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This was written August 26, 2011 as a little journal entry for my psychology class.

 

In my opinion, Science is basically the process of discovery and finding out how something works. It could be a theory, a social experiment, or just wanting to figure out why something is the way it is. Anything could be a part of Science.

However, I don’t completely trust research. I find it to be mostly made up of hard facts, statistics, and data. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with wanting to know the exact figures of findings, but to me there is so much more to life than seeing it on an empirical level. I’m a big believer in faith, spirituality, and the mystical. Some things just can’t be described and explained by numbers and percentages. Sometimes it just needs to be accepted that it’s beyond the capabilities of man to fathom and dissect. That’s my biggest problem with science and why I don’t particularly care for certain fields of it (Psychology not included). Scientists often try to “play God,” so to speak, and it can frustrate me.

All in all, it’s great to make ground-breaking discoveries and explain new findings on meanings of life, but in the end, there will always be something beyond our control and capabilities. I wish that more people accepted that.

Science Boy

 

-Me

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(I wrote this in May 2007 for my Honors Literature & Composition class during my junior year of high school.)

No one can avoid the world of imagination. It can draw an unsuspecting person into its endless possibilities in the blink of an eye. Some seek it out as an escape from a dreary, monotonous lifestyle. Others wish to find new ways to entertain themselves. Everyone has played the fascinating game of “let’s pretend” at some point during his or her life. With the help of a creative imagination, a small patch of woods near a neighborhood can become an enchanted kingdom or a grandparent’s closet can be a cave to explore with undiscovered treasures and the possibilities of dangerous beasts. Creativity and imagination are priceless gifts that add color to life. Visualizing while reading breathes magic into the words on the pages and causes the action to appear, plunging the reader headfirst into what happens. There is no age limit to imagination; everyone is blessed with it. When analyzing the film entitled Finding Neverland from different angles such as literary and cinematic aspects, it can be proven that this film, with its celebration of friendship and imagination, will withstand the progression of time and remain a classic for generations to come.

Set in London of 1903, Finding Neverland begins with the introduction of the writer and playwright James Barrie. As of late, his works are losing appreciation from his audiences, and the owner of the theatre at which Mr. Barrie puts on his plays is anxious for a new play that will be a success and reap bountiful proceeds. On the home front, his relationship with his wife is deteriorating, as is her faith in him. Barrie seeks out relaxation and inspiration at a nearby park. One day, he meets a family of four young boys playing, their mother, Sylvia Llewellyn Davies, keeping a watchful eye over all of them. Upon spending time with them, James Barrie becomes very fond of the family and begins to spend more and more of his time with them, telling them stories and allowing their imaginations to take flight into worlds of pirates, cowboys and Indians, and many other fun scenarios. He becomes very attached to Sylvia and confides in her all of his insecurities. Together, they provide a steadfast support to one another. Throughout the time spent with the family, Mr. Barrie takes particular interest in the middle child, Peter, who is bitter towards Barrie and accuses him of attempting to take his late father’s place in the family. James Barrie only shows support and care for them all, using the delightful adventures of the boys as inspiration for his new play, in which he politely asks Peter for the use of his name for the main character. Disaster strikes as Sylvia is found to be terminally ill. She refuses to be hospitalized and is set on spending her remaining time with her sons. When she is unable to attend the opening night of James’ new play called Peter Pan, he brings the entire performance to her home and finally shows her the magical heaven of Neverland that she had been so anxious to see.

This priceless and imaginative story is based on reality and is a classic for all ages to experience. Symbolism is important and emphasized throughout. The separate and closed doors between James Barrie and his wife stand for how their marriage is being closed off and growing apart. The powerful scene in which Peter destroys his makeshift theatre symbolizes his loss of hope and trust in adulthood. Sylvia re-pasted Peter’s book of self-written stories and adventures because she wished for him to continue on being imaginative after her death. Themes prevalent throughout the film are many wonderful messages including the ever important: don’t grow up too fast. Also a strong theme is one which states that an open heart and imagination can help take the pain away from troubles or illness. Spending the remainder of her time with her sons and Mr. Barrie helped Sylvia transcend her terrible condition and find the beauty of a vivid imagination. This film truly helps put the faith back into people’s lives and should be considered timeless throughout the ages.

