Thank you everyone who sent in submissions and shared their inspirations tonight.
I have to admit I am a bit of a grinch when it comes to Christmas decorations and music. I’m pretty sure this started with having to learn choir, concert band & orchestra Christmas repertoire starting in September/October as a student, and organizing, planning and then pulling together the Christmas recital. It got to the point where I would flatly refuse to teach any christmas rep before Dec 1st, and then I’d also conveniently plan to take all of December off from teaching.
But through out the years, and all of the seasonal events and rehearsals I’ve done, in all of its myriad of forms I have always loved Leroy Andersons Sleigh Ride. Composed in 1948, it was not originally written to be a Christmas song.
I have performed this piece multiple times on trumpet with Concert Band, Violin with orchestra, and vocally with a choir. It is a wonderfully challenging piece, and I never seem to tire of it, I always wish that it was longer, it’s always over in a flash. I must admit that when I finally progressed to playing lead trumpet in grade 12, I had to hand the horse whinny solo at the end to one of the more junior band members because my attempts sounded like the cross between a kazoo and an Elk Bugle.
I think playing 2nd Violin in the Ocean Side Youth Orchestra was my favourite iteration. Both for the part (Interesting, supportive, but not too challenging) and the camaraderie of the beautifully nerdy fellow teens & adults that were in that ensemble.
Blue Danube - Johann Strauss II of Austria
Another classic, timeless composition and one that will likely be familiar to most, as this is much used in film, advertising and on any ‘essential classical’ repertoire list.
The Blue Danube composed in 1866. the piece was considered only a mild success, however,
Strauss adapted it into a purely orchestral version for the 1867 Paris World's Fair, and it became a hit.
I can tell you first hand that Strauss was not a violist, and probably used violas as the “someone needs to do this repetitive accompaniment part” so we’ll give it to those people, view of the instrument. For almost the entire 10 minutes your arm gets a work out in small repetitive motion as you play the “pah pah” of the oom pah pah. There is one 16 bar section of melody, which, with aching arms and numbed mind becomes a looming tower of “oh shit, don’t mess this up”.
Alexander’s Entry into Pskov - Movie Score Composed in 1938 by Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofiev a Russian Soviet Composer, for Sergei Eisenseins film Alexander Nevsky. The film is based on a 13th century legend/historical crusade event, and is a suitably epic story to go with score. Watching the film now has a nostalgic and fairly ‘monty python’ feel to the costume and production budget. This track is the closing chapter
The Triumphant Hero returns to the Glory of the Motherland. Man, Prokofiev did not care if it was hard, the choir is stratospheric in range, the percussion parts are intense, don’t get me started on the viola part. We did this one at Uvic in 2008 when I was there, it was so epic and fun, but there were many a tear shed and panicked hours of practicing.
Prokofiev adapted his original score into a cantata for chorus and orchestra
the movie is available for free, and without central adds on youtube. with CC subtitles. I haven’t actually watched the full production, just snippets.
The Danube Waves,
Written in 1880 by Romanian Military Band leader Iosif Ivanovici. This is possibly one of the most famous Romanian tunes in the world. I find it to be a delightful mashup between the Viennese Style of variations and the Bombastic and epic Slavic compositions. This too may sound familiar, as in the united states it is referred to as “the Anniversary Song, or the Anniversary Waltz. It is also a staple in the “Palmer Hughs Accordion Method”. So often we only get to hear the first couple variations and not the entire composition.
Delayed posting on this, but here are the tracks and info from Dec 7. as well as some of the recommendations from the group on shows and movies they have found entertaining.
Group brain storming:
The Center Will Not Hold
Ali's Curated Tracks:
Everything is Illuminated (2005)
A poignant, funny & Dark story
A young Jewish American man endeavours to find the woman who saved his grandfather during World War II in a Ukrainian village,
It’s incredibly entertaining, has stunning cinematography, mesmerizing music that all help guide a dark and challenging story.
This is probably my favourite sound track ever. Scored by Paul Cantaleon, with tracks from Leningrad, Gogol bordello and the Tin Hat Trio
This track is called ‘Fear of the South’ - By the tin hat trio.
Sound City (2013) - Fleetwood Mac Rumours
A Documentory on Sound City - Produced by Dave Grohl.
Sound City Studios is a recording studio in Los Angeles, California, known as one of the most successful in popular music. it opened in 1969 in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles., the studio became known for its signature sound, especially in recording drums and live performances of rock bands.
