How Lola Constantino (’23) Spends a Wednesday on Campus

Name: Lola Constantino

Hometown: Warren, New Jersey

Class Year: 2023

Musical Groups: Princeton Laptop Orchestra “PLOrk” (player and composer), Princeton Undergraduate Composers Collective (member)


A clean slate. I text Chloe, a really close friend and my teammate on the Varsity Fencing team, first thing in the morning. It’s just after 9:30 and I want to get breakfast together, but Chloe says that she wants to sleep a little more, so I decide to work on my thesis while I wait. I’m a film major and, until recently, I had to go to the visual arts building to do all of my work because my computer wasn’t great and I needed access to Adobe Premiere and Photoshop. But I just got a loaner, which means that now I can do my thesis anywhere. I prefer my room since walking across campus takes up a lot of time. Opening my new laptop now to get to work, I’m suddenly really glad that I spent time yesterday cleaning my disaster of a room. While I wait for Chloe, I  listen back to an interview I did with my mother. My thesis is a documentary film about my hair. I’d had this preconceived notion that my mom didn’t teach me how to take care of my hair properly, so this interview was kind of the drama of me saying that she should have pushed me to do my hair more when I was younger. I’m working on getting a rough cut of this ASAP.

This rings a bell. Chloe finally wakes up and we go to RoMa for a quick breakfast before heading down to the basement of Dod (which is where I live) for some more work. Aside from my thesis, I also have three major music projects that are all due soon. The most pressing is a carillon piece that I’m writing, which will be performed at the bell tower at the Grad College in June. I’m writing it with James Cox, a graduate student who plays the instrument, on commission from the Guild of Carillonneurs in North America. We heard about a competition they were holding over the summer in an email from the Princeton Undergraduate Composers Collective, which I’m a part of, and ended up being one of two winning pairs in North America. Most people don’t know that the carillon is a really active instrument; James can use both feet and both hands while playing. The first draft that I wrote had him going way too fast. Even right now, I have a lot of fast notes in our current draft, and I’m not sure if the levers can come up fast enough to play. I might have to slow the tempo down to make it work. James and I have to finish the piece by March 1 so that he can perform it sometime in June, so I decide to spend a few minutes making small edits to the piece before my 12 o’clock meeting.

Mix it up. At 11:50 I leave Dod and bike to Alexander Street for a meeting with Jeff Snyder, one of about eight advisors I have at this point. (Long story.) Jeff is helping me on the second of my three music projects: an album of six songs using sampling and granular synth that I’m writing for my electronic music certificate. Today, I’m playing the first song for him, and he’s showing me different things I can try doing with EQ and compression and also just giving me some advice for overall composition. The album will ultimately be screened along with some type of visual generated from the MIDI files. Jeff is also the director of the Princeton Laptop Orchestra, an ensemble I’ve been a part of since my junior year and for which I’m writing a new piece in fulfillment of my electronic and music composition certificates — my third looming music deadline — so Jeff and I have a lot to talk about today. It’s funny, I didn’t actually start doing music at Princeton until my sophomore year. I always felt like I was so busy and that I didn’t have time for any extra stuff. But then COVID happened and we had Zoom year, when we didn’t have to train for fencing. Suddenly I had all this time, so I started taking composing lessons, and I took music theory (which literally killed me). And now music is such a huge part of how I spend my time.

Let’s get reel. At 1:20 I head to class. I didn’t have time for lunch, but that’s okay since I had a late breakfast. The class I’m going to is Documentary Film and the City, a three-hour class with Professor Purcell Carson, which is really exciting because I want to do documentary film when I graduate. I actually first heard Professor Carson speak in a guest talk on film and music organized by Andrew Lovett last semester, so I was really amped to take this course. Today, we’re being brought up to speed on the project we’ll be helping out with this semester, a documentary on how migration has shaped Trenton and Guatemala. We’re also watching a brief film from The New York Times about a dying language in Central California called Wukchumni, the language of the Yokuts tribe. Professor Carson asks us to estimate how long it took to make the film. It’s eight minutes long, so I estimate there would have been about six hours of actual raw footage. For context, I’m making a fifteen-minute film and right now I have hours and hours of footage. Everyone had different estimates though; one person estimated a week. I always wanted to go to film school, but the nice thing about being in this class is that everybody’s coming from a very different background — some are anthropologists, some are STEM, some are English majors — and it’s really refreshing to experience all the intersections of people’s interests and to learn from one another in a way that I don’t think happens as often in traditional film schools. 

En garde. After class ends I speak to Professor Carson briefly and then grab my bike and meet up with Chloe, who had class next door in Frist. We head down to practice, which is in Jadwin Gym just near the track, but we get there a little late, which isn’t great. Generally, if you have class until 4:20 you have until 4:45 to get into the gym, whereas usually you have to be there by 4:30; today we get there at 4:50. Practice always starts with running, followed by stretching and then footwork based on whatever weapon you are. But we had a meet this weekend, so today is a little different: I ask our coach if we can do video review of our matches and so the women fencers from my squad go into another room and do this. Afterward, we fence for the last thirty minutes or so. 

Déjà vu. When practice ends at 6:30, we go to shower in the locker room and then I head to dinner at Yeh with some of the other fencers. Then, it’s back to Dod basement for some more work on my thesis and then to my room where I do music for maybe around thirty minutes. 

Winding down. By the time I get in bed, it’s about 1. I watch TV for an hour or so. Tonight is Oz, which I started watching because there’s lots of crossover between it and Law and Order SVU, which I was watching before and really enjoyed. I also like how music is used in Oz. This Friday, I’m rewarding myself after a long week by watching a film — Drugstore Cowboy by Gus Van Sant. I’m looking forward to that.

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