Classical music at e.g.

I spent Thursday and Friday at the [e.g. conference](https://www.the-eg.com/) in Monterey, California, which was incrediblly inspiring. I feel really lucky to have been a part of it. Each day, the roughly 300 attendees were given the opportunity to hear hours and hours of presentations by talented people who have done incredible things. While I found the content of the presentations to be fascinating, what I really loved was that everyone involved was doing something driven by passion, and while there were many paths to the discovery of a particular passion, they had all figured it out (some were born into it, and some only discovered it after having gone through meandering paths of adventure in other fields).

There was, however, one thing that stood out, and not in a good way: classical music.

Music at conferences like TED and e.g. are often based in the avant-garde and experimental, which can, of course, be interesting and thought-provoking. Classical instruments like the piano, violin and cello are usually part of some kind of crossover performance. The musicians are often quite talented, and the audience loves this stuff. During the 2 days I was at e.g., there were exactly two purely-classical performances, which starkly contrasted in quality when compared to the other presentations. The first was a short solo piano piece that wasn't very well prepared, and the second, a Brahms piano trio that was pretty much sight read on stage. After the piano trio sight-reading performance, something incredible happened: the crowd gave a standing ovation! I was thoroughly confused and disappointed. If this same performance had taken place in a concert hall, all of the musicians in the audience would have walked out.

Curators at conferences like e.g. and TED need to feature classical performances that are as high in caliber as the rest of the presentations—or, leave them out entirely.

Pictures from the SLSQ Chamber Music Seminar 2011

As the official unofficial photographer of the [St. Lawrence String Quartet](http://slsq.com)'s [Chamber Music Seminar 2011](http://music.stanford.edu/SLSQWorkshop/), I present the following batch of pictures.

If you [click through to the hosted gallery](http://ech.cc/slsq2011), you can download high(ish)-resolution versions, as well as high-resolution versions of the group photos. There is also a [Facebook gallery](http://ech.cc/slsq2011fb).

As a bonus, be sure to check out [Leyan Lo working his magic with a Rubik's Cube](/journal/2011/07/06/leyan-lo-solves-a-rubiks-cube-behind-his-back/). Enjoy! :)

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A moment of clarity during Mahler's 9th symphony

I had an incredible (and unusual) experience tonight at Davies Symphony Hall, where I went to see the San Francisco Symphony play Mahler's Symphony No. 9 (one of my favorite pieces of orchestral music). I've seen it performed live a few times; each time, it's moved me to tears. Mahler's 9th symphony ends in *adagio*—in the softest of fragmented whimpers—and as the last few notes whispered into existence, I suddenly had a moment of incredible clarity. All of my senses converged into absolute sharpness; I could see, vividly, every detail of the orchestra—the position of every stand, chair, instrument, player—and hear every tiny little creak of audience members trying not to move in their seats. Every bit of my brain was oscillating in perfect harmony, and I finally truly understood the meaning of the word, *clarity*.

It only lasted a few seconds, but was a moment I will remember for a lifetime. Thank you, MTT and the members of the San Francisco Symphony, for the wonderful performance.

As a side note, I now wonder if some people are able to achieve this sort of clarity during their normal, day-to-day lives. I can only imagine...

Beethoven Triple Concerto, SF Symphony

Chee-Yun and Alisa are in town to play [Beethoven Triple Concerto with the SF Symphony](http://www.sfsymphony.org/season/Event.aspx?eventid=42468). The music world is tiny; I'm not even really a part of it, but it's always fun to hang out and catch up.

Tickets for tonight and tomorrow night are still available -- highly recommended! Photos follow...

3D string quartet performance (anaglyph)

3D test (anaglyph -- requires red/cyan glasses) of Quartetto Sugoi in low light using dual Sony CX550V camcorders zoomed in a bit, perhaps, to 40mm (35mm equivalent) or so. Camera sync is approx 16ms apart, which is why there is ghosting when objects move. Video targets large displays (30"+ ideal).

Due to tolerances in manufacturing, it is nearly impossible to get two of these cameras to align perfectly, resulting in the need for rotational geometry correction in post, which may also account for further image degradation (in addition to the low light noise, that is).

Music: Mendelssohn String Quartet No. 6, excerpt from first movement (thanks, Quartetto Sugoi!)

SLSQ Seminar 2010 video

A short from the St. Lawrence String Quartet's 2010 Summer Chamber Music Seminar at Stanford University. I only shot a little video during the 10-day seminar because I was focused on [shooting stills](ech.cc/c8PMWt), but I had enough to mash it together into this little piece.

SLSQ Summer Chamber Music Seminar 2010

I posted a bunch of photos from the SLSQ Chamber Music Seminar 2010 over [on Facebook](http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2258013) ([public link](http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2258013&id=224781&l=e91027975b)). If you're not on Facebook, you can see all of the photos here in this journal entry (apologies: it's bandwidth-intensive!). You can also [download hi-res versions](http://photos.echeng.com/Music/slsq2010hires/12818267_JJeDU#924332092_abddb) of the group photos (click on the image you want and then select "O" for original image). Special thanks to the other members of my group, Alex Li and Heidi Hau, and to all of the coaches and folks who made the seminar possible. See you next year!

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Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre with the New York Philharmonic

I went to see György Ligeti's opera, [*Le Grand Macabre*](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Grand_Macabre), last night at Avery Fisher hall in Lincoln Center. The New York Philharmonic and a talented cast of singers performed the fully-staged performance, with Alan Gilbert conducting.

