Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
This first one, by Editha Pyekha, is a really great song about youth and years gone by.
The second one, by the artist Velvet, is a current top 50 hit in Russia (as per www.101.ru).
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Tchaikovsky composed "Swan Lake" in 1875, commissioned by Vladimir Petrovich Begichev. "Swan Lake" and "The Nutcracker" were both unsuccessful in their first year. Tchaikovsky's music was considered too complicated and hard to dance to by conductors, dancers, and even audiences. "It wasn’t until after Tchaikovsky’s death that Swan Lake was revived. Much of the Swan Lake we know of today was a revision by the famous choreographers Petipa and Ivanov." (http://classicalmusic.about.com/od/historyofballet/a/swanlakeproa.htm)
The Alexandrov Russian Army Twice Red-bannered Academic Song and Dance Ensemble (the Alexandrov Ensemble, for short) is a performing ensemble that serves as the official choir of the Russian Armed Forces. It is known internationally as the Red Army Choir or Red Army Chorus.
The ensemble is made up of a male choir, an orchestra, and a dance ensemble. The songs they perform range from Russian folk tunes to church hymns, from operatic arias to pop music.
They're a fun group to watch. You can find lots of clips on YouTube, but I decided to go with a -- less reverent -- clip for this blog.
Here is the Red Army Choir performing "Sweet Home Alabama" with Leningrad Cowboys, a Finnish rock band.
MOSCOW — For decades, American studies in Russia and Russian studies in the United States, were, at the heart of it, enemy studies.
Now, two decades into the post-Soviet era and two years after President Barack Obama promised to "reset" U.S. relations with Russia, these studies have broadened to include the environment, émigrés, Alaska and native cultures.
"I even see the reset as a symbol of this," said Yefim Pivovar, rector of the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow.
"What used to be known as American Sovietology in the past has also changed; it has different goals," said Mr. Pivovar, an expert on émigré history who was a Fulbright Scholar in 1993 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, one of the centers of Russian studies in the United States during the Cold War.
Monday, March 28, 2011
If you visit a large city in Russia (such as Moscow, Petersburg) you’ll no doubt notice rows and rows of metal padlocks on bridges. This is a Russian marriage tradition in which couples hang locks on bridges as a symbol of a future long, stable marriage. It is common to see brides and grooms attaching locks with their names engraved on them to metal structures throughout the city. In Moscow, officials have created metal “lock trees” to hold these locks. Now, men dressed as “utilities workers” have begun following marriage processions, cutting the locks off bridges and other infrastructure. Still, it is common to see clumps of locks in smaller towns and less well-known areas of the cities. No word yet on whether these "utility workers" are causing any divorces in the Motherland.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
The aquarium holds 10 mL of water and actually houses three itty bitty baby zebrafish (Danio rario), which Анатолий places into the water using a teeny net that, presumably, he also made. Here's a video.
Monday, March 21, 2011
Sunday, March 20, 2011
After reading Rachel's Blog about how nearly everyone she encounters smokes (very disconcerting since my tolerance for it has definitely decreased since being at school), I stumbled across this little video of children encouraging adults to quit smoking. It's really interesting and I even found the version with English subtitles. Enjoy :)
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
To begin, throat singing involves the ability to produce two, or more, notes simultaneously; the higher notes are normally harmonic notes (similar to those on guitars) and the lower notes are simply referred to as fundamental tones. Some throat singers can also produce sounds resembling the chirping of birds, the beat of a horse's hooves, or the sound of a reindeer breathing.
People who have this ability produce multiple notes by applying tension to the vocal cords and the surrounding areas, such as the mouth and even the lungs. The tongue, however, is only used to change the resonance and shape of the mouth, rather than to produce the vibrations (and, therefore, the sounds). The harmonic notes mentioned above can be amplified by moving the tongue and lips, thus creating a smaller or larger space for the sound to resonate.
This form of vocalization is primarily practiced in Asia, but also occurs in regions of South Africa, Northern Canada, and Greenland. A more precise list includes Tibet, Tuva (essentially southern Russia), Khakkasia (a republic east of Tuva), Bashkortostan (located in southwest Russia), Mongolia, and the Chukchi peoples of Northern Russia.
The latter group originally used throat singing to represent the breathing of reindeer, as mentioned above. However, scholars are uncertain when the practice began, or if the tribes were influenced by people from neighboring countries and regions.
In most of these groups, throat singing is practiced by men, especially in Tuva and Mongolia. Women of the South African Xosa tribe are one of the few exceptions.
Side Note: There are approximately 15,000 Chukchi in the world. The word Chukchi is derived from Chauchu, which actually means "rich in reindeer." The religious practices of the tribe were prohibited by the Soviet Union until the 1920s and, after the dissolution of the USSR, their farms were reorganized. This essentially destroyed the village-based lifestyle and economy of the region.
