once more with feeling

A while back I posted a song called On Green Dolphin Street. That version wasn’t, how should I put this, very good? It had no right being out in the world. So I re-did it just for you. You know who you are.

That reminds me of the time someone asked me if I was “lean and mean” when I was in the military. I said no, I was more like “starched and parched.”

Traditional Version
Funky Version

And here is song number 44 in our classical music countdown. It is probably the shortest song in the book, with 17 measures. This is an excerpt from Prelude in A Major, by Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849):

Number 43

The latest song from the Countdown of 100 Classical Masterpieces is entitled Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).

Piano Version
Guitar Version
Synth Version

Mozart, or George Washington?

Here is more about Mozart:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang_Amadeus_Mozart

The Swan

Song Number 41 in our big countdown of Classical Music is called The Swan. It is from The Carnival of the Animals by French Composer Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921).

Synth Version
Piano Version
Guitar Aversion

According to galaxymusicnotes.com, Camille Saint-Saëns was widely heralded as a teen prodigy, as he started exhibiting perfect pitch at the age of two. He was also considered to be unparalleled on the organ and had very few competitors who matched his skills on the piano. He performed his first public concert when he was only 5 years old, accompanying a Beethoven sonata on the piano. His style can be best depicted as subtle, exuding a restrained yet cool essence. One of the world’s best pianists at that time, he was one of the first to actually create recordings of his works.

The Carnival of Animals,” also known as “Le Carnaval des Animaux,” is one of his most famous works along with his Third Symphony, various piano and cello concertos, his opera “Samson et Dalila,” and his tone poem “Danse macabre.”

Origin

Saint-Saëns composed “The Carnival of the Animals” in 1886, while he was enjoying some leisure time in a small Austrian village. However, he was skeptical that it might hamper his public image of being more matured and serious composer, as he feared it was a tad bit whimsical. He took his reputation extremely seriously, and he was sure that the piece would make the listeners laugh, as it was stuffed with musical jokes. So, he prohibited all public performances of the piece until after his demise, except one movement known as “The Swan.”

It was first premiered on the 26th of February 1922, almost 30 years after its creation. The piece consists of 14 movements forming a suite, and utilizes two pianos, a xylophone, strings, glass harmonica, clarinet, and flute. The composer offers and amusing portrait of various animals by utilizing various instruments – either singularly or via combinations. 

The Movements

Introduction and Royal March of the Lion

The introduction starts with a bold tremolo theme via the piano, playing a pair of opposite scales and subsequently introducing a “march theme” that prevails through it. The pianos occasionally offer low runs of octaves, resembling the roar of a lion. The movement concludes with a “fortissimo note” that includes a combination of all the instruments utilized in the movement. 

Hens and Roosters

The entire movement has a centralized theme played through strings and pianos, which resembles “chicken pecking at grains.” The piano offers a vast theme based on the crowing of a rooster. 

Wild Donkeys Swift Animals

The animals depicted in this movement are running at great speed, which is induced by a feverish and fast up-and-down motion of the pianos. 

Tortoises

The fourth movement is satirical and opens with a piano playing at a higher register, as the strings offer a slow rendition of the famed “Galop infernal.”

The Elephant

This section is marked with a perfect caricature of an elephant, as the piano offers a triplet figure resembling the waltz.

Kangaroos

It constitutes a pattern of “hooping clouds” which is preceded by grace notes. The chords get louder and faster while ascending and subsequently becomes soft and slow while descending.  

Aquarium

This movement is hugely musically rich, utilizing a glass harmonica, flute, two pianos, cello string quartet, and violins. The first piano opens with a descending ostinato, accompanied with the occasional glass harmonica at the end. 

Characters with Long Ears

The shortest movement, it has two violins alternately playing both low, buzzing notes and high, loud ones – resembling a donkey’s braying.

The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods

It comprises of a clarinet and two pianos. The clarinet plays a single ostinato as the pianos craft soft and massive chords.   

Aviary

This movement comprises of a flute, pianos, and strings, offering a background score reminiscent of the buzz in a jungle. The flute plays the role of the birds, as the movement ends with a quiet tone.   

Pianists

This piano offers a glimpse of a unique movement comprising of two pianos and strings. The transitions between the keys are marked with a blasting chord from all the instruments utilized.

Fossils

This movement utilizes a xylophone, clarinet, two pianos, and strings. The composer mimics his own works here, evoking images of skeletons taking part in card games. The violin and the xylophone play a prominent role, alternating with the clarinet and the piano.

