My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 3

Happy Monday!

As I mentioned in this blog post, I will have designated posts for different days of the week.  Since today’s Monday, that means I will talk about some of my favorite pieces of classical music.

Ever since I’ve began using Spotify, I listened to their classical music station.  Several of the pieces were by Chopin.  I love his piano music.  So rich and mysterious, it’s fun to listen to.  But this piece was a favorite of mine since before I began using Spotify.  It is the Nocturne for piano No. 15 in F minor, Op. 55/1.  So slow, sad, and haunting.  It just makes be feel chilled.  Chopin was definitely a master of he piano in finding almost every emotion to express on it.

Second is a piece by the famous Beethoven.  Though not one of his more famous pieces, I enjoy it because it is rich, ominous, and haunting, and a bit of sad piece.  It is the second movement of his 7th Symphony.

Finally, I will talk about Bach’s Double Violin Concerto.  I like it because of its violin duets and because it seems to evoke the nighttime in my mind.  So rich.  Also, because it is a Baroque piece, I like the high emotion of the piece as well.



My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 2

I am now going to talk about some more of my favorite pieces of classical music.


This was a piece that I was introduced to last spring semester when I took a music appreciation class.  It is called The Moldau.  It was composed by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana.  It is a symphonic poem or tone poem and is a musical depiction of the Moldau River in what is now the Czech Republic and all the things, normal and fantastical, that happen there.  I love the melodies of this piece.  They really create a sense of a river, and all that one can imagine happening there.  My favorite section is middle part that is very fast and dance-able.  It depicts wedding dance and I like to imagine people dressed in traditional Czech clothing and doing a folk dance to it.

Second is Morning Mood by the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.  It was originally written as the score for Henrik Ibsen’s play Peer Gynt.  Grieg would later take eight movements from his score and assemble them into two separate suites.  This piece was invluded.  I love it because it is so rich and calming, and true to its name, it does depict the morning .  It is calm and relaxing and can possibly be used to help oneself relax and wake up in the morning and get on with one’s day.  I feel like I am in heaven when I hear and listen to the melodies, and the richness of the orchestra.

Third is another piece that I discovered in my music appreciation class.  It is the Mazurka in B-Flat minor Op. 24 No 4  by Frederic Chopin.   It’s enjoyable to me because of it’s melodies and how the song’s speed goes up and goes down; it uses a musical technique called tempo rubato where a musical piece, while being played .  Also, the mood changes from sadness to high energy and excitement and slows down to sadness again.  This piece was not meant to musically depict a specific story, object, or so on but I wonder if Chopin was trying to musically depict a contextless emotion that goes up and down.

Next, is January: At the Fireside.  It was composed by Tchaikovsky as part of a cycle of pieces that each musically depict a month of the year.  That cycle was called The Seasons.  It has a mysterious, soothing quality.  Also, it feels just like it’s title, or at least like being in warm place during the cold winter.  It was originally written for piano, but has also been arranged for orchestra.

Next, is one of the rare classical pieces written by a woman.  This is September at the River by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, the siter of Felix Mendelssohn.  She wrote a cycle called Das Jahr (The Year), which depicted the months of the year.  I first heard this in my music appreciation class, and I fell in love with its ethereal quality and it’s evocation (in my mind) of the nighttime.

Finally is Les barricades mistérieuses (the mysterious barricades) by Francois Couperin.  This piece uses the the harpsichord, a precursor to the piano.  With fast melodies and a joyful disposition, it is so fun to listen to.  It peps me up.  I feel energized and get the desire to move whenever I hear it.




A few more additional thoughts on Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes

I think Byron Hurt did get men to look at themselves.  The reason is that first and foremost, he provided a context to the hip-hop music that people don’t necessarily see.  He did research and interviewed people on how hip-hop affects them and what rappers are really saying in their music.    I feel that if people listen, they will reconsider what they are listening to and watching, and examine whether the effect is has on them is good or not and what they should do about the effects of hip-hop on them.  The documentary clearly shows that people mimic the attitudes and behaviors expressed in hip-hop and many of those attitudes and behaviors are negative such as sexually harassing women, being violent towards another man because “he looked at you the wrong way,” or any type of behavior that is harmful towards other people or oneself.  I believe that Hurt’s documentary will hopefully encourage people to think for themselves and not allow the media to influence them negatively because he shows people the objective effect that hip-hop has on them.

