Give me a Break
Posted Thursday, 28-Oct-2004 4:16 PM
Many students and teachers have already set what they intend to do during the sem break. However, there are still some of us who are quite unsure how we will relax and at the same time be productive.
Here are three essays that might help us figure what we can do so as not to turn ourselves into mere couch potatoes or hibernating bears during the break. Let us read the following and see if we are more of an adventurer, a gourmet, or a musician.
Michael Cu (H4B)
Open your eyes to the scenes of the past. Enter the doors of the eras in revolution. Leave the century of technology and chaos. Forget the present.
From ages to this day, music has made its mark on the lives of the people. It plays a very significant role in different aspects of living, and is treated with great importance, one that is much greater than that of today. At present, only few traces of classical music remain; existing like a splendid torch, it continues to shine only through the men and women who are passionate to make it burn – musicians. Specifically, thus, playing the piano is not just a gift; it is a grand mixture of talent and skill, mind and body, heart and soul, practice and performance, all in exact proportion to one another. In this light, perfecting the art of playing classical music through the piano involves an enduring balance between music and technicalities, as well as a perfect harmony between the mind, the ears, and the hands.
With each and every piece of classical repertoire, one must always start with conditioning the mind. The mind is the source of the supreme power that controls one’s playing; accordingly, discipline and concentration is of paramount importance. Preparing yourself to practice for long straight hours, as well as not losing your concentration while performing, entails a great deal of mind-conditioning through practice. With that in mind, it is palpable that patience is one of the most important qualities needed to be lived up by pianists like myself.
Secondly, with each power station, there are machines to control; and in playing the piano, the hands are the only equipment. Conditioning the hands involves a lot of scales and exercises. You must develop your hands to be strong and quick for bombastic works; but at the same time, your fingers must be gentle and soft for relaxing compositions. This, you may only obtain through practice, practice, and more practice. It may seem difficult, and indeed, it is easier said than done, but as always quoted, “Practice makes perfect!”
Moreover, as important as having good hands and a good mindset is having the ear for music. Conditioning the ear properly is what most other performers take forgranted, but to tell the truth, having a conditioned ear is the key to bringing good music. Developing a good sensation for listening calls for habitually exposing yourself to different genres of music.
Constantly immersing your ears to different timbers and musical tones will shape up your ears as well. Through this, you will be able to fully develop the ability to distinguish different notes, harmonies, and melodies from one another, leading to more expressive and more heartfelt deliveries.
The next act after conditioning and preparing your body for playing the piano is the long and unending stage of practice. In each and every classical work, one must first focus on the technicalities of the piece before putting in view the aspect of music. There are many different ways to practice playing the piano and each varies directly with the type of repertoire or passage involved. Then again, in general, the art of practice may be classified into two unified paradoxes: “Fast and loud works must be practiced slow; slow and soft compositions must be practiced hard.” Aside from this wide-ranging idea, there are also specific methods for carrying out certain measures such as 1 trilling two notes alternately for fast passages, thrusting your wrist up and down for loud chords, and 2 slurring the hands repeatedly for melodic lines, but you must always keep in mind that there is not a single way to practice for certain pieces. As practice depends on a variety of people, the vital part in practice is finding the method that suits you best, the technique with which you are most comfortable.
Now, after putting much attention to the technicalities of your selection, you must then orient yourself towards the most evident, and I may say, most fulfilling facet of the process – the music. Playing classical compositions doesn’t only entail perfect notes and passages. Just as icing is the feature that makes the cake lovely, the musicality of one’s performance is what people watch for and enjoy; and that is, in fact, the “x-factor” of playing the piano. Unlike a work’s technicality, which has many ways to pursue, music can only be drawn from a single aspect, and that is interpretation. To produce good music, you must play with great enthusiasm; and to be able to come up with exceptional zeal, you must let the music sink into your heart and soul, an act more commonly known as “feeling the song."
Finally, after much preparation, master and memory is now your ultimate finale. Though it seems complicated, in reality, mastering and memorizing classical repertoire will be simple once all preceding aspects have already been pulled off. Putting things short, this last and terminal process requires no more than playing your pieces over and over again, with all other features placed into account.
Perfecting the art of playing classical piano may only be achieved when there is a balance between musicality and technicality, along with a harmony between the mind, the ears, and the hand. Accordingly, the grand combination of all of these elements is what most people know as talent, a gift that not all people are endowed with. As 3 Franz Liszt once said, “Practice with your mind, play with your heat, and you will see remarkable results.”
1 trilling – playing two notes alternately with a fixed wrist at a relatively higher speed
2 slurring – playing a set of notes with hands curving in a circular path, emphasizing certain tones
3 Franz Liszt – a legendary musician who lived in a later time than most classicists; he also happens to be the writer’s favorite composer.
Michael Cu is Xavier's pride when it comes to playing the piano. In fact last month, he had a solo concert at Angelo King Multi-Purpose Center. This essay shows that aside from being a great pianist, Michael is also a good writer and instructor.
Daryl Uykieng (H4B)
Touring is one of the most popular activities done by people around the globe. This activity brings enjoyment and pleasure to people. However, there are times when people do not get the fulfillment they wanted from their touring experience. Unlike other activities, touring is trouble-free and easy to execute yet getting the most out of the experience could be quite intricate and hard to do. In order to attain the maximum leisure of touring, one needs to remember a series of steps while traveling.
Before actually departing to the place that you want to tour, prepare the necessary things that you will take on your travels. Getting your passport ready along with your travel visa would be the most appropriate thing to do first; it would be troublesome for you to lack the needed papers in the immigration when you arrive at your chosen destination. Your personal belongings are also as important as your documents so arrange them properly in your travel bag to locate items quickly when needed. Bear in mind not to bring too much load to avoid hassle but always guarantee that you packed enough items to last until the end of your stay; you do not want to have a shortage of clothes while touring.
