Symphony of scraping by

I’m starting to think that my inbuilt immunity to senioritis is fading. I have lasted nearly three and a half years without ever questioning the merit of my schoolwork. I merely smiled, nodded, and accepted the challenge, pouring every effort into whatever the assignment was.

These times are long gone. It’s not because I don’t believe the work is useful. I’d be lying if I said I found every random homework assignment capable of revealing a new facet of my own character, or showing me an entirely fascinating world which I feel compelled to discover. I don’t. But with every research project I complete, I learn something new. Whether it’s about composers or commanders-in-chief, I can easily discover some intriguing information that will most likely only be of use if I am ever a contestant on Jeopardy. Until lately, I’ve been more than happy to just increase my knowledge of the world I live in.

What’s been tripping me up lately is the smack in the face of “and when you’re done with that, do this!” I don’t even get the chance to revel in the defeat of a Biology reading guide before I realize that I’ve got two more to do. I can’t dance atop the tombstone of a completed Spanish essay without being reminded via a text from Edmodo that I’ve got a speaking test the next day.

Not only is my high school work a huge time investment, but I’ve also got college to think about, and many seniors can relate. Call me crazy, but I’m applying to 15 colleges. Just in case. I know you might say that I am responsible for my own actions and the 15 essays, tailor-made for each individual university, were brought on by my own actions. I’m okay with that. However, on top of schoolwork, extracurriculars, volunteering, financial aid applications, and attempting to have a social life, it all gets to be too much sometimes.

This Sunday was somewhat of an accidental mental health day. I had plans which were abandoned by the other party, thus leaving me to pout and eat popcorn in my bedroom. Now generally I get really depressed, temporarily of course, when my only plans for the day fall through. This weekend, however, I seized the opportunity to get a ton of work done, all while enjoying my own company and the company of a few friends.

As I put the finishing touches on a review guide for my Statistics final, I realized that I had been sitting in silence for quite a while. When I have this realization, either in my home or while I’m driving, I am absolutely overwhelmed by how many musical options there are, and how few there are that perfectly suit my mood. Luckily, I remembered from a while back one of my band teachers begging us in vain to listen to a composer by the name of Steve Reich.

Steve Reich is an American composer who is a leading pioneer of the musical movement of minimalism, which features consonant harmony, steady pulse, and the gradual transformation of the melodic line, as Reich’s works exemplify. Reich uses a technique called “phase shifting,” in which he loops two identical melodies or samples, playing one imperceptibly faster than the other, causing a gradual timing gap to form between the two samples. Most of his pieces are quite long, close to 15 minutes in length, allowing for the two loops to dissociate completely, then slowly stitch themselves back into unison.

It’s kind of like when you’re at a stoplight and you notice that your blinker is lined up with the car in front of you. It is only perfectly in sync for a mere second, then the two rhythms shift slowly out of alignment until they are perfect opposites, one subdividing the other. Sure enough though, over time the once opposing patterns lock in with each other once again.

I know it seems ridiculous that merely listening to music saved me from falling into a downward spiral of procrastination and self-loathing, but when I discover something so beautiful and complex yet paradoxically simple, I feel a renewed determination to excel at even the most trivial things. This is by no means a universal motivator, I just write what I know.

This is one of my favorite pieces by Steve Reich. Not only is the piece incredible, but this specific performance blows me away. One man. One rhythm. Two pianos. Two tempos. This gentleman makes me feel like there’s no point in ever trying to accomplish anything, in the best way possible. Enjoy!


Don’t be afraid to contact me. You can email me at [email protected], or tweet at @sweeeeeens. Thanks for reading!