My mother told me that the staging was controversial because it was so avant-garde, but I'm not sure an opera completed in the mid 70s and revised in 1996 could be staged in a way that wasn't avant-garde. Before the show started, I was a little worried because the stage was so sparse, dominated by a gigantic circular screen suspended above the orchestra. An area on the right provided a place from which "live animation" was captured by cameras and projected onto the screen, providing setting and accompanying imagery for the characters on stage. No super titles were used; the program states that there were no super titles in order to allow the audience to fully enjoy the spectacle, but I think that it might have been because the director didn't want to have words like "jiz" and "ass-licker" projected in huge letters above the New York Philharmonic. I found that I had to read the libretto for full enjoyment because I couldn't understand most of what was being said/sung.

I really enjoyed the creativity of the production. The live animation was well done, the singers were excellent (with the exception of the understudy for the character, Venus, who couldn't be heard), and the staging involved some amount of audience participation as cast members wandered the aisles and orchestra members played from various parts of the hall off-stage.

The music itself is atonal, which means that no one tone is more important than any other. Unfortunately, this means that there wasn't a single hummable melody through the entire production. When this is the case, the production has to rely on qualities other than strength of music, which is perhaps why the costumes and live animation were so wild. I have a great appreciation for all forms of classical music, but I found myself thinking of the cast as actors instead of singers. Everyone I went with thought the opera was too long -- after all, there is only so much atonal music one can handle in one sitting.

The New York audience was really into the production. They seem to love Alan Gilbert, and shouted and cheered loudly when he appeared on stage (the first time it was appropriate). They laughed uproariously whenever something even slightly crude was done on stage; at one point, a line drawing of a penis pushed across the screen in a thrusting motion, which was apparently extremely humorous and shocking. I didn't laugh, though. Those of us who are familiar with modern forms of communication and entertainment are not easily shocked by images of genitalia -- if you really want to be shocked, do a search for "penis" on the internet. But I suppose that *Le Grand Macabre* is a good way for conservative types to enjoy crassness while still being fully immersed in a high-class art form.

*Le Grand Macabre* is playing for another 2 nights. As of right now, there are 7 seats left for May 28 and 5 seats left for May 29, so you should [buy tickets online](http://nyphil.org/attend/season/index.cfm?page=eventDetail&eventNum=1784&seasonNum=9) now if you want to go!

Vienna Teng / Alex Wong @ Yoshi's SF


Pam, Vienna Teng and Me
Pam, Laurel, Zandra and I went to see [Vienna Teng and Alex Wong at Yoshi's SF](http://www.yoshis.com/sanfrancisco/jazzclub/artist/show/1234), and the show was absolutely fantastic! ("I concur," Pam says)

I love the entire show, but two things stood out, in particular:

1. Star Wars cantina theme song, snuck into *In Another Life* by Alex Wong on melodica 2. A powerful performance of *Radio*, which had the perfect introductory anecdote about the inspiration of the song

Photos follow...

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Photos from Stanford Chamber Chorale concert

Here are some photos from tonight's [Stanford Chamber Chorale concert](http://echeng.com/journal/2010/05/10/im-performing-this-sat-may-15-2010/). Had a great time up there! Special thanks to Brad and Susan (and parents!), Tiffany Shih, Scott St. John, Geoff Nuttall, and Pam, for coming. :)


Andrew Lan and me. We've been playing together for 17 years!

More photos follow...


Tiffany Shih and me


Scott St. John, Pam and Geoff Nuttall. I know -- it's blurry. I am a professional.


Rehearsal at Memorial Church


Dinner after rehearsal: Ben, Livia, Geoff, Allie, Lynn

I'm performing this Sat, May 15, 2010

I'm performing (on the cello) with the [Stanford Chamber Chorale](http://chorale.stanford.edu/) this coming Saturday, May 15, 2010 at Stanford Memorial Church: > 8:00 P.M. Stanford Memorial Church Admission: general $10 | senior $9 | student $5

> The Chorale closes its formal 2009-2010 season with Poulenc's Mass, and Fauré's beloved Requiem.

Fauré Requiem is super moody and dark because it forgoes violins for violas. If for no other reason, you should come to the show to celebrate the viola! ;)

Happy (early) birthday, Warren!


It's rare that surprise birthday parties actually work
Happy surprise birthday party, Warren! Not many people get to play with Livia and the SLSQ on their birthday -- must have been the best gift ever. ;)

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The St. Lawrence String Quartet on Strad

At the all-Hayden concert at Stanford today, Warren gave me a copy of the August 2009 issue of The Strad magazine, which features the St. Lawrence String Quartet on its cover. Congratulations, guys!

The concert was incredible. I had never heard Op. 54 No. 2 (in C major) before. I loved all of it, but the *Adagio* parts (2nd movement and 2 parts of the Finale) were incredibly moving. I was totally floored.

Geoff became a normal person again after the show, and after I recovered from my disbelief at his talent, I took him to the airport. Their schedule is crazy.

Vienna Teng and Ang Lee @ KFOG, SF


Ang Lee and Vienna Teng @ KFOG, San Francisco
I had an interesting morning accompanying Vienna Teng to KFOG for her 8am interview and live performance on the air. Director Ang Lee was on immediately preceding Vienna, and when he was finished with his interview, we were introduced to him in the hallway.

"It's a Taiwan morning," he said, after we introduced ourselves as having Taiwanese roots.

I'm back home now, and all of my house guests are still sleeping. Vienna and I agree that we really enjoy the stillness and productivity afforded by early mornings and late evenings. If only there was a practical way to mostly exist during those times.

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