Thinking About Music

Before we get started again here, if you think you don’t like classical music, then click here:  (NOBODY Can Not Like This).

And, oh by the way … You have GOT to be KIDDING ME. How can Valentina – or ANYBODY! – DO THAT?!!!! ‹{͡๏_͡๏ ̃̾}› ♥.•*¨*•.♥

****** beginning of April 15 quick annotation *********

April 15, 2013 quick annotation while I’m re-arranging pages into church pages and (like this one) pre-church and pre-May2011 pages.

One might wonder what I’m enthusing about.  As long as the link above takes one to the YouTube music video, you can see what I’m talking about.  But, over time, sometimes links and target videos get lost.

I’ll just point out that what I was enthusing about here in I think late 2010 was Valentina’s stunning speed and power in playing a complex and very long classical piano composition.  Really amazing and beautiful.  So much so it raises issues of just how top performers like this can do it.  What part of them — mind, body, spirit, sub-conscious, etc — is remembering all of that and directing the amazingly powerful and perfectly placed reaches for combinations of keys, different, by the way, for the left vs. the right hand.  It’s easy to take for granted because dramatic and powerful piano players have long been around.  But that they’ve long been around doesn’t make them any less remarkable if we stop and reflect on what we’re seeing and, not just appreciate the wonderful musical result, but also ask ourselves what would it take for us or anyone to actually do something like that.  So fast.  So complex.  So long to “remember.”  What does “remember” mean for physical performance like that.  The performer is not really “thinking” in the usual sense.  Remarkable.  Beautiful.  Worth contemplating.

****** end of April 15 quick annotation *********

Ok, onward …

Periods of European art music
Medieval (500–1400)
Renaissance (1400–1600)
Baroque (1600–1760)
Common practice
Baroque (1600–1760)
Classical (1730–1820)
Romantic (1815–1910)
Modern and contemporary
20th-century (1900–2000)
Contemporary (1975–present)
21st-century (2000–present)

On this page, there are 29 discussions each of which has an associated YouTube playlist.  The sequence is the usual blog-like order with Modes 1 at the bottom of the page and Music 29 here at the top.  For the way this page started and some of what it was doing a while back, we can click here

Otherwise, we can just dive right back in again …


music 29 – jung lin – (dec 25 or so, 2010)

The wonderful Jung Lin ♥ ♪ ♪ ♥

We’re back to having “thinking out loud” notes and comments in the YouTube playlist “discussion” linked above, along with the usual collection of music videos.

I ran out of room in the “description” section again, of course.  So these are the overflow:

Taking Musicology Study Advice Lately From Jung Lin

Jung Lin

I haven’t been back to this page for a while.  Lately, I’ve been mostly learning how to use Windows Live Movie Maker (wlmm), the free authoring tool that comes bundled — again, for free — with the Windows operating system, to make little videos to upload to YouTube.  Simple stuff.  Learning how.  Sharing what I learn.

In the last two videos, I used my recent newfound fav, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No 2, for the main audio track along with some fun images and info, all just to have come moderately cool content to make into a movie.  Anyway, a picture of a lovely lady showed up next to my videos every time I looked at them.  When I finally looked more carefully at it, I could see it was another 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody video.  So I played it.  It was great.  It was a one-piano version of Liszt’s composition for orchestra played by a talented pianist named, Jung Lin.  For one thing, I thought it pretty amazing that all the major tones and moods Liszt created with the full orchestra were being created on the piano alone.  For another, Jung Lin was great.  There were other Jung Lin vids and other info on interent and, anyway, the picture comes clear that Jung Lin has been this amazing wunderkind in the piano world.  I put some info about her in the playlist description.  So I collected the videos on YouTube by her into a playlist, had some fun learning from her selections, and had some more fun sharing it in the “description” section of the playlist.  Like the first 2 dozen or so playlist essays in this series on this page.

Well, what happened is, I found myself really enjoying learning about the particular musical works Jung Lin was showing as examples in her YouTube and videos, in the audio tracks in her website, and in the musical works mentioned by critics in her press coverage and other rave reviews.  For the moment, I’m letting Jung Lin’s selections of what she plays be my advice on what to look into next because I’m liking what she’s picked.  Chopin’s adorable romantic era piano etudes — butterfly, black key.   The Bach-Rach transcription story and sound.  The Simeon Ten Holt atonal stuff.  And more.

In the discussions below, when I got that great sense of satisfaction from getting an understanding (finally) of the nature and central role of the romantic era of music (right before I got sidetracked back into opera for a while and then into making little wlmm movies), I was at a point where I didn’t know where next I wanted to go within the HUGE romantic era catalogue or, alternatively, where I might want to go if the next most interesting step would be into modern post-romantic era works.

As one theme I’ve been thinking about lately is exploring the role of movie music in music overall.  Just think of all the different types of sounds you hear on movies from the composers making music to match the action on the screen.  It’s got to be expressive, emotive — and probably all sorts of unusual, non-traditional harmonic, dissonant, atonal, etc etc etc, since, as we figured out below, it becomes a grey area between “atonal” and “dissonant” “music” and “sound effects”.   One  begins to think of “sound” vs. “music” and its emotive effects.

Also, still interested in more detail on Bartok and deBussy.

So I thought I was going to just enjoy enthusing over Jung Lin in a playlist separate from those I’ve been putting over in this series on this page, but I got captured by her and her work, ran out of room again in the 500-character-limited YouTube playlist description section, and decided to restart over here.

So here we are.


Chopin’s Etudes are major in themselves, but I’m noticing Jung Lin is also playing some guy named …’s “studies” of Chopin’s Etudes.  I’m curious to find out why …’s “studies” are somehow different, better, or what that causes both the original Etudes and …’s studies to be listed as major works in Wikipedia pages and selected by somebody smart like Jung Lin.


Ten Holt

Time to Start a New Page – Thinking About Music II

Ok, this page has gotten kind of long.  Before we go any further into thinking about and learning from Jung Lin’s selections, we need a new page — Thinking About Music II.


music 28 – opera – – (this was mid-december 2010 or so)

What’s Next?  Debussy Again?

This next playlist and discussion was going to be a return to a focus on Debussy.  He has stood out in my experience during these last few playlist’s listenings and discussions as — not only one of the most interesting composers in a very interesting and central era (the romantic era, 1815-1910) — but also a standard to compare all the others against.  As I was listening to Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart, I would notice something amongst the great sounds that wasn’t as great and realize part of the reason I think I’m noticing inconsistencies is that Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun is so consistent in how it shows things like subtlety, expressiveness, intelligence, smoothness, and (in my experience) correct natural timing in notes and volume modulations.  I’m starting to arrive at a perception that Debussy sets the standard at least for the softer emotive side of classical music.  While others — Wagner, Beethoven — maybe set the standard for more powerful, vigorous, dramatic emotive music.  It makes me want to get back into the (for me) 1970s issue of Wagner’s ideas about the role of music and why I always think of that in relation to Nietzsche.  It also raises interest in more detail about what the big “War of the Romantics” debate between Brahms and Wagner was about the nature and role of music.  And what the “new german school” (liszt, et al) vs. “old german school” (whoever that was) were arguing about in roughly the same timeframe.  I noticed that the “german schools” (which includes huge music center vienna, austria) felt they had the debate all to themselves and resented and tried to ignore the fact that liszt (hungarian) and chopin (french polish) and others influenced by the french and/or italian or other romantic era composers were in any way involved in their debates over the proper ideas, creation, nature, and uses of great music.  One of them went so far in this to assert that Liszt and somebody else had to come to a german-speaking city to have the spirit of german music elevate them, as if germany was the only place making the right kind of music the right way.  though this was probably not the view of all germans, it’s easy to see how, in times leading up to WW II, extremists in germany later banned jazz and atonal music … Lots of interesting little sideroads to get into sometime.

Also, since a comment was made that Debussy used the Phrygian mode and other non-traditional scales, I thought listening to more of his works and getting into the mechanics and theory of how he was producing the sounds would be an interesting step.  It will be.  But, as I was adding Debussy works to the music theory 23 playlist — planning to have the major and famous ones (faun, mer, clair de lune, some piano preludes) copied to this new playlists — I got sidetracked by Debussy’s opera, Pelleas and Melisande, and by comments that it was a “sharp contrast” with the operas of fellow romantic era composer, Richard Wagner (pronounced Vahg-ner).

Or Maybe Other Open Issues?

There are always so many interesting related branches to explore.  I also could have continued the “eras” idea and looked into “modern era”, the period that comes after “romantic era”.  I’m interested to know more about what came after “romantic era” music.  From recent previous discussion, we already know part of the answer:  the 2nd dissonance part of Debussy’s career, the second atonal part of Schoenberg’s career, and maybe that’s the category Bartok shows up in with his personal approach to greater chromaticism.  With the huge body of famous familiar lovely “romantic era” music as the baseline for comparison, where else does “modern and contemporary era” go?  I’ve been tempted so far to think “modern and contemporary” can be thought of as “full flower of romantic era plus greater debussyesque use of more dissonances.”  Because, after the fullness of expression in the romantic era, where else can it go?  So that series of questions are on “the list” to get into sometime.

But, though appealing, those were not the roads next taken.

Oh, Debussy Wrote an Opera?  Ok, Opera It Is

Finding the Debussy opera that it’s said he spent 10 years writing, becoming curious about the comments about Debussy opera vs. the famous “Wagnerian Opera”, and some memories about how I mostly hated and then came to love opera motivated me to make this next one about — Oprah.  Wait, no.  About — opera.

The term, “Wagnerian Opera”, resonates as archetypal, even stereotypical, since lots of comedic pieces have parodied Wagnerian Opera, exaggerating its already pretty bold and exaggerated character types and their sounds.  I’m pretty sure it’s the origin, for example,  of the phrase, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”  🙂  I don’t know, but probably one of the great often-performed Wagnerian operatic classics has a large German woman singing at the end?  🙂  Many think of Wagnerian Opera as what opera is, though that’s certainly not true since I’m pretty sure Italian opera is what pretty much defined the genre.  But we’ll take a look at that assumption too.

Debussy vs Wagner

First up, Debussy’s (1862-1918) only  opera, Pelleas and Melisande (1902).  It’s new to me.

Then two of Wagner’s that I don’t know, but recognize as famous:  Siegfried and Tristan and Isolde. Wikipedia: “He then began work on the third opera, now called Siegfried, in 1856 but finished only the first two acts before deciding to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: Tristan und Isolde.[44]”  Note 1

The operas I am at least a little bit familiar and with have liked something about are the French Carmen by Bizet, the Italian La Traviata by Verde and La boheme by Puccini, “German” Mozart The Magic Flute and Cosi Fan Tutte, the big opus of popular funny ones with two composer names, oh, Gilbert and Sullivan and their Pirates of Penzance, and Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.  There’s also Porgy and Bess, an American opera.  But Debussy’s and Wagner’s are new to me.

And that’s a Euro-centric view.  My only data point about Asian opera is that, in 2000,  I walked through a nice event that had a leading Chinese opera singer performing some of her national opera.

There’s also rock opera.  By Who and … what? who’s it by?  who.  and it’s … what?  who’s it by?  i already told you, who … ok, who’s on first.  what? no what’s on second … (that’s the famous laurel and hardy “who’s on first?” skit, for those who might not recognize it …)

Returning to Old Favs

Ok, so it was good to take small bites out of Debussy’s and Wagner’s operas.  I got some useful impressions and info, but they didn’t capture me right away.  Maybe another time.  Meanwhile, continuing interest in further exploring old favs took over.

Bizet’s Carmen

Composer: Georges Bizet.  First performed 1875.  Romantic era was 1815-1920.

Carmen is a French opera — i.e., music written by a French composer and lyrics (“libretto”) written in French — with its story set in 1830 in Seville, Spain.  The entire opera is on YouTube in about 20 parts at least twice that I found.  Same for La Traviata.

There are four fabulous famous pieces not to miss in Carmen, even if the entire show doesn’t grab you, which it very well might.  The first one includes parts of the 2nd and 3rd.  [Still getting clear on the names of the familiar sounds.  Comments below are pretty close to being precise, but I’m still getting slight corrections.]

The first is the overture/prelude.  Carmen gets going right away with a bold energetic great piece of music.  It’s the first part of the prelude that’s really famous, memorable, cool, and not to be missed.  The overture seems to have several  parts.  The first part, just over 2 mintues, is the signature sound of the really cool fast energetic opening (giving a sense of the excitement of Carmen’s charismatic energy that leads to her love affair with Don José) , then the also cool Toreador Song (the song of the proud large presence of the next man Carmen falls in love with), and a quick return to the fast beginning.  Sometimes that’s all they play for the overture if it’s being played as a separate piece outside the opera itself.  When it’s the full opera, the 2 min prelude/overture ends briskly, then a very brief pause, then during the few moments before the curtain opens on the “public square in Seville” scene, there are much slower beautiful foreboding sounds of the trouble to come from Don José remaining obsessed with Carmen despite her having moved on.  From this prelude or introduction or summary or overview or overture, the music and show begin in Seville where Carmen is a sassy worker in a cigarette factory who comes outside with all the other girls and guys to flirt during their break and Don José is an army corporal who happens also to be outside one day at the guard station.  The village is at first quiet, but then fills up with Carmen’s proud brass sultry presence with the song called, “The Habanera” (Cuban dance) and “L’amour est un oiseux rebelle” (Love is a rebellious bird).  [Terminology and names:  Just noticed on the Tulsa Youth Orchestra vid, they play (as part of a concert, not as part of a full performance of the opera) the foreboding part first and calls it, “The Prelude” and plays the fast part of the overture second and calls it, “Toreador March” (vs. others playing both parts together in the order they’re played in the show and calling both together either “overture” or “prelude.”)  Small points, but interesting.  Whatever the right names are for the piece parts, the music’s great).]  [another note on terminology.  this, from wikipedia, might be the right answer, “The Prelude is in three sections: in A major the flamboyant Act IV ‘Spanish’ music of the bull-fight, then the ‘Toreador Song’, and finally a plunge into D minor and the motive marked by the augmented second, linked both to Carmen, and to Don José’s fatal attraction to her, finishing on a diminished 7th chord.”  I think the right strategy will be to call the parts what Bizet called them when he published the opera as written music and libretto, which is probably what the wikipedia contributor’s working from.  Although, that quote only crisply labels, “Toreador Song.”  Not quite there yet.  Need something for the fast piece … is it “bullfight music” or “March of the Toreadors”, or both?