Dozens of rock artists spanning five decades have recorded at Sound City, including Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Guns N' Roses, Nirvana, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Metallica, Death Cab for Cutie, and Fall Out Boy. Over one-hundred albums recorded at Sound City have achieved gold and platinum certifications.
The studio was privately held from 1970 until it closed its commercial services in 2011; for the next five years, it was reserved for a single tenant. Sound City was reopened in 2017 and has continued to host artists in the years since. The complex was the focus of the documentary Sound City (2013), directed by musician Dave Grohl.
It’s a really interesting insight into how the recording industry worked, how technology has changed and with it the sounds we hear have changed. Regardless of whether or not rock is your thing, the information and stories are very entertaining. Why is Tom Petty’s Free Falling so timeless?
I’d love to get a chance to record on a Rupert Nieve Board,
Yellow Submarine (1968) - yellow submarine
Need some light hearted trippy animation with the brilliant music of the beatles?
I guess there is a plot, in the sense that a Richard Scary book has a plot, but I don’t remember the plot, what I remember are beautiful colours, silly scenes and timeless music
Saving Mr Banks... (My notes are scattered here.. but it's a beautiful movie!)
The Sherman Brothers
Saving Mr Banks - Thomas Newman Score - Disney Plus
Tom Hanks as Walt Disney - trying to get the rights to make the book into a movie
The Sherman Brothers are responsible for some of the iconic Disney Songs that we know and love,
made up of Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman (born June 12, 1928).
The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history. Film scores of the Sherman Brothers include Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book (except “The Bare Necessities,” which Terry Gilkyson wrote), Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Happiest Millionaire, Charlotte's Web and The Aristocats. Their most well known work, however, remains the theme park song There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow and "It's A Small World After All." According to Time.com, the latter song is the most performed song of all time.
The hurdy-gurdy is generally thought to have originated from fiddles in either Europe or the Middle East some time before the eleventh century A.D.
One of the earliest forms of the hurdy-gurdy was the organistrum, a large instrument with a guitar-shaped body and a long neck in which the keys were set (covering one diatonic octave). The organistrum had a single melody string and two drone strings, which ran over a common bridge, and a relatively small wheel. Due to its size, the organistrum was played by two people, one of whom turned the crank while the other pulled the keys upward. Pulling keys upward is cumbersome, so only slow tunes could be played on the organistrum.
The pitches on the organistrum were set according to Pythagorean temperament and the instrument was primarily used in monastic and church settings to accompany choral music.
Later on, the organistrum was made smaller to let a single player both turn the crank and work the keys. The solo organistrum was known from Spain and France, but was largely replaced by the symphonia, a small box-shaped version of the hurdy-gurdy with three strings and a diatonic keyboard. At about the same time, a new form of key pressed from beneath was developed. These keys were much more practical for faster music and easier to handle; eventually they completely replaced keys pulled up from above. Medieval depictions of the symphonia show both types of keys.
During the Renaissance, the hurdy-gurdy was a very popular instrument (along with the bagpipe) and the characteristic form had a short neck and a boxy body with a curved tail end. It was around this time that buzzing bridges first appeared in illustrations. The buzzing bridge (commonly called the dog) is an asymmetrical bridge that rests under a drone string on the sound board. When the wheel is accelerated, one foot of the bridge lifts from the soundboard and vibrates, creating a buzzing sound. The buzzing bridge is thought to have been borrowed from the tromba marina (monochord), a bowed string instrument.
The hurdy gurdy comes in when the percussive footwork comes in - its the neverending fiddlelike drone. The sound is somewhere between pipes and fiddle. the fiddle comes in later
Theorbo' is an anglicized form of the Italian word 'tiorba', which was a colloquial name for a large instrument of the lute family. It was developed in Florence during the 1580s. The instrument was known initially by its formal academic name 'chitarrone', derived from the Greek 'kythara'. 'Tiorba' was only used initially in informal contexts, but by the middle of the 17th century, it had completely usurped 'chitarrone' as the normal name in everyday use.
There are only about 50 historical barytons for which we have evidence, either in the form of documents or the instrument itself. Many of the latter have been modified from their original form. Thus, tracing the history of the baryton is a difficult task.