The acting portrayal and cinematic aspects enhanced the film, making the storyline all the more wonderful. Johnny Depp’s interpretation of James Barrie was inspiring and highly believable. His facial expressions truly helped viewers see his inner-child and playfulness. It was interesting how Mr. Barrie seemed more uncomfortable and ill at ease around adults whereas, around children, he brought out his true colors and love of life’s adventures and magical possibilities. His voice was very effective when carrying out the emotional intensity of scenes, especially when he confided in Sylvia of the time when his older brother died and he himself so desperately vied for his mother’s attention and fondness. It was also then that he introduced Sylvia to the world of Neverland. The low tones and soft lilt of his subtle Scottish accent brought special life to his character. An extremely difficult scene to act out must have been when Peter Davies, played by Freddie Highmore, destroyed his theatre and vented his anger over how every adult was deceiving him, causing him to lose his faith and trust in adulthood.

Camera angles and music selections were also priceless assets in creating this timeless film. The scenery of the park, fields, country cottage, and Neverland were absolutely breathtaking along with the chosen views from the audience’s standpoint. At Peter Pan’s opening night, the soaring of the camera demonstrated Peter’s realization and enjoyment of the play. Visual effects such as the scene on the pirate ship and the circus helped enhance Barrie’s imagination and creativity. After the scene in which Sylvia was exploring Neverland, there was a fade-out that showed the end of her life. Also, the end of the film had a fade to white to demonstrate the bright hope and future to come. Furthermore, the music helped enhance the mood and would crescendo with excitement. A boy’s choir sang throughout, promoting childlike innocence and playfulness. It helped the viewer be transported into the magical world of James Barrie’s imagination. At times, there was no music playing in the background to place emphasis rather on dialogue and movement than an orchestra. Every aspect of this film was a treasure to cinema, enabling this movie to be a beloved classic for years to come.

The doors to the world of imagination are never closed. They are always open and ready for a visit at any time. Creativity should never be hindered or oppressed, for in creativity there is character and growth. Individuality is shaped and molded by a healthy imagination. Keep faith strong and always keep the child inside alive.

 

finding neverland

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(I wrote this during my spring semester of university in 2010 for my Music History II class.)

 

The familiar musical work, Clair de Lune, creates a dreamlike and soothing atmosphere that has become one of the most treasured classical pieces of all time. It has thrived through the years and has been incorporated in film soundtracks such as Oceans Eleven and Atonement. The man behind the music, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) established a new style for himself, daring to be unique, and created ideas that would greatly influence many future well-known composers and musicians, for instance: Ravel, Boulez, Ives, Bartók, and American jazz and popular musicians. He composed many various works such as songs for voice, concertos, string quartets, chamber music, and orchestral works, but his true talent and virtuosity will always be remembered in his pieces for the piano.

History

            Achille-Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862 in Île-de-France, Saint-Germaine-en-Laye to a middle class family. Musical talent was not remarked in the other members of his family with backgrounds of craftsmen and farm workers. His sister described him as “a shy, sweet, undemonstrative child who watched others play, more than he played; moody and a little aloof, but not unfriendly…neither abnormal or spoiled.”[1] Over the years, he never went to school for a formal education. At the age of nine, he began taking piano lessons. His father was very strict with his expectations and would have him practice six to eight hours each day.[2] During that time, Madame Mauté de Fleurville, a formal pupil of Chopin, recognized his talent and offered to give him free lessons under her tutelage, nourishing and helping to further develop his excellence.[3] Her help was a great contributing factor in his acceptance into the Paris Conservatoire at age ten. It was there that he would spend the next eleven years of his life devoted to piano and composition. Even at this young age, he showed a high degree of musicality and interest in unusual chords, complex rhythms, and unexpected progressions of subtle harmonies.[4] Over the years, he was seen at the Conservatoire as an eccentric, even a “dangerous revolutionary” with his independent regard to traditional teachings.[5] Yet he did receive encouragement from professors with open minds willing to embrace different ideas. Throughout his training, he gradually became favorably recognized and awarded with several medals and honorable mentions for solfège and piano competitions.