The second is partly the same thing since it’s expressed in the overture.  That initial fast piece in the overture, but I haven’t found where, if anywhere, that appears in greater length and in context of the story in the opera.  Ok, I found it in vid 18 of 20, Act IV, the last act which takes place at the bullfighting arena.  It’s when the Toreadors enter (vs earlier when he sings the Toreador song in the tavern).  And they repeat and alternate with Toreador song and reach crescendo in that scene, much like the overture/prelude.  I’m guessing this fast piece is what’s called “The March of the Toreadors.”  Fabulous.

The third sound not to miss is partly the same sort of thing, also expressed briefly in the overture.  I think it’s called, The Toreador Song,  or just Toreador.  Sometimes it’s called, “The Toast”, because the matador/toreador that Carmen falls in love with returns a toast to his fellow toreadors in the Act II scene in the tavern.  A very short version is in the overture.  The longer version in Act II is great too.  A toreador is a bull-fighter.  Carmen, after a powerful love affair with an army guy, Don José, who’s obsessed with her, falls in love with the bull fighter which bothers the army guy a lot.  Anyway, it’s the music I’m pointing to right now and the Toreador song is great.  [Just noticed the song/sound from the Toreador tavern scene is repeated later a few times and blended with the fast Toreador March near the end (vid 18/20, Act IV) when the toreadors enter the stadium and just before Carmen and Don Jose finish things.

I saved the best for last.  Bizet didn’t put a sample of this one in the overture.  This other not-to-miss piece from Bizet’s opera, Carmen, has three names.  The one that never changes is The Habanera.  Habanera is the name of a slow soulful Cuban dance named in the 1800s (the word comes from combining the Spanish forms for Havana and dance).  Though it’s written by a French composer, Georges Bizet, and all the lyrics are in French, the setting of the story is Seville, Spain.  Spain would have know of the dance from Spanish-speaking Cuban.  Hence the proud sensuous beauty, Carmen, and her friends knowing of it and singing one pretty early in the show.  There are two other names for the song (called in opera, the “aria”).  The first name was the original first line in the song, “Love is a … . child.”  The later version is the most famous and is much-loved.  It’s the revised first line of the song.  When the young men flirting with Carmen ask when she will love them, she replies, “When will I love you?  Love is a rebellious bird.”  So, next to “The Habanero,”  the best-known name for the song is the second version, “Love is a rebellious bird” (in French, “L’amour est un oiseux rebelle”).  Very souful, sexy, and dramatic — the Habanera lets the leading lady be very much a woman. Update:  this wikipedia article has the lyrics to the song: It contains both the expressions,”love is a rebellious bird” and “l’amour est un enfant boheme.”  i can see why they changed the name.  There are two confusion factors and one potential discrimination issue.  Confusion factor one is “enfant” in French doesn’t mean “infant” like you’d think as a probable cognate, but “child.”  Not a big deal, but the idea they’re poetically creating doesn’t work with infant like it works with child.  Second confusion factor is “boheme.”  I’ve been assuming either actually geographic/ethnic Bohemia or the stylish notion of artsy”bohemian lifestyle.”  It means neither.  It means “gypsy.”  The line is “love is a gypsy child, it has never known the law.”  I can imagine a point of view that makes that flattering to the gypsy race, but I can also see the whole weight of the bad stereotype and discrimination that goes with the word.  Carmen, by the way, is a gypsy as are her friends in Seville.  Anyway, letting the title of the aria be the first line sung after the cute flirty spoken words works better for English-speaking readers due to the potential confusion and even to French speakers due to the historical gypsy issues.  Just sidestep all of that.  The change may be bigger, though, as I noticed a Celine Dion vid, she’s very young in it, singing the version with earlier title and similar, but still a bit different, music.  update: listened to celine’s concert version (with just piano and a few chorus vocalists) a few times while looking at lyrics.  she cut out one of the repeat verses and the normally powerful chorus “prends garde a toi” phrases are more gentle, but, otherwise, it’s the same song that maria ewing does in the 1991 full opera vids.  Looks to me like only the title changed.

Looking at the lyrics.  All this time I’ve loved the song, I had no idea the words are so cool and that the dramatic strokes are on the words “you best beware.”  🙂  She says, a bit like in the Gwen Stefani song … but brassier … “if you love me not, then i love you, but if i love you, you best beware” !!!!  Great!  “Prends garde a toi.”  🙂  the gwen song is ‘magic’s in the makeup’: “If you bore me then I’m comfortable, If you interest me I’m scared.” … not the same thing, but both interesting comments on dynamics of attraction …

This effect of loving the opera, Carmen, on the basis of limited knowledge and study and time with it — and then every time I return to it finding more to like about it — reminds me of what was said somewhere … probably by Mortimer Adler about great books … about what makes a great book, or, in this case, a great opera, great … it’s that it’s worth coming back to … either there’s more to discover … or, if you spent the time to really know it … the nature of it is so gorgeous it’s worth coming back to to marvel at how gorgeous it is … like going back to see mountains … or the ocean … they’re the same, but they’re worth coming back to … some things, the more you look at them, the more you start to see flaws among the good things … but, with the masterworks, where there’s a unity among the elements … the more you look, the more you want to look … the more you marvel at … sometimes the more you learn … the more you like …

I’m realizing, since every one of the words to this aria are new to me, that Bizet, with the sound and charisma of the divas singing the habanera, and the overture and March of Toreadors bullfight music and Toreador Song, won me over lo these many years ago and held me without me knowing what a single one of the words meant! 🙂  and i know a little French … I just never looked at the words … what?  know a little French what? … don’t go there, girlfriend …  i mean the French language, not a little French, well … oh, nevermind … 😉

Here’s the words to the habanera in Carmen, also known as “l’amour est un enfant boheme” (love is a gypsy child), also known (and mainly and most famously known) as “l’amour est un oiseux rebelle” (love is a rebellious bird).  Enjoy!

(All lyrics in parentheses are sung by Choir)

Translation in English
(spoken intro) Quand je vous aimerai?
Ma foi, je ne sais pas,
Peut-être jamais, peut-être demain.
Mais pas aujourd’hui, c’est certain
(sung) L’amour est un oiseau rebelle
que nul ne peut apprivoiser,
et c’est bien en vain qu’on l’appelle,
s’il lui convient de refuser.
Rien n’y fait, menace ou prière,
l’un parle bien, l’autre se tait:
Et c’est l’autre que je préfère,
Il n’a rien dit mais il me plaît.
L’amour! L’amour! L’amour! L’amour!
Carmen: L’amour est enfant de Bohême,
il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime
si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!)
Si tu ne m’aimes pas,
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime! (Prends garde à toi!)
Mais, si je t’aime,
Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
Choir: L’amour est enfant de Bohême,
il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime
si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!)
Carmen: Si tu ne m’aimes pas,
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime! (Prends garde à toi!)
Mais, si je t’aime,
Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
L’oiseau que tu croyais surprendre
battit de l’aile et s’envola …
l’amour est loin, tu peux l’attendre;
tu ne l’attends plus, il est là!
Tout autour de toi, vite, vite,
il vient, s’en va, puis il revient …
tu crois le tenir, il t’évite,
tu crois l’éviter, il te tient.
L’amour! L’amour! L’amour! L’amour!
Carmen: L’amour est enfant de Bohême,
il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime
si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!)
Si tu ne m’aimes pas,
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime! (Prends garde à toi!)
Mais, si je t’aime,
Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
Choir: L’amour est enfant de Bohême,
il n’a jamais, jamais connu de loi;
si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime
si je t’aime, prends garde à toi! (Prends garde à toi!)
Carmen: Si tu ne m’aimes pas,
Si tu ne m’aimes pas, je t’aime! (Prends garde à toi!)
Mais, si je t’aime,
Si je t’aime, prends garde à toi!
(spoken intro) When will I love you?
Good Lord, I don’t know,
Maybe never, maybe tomorrow.
But not today, that’s for sure.
(sung) Love is a rebellious bird
that nobody can tame,
and you can call him (although it is) quite in vain,
because it suits him not to come.
Nothing helps, neither threat nor prayer.
One man talks well, the other, silent;
but it’s the other that I prefer.
He says nothing, but I like him.
Oh, love! Love! Love! Love!
Carmen: Love is a gypsy’s child,
it has never known the law;
if you love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you’d best beware! (You’d best beware!)
if you love me not,
if you love me not, then I love you (You’d best beware!)
but if I love you,
if I love you, you’d best beware!
Choir:Love is a gypsy’s child,
it has never known the law;
if you love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you’d best beware! (You’d best beware!)
Carmen: if you love me not,
if you love me not, then I love you (You’d best beware!)
but if I love you,
if I love you, you’d best beware!
The bird you hoped to catch
beat its wings and flew away …
love stays away, you wait and wait;
when least expected, there it is!
All around you, swift, swift,
it comes, goes, then it returns …
you think you hold it fast, it flees
you think you’re free, it holds you fast.
Oh, love! Love! Love! Love!
Carmen: Love is a gypsy’s child,
it has never known the law;
if you love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you’d best beware! (You’d best beware!)
if you love me not,
if you love me not, then I love you (You’d best beware!)
but if I love you,
if I love you, you’d best beware!
Choir:Love is a gypsy’s child,
it has never known the law;
if you love me not, then I love you;
if I love you, you’d best beware! (You’d best beware!)
Carmen: if you love me not,
if you love me not, then I love you (You’d best beware!)
but if I love you,
if I love you, you’d best beware!

Ah, Carmen … Love ya, girl!

at the opera

The photography in the Julia Migenes (as Carmen) and Placido Domingo (as Don Jose) version directed by Francesco Rosi is amazing.  Such masterful beautiful use of white and space.

Verdi’s La Traviata

Classic Italian opera (ie, Italian composer and Italian lyrics/libretto) with story set in and around Paris.

Composer:  Giuseppe Verdi.  First performed 1853.  Romantic era was 1815-1920.

Songs not to miss there are the lively act I music including the “toast’, but especially “alfredo’s theme”, and more especially violetta’s “sempre libera” (that artfully includes echoes of alfredo’s theme).  A good way to catch both is just listen from the beginning. It’s all good in the beginning and you get both songs before the shows gets more serious and involved (which is also good if you have a taste for it, but the beginning’s pleasing I think to all explorers).  Vid 1/20 is overture, pretty serious tone.  You can listen or jump over it to vid 2.  Vid 2/20 begins Act I, the party at Violetta’s Paris home.  It’s lively and nice.  “Toast/brindisi” is just bright and great.  alfredo’s profession (alfredo’s theme) in vid 3/20 that love is “mysterious and noble, both cross and ecstasy of the heart” is gorgeous.

alfredo’s theme

The duet with Violetta and her new lover-to-be is interesting, beautiful, and powerful.  Vid 4 is gorgeous.  (sempre libera)  Violetta thinking things over by herself, but then she hears Alfredo, who she thought had left, outside.  Play with this song.  Listen to it, get the English words, get a sense of Violetta’s defiant pronouncements about maintaining her wild party life and freedom, then feeling her new man’s love, she’s in her room after the gay party, he’s outside under the balcony singing the refrain, “love is the pulse of the world” (hm … that’s what one libretto just said … i thought Verdi repeated his theme and the “mysterious and noble” phrase echoing from below as Violetta thinks things over above … not sure … i know the music phrase gets repeated beautifully … but it’s lovely the interplay of their thoughts) in lovely Italian.  When the song ends, Act I ends, and Act II opens (vid 5/20) with Violetta and Alfredo having been living together happily for some time in a country house outside of Paris and far from the nightly party scene.  : ) ♥ If you’re only going to spend time matching up sound, English words, and Italian words for one opera song in your life, I don’t know of a better one than this.  I never did it for Carmen’s “love is a rebellious bird” song [ until yesterday, above ], but that probably reads well too. [ it does ]   Alfredo is the name of the man her friend introduces her to at the Parisian party.  They’re both smitten.  Alfredo admits it right away.  Violetta resists and gives in to it.  They leave the city and live together happily for a while in the country.  Violetta’s content without the parties.  But trouble appears.  It ends as if it were an opera version of the movie, Camille.  Haven’t checked, but they may be based on the same story.  Anyway, the sound of “sempre libera” (always free) is worth getting to know.  A few may have a taste for the entire La Traviata opera, but many will probably enjoy letting Act I give them a sense of what opera’s all about.

Changing Views of Opera

Most of us are enculturated not to like opera.  Pretty much everybody in most people’s lives makes fun of opera and agrees with everybody else that they hate it.  : )  In my world, we all liked to say, when the soprano was really working it, “Would somebody PLEASE stop mistreating that poor woman?!”  And, of course, there’s the “it’s not over until the fat lady sings” line.  And the stereotype of women and men wearing fred flintstone-like horned helmets on stage doing german opera.

I moved from that initial position to getting interested in it a little after college as a part of the mix of ideas and forces in culture and how the world around us got to be what it is.  Opera was mentioned in Will Durant’s Story of Civilization books.  Also Wagner and his opera activity, as part of Wagner’s huge presence and activity, were mentioned in the Story of Philosophy in the sections about Nietzsche’s influences from and/or to Schopenhauer and Wagner.

