Saturday, January 8, 2011 not scary

I know many people can't stand opera, I'm one of them. However, there are some great operas out there. I won't force you to listen to them, since its also torture to me; but there are a couple of pieces of opera that I do like, and those I would like to share. One's by Vivaldi and the other is by Mozart, so where should we start? I choose Vivaldi, okay?

I really don't know what this particular movement is from, thats if it even is part of samething in the first place, all I know is that its a famous piece by Antonio Vivaldi. It's called andante, which is a tempo marking slower than allegro. It is Italian for "at walking pace". When I first head this piece, I didn't even notice that it was an opera. That is why I wanted you to listen to this first, before the Mozart. Its really a lovely piece, it has no lyrics and it is not sung using the very highest of notes, one of the reasons many people dislike opera.

Find the song among the samples of music at the left of this page and listen to it. Did you change your mind about opera? It isn't scary or annoying is it? If you notice something about this piece, is that the human voice is used more as an instument than anything else. As a matter of fact, during the days when instuments were first invented, musicians and the people who built the instuments were trying to invent an instument which came as close to the human voice as possible. The piece also has alot of violin in it so if the voice was bothering you too much then just focus on the violin. This is a youtube link of another version of andante, being played of the violin, cello, and mandolin without human voice, this arrangement is equally beautiful.

The second piece, Queen of the Night by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is a little annoying at first I'm afraid. Bear with me however, as I find it very interesting and facinating once you get over its "annoyingness". I even heard this piece in a children's movie my cousins were watching, so I'm guessing its one of the best choices of opera a person could listen to. It is also one of the hardest arias to sing; an aria is a piece wrotten for one voice and an orchestra accompanying it. So again, I'll ask you to point your cursor at the left of the page and play Queen of the Night. And please, dont turn it off as soon as you turn it on, give it a chance. I know you'd want to. Try to listen to it, or atleast just wait until 0:43, something interesting happens here. Like it yet? I love this part of the opera. Hear the short, staccato notes she sings? She uses her voice as an instrument, more than just a way to sing lyrics like in today's songs.

Composers such as Mozart obviously saw the beauty in the human voice and wrote compositions that involved ways to show off the natural human voice. There is also another place in the song, similar to this part, at 2:03, watch out for that too. I'd ask you to listen to this link of you'd like, it is a young boy who sang this incredibly hard piece. You could also find this specific part of the opera here.

Forget the recording studios, isn't the natural human voice just great?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Beethoven's Fifth Symphony

Today you will listen to probably the most famous symphony of all time. Beethoven's fifth symphony; specifically, the first movement of that symphony. If you've read my previous post, you would know that a symphony is generally made of four movements; if you haven't, I would strongly suggest that you go back and read my previous post "The Symphony".

Now that I've made sure that you've read my post on Mozart's Symphony 40, click on the play button and listen to it again. You don't have to listen to the entire movement, just listen to it long enough to remind yourself of it. Now play the symphony below it, Beethoven's 5th Symphony. What is the first thing you notice? The first noticable thing about this symphony is that it is a very dark piece, unlike Mozart's symphony which sounds very sophisticated and maybe even happy. You should know that Mozart was a generally "happy" composer, most of his compositions seem happy. The opposite is true for Beethoven, who was a tormented musician, and signs of that are clearly heard throught his pieces.

Like Mozart's Symphony 40, and most other symphonies, Beethoven's 5th symphony starts off with a movement is sonata form. Exposition - Development - Recapitulation. That is all I am going to say about that. You are free to compare this movement with Mozart's first movement of Symphony 40, you would find many similarities in the forms of the two pieces. As I said, they are both in sonata form.

Beethoven was already 60% deaf by the year 1801, and he started composing his 5th symphony in 1804. Beethoven spent four whole years perfecting this symphony. His frustration with his increasing deafness is evident in throughout the piece's dark mood. And even after the long time he spend in its composition, people were not at all impressed with his symphony. It wasn't seen as the masterpiece it is until long after its first performance. The first movement, has the tempo markings "Allegro con brio". As we already know, allegro means fast and lively. Con brio means with spirit, so the movement is meant to performed "fast and with spirit".

So yeah, I don't know what else to say. Watch out for the "Dit-Dit-Dit-DAAH" theme, its the first thing you hear in the movement, and also the last. This theme is now EVERYWHERE, used for everything. It just shows you how famous this symphony is. The theme is called "fate knocking on your door", for some reason. It is quite ppossible that Beethoven gave it that name.

