Favorite lyric

Apropos of nothing, here’s what may be my very favorite song lyric, from Jewel’s “Painters.” It’s a cheesy pun and adorable and makes me smile every time I hear it. Or sing it. ๐Ÿ™‚


“In the winter they were weavers of warmth,
in summer they were carpenters of love;
they thought blueprints were too sad,
so they made them yellow.”

I’d love to hear your favorites, chers lectuers. Yeah, I’m in a short-French-phrase-using mood; I blame Hitch. I read a couple of his books this month, and he threw a lot of unnecessary French into his writing. ๐Ÿ˜›


The Sing-Off is back on

My Twitter feed started buzzing recently with a link to singoffcasting.com – the show is coming back to NBC for a fourth season. Ben Folds and Shawn Stockman confirmed it to the Twitterverse at large. Why do I care? Because the show is awesome.

That is all. ๐Ÿ™‚

Half a year in the life of Arestelle, part ii

I feel like I’ve been going nonstop since January, and last weekend, when I took an extra day off to have a four-day weekend, was the first I’ve stopped for air since New Year’s. It’s not just the conflict with the employer and the Coursera classes and the grad school application, either, though I lost plenty of sleep to those, too.

I’ve been reading, for one thing. So far, I’ve read a novel and its prequel, Blue and Until Again, by Lou Aronica; Dance for Two, essays by Alan Lightman which I reviewed here; The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, by Edward Tufte, which I cannot recommend highly enough; The Once and Future King; The Hunger Games; Terry Pratchett’s Colour of Magic; H. G. Wells’s Time Machine; The Omnivore’s Dilemma; Quiet, by Susan Cain (please read this!); a novella by Bradley Beaulieu, called Strata; Aristotle’s Poetics; and Strunk & White’s classic grammar guide, The Elements of Style. I am currently in the middle of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry; Charles Darwin’s Descent of Man; Beaulieu’s second novel of Anuskaya, The Straits of Galahesh; and a math text, Calculus: A Liberal Art.

I follow several television shows online: Psych, Castle, Bones, White Collar, House (fare thee well), Glee (shut it), Ringer (and I wanted to see what comes next!), Grimm, Once Upon a Time, The Voice, and now Touch. And I’ll probably follow a couple others during the summer, like Burn Notice. In spite of all these shows, which I quite like, the one — the only one — I truly care about is the Sing-Off, which, sadly, has been cancelled. (The petition to save it has over 24,000 signatures, though; check it out.)

I’ve also…

  • taken some pictures here and there (but have yet to edit or post many of them);
  • discovered that the Highline Canal trail south of Denver is gorgeous for biking;
  • replaced my laptop’s old, dying hard drive;
  • spent some time with each of my parents when they visited;
  • given my adorable niece a stuffed owl for her first birthday – a sentimental connection to my grandpa – and am told she rather took to it (which I suppose means something like “she tried to eat Owl’s beak”);
  • had a little adventure in new-glasses-buying that ended with my old optometrist refusing to take responsibility for giving me a bad prescription;
  • nerded out a bit on notebooks & paper (O Clairefontaine!) after buying a set of colorful fineliners and discovering that ordinary paper is no match for a felt-tip pen;
  • battled a non-functional clothes dryer for about two months (it ran but didn’t heat the air);
  • bid good riddance to an alcoholic roommate who believed that grinding coffee beans falls under the category of Things It Is Appropriate to Do While Trying to Be Quiet at Five O’Clock in the Morning; and
  • finally got new windows at my house! (okay, I didn’t do that myself, but it needed done and I’m well pleased now it is.)

I also picked up some music that I found on sale or otherwise needed to have: the Amรฉlie soundtrack, Robyn, A Fine Frenzy, Carla Bruni, Jo Dee Messina, Sara Evans, Keith Urban, Sara Bareilles, Norah Jones, KT Tunstall, First Aid Kit, Keane, Lauryn Hill, Andy McKee, Scott Joplin/Joshua Rifkin, JS Bach/Jian Wang (cello suites), Beethoven/Andrรกs Schiff (piano sonatas). I love all the albums I’ve gotten, but especially Tunstall’s “Tiger Suit,” Bareilles’s “Kaleidoscope Heart,” and AFF’s “One Cell in the Sea.” The new Norah Jones is really interesting, too, and on one track (“She’s 22”), Jones & the tune sound exactly like Jenny Lewis (Rilo Kiley, if you don’t know her as a solo act). I would never have seen that coming; Norah’s always been so smiley, and Jenny is, well, not that.

So, um, I’m a bit tired. I can haz more 4-day weekend?

Collaborative spirit and a community of music

Confession: I love The Sing-Off. I am not a fan of the term ‘fan’ (it makes objects out of both appreciator and appreciated), but if I’m to be called a fan of anything, let it be The Sing-Off. Those who follow me on Twitter may have picked up on this over the past few days, ever since NBC announced the show’s cancellation. (…or any time I watched an episode last fall, for that matter.) Thanks, to them, for putting up with me; of course, many of my followers being space tweeps, they understand seriously nerding out about something they love. They’ll light the Twittersphere ablaze if anything beautiful and important in a space program is at risk, which is what got me to pay real attention to Twitter in the first place.