Concerning the origin of the baryton, the instrument probably originated in England in the early 17th century when the characteristics of two instruments, the viola da gamba and the bandora, were combined into one hybrid instrument". Early evidence for the existence of the baryton is found circa (1644).
The instrument had six bowed strings as well as metal strings behind the neck. The thumb of the left hand plucked the metal strings, which were made to sound with the bowed notes. If this information is accurate, the baryton must have been known in England before 1625, the end of King James' reign." The earliest baryton that survives today dates from 1647; it was made by Magnus Feldlen in Vienna and is currently in the musical instrument collection of the Royal College of Music in London.[6
The instrument was never particularly popular, but "it acquired a certain cachet in courtly circles, particularly in south Germany and Austria". The compositions for the instrument by Haydn and his students and colleagues represented a last hurrah for the baryton; by the early 19th century it had gone out of style and ceased to attract new compositions. The Haydn-era baryton was different from earlier versions in a crucial respect: the sympathetic strings were tuned a full octave higher than previously. This helped the baryton to stand out from the other instruments (viola, cello) in the baryton trio,
The first bagpipes to be well attested for Ireland were similar, if not identical, to the Scottish Highland bagpipes that are now played in Scotland. The union or uilleann pipe emerged during the early 18th century and were far quieter and sweeter in tone than their mouth-blown predecessors.
Essentially their design required the joining of a bellows under the right arm, which pumped air via a tube to a leather bag under the left arm, which in turn supplied air at a constant pressure to the chanter and the drones (and regulators in the case of the Irish Uilleann pipes).
The earliest surviving sets of uilleann pipes date from the second half of the 18th century, but it must be said that datings are not definitive. The Uilleann pipes were often used by the Protestant clergy, who employed them as an alternative to the church organ. As late as the 19th century the instrument was still commonly associated with the Anglo-Irish, e.g. the Anglican clergyman Canon James Goodman (1828–1896) from Kerry, who had his tailor-made uilleann pipes buried with him at Creagh (Church of Ireland) cemetery near Baltimore, County Cork. His friend, and Trinity College colleague, John Hingston from Skibbereen also played the uilleann pipes. Another piping friend of Canon Goodman, Alderman Phair of Cork (founder of the pipers club in Cork in the 1890s) had Goodman's pipes recovered from Creagh cemetery. They were later donated to Cork piper Michael O'Riabhaigh, who had re-established the (by then extinct) pipers club in Cork in the 1960s.
I know that as we head into this winter, that all of us are craving and missing making music together. Last week we listened to a series of tunes with a focus of discovering the layers of the arrangements. This week I wanted to take us somewhere much more vulnerable. The thought of standing on a stage on my own has never appealed to me, I can do it, but I have always gravitated to ensemble.
however, when I remove the audience, I do love making music on my own within a space, where no one can hear, be it an empty parking garage, singing to snow covered peaks in the silence of a fresh snowfall, or enjoying the reverb that is only achievable when standing IN the bathtub. (it’s the best reverb you can get in most modern homes.)
I find I am most creative in the late hours of the night, when the rest of the world has gone to bed, some folks find this space in the morning before anyone else rises.
Some times being alone can be beautiful. Sometimes to be alone we need to sing to break the loneliness, and hear ourself echo back. Sometimes one musician is enough to create a beautiful experience. I hope we can all find this for ourselves as musicians in the coming months
Tonight we are going to travel through 4 solo performances. 2 are with video, 2 are recordings.
The first is the Magnificent Martin Hayes, performing live Irish Arts Center NYC 2016. An incredibly talented and humble man, the tunes he picks are not showy, yet, his delivery of each is far from simple.
Hildegard of Bingen OSB (German: Hildegard von Bingen; Latin: Hildegardis Bingensis; 1098 – 17 September 1179)(81 yrs), also known as Saint Hildegard and the Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath of the High Middle Ages. She is one of the best-known composers of sacred monophony, as well as the most-recorded in modern history. She has been considered by many in Europe to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.
O Virga Ac Diadema - Sequence to the Virgin Mary
If you’ve ever been in a cathedral, they are architectural structures that that make me feel both the need to whisper, and the wish to shout and sing out with joy. I’ve only once gotten to sing in a cathedral, and then we were politely but firmly asked to leave once we finished singing North West Passage.
So before you listen to this next piece, let’s build a space that we are comfortable singing in to take in this celebration through music.
