It’s the Final Fantasy

Today I almost failed, but not quite.

Yesterday, I almost purchased a video game.  I delayed that decision until today, because yesterday I was unsure whether or not I really wanted to spend money on a video game.  I woke up today and I knew that I NEEDED A NEW GAME TO PLAY THAT WOULD NOT REQUIRE MY COMPUTER OR MY PHONE AS A CONSOLE.

So, I went to Gamestop.  I purchased Final Fantasy Tactics A2 for Nintendo DS and Final Fantasy Theaterhythm: Curtain Call. I know that FF Tactics is an especially old release, but nostalgia from brief encounters with my cousin’s FF Tactics Advance made me want to play a full FF Tactics game. As for Theaterhythm, it simply looked interesting.

My almost-but-not-quite failure can be attributed to the FF Tactics game. I chose Normal mode, which it turns out I was grateful for, seeing as how I almost lost the very first battle to a giant chicken.

Yes, a giant chicken killed 3 out of 4 of my party members.  It was not only the chicken who did damage to my party, either. Before I realized how far the range of some magic attacks extended, I had nicely electrocuted one of my allies and knocked out a third of his remaining HP.  I also managed to move my white magic mage out of the range of all the other players, but not before I had restored a little HP to one of my party members as well as the two murderous baby chickens.

I would have completely failed at this first battle, too, except the giant chicken flew off when it reached 2/3rds HP or so. Even reaching that point was a lucky break for me, as the giant chicken missed an attack that would have knocked out my last party member the round before I dealt the lethal strike.

Or maybe the game does not let you lose the first battle and I was fine anyway. Regardless, it felt like I barely emerged victorious.  I gave myself a break after the second battle, which I easily won, because Tactics is a bit overwhelming for a FF newbie like myself.

Going onto Theaterhythm….what can I say? I have been using it to take a break from Tactics for almost 2 hours now, and my sister is beginning to grump at me for ignoring her attempts at conversation.

I have appeased her by giving her the other save file slot on FF Tactics.  She will probably have an easier time of it than I will, since she is better at creating advanced strategies in games than I am.

For now, I have to contribute to the creation of a video game environment where my sister and I mutually ignore each other, except for the occasional grunt, while gaming.

Until tomorrow, happy failing!

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A Most Excellent Monday

Today is not about my failure. Today is about the failure of Monday.

Traditionally, Mondays are supposed to be horrible, glum, and distressing events.  Or at least, not stellar and awesome. My Monday decided to fail miserably at being awful, or at the very least, boring, and instead turned into a marvelous day!

First, an update about composing.  I have obviously failed in uploading an awful MIDI file of what I am currently working on. This is largely due to the fact that I do not have enough written to warrant making a MIDI file as of right now.  I am also in the preliminary stages of writing, where I improvise things on my violin and come up with melodic lines and harmonic structures.  I either add the harmonic structure to the melody, or create a harmonic structure that I mash the melody into.  Fun times.

In short, I unintentionally overestimated my composing speed, which is sad, since I know that I am a slow writer.

Here is the exciting update: I have an official reason to compose, other than I want to!  (It is always easier for me to create music for a specific purpose other than “because it is good for me to write and I enjoy it”) One of my friends on facebook messaged me last night, telling me of a book club she has heard about in our area.  It is comprised of local musicians who get together every month, read a book, and then compose music inspired by what they have read!

And guess what, my readers, I AM GOING TO JOIN IT!

I do not know if this opportunity will create circumstances I enjoy composing in, but I know that it will be an excellent experience to participate in that will enable me to grow as a composer over the coming year!  I will also get to connect with local musicians over writing music.  Really, could I ask for a better and more exciting opportunity? I think not!

The second thing that makes this a most exciting Monday is…..I purchased the movie Cloud Atlas for $5!  It is one of my favorite books and movies!  To me, it is one of the rare exceptions where the movie form of a story is as equally wonderful as its book form.

In fact, I have convinced my sister to watch it with me and we are at the point in the movie where all the stories start to converge into their high points.  Meaning, I am getting more and more distracted while typing this as well as typing faster and faster.  However, I have committed to a post a day on this blog and a post a day I shall write!

It is good that I have finished describing the two exciting failures of this Monday already.

Until tomorrow, happy failing!