But I never really gave it a chance at the level of enjoying the unbiased unpreconceptualized unprejudged direct experience until a friend in the late 90s expressed interest in it.  I decided to “get my arms around it” (yes, and also around the knowledge area called opera) and to scramble up-to-speed on it even if I wasn’t going to like it much.  But I found things I did like and just added it to my list of things to enjoy learning more about from time to time.  Oh, and I noticed Richard Gere scored big points with Julia Roberts with opera in Pretty Woman and Nick Cage did very well with Cher and opera in Moonstruck. And clearly Barbra Streisand likes opera since she and Jeff Bridges put it at the cool ending of The Mirror Has Two Faces. All of which helped keep the topic on the “get into it again someday” list.  That and the Argentine tango (True Lies and Robert Duvall’s Assassination Tango).

Updating/Rewriting Operas

Actually, I’m remembering now, this was 98/99 timeframe, and I also decided to keep digging into opera and investing in resources like VHS tapes, CDs, and librettos.  I remember printing pages off the internet and taping them together to create two side-by-side languages if I couldn’t find books that had them that way.  I was going to rewrite/update some of the classic operas (and also the broadway show, Camelot) to have better endings.  : )  Although I came to love some of the music irrespective of story, and came to love some of the love stuff, after a while, I got pissed off at the unnecessary tragedy in a lot of it.  : )  Right.  Pissed off at the tragedy in operas.  That’s like being mad about the sun coming up every morning or like resolving to do something to stop continental drift.  🙂  Anyway, I saw the value of the tragedies as the usual cathartic and as pointing out mistakes and problems in life/society, but felt it could also be very cool to rewrite/update them into stories that turned out really great.  Camelot II.  La Traviata II.  Rocky XIV? No, the Rocky series didn’t need my help.  But the world could then have both versions.  The tragic one and the good one.  It was also the Clinton impeachment era and the dumb ass reasons tragedies were happening in operas reminded me of the dumb ass way certain politicians were trying to change the president and the government along with it — with people trying to change the direction of the government from a good domestically-centrist domestically-diverse globally-responsive direction to a bad extreme-conservative direction by misusing laws to make a federal case (literally) about somebody’s (should have been) private love life.  Camelot does that.  King Richard (of “knights of the round table” fame) screws up his whole kingdom (England) — not to mention his, his wife’s (Gwennivere), and his best friend’s (Lancelot’s) lives — because he takes dumb ass laws about love affairs too seriously.  In La Traviata, Alfredo’s dumb ass brother and father persuade the loving and loyal, but misguided, Violetta, to let dumb social attitudes (about Violetta’s reputation and Violetta’s and Alfredo’s living together unmarried) unnecessarily screw up the couple’s lives and lead to Violetta’s death and Alfredo losing her.  All three of these problems — the Clintons’, King Richard’s, and Alfredo’s — needed to be fixed!  I only got around to fixing one of them.  Other projects got the time and priority before I could fix the other two.

La Bohème – The Word

I was at first having a little trouble using the lovely and efficient little WordPress formatting tool to re-format that big è in the title (that I pasted in from a google hit) down into a smaller è, but then I realized that this little problem was an opportunity.  That’s because, as I’ve just now been learning, that spelling in French, with the French “accent grave” over the “e” was a spelling specifically invented to precisely specify the meaning intended by this Puccini opera (which overlaps with, but is different, than the meanings intended in Bizet’s Carmen).

These issues would be interesting enough to enjoy sorting out even if we were only dealing with meanings in French in the two great operas, La Boheme and Carmen. The meaning of this particular word is central and, in fact, essential to understanding the story of La Boheme and is also important to the overall story in Carmen, but again essential to appreciating the famous habanera aria, “l’amour est un enfant bohème”/”l’amour est un oiseaux rebelle.”

But there’s more.  It’s also an interesting story and example about how the meanings of words evolve in any language.  On the one hand, being a little detailed and picky about words can seem a little dull and fussy.  On the other hand, being observant about words often reveals nuances that turn out to be clear evidence of large and interesting issues that gave rise to them and to how they’re used.

And still more.  The word in English, “bohemian,” is an interesting study.  It has two meanings.  One is simple:  something from the proud ancient area of Eastern Europe, now (I think) a part of Germany (but maybe also Romania … need to check this part …), called, “Bohemia” (capitalized).  There was a beer and brewing company in Baltimore called, “National Bohemian Brewing,” referring to the German region and its beer expertise.  Everybody called it, “National Boh.”  But the much more prevalent usage in English in America — which was “bohemian” (I think, uncapitalized) as a lifestyle” — arose because of what happened to the meanings and usages of the French versions of the words, “bohême”, “bohème”, and maybe just “boheme” as they were used for the gypsies and then for liberal French artists and intellectuals.  It’s worth a bit of attention to the word and idea of “bohemian” since its main meaning in American and western culture, its main meaning in the Italian opera set in Paris, La Boheme, and half of its meaning in Carmen — all point to a freethinking, anarchistic, and artsy lifestyle that has had a large influence in French, European, and American culture.  One need only think of Sartre, de Beauvoir, expatriate thinkers and artists like Hemingway on Rive Gauche (the left bank of the Seine River in Paris) from America and other parts of the world, many of the French and other (van gogh from holland) impressionist artists, then the American beat generation in New York’s Greenwich Village and then San Franciso leading to the 60s and hippie generation, and much of the 20th French anarchistic and other left including deconstructionist Jacque Derrida and similar thinkers.  The weren’t all poor and romantic like the characters in La bohème, but they shared the spirit of freedom and of either ignoring or rebelling against oppressive forces that unnecessarily dulled the joy of loving and living.

The way the story about the words (vs. the opera which we’ll get to eventually) works is that gypsies were present, colorful, rebellious, fun-loving, largely laws unto themselves, and controversial throughput Europe.  The French thought they were from historic geographic Bohemia and called them Bohemians.  Then a lot of artists and intellectuals in Paris — some of them famous — adopted colorful, rebellious, somewhat wild, romantic, free-loving, and free-living lifestyles.  Since they shared characteristics with the gypsies, and because they shared with the gypsies the attitude of enjoying being somewhat disdained by established society — they both were disdainfully referred to by established society and proudly referred to themselves as “bohemian.”  To be bohemian was to be free, romantic, and alive vs. stuck in the drudgery of established life.  Artist vs non-artist.  (My view, of course, has been to get out of the either/or of artist/adminstrator and have both enjoy the benefits of being a balance of both.)

wikipedia does a good job with the issue.  it provided some pieces of the background i hadn’t been aware of:

La Bohème – The Opera

Composer: Puccini.  First performed 1896.  Romantic era was 1815-1920.

It’s pretty remarkable that all the major operas are on the internet in their entirety.  Very different picture from the last time I decided to take a big reasonably well-organized bite out of learning about and enjoying opera in the late 90s/2000ish.  The internet was there and I got some plain ascii text libretti/lyrics that were helpful.  But there was no youtube with all the music/video, no wikipedia with discussions of everything from the opera to the composer to the individual arias/songs and related things going on at the time, no websites with full opera coverage competing to give you a lot for free and a lot more for cheap, and no easy googling to any little question that came to mind.  What a difference a decade made.

As I recall from just listening to the CD and looking at the words in the little CD enclosed booklet, for first sense of La bohème in 2002 or so, it’s a clever cute story, with lovely music, of clever artist pals who share a little apartment.  If it turns tragic, I don’t remember noticing that.  Update:  looks it did go tragic.  I found the synopsis on wikipedia.  Mimi dies at the very end.  Now that it’s said, I can recall a little how the hints about illness were developed along the way.  Another classic opera to rewrite … The full 4-act synopsis at wikipedia is linked here, but the basic idea in the beginning is cute and clever.  Four pals — an artist, a writer, a philosopher, and a musician 🙂 — share a very unfancy “garret” room in a building in Paris.  They comically sidestep paying the rent and instead head out to spend what the musician just earned on a night on the town (in the Latin Quarter of Paris).  Art, friendship, poverty, optimism, wine, love, and a little free-spirited irresponsibility are in the air at the end of Act I.  reading the synopsis … right, still funny at end of Act II – Musetta angling with her song and shoe repair to change boyfriends again, this time back to Marcello, and sticking her wealthy most recent ex-boo with the group’s restaurant bill.  Lively, clever, silly, fun.  … reading … ok, acts 3 and 4 turns it into a variation on La Traviata. Rodolfo loves Mimi, but, as a poor bohemian lifestyle artist, he can’t afford the medical care for her worsening illness, so he acts uninterested so she’ll go find a wealthy friend.  She does that, but, in act IV, she’s left him and is found sick on the streets of Paris.  Before they find out about Mimi, the pals in the garret have a grand time making believe the small meal they have is a grand fancy meal.  But, in the end, as in the end of La Traviata and the end of the movie, Camille, the loving guy attends to his dying love and loses her.  Definitely a need here for a re-write to a La Traviata II. Actually, this one doesn’t call out for a re-write quite so much as Camelot and La Traviata. Here the tragedy is an illness made worse by poverty, not dumb ass responses to dumb ass social attitudes.  It’s just sad, not stupid.

So I remembered part of the essence of La bohème — the idealistic idea of the merry bohemian lifestyle, the romance, and some of the clever silly fun stuff — and forgot (or suppressed) the downer side.  When I got my initial “sense” of the opera, I had it on in background while working on something else and glanced at the words on and off when there was a break in the main action.  Not like making a thorough study.  But, if you’re too busy to make thorough studies of things like this, I recommend just playing things, scanning them, and getting what you get.  Having “a sense for what something is” is a big step from “having no flipping idea what something is.”  It’s not only better than nothing, it’s kind of cool.  It’s fun to return to it and say, “yes, i definitely remember that” and “oh, right, i’d forgotten that,” and “oh, is THAT there too?”

I added vids for Acts I and II to the playlist.  If you feel like it, press “like” and make a nice comment to the person who took the trouble to post these vids and those for the other music discussions.  Added Acts III and IV.

Well, enough of tragic opera for me for a while.  For me, in this mood and moment, I’ll take Act I of Carmen (and maybe Act II through the Toreador Song), Act I of La Traviata (and Act II until Alfredo’s dumb ass father shows up), Acts I and II (of 4) of La bohème and just move right on along to … oh, you know one that’s cute, Mozart’s Cosi fan Tutti. It’s a farce comedy set to great music.  And Gilbert and Sullivan’s funny works.  Let’s go there.

Different times, different moods, different music.  Sometimes pick the music to reflect the mood.  Sometimes pick the music to create the mood.

We don’t have to like ALL pop or rock or jazz music to know we like pop or rock or jazz music — or some or a lot of all three.  Even with an album, we don’t have to love every track on the album to really like most of it and be completely knocked out by some of it.  So with opera.  We don’t have to like ALL of opera to know we like and are interested in opera.  And full operas are like pop and rock albums.  We don’t have to love the entire opera to be thoroughly in love with some of its parts.  Friends don’t let friends not enjoy what they enjoy of opera just because everybody else in their lives still thinks they hate all of it. 😉

Onward.  After the up beginnings and down endings of Carmen, La Traviata, and La Boheme, a little of Mozart’s light side (he can do dark too, though … eg, his opera, Don Giovanni) will be a nice touch.

Cosi Fan Tutte

Cosi Fan Tutte by Mozart.

“Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti (Thus Do They All, or The School For LoversK. 588, is an opera buffa by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The libretto was written by Lorenzo Da Ponte.  Così fan tutte is one of the three Mozart operas for which Da Ponte wrote the libretto. The other two Da Ponte-Mozart collaborations were Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni. The title, Così fan tutte, literally means “Thus do all [women]” but it is often simplified to “Women are like that”. The words are sung by the three men in Act II, Scene xiii, just before the finale. Da Ponte had used the line “Così fan tutte le belle” earlier in Le nozze di Figaro (in Act I, Scene vii).”

The first thing that jumps out at me from listening is — compared to the romantic era works — the peppy, stacato, and structured style of the music.  Mozart is “classical era” (mid 1700s – 1820).

Gilbert and Sullivan Comic Opera

Nobody doesn’t like Gilbert and Sullivan.  I was at a show — I think it was Pirates of Pennzance — outside DC one night in 98 or 99 and the person I was with nudged me with an elbow and motioned for me to look back several rows over my right shoulder.  Enjoying the lively music and comedy was none other than US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  I thought it a good sign that one of our nation’s leading intellects was also a fan of good solid silly lively fun.

Gilbert and Sullivan wrote a lot of these shows.  I once had a book full of them and it was thick.  Two of the most famous are:  HMS Pinafore and The Pirates of Pennzance.


Note 1

Here’s an interesting summary of part of Wagner’s thinking at a transition point in his life with context of some of his well-known works.  It weaves in german philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer.  Nietzsche fits somehow into both the Wagner and Schopenhauer stories too — as influencer, influencee, or both — but I don’t remember how that worked.

“Wagner had two independent sources of inspiration for Tristan und Isolde. The first came to him in 1854, when his poet friend Georg Herweghintroduced him to the works of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. Wagner would later call this the most important event of his life.[45] His personal circumstances certainly made him an easy convert to what he understood to be Schopenhauer’s philosophy, a deeply pessimistic view of the human condition. He would remain an adherent of Schopenhauer for the rest of his life, even after his fortunes improved.[46]

One of Schopenhauer’s doctrines was that music held a supreme role amongst the arts. He claimed that music is the direct expression of the world’s essence, which is blind, impulsive will.[47] Wagner quickly embraced this claim, which must have resonated strongly despite its contradiction of his previous view, expressed in Opera and Drama, that the music in opera had to be subservient to the drama. Wagner scholars have since argued that this Schopenhauerian influence caused Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose.[48] Many aspects of Schopenhauerian doctrine undoubtedly found their way into Wagner’s subsequent libretti. For example, the self-renouncing cobbler-poet Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, generally considered Wagner’s most sympathetic character, although based loosely on a historical person, is a quintessentially Schopenhauerian creation.[49]

Wagner’s second source of inspiration was the poet-writer Mathilde Wesendonck, … “

Note 2

This wikipedia article on Richard Wagner reminds me why my readings around Nietzsche, Wagner, and a little bit of Schopenhauer in Will Durant’s books and Walter Kaufman’s existentialism and Nietzsche essays, intros, and translations in the 70s had given me the impression that Wagner lived a pretty lively and full life.

