on milestones

singing with the Ellensburg Women’s Chorus in the 2005

Some of you may know that I enjoy singing in choirs/choruses/chorales these days, even doing a solo every now and then, but I’ll bet few of you know that I was too shy to sing in front of most people until my second year of college. Most of my college friends could sing pretty well, and many of them were in the university chorale or the chamber choir. I loved singing, but I was too nervous and shy to audition, as much as I wanted to. Somehow, they convinced me to take a voice class. Not private lessons, but with a small group of students and one teacher, all at once.

This was safe for me to start out in. We sang everything together, until our final, and that was the first time I’d sung for real, alone, in front of anyone. It was terrifying! But it also gave me the courage to go through the audition process the next year, and I was in the chorale for the second half of my college career.

Since then, I’ve sung with Sacred Harp groups, church choirs, community women’s choruses, and a university women’s chorus (I still sing with two groups that fit in the last two categories). It’s been an amazing learning experience, and I sometimes marvel at how a person who was too shy to sing in front of a handfull of friends can now stand on stage and sing in front of hundreds of strangers.

In college, I was obsessed with singing low. I was proud to sing the alto part, and one of my fellow altos and I would frequently try to hide with the basses until our director made us go back to our section. For me, alto meant harmony and something interesting. Soprano seemed, well, boring.

These days, I sing first alto or second soprano, depending on the group and the arrangement. And the strange thing is, I’m finding that the low notes aren’t as much fun anymore, and sometimes are rather uncomfortable to sing. My voice, as women’s voices do, has been changing and maturing over the years. When I moved over to the second soprano section in my community women’s chorus last year, it was the first time I acknowledge that shift to anyone, including myself. It was a bit of an identity crisis at first, but I’ve come to embrace it.

Back in that voice class in college, my instructor called me a “chicken soprano,” and she was right. I could sing higher than I was willing to (or brave enough to) back then. Now I know I can, and I have quite often. The strange thing is, I can feel my voice changing. I started noticing this on octave leaps that would take me up to the C above middle-C, and beyond. They didn’t feel strained anymore — I just thought it, and then sang it with confidence.

My ear is much better. I have a good sense of certain notes and placement and intervals, although I couldn’t tell you what a perfect fourth or a major seventh sounded like to save my life. Those names never stuck with me. But, I can sight read pretty well, if you give me a starting point, and back in the day I had to hear it a few times before I could follow along.

So, I’m moving into my upper range, and it feels fine. But also weird. Sometimes, I can’t trust my sense of place anymore, because what feels like a G may be something else entirely now. My voice breaks are shifting, or maybe I’m just not as aware of them anymore.

This makes me feel less certain. Unbalanced. And it doesn’t help that I’m turning 37 this year.

Back to that voice class and the instructor who told me I was a chicken soprano… she also told us that women’s voices hit their peak maturity around age 37. To my 19-year-old mind, that seemed like a future so distant I couldn’t even imagine it, and now I’m here. Or nearly there.

People talk about how turning 30 wasn’t as big of a deal as turning 31. I get that. For me, as a woman and a singer, I think this 37th birthday is going to be more significant than either of those previous milestones. I’m just not sure if I’m ready for that to happen yet. Luckily, I have about six months to figure it out.

pitch perfect hits it out of the park

Pitch Perfect Original Theatrical Soundtrack CoverI’ve never sung in a collegiate a cappella group, and have no idea what it’s really like. That being said, I do have years of choral group experience to draw on for comparison. But, do you need any of that to enjoy the movie Pitch Perfect? No. Just a good sense of humor and an appreciation for modern pop music.

In case you haven’t heard of it, and I’m not surprised if you haven’t, there’s a new movie out called Pitch Perfect. It’s about college a cappella, the first year college experience, and taking risks.

It’s also fiction, so don’t take it too seriously. The boy gets the girl. The troubled youth defeats her inner demons. The underdog wins. Typical movie with a happy ending.

The real thrills came from the music. It was fun! Simply fun! Like the performances we saw on the three years of NBC’s The Sing-Off, there’s nothing quite like watching/hearing a group of singers using only their mouths and voices to perform creative arrangements of pop songs.

Simply put, I enjoyed Pitch Perfect. It was funny without being gross, and touching without being melodramatic. Go see it. It’ll be worth the ticket price.

libday7: day 3

The day began with sorting through the new email messages that arrived since yesterday, flagging actionable items with due dates, responding to those that could be done quickly, and deleting the irrelevant stuff.

