Sunday, September 24, 2006


Peter and the Wolf

Last night, I took Z and his friend to see the Arctic Chamber Orchestra perform Prokofiev's children's classic, "Peter and the Wolf". I first remember seeing/hearing this when I was in the second grade [sorry PFS, no personal pic from that era is ever going to surface]. Our entire school was bussed across town to the Louisiana State University campus where we were treated to this wonderful piece, probably played by a University orchestra. The hall was like a large school lunchroom with a low ceiling (and lousy acoustics), folding chairs and a portable stage. But what a way to introduce the classical instruments! The next day, I remember my teacher, Miss Sonji, showed pictures and playing recordings of the principal instruments from that piece. I also remember someone coming to the classroom to demonstrate the French Horn. I was really taken by all the music. My parents bought me an LP of that concert and I still have it in a box (somewhere).

[I've got hundreds of LPs from the early 1950s on. What am I going to to with them all? I inherited most of my parents' collection several years ago, which I boxed and stored away. And just this week, I finally put away my large, eclectic vinyl collection to make room for our new guinea pig ("Floyd", and his eyes aren't really red). Imagine, a whole era of rock music - starting with my first purchase, Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow in 1966, all the way through the late 1980s, when I finally - belatedly - switched to CDs, all displaced by a guinea pig!]

It was that French Horn that got me into Jr. High School Band. In 7th grade I took a music appreciation class (it was that or art), and in the first week, while listening to the Grand Canyon Suite, I was the only one who could identify the French Horn. The teacher told me I had a musical ear (based on that!) and asked me which instrument I wanted to play. I said: "the cello". He laughed and said: "Son, this is Louisiana. Our high school music program exists for one purpose only... to backup the football team. We are a marching band, and strings don't march. Try the clarinet." And I did, for one year... but that's another story.

The performance last night attracted quite a few families with young children - predominantly preschool and early elementary, although there were quite a few kids all the way through HS. The Prokofiev piece was clearly a hit with everyone. After a short intermission, the orchestra played Beethoven's Eroica symphony. This was a curious choice, since it clearly went way over the heads of most of the younger members of the audience, and the subsequent squirming and restlessness caused many families to slip out before the end of the second movement. Which is too bad, since I suspect much of the audience only recognized this piece at the start of the third movement. Z and his friend admitted that they really enjoyed Peter and the Wolf and they both highlighted the third movement of the Eroica.

But within minutes of leaving the concert, their discussion turned to the latest on-line quest/adventure game "Guild Wars" that they've been playing for the last few months. It's really cool that they can do the same thing together while sitting on their respective computers at home 25 miles apart. They can see and talk to one another's avatars and face the same perils and challenges together. In fact when they do visit each other in the real world, they usually bring along their laptops and log-in to play the same game on their own computers; except that they are now sitting side by side and can share more verbal commentary.

I can remember a lengthy discussion on CompuServe's bulletin board back in 1984 [when it cost me $18 in access fees and long-distance charges for one hour online] about the "impossibility" of ever transmitting a picture over the telephone - it would just take up too much bandwidth. Instead we downloaded alphanumeric "drawings". Twenty years later, people can simultaneously "experience" intensely realistic graphical worlds wirelessly!

We have so few opportunities in this area to experience live classical music, and sadly, few people take advantage of it when someone does come to town. I am glad so many did show up last night. Hopefully a few young minds were infected, even if Z and his friend do remain at best casual observers.

My husband and I both play an online game very similar to Guild Wars, called World of Warcraft. It's addicting, but because of all the human interaction it's a lot less isolating than your average video game I would say.
what a cute guinea pig! I've never seen a gray one before
I've not been able to focus the time and energy needed to play any of these types of games. It may be that I'm afraid I will become addicted to the detriment of everything else, including, now, my cello.

Guinea pigs are so cute, aren't they? We especially liked the gray one since he matches our cat. It's the first gray one I'd ever seen.
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