Note 3

re:  Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody and Liszt.  Stunning, both.

This isn’t about opera.  This is a return to Liszt that resulted in an even greater appreciation of him.  In fact, the new listening and reading information elevates him, along with Debussy (new for me) and Vivaldi and Wagner and Bizet and Ravel and … I was going to say my “short list” of composers … but I guess my short list has been getting longer …  to my short list of most interesting composers.  Well, like I wrote once regarding rock music:  Who’s my favorite?  Answer:  The one I just listened to.  : )  Maybe it’s that effect happening with Liszt, but he, like Debussy, is new to me and I’m liking having both his and Debussy’s works and their stories in my life now.

I knew, when I listened the other day, in a prior playlist discussion, to the final 3 1/2 minutes of the 10 1/2 minute Liszt 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody, I had recognized the music as very familiar, fun, and favorite.  Though I’ve heard it and had fun hearing it all my life, I never thought about the fact that it also might have a title and a composer name associated with it.  A lot of music is like that in our lives whether we realize it or not — in movies, cartoons, tv themes, tv commericals, circuses, concerts, etc.  So, knowing the names was a nice new thing.  But, as ususal, when I went to hum/whistle it from memory, I wasn’t completely sure.  And, rather than deepen the wrong tune into memory with the wrong name, I, as usual, went back for another repetition or two to get clear.  Anyway, I couldn’t find the right playlist readily even on my own page : ) , and it’s the long list with lots of romantic era vids.  So, once I found it, to make it easy to find again, I put links to the vid on the playlist into every mention of liszt’s 2nd hungarian rhapsody on the page.  : )  It turns out that video with the music of liszt’s 2nd hungarian rhapsody has some text that shows on the screen giving a summary of the life of Liszt.  It’s interesting.  He was this stunning 12 year old music phenomenon, lost his father at a young age, supported his mom, lost confidence in music, gave piano lessons, fell in love with a countess, married and had three kids, his daughter Cosima later married Richard Wagner for pete’s sake and isn’t that a small world story [i have the world’s greatest small world story, by the way … more about that later] … Liszt was so good at piano that he was showy I’m guessing like Liberace … he was so good at piano that he wrote things only he and relatively few others could play … Richard Schumann said some of his work could be played by only 10 people in the world … he was a leader in one of the “german” music schools, the “new german school”, who were debating something about the proper nature and role of music … though, as a hungarian, some of the germans in the german music world didn’t like that he was playing a role and they liked to claim he had to come to germany to get his skill … problem there was liszt was wow-ing crowds at 12, long before he went to “german” vienna …  and, like Debussy and Schoenberg (in their later periods) and Bartok, he experimented with alternative tonalities and chromaticism in his later years …

But the main thing that’s elevated him among my list of interesting composers is listening again to his 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody several times again.  It’s not just familiar, famous, and fun.  It’s also, for me, Debussy all over again in the sense that it’s interesting, elegant, expressive, masterful in sequencing tones and both loud and whisper and nearly silent volume levels, and smooth phrase entries and exits.  It’s not just funny cartoon fun circus music.  It’s a beautifully crafted and detailed work of music.   Maybe all the master composers are like this.  Maybe that’s why they’re among the few who are remembered and studied, and not among the many who go unnoticed and are forgotten.  Maybe that’s whey they’re called masters.

Note 4

Opera guide.  Pretty great.  The URL is set on V, as in Verdi and Vivaldi, but can go to any letter for any composer.

W for Wagner and other Ws

Note 5

The world’s greatest “well, isn’t it a small world” story

This didn’t happen to me, but to one of my roommates in my Navy days.  He had decided to get away from it all and had gone camping by himself.  To make sure he’d be alone, he decided to travel all the way to the very end of the peninsula that is Baja California, which is not California, but part of Mexico.  It’s that sliver of land that projects southward from just south of southern california.  Check it out on the map below.  That’s getting away from it all.  He was telling the story in 1976.  It had happened some years before that.  Back then, there was almost no development in the area.  Just beach and not much else.  Bring your own fresh water.  So it worked.  He got away from civilization.  During the last few miles or so of getting down to the end of the beach, he did pass a few scattered tents, but they were a mile or 1/2 mile apart.  No problem.  So he sets up his tent and enjoys a few days of an ocean beach version of Thoreau’s Walden Pond.  For a few days, he sits, thinks, swims, catches rays, and takes walks.  After a few days, he decided to take a longer walk up the beach and, this time, walked all the way to the next campsite.  He was prepared to keep the visit short and maybe even for the camper to not appreciate a visitor, but he was not prepared to find that the next camper was — you’ve GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! — one of his pals from high school in the US.  🙂

So, is that the best “small world” story you’ve ever heard or what?  What?  No?  Ok, smart ass.  What’s yours?  😉

What’s your small world story?

Note 6

All of Musicology in a Nutshell

It looks like I may be smarter than I look.  This always happens when diving into a new knowledge area.  You make little predictions.  Some turn out to be right and you remember those.  Some turn out to be wrong and you forget all about those.  So, at the end, you think, “Gee, I may be smarter than I look.”  🙂  Keeps the learning fun.

Anyway, this view I’ve been arriving to with romantic era as a sort of center of music history and evolution is turning out to be more and more correct.  I might get some disagreement from serious modal, atonal, tritone, dissonance, and wide chord music fans, but that’s part of the point.  They would say ancient music and music until 1600 was … what to call it … more … i’ll come back to this … but anyway, whatever they’d call it, it was that until 1600, then it was something else … maybe they’d say, more “natural” or “real” or “free”, and they might be right, from one perspective anyway… but from any of the likely perspectives (what’s famous, what’s familiar, what’s really music vs strange, what’s dissonant vs not, what’s nice vs wierd and scary, what’s true/full music vs with limits) … from any of those persepectives, the mass of music in the romantic era is a fact of life, of history … whether music with limitations on dissonance should have been dominant or not, it was … whether it was good or not that church and aristocratic elites controlled music at the moment music was becoming bigger, more complex, and more symphonic, and was largely limited itself to a certain kind of sounds, and that the full flourishing of music happened within those limitations in the romantic era music … whether all that was good or not, best or not, fortunate or not … some say it was good, some say not … but that’s what happened …

… this isn’t coming through concisely … and i’m not even sure if it’s clear … ok, second draft on that above stuff made it better … but let’s start over anyway and come at it from a different angle …

music went from being modal (ancient through 1600) to tonal (the “common practice period”, 1600 -1900, baroque, classical, and romantic eras) and then both stayed tonal (one part of modern) but also went back to modal/atonal again (the other part of modern).  that’s what happened to serious bigtime famous  art music (as opposed to folk music everywhere).  meanwhile, folk music did whatever it did, different things in different places and times in the world.  later, in the recorded music era, much popular music was tonal while some rock and heavy metal went modal/atonal.  and that’s it.  that’s all of musicology in a nutshell.  🙂  true, though.

Now if we could just look smarter too. 😉


music 27 – the classical era – – mozart, haydn, early beethoven, maybe early schubert, salieri, and maybe more

“Classical Era” vs. “Classical” Composers and Music

Oh look at this.  The term “classical” is used by experts both for just the “classical era” (1815-1910) and also — just like us plain ol’ everyday folks use it — for all of it, for all the eras, for all of “classical music.”


Classical Era:

Before going to the classical era music videos, the usual discussion of our investigations so far …

Fresh Start From These Interim Conclusions

It seems to me so far that the serious art music we know today first came into full flower in the 1815-1910 “romantic era” when music seems to have escaped the artificial or temporary limitations of (1) being funded and controlled by aristocratic elites in search of only those diversions they could nervously and politically agree among each other were appropriate music to fund and appreciate, (2) church elites with their own agenda, (3) prior shaky instrument technology and reliability, (4) prior limited number of performers per composition, (5) probably prior less robust composition techniques, and (6) prior no access to larger and middle class audiences in festivals and concerts — and became more driven by music’s inherent full range of artistic, emotive, and experiential possibilities.  Repeating another helpful idea:  The romantic era music was always about enhanced expressiveness, was often expressing subject matter (like epic poems, historical figures, myths, operas, landscapes, and fauns vs. being pure music like “Sonata in D Flat Minor, Opus 12”), and was sometimes expressing romantic love.

There are MANY composer names in each of the baroque, classical, and romantic eras.  I’ve looked at all three lists enough to know that, as a practical matter, I want to become familiar with and remember many composers and individual works from the romantic era, but only a few of the many baroque and classical composers and works.  Why?  Two reasons.  One reason concerns composers:  Many romantic era composers are widely well-known.  Only a few of the baroque and classical era composers are well-known outside the circle of music experts.  The other reason involves the musical works:  Most of the classical music sounds we are familiar with, love, and like — whether we know them by name or not — are from the romantic era.  I was thrilled in an earlier playlist discussion, for example, to learn the name of Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody to use for remembering, discussing, thinking about, and referring to that great sound I’ve heard and known most of my life.  Same for the William Tell Overture (the Lone Ranger theme).  It’s become clear the romantic era is full of these pieces we know, but don’t know we know.  Not that there’s nothing good before or after, but it’s easy for me, at least at this point, to have a romanticEra-centric view of classical music, to go back to it to enjoy it, to discover more sounds I know that I didn’t know I already know, and to compare everything before and after it to it.  For the baroque era, it’s enough for me to focus on the best-known works of Johann Sebastian “JS” Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Vivaldi, and not too many, if any, more.  For the classical era, for me, there’s Mozart, Haydn, early Beethoven, and not too many, if any, more.

I think I was only half right in the previous discussion about not  being able to distinguish eras of musical works by their sound alone.  there are distinctive sounds coming from baroque.  While all those peppy harpsichords and strings duos, trios, quartets, etc are not everything the baroque era is, they are at least one characteristic sound and style from the period.  Sure, people may play them and compose similar pieces in later periods and even today in music schools, but, since the sound first appeared in the baroque era, it’s a convenient shorthand to refer to the styles and sounds as “baroque” whenever they appear.  hm … just thought of a new problem with that interim conclusion … what if a lot of the mozart stuff in “classical era” that we listen to in this playlist is also peppy harpsichords and strings sans orchestra for salon and chamber music (vs the larger outdoor middle class concerts and festivals with bigger orchestras are more a characteristic of the “romantic era”)?  well, then that will be something else we’ll know.  i’m not and won’t be an authority in music.  i’m just a guy diving into the data, making interim conclusions, thinking about them, getting more info, making better interim conclusions, and lovin’ the process of becoming a little less uninformed with each step along the road.  viva la discovery process!  🙂

Starting Over

It’s “starting over” in the sense that, in every adventure of tackling a new knowledge area, the work goes through phases of getting a bunch of new information while having initial perceptions and questions and theories to test, replacing the initial ones with new ones over and over again all along the way, realizing that, especially in the early stages, the overall view can change quickly, so we start over several times given what we’ve figured out so far.  Then we get a bunch more information led by the new knowledge, start over again based on that, repeat repeat repeat to go as far, wide, and deep into whatever the topic has become for us.

Road Travelled So Far with Current View

For this series of discussions on music, the steps so far have been something like:  Hearing the term “pentatonic scales” used in a criticism of a guitar player (who didn’t know or use them), finding out that “pentatonic scales” are my old pals the “blues jamming notes”, a friend’s comment on top of that begins a “starting over” phase on the scales called “diatonic modes”, sorting out the cool moods of the dissonant sounds of the diatonic modes plus an accident of similar terms (bartok axis system and satriani pitch axis theory) began a “starting over” on overall music theory and the changing meaning and role of “dissonance” and bartok vs schoenberg on chromaticism and others, which began a “starting fresh” phase on romantic music as a way to begin understanding what dissonance and bartok and schoenberg’s atonal were reacting to and changing from, all of which had gotten the inquiry moved from narrowly on pentatonic and even diatonic scales theory in to ALL of music and its social history (musicology), nature, people, eras, and — oh by the way — it’s sounds and the experience they create.  the “starting over” on “romanticism” — first german (wagner and brahms and schoenberg), then french (debussy), music re-oriented my view of music overall into, at least for the moment, centered around “romantic era” music — what’s in it, what came before, and what came after.

So much for consolidating the info from the previous playlists and discussions …

New Impressions From the Classical Era Music

First up is a vid from Mozart, the overture to The Magic Flute.  I don’t think, just from listening, Iwould have been able to say whether that was Mozart or Beethoven.  I thought I heard passages there that were very like some of Beethoven’s symphonic phrases.  That’s not a bad thing.  It’s just a thing.  🙂  Just something that’s true in my perception/experience.  Or at least it was true on that first listening.  If I took the time (not likely, at least for now) to listen again to Beethoven’s 3, 5, 6, and 9 — the ones I’ve paid a little attention to — and again to this Magic Flute overture, I might confirm either (1) they use similar musical phrases sometimes in these “classical era” (Mozart) and “romantic era” (later Beethoven, including all his symphonies) or (2) that they are different which would mean my “ear”/experience has gotten a little more able to distinguish subtle differences.   That happens in every area of life.  Things at first seem a lot the same and, with time, we notice differences among things that first seemed the same.  Notes 1 & 2.