Arriving at your preferred destination, familiarize yourself with the place. This is very essential to not get lost; it would be hard to find yourself astray in a place that you are not yet accustomed to. When going out of your desired hotel, recall the twists and turns you took to go to a restaurant, a park, etc. so that you can retrace your steps. This will help you get back to your hotel room safe and sound. Knowing where the location of the local police station and local hospital would also be of great help to you in cases of emergencies so ask around to be aware of their location.
The actual touring of the place is interesting and exhilarating. First, visit the historical sites and structures of the place to learn more about its past. By doing this, you will be able to explore the memorable events that have happened in the place you are touring. Next in your agenda are the cultural centers and museums; these locations hold the key to the culture and traditions of the people surrounding you. It would be a great opportunity for you to perceive another culture besides your own. Your schedule must also contain the scenic locations for one should not miss out on the awe-inspiring areas the place has to offer. Always take pictures as memorabilia when going to these spots to have something to remember when you are already back at home.
Sampling the local cuisine of the place should never be neglected by a tourist. This is most pleasurable since it gives you a feel of the people’s lifestyles there. Moreover, savoring the different foods and drinks native to the place is always an excellent choice; it allows you to open your mind to other delectable flavors not known to you before. Not only do you get to have a special kind of dining experience, you also get to discern the tastes and preferences of the people when it comes to having a feast. All in all, doing this brings you both food for the body and food for the soul.
By now, you have already catered to the various interests the place has to offer. Still, there is one more thing a tourist must never overlook, socializing with the local residents. It is by personal interaction and intermingling with the locals do you really get to experience hands-on the different cultures and traditions that they possess. In doing this, you will be able to further appreciate the people and become more fused into their culture. This could turn out to be an eye-opener for some who want to learn other cultures. Also, some who want to learn the traditions of other people would love to have a different method of absorbing this new knowledge. While an additional bonus to this step would be having new friends.
Lastly, you never opt to leave the place without bringing home a realia or souvenir. Many think that this is a waste of money but they thought wrong. This may cost you some cash but it will always bring back memories of the times when you were there every time you catch a glimpse of it. With this, you will always have something that could remind you of the astonishing vacation that you had.
Getting the most out of the touring experience would be a breeze of one takes time to plan out the whole journey. These easy to follow steps would surely grant you the delight and the satisfaction you have always wanted to get when going out on a tour. You will never want to stay and sit at home when subjected to the ultimate touring experience. So what are you waiting for, start touring now.
Casey Yu (H4B)
The crème brûlée, a classic French dessert, when translated to English literally means burnt cream. With a harmonious combination of sugar, eggs, cream and vanilla, not excluding the luscious caramelized sugar topping, it is one of the richest desserts ever created by the French. The name might sound intimidating, but creating this masterpiece is actually simple and easy. The creation of the perfect crème brûlée can be easily accomplished in six easy steps.
The first step in making this classic dessert is gather the freshest ingredients needed for the recipe. One will need eight large egg yolks, two and two-thirds cups of heavy cream, half a vanilla bean and half a cup of sugar.
Secondly, take the cream and vanilla, heat them in a medium sauce pan just to a boil, and immediately turn off the heat. Remember to split the vanilla bean first and scrape out the seeds and place all of the seeds including the bean in with the cream. Also, do not over boil the cream because this will cause the cream to break or curdle. While heating the cream, in a large bowl, take the sugar and egg yolks and mix them with a whisk until the two are thoroughly mixed.
The next step, and probably the trickiest step, especially for beginners, is the tempering of the eggs. Though this step sounds complicated, it is actually quite simple. After heating the cream with the vanilla in it, ladle about one cup of it into the egg-sugar mixture, whisking to get the eggs used to the hot temperature of the liquid. Never put all of the cream mixture at once, because the hot liquid might cause the eggs to cook immediately and turn into scrambled eggs. After tempering the eggs, gradually pour in the rest of the cream mixture. That, basically, is the finished crème brûlée mixture.
The next step to do is to strain the mixture into a pitcher to remove the vanilla bean and small clumps of eggs. The reason why the mixture is poured into a pitcher is because it will make for easier pouring when the mixture is poured into ramekins – the traditional serving dish for crème brûlée. After pouring the mixture into the pitcher and the mixture is smooth and pale yellow in color, pour it into approximately six to seven ramekins.
Baking the crème brûlée is the easiest step. Place the ramekins in a roasting pan and fill it until the water level reaches half way on the side if the ramekins. Carefully bake the crème brûlée for thirty to forty minutes in a preheated three hundred degree oven. The crème brûlée should be just jiggling in the center. They will continue to cook as they cool. After baking, cool them for fifteen minutes and wrap the ramekins tightly with plastic wrap. Place them in the refrigerator for at least two hours or until ready to serve.
Finally, the most fun part of making a crème brûlée is making its crunchy sugar topping. After chilling, remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle a tablespoon of sugar on top of the crème brûlée. With a blow torch, melt and caramelize the sugar until it darkens but do not burn the sugar because it will get bitter. After the sugar caramelizes, the crème brûlée is finally finished and it is ready to serve.
As one can see, making this French dessert is quite simple. Though its ingredients are quite known, some may either be very expensive or unavailable in some parts of the country, like the vanilla bean or the blow torch. A substitute for the vanilla bean in this recipe may be one tablespoon of vanilla extract. Also, if a blow torch is not available, use the oven broiler. Turn the broiler on and place the ramekins with the sugar topping for five to ten minutes. Other than these few difficulties, making this classic dessert will be effortless if all the steps are followed properly.
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