Tuesday, May 02, 2006

so i forgot my blog again.....

but I am going to avoid writing about the band cd...even though i could write lots...

This week I listened to a little Puccini, all of the great Puccini opera arias to be exact. A year ago I would have cringed at the thought of sitting down and listening to a bunch of arias, but I've learned tolerance.

From a few conversations I've had with "normal" people about opera. It seems that to people who don't know music, Puccini is a favored opera composer. While I had the cd going my roomate started pretending to sing along to "Nessun dorma' from Turandot. The arias are all highly emotional and I think that appeals to the general public. And after listening to these I started to realize that I heard a lot of them show up in movies.

so yeah. Puccini=good times.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Hey, Sorry this is a little late but I listened to a lot of music this week and couldn't decide what to write about...Anyway, I listened to the Barber Violin Concerto performed by Perlman and the Boston Symphony. I hadn't heard the third movement but it was crazy. I couldn't really tell if I enjoyed the movement because of how crazy it was or if I just have such a great deal of respect for anyone that can play it that well, or both. But, it was cool none-the-less and the first movement still continues to be one of my favorite violin concertos.

Opps...

I know this is late and I'm sorry! I just remembered that I had to do it! This weekend has been nuts!

Well, I really don't know what to write about this week since I really haven't listened to anything new. Well, except for Zombies from the Beyond. I did tech crew for that show this weekend, so I've been hearing that music non stop for the last 2 weeks with rehearsals and performances.

What a crazy musical. It's suppose to be a parody on 50's pop culture, and a cross between a really bad b-list 50's sci fi movie and b-list musical. It's actually pretty funny. There are many sexual inuendos however. But anyway, the music involved is ridiculous. You can tell is really is inspired by the 50's. Every song has a corny melody and there was only 2 pianos involved. There's a shoo-wop song called "In the Stars" which of course embodies your typical 50's ballad or sad song with even a verse spoken, there's a dance number that involves one of the main woman characters and all the men do a song and dance called "Blast off Baby" and a tap dance song called "Atomic Feet". What I found interesting was that they made the villian or the alien, Zombina, into a coloratura soprano. All of her songs were very operetic which is different.

All in all, the music was crazy and interesting with a bunch of chromatisism that drove me nuts most of the time because I felt it didn't sound right and there was quite of range of notes as well.
Jen Chapin is one of my favorite singers. She doesn't necessarily have a beautiful voice, but it has a really cool edgy quality to it while still being enjoyable to listen to. I also really like the lyrics to her songs because they actually have enough depth to them to make me stop and think about them. Her album Open Wide, which I listened to this week, is especially cool because it is just Jen Chapin singing and Stephen Crump playing the bass. There are no other instruments accompanying her at all. I didn't even know that this could work, but it actually does quite nicely because it adds to the pensive quality of her lyrics and the afore mentioned "edginess" in her voice. I will admit that by the time the album is over, I've gotten my fill of this particular sound, and am ready for some music with a little more texture to it than just voice and bass, but all in all this album provides a nice change of musical scenery.

Memoirs of a Geisha

So, I listened to the soundtrack to the film Memoirs of a Geisha. It is absolutely beautiful and I recommend it for everyone!!! I usually do not like just instrumental or orchestral music, but I would be content to go to a live performance of this without the movie playing in the background. In fact, I've put it on my mp3 player. However, it makes sense with the movie and plays an essnential role. Each main character has an instrument that basically is their musical equivalent. The cello is Sayuri, the young geisha and it represents a bittersweet innocence..and a very lyrical yet melancholy violin is the Chairman which is her love interest.
The orchestra also makes use of traditional japanse instruments such as the Shamisan, this one long 13 stringed instrument that can be tuned at will, gongs, and these long wooden flutes. It really has an ineffable effect and it really has to be listened to to fully enjoy. It's one of the best scores done for a movie that I've ever heard. People praised titanic and lord of the rings, but this beats them all...because it holds so much more meaning,

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sgt. Pepper

Well, driving home last night I randomly chose to listen to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles. I'd have to say that this is definately my favorite of all CDs by the Beatles. In fact, one song, Within you Without You is literally the song that sparked my interest in Indian music and is the reason for me pursuing my trip to India this past January. There is so much good music by the Beatles it's rediculous to think of how they could come up with all the stuff they did.

