Senior Cello Recital

Tomorrow, Saturday, December 1st, at 5:00pm, I will be accompanying a cellist for his senior recital at Recital Hall. We've put a lot of work into the program, and we think it'll be a great show! (Actually, it has to be, or we don't get paid.) In any case, the music is guaranteed to entertain, enliven, edify, etiolate, and shock the listener; and we hope that you enjoy it as much as we've enjoyed putting it together!

What: Senior Cello Recital, featuring the music of Bach, Debussy, Respighi, and Schumann
Where: Recital Hall, Jacobs School of Music (1201 E. 3rd Street)
Who: Ryan Fitzpatrick (cello), Andrew Jahn & Wendelen Kwek (piano)

Link to the Facebook invite can be found here; we're working on getting up a livestream, which will be posted as soon as it's available.


Lately on this blog there has been a slowdown in productivity; I apologize. Three-fifths is due to negligence, neglect, and the active avoidance of posting, while the other two-fifths has been sheer laziness. As with everyone, there seems to come a time where there intersects the demands of work, extracurriculars, and catching up on Starcraft 2 replays; and the goal is to take care of those duties and then resume the previous levels of productivity, while taking care not to let the current pace become the new norm.

However, I want to be upfront and say that it is accompanying which has demanded most of my attention these past few weeks. At first I thought I would only be assisting one student this semester; but apparently word got out that I would play almost anything, and at a reasonable price (if I like the piece well enough, usually for free), and I now count three names in my daily planner.

Not that I complain; I consider accompanying to be one of the most pleasant, agreeable, and ennobling activities that I have the privilege to share with others. Notwithstanding the scheduling conflicts and sprints across campus to make it from a scanning session to an afternoon lesson, it can be great fun; and frequently have I felt both the prolonged rush of adrenaline after a session of Shostakovich and the slow, satisfying burning in my bones long after playing through one of Haydn's sublime adagios; more than once has there been a hectic day at work where I manage to slip out for a quick connection with Mendelssohn, and for the rest of the afternoon I walk on clouds.

What follows are a few of the pieces I am currently working on, along with some annotations for the curious pianist:

Grieg: Cello Sonata in A Minor, op. 36

When I got the call asking for an accompanist for the Grieg sonata, at first I was reluctant; the piano part seemed difficult to put together, and I wasn't sure I would be able to get it up to the tempo written in the score. However, I should have known better - pianists who write the accompanying scores know how to make you sound good without too much difficulty. After a few sightreadings and some encouragement from my fullblooded Norwegian grandparents, I knew that I had to play it.

Of note is the last couple dozen bars of the first movement, where you are required to slam out elevenths while playing prestissimo, immediately followed by arpeggios flying through all the registers, which makes you feel like a total boss. Coupled with a quotation from the opening bars of Grieg's famous piano concerto, the badassness of this piece is therefore raised to 100,000. Highly recommended.

Hair music

Strauss: Cello Sonata in F, op. 6

Whereas Grieg was professional pianist, Strauss was not; and although I love this piece very much, and although I regard Strauss as a musical genius, the piano part is irritatingly tricky, complex, and in some places can be downright treacherous. Consider the fugue in the first movement during the development; I have had this piece in my repertoire for almost two years now, and I still have no idea what the hell kind of fingering to use. Due to passages like these my score contains several reductions, ad hoc ritardandi, and entire clusters of notes crossed out and obliterated; yet it still remains a difficult piece to pull off. And then there are the other two movements, which I don't even want to think about.

Regarding the pace of the first movement, I have listened to several recordings where for some reason during certain sections the tempo goes off the rails. I recommend sticking close to the original 168 beats per minute (as in the following Hamelin and Rolland recording), as the overture introduction sounds grander and more dramatic, and the militaristic second theme sounds more solid and self-assured, as opposed to frantic. Also keep in mind that during the coda you need to have a lot left in the tank to power through the stretto into the piu mosso, and still get faster after that. Don't be a victim.

Schumann: Adagio and Allegro for Cello and Piano, op. 70

Schumann is a rare bird, a bit gamy and not to everyone's taste. For me, at least, it took several years to warm up to his enigmatic style, and there are still times where I find his music a little too lush. However, the more I listen to his compositions - and especially his later work - the more intrigued and enthralled I become.

The Adagio and Allegro - originally written for horn and piano, and originally titled Romance and Allegro - is a charming piece, juxtaposing a dreamy, ethereal Adagio against the victorious, conquering Allegro. Florestan and Eusebius, the imaginary and opposing characters of Schumann's personality, are at play here, especially within the contrasting subsections of the Allegro; both performers would do well to try and elicit both characters.

