick/easy read - the text almost demands that you take it slowly in order to absorb its beauty. There are highly contrasting reviews of it on amazon.com. In any case, I've found it engaging to read while I'm traveling here.

Most of the TV stations in my hotel room are in languages other than English, with the exception of CNN Europe. They have been running ads for other places which are trying to encourage investment and/or tourism. Just today, there have been spots for Dubai, Montenegro, Poland, and Al Zorah, that amazing development in the United Arab Emirates, next to Dubai. I wish US TV had more programs in other languages and featuring information about places beyond.

I'll post a few more pictures after I get home - the internet connection here in the hotel is too slow. I hope I can steal away a few hours tomorrow before the conference starts. I'd really like to hear some Fado music, but the Fado bars are in an area that Frommer's clearly says is unsafe after dark. Hmmm

Posted by hgroteva at 11:40 AM

November 18, 2008

Becoming Familiar with "The Other"

interconnected world.jpg

In my brief TV watching here in Portugal, there have been advertisements or features on Bahrain, Qatar, Cypress, Turkey, Dubai, Montenegro, Al Zorah, Poland, India, Greece, and Armenia (at least!). And the TV channels are in Portuguese, German, French, Spanish, and a few languages I couldn't identify with certainty. Some of the English language channels (like MTV) are subtitled in German. I can't help but think that the daily experience of hearing about these countries and hearing other languages spoken would be good for the U.S. and reduce the country's insularity. Obama is the big news here everywhere, and people seem very receptive to what lies ahead. The world is totally interconnected, and the U.S. needs to be more in tune with that.

Posted by hgroteva at 11:36 AM

November 20, 2008

Plastic Logic e-Reader

CNN carried this story about the Plastic Logic e-Reader, an "erasable" piece of plastic that will hold things (like newspapers) that otherwise would be leading to the decimation of more forests. It looks quite intriguing. They are being manufactured at a plant in Dresden Germany. The CNN spot omits a lot of details, but it's got me intrigued. I've also been following the Amazon Kindle with great interest, but not enough to get one yet.

Here is a review which compares the two devices and sets up the competition between them. It will be exciting to follow this unfolding story. I think the Plastic Logic will be more compatible for me, but we'll see. I would anticipate downloading my own documents onto the device rather than buying novels online to read on the Kindle.

Posted by hgroteva at 5:26 PM

November 22, 2008

Scenes from Lisbon




Lisbon Night1.jpg

Lisbon garden1.jpg

Lisbon garden2.jpg

The night shot was taken from the Castelo de Sao Jorge (St. George's Castle), after the conference dinner. The last two pictures were taken in the beautiful gardens of the Museum of the Gulbenkian Foundation, where the conference was held.

Posted by hgroteva at 7:55 PM

November 23, 2008

from "This I Believe - Singing: The Key to a Long Life"

I heard this affirming testimonial on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday this morning - in the series, "This I Believe." In this piece, Brian Eno talks about his belief that singing together has innumerable benefits, which I'll let you read / hear about yourself.

Here is a link to the program, which will have the audio after noon today.

Following is the text, taken from the NPR website - with sincere thanks!

" I believe in singing. I believe in singing together.

"A few years ago a friend and I realized that we both loved singing but didn't do much of it. So we started a weekly a capella group with just four members. After a year we started inviting other people to join. We didn't insist on musical experience — in fact some of our members had never sung before. Now the group has ballooned to around 15 or 20 people.

"I believe that singing is the key to long life, a good figure, a stable temperament, increased intelligence, new friends, super self-confidence, heightened sexual attractiveness and a better sense of humor. A recent long-term study conducted in Scandinavia sought to discover which activities related to a healthy and happy later life. Three stood out: camping, dancing and singing.

"Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don't for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness. And then there are what I would call "civilizational benefits." When you sing with a group of people, you learn how to subsume yourself into a group consciousness because a capella singing is all about the immersion of the self into the community. That's one of the great feelings — to stop being me for a little while and to become us. That way lies empathy, the great social virtue.

"Well here's what we do in an evening: We get some drinks, some snacks, some sheets of lyrics and a strict starting time. We warm up a bit first.

"The critical thing turns out to be the choice of songs. The songs that seem to work best are those based around the basic chords of blues and rock and country music. You want songs that are word-rich, but also vowel-rich because it's on the long vowels sounds of a song such as "Bring It On Home To Me" ("You know I'll alwaaaaays be your slaaaaave"), that's where your harmonies really express themselves. And when you get a lot of people singing harmony on a long note like that, it's beautiful.

"But singing isn't only about harmonizing pitch like that. It has two other dimensions. The first one is rhythm. It's thrilling when you get the rhythm of something right and you all do a complicated rhythm together: "Oh, when them cotton balls get a-rotten, you can't pick very much cotton." So when 16 or 20 people get that dead right together at a fast tempo that's very impressive. But the other thing that you have to harmonize besides pitch and rhythm is tone. To be able to hit exactly the same vowel sound at a number of different pitches seems unsurprising in concept, but is beautiful when it happens.

"So I believe in singing to such an extent that if I were asked to redesign the British educational system, I would start by insisting that group singing become a central part of the daily routine. I believe it builds character and, more than anything else, encourages a taste for co-operation with others. This seems to be about the most important thing a school could do for you."

New Year's Resolution: Find a new choral group to join. I'm missing it a lot!

Posted by hgroteva at 9:52 AM

November 30, 2008

Music and Technology - NPR series

During November, NPR's Weekend Edition has had a fascinating series on music and technology. Today's program featured two kinds of software that permit at-a-distance musical collaboation: e-jamming, which allows for playing together in real time, and Indaba Music, which facilitates asynchronous collaboration among musicians across the planet. Fascinating stuff. Here is a link to the series. Enjoy!

Posted by hgroteva at 10:01 AM