Tag Archives: A to Z Challenge

P is for Sergei Prokofiev (and the Wolf)


Sergei Prokofiev was born in 1891 in the Ukraine region of the Russian Empire. Although he is often considered a Russian composer, he was, technically, Ukrainian.

Many people get their first taste of Prokofiev from a piece of music he was commissioned to write for children, to introduce them to the instruments of the orchestra—Peter and the Wolf. The father of two boys, Prokofiev threw himself into the assignment. It tells the story of a boy who witnesses a wolf eating a duck, but then protects the wolf from hunters. Each character in the story is represented by a motif played by a different instrument. In 2007 Suzie Templeton won the Oscar for Best Short Animated Film for her slightly disturbing stop-action version of Peter and the Wolf, featuring Prokofiev’s score. (If you’re in a hurry, the music starts at 5:45.)

Other than Peter and the Wolf, I had no exposure to Prokofiev until my Music Appreciation class, senior year in high school, when we listened to the suite from his movie score for Lt. Kije. He went on to compose music for seven more movies.

Here, Paul Rissmann tells the story of Lt. Kije along with snippets of the music:

My freshman year in college, Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony (No. 1) was among two dozen pieces of music we were expected to listen to in preparation for an annual “drop the needle” exam. He composed seven symphonies in all. Here is his first:

In 1914 Prokofiev met ballet impresario Serge Diaghilev, who became one of his most influential advisers and commissioned ballet music from him. He completed a total of nine ballets.

 Here’s Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet:

Prokofiev also composed 14 operas (though some remained unfinished). You may have heard the March from his Love for Three Oranges. Here it is played by Hillary Hahn and Lahav Shani:

Prokofiev was also a gifted pianist and traveled the world giving performances. He composed six piano concertos, 10 piano sonatas, and various other piano pieces. Before his death in 1953, he also composed incidental music, numerous orchestral suites and other works for orchestra, concertos for violin and for cello, vocal and choral music, chamber music, additional pieces for piano, and several marches for band. He is considered one of the leading composers of the twentieth century.

Here is Yuja Wang playing the Tocatta in d minor, Op. 11:

Monday Morning Wisdom #358: O is for Cynthia Ozick

Monday Morning Wisdom #358: O is for Cynthia Ozick

I read in order to write. I read out of obsession with writing. ~Cynthia Ozick

N is for Zentangle patterns that start with the letter N


I’m posting late today. But my taxes are done. Don’t leave yours until the last moment.

One of my goals for this year, which I really haven’t done much about, is getting back to Zentangle with more regularity. Since I couldn’t think of anything else that starts with the letter N that has something to do with the arts or the creative process, I thought I’d go to the wonderful website tanglepatterns.com and see what I could find. Out of the ones listed, I tried these four:

Nine Patch by Suzanne McNeill, which all the quilters will recognize:

Nine Patch by Suzanne McNeill

Navaho by Caren Mlot:

Navaho by Caren Mlot

Noodle by Angie Gittles:

Noodle by Angie Gittles

Nayo by Angie Gittles (my favorite of this group):

Nayo by Emiko Kaneko
Nine Patch, Nayo, Noodle, Navaho

M is for Moldova: I’d Rather be Dancing Moldovan Folk Dances

Location of Moldova. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike Unported License.

I had to look up where Moldova is. It’s that country colored red in the map above, in eastern Europe. That’s Romania on its west, and Ukraine wraps around its eastern side. It’s had a complicated history. For a time it was called Moldavia (or that was its English name, depending on what you read). Part of Moldova was included in the Soviet Republic for a time. Part of the territory traditionally known as Moldova is now within Romania’s borders. Some Moldovan people speak Hungarian.

Of course, I had to check out their folk dances. All the ones shown below are new to me except for the first one.