It’s a Monday Alright

Today, I failed to stay awake for most of the day.

I woke up at 4:00 a.m. because I had to meet some coworkers for a carpool at 5:00 a.m.  I succeeded in waking up and making it to the meeting spot on time, but an odd series of miscommunications conspired and resulted in me getting a surprise day off work when the driver failed to show for the carpool.

What did I do when I went home? I fell asleep and slept until noon, which was about six hours.  I then woke up, and ran an errand that took about an hour.  Upon my return, I found all my fellow familial nightowls napping, and fell asleep again for another three hours.

Today, I failed to do much of anything at all.  However, since this is an unusual amount of sleeping on my part, I will interpret it as my body obviously needing rest.  I have felt alert and awake since 4:00 p.m., which is nice.

An update on The Search For A Piece To Play.  I am planning on continuing my work on Haydn’s Concerto in C major for violin.  I say continue because I spent my last semester of school learning the first movement of it. However, I also know myself well enough that if I do not start a new piece as well, I will get bored when I reach a plateau and stop working on anything for awhile.  Currently, I do not have a new piece, but I am planning on choosing on of Brahm’s violin sonatas.  At their most powerful moments, they are so beautiful I think, “This is it.  There is nothing else to live for.  I have heard the most beautiful music that will ever be written.  Why am I trying to write my own music again? I have no idea.”  Then, I listen to them again. So of course, my only response to these pieces is to choose one to butcher right now, save the rest for later, and continue to perfect them (along with all the other music I know) for the rest of my life.

*sigh* I guess this is why I music.  There are too many beautiful pieces to learn and so much to attempt to write down, why wouldn’t I let my life be consumed by my pursuit of them?

I have also been investigating music programs to audition/apply for.  So far, I have not used effective search terms, as I have been getting results dealing with, “How to Prepare for Auditions,” or listings for job openings in symphonies.  I shall continue working on this and let everyone know when I find an audition to practice towards.

To recap, here is a list of the pieces referenced in this week’s post:

Haydn’s Concerto in C major

Brahms violin sonatas No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3

I love the concerto because it is energetic and does not take itself too seriously.  The sonatas, as I mentioned before, are gorgeous.  There are multiple recordings of each piece on youtube, so go take a listen.  If you have cleaning to do that will take an 30 minutes-1 hour, pick one of these, youtube it, and have it playing in the background.

That’s all from me for today.  Until tomorrow, happy failing!

Freshly Failed Friday!

Today, I failed at winning a game of cards with my teammate.  We were playing a game called Hand and Foot, which I will not bother trying to explain here, but suffice it to say that we were slaughtered.  The opposing team had around 20,000 points, and we barely broke 10,000 points.

I also failed several times at my job yesterday, but those fails are not quite noteworthy.  Most of them were things like not realizing I was folding napkins with the seams facing outward and not understanding the jargon for the work, but those are okay.  I was shown how to do things, and whenever something confused me, I asked about it.  It helped, of course, that while there were several accidents where a glass or dish was dropped and shattered, I did not end up breaking anything. While I know that I could always accidentally drop something and break it, it was a relief to not have to face that failure on my first day of work.  Overall, I think my first day went about as well as any first day of work could go.  It was confusing, but I learned a lot about what was expected of me and how to do the job.  I am excited to be going back for another shift at the beginning of this coming week and learn even more things!

I have a bit of an update for everyone on the contour of this blog.  It’s the end of the second week which means the beginning of the third week happens tomorrow! (“Thank you Captain Obvious” Why, you’re welcome Lieutenant Sarcasm 😉 Either at the end of week 3 or the beginning of week 4, I will be posting the first of many awful MIDI recordings.  It will be of the piece I am working on.  No spoilers here (read: has not started the piece, yet), but within a week I will have something I’ve written for you to listen to, comment on, and go, “Yep, this would make more sense to the listener if……”

I do not know if I will have a monthly composition yet.  I think my goal is going to be to complete a rough draft of a 5-10 minute piece every two months.  Unfortunately, I do not have instantly accessible live players to perform/read these pieces, so I cannot guarantee how quickly, if at all, I will be able to post live recordings.  We’ll see how that works out, though.