You are in a large space. Columns rise up on either side of you, holding the high-vaulted ceiling. Not unlike great tall trees, reaching up and branching across the sky.
There is a warm light coming through stained glass windows between the pillars, casting fractals on the polished floors. it could be morning, it could be late afternoon.
As you walk between the columns each step echoes for an infinity.
now for a moment, as we walk down the long length of the room, picture a person who you love, it could be a friend, it could be a relative, children, grandchildren, a stranger that you met on the bus, it could be someone long gone but well loved and missed. It may be that there are many who come to mind, hold them all,
now you’ve reached the front of the hall. on the raised dias before you is a beautiful work of art that embodies the memories you just recalled. It might be a marble statue or a painting, a stained glass window, a silent movie, or entirely abstract.
there is a bench beside you, should you wish to sit, and as the music plays, take in the details of the art before you, or close your eyes and exist in the space you have created. Now shared with a song composed over 800 years ago.
"Romance Anónimo" (Anonymous Romance) is a piece for guitar, also known as "Estudio en Mi de Rubira" (Study in E by Rubira), "Spanish Romance", "Romance de España", "Romance de Amor", "Romance of the Guitar", "Romanza" and "Romance d'Amour" among other names.
Its origins and authorship are currently in question. It is suspected of originally being a solo instrumental guitar work, from the 19th century.
The style of the piece is that of the Parlour music of the late 19th century in Spain or South America, having a closed three-part form: the first in the minor key and the second being in the major key, with the third being a restatement of the first.
The earliest recording of "Romance" is on a cylinder (from the "Viuda de Aramburo" label) featuring guitarists Luis and Simon Ramírez, made in Madrid sometime between 1897 and 1901.
Christina Sandsengen was born in a small town in the middle of Norway in 1987. She started to play the piano at the age of seven and gave her first public performance in the following year. When she was 15, she started to play the guitar, and fell in love with it. From that moment onwards, she decided to devote herself solely to the guitar
Christina Sandsengen plays a wide range of repertoire, with particular focus on Romantic music. Her passion for the classical guitar inspired her to establish the Oslo Gitarskole, Norway’s leading school for classical guitar.
Carl Friedrich Abel (22 December 1723[n 1] – 20 June 1787) was a German composer of the Classical era. He was a renowned player of the viola da gamba, and produced significant compositions for that instrument.
Although bass viols superficially resemble cellos, viols are different in numerous respects from instruments of the violin family: the viol family has flat rather than curved backs, sloped rather than rounded shoulders, c holes rather than f holes, and five to seven rather than four strings; some of the many additional differences are tuning strategy (in fourths with a third in the middle—similar to a lute—rather than in fifths), the presence of frets, and underhand ("German") rather than overhand ("French") bow grip.
Performed by Johanna Rose,
Nerd Bonus: Mechanical Knitting Machine
So since I have time to either a) worry about the state of the world or b) go down nerd rabbit holes these days, I'm aiming to chose option B as often as possible... and when ever I see a friend getting particuarly bogged down by option A in their own life, I start sending them videos that bring me joy, whether that is the Viola Da Gamba performance above, or the wonder of the world below.
Some how I ended up watching this video and I love it so much! such a cool machine!!!
We listened to each of these tracks twice, the first time to listen to lyrics or the "first layer" of music, which is what ever you instinctively listen to. The second time through we focused on listening to the way the arrangements are layered and built to support the song. There were definitely some really interesting and strong opinions, some "I never need to hear that agains" while others loved that same track and the feelings switched.
However these tracks make you feel, dig into why, try to figure out what is about them that you do or do not enjoy. Lean into the discomfort.
The first track is Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas - Calliope Meets Frank
Bros Landreth - Greenhouse
Josh Ritter - Best is for the Best
I don't have much of a writeup for this one. I picked music that I felt was reflective and beautiful, and we listened to some of the tracks more than once.
The First track - the road to Aviles is a song from the Spanish Civl War.
A beautiful rendition of I'll be seeing you, sung by Billie Holiday, in 1944.
Benny Goodman & Peggy Lee - We'll Meet Again
Eric Whitacre, the master of beautiful dissonance.
Tonight we are going on a wild ride! We’re going to listen to some tracks with what I would definitely consider explicit content, some rap music, even some swearing, I’ll try to give you the heads up of what we are about to listen to, and the tools to be able to enjoy all of them.