The Swan

It offers a slow-moving melody through a cello, which is played over the rippling sixteenths through one piano and rolled chords through another. It resembles the swan’s feet which are hidden beneath the water. 

Final

The movement opens with the similar tremolo notes from the introduction, and are subsequently reinforced by the xylophone, glass harmonica and wind movements. The strings slowly build up the tension as the lively main melody gets introduced. The movement concludes with a series of 6 braying from the donkeys, portraying that the animal enjoys the last laugh, and is followed by a final group of C major chords.

A Carnival of Music

Saint-Saëns originally crafted his ‘Grand Zoological Fantasy’ keeping a small group of instruments in mind – one each of clarinet, piccolo, flute, double bass, cello, and viola, and two violins. He also included a few surprise elements – a glass harmonica, two pianos, and xylophone. However, recent performance utilizes a full orchestra, introducing more colors to his brilliant characterizations.   

The sounds of the instruments are exploited to perfection, painting the picture of the animals efficiently. The xylophone resembling the clattering of fossil bones, the double bass posing as an elephant. It’s the shape of music that swoons everyone to their feet – the trilling birds, the swans gliding with an elegant swagger, the hopping kangaroos etc. The composer also slips in the occasional musical pun to underline his point, for example, the tortoise slowly trundles off to Offenbach’s famous “can-can.” 

The composition was finally free of his shackles when Saint-Saëns passed away in 1935. The Carnival of Animals has, after all these years, become a classic in its own rights, portraying the composer’s subtle skills as he paints his very own musical carnival. 

Check out this recording from 1914: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA1ffxiCOU8

(Now I understand what that Swan film was all about.)

Number 40

Song Number 40 in our summer countdown of classical music is in the books. This is an excerpt from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz.

Piano Version
Funky Version

According to https://petipasociety.com/the-sleeping-beauty:

The Sleeping Beauty Waltz was the first collaboration of Marius Petipa and Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Although Tchaikovsky’s first ballet Swan Lake had not been the success he had hoped for, it did not end his composition of ballets. In 1886, during rehearsals for his opera The Enchantress, he was commissioned by the Director of the Imperial Theatres, Ivan Vsevolozhsky about a possible ballet adaptation of the story Undine. Despite the failure of Swan Lake, Tchaikovsky did not hesitate to accept the commission. However, by 1888, the idea of composing Undine was abandoned and Vsevolozhsky was more in favour of a ballet with a French subject. Eventually, he set his sights on the Charles Perrault fairy tale La Belle au bois dormant (Sleeping Beauty) as the story for which Tchaikovsky would compose the music, an idea with which Tchaikovsky was fully on board.

The fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty is one of the most classic of stories that has been widely known for centuries. The earliest known version is found in the prose romance Perceforest, which was written between 1330 and 1344, though it also appears in the myth of the Norse goddess Brunhilde. The story was first written as a fairy tale entitled Sun, Moon and Talia by the Italian writer Giambattista Basile and was published in 1634 in his collection Il Pentamerone. Basile’s variant was later retold and published by Charles Perrault in 1697 under the title Sleeping Beauty and it was again retold by the Brothers Grimm in 1812 under the title Little Briar Rose. 

The fairy tale was first adapted into a ballet by Ferdinand Hérold and Jean-Louis Aumer and was staged at the Paris Opéra on the 27th April 1829, with Lisa Noblet as the Princess Iseult and Marie Taglioni appearing in one scene as a naiad. Aumer and Hérold’s Sleeping Beauty was later staged in London on the 13th February 1833 at Drury Lane, with Pauline Duvernay as the Princess.

(When I woke up this morning, I did not know any of this!)

Pavel Gerdt as Prince Désiré (1890)

World Music

This song is called Songhai Piece. It comes from Mali, in North Africa:

Songhai Piece

And here is one you should know by now, if you have the right stuff. (It is from a country to the East of Mali. Or West, if you go the long way):

Name That Raga
Timbuktu, Mali

A Raga For You

Like I said up there.

This is called Raga Kamaj:

Raga Kamaj

And this is a mix of sixteen different Ragas:

This one is called Raga Bageshri:

Raga Bageshri
Raga Bageshri with Thirds Added
Raga Bageshri With Thirds and Fifths Added

According to Wikipedia, a  raga or raag (IAST: rāga; also raaga or ragam; literally “coloring, tingeing, dyeing”) is a melodic framework for improvisation akin to a melodic mode in Indian classical music. The rāga is a unique and central feature of the classical Indian music tradition, and as a result has no direct translation to concepts in classical European music

Each rāga is an array of melodic structures with musical motifs, considered in the Indian tradition to have the ability to “colour the mind” and affect the emotions of the audience.