Mari Kiz is a dance we do at Phoenix International Folk Dancers. It consists of a 4-measure pattern danced in line of direction, and a variation danced into the center and out again:

Çekirgä, danced beautifully (though solemnly) by this group of children:

Hora de la Soroca:

Long Hora:

Ördög Útja (also known as Drumul Dracului):

Ostropat, a pretty couples dance:


Sârba ca la Sud. I think there is more than one version of this dance; this is particularly spirited:

NaPoWriMo Day 14


Today’s prompt is to write a poem in the form of the opening scene to the movie of your life.



PIANO GIRL is seated at an upright piano
playing a monotonous finger exercise
not very well.
She makes a mistake, 
and starts again.
Soon she makes another mistake
and pounds keys in frustration.



Piano Girl groans again,
starts her exercise again,
soon makes another mistake.


		I hate this!

Piano Girl starts the exercise again,
soon makes another mistake.


		How much longer?


		Five more minutes.

Piano Girl groans,
starts the exercise again,
makes another mistake.



Poet’s note: In a perfect world (definitely not WordPress world), the above poem would show up in the American Typewriter prompt and formatted like a screenplay. The WordPress verse block will not duplicate my formatting, and I don’t have the coding savvy to correct it.

Wordless Wednesday: K is for Katie

Katie at Japanese Friendship Garden

J is for Jesus

Christ_in_Gethsemane by Heinrich Hoffmann
Christ in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hoffmann

Jesus was the first topic that came to my mind for the letter of the day, but I resisted. My reluctance to blog about Jesus is that I don’t want to misrepresent Him in any way. Also, I like to stick to the focus of my blog: the arts and the creative process.

So I tried to find composers whose names begin with J, but I’m not familiar with their work. I came up against the same problem with poets and authors too.

I keep coming back to Jesus. Maybe there’s a reason.

I always (or since my 30s, anyway) thought I knew exactly Who He is—God the Son, second Person of the Holy Trinity, born of a virgin, died to redeem us, etc. But ever since I’ve started studying with my current Bible study group, my very traditional view has been challenged. We just finished a study of Jesus’ parables, and now we’re reading a book about how Christianity looked in the first two centuries. Let’s just say I’m praying and seeking to know Who Jesus really is.

So, instead of me telling you all about Jesus, let’s look at some artistic representations of Him.

Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
Christ Crucified, Velazquez
Christ Crucified, by Velazquez
Christ Carrying the Cross, Titian
Christ Carrying the Cross by Titian
Christ_of_Saint_John_of_the_Cross Dali fair use
Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Dali

The problem with all of these portraits is that they look like a white guy, which Jesus probably wasn’t. He may have looked more like a Middle Eastern brown-skinned Jew.

On the other hand, people often relate to a Jesus who looks more like themselves. Here are some alternate imaginings (sorry, to avoid copyright issues, I’m sending you to other sites):

Bottom line is, we don’t know exactly what Jesus looked like. As far as we know, He didn’t sit for a portrait during His earthly life. Does it matter? No. Is it okay for artists to portray Him as they see Him? Of course.

Monday Morning Wisdom #357: I is for Irwin Shaw

Monday Morning Wisdom #357: I is for Irwin Shaw

An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself. ~Irwin Shaw

H is for Homer


Not for Homer Simpson; and not the ancient Greek Homer who gave us the banes of every high school student, the Iliad and the Odyssey.

The Fog Warning by Winslow Homer. Oil, 1885.

Today we’re talking about the foremost American artist of the nineteenth century, Winslow Homer (1836-1910), especially known for his sea paintings.

Long Branch, New Jersey by Winslow Homer. Oil, 1869. Oh, the light.

He grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, painting watercolors with his mother. At age 19, Homer began a two-year apprenticeship to a Boston lithographer, making sheet-music covers and other commercial prints. For the next twenty years, he worked as a freelance illustrator, creating engravings of social gatherings for popular magazines. Meanwhile, he studied at the National Academy of Design, and took lessons in oil painting from Frederic Rondel.

Breezing Up (A Fair Wind) by Winslow Homer. Oil, 1873-76.