Getting Better is a really nice song with a really cool bass line. Nice and upbeat, I like it.
She's Leaving Home is actually based on a comic strip that one of the Beatles read in a newspaper, and is literally word for word based off the comic. It's still really cool though.
Benefit of Mr. Kite has some really weird words, and is based off an advertisement for a circus in Penny Lane (read the lyrics... you can't make that stuff up)
Within you without you.... AMAZING! The Beatles loved their trip to India, especially George, and a lot of his songs have Indian influences. I remember listening to this song as a kid and loving the sitar and tabla present in the song. It resembles Hindustani music quite a bit actually. Stronlgy suggest listening to this one.
Finally, A Day in the Life is one of the greatest songs ever written. The lyrics are very deep and the music is equally as cool. The last chord was played on 4 pianos!

Not only is the music cool from the Beatles, but the lyrics are equally as cool. It's so cool to think that somebody could come up with as many meaningful lyrics as they did. Sgt. Peppers in my opinion was their best CD, so definately check this one out!

"The Mission"

In honor of the Film Music class watching The Mission, I thought I’d blog about the movie soundtrack. Alas, I have not seen the movie, but there are awesome oboe solos in this.
The opening track, “On Earth as it is in Heaven” has a baroque feel with harpsichord, ethnic vocals and oboe. The theme played by the oboe returns in other tracks, providing continuity throughout.
“Falls” keeps with the overall African feel, considering the film is set in Africa. Strings give an aerial feel to this track, giving the sensation of being in the air.
“Gabriel’s Oboe” is essentially the oboe theme with calmer accompaniment in vocals and murky strings.
“Ave Maria Guarani” is a rendition of Ave Maria with an African twist. A capella choir provides a more formal feel to this track.
“Brothers” is a low register flute solo with harp and strings accompaniment.
“Carlotta” is a guitar solo with strings accompaniment.
“Vita Nostra” has recorder playing the “Gabriel’s Oboe” theme, very similar to “On Earth as it is in Heaven” except with recorder.
“Climb” gives a calmer feel with quiet strings. “Remorse” takes these strings and adds tension and bassoon to the texture. A high register oboe solo ends the track.
“Penance”, another track of tension, is dominated by a chromatic motive.
“The Mission” begins with a flute solo, followed by horn and strings in the Mission theme.
“River” returns the percussion and vocals from “On Earth as it is in Heaven” and develops them further, considering there is no oboe solo above them.
“Gabriel’s Oboe” makes a return visit opening with a bassoon solo and then transitioning into the oboe solo.
The remainder of the soundtrack is relatively the same, finishing with “Misere”, a child vocal solo.

Classical Tour Around the World

So I am now in possession of a box set of 10 cd's highlighting classical music from certain countries called "Classical Journey". It's a huge collection of different pieces from all kinds of composers. One thing that's great about these cd's is that there's a lot of well-known stuff, which makes them more interesting to listen to, especially because I recognize a lot of what's being played. Yesterday I listened to the first volume "Austria"...i really enjoyed this one! Here are some highlights for you:

Mozart's Symphony No. 40 (Molto Allegro)
* I really liked this piece...seeing as how it's one of his more famous symphony movements. I'm really upset because of the fact that now that I'm in Musicianship...i can't just listen to a piece...i find myself listening to form and whatnot. I always take notice of returns of motives and such. (i guess that's culture for you!)

Strauss's Waltz - The Beautiful Danube
* EVERYONE is familiar with this piece...and if you say you're not...you're a terrible liar. I couldn't help but think of a spring scene, with dancing nature and whatnot...i don't know why. Strauss just has that effect on people sometimes, i guess

Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
*One of my favorite pieces by Mozart. This "sonata form" (god, musicianship is ruining my life!) piece is a VERY famous piece, and I like it a lot. When I was in high school, the orchestra did this piece, and since then, I've been in love with it. Something about strings just makes me love it even more!

Haydn's Symphony No. 94, 'Surprise' (Andante)
*I think this piece is rather familiar...seeing as how i recognized the main theme, but I can't remember why I know it. Oh well, it's haydn. I like his melodic line for some reason. It's really easy to listen to and get lost in!

