24 February 2006

one down, one to go

Eastman is a dream come true. And as far as I can tell, they want me here next year. And they want me to bring the carillon back to life.

I've always been incredibly fortunate, and I keep expecting my luck to run out one day because things just can't get any better or stay as good as they are. That day hasn't come yet.

23 February 2006


Last night I slept twelve hours, having stayed up for twenty-three. My body has no idea what time it is now.

My cell phone is finally working! I had to manually switch to the GSM 1900 band.

I'd forgotten that that those little boxes of cereal in American restaurants are never enough to justify the entire bowl of milk they're served with.

This article is a stub. Much more will be added tonight if I feel it's too sketchy to wander. Now off to B of A to deal with more bank irritations, Eastman for practice and acquaintance with my potential campus, and Rochester for carillonning after two weeks of not having touched the instrument.

21 February 2006

b4 t3h @..=crack of dawn

It doesn't even look like morning yet. Time to finish packing.


The strikingly seafearing form of the Zuiderterras, a contemporary restaurant at the end of an elevated walkway along the Schelde River in Antwerpen, is the work of self-named Belgian architect bOb Van Reeth [who describes his buildings as "reminiscent of what has never existed"]. The restaurant is owned by the same fellow who started up the Grand Café Lamot, my favorite Belgian restaurant within one block of my house. I'm not sure about the designation of the awesome elevated interior balcony as non-smoking seating, since the exhaust pumping from the cigarettes below floats upwards. But the food is fantastic, and the service has to dress in Le-Corbusier-era clothing--by far the best part of the dining experience.

20 February 2006

the other side of procrastination

I mentioned in advance to various people that I was going to be in the States, but as they seemed to have no use for me, I scheduled a brief trip with little free time. And today several people suddenly email me for lunch/dinner organizational meetings. So much for sleep and the field trip to the organ at the Abdij van Leffe in Dinant (yes, you read that right--an organ field trip to a brewery!) the day of my return.

Antwerpen to Mechelen in 8 minutes: Yes, it's possible.

I'm filling out my tax forms way early to make sure UM awards me financial aid this year (the merit aid department hasn't been responding to my inquiries... hmmm). I started two hours ago, and except for one line I don't understand (self-employed health insurance deduction), I'm practically done. A great improvement over my first three years in college, when just looking at the forms had me flummoxed. *helps self to another chocolate*

The Oxford American Thesaurus of Current English (how did Oxford get the last word on American English?) has very few elaborate entries, but for the first time I discovered a lengthy table of terms--under the listing for "beer."

19 February 2006


I've been practicing the organ in Antwerpen about four hours per day and coming home every night almost too exhausted to even make dinner, answer a few urgent emails, collapse into bed, wake up alarmed and do some work, and then collapse again to wake up at 9 am and do it all over again.

Why am I so easily tired out? I've practiced eight hours of organ in a day and not been so affected. Does using my still-emasculated leg really require that much energy? Does the lack of a bike make a major a difference? If I didn't have a ride home every night, I'd probably be passed out in the Mechelen gutter somewhere. Then again, if I had my bike, we might just both be passed out in the Mechelen gutter somewhere.

Monday night: My first Avondmuziek, the equivalent of studio class (informal performances by each student for the other students), but pimped out--on the exquisite classical Metzler organ in De Kathedraal in Antwerpen. The instrument is a joy to play; I just hope I don't fudge up whatever I end up playing. That wouldn't be a good sign for my auditions.

But today the virtuosic and dramatic "Épilogue sur un thème de Frescobaldi pour pédale solo" by Jean Langlais seemed easier than all the rest of my pieces. That must be a good sign, considering that my legs are the weakest link in my performance mechanism. I never imagined last year that the piece would require so much less effort now. One bit of advice from Joris transformed the Bach Fugue in A minor (BWV 542) from notes into music: Don't play it quite so fast--it's dance-like.

18 February 2006


I really do like Leuven. Bruno and I went to STUK, initially to see Champ d'Action's installation of speakers whizzing around on cords (which wasn't really functional), and ended up in a mass of cool technologically-informed exhibits, the least advanced and most memorable of which was "Man OS 1 / extraordinateur," in which a couple of bumbling German dudes perform all OS comamnds... literally.

The vegetarian restaurant we tried so hard to find was closed on weekends (Leuven being a Belgian university city), so we ended up at a Chinese restaurant where the thick lady with a very strong Chinese accent shortened "alstublieft" to "blieft", and then arrived quite late for Philippe's slideshow of his recent travels.

cats sleep in public?

