Monday, May 6, 2013

Karelian Soundscapes Newsletter #1 - What Else: From Russia with Love

Dear Backers and Friends,

Karelian Soundscapes is at last underway! You know that feeling of knowing just where you are on the map or globe? Right now that feeling tells me that I'm a few hundred yards away from Lake Onega in Russia. These last months of preparation have been extremely busy: I finished my master's thesis, graduated with my Master's Degree in Composition, had my first orchestral premier, and I got everything ready for this trip, including the very arduous visa process. It got VERY close in the end, but I did get my visa which will in fact be good for three years. All the effort was worth it. 

The trip to Petrozavodsk

I left Salt Lake City on Tuesday, and flew all day and all night to arrive in St. Petersburg Wednesday afternoon. On the long overseas flight, a very kind Russian sailor named Nikita carried on a very interesting conversation with me in Russian, which helped jumpstart my Russian speaking. I immediately threw myself at the mercy of my ability to get around in Russia, taking a bus from the airport to the nearest metro station, and from there transferring lines until I reached the Ladozhskii Train Station, where I caught my first break and waited until 11pm, when the train left for Petrozavodsk. I slept very soundly and arrived in Petrozavodsk at 6:40 am on Thursday, eventually getting settled in my apartment.

Thursday, May 2nd

As soon as I could I had a walk around with my recorder, trying to get the hang of things. I discovered that it picks up EVERYTHING, which means I've got to stay stationary to get really good samples. Also, just in the few days since I've arrived, Lake Onega is 'opening up' as they say, from the winter ice, and so there has been an uncharacteristic amount of wind. I've got a good windscreen for my recorder but it is no match for some of this wind. Fortunately it is calming down the last few days! In the evening on Thursday I stopped by the local branch of my church here in Petrozavodsk and happened to arrive at the same time as several American serving here. After the last day of having been all on my own in Russia it was a welcome meeting. After that I visited the Alexander Nevski Cathedral, where they were having their one of their Easter week services. (The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates holidays by the old calendar, so Christmas is in January and Easter in May). Afterwards I was invited to attend the Easter Vigil on Saturday night, more on that later! I closed the evening by walking along the bank of the Onega, where I met some college age Russian students with whom I had a great time and who were very interested in my project. They even sang me some of the Karelian songs they learned in school, particularly one about Petroskoi, the Karelian name for Petrozavodsk.