Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fulbright to Iceland!

After months of waiting, I am delighted to have found out that I've been selected for a Fulbright fellowship to Iceland in 2010-11. I leave in September, and will live there for nine months, possibly a little longer. I couldn't be happier! My proposal, once I arrive, is to experience as much of Iceland's culture, music scene, and landscape as possible, and write music based on these experiences. The end result as it currently stands is to create some kind of music-based installation that can play in Iceland, sort of introducing my experiences as an American in Iceland, and then I can take the installation back to the States for viewings. I hope that there will also be a performance aspect as well, though everything is subject to change based on my time there, the people I meet, and the network of contacts I've set up.

Come August, I'll get to spend a couple weeks at home before I go abroad, which will be the first time since 2001 since I've had more than 9 days off in a row. I had to defer my doctoral plans, and I also hope to sell some of my things to raise a little extra cash for my trip. Right now I'm in the midst of getting health tests and mailing back a lot of forms and reading up on rules and regulations. I'll have to find my own housing (with a little help, I'm sure) and I hope it won't use up the entirety of my stipend there! Luckily the cost of living is less than when I visited several years ago, before the economic crisis and collapse. In fact, people may be actively seeking out guests for apartments, so I hope to find a good deal for a shared room or sublet.

I told my bosses and coworkers that I will be leaving them in the fall, and I was so relieved that they were all incredibly supportive. I'm sure they're all a little upset, however, that they won't be able to find someone quite as good as me at removing paper jams from the copier, or cleaning up the dirty dishes, or greeting the multitude of people at the door in the mornings. The staff even applauded for me at the staff meeting! You would have thought that I had just given each of them a new car or something, with all the happiness floating around the room (but sadly I don't have Oprah's budget, I can only make everyone brownies). I'm sad to be leaving the museum, and Pittsburgh, but I'm glad it's for a terribly exciting new adventure. I'm looking forward to meeting long-admired musicians, hot dogs, harbors, fermented shark meat, beautiful light (and darkness), beautiful language, volcanoes, glaciers, kronur, and more asymmetrical haircuts than I can shake a stick at.

As I don't leave for another three months, there are still more comics, collages, and music projects to detail. 'Course, come September, this blog will probably transform into an Icelandic journal of sorts, so I hope you will all continue to read and enjoy.

(Photo: Hallgrimskirkja, the large cathedral in the center of Reykjavik. Taken on my 2007 trip.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Typewriter + Glockenspiel

A second sneak peek into two other elements of 'Music of North Side Spaces' in June. Glockenspiels and musical typewriters! This particular typewriter, on loan, has a sideways 'T' and is loved all the more for it. And it still has working ribbon inside of it! Those machines are fantastically indestructible.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Love Affair with Pittsburgh

I love Pittsburgh. I just hope my boyfriend doesn't find out I'm two-timing him with a geographic location.
I've lived in Pittsburgh for almost four years and there hasn't been a week that goes by where I see something, hear about something, or do something that prompts me to say, "that's why I like it here so much". I was born in Western New York in a small town, and I've lived in Upstate NY and Boston before, but never have I found such a good fit for me. The size of the city seems just right, and the cost of living is almost right where can pay the rent and my student loans. I like that "Pittsburgh" as an entity covers a lot of territory, so that my address can be in the right city– few New Yorkers ever get to see "New York, NY" on their mail, and when I lived in Boston, I technically lived in Somerville, which is more like a town outside of a town outside of Boston.

I love Pittsburgh in a sort of Michael Chabon "Mysteries of Pittsburgh"-esque romanticized way, as the first time I ever visited was to see A.S., who was born and raised here, and he showed me all of the local sights in a way that tourists just wouldn't (the slag heap! the angsty teen hangout! the places you can get bubble tea!).It was during the intense heat and humidity of August summer, and we were in college, and I still had blocks of time resembling summer vacation. A.S. convinced me there was something dreamy about the place, and others who have moved here since then have reconfirmed that fact. I've even seen two Pirates games during my times here, though I can't admit to staying through to the end of both of them.

Sure, there are some things that frustrate me about Pittsburgh. I'm also seriously irked by mass transit at least once a week as well, waiting around for a bus that doesn't show up, or missing a connection. I don't have a car, and Pittsburgh teeters on the border of one's not needing a car, and one's inability to lug big objects onto the bus, and bothering friends by asking them for rides. Also, obnoxious drunks, my crappy landlord, and Steelers-obsessed fans, but you can find those people anywhere.

Nevertheless, I came here for Carnegie-Mellon but I stuck around. Here are some things I love about the city. It's a list in no particular order (you know I love lists). I love the immediacy of the skyline as viewed from across one of Pittsburgh's 400+ bridges. I love the city's green initatives. The city steps! They are stairways, sometimes enormous, that are also technically city streets, often dubbed "paper streets"...just don't try to turn right on them when driving, as your paper map is misleading. I love the varied architecture of Pittsburgh, from a Richard Meier house on Chatham's campus, to Henry Hornbostle's Rodef Shalom Temple, and many repurposed old warehouses and old factories. I love that the weather is always changing, and that it rains a lot, which reminds me of my semester abroad in Scotland (and perhaps with Andrew Carnegie's influence on the city, the place physically looks a bit more Scottish than other cities). I love being a part of an art scene that allows me to actually get to know people, exhibit a work, get a piece performed, and collaborate with others. Cupcake shops, a vintage clothing store, and a gay bar just down the street from my apartment. Friends made along the way, the quality of light, the closeness to home without being too close. Mattress Factory is of course on the best-of list. Distinct neighborhoods with close-knit concentrations of Russians, Italians, Jews, and families that have stuck around the same street for generations. Putting french fries on every meal item. Pittsburgh's home-boy, Fred Rogers. What's not to love about Mister Rogers' own neighborhood? A restaurant that only sells waffles. New boutiquey shops that open up and try their best to succeed. Andy Warhol is everywhere. The Phipps Conservatory's Japanese garden. A crazy man who ties entire car bumpers to his bike and spray-paints everything teal.

It's only poignant that I write a post to PGH after contemplating moving away, or perhaps starting another chapter of my life in my plan to conquer the music composition-slash-art world, but these thoughts are only fermenting. This is the longest I've ever stayed in one place since college. Maybe the sense that I may not be here forever makes the memories I do have all the more poignant. And there's still more to do, like eating at one of the fancy restaurants on Mount Washington, and going to the Science Center, and visiting Kentuck Knob, out by Frank Llyod Wright's other masterpiece, Fallingwater.
If you haven't visited the city, you should check it out. Just don't move here all at once- I need the rent price to stay low for a little while longer.

(Photos: all taken by myself: Kraus Campos, Carnegie Mellon; airplane over Pittsburgh; downtown Pittsburgh at the Trinity Cathedral; Warhol Museum; private residence in Shadyside.)