Next up, more Mozart.  Searching for a harpsichord work to see if I can detect any major difference from the peppy baroque pieces.  Found Harpsichord Concerto #1, KV 107. Answer is no.  Can’t tell a clear difference.  Maybe some people can.  I can’t, or at least can’t yet.  I wouldn’t be able to say, just from listening, this is from Mozart and is “classical era” vs. the JC Bach number in the previous playlist.  Although, as I’m listening to the rest of it, I think it’s faster.  Anyway, the “KV 107” is interesting.  I’ve noticed the letters in front of the opus numbers (“opus” refers both to a composer’s total life’s works and to individual musical compositions) change from composer to composer.  And one composer (I forget which one), for one piece, had different opus letters and numbers.  I could tell from that one that different scholars/critics/experts create lists of the composer’s works — including some, leaving some out, maybe even re-ordering them if dates are unclear — and their initials are those letters.  So KV are somebody’s initials and this harpsichord piece is on ol’ KV’s list as #107.

Next two, more Mozart.  Oh, this is funny.  Variations KV 265 is the tune of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.  Did Mozart cover the tune?  Or did the world steal his tune for its famous little song?  A movie of the life of Mozart, Amadeus, portrayed him as very childlike, even immature, in his personal life.  It would make sense for him to want to play masterfully with variations on a familiar children’s tune.  Yes, he covered it.  It’s an English poem that was sung in French that Mozart, among others, used as the basis for a piece of classical music. 🙂

Wolfgang Amadeus MozartVariations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman” (K. 265 / K. 300e)

Note the opus numbers are cited here as K vs KV.  Probably the same guy.  Probably everybody who knows enough about Mozart to care about opus numbers knows who “K” and “KV” is.

The VERY fast speed of play jumps out at me again.  Faster than I remember of baroque JC Bach and definitely more peppy and fast than what I’ve heard so far of baroque JS Bach.

Next up … I wonder if an early Beethoven piece would seem similar or different to later Beethoven, to Mozart, to Vivaldi, or the Bachs?  Let’s see if I can find one.  Not too easy.  While looking, I noticed something I’ve seen before about opus numbers.  Composers assign their own opus numbers.  The comment was made that a particular piece was the first beethoven assigned to an opus number, opus 1.  “Shortly after this performance, he arranged for the publication of the first of his compositions to which he assigned an opus number, the piano trios of Opus 1.”  What, apparently, happens is that, later, scholars studying a composer disagree with those decisions and create new numbering systems.  Interesting.  This webpage is my opus 1,734,999?  Will future scholars disagree and call it 2,437,463?  Because the scholar felt some of my work was more worthy than I thought?  As my pal, Dutch, would say, Whom knows?  Anyway, a big part of the stories about Beethoven, classic era, and romantic era is that Beethoven started out classical and became the person who almost single-handedly ushered in romanticism with his Symphony #1.  So I guess one approach to finding his classical works would be find those with lower opus numbers or earlier dates.  Let’s try Opus 1 and see what that was.  … that was easy … Opus 1 is some piano trios.  I expected to collide with multiple opus numbering systems.  Didn’t.  Maybe no person like KV was needed for Beethoven.  Maybe everybody just uses the ones he assigned.  From the video, looks like a “trio” is piano, violin, and cello.  Very nice.   Comparing it to baroque?  Too early.  I’ve been doing more typing than listening.  But still listening.  Taking in data of experience and associating it with the ideas of name of the work, name of the composer, and other issues.  There are the dramatic forceful big strings chords and phrases I associate with the Beethoven sound, POUNDING the airwaves.

Ok, I found a list of Beethoven work with opus numbers and other identifiers:

The original thought with Beethoven was to list here the classical era early part of his work and not the romantic era part of his work.  To see the difference.

The Haydn Trumpet Concerto in Eb 1st Mov is pleasant.  It’s played by Winston Marsalis.

Beethoven Opus 3: String Trio No. 1 in E-flat major (1794).  I’ve been trying to detect a difference between early and later Beethoven because of this reported transition from classical to romantic.   I think I’ve been misinterpreting it a bit.  Once again, I have to go back to a dates focus first.  Classical era is 1730 to 1820.  Romantic is 1815 to 1910.  So, when his …

Opus 21: Symphony No. 1 in C major (composed 1799–1800, premièred 1800)

… makes a big splash, it’s still technically in the classical era, but people say it sort of represented a new height of expressiveness that symbolized the new era that came to be called romantic.  I wonder if we’re looking for a style/sound/qualitative change/evolution or if we’re just supposed to detect steadily-expanding mastery throughout the career.  If we knew what we were looking for, and had spent adequate time to tune the ear/experience, we would no doubt see something interesting compared to others.  How do I know?  Partly the comments I’ve already made about his work said to have ushered in the greater expressiveness of romantic era.  But also because I noticed a strory about the later German schools at war over whether Beethoven was to be considered the start of a new phase of music evolution (Liszt and the New German School) or a static standard to be held above all the rest (the Old German school).  Either way, the music had to have something special for that kind of status among the experts.

Opus 9: Three String Trios (1798).

Op. 10: Beethoven Piano Sonata #5 In C Minor. When this one began, I got a sense of expressiveness, emotion, that made me think, ok, there’s part of what they’re talking about.  The richness was mature and nice which made me think the baroque and the Bach was mechanical.  That was the beginning.  And I even thought of the soft touch of Debussy.  So I’m thinking, right, expressive, romantic era style, even though it’s classical era year (sometime well before 1815).  That was the beginning.  Then Daniel Barenboim started BANGING on the piano :)ss something I’ve come to associate with Beethoven.  And the elegant smoothness never quite came back.  The pace moved a little faster then slower, but, for me, never returned to the lovely experience of the beginning.  This one’s not on the wikipedia opus list, so maybe it’s known to be a bit uneven, not one of B’s best.

Opus 11: Trio for Piano, Clarinet, and Cello in B-flat major (“Gassenhauer”) (Version with Violin instead of Clarinet is considered Piano Trio No. 4) (1797).  Obviously, this one is on the list (I copied/pasted it here).  Beethoven wrote for a lot of different instrument combinations.  Piano, clarinet, and cello here.

On deck, Opus 20: Septet for clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello and contrabass in E-flat major (1799).  The second movement’s lovely.  I find myself measuring all the lovely soft emotive music against Debussy and Debussy usually wins on subtlety of both mood/tone/sound and melody including phrase rhythms, a la the discussion with mr hudson.  timing.  while this beethoven septet is lovely, some of the phrases seem, what’s the word, banal, plain not in a good way, too obvious.  not all of it, by any means.  much of it is lovely.  but it’s on and off lovely and somehow brusque then lovely and somehow banal.  and i know i’m measuring it the whole time against my recollection of Debussy’s Faun and Preludes. Note 3

Opus 21: Symphony No. 1 in C major (composed 1799–1800, premièred 1800). This one, they say, set the music world on fire. … very smooth.  takes the edge off the banging and still has the drama once in a while.

wikipedia on B’s three periods:  “Beethoven’s compositional career is usually divided into Early, Middle, and Late periods.[73] In this scheme, his early period is taken to last until about 1802, the middle period from about 1803 to about 1814, and the late period from about 1815.

“In his Early period, Beethoven’s work was strongly influenced by his predecessors Haydn and Mozart. He also explored new directions and gradually expanded the scope and ambition of his work. Some important pieces from the Early period are the firstand second symphonies, the set of six string quartets Opus 18, the first two piano concertos, and the first dozen or so piano sonatas, including the famous Pathétique sonata, Op. 13.

“His Middle (Heroic) period began shortly after Beethoven’s personal crisis brought on by his recognition of encroaching deafness. It includes large-scale works that express heroism and struggle. Middle-period works include six symphonies (Nos. 3–8), the last three piano concertos, the Triple Concerto and violin concerto, five string quartets (Nos. 7–11), several piano sonatas (including the MoonlightWaldstein and Appassionata sonatas), the Kreutzer violin sonata and Beethoven’s only operaFidelio.

“Beethoven’s Late period began around 1815. Works from this period are characterized by their intellectual depth, their formal innovations, and their intense, highly personal expression. The String Quartet, Op. 131 has seven linked movements, and the Ninth Symphony adds choral forces to the orchestra in the last movement.[73] Other compositions from this period include the Missa Solemnis, the last five string quartets (including the massive Große Fuge) and the last five piano sonatas.”

Oh, wow.  I mean, WoO.  Here’s a fun twist from Wikipedia on the subject of assigning opus numbers:  “Works with WoO numbers: The numbers and categories used below are from the Kinsky catalog of 1955. WoO is an abbreviation of “Werke ohne Opuszahl”, German for “Works without Opus number”.”

Next up, David Bowie.  It’s a live performance from 1973 and … what?  classical?  oh, definitely classic.  what?  classical era?  well … ok … Hey, we had to mix it up a bit.  Besides Bowie’s on the tv right now on the vh1 classic channel in concert somewhere in 1973.  I thought that might be interesting to know in the context of … what?  that’s not a  nice thing to say to me.  what?  ok, ok …

Next up … bed … pick it up mañana …


Note 1

Yet another digression from the main line of diving into a study of music to one of the parallel lines about the process of doing the diving.

Take for example an experience everyone’s had: going to a new school.  At first, all the hallways and rooms look alike and we get lost a lot.  Since we don’t have the option not to go to school — unlike optional self-directed studies where we can and too often usually do just decide “it’s too hard” or “i don’t get this stuff” and just quit after one or just a few steps — we, with time, start to notice that there’s a water fountain in this hallway and a blue bulletin board on that hallway and this other hallway is right by the front door, and so forth.  Since we don’t have an option not to be there, and since time passes, we just notice differences among things that all seemed alike at first.  We become more familiar, knowledgeable, and comfortable with how to get around in the school.  That’s important to realize for maintaining motivation at the beginning of a self-motivated self-directed study.  That we can’t tell the difference at first just makes us like everybody else, even the experts, when they first started.  In the school analogy, some of the rooms we go into and get familiar with them too right away.  Other rooms, like the principal’s office, equipment rooms, and backstage in the auditorium remain mysteries for a while, or maybe for the whole time we attend the school, but we don’t mind because we’ve learned the part we need and want to know first.  That’s important because, when we start on self-studies of big and/or complicated areas, it’s not good for fun, motivation, or self-view to say to ourselves and others “we don’t know anything about the school (or subject).”  We DO know something about the subject even before we start a study.  We know what our pre-study perception and list of already-known facts is.  That’s not nothing.  That’s something.  And we know our questions we’re going into the study with.  And, no matter what our first step is, we have more data.  We at least notice some of the terms used even if we didn’t understand them right away.  Those terms go on the list of terms we know are used in the new area.  Knowing what the terms are is knowledge even if we don’t yet know what the terms mean. That’s progress.  And, more importantly, for confidence and motivation, it’s NOT not progress. 🙂  Any encounter with an information source gives information about that source whether we understood a word in it or not.  We know what it is (book, person, CD, dvd, internet location, etc, video), where it’s available for us, what it looks like, whether it has photos, how easily it reads, what its cover said and showed, maybe chapter titles, etc.  That, too, is not nothing.  It’s something.  It’s progress.  Enjoy!  😉  … 2points4wait3points4jackGcouldaShouldaWouldaBeenaMathwiz

Note 2

Digression on the Effect of being able to Record Music

A dear friend keeps pointing out that one of the biggest issues that effected music was the invention of methods of recording it.  That’s very right.  Just think of it.  Before recording of music, the only way we could hear music of any kind is go somewhere where somebody’s playing it.  Even just having records and record players was a HUGE change.  When you go to where somebody’s playing, you hear it once.  When you have the record, you can listen over and over.  But, compared to today, even that’s awkward.  First you have to go someplace and buy or borrow the record and not scratch it.  But you had to be selective.  Only so much money.  And how big a stack of records did you want at home?  And did you want to own something for just one hearing to get a sense of it?  No, you only bought the things you already heard on radio, tv, or somebody’s house, knew you like, and wanted to listen to again and again over the years.  And again, don’t scratch it.  And don’t use a worn out needle.  That was a pain in the neck.  Compare to this little adventure today when it’s unscratchable digital, free, available one piece at a time, with comments, searchable, with wikipedia and other internet support for context.  The lady’s right.  Recording changes everything.  Consider what we’ve learned about how much having a new and much larger middle class audience made to music in the transition from baroque to classical to romantic eras.  That was huge, but the effect of recording was huge-er.  Even more huge.  Ok, let’s call it, much fricking bigger.  😉

Note 3

What’s a Faun?  Actually, what’s a Faune?  I thought it was a Fawn.