Needless to say, sexism is everywhere in our culture.  Men and women are both perpetrators and victims of it.  Women are often objectified and are often pressured to conform to limited roles such as being a wife and mother.  Despite the fact that women work far more often than they did in the past, women still are expected to balance motherhood and their careers.  Many say that a woman can’t be a wife, mother, and have a career, and be able to do it well.  Men don’t seem to have this struggle to nearly the same extent.  People rarely, if ever, talk about how men are unable to be a husband, father, and have a career.  I suppose the reason is that women are expected to be children’s caregivers while men are expected to support their wives and children financially.

A trend I have noticed in combatting gender discrimination is that women who reject traditional gender roles have more support than men who do the same.  For example, in high school, I noticed a handful of girls who dressed as boys do, and they were generally accepted by the school at large.  However, I once heard of a boy who came to school dressed as girl, and the reaction was less than favorable to say the least.  In society in general women are often trying to defy traditional gender roles because they are constricting and subjugating, but men who do the same are often frowned upon probably because of some latent hatred of femininity.

Hip-Hop and Its Effect on Gender Roles

This is yet another assignment from a past class I took.  Once again, this was an English class where we read and wrote about social issues surrounding sex, gender, race, and class.  The class mixed sociology with English.  This paper talked about the documentary Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Byron Hurt and talked about several of the gender and racial aspects  of hip-hop.


Ellis Sutton


English 102

Hip-Hop and Its Effect on Gender Roles

Sex is a person’s biological role in reproduction.  Gender is the role and behavior associated with a person’s sex.  Males and females, boys and girls, and men and women, all have specific behaviors that they are expected to do or not do.  However, ever since humanity began, there have been people who have questioned, rejected, and even attempted to change gender roles on the grounds that they are harmful, constricting and the like.  Byron Hurt, an activist, is one of the many people who have done that.  In his documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Hurt attempts to find out what hip-hop and rap music says about what roles men and women should and shouldn’t have (“Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”).

A point made over and over again throughout Hurt’s documentary is that hip-hop often sends the message that men need to be dominant towards women and other men.  Rap lyrics and music videos often contain content that glorifies being violent towards other men for generally senseless reasons such as “stepping on one’s turf” or “looking at them the wrong way.”  Hip-hop is in a way a form of a common trope in American culture that equates masculinity with violence.  Some of the rappers Hurt interviewed for the documentary film, said that the message that men, especially black men, receive is that they have to command and demand respect, never express anything that could be perceived as weakness, and never let other men disrespect or degrade them (“Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”).

People ask why hip-hop is so violent.  One reason is that black men in America often are disadvantaged financially.  Many black men can’t use money to assert their dominance so they decide to sue their bodies to fulfill that goal.  They act as though they are “hard”, use aggressive mannerisms, and the like.  By contrast, men who are wealthy don’t tend to come across as violent because they can use money to show dominance (“Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”).

Hip-hop has another side to gender roles that poses a risk that is just as great if not greater than the idea that men must be hyper masculine and violent towards one another.  It is the issue of how women are treated.  Rap lyrics routinely refer to women with epithets such as “bitches,” and “hos.”  Women in rap videos are depicted wearing very little clothing next to fully-dressed men; the implication is that women are objects who exist solely for the sexual pleasure of men.  They have no other worth or value.  Hurt documented the consequences of such media messages:  At the BET Spring Bling event in Daytona, Florida, young men who attended the event routinely sexually harassed and sexually assaulted young women by shooting video cameras under their skirts or groping them.  It is stated that in the black community, issues that affect blacks as a whole or black men are given greater importance than the issues of misogyny, sexism, and violence against women.  One of the results of those attitudes is the sobering fact that black women are 33% more likely than their white counterparts to be victims of domestic violence (“Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”).  Even women are desensitized by hip-hop and seem to accept the messages to an extent.  Hurt asked one young woman about what she thought about misogynistic hip-hop lyrics.  She said that they don’t offend because they aren’t specifically targeted to her.

When it comes to hip-hop portraying certain gender roles for men, there is an irony.  It’s very common for rappers (and people in society in general) to denigrate men for “being less of a man” if they cry or fail to conform to what society considers to be masculine.  This also includes lyrics that are homophobic.  However, the irony of homophobia in rap is that rap has a homoerotic subtext.  The documentary notes that for example, there is a video featuring a shirtless LL Cool J, and the viewer is encouraged to look at him.  In addition when rappers talk about the pursuit of sex, they focus less on the women and more on working together with their friends to get sex  (“Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”).