(Source: Wikipedia - Chukchi People)
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Friday, March 4, 2011
According to the article, the caviar was "deemed inedible," probably because it was procured illegally more than anything else. The environmentalist in me feels like the situation was not handled in the most responsible of ways, but the 14-year-old in me also thinks this picture looks freaking awesome:
See all the pictures of Yuzhno-Kurilsk and the burning of the caviar here.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
The film, “The Russian Ark”, directed by Alexsandr Sukorov, is a wonderful story based around the Russian State Hermitage Museum. The film is in a very strange style, with only one camera shot comprising the whole of the viewtime. At first, it was quite unsettling; I must admit that I felt a bit like Sartre’s characters in his play, “No Exit”, with the ability to blink having been taken away from me. After a while, however, the story makes use of this style of cinematography and uses it to add to the feeling of confusion that one can feel in sympathizing with the main character. Something that I still can’t get my mind around is the tremendous amount of effort it must have taken to put the film together, as all 800-something actors would have had to know their parts completely perfectly for each take, having only one chance to get their part right before having to start all over again.
One is introduced after a while to the Marquis, or the European as he is referred to by the main character, nameless himself. The Marquis is a sort of time-travelling character, ageless and wise. Excuse my science-fiction reference, but he reminds me of the Doctor, from Doctor Who, fumbling through time and space, alas all alone. The pair walk through the corridors of the museum, travelling also through time as they meet various characters in Russian history, such as Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and the last Romanov Tsar, Nicholas. As the film progresses, one learns the opinions of the Marquis, being himself all too ready to reveal them. His character develops until the very end, when he refuses to go on with the main character past a ball and out of the museum, showing that he is entrapped in the affairs of history to such an extent that he might not be able to bear normal existence outside of the museum walls. In this, he reminds me of Mr. Dorrit from the Dickens novel, afraid to walk outside of the prison walls in which he has lived for years.
All in all, this was a wonderful film which I would recommend that anyone watch. It was truly enjoyable and I know I’m watching it again!
The tradition began when Mary gave the emperor a humble white egg, as was custom to give gifts, saying, “The Christ has risen!” The emperor expressed his disbelief, “Nobody can rise from the dead ….. this is as hard to believe as it is to believe this egg can turn red!” At once the egg became red, and since that time eggs serve as a symbol of Christ’s resurrection, the victory of life over death.
The tradition to paint eggs in the Ukraine dates back to pagan times when people performed magic rituals connected with nature awakening each Spring. After Christianity was introduced into the Ukraine, the tradition continued, assimilating magical beliefs from the past. Ukrainians believed that blessed eggs could help to put out fire or to find lost cattle.
Traditional Ukrainian eggs or pysankas are painted on birds eggs using hot wax. First, the wax is laid on the egg by means of a small metal tube with a wooden handle, making a contour. Then, an egg is dipped into one color, again covered by wax in parts which should preserve that color and then put into another color. When the egg painting is finished, the egg is warmed to melt the wax. Each color and pattern has different meanings.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
- "Korobeiniki is a famous Russian folk song that tells of an incident between a peddler and a girl 'haggling' over a price, with the details only being said in metaphor.
- In western culture, the song is primarily known for being used as the "Type A" music in the Game Boy version of Tetris. However, Korobeiniki was written and published in 1861, a full 128 years before Tetris was released on the Game Boy.
- Tetris is a puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. It was released on June 6, 1984 while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. He derived its name from the Greek numerical prefix tetra- (all of the game's pieces, known as Tetrominoes, contain four segments) and tennis, Pajitnov's favorite sport.
- The song "Korobeiniki" is based on a poem with the same name by Nikolay Nekrasov, written and printed in the Sovremennik magazine in 1861. Due to its increasing tempo and the dance style associated with it, it quickly became a popular Russian folk song.
- Nekrasov's poem is a sad story about the love between a peasant girl, Katya, and a young peddler. They meet each other in a rye field at night where he has promised her a good deal on the goods he carries, before they are sold in the market during the day. Only the night knows what happens between them in the rye field, but she is not so simple and does not take any of the goods which he offers her. What is the point, she figures, to have all that without him—her first and only love? She takes only a small turquoise ring, as a memory, and he promises to marry her when he comes back from his commerce trip. He continues his journey and she waits for him with caution. His business goes very well and he makes a lot of money, but on the way back he is killed and robbed by a forest ranger who he asks for directions. So he never comes back to marry Katya. The song is only the very beginning of the original poem; it only recounts Katya's first meeting with the young peddler when their relation is getting off to a happy start.