So those pieces are just a highlight of the cd that's an hour and a half long. Next week, I plan on listening to the next installment: Hungary!

choosing new rep

Well now that proficiencies are thankfully finished, I got to begin looking at new repertoire for the summer and next semester. I spent about 2 hours listening to different pieces (thanks to Naxos) last night and found some really good stuff.

The pieces that I chose, (after listening to many) include: Brahms Op. 118 Intermezzo in A major (I believe this was on a quiz earlier in the semester...), Beethoven Piano Sonata No. 3, Rachmaninov Etude- Tableaux, Op. 33, No. 9, and Chopin Nocture No. 5 in F# major.

I've wanted to play this Brahms intermezzo since the first time I heard it and every time afterwards. I can't say anything else about it other than it's probably one of the most beautiful piano pieces I have ever heard.

I chose this Beethoven sonata for a few reasons. Firstly, it begins in C major (that's an easy key to play in...). Secondly, I like the statement the FTA makes. Finally, I also want to do one of the Beethoven sonatas that not all the other piano majors have done (AnnMarie is the only one that's done this one since I've been here).

Listening to Rach is always extremely enjoyable and I've found that I especially like the Etudes- Tableaux. This one is my favorite.

Finally, the Chopin Nocturne balances out the C major Beethoven Sonata being in F# major (also assisted by the C# minor Etude-Tableaux). This nocturne is also more jazzy and playing the Bennett, I've found that I really enjoy playing in that style more and more.

Of course, all these have to be approved by the higher up (Dr. May Phang) but if I work on them now or later, I'm just excited to get new repertoire period!!!

Jazz Band Concert

This week the jazz ensemble had a concert with a guest trombonist Eric Zimmerman, an incredibly accomplished and talented musician. Not only was he a pleasure to play with, his technical facility on the trombone was astounding. He made the trombone sound as if it were a trumpet, hitting incredibly high registered notes. Even though he only appeared on three of the songs, he was the highlight of the production. His solo on "Night in Tunisia," (one my favorite tunes) was so gracefull and full of color. He used harmony that I would not expect a trombonist to use and held high notes to accentuate the color of the chords. My only complaint would be that he was a bit of a showboat. Although he was the most technically gifted trombonist that I had ever seen, he tried to use a bit too much flash and cliche quotes (within his solos) to capture the awe of the audience (though I must admit, I wish that I could play like him).

"Zombies From The Beyond"

I saw "Zombies From The Beyond" on Saturday night. The singing was excellent, especially Liz Hartnett's soaring soprano. The musical is sort of a parody on 1950's sci-fi movies, and the musical achieved campiness in every facet: acting, choreagraphy, set design, light design, and sound design. The music was clearly early 50's rock-inspired: complete with tons of I-vi-IV-V progressions. Also, the instrumentation was quite interesting. It featured only two keyboards, played by Sarah Masterson and Keith Teepen. However, Keith's keyboard part was originally intended for accordion, which was the only voice he was directed to use.

The lead cast was comprised mostly of upperclassmen women and first-year student men. The men acted more as a chorus than the Zombettes, which I found interesting. My only real complaints are that the production lacked any quality tap dancing, which I know that the show is supposed to feature, and that the music lacked solos by baritone vocalists, which is the most common vocal type in rock music.

Beethoven blog from last week (would not post)

In honor of Shua analyzing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, I decided to listen to it this week. I have a recording of the Vienna Philharmonic playing it on my iTunes and it, of course, was very well performed. Like myself, Beethoven also liked this symphony quite a bit, saying that it was his “most excellent symphony.” This symphony is quite accessible to listen to relative to a few of his other symphonies. The first movement starts off slowly before moving into the vivace section. Like many other first movements of symphonies, this movement is in sonata form. Beethoven seems to like the slower beginnings to his symphonies, taking a few minutes to even state the rest of the theme for the rest of the movement. In this movement, it takes around four minutes to get to a place where we hear hints of the theme for the rest of the movement. It is only then that he moves into the vivace section. This movement has some of the best horn excerpts of any of his music, writing perfectly for the sound and the logistical aspect of the horn. Good choice Shua. The second movement is almost haunting. Again, while looking at the background of this symphony, I found it interesting that Wikipedia reported that some of the musicians in the Philadelphia Orchestra played this movement when they received notice that a colleague or former musician of the orchestra died. This movement drips with the quiet emotionality that makes this movement so powerful. I also found it interesting that it became common tradition in the nineteenth century to repeat this movement. I wonder a bit why that decision by conductors was make; the piece is sufficiently long and accessible the first time around. Hmmm….Spiegelberg, what do you think of them messing with the form of the symphony? The third movement is quick and light, as was common with scherzo trios. The last movement, like the third, is quick. Perhaps this is why conductors liked to repeat the second movement. The fourth, like the first, movement has some of the best horn excerpts that Beethoven offers in his symphonies. This symphony is quite accessible and is a blast to listen to. I would definitely recommend listening to the recording of the Vienna Phil; there is something about listening to a recording with a full section of the Viennese horn players that is really exciting and is as Beethoven intended.