Outside of the Conservatoire, Debussy worked with singing teacher Madame Moreau-Sainti as an accompanist in 1882 and then with the esteemed Société Concordia.[6] He composed everywhere that he went, by the piano and while walking, singing the phrases to himself until he was able to write them down.[7] After years of hard work, he was awarded the 1884 Prix de Rome, a highly prestigious honor, for L’Enfant Prodigue, a setting of a poem by Edouard Guinand. As time went on, he would give piano and voice lessons as well as continue to work as an accompanist to continue to earn funds. In 1901, he completed a set Pour le Piano which included Prélude, Sarabande, and Toccata. On January 11, 1902 the set was played and favorably accepted at the Société Nationale by Ricardo Viñes, later considered to be an accredited interpreter of Debussy.[8] The titles for his pieces usually had evocative titles like Estampes (1903)which included Pagodes, Soirée dans Grenade, and Jardins Sous la Pluie.

World War I broke out in 1914, which negatively impacted Debussy as an artist. He believed that he should abandon composing during this time of suffering and tragedy and would not touch his piano for weeks.[9] However, in honor of the gallantry of King Albert and his Belgian soldiers in their efforts, he composed a piece called Berceuse Héroïque (1914).[10] His health began to steadily deteriorate, and with a diagnosis of cancer, he underwent an operation in 1915. The treatments and medications did not relieve him from the pain, but despite his weakness, he had the courage and stamina to make public appearances and continue work. In 1916, he wrote that he had made up his mind to ignore his “tyrannical malady and would work in spite of everything; life was endurable only if [he] composed a great deal.”[11] Unfortunately, by 1917 he could barely work anymore. As the war raged on, France was in desperate need of military aid, being constantly bombarded by airships and long-distance guns during the German offensive. Debussy was in such a delicate condition that he could not be carried to shelter.[12] It was on March 25, 1918 that this talented composer and musician died, receiving only a small funeral but receiving many memorials and tributes in the future.

Style

            Claude Debussy was known as an impressionist. He valued symbolism and maintained a sense of detached observation in his music, not expressing deeply felt emotion or storylines as in the Romantic style.[13] Carraud wrote a critique in La Liberté describing Debussy as being:

…one of the most original artists of the day…being endowed with spontaneous originality, and whom it is difficult to connect with any of his predecessors…he knows how to combine harmonies and timbres in ever-changing ratios…today he seems to have attained to complete lucidity of thought and accuracy of expression.[14]

 

Debussy believed that musicians should not be hindered by theoretical rules, placing importance on independence and encouraging them to establish personal adaptations to suit the character of their creations.[15] His idea was that pianists should avoid all romantic affectations, not attempting melody emphasis, but letting it occur within its own prominence. They should not stress chords that establish the main themes but instead blend the patterns into one sound.[16] His chief instruction given to his students was to “play with more sensitiveness in the fingertips. Play chords as if the keys were being attracted to your fingertips and rose to you hand as to a magnet.”[17] He said:

I should like to see the creation—I, myself, shall achieve it—of a kind of music free from themes or motives, or formed on a single continuous theme, which nothing interrupts and which never returns upon itself. Then there will be a logical, compact, deductive development. There will not be, between two restatements of the same characteristic theme, a hasty and superfluous ‘filling in!’ The development will no longer be that amplification of material, that professional rhetoric which is the badge of excellent training, but it will be given a more universal and essential psychic conception.[18]

 

Motives need not necessarily be developed but can be repeated with small changes and different perspectives. Unresolved dissonances, parallel motion in sonorities, as well as diverse instrumental timbres are important to the content rather than simply adding embellishments.[19] He maintained a tonal focus yet the chords retained a sense of independence. The main goal was not resolution but to experience and enjoy the music as it came.[20] The music of Debussy paints a picture and evokes a certain mood, feeling, atmosphere, or scene. The normal syntax is disrupted as individual images drive the meaning and structure of the works through harmony, motives, instrumental timbres, exotic scales such as the whole-tone, octatonic, and pentatonic, juxtaposing them as the music progresses.[21] Tiersot wrote a critique in Ménestrel of the composer: “…his work gives evidence of a skill which is the result of deep and serious study. As regards to the general feeling, it is essentially original and highly modern.”[22] This set Debussy in a class of unique and intelligent musicians that sought out ways to embrace new concepts and formulate a style of their own.