I’ve got 4 pieces to share with you tonight, and I think you’re going to be surprised, I had an absolute blast putting this together, This is all music that I really love, and have been inspired by over the years.
So, our first track, if I was going to write a Parental advisory for this I would say it has themes of violence, & suicide. Despite that, this piece of music has been recorded innumerable times, we’re going to listen to a version by a group that isn’t known for censoring their lyrical content, and can often come across as extremists.
What makes something appropriate? inappropriate? extreme? It’s often unfamiliarity, sometimes its a cultural clash, sometimes it’s the musical packaging.
So buckle up and here we go!
This next track, which tells the story of a young musician from a low income family attempting to raise himself up out of poverty with his art is a masterpiece of poetry, it starts with an open mic event. It is 0.006 % questionable/explicit language and it’s actually really just 3 borderline words, and 2 uses of an expletive, 5 out of the 793 words used in the lyrics are enough that this has been labeled as E for Explicit Content.
I’m going to post the lyrics in the chat box so you can follow along, because it goes by so quickly, and the rhymes are brilliant
Emimem - lose yourself released 2002
I was 12 when it came out, I listened to this so many times,
SO lets jump right into the next track!
A beautiful song about rape and murder by Gillian Welch
And for an amazing example of what can happen when composers and creators are open to using influences from all over.
A Musical (Technically I think you could actually call it an opera) that uses hiphop/rap to deliver a mesmerizing show.
The first track tonight is from John Hiatt - The title track off of his 16th album, released in 2000, this was the first album that John actually owned outright. Straightforward, acoustic, much more ‘americana’ sound, with the brilliant lyrics, forward mixed vocals. It’s obvious that the words are very important.
John Hiatt is a master songwriter, and I love how clearly he describes the reality of the craft.
“People tend to, especially with singer-songwriters, take songs as literal snippets of the writers’ lives,” he says. “My point in that song was that they’re not, exactly--it comes out of a whole mess of images and only the song survives.” John Hiatt
LA Times article.
Our second track is from the badass supergroup ‘I’m With Her’ comprised of Sarah Jarosz, Sara Watkins, and Aoife O’Donovan.
It’s the same song, but with different decisions made, to highlight the strengths of the the group. I’ve seen them do this live, and it is incredible how much of a dynamic arc they can produce, three women, each playing one instrument and in one piece there are so many layers.
what did you hear? Does everyone play all the time? Does everyone sing all the time?
And now, let’s go a little further afield. what happens when the inspiration comes from a different genre.
Tonight we are going a bit rock and roll, this piece spent 4 weeks as no 2 on the billboard hot 100 charts, sold over one million singles. It’s 4 minutes of attitude, synth, and the Boss doing his born in the USA dance moves.
Springsteen wrote "Dancing In the Dark" overnight, after Jon Landau convinced him that the album needed a single. According to journalist Dave Marsh in the book Glory Days, Springsteen was not impressed with Landau's approach. "Look", he snarled, "I've written seventy songs. You want another one, you write it." Despite this reaction, Springsteen sat in his hotel room and wrote the song in a single night. It sums up his state of mind, his feeling of isolation after the success of his album The River, and his frustrations of trying to write a hit single. Six takes of "Dancing in the Dark" were recorded on February 14, 1984, at The Hit Factory, and after 58 mixes, work was completed on March 8, 1984. The 12-inch single was released May 9, 1984, and was the highest-selling 12-inch single in the US that year
So what happens when you want to cover a tune? what do you do, you’re not Springsteen, so why try to be him. Don’t set yourself an impossible task. Find what aspects of the song are essential, what things can be transferred to other instruments, what instrument has a percussive pop to fill in for drums? what instruments can hold long soundscape pads like a synth? Do you change the tempo? can you add in harmonies? Is there a problematic verse you don’t want to use? lyrics you want to adjust?
So without further Adieu I give you a this wonderful version of Dancing in the dark, by Ruth Moody from her album These Wilder Things Adam Dobres (guitars), Adrian Dolan (fiddle, mandolin, accordion), Sam Howard (upright bass) and her brother Richard Moody (viola)–
What do we do?
Join us to be inspired by music from around the world, no preparation, prerequisites, or practicing required. I’ll read a short composer bio, highlight some historically relevant material or interesting context, we’ll listen to a piece of music, and then take the time to reflect on what we heard, ask questions, and explore.