The Life of Isaac Albéniz

Isaac Albéniz often referred to as one of the most famous composers to hail from Spain. Isaac was born in 1860 in Camprodon, a town apart of Girona. Only living a short life, Albéniz lived to the age of 49 and died in 1909. He is best known for his piano works that are based on folk music idioms. Many of his pieces are notable for the classical guitar transcriptions that were later made.

A child prodigy, Albéniz first learned to play the piano at the age of one by his sister. By the age of four he performed for the first time. A couple of years later at age seven, he passed the entrance examination for piano at the Conservatoire de Paris, but unfortunately he was refused admission for being too young.

A popular myth describes his childhood as a bit of an exaggeration. It is said that at the age of twelve, Albéniz ran away from home and stowed away in a ship headed towards Buenos Aires. Continuing his nomadic lifestyle he found himself in Cuba, and then to the United States performing in New York and San Francisco, eventually returning back to Europe to give performances in Liverpool, London, and in Germany.

While not an accurate account of what actually happened, historians have determined that the story is partly true. He did in fact give concert performances in these places at that age, but he was more likely accompanied  by his father who was a customs official who traveled a lot for business. Historians discovered this by comparing Isaac’s concert dates and his father’s travel itinerary.

Throughout the rest of his career he studied under many composers, Guillermo Morphy, Franz Liszt, and Felip Pedrell to name a few. Touring all throughout Europe, Isaac lived in London and Paris for an amount of time. During this time while he was not performing at concerts, he wrote and composed musical comedies.

In 1900, Isaac was diagnosed with Bright’s disease a classification of kidney disease that ultimately cause his death in 1909. For his work within Paris and his impact within the classical music industry, the French government awarded him its highest honor, the Grand-Croix de la Légion d’honneur a few weeks before his death.

His most notable pieces include: Asturias (Leyenda), Granada, Sevilla, Cadiz, Cordoba, Cataluna, and the Tango in D. All of his personal papers are preserved among many institutions.

The Big Sick to be Aired at BAMcinemaFest

On Wed. June 21, 2017, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will be featuring a Sundance Film Festival standout, The Big Sick, as a part of their BAMcinemaFest. The best American independent film festival highlights the best up and coming artists from the New York City area by showcasing their independent films across a week-long series.

The film, produced by Judd Apatow and Barry Mendel, features the romantic comedy story of a Pakistani-born comedian, Kumail and a graduate student, Emily, played by Zoe Kaza. Loosely based off of the real-life love story of Kumail Nanjiani and his wife Emily V. Gordon, their romance is thwarted by Nanjiani’s traditional Pakistani parents who would prefer he marry a traditional Muslim woman.

In a surprising turn of events, the young couple’s relationship is tested when Emily faces a life-threatening illness. With the relationship in turmoil, young Kumail must do some growing up to show his support.

Pedro J Torres blog header

The Big Sick film poster recreated as a blog header by Pedro J Torres.

HBO’s Silicon Valley, Nanjiani takes his first lead role to new heights with this heartwarming comedy. Nanjiani has made guest appearances and supporting roles in many different venues throughout his career. He guest starred in HBO’s Veep as a supporting actor and has had a recurring role in Cartoon Network’s Adventure Time.

Nanjiani moved to the United States at the age of 18 and attended Grinnell College in Iowa. after graduating in 2001 with a double major in Computer Science and Philosophy, he wouldn’t land his first role on SNL until 2008.

Having been Married since 2007, Nanjiani’s wife, Emily V. Gordon is a former couple and family therapist turned author and comedy producer. After leaving the field of therapy, Gordon pursued a career of freelance writing, where she wrote articles for various publications such as; The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and GQ. Her first book came out in 2015 and outlines a self-improvement guide titles, SuperYou: Release Your Inner Superhero.

The film, The Big Sick, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 20, 2017. Bought by Amazon Studios for $12 million, the film is set to be released on June 23, 2017, by Amazon Studios and Lionsgate.

BAM will host the film in the BAM Rose Cinemas room of the Peter Jay Sharp Building. The showing is currently sold out but open to standby ticketing, and all are welcome to stay for a question and answer session with Director Michael Showalter, and stars of the film, Kumail Nanjiani, Ray Romano, and Emily V. Gordon.

New Year, New Dance Studio

A Place For Movement: New Dance Studio Openings
The world of dance is a fascinating blend of creative minds striving to create artful movements with their bodies as the tools and the music as the canvas. The mind of every motion artist is fueled by the intense focus from the inner athlete to move swifter, jump higher, become stronger, and descend slower. It’s the meeting of these two totally different parts of the mind that form the mind of a dancer. Because of the combination of these unique elements, traditional paint studios and gyms can never truly satisfy the needs of a dancer and so the dance studio was born. Dance studios are specifically designed to sharpen the physical and mental abilities each individual dance requires and are an absolute necessity for any movement art form.

Dancing, because of its requirement for focus and attention to detail creates a hardened artist whose confidence flourishes with every technique learned. Dancing is a great way to help children and adults alike build confidence within themselves to help them face everyday life. A dance studio is a place of learning where people of all ages can come to learn new skills and because of the increasing popularity of dance programs on television, more are opening up every day. Here are two new dance studios that have opened their doors this year.

