It seems as though I can only manage an update every week and a half, or thereabouts. I will have to get better at this blogging thing (and at that whole photo-uploading thing… and at that whole making time to reflect and decompress thing…).
I find it auspicious that the Jewish High Holidays this year coincide with the start of my school year, and with it my grad school career and my new life in Spain. With this transition comes many changes as I attempt to attune myself with the rhythm of my new life while remaining true to my own values — and determining which of the myriad of values that I possess are truly mine. The passage into this new chapter of my life has marked not a culmination of a period of questioning my identity, but rather an elision between “before” and “after,” or “old” and “new,” and determining what parts of my life belong in which category. To be candid, considering that I am not strictly religious (in truth, my lifestyle is mostly secular), I sincerely wrestled with the question of the extent to which I should include aspects or elements of my heritage in this new life of mine, and indeed, I found myself having unpleasant flashbacks to being obliged to sacrifice days of school early on in the academic year for the High Holidays, even when it was inconvenient to do so — especially when it was inconvenient to do so. All the same, my Jewish identity remains important, and I felt that I would be remiss if I did not end up observing Yom Kippur (what can I say? My sense of Jewish guilt is preternaturally strong).
In the end, I was directed to services run by La Javura in the Ciutat Vella (Old City) district of Valencia. The service was conducted almost entirely in Spanish (I honestly never believed I’d find myself davening en español), with a little bit of Hebrew as the program required, although other attendees (and the officiant) spoke English as well. The service was also conducted with simple sincerity, much like a Passover seder, with those gathered sitting around a long table, taking turns reading passages from the Spanish-translated machzor — in fact, a translation of the same one that I spent many a yontef carrying — so in spite of only having been studying Spanish for two or three months at this point, I could more than adequately follow along. The service was presented without bombast, without lengthy sermons, and certainly without the annual Kol Nidre night bond appeal. It was well conducted, and — dare I say — a little bit haymish (and therefore quite well suited for someone looking for a little piece of home).
In addition to Yom Kippur serving for me as an annual spiritual reboot, I particularly look forward to the concluding service — and not just because the sunset portends the end of the fast — because in the midst of all of the affliction and mea culpas, we ask to be remembered for good and sealed in the Book of Happy Life. That’s not to say that I end the night by just sitting back, expectantly waiting for good things to happen. Rather, the annual routine grants me a measure of clarity and focus to be able to pursue my annual goals and ambitions — and trust me, folks, I can use all the help I can get.
Having survived my first week of grad school (look down, look down, you’ve 36 to go), I am still in the process of adjusting to my new lifestyle which, as I mentioned before, is a bizarre mash-up of the Spanish late schedule with the busyness that school is heir to, along with other responsibilities. As an overview to the courses that I’m taking this semester, I’m studying Narrative Analysis, Part I in the Advanced Scoring series, with Program Director Lucio Godoy, with whom I will also be studying privately, which promises a good amount of writing and a few recording opportunities this semester with musicians from the orchestra of the Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía. I’m also taking a course on Computer/Synth Applications for Film with Tech Manager Vanessa Garde. I am studying Video Game Scoring Techniques under Ben Houge, which also promises a fair amount of composition, but will also teach me more about the technical aspects of video game music, as well as about the industry itself. I am taking lessons in conducting from Maestro Constantino Martinez, which will be geared to help me prepare to record my own cues this semester, and rounding out my week with Advanced Dramatic Orchestration, taught by Alfons Conde, which will require a weekly output of short pieces for practically every instrument in the orchestra, to have them played by musicians of the Palau orchestra. I consider myself very fortunate to be here.
My coursework, as you may well understand, will keep me rather busy over the coming semester, but I will continue to do my best to adjust to my new life as a grad student and update this blog as best as I can. The changes to my life and routine have been quite significant thus far, but I think that — to paraphrase Marty McFly in Back to the Future — “Watch [out] for the changes and try to keep up” is a good mantra to carry with me (aptly, I’m working on a paper analyzing a cue from the score that movie with a few of my classmates).