(By the way, I published this post at 11:57 because otherwise I would have failed to publish something on this fine Friday.  Now, I’m updating it by finishing it.  I know, that’s cheating, but it was fun)

I am still deciding on what pieces to work on violin-wise, but I will either link to performances of the pieces I am considering or stumble upon when searching for music to play, or I will say, “Youtube this piece, it’s worth a listen.”  For whatever I am practicing, I will give an update at least once a week on either how much I am struggling with the piece and/or what accomplishments I have had with whatever I am playing. I am also going to feature old dead composers and maybe still living composers and their work on this website, by writing about their styles, giving short bios about their lives, and talking about my favorite pieces by them, once every two weeks.  On non-composer weeks, I will talk about an album or instrumental/vocal work I’ve listened to that I either liked or think others will enjoy.

I am going to try to make this as accessible as possible to new musicians (which includes people who think of themselves as the audience, because if you can carry a tune or remember how your favorite song sounds in your head without actually listening to it, you have the capacity to further develop those and acquire more musical skills-meaning, I consider you to be a musician) as well as more experienced ones, so I will define words that people might not know.  I will also attempt to not be too wordy (good luck to me on that, right?).

At some point, I will also incorporate some other projects into this blog, but there is another, more important, note.  I will continue to feature fine fails not only in the musical arena, but in all the other aspects of life as I have been doing for the past two weeks.  Meaning, if I kill the dryer in a week, you will hear about it and not just about how I wanted to break my violin because I became impatient with an etude (etude: a short musical piece for developing a particular technical skill). While that does occasionally happen, the feeling lasts for only a few seconds before I promptly apologize to my violin for even thinking such a thought.

This blog is starting to get some structure. I like it!  Until tomorrow, happy failing!

Freshly Failed Friday!

Oh dear.  I have already started punning in this blog, and now my fondness for alliteration is beginning to make itself known. It was going to happen sometime, though, so why not now?

I have a few fine fails for today!

The first is that, contrary to the best of my intentions, my room is still not clean.  It is mostly clean, but I have to do the detail work on individual areas (organizing the desk, dresser, bookshelves, etc.).  You could say that everything is on/in its respective piece of furniture, but not necessarily in the most functional way.  The main improvement here is that I discovered I do have a floor! I can also walk on it without tripping!

Also, I am behind schedule for where I wanted to be with this blog.  My plan was to spend week one cleaning and doing the prep work on the various projects I am going to be talking about in the coming months, but I am a few days behind.  I have spent week one cleaning, and have not done enough prep work for any project to be launchable.  This is an important goal, as I want to be transparent about the process of completing these projects.  While posts about moldy bananas are great and all, I am trying to avoid turning this into a place for Publicly Complaining About Life.  Everyone knows that’s for Facebook!

I’m kidding.

Anyway, to make up for that, I am going to vaguely tell you a few of my projects.  The priority project is going to be me trying to develop an internship with the arts council where I live.  The goal here will be to create a master list of music organizations so that the leaders of these organizations can have an effective way of communicating with each other and the music community.  This might also lead to opportunities to get music into organizations that might not have music programs, such as nursing homes (when I start working on/blogging about this project in more detail, I will explain why nursing homes are on the list), adult daycare centers, and organizations that help homeless youth and/or those youth living in poverty. There are a few other ideas I have for this project, but I am sure I will talk about them later.  For now, that is enough.

Hey hey hey, have I mentioned that I am a recently graduated music major? Of course I have! It should surprise no-one, then, that I have a music project or five lined up for me personally.  I will divide them into two categories: violining and composition.

I am an intermediate level violinist.  I want to be much better than that one day.  To be clearer, I want to play in some sort of professional symphonic group or small ensemble, some day.  I do not mind taking my time to learn my instrument at my pace, because I have had 7 violin lesson teachers in the past 13 years, and it is time for me to start developing my musical voice on my own for a while.  Also, the most important goal to me regarding the violin in conjunction with learning to play it well is to be able to successfully pick up any piece I want to play and teach it to myself.  This means I will be posting things I find interesting about violin technique or talking about a horrible sound I made that caused the dogs to start barking but I cannot replicate it in regards to this project.  I am also going to audition for as many things as possible this year and maybe get into some of these musical opportunities, but if not, then at least to become more familiar and comfortable with the process of auditioning.