Mendelssohn: Lied ohne Worte, op. 109

Every once in a while an instrumentalist will take mercy on you and select a piece that is well within your ability. As with Mendelssohn's famous Songs without Words for piano solo, the Lied ohne Worte for cello and piano is a brief character piece containing several of the elements of the Songs; a delicate melodic line floating over a simple accompaniment, but concealing deeper emotions which erupt to the surface during the agitato middle section. Very fun to play, and an excellent introduction to chamber music for the aspiring pianist.

Any damn way, that's what I've been up to in my free time. I have some SPM videos coming down the pike, as well as an overview of the AFNI uber_subject scripts, so stay tuned.

Unix for Neuroimagers: Shells and Variables

First, a few updates:

1) We just finished our first week of the semester here, and although things haven't been too busy, it may be a couple of weeks before I get back on a steady updating schedule. I'll do what I can to keep dropping that fatty knowledge on the regular, and educating your pale, soy-latte-white, Famous Dave's BBQ-stained faces on how to stay trill on that data and stack that cheddah to the ceiling like it's your job. And if you got one of those blogs dedicated to how you and your virgin-ass Rockband-playing frat brothers with names like Brady and Troy and Jason eating those cucumber salad sandwiches or whatever and you drop a link to this site, I'll know it. You show me that love, and I show it right the hell back.

2) While you're here, how about you donate a piece of that stack to the American Cancer Society. I mean, damn; I'm out there seven days a week on those roads, sweating and suffering, but you - you're at work procrastinating again, wringing your snow-bunny white hands over whether you should drop out of graduate school or just toughen it out and graduate in eight years, and while you're at it possibly take a swipe at that new Italian breezey who just entered the neuroscience program. Donate first, worry about those problems later.

3) We got another performance for you all this November, including Schumann's Adagio and Allegro for cello and piano, Resphigi's Adagio con Variazioni, and the Debussy cello sonata. Time and location TBA. Also, more music videos will be uploaded soon, but while you're waiting, you can listen to the latest Mozart Fantasie in D Minor, which has proved one of my most popular videos to date; last I checked, it had 57 views, which I think qualifies for viral status. We goin' worldwide, baby! World-WIDE!!

4) AFNI tutorials are next on the docket, after wrapping up the intro Unix tutorials for neuroimagers, and possibly doing a couple more FSL tutorials on featquery, FSL's ROI analysis tool. Beyond that, there isn't much else I have to say about it; now that you've mastered the basics, you should be able to get the program to jump through whatever hoops you set up for it and to do whatever else you need. There are more complex and sophisticated tools in FSL, to be sure, but that isn't my focus; I will, on the other hand, be going into quite a lot of details with AFNI, including how to run functional connectivity and MVPA analyses. It will take time, but we will get there; as with the FSL tutorials, I'll start from the bottom up.

Anyway, the latest Unix tutorial covers the basics on shells and variables. Shells are just ways of interfacing with the Unix OS; different shells, such as the t-shell (tcsh) and bash shell, do the same thing, but have different syntax and different nomenclature for how they execute commands. So, for example, an if/else statement in the t-shell looks different from a similar statement in the bash shell.

Overall, there's no need to worry too much about which shell you use, although AFNI's default is tcsh, so you may want to get yourself used to that before doing too much with AFNI. I myself use tcsh virtually all of the time, except for a few instances where bash is the only tool that works for the job (running processes on IU's supercomputer, Quarry, comes to mind). There are lots of tcsh haters out there for reasons that are beyond me, but for everything that I do, it works just fine.

As for variables, this is one of the first things you get taught in any intro computer science class, and those of you who have used other software packages, such as R or Matlab, already know what a variable is. In a nutshell, a variable is a thing that has a value. The value can be a string, or a letter, or a number, or pretty much anything. So, for example, when I type in the command
set x=10
in the t-shell, the variable is x, and the value is now 10. If I wish to extract the value from x at any time, I prepend a dollar sign ('$') to it, in order to tell Unix that what follows is a variable. You can also use the 'echo' command to dump the value of the variable to the standard output (i.e., your terminal). So, typing
echo $x
returns the following:
which is the value that I assigned to x.

From there, you can build up more complicated scripts and, by having the variable as a placeholder in various locations in your script, only have to change the value assigned to it in order to change the value in each of those locations. It makes your programming more flexible and easier to read and understand, and is critical to know if you wish to make sense of the example scripts generated by AFNI's "uber" scripts.

With all of the tutorials so far, you have essentially all of the fundamentals you need to operate FSL. Really, you only need to understand how to open up a terminal and make sure your path is pointing to the FSL binaries, but after that, all you need to do is understand the interface, and you can get by with pointing and clicking. However, a more sophisticated understanding is needed for AFNI, which will be covered soon. Very soon. Patience, my pretties.