Then I began to work my way through the to-do list, starting with verifying which ebook publisher licenses we have set up in GOBI and if any others need to be added. I tried to do this yesterday, but my login wouldn’t work. But, now that I’m in, I think I need admin rights to see them, so once again it’s on hold.

getting over the afternoon slump

Being thwarted in that, I dug back into an ongoing summer project — adding holdings years and correcting holdings errors for print journals in our OpenURL knowledgebase. I was lucky to have a floater assigned to me long enough to get the physical inventory done, and now it’s a matter of checking on anomalies (physical holdings but no catalog record, no physical holdings but with a catalog record, and neither physical holdings nor a catalog record but still listed in KB) and entering the holdings years into a spreadsheet that gets uploaded to the KB. I’m also adding location information, since we currently house print journals in four locations on campus, as well as adding notes about shelved-as titles.

Since I was on a roll with this project today after nearly a week of being distracted by other tasks, I decided to stick with it after lunch. I’m at 55% completed and I was hoping to have it done by mid-August, which will require a bit more diligence than I’ve given it for the past couple of months.

I had a brief afternoon interlude with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and a can of Coke Zero. Ahh…

I also paused to help a friend who is tech support at a medical non-profit in town. She was trying out their new remote desktop support service, so I let her take over my computer for a brief moment. Hope that was kosher with campus IS, but I figured it was for a good cause, and librarianly of me to aid in someone’s information needs.

Then it was back to the spreadsheets and the data and the ZOMG WILL THIS EVER END.

Hit a stopping point and decided to use the last 15 min of my day to wrap this post up and catch up on some professional reading.

thinking like a user, not a librarian

I should have know that this would be the slippery slope that lead to… a wishlist.

I did something today that was revolutionary. Well, for me, anyway. I tagged an album on RateYourMusic that I do not own, nor have I ever owned. I tagged an album for my wishlist.

I have been treating RateYourMusic as a LibraryThing for music, which it pretty much is, without all the flair and design and integration that LT currently provides. My personal rule (a.k.a. thinking like a librarian) was that I would “catalog” what I owned, not what I wanted or had previously owned. That’s how I roll over at LT, and for my book collection, it makes a lot of sense.

My music collection, however, is much more fluid. I’m less likely to hang on to a CD once I’ve grown tired of it, so I regularly trade out “old” albums for “new” ones. A while back I started tagging albums as “used to own” rather than completely de-accessioning them. Because I’m regularly acquiring new music, I need to know what I’ve already evaluated and passed on, and this is one way to do that.

I should have know that this would be the slippery slope that lead to… a wishlist. Sure, I have wishlists all over the place, from Amazon to the various swap sites I participate in. However, RateYourMusic is supposed to be a catalog, right? And a library catalog doesn’t have wishlist items, right? (Well, unless you count those books that never show up from the publisher/jobber/vendor.)

This is the point at which I stopped thinking like a librarian and started thinking like a user. Having a wishlist mixed in with my have and use-to-have lists means it’s all in one, indexed collection. It feels freeing to let go of the “rules” that keep me from using all of the tools available to me!

beer & food

My review of Bob Skilnik’s book was published yesterday, and the first comment that I received was a snarky commentary on a misspelled word. Sheesh. I have written many reviews over the past year, and most of them have at most received a comment from the editor that published them. Not the most pleasant way to wake up in the morning, let me tell you.

Anyway, the book was interesting, albeit not exactly an exciting read. I’d recommend it if you are interested in beer, food, and history, as well as old recipes.

I’m about half-way through a book on the history of Guinness, and I hope to write the review of that this week.

Oh, and for those who are keeping score, this is #25, which means I’ve read half of my annual goal.

#7

This book has been on my wishlist for so long I’ve forgotten why I wanted it in the first place.

Solstice Wood by Patricia A. McKillip

Meh. I am so far behind on this challenge I’m just trying to see if I can read as many books as I did last year.

Solstice Wood has been on my wishlist for so long I’ve forgotten why I wanted it in the first place. However, I promised my copy to someone a while ago, so I decided today that I probably should read it and pass it along before it was too late. I’m glad I did.

The story pulls together the threads of the real world and the otherworld and creates something so intertwined that at times it’s hard to tell which is which. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of six characters, and the perspective shifts each time. Surprisingly, this does not disrupt the flow of the story, and only once or twice was it necessary for the timeline to back up in order to follow the new perspective from where it diverged from the previous one.

All in all, it’s a satisfying read and has a real-world message about relations between different groups of people with different cultures and motivations.

loafin’

College a cappella is a genre of music that does not get the attention it deserves.