Copland and band

I decided to listen to a bit of Copland this week since we recorded Fanfare for the Common Man this weekend in band. I believe that the recording that I have is of the Minnesota Orchestra (although I am not positive about that because my iTunes did not list the performing ensemble). In conversations between the conductor of the piece’s premiere and Copland, the conductor was quoted as saying, “Its title is as original as its music, and I think it is so telling that it deserves a special occasion for its performance. If it is agreeable to you, we will premiere it 12 March 1943 at income tax time". Copland's reply was "I [am] all for honoring the common man at income tax time". Copland also explored other titles such as Fanfare for a Solemn Ceremony and Fanfare for Four Freedoms in writing this piece. The recording, besides being of a professional group, had a few differences in the interpretation of the piece than our band. The tempo of the piece was, overall, faster. The timbre of the ensemble was darker than our ensemble, which is typical of MN Orch, however the trumpets were surprisingly bright in this recording. They usually do not have all that bright a sound, so perhaps this was intentional for this piece; either the conductor or Manny must have wanted that style for the piece. The piece is stylistically very typical of Copland, which utilize many open intervals with 4th and 5ths. Also, the use of brass and percussion is quite typical of his music; he tends to write in a very high tessitura for wind instruments. Although I really enjoy listening to all of the pieces on this recording, it is really fun to listen to a piece done by a professional group that you too have recorded just to listen to the differences between the levels of playing.

15 hours of the war requiem

So. I'm writting my Mass class paper on Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. And this weekend I'm fairly sure that I've listened to it for over 15 hours. Its a gourgeous piece of music, but it is starting to get a little old.
One of the most interesting features that I've come to apricate is the use of the tritone as a figure of stabilty. Throughout the piece the tritone is usued to establish a key area, which I don't quite understand entirely, but as I listen to this piece more and more the idea is growing on me. The tritone is often presented in a very straightforward manner however at times it is hidden. One such example is one phrase ending on a C# and the next sung one beginning on an F. I really love how it apears so often and in so many varieties.
After listening to this for so long I'm also starting to find myself become more and more liberal and more and more pacifist. I guess Britten knows how to impact people with his music.

band recording

So after listening to the band recording Lux Aurumque and Blue Shades for five hours, I might as well write about these two pieces.
Lux Aurumque is a piece by Eric Whitacre which is originally a choral piece. It used no percussion but was beautiful and very flowing. The band sounded excellent playing this piece and it went by quickly. T
he next piece however was really fast and difficult to get perfect. Blue Shades written by Frank Ticheli sounded so fun to play. Parts of the piece sounded like James bond music and other parts were extremely jazzy. There is a really neat clarinet solo in this piece which took like an hour to record, but I enjoyed listening to it. All in all, I think the band has a really good cd coming their way and they deserve it because that was hard work.

eric whitacre

Thanks to the university band and the pirating skills of david doud, I have been turned on to whitacre, a very innovative new `composer. His music is full of dissonance, extended chords, and great harmonies. In the band, we just recorded "lux arumque" a choral piece set for band which embodies the above techniques he is known for. After listening to his new album, cloudburst, I am amazed at the colors and pictures he paints in his music. The only complaint I do have about him is that although his music is peaceful and calming, a lot of it sounds the same. He uses a lot of 2nds, 4ths, and 6ths, but without normal chords, a lot of this doesn't have the same calming effect. Other than that, I strongly reccommend checking him out, hes new (even on myspace) and im sure we'll be hearing more of his work


as always,

AJ