Harper’s Weekly commissioned him to go to the front lines of the American Civil War, where he sketched scenes of camp life and battles, and also scenes of the women at home and how the war impacted their lives. Back home again, he painted a series of oil paintings based on his sketches.

The Bridle Path by Winslow Homer. Oil, 1868.

In 1867, he traveled to Paris for a year, where he painted scenes of peasant life. He ignored the Impressionist movement of the time, preferring to hone his own style. Upon his return to the States, his artistic subjects included farm life, children at play, and young adults courting. In 1875, he quit his illustration work, determined to earn his living with his paintings and watercolors.

The Reaper by Winslow Homer. Watercolor, 1878. I love how the daisies pop.

In the late 1870s, Homer moved to Gloucester and became something of a recluse. Living near the shore reignited his love of the sea, which he captured on canvas in all its variations of weather conditions, along with the fisherman who daily braved the waves.

The Gulf Stream, Winslow Homer. Oil, 1899.

Homer spent 1881-82 in Cullercoats, Northumberland, on the British coast. There he painted working men and women, and his style shifted and matured. His palette grew more somber; his scale grew larger.

Eagle Head, Manchester, Massachusetts (High Tide) by Winslow Homer. Oil, 1870.

In 1883, Homer moved to Prout’s Neck, Maine, where he lived in a remodeled carriage house just 75 feet from the Atlantic. There is where he painted his major seascapes. In 1884 and 1885, he wintered in places like Florida, Bermuda, and the Bahamas and painted Caribbean scenes in watercolor for Century Magazine.

Crab Fishing by Winslow Homer. Watercolor, 1883.

Homer painted through the 1890s. It’s clear that he took his own advice that he offered to other painters: “Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems.”

A Basket of Clams by Winslow Homer. Watercolor, 1873. Incredibly detailed.

G is for Grammy Update


The Grammys were awarded this past Sunday, but I’ve saved my update for today so I could use it for “G” day of the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

I listened to all the nominees for 13 different categories, posted videos and chose my favorites. If you missed those articles, you can find them here: Part I: Best Music VideoPart II: Song of the YearPart III: Best Global Music PerformancePart IV: Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/ SongPart V: Best Dance/ Electronic PerformancePart VI: Best Rock SongPart VII: Best Country SongPart VIII: Best Traditional R&B PerformancePart IX: Best Improvised Jazz SoloPart X: Best Gospel Performance/ SongPart XI: Best American Roots SongPart XII: Best Instrumental Composition, and Part XIII: Best Metal Performance.

My picks won the Grammy 6 out of 13 times, so I was 46% correct. Here are my picks below, with videos of the actual winners:

Best Music Video: I chose Freedom, by Jon Batiste, and I was right!

Song of the Year: I chose A Beautiful Noise; the winner is Leave the Door Open.

Best Global Music Performance: I chose Mohabbat, Arooj Aftab, and I was right!

Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance: I chose Jireh, and the winner is Believe for It.

Best Dance/ Electronic Recording: I chose Hero, and the winner is Alive.

Best Rock Song: I chose Distance, Wolfgang Van Halen; the winner is Waiting on a War.

Best Country Song: I chose Cold, and I was right!

Best Traditional R&B Performance: I chose Bring It On Home to Me; the winner is Fight for You.

Best Improvised Jazz Solo: I chose Humpty Dumpty (Set 2), Chick Corea, and I was right!

Best Gospel Performance: I chose Help; the winner is Never Lost.

Best American Roots Song: I chose Cry, and I was right!

Best Instrumental Composition: I chose Eberhard, Lyle Mays, and I was right!

Best Metal Performance: I chose Amazonia, Gojira; the winner is The Alien.

This was a good exercise for me, because I really hardly knew any of the nominees. I didn’t watch the whole awards show, but what I did watch would have been unbearably boring without having some kind of frame of reference. I didn’t bother watching the Oscars this year, because, guess what? I didn’t see any movies last year.

Now it’s your turn. Did some of your favorites win? Were you surprised with some of the winners? Share in the comments below.