Reading in Taiwan

I’m supposed to continue my academic development while I’m here in Taiwan. At least that’s what I tell myself, but in reality, all I have done is enhance my knowledge of food related things, especially desserts. Contrary to what my previous blog posts tell the reader, not all I have done here is eat, though.

Right now, I’m trying to finish reading The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker. It’s a fantastic, accessible book which lays out the 20th century in music. Music is explained not just in a theoretical way (this chord leads to this chord which is a cadence, and look at this tone row) but also in light of the political and historical realities of the time. (For instance, what the socio-economic situation in the Great Depression lent to composers trying to develop their style, along with issues like racism.) It’s laid out very clearly, but not in a way to be too elementary. At the same time, it makes me want to find out more about certain time periods. I learned preliminary things about so many brands of modernism already. Stravinsky’s modernism and Schoenberg’s modernism, for example (one more informed by use of folk songs, primitivism, and use of forms, and the other a more elitist, at least initially, kind of rejection of classical form and search for radical dissonance). It’s all stuff to help me in research for the Thesis. (My thesis advisor asked me to define what modernism means for music as well as what it means for literature.)

I’m halfway through the book already, and reading about American composers like Copland and Barber. Both are favorites of mine, chamber-music wise. Barber’s setting of Dover Beach is wonderful, and I listen to Appalachian Spring Suite and Quiet City pretty frequently. I have the feeling that when I get to John Cage, all hell will break loose. This book is helping me find more about periods that I’m interested in, hopefully to help me define what I want to research and write about in graduate school.

I bought a book of sonnets by Shakespeare: both original English, and a Chinese translation. More incentive to study Chinese? I don’t know… or maybe it’s just good to have.

Back to food: the picture above is of a good cafe mocha I had in a California cuisine style restaurant called Skylark. It was in the Ximending district in Taipei, one of the biggest shopping/eating districts. It’s pretty near our place, and our relatives always take us there to eat. There’s no end of restaurants to experience. The restaurant sold Western-style meals, like baked spaghetti and chicken breast with gravy and salad. It was a bit on the expensive side compared to other restaurants we’d attended. Our relatives always choose the best restaurants, though, and this restaurant was delicious and did not disappoint. It also served this mixed-fruit juice that had chopped up pieces of fruit inside. The cafe mocha was really pretty, and had the right blend of coffee and hot chocolate.

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