It’s probably pretty clear by now I’ve fallen in love with Debussy and his L’après-midi d’un faune (The Afternoon of a … of a what?). What’s a faune?  The picture that came to my mind when I first saw that French word in Debussy’s title, and that I’ve been working from lo these several days, has been of a baby deer, a fawn, somewhere out in a field or forest on a nice afternoon.  Hey, the music works for that.  So, I’m thinking, “faune” must be French for “fawn,” right?  For a baby deer, right?  Wrong.  Google Translate,, just told me the French word for “fawn,” or “baby deer,” is “faon.”  It also told me the English word for “faune” is “faun,” not “fawn.”  Well, excuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuse me for not knowing about fauns along with my leprechauns, fairies, spirits, angels, dragons, unicorns, pegasuses, flying monkeys, and such.  As I’m thinking about it, I’m vaguely remembering “faun” as a term for Dionysus-like satyr folk?? “Faune” is French and ends in e, so probably “une faune”, but aren’t there both boy and girl faunes?  But wait.  Oh look, the title is un faune. Does that mean David Bowie was a faune?  Tough to say since we still don’t know exactly what faunes, or fauns, or David Bowie, are yet.  And about the French pronunciation of a word like “faune” … If faunes were to teleport, would they be — tele-faunes?  If they put on airs and can’t be relied on, would they be — faune-eys?  If you want to know the number to use to call them, do you look in a — faune directory?  If your cable tv needs fixing, does the repairman climb the — tele-faune pole?  If E.T. wants to … what?  ok, right … so, anyway, I’ve read enough to know so far that, for Debussy, a faune is not, after all this time, a gd baby deer and that, for everybody, faunes or fauns are magickal spirit folk of some kind that have shown up in fairy tales, myths, poems, and classical music not just Debussy.  Hm … I better let everybody know pdq (right away) that faunes are not baby deer … i wonder if i should post it on the web or just pick up the faune? …

Adding vids to the debussy playlist from lower on this page (“music theory 23 – debussy: from romanticism to modernism – – with afterword”).  first three added, the 3 movements of his symphoniela mer (the sea).  It’s remarkable the extent to which Debussy can create tones that are … what … several important things … luxurious … emotional … perfectly- (vs. heavily- or awkwardly-) timed in both the note sequence and loudness dimensions) … interesting … engaging … intelligent … subtle … having arrived at this romanticEra-centric view of classical music and, especially this fascination and appreciation for Debussy, I”m now noticing that comments like, “Debussy’s 10-minute Afternoon of the Faun revolutionized classical music.”  Let me find those exact quotes … “Debussy wrote one of his most famous works, the revolutionary Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, truly original in form and execution. In contrast to the large orchestras so favoured by late-romanticism, Debussy wrote this piece for a smaller ensemble, emphasizing instrumental colour and timbre. Despite Mallarmé himself, and colleague and friend Paul Dukas having been impressed by the piece, it was controversial at its premiere. Prélude subsequently placed Debussy into the spotlight as one of the leading composers of the era.”


music 26 – baroque (1600-1760)

Can we distinguish baroque from romantic by just listening?  Or do we need to know in advance a piece is from a particular time period or composer?

Update:  For the baroque era, it’s enough for me to focus on the best-known works of Johann Sebastian “JS” Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Vivaldi, and not too many, if any, more.  Although there are many more.


The Four Seasons. This is one of my long-time favorites.  Listening to it again, in the context of the question of whether one can expect to identify music of the various periods from the sound … I think not.  I can distinguish “baroque” Vivaldi from “romantic” Wagner, but not necessarily from “romantic” Debussy.  I perceive no similarity between “romantic” Wagner and “romantic” Debussy and quite a bit of similarity — in type of experience, not in the exact strings vs woodwinds instruments sound — between “baroque” Vivaldi and “romantic” Debussy.  So where does that leave us?  🙂  That’s going to happen over and over again in this game of genres/periods/styles of music, I think.

What happens if I try to apply my new understandings of the characteristics of “romantic” music?  Let’s try.  Is Vivaldi’s Four Seasons expressive?  It seems very expressive — emotional, evocative — to me.  The instruments seem to be very expressive, showing a lot of virtuosity.  Like Debussy’s Faun in Afternoon, it’s a lighter type of evocative emotional vs. a stronger more vigorously emotional in Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries and Beethoven’s 5th and 9th symphonies.  So, I would say, yes, on expressive.  How about “subject matter”?  It’s called “The Four Seasons”, not just something like, “Music for Violins in D Flat Minor, Opus 46.”  There’s no story, but each of the Four Seasons pieces works at creating sounds that evoke the idea/experience of a different season.  Some “romantic” “tone poems” have no story, but deal only with landscapes as their “subject.”  Debussy’s Faun is essentially a landscape with a faun in it.  The faun is just being there, somewhere in the wild, for a while in the afternoon, right?  So I could easily guess “romantic” for The Four Seasons if I didn’t already know Vivaldi and his music are considered “baroque” due to the time period.  Coming at it from the other direction, that it might be essentially “baroque”, one might think, well, there’s only some violins and no orchestra which maybe makes it baroque since there weren’t any orchestras yet in the “baroque” era like Beethoven, Wagner, Liszt, and other romanticists had.  Ok, but problem is Liszt’s Danse Macabre is just piano, Chopin’s stuff is all just piano, Debussy’s piano pieces were just piano — no orchestra, all “romantic”.  I don’t think there’s going to be a basis for knowing what’s what based on type of sound.  Which is ok.  It is what it is.  Now I know.

Getting further acquainted with a few composers and getting newly acquainted with many more, and making another try at understanding the world and times around them and their music, has been great.  But one part of what I’ve been trying to do might not be do-able.  For a lot of familiar music, we know what to call it.  Jazz sounds like jazz.  Folk sounds like folk.  Rock sounds like rock.  Ska sounds like ska.  Heavy metal sounds like heavy metal.  Elevator music, roller skating music, scary movie music, spoons, they all sound like they sound, right?  Well, of course, as I was writing those serious and then smart-ass examples, the whole time I was seeing both clear and “gray area unclear” examples.  Is Pete Seeger folk?  Yes.  Are Rolling Stones rock?  Yes.  Are Crosby, Stills, and Nash folk or rock?  Yes (both).  Are Duke Ellington and Wes Montgomery jazz?  Yes.  Are Steely Dan and Dave Matthews Band jazz or rock?  Yes (they’re both both).  So, implicitly thinking I could categorize clearly from sound in other music (vs. sometimes being clear and sometimes the best being just possibilities, impressions, similarities, combinations, influences) — and having a strong bias toward, as much as possible, basing understandings on direct experience effects — I’ve been looking for the same kind of thing in serious art music.  And, in fact, that’s what we’re finding with the “serious art music” — sometimes clear, sometimes not.  So that’s good to know.  I don’t want to learn what I want something to be.  I want to learn what it actually is.  🙂

So I give up the search for sounds uniquely characteristic of the eras, at least in my primary emphasis in organizing the music, people, and factors in my mind.  I’m going to surrender to the idea of the era timeframes of the chart at the top of the page.  These Vivaldi seasons pieces are “baroque”, not because they don’t strike me as similar in experience to Debussy’s romantic era work, but because Vivaldi wrote them in the period between 1600-1760.  If I find out that’s not the best idea, I’ll change it, but that’s the plan for now.  First and mainly, just experience, notice, and appreciate each musical piece for what it is and what it does in experience, and then associate it with a title and composer.  That’s the basic unit of  learning that enables anything else useful to be accomplished.  The experience of an individual piece of music and some way — some name — for referring to it.  That’s the part that’s real and a name for the part that’s real.  From there, if time and interest levels permit, we can find out how a musical work relates to other music or to the life, times, and thinking of the composer and others who came before, were contemporary, and came after.

Bet wikipedia has a nice list of baroque era composers.  🙂

quick scan.  wow.  there are a LOT of baroque composers organized into early, middle, and late periods.  for a long time, i didn’t see one — not one — name i recognized.  at first, i wondered, is that bad?  then i realized it fits the view that a lot of the serious art music we know and love is from the romantic era.  romantic era.  right.  saying int that way is working now a lot better than saying, “romantic music.” music from the romantic era, from the romantic time period.

anyway, thinking maybe bach might be baroque, i put google chrome’s “find” function to work with “bach”, found a half dozen of them — talented family? — before landing on Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).  not far below him was George Frideric Handel (1685–1759).  as in handel’s messiah with famous “hallelujah chorus.”  so, with vivaldi, that’s three familiar composers from the baroque era.  once i get solidly planted in using “era”, shortening to just “baroque” will still mean “era” in fluent language/meaning/experience.


Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)

Johann Christoph Bach (1642–1703)


Frideric Handel (1685–1759)


Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725)

History of the Name

wikipedia on history of the name, baroque music:  “Music described as Baroque is a broad range of styles from a wide geographic region, mostly in Europe, composed during a period of approximately 160 years. The systematic application of the term “baroque” to music of this period is a relatively recent development. It was in 1919 that Curt Sachs was the first to attempt to apply the five characteristics ofHeinrich Wölfflin’s theory of the Baroque systematically to music.[3] In English the term only acquired currency in the 1940s, in the writings of Lang and Bukofzer.[4] Indeed, as late as 1960 there was still considerable dispute in academic circles, particularly in France and Britain, whether it was meaningful to lump together music as diverse as that of Jacopo Peri,Domenico Scarlatti and J.S. Bach with a single term; yet the term has become widely used and accepted for this broad range of music.”

interesting.  and the word, “baroque”, itself refers to something some of the architecture of the period looked like.  not anything about the experience of the sound.  wikipedia: “the word “baroque” came from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning “misshapen pearl”,[2]a strikingly fitting characterization of the architecture of this period; later, the name came to be applied also to its music.”

“It may be helpful to distinguish it from both the preceding (Renaissance) and following (Classical) periods of musical history.”

easier said than done?

they may as well have called the baroque, classical, and romantic periods the A, B, and C periods of music.  the names aren’t telling us anything.  that’s fine.  good to know.

build some mnemonics to support the new dates focus?

baroque – 1600 to 1760 – that’s the early jamestown settlements in the US and prior to lexington and concord

classical – 1730 to 1820 – pre-revolutionary colonial US to after end of napolean

romantic – 1815 to 1910 – end of napolean (1815 waterloo & st helena) to a few years before ww I

renaissance – two hundred years centered around 1500.  so 1400-1600.

medieval – 500 to 1400 – it is what it says, the middle ages, after the 400 ad/ce fall of rome to renaissance

those might not be my best-ever mnemonics.  maybe takes more to remember the mnemonics there than the original stuff to be remembered?  🙂  actually for me, those mnemonic words create non-verbal pictures/”feelings” of time periods.  so there.

Johann Christian Bach, cousin of JS, has a one of the sounds I’d say was baroque.  That peppy harpsichord sound.  You don’t really get that in romantic era.  Wonder about classical?

JS Bach’s stuff can be heavier and more serious.

I don’t want to push the similarity of Four Seasons and Faun too far.  Yes they’re both lighter and more delicate than Wagner, but Faun is really a remarkable different class of work.

oh look at this.  the term “classical” is used by experts both for just the “classical era” and also — just like us plain ol’ everyday folks use it — for all of it, for all the eras.


music 25 – romanticists – inviting a deluge of examples from the “romanticist music” “era” (1815-1910), “canon” (list of works everybody agrees are part of the era, and composers –

romantic era music:  1815-1910, always expressiveness, often expressing subject matter, sometimes expressing romantic love.  music moving from solely salons of the aristocratic elite to the concerts and festivals of the middle class.  technology making instruments more effective and reliable.  larger groups of performers.  many composers had the idea of merging their music with the other fine arts.  debussy, wagner, liszt, beethoven, rimsky-korsakov, bizet, tchaikovsky, verdi, rossini, strauss, strauss, chopin, berlioz, paul dukas, mahler, sousa, saint saens, and more.

Why Invite a Deluge of Romantic Music?

Dec 3 – Having sorted out what “romanticist music” means, and knowing it’s less a single particular type of sound to train our ears to recognize …

(i think that’s right.  i don’t think — given the very different sounds and intentions and thinking and methods of, for example, chopin only on the piano, wagner’s huge vigor, debussy in his impressionist pre-modernist/dissonance era, brahms, beethoven in his post-classist era, schoenberg in his pre-atonal era, berlioz, saint-saens, and more — that one can find a characteristic sound for all of romanticist music, though one can certainly detect styles of individual composers, which is one of the known stated characteristics of “romanticist” vs “classicist” era music.  I’m going to have to, after deluging us with pieces from the romanticist “canon” (list of pieces everybody agrees are classic parts of the genre/movement/era), go then to the classicist “canon” and see if the ear/experience can detect a clear qualitative difference that would allow identifying classical vs romantic without knowing in advance who’s the composer, what’s the timeframe, or the name of the piece)

… and more of a wide range of sounds, of a specific list of works, of a specific list of composers, who produced during a certain timeframe (1815-1910), who made music that was a lot more expressive than past music, and who sometimes combined music with subject matter which was sometimes, but not in any way exclusively or always, romantic love … now that we know all that … now that we know how to think about all the music, people, and issues in that era, we know how to organize the mass of incoming data in our minds … and we can listen to a lot of it and have the impressions stack up in an orderly way instead of, like in the past, just being a lot of pretty much undifferentiated sound and information flowing through without making many connections for understanding, retention, or recall.

List of Romantic Composers

This is an excellent list.  It gives name, dates the composer lived, and the main things he (mostly) or she (I noticed at least one) is famous for.


First up, Chopin.  French ethnic Polish national.  Wikipedia: “All of Chopin’s works involve the piano. They are technically demanding but emphasize nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonatamazurkawaltznocturnepolonaiseétudeimpromptu and prélude.”

Claude Debussy

He’s been covered elsewhere on this page and in a playlist essay.

Franz Liszt

In the first Liszt video, at around minute 7:00 of 10:32, Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number 2 in C-Sharp Minor (for Orchestra) becomes a very familiar, fun, and joyous sound.  It’s probably been used in a lot of American silent and later movies, comedy skits, circuses, and cartoons I’ve seen over the years.  And maybe played by school and other orchestras.  It’s the kind of thing that becomes a favorite even if you don’t know the name of the composer or the music.  Great.  So a lot of us have just discovered we do, in fact, already know some of Franz Liszt’s music!

Same for a lot of popular music that’s familiar, but we don’t know the names.  Same for this classical … see there’s the problem I mentioned … in everyday conversation, we would call this piece, “classical.”  That’s fine in the casual everyday context.  However, in music technical terms, it’s from the “romantic” era.  Both uses are ok.  Just need to keep the context clear when using them.

But I’m still making the adjustment here to the idea that the sounds of Wagner and now the sound of the latter part of Liszt’s 2nd Hungarian Rhapsody are “romantic” or “romanticist” music.  I can remember it, but it’s better to have the dual uses of the term be more, well, “fluent.”  But that’s the adjustment we’re intending to make here. Having all this music and information flow through us in the context of the idea of “romanticist era music.”

If you’re interested in the search methods one uses consciously or by accident while getting acquainted with a new knowledge area, there’s a Note 1 below.