A stray cat was sleeping on the ledge of the garden wall this morning. I thought cats never slept in plain sight in the wild (even the "wilds" of Mechelen).

Those stray cats startle me occasionally. I'll come out of the shower and see large glowing eyes peering directly into my room. I nearly jump out of my towel until I realize it's just another feral feline.

On the schedule today: Hurry to Sint-Laurentiuskerk to practice, then to STUK Kunstcentrum Leuven for installations including a musical one by Champ d'Action, dinner, and a slideshow about western Canada.

17 February 2006

bills, bills, bills

New hospital bills for 866.54 €. I don't have that amount in any of my bank accounts on either continent besides on my credit card . Does the Algemeen Ziekenhuis Sint-Maarten accept Mastercard?

Ironically, although my income has nearly bottomed out, MBNA finally upped my line of credit up to almost $2,500 last year--the maximum line of credit in Belgium. The American habit of spending money before you get it is foreign to the Belgian mindset. Everyone's bowled over when I tell them of people who worked themselves into over $20,000 of credit card debt. Even a graduate student at Yale did it to pay his way through school, although if he hadn't been an idiot Yalie, he would have had the common sense to take out a federal loan rather than use his credit card and then carp about Yale's financial aid policies to Yale Daily News interviewers. (And no, I'm not linking to the YD'N', because I have beef with them. Another story for later.)

On Wednesday, Koen Cosaert asked if my leg had been particularly painful for the past week. "Yes!" I exclaimed in surprise. "Me too," he said intently with the particular glint in his eye that warns that he's gotten an idea. "I think it's the weather."

It's also possible that as I've grown accustomed to using it again, I've returned to usage habits that are still beyond its capabilities. I really don't like the idea of my leg serving unwittingly as a weather vane, especially if detection involves sudden unexpected shocks of pain.

Speaking of spending money you don't have, while the US happily operates on a deficit and refunds more surplus than it can afford, Belgium closed out 2005 with a 0.4% surplus, "an improvement on the 0.1 percent deficit in 2004."

16 February 2006

words vs. notes

Geert: "You have two GCNA News articles due tonight?! I would be stressed out!"
Me: "I don't have music constantly flowing through my head like you, but I have words. The problem is finding time to record them... concisely."

One article down (about my 'Belgium experience'). One to go: Recruiting participants for our education panel coaching sessions.

Invitations to play concerts in Lier, Hasselt, and Ede. And Boudewijn's offer to hook me up with a fellow in France who can organise a French tour for me to what are apparently funny little French carillons. No problemo, French dude, bring 'em on. As long as I get to play bells for a living, I'm happy. Believe me.

Boudewijn is also organizing a three-day carillon bicycle/camping tour in Holland. Man, living in the Low Countries is great! Beiaarden, bikes, and beer--who could ask for anything more?

15 February 2006

Kavkazskiye Eskizi

One of the pieces I liked best playing in my middle school orchestra was "March of the Sardar" from Caucasion Sketches (Kavkazskiye Eskizi) by Mikhail Ippolitov-Ivanov. Whenever I say "Sardar", I can't help but remember clarinetist Eric Hendler saying "Sar-ah-DUR DUR DUR DUR DUR" in his (very un-PC) imitation of a retard.

I'm going to arrange the march for carillon. Interestingly, when I searched for it in my iTunes library by typing "ippo", two other pieces appeared in the search results, includ Hans Zimmer's "Following Tzipporah" from The Prince of Egypt soundtrack. (Great movie.) And to my astonishment, Zimmer's melody is almost identical to the folk-like tune of the woodwinds in the march.

14 February 2006


Elvo: "I believe in you. But I don't believe in you waking up for a 9 am haircut."

Me: Unable to deny it, but... *wheels in my head start turning*

Reluctantly accustomed, I woke up ruefully at 8 am without my alarm, having decided the night before that it was more important to be well rested for my looming auditions than to have a good attendance record in Dutch class. So off to kreatos I went for the shortest haircut I'd ever had...in duration. Unfortunately, I estimated the metric equivalent of 3 inches incorrectly and ended up with an itty bitty 5 cm snip. I would have said something, but I assumed the hairdresser was in the early stages of the cut and was going to chop off a lot more while layering! So sue me. At my Chinese salon in San Fran, my $12 heavily layered haircuts take 45 minutes.

Like most non-Chinese salons, this one got me with extra charges I didn't expect--brushing and drying doubled the price to a whopping 42 €. But considering how infrequently I find time to get a haircut, I suppose it all adds up to the same price. Or so I keeping telling myself.