Clair de Lune

            Clair de Lune is one of Claude Debussy’s most well-known pieces. It is originally a part of his Suite Bergamasque which also includes Prélude, Menuet, and Passepied. He made an effort to recapture the delicacy and elegance of the clavecin, using seconds and unexpected key juxtapositions to create a sense of harmonic freshness.[23] It evokes a very emotional feeling, and it is essential that it be played with a luscious tone kept floating with an overlapping legato pedal.[24] The delicate sonorities invoked while playing rise up into a transparent atmosphere, where they unite without merging and dissolve in iridescent mists.[25] The serene melancholy of the much sustained melody is surrounded by the moonlight atmosphere of the accompaniment by persistent patterns, modal coloring, and unexpected successions of accumulated intervals. It is even considered daring the way he blends the mobile harmonies that follow freely.[26] When describing this piece, one notices:

the airy flowering of arpeggios ascending the keyboard, leaping up like a fountain jet which scatters its water on the air then relapses into calm again in solemn tonic and dominant undulations, upon which the theme spreads out, ample, sonorous, and expressive.[27]

 

The music fills the listener with a peaceful tranquility that is very soothing to the ear. It almost brings forth a memory of a magical night experienced and summons a feeling of longing and desire flowing through in tides, hoping to recapture the moment once more. The compound meter in a slow yet expressive state maintains a dreamlike quality to the atmosphere. This piece has a quiet strength with complexity hidden in what seems to be a simple melody. As time passes, Clair de Lune continues to captivate and charm those who discover this masterpiece of Debussy.

Despite reservations about Claude Debussy and his innovative ideas initially as a composer, he became successful and admired throughout the world, influencing many.  It is through these risks and explorations of musicality that musical geniuses are found and honored. It can certainly be said that Debussy was truly un musicien français (a French musician).

 

claudedebussy

 

Bibliography

Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. 8 ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010.

Debussy, Claude. Clair de lune: de la Suite bergamasque. Edited by Jean Jobert. Philadelphia: Elkan-Vogel Co., Inc, 1927.

Gatti, Guido M., Claude Debussy, and Frederick H. Martens. “The Piano Works of Claude Debussy.” The Musical Quarterly 7, no. 3 (jul. 1921): 418-460.

Thompson, Oscar. Debussy: Man and Artist. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1967.

Vallas, Léon. Claude Debussy: His Life and Works. Translated by Maire O’Brien and Grace O’Brien. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973.


[1] Oscar Thompson, Debussy: Man and Artist (New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1967), 35.

[2] Léon Vallas, Claude Debussy: His Life and Works (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1973) 4.

[3] Vallas, 3-4.

[4] Ibid, 4.

[5] Ibid, 18.

[6] Thompson, 53-54.

[7] Ibid, 56.

[8] Ibid, 144-145.

[9] Ibid, 224-225.

[10] Ibid, 225.

[11] Ibid, 230.

[12] Vallas, 270.

[13] Peter J. Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 2010) 790.

[14] Vallas, 118-119.

[15] Ibid, 148.

[16] Ibid, 157.

[17] Thompson, 251.

[18] Ibid, 103.

[19] Burkholder, 792.

[20] Ibid, 793.

[21] Ibid, 790, 792.

[22] Vallas, 80-81.

[23] Thompson, 256.

[24] Ibid, 256.

[25] Ibid, 251.

[26] Vallas, 74.

[27] Guido M. Gatti, “The Piano Works of Claude Debussy,” The Musical Quarterly 7, no.3 (London: Oxford University Press, 1921) 424.

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