But I digress. I want you, chers lecteurs, to understand why I love The Sing-Off, because this isn’t like any other show I’ve ever loved–not like The Pretender, not like Firefly, not even like its own closest (in a way) competitor, The Voice.* Unlike every other singing competition I have seen, and in spite of its own competitive trappings, The Sing-Off seems at heart to harbor a collaborative spirit.

The judges are not producers or mere critics. They are beloved and respected musicians in their own rights, whose enthusiasm for their art and for a cappella shines and bubbles and sighs and shouts at every turn. They are–dare I say it?–nerds about music. And unabashed, incorrigible nerds they are at that. How else could Ben Folds discuss, on air, the “rubbing seconds” in a performance, along with other technical aspects that surely he knows go over the heads of a good portion of the audience? How else could Shawn Stockman let himself go on a flight of fancy like the one he took after a performance of “one of the cheesiest songs ever created”? That flight deserves quoting:

If I can be cheesy for a second, it felt like I, like, sprouted wings and I just jumped off the Grand Canyon, and just flew away, and just looked at rivers, and deer, and birds, and other birds, and I was saying “hi!” [waves]…

And the result is that the groups actually get some substantive feedback on their performances, while we the viewers get a chance to peek inside the practice room and see what it’s like in there, to learn about how full and complex music is made with nothing but the human voice, and to see raw passion on both sides of the judges’ bench.

After Delilah schools you on loyalty, Ben’ll school you on the chromatic scale.

I’ve always loved the sound of a cappella music. Take 6, Acappella, and Vocal Union got plenty of air time on my family’s 13-hour road trips to visit family in Kansas; Chanticleer and the King’s Singers were more at home on my father’s vintage stereo; and as a kid I heard Acappella and Chanticleer live in concert. So hearing groups like Committed, the Whiffenpoofs, and Groove for Thought in the second season of the show felt like coming home. As for the vocal tricks of a group like Pentatonix or the harmonies of Afro Blue, I nearly fell out of my chair more than once (and the judges jumped out of theirs a few times, themselves); I don’t do that lightly. Promise. And I still lack words to describe those moments.

But given my Mennonite background, listening alone was never enough for many of the people I’ve known. I was never at the center of it myself (too much a choir voice, mine, and too timid, me), but cousins and classmates formed a cappella groups at college, and when members moved and a group broke up, they found other singers to connect with and formed new groups, and the cycle went on. A cappella as I’ve seen it is a community all its own, where the most important thing is to keep making music–wherever you are, be it a big stage or a quiet stairwell, and whoever you are with, music runs in your blood and you can’t help but keep finding ways to let it out.

The Sing-Off gave us a glimpse of this community, as people who had barely met came together for the show and made something almost magical. We saw it in the way members of past groups, who may have been competing against each other one year, united from all parts of the country the next and returned with performances more amazing than before. We even got to see brother bring brother into the fold. This is how the a cappella world works, forming ripples and eddies in the river of vocal performance. I know of nothing else like it, and I want to keep watching from my little vantage here on the periphery.

Besides, they gave us some damn good music.

Want to save The Sing-Off? There’s a petition that has received over 14,000 signatures; there’s a website, a Facebook page, and a Twitter; and you can use the hashtag #SaveTheSingOff to join the conversation.

* I should mention this: It saddens me to see how some people are showing their support of The Sing-Off by denigrating The Voice. That’s not the point here; it shouldn’t have to be one or the other. They are very different shows, with different focuses, and they are both wonderful. They share a major strength in that they both focus on promoting singers for great singing, regardless of genre, and they encourage unique styles instead of some formulaic ‘right’ way to sing. Think about the variety of genres in The Voice’s final four: a soulful R&B artist, a brilliant operatic singer (opera! I mean, opera, on popular network television!), a gravelly-voiced rocker, and a jack of all trades whose personal niche shaped and reshaped itself before our eyes. The Voice, like The Sing-Off, features experienced performers as judges (and, uniquely, as coaches). I love The Voice, too, and I want it to stick around a good long while.

Arestelle sings…my brother’s song

(My stats are telling me no one cares when I post singing clips, so maybe I should stop, but…well, I still like singing. And people with ok-but-not-amazing voices don’t sing enough, I think. People just don’t sing enough. So I’m just doing my part…and that’s my story. Sticking to it. ๐Ÿ˜› )

My brother used to fancy himself a songwriter, and I have to admit I liked his songs. Not just ’cause I’m his little sis, either – they were sweet and silly and quaint and occasionally suited my voice. He and I have kind of the same voice, just in different ranges (and he’s more practiced); maybe it seems obvious since we’re siblings, but our middle brother has a very different voice. Much buzzier, maybe more technical – he’d be better at runs and more complicated stuff than we are. Anywho, here’s a verse and chorus of one of the songs. (His recording has harmonies and a cool guitar part, so, sorry that all you get here is my mousy vocal melody. ๐Ÿ˜‰ )

I’ll replace it with a video when I can figure out what settings to use; I replaced my laptop hard drive–it was threatening to die on me–and am still finding stuff I didn’t transfer quite right, so there are some settings I need to get sorted.

Edit: I got the video working! Apparently YouTube doesn’t always play nice with mp4s, and some of my other vids might not work right now… But here’s this one: