Jason in Paris

Jason is a junior majoring in music composition in Meadows School of the Arts and the recipient of a Meadows Artistic Scholarship. In Fall 2009 he is participating in SMU-in-Paris, where he intends to study the past and present culture. As a music and history student, he intends to pay close attention to the contemporary musical scene, the waves of cinematic history in France and the 17th and 20th century political history of France.

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Why am I here?

j-FallinParis.jpgParis never ends. To agree with Hemingway, yes, Paris will be a feast to take with me through the rest of my life. This entire experience is about origin, essentially unlocking mysteries of the past in order to make sense of the present. It is so true that we learn from the past in order to best prevent ill fortune repeating itself, and what I learn here will be invaluable, and it will go with me for the rest of my life.

j-StringEnsemblebyComedieFrancaise.jpgStudying abroad allows me the opportunity to experience other cultures, perhaps even learning a couple of things that may benefit my own. But on a deeper level, it is about sincerely connecting to the world around me, and this relationship, like friendship, is built on a sincere mutual interest. Friendship is not a product of egoism. So to explore the culture of Paris a little more, I ventured out this weekend on my very own to a couple of hot spots.

On Friday, I attended a concert of 20th-century orchestral music of the composers Igor Stravinsky and Iannis Xenakis. As a composer approaching the Parisian scene, I feel, especially in retrospect, this was a significant event for a multitude of reasons. Stravinsky essentially rattled the Parisian scene in the early part of the 20th century with his ballet music for “The Rite of Spring,” and notable Parisian musicians like Nadia Boulanger nonchalantly dismissed Xenakis’ approach to composition.

j-CitedelaMusique.jpg However, today, we cherish the music of Stravinsky, from “Petrouchka” to “The Rite of Spring” to “Symphonies for Wind Instruments,” and we adore Xenakis as a continuation of the idea that mathematical principles can be artistically combined with music to create a pleasantly earth-shattering effect.

So, without an umbrella amid dense rain, I ran from the nearest metro station to the Cite de la Musique, where this concert would be held. Little did I know of what would come next! I did not know where my seat was, so I asked three English-speaking people standing next to me. Turns out, they all attend the prestigious Conservatory of Versailles as saxophonists! And their knowledge of music is out of this world; they are so well-versed in their music that I felt demoralized yet inspired. That night, I composed a significant amount of music, if that tells you anything.

j-BowlingMouffetard.jpg Remember that in the midst of all this, I am studying quite deeply. Topics of interest include 17th-century France, history of the early to middle part of the 20th century, and French cinematic history, so there is plenty do here. Just wanted to make that clear, especially since midterms have arrived. But yeah, I did spend Saturday night celebrating my friend Lydia’s birthday … at a bowling alley near the Sorbonne! SO FUN!

j-ParcduButtesChaumont%20%286%29.jpg On Sunday, I woke up with the intention to photograph some parts of my daily life, including the park I jog at (Parc Buttes-Chaumont; in photo right) and the neighborhood where my school is, Vavin. However, I ended up also doing a little walking tour.

I visited the area of the Louvre (remember this? 50,000 square meters of art, world’s biggest art museum, once the royal palace of all kings before Versailles become more prominent), documenting its exterior, notably the Richelieu wing where one of my classes often meets to stare at 17th-century French art and ponder its meaning.

j-Louvre%20%282%29.jpgSpeaking of “Richelieu,” you may remember that name as the sinister cold-blooded cardinal from The Three Musketeers. Or, you may know him as I know him, as the chief minister of Louis XIII, largely responsible for France’s modernization and centralization, made possible by his extensive “network” of loyal subscribers. Essentially, he is a back-room-politic kind-of-guy, but he was a cardinal … sure.

Well, anyway, he built his palace, the Palais Cardinal, next to the Louvre, ever the involved man in state affairs. Today, it is the Palais Royal, but marks of Richelieu’s appointment are scattered throughout still, including anchors and a Poseidon carving on the Palais Royal that indicated him taking control of the navy in the late 1620s.

j-l%27Orangerie5.jpg After the Louvre, I attended Musee de l’Orangerie (photo, right), a small museum next to the Louvre housing some beautiful works of Picasso, Renoir, Ultrillo, Denair and Soutine. This building actually used to be where they stored the orange trees in times of bad weather, hence its name. I was particularly moved by the works of Soutine; his boldness of color in his “Beouf” was especially moving and vibrant. But in other works, like “Poulet,” he uses more muted tones, but his work is so fluid and energizing that it promotes a better artist within me!

After Musee de l’Orangerie, I ventured to the Obelisk area where Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were executed, or commonly known as Place de la Concord. I cannot remember exactly why the Obelisk is there, but Egypt wants it back, and France still refuses. It is quite charming, I have to say, and I would hate to give it up as well!

j-insideDome.jpg Behind the Obelisk is Paris’ most expensive hotel, and beyond that is the Dome of Mary Magdalene (photo left), which I attended. Beautiful church! There is a magnificent air to it, and upon walking in, I was deeply moved by its grandeur and beauty. A must-see for anyone visiting Paris, and so convenient too!

If you have been following me so far, you will know that I came across the infamous letter from Einstein to Roosevelt (1939), which essentially informed FDR of the power of uranium. Last weekend, I actually strolled by the Curie Institute! If you do not remember, Marie Curie discovered uranium. What a link of time!

It can be concluded from my visits this past weekend that I feel like I know Paris pretty well now, especially since I navigated mostly on foot without a map. That’s kind of scary in a way. But I would not trade this for the world, and I feel that through this so far, I have bettered my linguistic skills, my sense of direction, knowledge about the past, and ability to cope in difficult situations (gotta order that strawberry tart).

It was just a month ago when I was freaking about the metro lines! But hey, here I am, rocking it out in the big city of Paris!

Although this coming weekend, I am off to the south of France (Marseilles, Nice), then next week it is Spain for 9 days, and then 3 days in Germany after that!

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