Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Weekly Interlude 27: A Lack of Photos, an Abundance of Books

I must confess: I did not take any photos this week.

"Picture of the Day" advertisement
Normally, I take pictures to help me remember everything I do during the week, the same way I write lists and journal entries to recount all the details my (clearly ancient) mind can never seem to retain. But this week...no pictures. Which in and of itself reminds me what I've been doing all week: reading and writing.

In memory of Leonard Bernstein
I wrote some recital program notes for my former voice teacher. For those of you who don't know, program notes are the little blurbs you read in a program -- basically, a mini composer biography and a few brief sentences giving context for the music you're about to hear. Since the theme of my teacher's recital was the three types of love found in the Bible (eros, philos, agape), I wrote an introduction tying it all together. It took me two afternoons and three coffees, but the research, in particular, was a whole lot of fun. Who knew that Gluck conducted a series of operatic reforms that significantly affected the development of French opera?

I read an article in Poets & Writers magazine that talked about the usefulness of taking walks to help aid the creative process. Apparently, walking (and exercising in general) has numerous effects that might explain why it's such a common literary quirk: stress relief, growth of new brain cells, inspiration/creativity boost. Charles Dickens walked up to twenty miles in an afternoon! So (and this goes for everyone out there, not just self-proclaimed "creative types") instead of chaining yourself to your desk and beating yourself over the head until your task is complete, it's probably far more effective to work then walk, then work some more, then walk again. Our brains need time to process information.
Vienna skyline, viewed from the Belvedere

My reading took another form this week, as well: travel guides! Musical Munchkins gives me a week off in February, and I'm planning to visit my cousins in London for a few days before taking the Chunnel over to Paris to see my friend. I've been to both London and Paris before, though a very long time ago, so I'm reading up to refresh my memory. But here's the dilemma: how can you possibly do London in two days?

The answer: You can't. There's absolutely no way. I can only hope the weather's nice so that I can walk around and see everything, even if I don't go inside. I also feel no obligation to go into every museum. The last time I was in Paris, I did the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre in one day. BIG MISTAKE. It took me over two years to recover. And I think, even now, all the churches and museums I visited in Italy over the summer will tide me over on this trip; I'll pick one or two this time and be satisfied.

A colorful bench warmer
Inside Café Diglas
And, as ever, I'm on a quest for an amazing book. I know there are so many out there, but choosing a book to read is strangely difficult. When I read, I want it to be something epic, something brilliant, something that completely blows my mind. I've read so many book jackets, and so many of them sound good, but if I'm going to commit to a novel, I want it to be utterly amazing. (This seems to suggest I have control issues and want to know the end results before I do anything...hmmm. Interesting.) So after hours of perusing Barnes & Noble, I usually end up buying nothing. Unless, of course, I'm looking for a specific title that someone has convinced me will be great.

Being in a non-English-speaking country exacerbates this problem, as you can probably imagine, seeing as English book sections are decidedly small. Cue Amazon UK, Kindle Cloud Reader, und so weiter (and so on). The simplest solution probably would have been to buy myself a Kindle, but nothing--NOTHING--can ever be so satisfying as holding a real book in my hands. Even reading some quick fiction on my computer feels clunky and confining; I lose the kinesthetic experience of reading. I don't like it.

A view from an airplane
The good news is that I have several books lined up for when I get back home, all recommendations from friends via Facebook. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Just to name a few. If you have other suggestions for me, please share!

And now I think it's time for me to go outside and take a walk. Hopefully, it'll get my creative juices flowing while I simultaneously take pictures for the next Weekly Interlude and discover a new part of the city. I think the sun is even peering out!

(The pictures in this blog were taken in Vienna but not this week. I couldn't leave the blog completely blank, could I? :)

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