As occasionally happens with these posts, I’ve fallen a little behind and adding these after the fact. My posting (and all productivity, for that matter) went out the window when I either ate something bad or caught a stomach bug that gave me stomach cramps for most of my Friday. I pushed myself to finish my essential work, but it admittedly wasn’t my best quality work. It was one of those frustrating situations where it didn’t matter if I was sitting or lying down; the cramps would not go away. So that was my exciting Friday.
After many months of no live concerts and no Hollywood Bowl season last year, I was finally back for in-person performance. The program was as follows.
- CATELLANOS: Santa Cruz de Pacairigua
- RACHMANINOFF: Piano Concerto No. 2
- TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 2, “Little Russian”
I wanted to write something a little more at length about the actual music, but due to commitments and not enough planning ahead, I will instead only write about the experience of being back at the Hollywood Bowl. Saying that words cannot describe how I felt is a little cliche, and frankly, it’s an easy way out.
To say it was a mixture of emotions is an understatement. For weeks leading up to the concert, I grew more and more excited about finally being able to attend an in-person event after what felt like an eternity. On the day before, however, my excitement was tempered by nervousness and a growing fear of the once again increasing COVID-19 cases. Entering the Hollywood Bowl felt I felt an enormous sense of relief. We had made it through the worst of the pandemic, and we were back. I had so much fear about the uncertainty of the pandemic. So much in fact that I can’t bring myself to write the scenarios that haunted my thoughts.
It was wonderful to be back, even though it did feel a little different. I enjoyed my food and wine but was rushing to get my mask on once I was finished eating to be as safe as possible even though I’m fully vaccinated. Once the music started, I felt the usual sense of peace where I lose myself in the music and forget about everything else in the world. It was good to be back.
There has been a lot of news about Japan because of the Olympics, and I’ve been enjoying every minute of it. It’s a nation and culture that I’ve always been curious about and became fascinated with it after the great 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It’s one of the worst catastrophes I’ve ever seen, and any ensuing chaos would be completely understandable. To the world’s surprise, there was order in how people behaved with no violence or looting. It was remarkable and admirable.
Years later, when I visited Japan for the first time, I experienced this unique culture first hand. I will never forget waiting outside Tokyo Central Station with all my luggage as I waited for a car to drive me to my hotel. A cold wind was blowing, and the map of Tokyo’s train routes flew out of my hand and landed about 100 feet away. I wanted to retrieve it, but I hesitated for a moment because I had all this luggage with me. Two station employees rushed to get the paper and returned it to me. For a moment, I wondered if they rushed to help me or to clear the eyesore that was my tumbling map in this impeccably clean city.
After traveling there and continuing to learn more about it, I sometimes find myself wishing I could be Japanese. The flip side to all of this is that it is a very insular and very defined culture. I mean with the most neutral of intentions because I see how this is perhaps the key to the strength of the Japanese, but as an outsider, I also see it as tragic for people like me. I know that no matter how fluent you become or how many years you live there, a person will never be “Japanese.” I’ve read about how difficult it can be for a foreigner to even rent an apartment on their own.
Perhaps being condemned to forever be an outsider is why I love Japan. I can explore the nation and experience the culture always as a third party. There are many lessons to learn from Japan and its culture, but I have the freedom to not be judged by all the rules because (as an outsider) I am forgiven for not knowing all the social rules.
People have been visiting space for several decades now, but the visits to space these last couple of weeks by private citizens is a remarkable breakthrough. We’re at the very beginning of commercial traveling to space. Still, I believe that space travel will accelerate at a pace never imagined because of competition among private enterprises. I’m jealous of the future generations for whom space travel will be something they take for granted. I cannot imagine what it must be like seeing our world as the beautiful blue sphere that it is. I wonder if in my lifetime we’ll see tourism to the Moon or even Mars.
Will we ever, as a species, be able to travel to another star? The closest one, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away. Using current technology, it would take 6,300 years to reach this star. 6,300 years ago humans were emerging from the Stone Age and starting working with metal. Many civilizations rose and fell during the time it would take a modern human to reach the nearest star besides the sun. As much as I like to imagine being able to travel to around the galaxy, explore new worlds, and see the supermassive blackhole at the center of the galaxy, I reazlie it is an imposibility given the unimaginably long distances and the countless number of stars in our galaxy alone.
