One of my favorite places in Austin is in the Long Center. You can usually get in as a student, and you can usually get pretty decent seats. Doesn’t matter though–go all the way to the top balcony. On that top foyer, you can look out into the night sky. Usually the several minutes that anticipate Peter Bay’s initial downbeat display a night sky that looks like shades of blue are creeping over the buildings, dark enough to ensure tranquility for a night’s rest but light enough that the pink, blushing clouds still bump and compete for their place in the sky.
All of the buildings in the skyline are appealing; but from this angle you realize just why the Frost Tower is so iconic. It is from this angle, several stories above the green lawns of Auditorium Shores, that this building stands out in such a way that the same clouds which competed with the night sky steer clear. The lights beam just enough into the sky, but its majestic presence is made known in the reflection in the water below.
Suddenly, the lights are not from the sky above, but from the water so nearby. The reflections sing out back to the beholder. A smorgasbord of colors begin to satiate the eyes. Without doubt, it is the perfect aperitif to prepare one’s self for the next manipulation of the senses: the ears and the symphony itself.
And without undue superfluity, my mixtape plays on:
No. 8: “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”—Willie Nelson
I didn’t grow up with country music, so Willie Nelson was pretty new to me my freshman year. Willie’s huge here in Austin, and if you’ve ever listened to his album Red Headed Stranger, you can truly appreciate his minimalist style of play. His simple guitar picking is like listening to a sun rise above the horizon and all the nature waking up with it; then he’ll completely turn it around with a crazy, swinging, riled-up honkey tonk song. “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” is not the quintessential Willie Nelson song, but it is what a Hudspeth County judge allegedly asked him to play to escape possession charges about a year ago.
No. 9: “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys”—Waylon Jennings
You can’t have Willie without Waylon, and it’s not uncommon for these two to sing this song together. I think this song screams to the genre of “outlaw.” Also, although I’m neither a doctor or lawyer, I’m sure that accountant falls under “such.”
No. 10: “Andante Festivo”—Jean Sibelius
The UTUO played this piece in memory of one of our soloists who had recently passed away. When you hear the piece, you’ll probably notice that, while a “happy” piece it is not “happy” as in elated, but rather, it is happy in an “introverted way.” It’s very somber for being optimistic. Just listen.
No. 11: “Rave On”—Buddy Holly
Another Texan. I started listening to Buddy Holly again around the time I was first-introduced to Led Zeppelin by a different friend who was taking Rock and Roll appreciation. I’ve always been a Holly fan, but sometimes artists tend to fade away—no pun intended. My friend and I ended up buying his albums before that summer finished. “Rave On,” like many of the songs on this list, is not Holly’s most famous. It does however, just scream bliss. Similar to a “Singing in the Rain” or “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” this song is just ecstatic about the simple things that love brings. It’s hard to appreciate the joy of simplicity, but I feel this song helps me understand it a lot better.
No. 12-15: Symphony No. 5 in C Minor “Fate”—Ludwig van Beethoven
I am so lucky to have gotten the opportunity to perform this piece twice while being here. No piece cuts through your core more than Beethoven’s fifth symphony. The cutting edge of the first movement, the romanticism of the second movement, the resurrection of the dead in the third, and the triumph of the fourth movement all cumulate to one of the most powerful pieces ever written on this earth.