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moving house

Bangor, United Kingdom


So I've moved blog house to
because...it's prettier. So that is where you should look for posts from Wales!

permalink written by  outlawedwings on March 24, 2009 from Bangor, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: triple_strung_heart
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classes, harps, and snow oh my!

Bangor, United Kingdom

It snowed today! This next week is supposed to be the most snowfall in Bangor in the past forty-five years...I'm pretty excited (I never ever see snow in February!).
Today is also the start of my second week of classes, so maybe I'll be able to make sense of Practical Music Technology and start playing with recording this week. Also I've been reading for the History of Punk Rock and the theories behind the movement are really interesting. Apparently the reason punk was so huge and raw in the UK was on account of a recession in the economy giving teenagers little or no chance of employment. Punk Rock provided an outlet for shocking the public into remembering how futile their values and futures were. Kinda depressing. This, and too much leisure time, is why punk rock fashion is so intense, according to Peter Wicke in his book "Rock Music: Culture, Aesthetics, and Sociology."
Our professor brought a sword to my Intro to Medieval Literature class and then proceeded to rant about how Beowulf was such a masterpiece, so I'm going to love that class. Arthurian Literature is equally fun--I started T.H. White's "The Once and Future King" and have been enjoying it. I hope I enjoy Malory as much...

On Saturday I had a truly Welsh cultural experience! I went to a traditional Welsh music workshop to meet harpists (and play!) and as soon as I walked in I realized that not only was I the only American there, I was one of the very very few who did not speak Welsh. Thus, all of the group announcements were in Welsh, and the performances at the end of the day were entirely explained in Welsh, so I had no idea what was going on for about half of the day. Fortunately the harp lessons were in English.
The harp instructor, Elin, is Welsh and plays the triple strung harp. She has played for Bill Clinton! She doesn't really read music and teaches by ear like all traditional Celtic instructors. She explained that she prefers learning and teaching by ear because notes and meter are too restrictive, and you should be improvising and embellishing as with tradition anyway. She also let me play on her triple harp (this is super exciting!) and it is kind of like staring at an M. C. Escher drawing without your glasses on. Her harp, particularly, was difficult, as some of the coloring on the C and F strings had totally faded so most of the strings were white, and in the middle C octave for the right hand both the G and the F were black strings (usually only the F strings are black) so it was extremely difficult to differentiate the notes! She said she just doesn't look at the strings anymore. I wish I had that luxury! (I expect that all of you understood that rant after my extensive (unasked for) tutelage of harp construction!)
So...with every different kind of harp there are new tools you suddenly have at your disposal. With a lever harp you can easily have only one accidental, say in the upper octave, and immediately play a chord without that accidental. With the pedal harp chromaticism is much much easier, and you can do cool things like pedal slides and glissandos. With triple strung harps you have three rows of strings: on either side the rows are exactly the same diatonic collection, while the middle row contains the chromatic notes (like the black keys on a piano).
Here is a picture! http://www.marytriola.com/pics/TripleStrings.jpg
This means that you can play the same diatonic thing at the same time in the same range. Or you can do this really cool echo-y thing by playing the notes of a melody in your right hand, and playing the same notes in the same octave with your left hand but slightly off beat. AWESOME.

My flat started a really cool tradition last Sunday. Georgina, who was here last semester and actually knows what is going on, cooked us traditional English hot pot and ginger snaps, which were amazing. We decided to make Sunday nights Cultural Dinner night, and we would take turns cooking! Last night Freddy, who was born in Ecuador but moved to Chicago in middle school, couldn't decide between Ecuadorian food or American food, but ran out of time so he cooked pasta with two different sauces and made broccoli, and served fruit salad and chocolate cake for desert (his cooking was super fancy and we're a little worried that he raised the bar too high!). Next week we're going to have German currywurst (?) which should be fun.


permalink written by  outlawedwings on February 2, 2009 from Bangor, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: triple_strung_heart
tagged Dinner, TripleStrungHarps, WelshMusic and PunkRock

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north wales

Bangor, United Kingdom

On 19 January I finally made it to Wales! It rained all day, and during the bus ride to Bangor the rain turned into lots of snow flurries, which was amazing to watch, since I could also see the ocean (I never think of it snowing on the beach!)!