Since the wikipedia article on Liszt didn’t come right out and state that Liszt was a composer of the “romantic” genre, but rather made the point that he was a leader in the “New German School”, I’ve been hedging a little on whether to let thinking about him and listening to his music sink in to my memory connected to the idea of ‘romantic.’  but, as i’m gathering facts, i think it’s becoming clear he belongs in the “romanticist” category in our minds, memories, and experience.  one fact is he supported wagner, brahms, and saint saens, all clearly categorized as “romantic.”  also, the “new german school” apparently began at beethoven’s death and i guess continued his influence and beethoven is famously classicist-turned-romanticist with his “expressiveness” in a lot of ways defining and inspiring the new expressiveness of what came to called, for some reason [interesting … who coined that term, anyway, when, how, and why? … i wonder if it’s like the story of the origin of the “impressionist” term? (i summarized it in one of the debussy essays) ], “romanticism.”  while i don’t understand all the internal music expert politics described in the wikipedia “new german school” article, i do get the impression it and therefore liszt were on a side of the “war of the romantics”, there was dynamic of some kind with berlioz who’s definitely categorized as romantic.  also, by the way, the text that flashed on the screen at the beginning of the 2nd hungarian rhapsody vid just states squarely that liszt is considered a “romanticist” composer.  in other words, it’s looking pretty clear we’re presenting liszt to our experience and memory banks and repetition-for-recall properly associated with the “romantic” era in great music.  whew!  what a relief!  gawd forbid we’d have to unlearn an association.

digression:  the nice part is, when one fusses over a question, highlights the evidence pro and con — with energy and interest and focused attention, not to mention the action of note-taking or typing — the whole cluster of question, trunk and branches and twigs and leaves of issues, and answer get stamped nicely into the same type of memory that produced fluent vs. memorized general language use.  it’s not a lot different than becoming fluent in general language when you do it a way that shares the essential similarities with acquiring general fluent language skill — clarity of aspect of experience, clarity of sound/word/expression to associate with the aspect of experience, little automatic couldn’t-stop-it-if-you-wanted-to click of pattern recognition, then various kinds of repetition and use.  learning to speak “romanticist music” is a lot like learning to speak one’s first language if you let it be.  let it be.

and, ok, ok, ok … YES … color Liszt “romanticist” … 🙂  … and he’s fantastic! … i LOVE his 2nd hungarian rhapsody! …

War of the Romantics

From individuals back to “romanticsm” in general:  wikipedia:  “The War of the Romantics is a term used by music historians to describe the aesthetic schism among prominent musicians in the second half of the 19th century. Musical structure, the limits of chromatic harmony, and program music versus absolute music were the principal areas of contention. The opposing parties crystallized during the 1850s. The conservative circle, based in Berlin and Leipzig, centered around Johannes Brahms and Clara Schumann, and the Leipzig Conservatoire which had been founded by Felix Mendelssohn. Their opponents, the radical progressives in Weimar, were represented by Franz Liszt and the members of the so-called New German School (“Neudeutsche Schule”), and by Richard Wagner. The controversy was German and Central European in origin; musicians from FranceItaly, and Russia were only marginally involved. Composers from both sides looked back on Beethoven as their spiritual and artistic hero; the conservatives seeing him as an unsurpassable peak, the progressives as a new beginning in music.”

Romantic Music:  Associating Serious Music with a Subject was New

wikipedia, “romantic music” article:  “During the 1830s, Hector Berlioz‘s Symphonie Fantastique, which was presented with an extensive program text, caused many critics and academics to rise against the new music, in fact against Romanticism that had been a rising wave of artistic expression since the beginning of the century.

“Examples of music inspired by literary / artistic sources include Liszt’s Faust SymphonyDante Symphony, his symphonic poems and his Annees de PelerinageTchaikovsky’s Manfred SymphonyMahler’s First Symphony , the piano cycles of Robert Schumann and the tone poems of Richard StraussSchubert included material from his lieder in some of his extended works, and others, such as Liszt, transcribed opera arias and songs for solo instrumental performance.

Technology, the Instruments in the Orchestra, and Expressiveness

“Events and changes that happen in society such as ideas, attitudes, discoveries, inventions, and historical events always affect music. For example, the Industrial Revolution was in full effect by the late 18th century and early 19th century. This event had a very profound effect on music: there were major improvements in the mechanical valves, and keys that most woodwinds and brass instruments depend on. The new and innovative instruments could be played with more ease and they were more reliable[1]. The new instruments often had a bigger, fuller, better-tuned sound. Orchestras grew larger from the days of Beethoven onwards, and were on their way to professionalization.”

Music Moves to Middle Class

Ah, here’s another huge factor that changes the music.  music moves from controlled and consumed by an aristocratic elite to more like today, with more regular people enjoying it in public concerts and festivals.  wikipedia, romantic music article again:  “Another development that had an effect on music was the rise of the middle class. Composers before this period lived on the patronage of the aristocracy (Schmidt-Jones 3). Many times their audience was small, composed mostly of the upper class and individuals who were knowledgeable about music (Schmidt-Jones & Jones 2004, 3). The Romantic composers, on the other hand, often wrote for public concerts and festivals, with large audiences of paying customers, who had not necessarily had any music lessons (Schmidt-Jones & Jones 2004, 3). Composers of the Romantic Era, like Elgar, showed the world that there should be “no segregation of musical tastes” (Young 1967, 525) and that the “purpose was to write music that was to be heard” [2].”

Hector Berlioz

Next individual.  Berlioz.  Not only does Symphonie Fantastique come up first all the time for him, but the first page of hits all but one had the fifth movement.  ok, let’s see if, at some point, it sounds familiar or somehow really great to justify it being his signature symphony and movement.  ok.  pretty nice.  pretty peppy at the end.  i don’t think i recognize it, though.

Liszt and Saint-Saens

Back to Liszt.  I noticed he wrote music on theme of Faust and Dante.  But, while looking for them, I noticed one of the pieces we had at home growing up on “records.”  probably 33 rpm, but maybe 78.  anyway, we had a bunch, but the ones I liked a lot and remember were Scheherezade and Danse Macabre.  It turns out Danse Macabre is Liszt.  So there’s another Liszt I already knew, but didn’t know I knew!  Great!  Two issues here.  One is Scheherezade is Rimsky-Korskov.  Wonder if he’s “romanticist?”  Second is that most of the vids for Danse Macabre said, not just Liszt, but Saint-Saens and Liszt.  Wonder what’s up there?  Hearing some sort of unusual intervals in Danse Macabre.   Not surprised.  Macabre is like dance of the dead in the graveyard.  spooky!   As kids, we thought that was cool like a scary movie.  And there’s a recurring phrase:  (slowly descending) deh dehhhhhhhhh deh dehhhhhhhh deh dehhhhhhhhh deh dehhhhhhhhhh, (up then down) deh dehh(low) (up and down again) deh deh deh deh deh dehhhhh deh (up) deh 🙂 … what?  ok, smart ass.  you write it better … 😉 … Looks like the idea and performance of danse macabre had been around for a long time when saint saens wrote symphony with voice, then replaced voice with violin.  why did it come up liszt?  probably because i searched on liszt and it sounds like this vid is all piano.  so my record at home was saint saens played by some orchestra.  and this vid is saint saens, apparently arranged for piano alone, by liszt.  as mr hudson would say, cool.  or maybe it’s, as ms hilton would suggest, is hot.  cool or hot, i still like it a lot.  😉  i wonder what that dissonant pitch interval is that stands out as a spooky sound at minute 6:40 of 9:53.  oooooh.  i’m sure tony iommi is jumping over that baby.


And is Rimsky-Korsakov a romanticist musician?  Can’t tell yet.

wikipedia:  “Nikolai Andreyevich Rimsky-Korsakov (Russian: (1844 – 1908)”

the article speaks of him using the term, “classical”, but i don’t know how they’re using the term.  but they say scheherazade is based on a story and much of his work is based on fairy tales and folk subjects which is a characteristic of “romantic era”  music.  he lived at a time when he, like beethoven, could have been both, classical, then romantic.   we might also be reaching the limitations of our definitions of the terms.  big broad terms like “baroque” and “classical” and “romantic” in music — and like “age of exploration, middle ages, renaissance, industrial revolution, and cold war get created because they point to some very real theme within a complex situation, but the more you push any of them, the more you find youself in “gray areas” where it’s not “black” or “white” but a shade of “gray.”  and that’s ok.  if that’s what it is, we just take note that that’s what it is.  i know ben parr would agree. 😉

reading more on rimsky-korsakov.  so far, no clear statement he’s considered among “romanticist”, but, as the legal people often say, “the preponderance of the evidence” is on the “yes” side of the question.  his influences included … and the people he influenced included … also, he’s on this list .  so, yes.  i’m glad.  given the time when he lived and worked, but especially given scheherazade’s expressiveness on the emotional side — nevermind any technical assessment of expressiveness on the instrument side — i would have been a little confused if rimsky-korsakov hadn’t turned out to be one of the “romanticist” composers.


ok, liszt — with big music for Orpheus, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Goethe’s version of the legend of Faust, his piano version of Saint Saens version of the long tradition of performance interpretations of danse macabre — REALLY shows how “romanticist music”, though always more expressive than in the past, was sometimes also, maybe often, not just “pure music” but was written with some subject in mind.  This can be a story like Faust, a myth like Orpheus and Prometheus, an epic poem like Dante’s Divine Comedy.  Or it can also be historical scenarios, or landscapes, or landscape and action tone poems like Debussy’s Afternoon of the Faun.  Point is music with some subject, not just music.  Liszt is showing that very clearly.  Again, though, linking to subject matter is not always the case with ‘romantic music’.  beethoven’s early “romantic” stuff was blowing people away and setting a new revolutionary trend in expressiveness, but wasn’t based on any stories or other subject matter … just to review my big three of romantic music, it’s always expressiveness, often music with subject matter, and sometimes about romantic love) … now where was i in that sentence?  actually, the original sentence is gone now in all the revisions.  who cares … a lot of good points got made … the original sentence, as they say in golf, “tee-ed up” the good digressive points that followed … 🙂 …


someplace it said beethoven’s first symphony can be considered as ushering in the new style that came to be called, for some reason, “romantic.”  so that means all of the beethoven symphonies are in the “romanticist” vs. classicist part of his career.  let’s get some vids of his symphonies.  if #1 is said to be the one that started it all, may as well start with it.  i’m looking for expressiveness to compare later with his and other’s prior works’ lesser expressiveness. and i’m not looking for any tie to a novel, poem, particular landscape, myth, story, historical figure, or other subject matter.  it’s “romantic”, but, though ALL “romantic” is expressive, only much or most or almost all of it was tied to subject matter other than the pure natural music itself.  pdid on the job here.  🙂  little inside joke which are ok since the stats show just about nobody ever hits these pages anyway ;).

years ago, during one of the runs i took at what I loosely called, “classical music,” I played beethoven’s symphonies enough and studied the context around them enough (probably centered around will durant’s discussions of that was going on everywhere at the time in his story of civilization … except, not sure, because durant only lived long enough to do world history from creation of earth and dinosaurs through the last volume called, “the age of napolean.”  but there IS that story of beethoven becoming disenchanted with napolean and taking back the dedication to symphony, i think 3, eroica, so durant’s last volume probably does cover beethoven’s career.

anyway, what i recall is number one because it was first (knew nothing or, if durant mentioned it, i wasn’t yet in condition to notice and retain it, about symphony 1 being the announcement of a new style), number 3 because of the napolean eroica story and got familiar and liked its characteristic sound, number 5 for its famous dramatic intro BUH BUH BUH BUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH … ……..  BUH BUH BUH BUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH … 🙂 … hey, like i said, you can write the music down better, you go right ahead … 🙂 … and symphony 7 pastorale, and 9 for some reason.  interesting … my attention was on the odd-numbered symphonies … so, let’s take a walk down memory lane with them all … oops … correction, “pastoral” is number 6 … so much for odd numbers mnemonic … i liked pastorale a lot … just listened to it … i still really like it a lot …

wikipedia note on symphony 3: “Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat major (Op. 55), also known as the Eroica (Italian for “heroic”), is a landmark musical work marking the full arrival of the composer’s “middle-period,” a series of unprecedented large scale works of emotional depth and structural rigor.[1][2] The symphony is widely regarded as a mature expression of the classical style of the late eighteenth century that also exhibits defining features of the romantic style that would hold sway in the nineteenth century. The Third was begun immediately after the Second, completed in August 1804, and first performed April 7, 1805.”

one last beethoven item before we move on.  my friend, rg, learned to play piano.  he could play two pieces — beethoven’s fur elise and “tomorrow” from annie.  and he played them a LOT.  🙂 … so fur elise next.  that’s german for “for elise”, in other words, dedicated to his daughter.


ok, in the meantime, we’ve nailed down that russian composer, rimsky-korsakov, was, in fact, one of our romanticist composers.  he’s on the list of romanticists, was influence by and influenced romanticists, has subject matter with his music, writes VERY expressive music like the wonderful Scheherazade … my only trouble is all the discussion refers to him as classical or russian classical, so maybe he’s a little of both, and/or maybe experts sometimes revert to calling all serious orchestral stuff “classical” like we everyday folk, or something.  anyway, time for sheherezade.  with bolero, carmen, vivaldi’s four seasons, wagner’s ride of the valkyries, beethoven’s 3rd 5th and 6th … what else … some of la traviata and la boheme … oh nutcraker suite, blue danube, peter and the wolf … does all that john philip sousa and all that great marching band, patriotic, and military music count? sure.  and star wars, 1812 overture (fireworks music), william tell overture (the lone ranger), the sorceror’s apprentice … maybe a few more … anyway, scheherazade stands with those as among my favorites in “classical music” …  his “flight of the bumblebee” is cute for kids … of all ages …

Paul Dukas

Paul Dukas (1865–1935), French composer, known for his piece of program music The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

next paul dukas who wrote the sorceror’s apprentice, a symphonic poem based on goethe’s story poem.  this piece i know from being really young, like 3rd grade or before because it was in a mickey mouse disney movie, fantasia.