This morning my Yahoo! mail inbox held precisely 1000 unread messages.

Fijne Valentijnsdag!

13 February 2006


My first scheduled concert: August 13 at 2 pm on the City Carillon of Brussels! Which is actually the carillon at which I had to cancel my BAEF concert when I was run over a week beforehand. I wouldn't have associated the two events if Koen Cosaert had not commented that he'd had bad luck with the church. He broke his leg the day after the concert, and when he returned to perform during "Klara in het Paleis", he also had bad luck, although the incident now slips my memory. As for playing on the 13th, I'm sure nothing bad will happen--knock on wood. I'm not superstitious, after all.

My first Valentine's day card arrived today--from Kim! Gals take care of each other. Common school, common obscure musical instrument, common bone-breaking accidents in Mechelen, common favorite city, common passion for chocolate, common ability to send cards at just the right time, common ex. We were clearly meant to be friends.

I haven't practiced Clérambault's Suite du deuxième ton much since returning to the organ, knowing that Joris would spin my conception of the pieces by 180°. After all, I've never played this kind of music. And tonight, at my first lesson since the accident, he did not fail me. I have to completely relearn the suite; what the music is supposed to sound like hardly corresponds to what is written on the paper. I just hope the changes he suggests for the Mendelssohn and Hindemith (which I sort of have yet to learn) Sonatas. Nos. 2 aren't quite as earth-shattering. While the joy of revelation is great, it could all get a bit confusing at auditions.

Tonight I discovered an effective way to make my own wakame soup. I also returned my appearance somewhat further to its former state. Further details to come.

12 February 2006

harmonia nascentis mundi

Copies of Kircher's fanciful 1650 treatise Musurgia Universalis are held at the Beinecke Library at Yale and... the Royal Carillon School's library. Organists may particularly enjoy 'The Harmony of the Birth of the World', illustrated by an organ with six registers for each day of the creation. I just found that Stanford has an Athanasius Kircher Image Gallery--endless hours of browsing for the incunabula music fiend.

Belgians claiming that the Nederlandse Beiaardschool doesn't award master's degrees at all or that if they do, they are not internationally recognized, Dutchmen claiming the opposite; I might as well just go and see afterwards whether the diploma I've earned is the equivalent of anything or not. Incidentally, here is an interesting work of art from the HKU website. Not that I agree with the message, as Wagner sounds damn good to me.

10 February 2006

carillonista seeking summer concerts

If you know any carillonneurs running summer concert series who need performers, please let me know! Because obviously, dear reader, you would.

Find of the day: The annual Beiaard & Boekenmarkt in Leuven.

Thank goodness this California scandal wasn't responsible for the deactivation of my bank card a two weeks ago.

Delightful, if belated, discovery of the day: Brussels and a bunch of other European cities have their own Craigslists (a California invention)!

09 February 2006

i can flyyy!!!

The best I could do was a fourteen-hour flight ("logically" connecting in Chicago... at least then I can say I've stopped by the windy city, although I sadly won't have time to see Professor Vincent Scully's favorite skyscrapers) from Brussels to Rochester on Wednesday the 22nd. After a day of "sightseeing" in the economically declining city and my audition on Friday the 24th, I'll hop on a painfully long nine-hour train ride to New Haven (hellooo Amtrak Guest Rewards points!), where I'll crash at Matt's apartment above the Chinese grocery I used to frequent and use my keys (currently in safekeeping with YSECS) and spelunking skillz to practice my a$$ off in the basement of Woolsey Hall for my ISM audition, for which I am woefully unprepared but for which the Institute is most generously willing to reimburse me $300. I had no idea when the ISM director accepted my request to be omitted from the pre-screening recording requirement that he was agreeing to a reimbursement deal. Mother Yale continues to be good to me. I'm just afraid that I won't be up to task, especially since I'll be playing the organ of the United Church on the Green rather than on my home turf in Battell Chapel. To which, I am reminded, I should also get my keys from YSECS.

Speaking of Woolsey Hall, regular access to the Newberry Memorial Organ, a four-manual Skinner and one of the greatest organs in the country, is reason enough for any organist, seasoned or aspiring, to give her right little toe to be at the ISM.

Newberry Memorial Organ
Of course, having bought the ticket, I now don't have enough money to pay my Conservatorium tuition, which means still no lessons before my audition. Maybe the judges will be impressed at the level I've gained by myself. Errr... maybe not. Finances. Woe is me. Just consumed the penultimate American Godiva chocolate from DaveTek to console self.