It turns out that I'm living in an international hall. My flatmates include David (from Germany), Sonia (from Spain), Simona (from Italy), Freddy (Ecuadorian from Chicago), Katrin (from Austria), Emma (from Oxford), and Georgina (from Manchester). We've all become friends, and helped each other with class schedules, finding out where to get our ID cards, and translating various words into English.

The first few days of the first week I spent in boring and slightly nerve-wracking orientation meetings and registration meetings. Instead of everything being digital, like at SU, we had to go to each school department individually and get a lecturer to sign their initials next to modules (classes) we wanted to take. Assuming everything goes according to plan, I will be taking:
Arthurian Literature
Intro to Medieval Studies: Heroes and Villains!
Practical Music Technology and
History of Punk Rock.
Classes start tomorrow and I'm pretty excited.
I'll be taking the English lit modules in the Main Arts hall, which they call the Hogwarts Building, as it looks like a clearer version of this:

Bangor is pretty small, and at first was quite cold and rainy, but it's been really nice crisp weather for the past two days, so we decided to walk to see some of the sights of Bangor. Apparently Bangor hosts the second largest Victorian pier in the U.K. and it is beautiful.

We also tried going to a nearby castle, which is apparently a fake castle that was built by an American, but when we got there it was closed!

Tonight Georgina is cooking us a traditional English dinner called a Hot Pot, which is like stew with a pastry top on it. It smells really good!
Hwyl (Cheers)!

permalink written by  outlawedwings on January 25, 2009 from Bangor, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: triple_strung_heart
tagged Rain, Castle, Travel, Pier and Bangor

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London, United Kingdom

It was a dark and stormy day: I had arrived in London. It turned out that before I was to travel to Wales, I needed to stay in London for the Arcadia orientation. The first couple of days were fairly regimented; meetings, lectures, and a tour or two, but by Wednesday we were pretty much on our own.

The most interesting meeting occurred on Tuesday. That afternoon three members of the British Parliament (Labour party, Conservative party, and Liberal Democrat party were all represented) came to answer any questions we had for them! I asked about the surveillance in the UK. On the plane ride up I had read an article about an eight year old girl caught on surveillance hiding a pair of her friend's shoes. On account of cameras in the classroom, the girl was given a yellow slip (after three of those she would be suspended). The mother of the girl whose shoes were hidden was pleased, and the mother of the girl who was punished was outraged. She said she had liked the idea of the cameras to begin with, but she felt that using them for the purposes of punishing a little girl's prank was extreme, and she no longer felt they were a good idea. After reading "Little Brother" on account of Tommy's recommendation (http://craphound.com/littlebrother/download/ :It talks about how surveillance is eroding our rights to privacy) I agree with the outraged mother.

All of the parliament members felt uncomfortable with so many cameras, and the steadily increasing numbers of cameras, but they said that until there was a "more normal" way to keep track of crime, cameras were part of governmental systems. The Labour Party representative mentioned that people ask for more cameras in the streets, so I wonder how equivalent people's sense of security in having cameras is compared to the actual security cameras offer.

On Wednesday evening we were given tickets to go see Queen's rock opera musical: "We Will Rock You" which was fantastic. The costuming and music were amazing, and more than made up for the contrived plotline.

Thursday was a free day. After mentioning the graffiti artist Banksy to one of the Arcadia Representatives, she let me borrow her Banksy tour of London book (!) so I spent the day going on my own graffiti tour of London!

I spent a long time thinking about the reading Emily picked out for my Paideia group last semester about graffiti, and the aesthetic of control. It seemed, especially after the discussion about surveillance, more and more silly that graffiti is taboo, and in addition to being aware of graffiti on the walls, I was more aware of blank white or beige walls, and how boring that can be!

Most of Banksy's work was destroyed, painted over, or completely missing. :(

It was really fun to look for his graffiti though; I went to parts of London I never would have seen otherwise, and I found it really interesting that while some people had stolen his work to sell it on ebay, some people made an effort to paint around it. Other graffiti artists tagged on or near his work (like the puzzle piece on the rat's sign). The book I was using was written by a graffiti fan who just notices the world around him.

permalink written by  outlawedwings on January 23, 2009 from London, United Kingdom
from the travel blog: triple_strung_heart
tagged London, England, Graffiti, Banksy, Paint, Rat, Arcadia, StudyAbroad and Surveillance

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