I imagine that the explorers of the future that will be residing amongs many stars beyond our own will inevitably be a new inorganic “life” of our creation. We see the seeds of this in the Voyagers that are only now traveling past the boundaries of our solar system.
I watched a video today about an overnight ferry from Osaka to Kagoshima in Kyushu, and I wish I could go and sit by a window and watch the landmasses slowly go by. If I weren’t so close to my family and attached to my hometown, I would probably pack my bags, head to Japan, and spend the rest of my life exploring this beautiful island nation. As the next best thing, I would love to plan a month-long trip sometime in my lifetime and explore this country aboard its excellent trains starting from the far north and make my way down all the way to the south. The video left me daydreaming, but really I should be doing some research on the logistics of at least the ferry component to this dream trip of mine.
I used to run here most daily several years ago. 🙂
Things don’t always go as planned. That is something that is a lesson that life insists on teaching every one of us. And so, there is no Wagner post for today because I let my emotions get the best of me. I know I wrote about emotion a few posts ago, but it is always far more challenging to put into practice than talking or writing about it. I, in particular, need to do a better job of it because I’m the type of person that will ruminate over every excruciating detail of a previous situation that got an emotional reaction out of me. To clarify, when I speak of emotions or the emotional, I am referring to the whole range of sentiments and not sobbing or the crying that is often synonymous with “emotional.” I walked for nearly four miles and then took a long drive to clear my head and think about my career, health, and the people closest to me.
I should have enough time tomorrow to complete my post on the wonderful documentary about a staging of one of Wagner’s operas in New York.
I polished off the rest of the bottle I started yesterday of a 2018 Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay. I was tempted to postpone today’s post to tomorrow because I enjoyed this wonderful wine while watching Wagner’s Dream, a documentary on the Ring cycle production at the Metropolitan Opera. I wanted to write about this documentary but then decided that it was best to save this post for the following day as I always have a lot to say about Wagner. So let me continue telling you about my companion during this documentary.
This chardonnay from Napa Valley has a wonderful creamy taste to it (almost buttery) and is accompanied by hints of delicate fruit flavors like peach and apple. I was surprised by the relative lack of oaky flavor which I’ve found typical of American chardonnays. In my research of this wine, I discovered that this wine is mostly fermented in French oak barrels, which explains the lessened oak taste. French oak is less porous than American oak and therefore will impart less of its flavor into the wine. The vineyards for Beringer’s chardonnay are in southern Napa Valley where a longer maturation period is possible thanks to the cooling fog that rolls northward during most afternoons during the growing season. According to their website, this 2018 vintage enjoyed a “near-perfect season” with abundant February rains and drying sun that resulted in even flowering and bud break.
I was very pleased with this wine and will probably purchase it again for one of the upcoming Hollywood Bowl concerts this summer.
Today’s weekly broadcast of past performances at the Hollywood Bowl focused on music “American and the Americas.” I like the idea of showcasing music from all of the Americas, but today’s presentation was not my cup of tea. They started with Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait. The sentiment behind this is noble, but I’m not a fan of using music as a soundtrack to the spoken word–even in Vin Scully was speaking the words like he was today. Then the program presented an orchestral flamenco dance by a Venezuelan composer, and it was followed by the music of Carlos Vives and Café Tacuba. The last two are popular music that can be fun to listen to, but it always seems less than genuine when they pair it with an orchestra. The conductor talks about how excited they are about the musical collaboration between the two, but to me, it all sounds like a thinly veiled pandering to the lowest common denominator.
With that said, I am eagerly awaiting my return to in-person concerts next week. I considered not opening the bottle of Chardonnay I planned for the televised program tonight and instead save it for the concert next week, but I ended up opening. It is an exquisite chardonnay, but nothing fancy, and I will write more about it tomorrow. For next week’s concert, I will be taking a bottle of wine I have been saving for nearly eight years, waiting for a special occasion. I believe returning to in-person concerts after the pandemic shutdown counts as a special occasion.