Saturday, November 16, 2013

BYU's Group for New Music

Last month was the first time that I went to a performance of BYU's Group for New Music, "an informal, occasional coalition of players who like to play unusual things written by living people." It truly was unusual music and it is so hard to explain, but I really liked it. I came home and looked up the names of the student composers and titles, but couldn't find any videos of them. I'm still working on that because I would love to share them with my son, who is in marching band, concert band, jazz band, percussion ensemble, music theory and music composition right now in high school.

Last night, I went to another of their performances and it was very different than the last one, but still as unusual. The group says that "one of the ensemble’s primary aims: to PROVOKE its members (both performers and those in the audience) to examine and broaden their definition of music." And I would like to pass on that objective, to help any readers I have to see music in a new way.

I actually found two of the pieces from last night online so you get a chance to learn about new music if you don't know about it yet. These two pieces are very different and the others I have heard have been very different from both of these too. This first one is called Entrada, composed by Stephen Scott. It's called a bowed piano technique, where they take the top off of the piano and use the piano like a string instrument. It was fun to see them do us right in front of us, where we stood around the piano, just steps away.

The second piece from last night that I found combines speech and music in an interesting and unique way. The composer, Scott Johnson, was a distinguished guest who spoke to the audience and had worked with the BYU students during his visit. Two of his pieces were performed. I couldn't find a video for the second, but you can hear a sample of it on Amazon and is called "Soliloquy From How It Happens (The Voice Of I.F. Stone)". You can hear samples from many of his other compositions on Scott Johnson's Scott Johnson's composition age.

I have no idea why the person who put the video on YouTube chose this photo for this, but it is the piece we heard with violin, cello, electric guitar, and piano, along with the speech.

So, I'm curious. What do you think about this small taste of New Music? If you want to learn more, the next performance I have found that is scheduled is at BYU's Madsen Hall in the HFAC December 6 at 7:30 and it's FREE.

BYU also has a Group for Experimental Music, that I haven't been to yet. They have a FREE performance this coming Thursday, November 21 7:30 at Madsen Recital Hall in the HFAC.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Crockpot Carne Asada Nachos

Kay, I know this isn't carne asada (a grilled steak), but that is the name from How Sweet It Is where this recipe is posted. It looked so good and easy. I made it a bit different. I had the meat cooked and then all the toppings (including Queso Fresco as the cheese) on the side since everyone likes different stuff. And I just cubed the avocado instead of making a guacamole. Lastly, I just served the tortilla chips on the side since I don't like when they get soggy under the juicy meat. It has lots of flavor and Elisa couldn't stop raving over it.

Crockpot Carne Asada Nachos

1.5 lb. flank steak
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1 t. smoked paprika
1 t. onion powder
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/4 t. chili powder
1/4 t. ground cumin
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. beef broth
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1 ripe avocado
1 lime, juiced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, torn
1 bag of tortilla chips
8 oz. of monterey jack cheese, freshly grated
1/2 c. sweet corn
1/2 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 c. sour cream or plain yogurt
In a small bowl, combine the salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and cumin. Whisk it together to create a rub, then evenly pat it all over both sides of the flank steak. Heat a large skillet over high heat and add olive oil. Add the flank steak and sear it on both sides until it is golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Remove the steak and place it in the crockpot. Cover it with beef broth and balsamic vinegar, then cover the pot and cook the steak on low for 6 hours.

After 6 hours, remove the steak from the liquid and place it on a cutting board to rest for 15 minutes. Slice against the grain, cutting it into thin strips - it may be tender from the crockpot and fall apart, and that is fine.

In a small bowl, mash the avocado with the lime juice, half of the cilantro and a pinch of salt. Set it aside.

Layer the chips on a baking sheet or dish. Cover them with half of the cheese, then add the corn and the steak. Add the rest of the cheese. Turn the broiler in your oven to high, and place the nachos underneath, cooking only until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the nachos and immediately cover them with the tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream and remaining cilantro. Serve immediately.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Will I Recognize Myself?

If you know me, you know I’m a geek, even a double geek. I enjoy science and learning and I also I seem to see analogies and connections in strange places. A couple of months ago, I saw a connection in my biochemistry class that most people wouldn’t have thought about while sitting in class. I’m just that strange.
My professor, yep, the same one I quoted in the last post, was talking about activation energy diagrams, which we students are all familiar with from gen chem so we were just reviewing it. If you aren’t familiar with it, it just shows the reactants of a reaction on the left and the products, or what is made, on the right. In the middle is the activation energy, like the hill that has to be climbed before the change can be made from the reactants to the products.

While Dr. T was explaining this, I was thinking about how it is like us. We start off as one thing in this life and our potential is to be something else, something bigger and better. But in order to get there, we must pass through some hard things and go uphill for a long time. Without this uphill climb, we will remain the same. It’s easier not to try, but we get nowhere and our potential is never reached.
In many reactions, the activation energy required to pass over that hill is so high that the reaction would never happen without a catalyst. The catalyst helps the reaction happen and the reactants changed to the (at least in my analogy) bigger and better product while the catalyst is available to go off and catalyze another reaction. Of course, that catalyst for us is our Savior. Without Him, we could never get over the hills in this life or the biggest hill, to attain eternal life. With Him, we will be higher at the end than where we started. With Him, we can be changed to something better, whatever our individual potential is.
A few days after this class, with this still in my mind, I read the following quote by Haruki Murakami, a best-selling Japanese writer, from his book Kafka on the Shore, which I haven’t read. I love the imagery of this.
“Sometimes fate is like a small sandstorm that keeps changing directions. You change direction but the sandstorm chases you. You turn again, but the storm adjusts. Over and over you play this out, like some ominous dance with death just before dawn. Why? Because this storm isn't something that blew in from far away, something that has nothing to do with you. This storm is you. Something inside of you. So all you can do is give in to it, step right inside the storm, closing your eyes and plugging up your ears so the sand doesn't get in, and walk through it, step by step. There's no sun there, no moon, no direction, no sense of time. Just fine white sand swirling up into the sky like pulverized bones. That's the kind of sandstorm you need to imagine.

An you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You'll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others.

And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. That's what this storm's all about.”
Haruki Murakami,  Kafka on the Shore

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Don't Do It

I've been thinking a bit about something my biochemistry teacher said last week that isn't even going to be on the test. Telling us we should be sure to take the time to turn in a very easy homework assignment, he said, "Don't make yourself hate yourself."

I'd imagine we've all been there. We do something, big or small, that we regret and then can't stop beating ourselves up about it. How can we avoid it? Do what we know we should do. Of course, none of us is perfect, so that won't happen 100% of the time, but we really can avoid the big pitfalls by following the Spirit and using our knowledge of what Heavenly Father wants from us.

 So let's be smart and not hate ourselves and be happy. Easy message for today.

Utah Local: Rico Cocina y Tequila Bar

I wanted to find somewhere different to have dinner with my children, but it had to have food that all of them would eat. It's not easy ...