College a cappella is a genre of music that does not get the attention it deserves. It began with the Yale Whiffenpoofs in 1909, and it is set apart from barbershop and traditional choruses. The repertoire of most college a cappella groups consists of popular music, usually arranged by the members of the group or borrowed from other groups.

Unlike traditional a cappella songs that were written without instrumentation, the arrangements of popular songs interpret everything from guitar licks to keyboards using only the voice. There are several professional vocal bands (such as The Bobs), but most of the groups performing this style of music are centered in the college or university setting.

picture of the Penny LoafersOne such group is University of Pennsylvania’s Penny Loafers. The co-ed group was founded in 1986 and have released several recordings on their own as well as being featured on compilation albums. In 1999, they were featured on the Best of College A Cappella. After listening to their 2005 album Side A, it is apparent that they have continued to produce solid arrangements of pop and rock songs.

The Penny Loafers’ Side A is impressive in that the arrangement and execution of most of the songs are spot on a cappella replicas of the originals. However, there are a few production issues that throw it off. Occasionally the levels for the vocals doing the instrumental bits are not balanced so that they blend into a uniform sound, and there is a tendency for them to overwhelm the lead vocal.cover of Side A

An example of this is the beginning of “Don’t Leave Home.” Unlike the original performed by Dido, the sparseness of the intro is lost in the Penny Loafers’ arrangement due to the instrumental vocals being at the same level as the solo. They jump out at the listener in a way that they shouldn’t.

In contrast, “Take Me Out” blends everything just about right. Occasionally individual voices can be picked out, but otherwise it is a melodious blend of sounds that pay homage to Franz Ferdinand.

The best track on the CD is “Such Great Heights.” Given how well the group pulled off the Franz Ferdinand tune, it was no surprise that they would give the Postal Service’s song the same treatment. The original tune combines driving electronica with emo vocals that result in something almost zen-like. None of this power is lost in the Penny Loafers’ a cappella version. If anything, the impact of this song is enhanced in the new format.

You can view the full track listing as well as pick up a copy for yourself on the Penny Loafers website. The group is currently wrapping up work on a new album called Quicksand that will include songs originally performed by Kelly Clarkson, Snow Patrol, and Beck, just to name a few. For a taste of that, check out the video of the group performing Sia’s “Breath Me” live in concert.

crossing this off my list

This isn’t really on the list, but I had to take time to write it anyway.

I’ve been struggling lately with feeling overwhelmed by everything I have to do, and not knowing where to start. I realized yesterday that I need to do something to organize my tasks and give me short enough goals to feel like I can accomplish useful things every day that will get big projects done.

I had a stack of professional literature on my desk that needed to be read and then routed on to the next person on the list. Since I get annoyed with my colleagues who hang onto routed journals for weeks and months, I started by browsing through them and reading the articles that caught my eye. One such article was Aaron Schmidt‘s Product Pipeline column in the NetConnect supplement to Library Journal. One of the shiny new tools he writes about is Ta-da Lists, a free online resource that allows you to create lists of things to do and check them off as they get done. As with any Web 2.0 gadget, each list can be shared with others and it also has an RSS feed.

In the afternoon, I spent some time catching up on my librarian blog reading. I’ve resolved to try to stay on top of my Bloglines subscriptions. Steven Cohen’s comment a couple of weeks ago about spending approximately an hour a day keeping up with his 600 feeds every day inspired me to try to keep on top of my 150+ more regularly, particularly since I was a week behind on reading them when I saw his post.

Part of my feed-reading catch-up yesterday included Jenica Roger’s Thinking Out Loud. Last week she wrote about her day in time increments, many of which involved adding and removing items from her to-do list. Her physical to-do list with space for doodling and concrete evidence that yes, something was accomplished today. I’ve never been much of a to-do list person, but something clicked when I read that post, and I found myself over at Ta-da Lists creating an account and making my first digital work-related to-do list.

So far today, I have had the pleasure of crossing off five items and adding two. In a way, my tasks and projects have become a sort of personal competition to see if I can clear off the list before the end of the week, and that is exactly the sort of motivation I’ve been looking for. A hearty thank you to Aaron, Steven, and Jenica for your inspiration!

birthday

Yesterday someone asked me, “So, are you 29 or 29 and holding?” I could take it that they think I look older than I am. Or, I could take it that they think I’m young for a department head. I think I’ll go with the latter.

Yesterday someone asked me, “So, are you 29 or 29 and holding?” I could take it that they think I look older than I am. Or, I could take it that they think I’m young for a department head. I think I’ll go with the latter.