Sint-Laurentiuskerk AntwerpenBut today I finally found salvation from organlessness. OLV-o/d-Dijle kerk is only open from 1.30 to 4.30, and usually some practice time goes to Inge, or very occasionally, to the big boss himself, Wannes (who ironically has now returned to teaching at the Conservatorium, where I am not learning). Into the picture comes Sint-Laurentiuskerk in Antwerpen. A couple blocks away from the Conservatorium (where I still somehow have a student mailbox), the Byzantine complex stands in magnificence and slight decay, unostentatious redbrick on the outside and Romanesque/Egyptian elements on the inside. Theoretically, Conservatorium students can practice there 24/7. In reality, it gets very creepy and even more cold in the evening. By the time I took my leave, having lost the better one of my two working pencils, the light was just dying. I no longer felt cold, perhaps because the heater had been working, more likely because my senses had stopped registering temperature. But I had warm hugs, a warm car, and warm dinner to come home to. So I'm not complaining. :)

The more I browse the internet, the more I realize that Eastman, unlike Yale, has great organ connections with the Low Countries. My teacher Joris Verdin played a concert there in December, and Eastman professor Hans Davidsson will be featered next summer on the concert calendar of De Kathedraal in Antwerpen. Speaking of which, info and photos for the glorious Metzler organ that I got to play once there... and hopefully will soon play again.

08 February 2006

little city, lots to see

Check out the newsletters of the restauratie integratie mechelen for fascinating articles about historical buildings and restoration plans. Or browse through the Beeldbank Mechelen for gorgeous black and white photos of the city. And keep up with all that's going on in Mechelen Blogt. All this history and culture for a city of 80,000 people. No, of course I'm not jealous.

Beeldbank photo of Toon Lauwers, tower keeper (my career predecessor!) of Sint-Romboutstoren, at the automatic carillon play. Lauwers created the homage plaque to Jef Denyn in 1931 that I just cataloged today for the KBS museum.

Beeldbank searches on beiaard and Jef Denyn turn up exciting results (at least for carillonneurs), and a search on Adegem turns up pictures of the grand gate in the city wall that used to stand at the end of my street. It's impossible to avoid history here; you have no choice but to live in it.

And yet I pay only fifteen euros more per month to live in my room with private bathroom than an old lady in Brussels who was forced to live in a cellar without electricity, warm water, and sanitation for five years. Admittedly, if she had perished, I would have put her in the running for a Darwin Award.


I still haven't found a church that offers compline, the twenty incense- and candlelight-filled minutes of pure vocal music every Sunday night that kept me sane last year, so I'm looking forward to getting my compline fix after my ISM audition.
However, the Church of the Dominicans in Brussels offers organ meditation every Sunday night. And I love the wry use of manuscript illuminations on the music web pages. I could spend a lifetime just looking through illuminated manuscripts. Which reminds me, I need to contact the Beinecke really soon if I want to borrow their books for the exhibit in June. Crikey.

07 February 2006

lost opportunity

I've spent the past few hours trying to scheme up ways to avoid a thirteen-hour flight to Rochester, New York for my organ audition at the Eastman School of Music. Almost by chance, I struck gold in the depths of live from the third rail, an interesting mass transit blog: The Rochester/Toronto high-speed ferry.
Which ceased service on January 10, less than three months after its launch. Sad for Rochester, sadder for me. Or as my textbook claims the Dutch-speaking people of the world say, "Jammer."

Then again, I feel like a wimp in comparison to Steve Fossett, whose last nonstop solo flight around the world took 67 hours.

06 February 2006

getting closer!

Photo by Eugenia MokI thought I was going to faint from suspense when Alice came running up to me as I was opening the garage door and handed me a letter from the Institute of International Education. As usual, when I get letters I want to read straightaway, I instead take my time settling in and taking care of things I might forget afterwards. And I've probably forgotten everything now: The letter informed me that I'm a semifinalist for the Fulbright to study in the Netherlands! Dordrecht, watch out... Next year I might just be taking you by [a] storm [of bells].

the good, the bad, the exorbitant

Good news: Exceptional amount of sunshine and hardly any rain in January--in Belgium!

Bad news: James Hansen's (NASA) annual global temperature analysis showed that 2005 was the hottest year since records started being kept in the late 1800s. Also worrisome: NASA doesn't want him talking freely about global warming.

Bad news: Brussels is the twenty-first most expensive city in the world to live in.

Good news: New York is cheaper than Brussels.

In other news, Belgian soccer is manipulated by the Chinese mafia! Witnesses fear for their lives. Also, Belgians apparently don't mind mind being photographed en masse dressed in nothing but chocolate.