If you want to see this movement performed by an orchestra, click here.
If you want to download Beethoven's 5th Symphony, Allegro con brio , click here.

Now go be happy, you know the most famous symphony ever.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Symphony

So I was thinking, if I was to give you a crash course in classical music, what better way than to start with a symphony? Then I has to choose an actual symphony, and here came a challenge. I simply could not decide between Mozart's symphony no. 40 and Beethoven's 5th symphony, two of the most famous symphonies; and in the end I decided to give you a taste of both of them, so be happy. But before we start, you want to know what a symphony is, don't you?

The term "symphony" came from Greek; it basically means "agreement of sound". That makes sense, as we could agree that symphonies usually need a large orchestra - there's a symphony that was intended to be performed by an orchestra of over a thousand musicians. Up until the 18th century, many different musical works were referred to as symphonies. However, during the 18th century, a famous composer known as Joseph Haydn defined the structure of the modern symphony. Almost all symphonies composed after the 18th century adhere to his rules.

Now, all symphonies have four different movements. A movement, in case you don't know, is the musical term for a section or a part of a long work of music; each movement of a piece could stand alone by itself, but all the movements relate to each other in some way. The first movement is alwats lively and strong, it is usually in sonata form, but we can talk about that later. The second movement is slower, lighter and more melodic - like a song. The third movement is fast and is meant to be light natured and dance-like, like a minuet (a french dance) or a scherzo (literally, joke). The fourth and last movement is also fast, and its basically the symphony's "grand finale". This movement is generally just there for the orchestra to show off their skills.

On the right side of this page you can listen to the first movement of Wolfgang A. Mozart's Symphony no 40. That symphony is one of the most famous, I'm sure you recognize it. The movement is structured is sonata form. If you read the last two words of the music description, it says Allegro Molto. Allegro means fast and lively in Italian, molto means very. So basically molto allegro means very fast and lively; this is the tempo speed of the piece. Movements are generally titled with their tempo markings. The tempo is the number of beats per minute, in this case it would be close to 168 bpm.

The symphony starts off with the first theme which has a strong and kind of dark mood with it unlike many of Mozart's other works, but is somewhat sophisticated and refined. That is probably because Mozart lived during the Classical period where music was generally reserved and not very emotional. After about 45 seconds, we hear a second theme, which is softer, unlike the first theme. This part of the first movement is called the exposition, where the two melodies are introduced. The exposition is then repeated entirely.

The next part is called the development. Here, obviously, the two themes are developed a little, and varied a bit. This part starts around three minutes and a half and ends at four minutes and a half.

Then comes the recapitulation which, I think, can be shortened into "recap". The movement is then ended with a "recap" of the exposition. That is, the main themes are reintroduced, however being slightly different.

Now you know what sonata form is: exposition - development - recapitulation
And you also know the first movement of a very famous symphony.
If you want to see it performed by an orchestra, click here.


Intro to Music?

I realized that many people, 99% to be specific, of the people I know don't know anything about classical music. Except that I'm obsessed with it. So this blog has come to existance for exactly that reason, because I would like to educate them with some classical music. And I do realize that most of them will ignore my attempts, but I will atleast try. So here goes.

First of all, I will start by saying that music is completely subjective, as is the case with literature and visual art. A single piece of music could be interpretted in multiple ways and played with various styles, that does not mean that any of them are wrong. As I said, music is subjective, it has no strict rights and wrongs.

One of the reasons many people say that classical music is boring, is because it has no lyrics, well except for opera. I personally think that having no lyrics is precisely why classical music is so great. Instead of focusing on the words, you actually hear the music. It's also great for relaxation, at least most of the pieces are.

If you try to learn an instrument, like I am desperately trying to learn the piano (which is arguably the easiest instrument to learn), you would come to appreciate the time and effort in which each musician has spent in perfecting his or her playing skills. It is really amazing when around 50 mucisians play together in complete harmony, in my opinion at least.

Also, I don't know a great deal about classical music either. As I try to introduce you to pieces of different styles and artists, I would be teaching myself first about them first. I'm going to enjoy this, as you probably realize by now how obsessed with classical music I am. I can only hope that you will enjoy it too.