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Musical Festive Things :)

Joshua Iyer

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Published: December 24, 2014 at 8:40 PM [UTC]

Merry Christmas! I just wanted to write down a few exciting musical things that have happened in these few days leading up to Christmas, which have all been very exciting, rather than publishing multiple entries. Just to be more organized, I guess… :) And in some ways, they are all related to Christmas, so yeah. I hope your holiday season is going fantastically! :)

First off, I’ve been spending a few days working on a video cover of “Winter Wonderland” on violin and with Garageband instruments, so you can check that out in this link when it’s uploaded to YouTube. It’s a special step-up from all my other violin videos I’ve done on YouTube in the past couple years (almost three!), and since I’ve spent so much time on it I think it’ll be a fun video to watch and get you in the Christmasey mood. :) I used three violin parts, but I layered them so I could record me playing the same part three or four times, so it would sound more like a violin section rather than just one violin. The morning of the 21st was a lot of fun, since that’s when I recorded all my violin footage and audio! :)
Here is the video.

Secondly, on Monday (the 22nd), I picked out two new bows to try out at PM Music Center. They are both carbon-fiber bows, but they are both much lighter and more expensive than the bow I currently use (and used in the video). I brought my violin concerto, “Little Snow-White”, to play through some passages. The beginning section has always been a struggle for me to play well, but when I set the first new bow to the string and played, it produced this beautiful tone I never knew existed in me! With several days of practice, once I have my bow of choice, I think my tone will greatly improve in not just this concerto, but in everything I play on my violin. It’s technically a Christmas present, and it’s a fantastic one! The person who helped me find bows said that it’s better than asking for an Xbox One. :) I actually let them keep the violin for the day to polish up the wood and try to fix some of the chips in the wood (and replace my A string), so that will be a very nice addition, as well, just in time for the beginning of 2015! It was very cozy in the room I played in, because everything around me was wooden—all the violins, violas, and cellos, the floor, even the music stand where my binder for my concerto was. All it needed was a fireplace, a Christmas tree, and for it to be snowing outside, and it would have been paradise. :)

On Tuesday (the 23rd), I chose the bow my teacher leant towards—a Diamond Coda bow—when I went back to PM Music. I also got to see my violin all polished. It’s shiny now, and the resin in the wood is all gone. :) I spent some time in the afternoon on Christmas Eve playing with it, first playing an improv medley of Christmas music, recording on my iPhone, and then playing through the entire concerto with my new bow. It sounded so much cleaner, especially in fifth position on the A string! I still have small intonation issues to work out, and I still need to spend the rest of my winter break getting to know my new bow, but after that it will become the bow I use from now and probably through college. :)

Finally, I hope all of you have a wonderful festive season, and may music - whether hearing the wonderful violin sections in the orchestra or the cool covers or symphony arrangements - be a major part of your evening and tomorrow morning to celebrate this most wonderful time of the year! :)

*** 24 March 2015 UPDATE***
After watching this video, I can't believe I never mentioned going to AMC Showplace Theatre to watch the film, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies! It was the Christmas thing I mentioned the last two years I enjoyed. (I just read my thoughts on it from my journal.) You should look up the soundtrack by Howard Shore on YouTube. :)

Here's my review of the film:
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
Written: 22 December 2014
After seeing the first two Hobbit films for the past two years, both released around Christmas, it was nice to see the final Middle-Earth adventure. And what a film it was! "The Battle of the Five Armies" was an epic way for Jackson's franchise to end on a grand note. The visuals were all built upon large, open areas, especially in the fighting scenes. I really enjoyed the opening scene with the epic destruction of Lake-Town by Smaug, probably my favorite. The music and constant ringing of the town bell and the fiery visuals made the scene an intense way to begin the film. The various emotional bits in-between the large numbers of armies fighting gave the film a little breathing room. And at the very end, when we return to the Shire with that familiar atmosphere, it lends us back home, as the film comes to its conclusion.

The music in this one was again written by Howard Shore and played by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, which did a great job. We again hear several leitmotifs from the first two Hobbit films, such as the violins' creepy theme for Smaug, Bilbo's variation of the Shire theme from the original films, and a heroic piece for Thorin built on brass. Several pieces from the original series return as well, such as music for the Orcs, the famous violin melody for the One Ring, and for the Shire. All of this allows the listener to latch on to musical knowledge from previous, which makes the scene ever more powerful; and as this is the final film, it is imperative that Shore does this. There were several sections with chanting choir, to add to the battle effect, and as Thorin begins his solo battles on the mountain, the choir becomes ever more intense. The music does a good job of flowing with the movie, which aids the transitions. There were some times that felt right omitting music, and some where I felt something more was needed, however. Overall, it was a pretty epic score that did a lot for the film, and I wonder if Shore will do anything more with his music for these films.

Overall, the visuals and everything were of a fantastic quality. The allusions to the original Lord of the Rings in terms of plot were really nice as well. Overall, it was an epic conclusion to finish a six-film collection of The Lord of the Rings.

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