Each rāga provides the musician with a musical framework within which to improvise. Improvisation by the musician involves creating sequences of notes allowed by the rāga in keeping with rules specific to the rāgaRāgas range from small rāgas like Bahar and Shahana that are not much more than songs to big rāgas like MalkaunsDarbari and Yaman, which have great scope for improvisation and for which performances can last over an hour. 

Rāgas may change over time, with an example being Marwa, the primary development of which has been going down into the lower octave, in contrast with the traditional middle octave.  Each rāga traditionally has an emotional significance and symbolic associations such as with season, time and mood. The rāga is considered a means in the Indian musical tradition to evoking specific feelings in an audience. Hundreds of rāga are recognized in the classical tradition, of which about 30 are common, and each rāga has its “own unique melodic personality”.

There are two main classical music traditions, Hindustani (North Indian) and Carnatic (South Indian), and the concept of rāga is shared by both. Rāga are also found in Sikh traditions such as in Guru Granth Sahib, the primary scripture of Sikhism. Similarly, it is a part of the qawwali tradition in Sufi Islamic communities of South Asia. Some popular Indian film songs and ghazals use rāgas in their composition.

Every raga has a swara (a note or named pitch) called shadja, or adhara sadja, whose pitch may be chosen arbitrarily by the performer. This is taken to mark the beginning and end of the saptak (loosely, octave). The raga also contains an an adhista, which is either the swara Ma or the swara Pa. The adhista divides the octave into two parts or anga – the purvanga, which contains lower notes, and the uttaranga, which contains higher notes. Every raga has a vadi and a samvadi. The vadi is the most prominent swara, which means that an improvising musician emphasizes or pays more attention to the vadi than to other notes. The samvadi is consonant with the vadi (always from the anga that does not contain the vadi) and is the second most prominent swara in the raga.

That last sentence goes without saying.


Just Two Songs Left

All good things come to an end sooner or later. This is the second to last song on our trip around the world, musically speaking. It was written in the Rai style of music popular in Northwest Africa.

This song is called 2:30 AM.

230 AM With Drums
230 AM No Drums

And this one is called Rosh Shel Lee (My Head)

My Head With Drums

According to liveabout.com, Rai music is a popular genre of world music from the Northern African country of Algeria. Rai is pronounced “rye” or “rah-AY” and translates as “opinion”. Rai music began in the early 1900s as a combination of popular music and traditional Bedouin desert music.
Rai transformed throughout the 1900s but really came into its own in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when artists such as Ahmad Baba Rachid blended traditional Rai with modern pop sounds.

Another Dilemma

As we continue on our exploration of Middle Eastern music, I must remind you all to remain seated, and keep your hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times. We don’t want another incident like the one last week.

I will be adding more songs to this page later today. At least that is the plan.

This song is called Dafne’s Dilemma.

Fast
Not so Fast

And this is called People of The Dark.

SIngle Line of Music
Two Lines
Three Lines

This is called Temple of Dum 15. The sheet music said “Add low-D drones freely throughout.” I think I got it right……..

No Drones
Some Drones
Lots of Drones

More Fun Facts

According to https://www.worldbellydance.com/history/ the origin of the name ‘belly dance’ comes from the French Danse du ventre, which translates as “dance of the stomach.” I did not know that!

But I do know that I like the music that comes from that part of the world. Here is another “Belly Dance Excerpt.” Or should I say “Dance of the Stomach Excerpt.”

Belly Dancing Excerpt
Same
Same
Maqsum Belly Dance

This next song sounds different because I didn’t put the key signature in when I entered the music into my music making machine, which makes it C Major, instead of D-Minor. Any questions? You, in the back…….

Maqsum Belly Dance in Major Key (I hope I don’t cause a stir.)

Here is a song called Moroccan Dance, which came with only one line of music, so I added two more. It is written in 12/16 time:

Moroccan 6

Here is a song called Sama-1. The second and third versions have added layers. It is written in 10/4 time.

This one is called People of the Dark. There is no time signature in the written music. So I had to do me some calculatin’

Slow
Faster
With Sixths Added
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