As for composition, I plan on writing music.  I might have “Monthly Minis” which will be small compositions I have written over the course of a month, but I’m still working on the details of that. One relatively strong goal for me is to produce one or two large works within a year. Like, maybe a symphony, or a few sections of a mass. [For those of you who are interested, no, I am not Catholic, but I adore Renaissance Era music] I will be posting awful MIDI excerpts of works-in-progress, but will try to get actual recordings of the smaller projects posted upon completion.

That’s all I have to say for these upcoming projects, but I hope that gives everyone a better idea of where this blog is going.

One final thing: I PASSED THE FIRST CHAPTER OF LEVEL ONE ON THE EAR TRAINING APP TODAY! I then proceeded to instantly fail on distinguishing between major and minor 3rds.

Until tomorrow, happy failing!

All Strung Out

Heh, the title’s a pun. You’ll get it later.

Today is the third day in the life of this blog.   This means that the goal of writing 365 consecutive daily posts is starting to become real to me.  Instead of being only a random idea I am willing to attempt, the first hint of, “Hey, 365 posts might require some serious work and commitment,” has begun to make itself evident.

Of course, this only makes me excited.  Three posts down and only 362 to go! Whoo!

I have two brief failures for you this fine time of day, whenever it might be for you.

To begin, learning anything new can be challenging.  This is my first blog.  I actually set it up two weeks ago, but it took me a lot of thinking to figure out how I wanted to word the introduction.  I was also taking my time and really considering if I wanted to commit to a year’s worth of posting, which I eventually decided to answer with an enthusiastic, “YES!” Currently, my main challenges with blogging have been with the site itself.  For me, the part of wordpress used for creating blogs has been not at all intuitive, and I have had to google on more than one occasion to figure out how to access the dashboard (for those of you unfamiliar with wordpress the dashboard=incredible cosmic power over every aspect of your blog).

However, my failure to be instantly all-knowledgeable about how to blog has been great fun.  Today, for the first time ever, I was able to go directly where I wanted to start a post! Okay, there is a button specifically for adding new posts, but I remembered that way of beginning a draft instead of madly clicking on all the buttons in the menu in an effort to find what I wanted.  I am beginning to find my own voice, and although I cannot yet describe what my writing voice is, I know that it involves making puns.

Speaking of which, that is a nice segue into the next failure.

The next failure involves music! Specifically, sight reading in an ensemble.  I play the violin, and today I read through STRING quartet music with four other people (we had two cellists). Three of us were semi-professionals, and two were professionals.

Told ya’ you would get the pun.

Anyway, when sight reading music there is absolutely no way to play the piece perfectly the first time.  In fact, there is never a time when a musician will play a piece perfectly, although there are people that seem to get pretty close. To sight read music, especially in a group, is to embrace failure.  When playing music you are: listening to your own sound, focusing on how to shape the music, how to move your body to play pitches correctly, how to breathe, looking ahead in the music to be prepared for tricky parts, counting rests, counting beats, listening to how your part fits in with the ensemble, and blending your sound with the other members in the ensemble.

That was not a comprehensive list, but it is enough to give an idea of how challenging it is to make it through a piece of music together with other people even with tons of practice time.  Sight reading is doing all that, but on the first try.  So for the entire hour and a half, everyone in the group was missing notes, botching rhythms, playing too loudly or too softly or not distinguishing between the two at all, not paying attention and suddenly finding themselves a measure off, and many others.  What is the result, you may ask, of reading through pieces of music once and butchering them? The answer is: laughter and camaraderie.  Nothing is funnier than everyone getting lost in the music and discovering that we were only a measure apart from each other, or discovering that we have not been paying attention like we should have and somehow managed to play several measures in a key other than what the piece was written in.  It is also a great opportunity to relax and have fun while making music, without the stress of a performance situation.

Sight reading ensemble music can have other benefits, too.  If you happen to be like me, a violinist of modest abilities, getting to sight read with professionals is a great thing in that you can begin to pick up better technique and ask questions that, when answered, help you understand how to play the music better.  It is also incredibly reassuring to see professionals making as many mistakes as you are, because it is a reminder that everyone has to practice and work hard in order to play music well. And like I touched on before, it is a great way to build connections with other musicians.

On that note, I declare this post finished.  Until tomorrow, happy failing!