My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Part 7

Happy Monday!

First up is the An American in Paris by George Gershwin.  A tone poem, depicting a trip Gershwin took to Paris, the listener experiences the highs, lows, and everything in between of great city of Paris.

Next is the Rondeau by Jean-Joseph Mouret, a lovely piece so happy with its alternating trumpet and organ solos.

Finally, is an eerie and ominous song: The Elfking from a poem by  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe with music by Franz Schubert.  It tells the story of a father rushing home on horseback with his young son, but the son claims to be terrorized by visions of an evil supernatural creature known in  some translations as the Elfking, but more accurately the Erl King.

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My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Part 6

Happy Monday!

The first piece for this week is Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum.  This piano piece is romantic, evokes the nighttime in my mind, and is just moving.   I discovered it when I watched the film All About Eve.  During the party scene, Margo Channing as the pianist to repeatedly play the piece because of her depression as she begins to realized that Eve Harrington is trying steal her career.

Second is the first of the Duex Arabesques by Claude Debussy.  Arabesques are pieces meant to evoke Middle Eastern music.  While, these pieces actually had no real influence of Middle Eastern music, they can still be enjoyable.  I like this one because of its light and airy qualities and its emotion throughout.  So fun, free, and fanciful.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 5

Happy Monday!

Here are some more of my favorite pieces of classical music.

First is a piece by Felix Mendelssohn. It is Fingal’s Cave Overture, also known as The Hebrides.  I’d heard it many times since childhood, and never knew what is was called.  Now that I have discovered it again , known its name, and heard it in its entirety, I am moved by its dark and ominous mood and melody.  It’s the perfect musical depiction of a cave.  Of course, most caves would be dark and ominous and mysterious.

Second is the Valse (Waltz) from Tchaikovksy’s Swan Lake.  A favorite of mine since discovering it on iTunes Radio, I fell in love with its airy quality, and danceable melodies.

Finally is a piece of opera music.  I tend to prefer instrumental classical music, but there are some pieces that I consider to be favorites.  One such favorite is Belle nuit, ô nuit d’amour (also known as the Barcarolle) by Jacques Offenbach, from his final opera (he died before it was first performed) Les Contes d’Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann).  It has a tender feeling and its lyrics in French tell the story of being with one’s lover during a romantic nighttime, and experience everyone should have.

My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music Monday: My Favorite Pieces of Classical Music: Part 4: Walt Disney’s Fantasia

Hello, All.

Happy Monday.

This is a special day for me because it is my 23rd birthday.

To that end, I will do special blog post, and I will talk about some of my favorite pieces of classical in my absolute favorite film: Walt Disney’s Fantasia.

In the late 1930’s Walt Disney planned to make a special Mickey Mouse cartoon accompanied by the the musical piece, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, composed by Paul Dukas.  The intention was to increase the popularity of Mickey Mouse who was beginning to lose fame to other cartoon characters of the time.  One night at restaurant called Chasen’s Southern Pit, Disney had a chance encounter with Leopold Stokowski, the most famous conductor of the time.  Both men were fans of the other, and Disney asked him to conduct the music for The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, to which Stokowski agreed.  However, as production began, Disney realized that the expenses of the short film were growing too much.  He and Stokowski decided to make entire feature based around animated images accompanied by classical music pieces.  They hired Deems Taylor, a composer and music critic, to act as the film’s host, and they created a film version of a classical music concert.

I first discovered the film in late 1999 when I began seeing previews of Fantasia 2000, the sequel to the original film.  I would see that film at the IMAX theater (Fantasia 2000 was screened exclusively in IMAX theaters from January 1, 2000 until April 30, 2000, and it opened in standard theaters on June 16 of that year.) the following February 2000, and I enjoyed it.  Later that summer, I rented the original Fantasia on VHS from Blockbuster, and I greatly enjoyed that as well.

To me, Fantasia is very mystical, mysterious, rich, diverse, and complex.  It has 8 different segments, each dedicated to a specific classical piece.

The first is the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, attributed to Johann Sebastian Bach, though in recent years, many music scholars and musicologists have questioned whether or not he actually wrote it, since the styles and techniques within it are atypical of him and more consistent with music composed after the Baroque era.  It was originally composed for organ, but Stokowski created an orchestra arrangement for it.  Since the piece was aboslute muisc, music that is not meant to tell a story or depict something concrete, Disney and his animators decided to use abstract animation to go with the music.  Taylor states in his introduction that if one were to go to a concert all and hear this piece, abstract images might go through one’s head.

Second, the The Nutcracker Suite by Tchaikovsky.  Rather than retell the story of the Nutcracker, Disney interpreted the music as a ballet of the personification of nature.  Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is about sprites and fairies putting dew all over a forest during the nighttime.  The Chinese Dance shows a group of mushrroms, made to look Chinese, doing a Chince dance.  Dance of the Reed Flutes depicts ballerina flowers dancing.  The Arab Dance, depicts sexy, sultry goldfish dancing.  The Russian Dance shows lilies and thistles doing a Russian folk dance.  And finally, the Waltz of the Flowers shows fairies changing the seasons from summer to fall and from fall to winter.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice features Mickey Mouse as the apprentice of a sorcerer.  He decides, without permission of supervision, to use the Sorcerer’s magic hat to bring a broomstick to life to fill a cauldron with water.  However, Mickey could not get the broomstick to stop…

The Rite of Spring is different from the first three pieces in that its story is from science rather than fantasy.  It shows the history of the world from when the world was nothing but volcanoes to the evolution of life to the age of the dinosaurs and their extinction.  The composer, Igor Stravinksy was the only Fantasia composer alive at the time.  He enjoyed a work in progress version of the segment, and after the final film was released, he gave the studio the rights to use three of his other works in future films; however, Stravinsky later went on record saying that he hated that a third of the music was omitted and that much of what was kept was reordered.

Next, is “Meet the Soundtrack” where an animated line demonstrates the sounds that the orchestra is capable of making.  The animators certainly embued a lot of personality into the line, making it seem as real  and as memorable as any human or animal character they have created.

Next, is the Pastoral Symphony.  Disney chose to depict the music as depicting Greek mythological creatures including, flying horses, centaurs, fauns, and unicorns.  They originally chose the piece Cydalise by Gabriel Pierne, but the music was not complementary enough to the animation, and so they chose Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. In three sections, the segments depicts, the creatures living around Mount Olympus, the centaurs and centaurettes near a river, a huge party interrupted by Zeus and Vulcan creating a thunderstorm, and then the end of the storm and nightfall.

Then, the film moves on to Amilcare Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours, depicting ostriches hippos, elephants, and alligators doing ballet.  The film was meant as a parody of ballet, but it still pays tribute to ballet at the same time.

Finally, is a double segment, Modest Mussorgsky A Night on Bald Mountain and Franz Schubert’s Ave Maria.  This was designed as a battle of the profane and the sacred.  The first shows the black god, Chernabog coming to life and summoning all sorts of evil beings.  However, when church bells ring, all the evil goes back into hiding and we see a group of the faithful walking through the woods carrying torches as the sun rises.

So diverse, yet so cohesive, Fantasia is a wonderful cinematic journey.  While it was not appreciated much when it was first released, it eventually got its due, and is heralded as a classic.  And now many people around the world appreciate for the work of art that it is.

 

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.

Enjoy.

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.