Illusion Dance Company
Located in Great Falls, Montana, Illusion Dance Company is a new company started by the young Megan Gray at just 23 years old. With a passion for dance and teaching it to others, Gray taught dance at a previous studio for many years. With the closing of a local video shop, Gray saw the potential of the space to transform it into her dream studio where she can pass her knowledge onto the next generation. Illusion Dance Company is located at the address: 11 Division Rd #7, Great Falls, MT 59404

Urban Dance Productions
Ben Madrigal, the creative director of Urban Dance Productions began dancing at age seven. Initially resisting the classes, Ben soon found himself pulled into the world of dance. His change of heart towards dancing made him realize that lack of males in the field and offers free dance classes for boys for an extended period of time. Urban Dance Productions can be found at the address: 2423 Coon Rapids Blvd., Suite B.

Dance is a great confidence builder and wonderful self-expression tool. Sign up today!


BAM’s 10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton Society image Pedro J Torres BlogBrooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) recently celebrated the legacy and centennial birthday of American Catholic writer and mystic, Thomas Merton.  Known for writing over 70 books, Merton mostly focused on spirituality, social justice and a quiet pacifism. Among his most enduring works is his bestselling autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain (1948), which sent scores of World War II veterans, students, and even teenagers flocking to monasteries across the US. It was also featured in National Review’s list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century.

During the highly anticipated production of Charles Mee and Les Waters’ The Glory of the World (Jan. 16 – Feb. 6 at the BAM Harvey Theater), illustrator Nathan Gelgud created a list of ten things everyone ought to know about this renowned mystic and Catholic monk. Although this blog post doesn’t include Gelgud’s colorful illustrations, it does draw from his list and reemphasizes the Top 10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Merton:

1. The Pope Loves Him. Media darlings and beloved  new Pope Francis recently called Merton one of the four most exemplary Americans in history, along with Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and Dorothy Day.

2. In Some Places He’s As Important as Muhammad Ali. In Louisville, a new bridge was almost named after Merton, who lived in an Abbey there as a Trappist monk, another top contender for the bridge namesake was hometown hero Muhammad Ali, one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century. The bridge was eventually named after Abraham Lincoln.

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama Pedro J Torres Blog3. He Was Late To The Game. Merton wasn’t even baptised until he was 23 years old, and his first application for priesthood was rejected because he was honest about his youth, including heavy drinking and sexual promiscuity.

4. He Made Zines. In the mid-sixties, while living in a monastery, Merton put together a little poetry magazine called “Monk’s Pond.” Folded and stapled, it was printed on cheap paper for contributors and their friends.

5. Merton and Jack Kerouac Were A lot Alike. Having studied at Columbia where they were both students of Mark Van Doren and were influenced by James Joyce and William Blake. Merton was born in France, and Kerouac was French Canadian. They both wrote by rolling a long scroll into a typewriter. And, they were both Catholic while sharing a strong interest in Eastern religion, which brings us to our next point…

6. He Was Ahead of the Curve on Zen. Long before people in the West were “finding their zen” at spas and meditation retreats, Merton was interested in eastern philosophies and religions, and published “Zen and The Birds of Appetite,” a series of conversations with renowned zen scholar, D.T. Suzuki.

7. Merton and Joan Baez Hung Out Together. Baez once said, “He was a true man, with a lightness like the Dalai Lama, with all the depth anyone could have.”

8. He Was Either Blessed, Cursed, or Both. Merton died 27 years to the day after joining the Trappists at age 27, and it was pretty weird. After giving a lecture in Thailand about Monasticism and Marxism, he slipped in the shower, grabbed a rotary fan, and was electrocuted.

Merton Conference LOGO Living the Legacy Pedro J Torres Blog9. His Legacy Helps Prisoners. The International Thomas Merton Society has 43 chapters, one of which was founded in 2013 at a prison in Massachusetts where inmates use Merton’s writings to deal with incarceration. (One inmate read Merton’s “New Seeds of Contemplation” out of the window of his cell to other inmates while in solitary confinement.)

10. Thomas Merton Kept it Real. In his spiritual quest, Merton believed that answering a higher calling meant being true to yourself. Unlike animals, we can fool ourselves into thinking we’re something we’re not. Human beings have a choice whether to be phony or honest, and to be true to God, we must first be true to ourselves.

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Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 3D

Starwars BAM Pedro J Torres blogOn Dec 17, 2015 the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) will finally show the highly anticipated Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 3D, which is directed by J.J. Abrams.  According to the BAM website, J.J. Abrams’ highly-anticipated entry into the Star Wars franchise follows a host of new characters as they battle evil in a galaxy far, far away with the help of beloved icons Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and others.

The BAM will show the Star Wars film at two of their three locations: BAM Harvey Theater and BAM Rose Cinemas.  The BAM “Harvey” venue first opened in 1904 as the Majestic Theater, one of the many theaters in the bustling entertainment district. The Majestic showed a variety of dramas, light opera, musicals, and vaudeville, with stars such as Katherine Cornell, and it became an important trial theater for productions headed to Broadway, including Noel Coward’s Home Chat.  BAM Rose Cinemas, on the other hand, was originally a music hall, then converted to a playhouse, the venue was transformed into BAM Rose Cinemas in 1998, restoring the playhouse’s elegant proscenium and preserving the history of the space while providing a state-of-the-art viewing experience.

According to one credible source, the new Star Wars movie was filmed on actual film stock. Mostly in 35mm, with some in scenes in 65mm IMAX. (Source: Cineflex – April 2014)  This article about The Force Awakens using IMAX shows a Twitter photo from Abrams and comments on the fact that the IMAX scenes are not being shot with stereoscopic IMAX cameras. In fact, they have that photo in the article: Star Wars 7 IMAX: J.J. Abrams Shooting Sequel in IMAX Format 

Buy tickets to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens 3D at the BAM here