There is an important reason why hip-hop expresses the messages that it expresses.  In the early days of the genre rappers talked about political issues in their lyrics, but over time, the lyrics changed to have less substance.  One would wonder why that would happen.  The record companies are seemingly uninterested in signing artists that talk about so-called worthy issues and more interested in artists talking about violence, drugs, sex, and the like.  The documentary suggests a racist subtext because the record executives are mostly white men who allegedly don’t blacks to criticize their subjugation in society.  It is remarked that this is a trend that is not fundamentally different to old American films that depicted African Americans in a manner which reinforced negative black stereotypes such as being lazy or violent.  Some amateur rappers whom Hurt, interviewed said that the white record executives do not want to perpetuate positive images of black men, and they even expressed that they don’t engage in crimes, don’t neglect their parental responsibilities, nor would they want their sons to emulate the behaviors of rappers.

Byron Hurt set out in his documentary to depict what hip-hop music says about gender roles and how those messages affect society (“Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes”).  When the documentary is over, one can clearly see that many of the messages and views expressed in hip-hop are negative and have equally undesirable consequences.  This begs the question: what can be done about these consequences? I think that what needs to be done is that people need to first and foremost think about the media they consume.  They have to decide whether the messages and views expressed in the media they consume are positive or negative.  People also need to think about the media they consume is affecting them in a positive way or not.  Afterwards, they have to decide what to do about it.  Will they change their attitudes and if so how?  Will they listen to music that doesn’t disrespect people?  Will they continue to listen to potentially harmful music, but not let it influence them to partake in negative behaviors?  The only way that people can change society for the better is for people to start with themselves and takes personal responsibility.

Works Cited

Hurt, Byron, dir. “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.”Independent Lens. 20 FEB 2007. DVD.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 1

I love classical music.  It’s so rich and complex and it takes me on such a journey.  Today, I will talk about some of my favorite pieces.


First, is one piece that I am sure you will recognize.  It is the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel.  After his death, he was forgotten and much of his output was lost, but this piece survived, was rediscovered, and became a classic.  It is so ubiquitous.  In fact, the chord progression it uses is one of the most commonly used chord progressions in all of Western music regardless of genre and style.  The piece is so calming.  I feel like I am on air, whenever I hear it.  It’s like when I hear it, all my troubles go away.

Second, is the Humoresque or Humoreske No. 7 by Antonin Dvorak.  It starts out rather romantically, has a midsection that is more dramatic and returns to the romantic sounding opening.  This piece was written for piano, but is also often performed by orchestras.  This piece also has a chord progression which is very popular in all types of music.


Finally, I will talk about The Four Seasons Season by Antonio Vivaldi.  These are well known especially the part called Spring.  My favorite, however is the end of Summer.  So very fast, powerful, and violent, it gives me a sense of energy whenever I listen to it.



My Love for Classical Music

As I mentioned in my new introductory blog post, I also had plans to talk about music from time to time, even though it is not the main purpose of my blog.  Today I will talk about music.  More specifically, I will talk about classical music.

My love for classical music came from three primary sources.  One the film Fantasia 2000, the sequel to my favorite movie ever, Fantasia.  In late 1999, I first saw commercials for Fantasia 2000, I was entranced by the use of classical music combined with animation.  Early that next February, me and my father and my brother and sister went to see it playing at the IMAX theater at Navy Pier.  That was also the first time I had ever seen an IMAX movie. (Now, it seems like every movie or at least every major movie is released in IMAX format).  I loved it and the experience.

Months later, I rented Fantasia on VHS from Blockbuster (there’s not many of those stores anymore).  I also fell in love with that movie, perhaps more so than its sequel; I suppose in many cases it’s true that original is always best.  Later, I eventually purchased the DVD (months after my aunt gave me the VHS of Fantasia 2000 as a Christmas gift), and enjoyed the experience of that as well as the bonus features which enriched my understanding of the film’s background and history.

Later on my mother introduced me to two cassette tapes from Victoria’s Secret.  They were called Classics by Request, they were performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, and my mom owned the second and fifth volumes.  The second volume included such classic such as Vivaldi’s Spring from The Four Seasons and the second movement of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (also known as the Pastoral Symphony) which was also in Fantasia.  I loved those cassette tapes very much, and that just cemented my love for classical music more and more.  I eventually found a box set of all five volumes of the Victoria’s Secret Classics by Request on Amazon, and I hope to purchase them one day.

I like classical music because of it’s feeling.  I feel like I am listening to something with a lush texture.  I feel like I am listening to something pleasurable and fun.  I very often listen to it on various music-streaming platforms such as Spotify, Songza, Pandora, and iTunes Radio.  My love for it will always stay.