Arnold Schoenberg

Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951), Austrian composer, whose early works (e.g. “Verklarte Nacht“) are influenced by Mahler, but subsequently developed atonalism and serialism with such watershed works, such as “Moses und Aron

Who on the “Romantic Composer” List Have We Heard Of?

Gustav Mahler, Felix and Fanny (sister) Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert, Rossini (Barber of Seville), Guiliani (New York City mayor… wait … that’s a different Guiliani), Johann Strauss, Robert and Clara (wife) Schumann, Guiseppe Verdi, Richard Wagner,

Johann Strauss II (1825–1899), Austrian composer known as “The Waltz King”, composed The Blue Danube and opera Die Fledermaus,

Josef Strauss (1827–1870), Austrian composer,

Johannes Brahms (1833–1897), German composer, one of the leading musicians of the Romantic period, famous for his working under and of being compared to Beethoven, and his most influential works include the four symphoniesViolin Concerto in D major, two piano concertos, and Double Concerto for Violin and Cello in A minor, aside from his other orchestral works and numerous chamber music pieces and lieder,

Camille Saint-Saëns (1835–1921), French composer of The Carnival of the Animals and his Organ Symphony,

Georges Bizet (1838–1875), French composer of the opera Carmen,

Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881), Russian nationalist composer known for his intensely nationalist works including his opera Boris Godunov, and Pictures at an Exhibition, part ofRussian Five,

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893), Russian composer, known for his ballets (The NutcrackerSwan Lake), his operas (Eugene Onegin), the 1812 Overture, his First Piano Concerto, his Violin Concerto and his symphonies,

Antonín Dvořák (1841–1904), Czech composer, known for the “New World” Symphony,

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844–1908), Russian composer and member of The Five, best known for Flight of the Bumblebee from The Tale of Tsar Saltan,Scheherazade, and the Capriccio Espagnol,

Engelbert Humperdinck (1854–1921), German opera composer influenced by Richard Wagner, famous for Hänsel und Gretel,

John Philip Sousa (1854–1932), American composer, “The March King”,

Edward Elgar (1857–1934), English composer, wrote oratorioschamber musicconcerti and symphonies, most famous for his Enigma Variations and Pomp and Circumstance Marches,

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924), Italian opera composer known forLa bohèmeTosca, and Madama Butterfly,

Maurice Ravel (1875–1937), French composer, despite a limited number of compositions, famous for his virtuosic piano music such as “Gaspard de la nuit“, and orchestral showpieces most notably “Bolero“, his musical style strongly influenced by the Russian Five

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943), Russian composer, conductor and virtuoso pianist, wrote three symphonies, four piano concertosRhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and solo piano music

Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880), French opera and operetta composer, known for The Tales of Hoffmann and Orpheus in the Underworld

Richard Strauss (1864–1949), German composer, known for Also sprach Zarathustra (“Thus Spoke Zarathustra”), wrote many tone poemsoperas andlieder

“Romanticist Music” is Maybe Most of the Serious Artsy Music Most of Us Know?

Looking at that  list above of who IS on the list of “romantic composers,” realizing the ones I had heard of and picked are only a fraction of the people on the list, it occurs to me that “romanticist music” might be most of the music we usually speak of as, “classical music.”  If I try to think of it from the other direction — what do we know in serious music that’s not included in romanticist, that might help.  Keeping it obvious, even if silly, there’s ancient music, like ancient greece and rome and folk music all over the world.  But what about “baroque”?  I wonder what that is.  And “classical” in the 1730-1820 sense.  On the other side (coming after romantic), there’s the “atonal” and other modern music we learned about with Debussy and Schoenberg.  And how about Star Wars and other great modern movie music?  Strictly speaking, modern movie music can’t be “romantic era”, even if it shares characteristics, since it’s not during the 1815 to 1910 ‘romantic music time period.’  That’s the end of the Napoleanic era (Napolean’s defeat at Waterloo and his exile on St. Helena Island were in 1815) and a few years before the start of  World War I.  But does pretty much all new music, if it’s not wildly dissonant and atonal, have the characteristics of the music of the “romantic era”?  Probably.  In other words, did music pretty much become full-function, mature, and complete in the “romantic era”?  So a next step would be to get a sense for, on the one hand, what baroque and classical are and, on the other hand, what, apart from atonal and dissonant “modern” became, and how both of them are similar or different than that huge body of music that showed up between the end of napolean and world war I?

Who’s NOT on the List of Romantic Composers?

For one, Bela Bartok, which is interesting.  How is he classified?  Modern?  What about his contemporary and “full chromaticism” debating partner/opponent, Arnold Schoenberg?  Yes, he’s on the romantic list for his early pre-atonal years.  I’ll add him to the list above.  How about Mozart?  No.  Hayden won’t be there either since I’ve noticed him being mentioned as “classicist” and “old school” a few times.  Checking … right, no Hayden.  Bach? No, but romantics are mentioned as dealing with his prior work.  Prokofiev is not on the list.  He’s described as 20th century composer who mastered several genres.  Oh, here’s another:  Vivaldi as in one of my favs, the four seasons.  wiki says he’s baroque.   that’s a beautiful elegant magical piece, so baroque, though before romantic and even before classical (vivaldi lived 1678 – 1741), isn’t like backward or not expressive at all.  i’ll let vivaldi start a new playlist and discussion on baroque and classical to see if, other than timeframe, one can hear in the baroque and classical any clear lesser expressiveness than in romantic.  vivaldi’s so nice so my first impression is it might not be so easy to tell just from hearing them.  we’ll see.

Guessing about Classical vs Romantic Music

The more I look over this list of composers and music of the “romantic era”, the more I’m persuaded that most of the non-folk, non-pop, non-hiphop, non-r&b, non-rock, non-jazz, non-blues … what to call it, “serious music” or “art music” … or address it in pieces as “symphonic music” and “opera music” and “orchestra music” … that doesn’t cover debussy and chopin … “art music” helps … “serious music” doesn’t work too well because rockers, jazz, and folk and pop people are serious about their music … anyway, i’m not going to wait for a perfect term to show up … point is … most of the serious or art music we know and love is music of the romantic era.

And, I’m getting a little more clear about part of “classical” being different.  There’s “chamber music”, all that harpsichord music, music for string quartets, and such.  The comment about music in the romantic era moving outside to the middle class in festivals and concerts vs being in the homes of the wealthy elite starts to make sense.  As does the comment that in the romantic era (terrible name for the era, though … unfortunate choice … wonder why they chose that instead of the expressive era or expressionist era … ) that technology was advancing everywhere and trickling over into musical instruments making instruments easier to use, able to do more different things, at louder volumes and projection (there weren’t microphones and amplifiers for a long time yet), and more reliable which made larger groups like orchestras practical where only solo, duets, trios, quartets, quintets, and such made a lot of sense before.  writing for the conservative elite was probably a very narrow careful self-conscious process, worried that some benefactor or wife of benefactor would, for some reason, find the music “too common” or “too lower class” “too emotional” etc.  so it makes sense that as these factors came together — middle class audience, larger audiences, larger orchestras, more and better instruments, less narrow restrictions on form and sound, more emotion, more story, more picture, and less abstract, and less formal.

i think the boundary between “classical” and “romantic” has been drawn pretty nicely here in our discussion.


time for mr hudson and his pal … cool.  right.  check.


Note 1

This is only for those interested thinking about the explicit and implicit thinking we do when trying to decide which things to look at next when learning a new knowledge area.  Which sources to use, how, when, and in what combination and sequence.  I’m not saying I know anything wonderful about this.  Or that what I’ve done in the current instance is smart, best, or most efficient.  I’m just highlighting it as something not always to be taken for granted.  What is it we decide to do as a next step?  Why?  Interesting.  What follows is just stuff i cut out of the main body of the above discussion because it’s maybe not of interest to many people mainly interested in the music itself. But maybe some are also interested in the processes involved in self-directed learning.  Here’s the cut-and-paste:

By the way, the search method I’ve been using for the three Chopin pieces and now Liszt is put just the last name in the search box and then take the pieces as presented starting at the top.  I don’t know how youtube decides the order to present things when it only has one search word — maybe number of viewings, maybe most/least recent, smart would be number of “likes” and “favs” and viewings.  before i took that approach, i went to wikipedia for chopin thinking i might find famous pieces to pick first, but it just said he made only piano music and lots of it.  so far so good.  the three chopin pieces conveyed a style.  the liszt rhapsody was a good one to know by name.  update, the next day: that seemed to work out ok at first for chopin and liszt, but turned out to be still sort of scatter-shot.  ok for getting started quickly, but wasn’t satisfying for very long.  partly because the 2nd and 3rd Liszt youtube search video hits weren’t the more interesting part of the Liszt opus.  They gave me “liebenstraum” and a “consolation” instead of his Dante or Orpheus works.  I only leave this paragraph in and dwell on it a bit to illustrate that the logic, thinking, decisions, and sequence of searching around a large mass of info to find the most important themes and individual facts is part of the skill of exploring new knowledge areas.   there’s no single best and right way that always works to work a mass of information into its essence — its relatively few essential facts and forces (cause and effect relationships).  my view is that ANY way you start is good, because even all the “wrong” and “inefficient” ways give glimpses of some aspect of the area.  they’re All ok as long as you don’t stay stuck for a long time in something that’s not productive.  the computer disciplines of “search engines” and especially “data mining” get into this in a lot of depth.  we can know a lot about those fields just from staying aware of the next step we’re taking and noticing/verbalizing why were taking that step and not the hundred other steps we could also take at that moment.  in the case of creating a useful deluge of romantic era music:  after letting youtube search — because the wiki on chopin didn’t mention most important specific works — give me my first 3 chopin and first 3 liszt and 1st berlioz (it’s hard not to come up symphonie fantastique for berlioz no matter where or how you go), i noticed from somewhere else that Liszt had a major Dante and major Opheus and a (to me) familiar danse macabre piece youtube search had not given me.  not giving me danse macabre was ok, since that’s primarily saint-saens with liszt contributing only piano transcription of the symphony, but not getting the huge Divine Comedy and Orpheus symphonies early on the list said simple lastname youtube search wasn’t working.  that motivated going back to the wiki pages for “romantic music” to find individual composers.  this time, i noticed something i’d missed before — a link to an excellent LONG list of romantic composers that had a line or sometimes two or three about each with birth, death, nationality, role, sometimes influences, often works primarily famous for.  that lets me pick the ones i’ve heard of and use youtube search to find vids of the works they’re most famous for.

So that’s the one I should have started with IF I’d known about it or noticed it.  Fine.  But before I found that I found and learned other things as I was bouncing around in other sources.  I’m glad I found it, but I’m not unglad, not sad, and not feeling bad, that I didn’t find it first.  If I were starting again, I’d go right to it first.  But it’s ok that I did it the way I did it when I did it.  The alternative is to be self-critical to the point of losing motivation.  Self-critical in terms of realizing next time there is probably a list I should go to right away, is fine.  That’s continuous improvement.  This list will make me much more efficient now that I’ve found it.  But, if I’d waited to find it to get started, I might not have gotten started.  And the bouncing around was not only fun, but gave me a lot of other leads.  My point is:  it’s a good idea to be aware of whether search decisions are efficient or not, but it’s also a good idea, especially in the beginning of a study, to be gentle with oneself and to let one’s curiosity and suspense energy flow and build with other little discoveries on little sideroads related to the main path of inquiry.  Why mention these things?  Because keeping the fun in learning over a long period of time is, in part, not letting the valuable idea — heard from others or from within — of being “efficient”, “effective”, or “good at it” — cause frustration, self-criticism, or self-doubt and kill off all the fun.  Any step you take confirms intention, teaches something that seems useless at the moment but will show up as useful somehow later, and keeps the process moving merrily along.


How This Page Got Started

… and how a lot of it came together nicely lately on the subject of what in the world is “romanticist music” and how can composers and music as different as wagner, debussy, beethoven, brahms, liszt, saint saens, berlioz, and chopin all be considered to be included in the same genre?

dec 3, 2010 – This page started out as just a handy place to keep an increasing number of  links to a series of recent (during november 2010) music-oriented youtube video playlists.  The playlists had lists of videos, of course, but also little “thinking things through” and “figuring things out” essays in the playlist “description” sections.  The links were in the usual order for blog pages with the earlier ones at the bottom and the later ones at the top.

That was fine.  And then it seemed useful the other day and today to add “afterword” comments to two of them — the one about debussy and the one before that that touched on german romanticist music.  This was primarily because the last few playlist videos and little essays — along with the associated listening, googling, wikipedia checks, and thinking — had gotten me right to the edge of something that, for me, was pretty exciting.  Keeping in mind, of course, that I’m the kind of guy who finds reading dictionaries, telephone directories, and all the available footnotes to be great wonderful adventures.  Right.  Very boring.  Anyway, in struggling again with the specialized meaning of the terms, “romantic” and “romanticism” …

(“again” because i’d run into this before several times over the years in trying to get my arms around what was going in ideas, history, and experience during the progression of various “periods” in the visual arts, ie, impressionism, romanticism, neo-classicism, classicism,baroque, renaissance, medieval, ancient, pretty much in reverse order there, but, anyway, i got a lot of interesting stuff from the several chunks of time i allocated to that over the years, but didn’t quite nail it yet like i like to)

… but this time, reading the discussions of the elements of “romanticist music” …

(that i now, after a fair amount of wrestling with them, express concisely for myself as greater expressiveness always, links between music and other arts or subjects often, and doing that to express romantic love only sometimes, in a specific time period after the “classical” and before the “modern” time periods, involving a specific list of composers from several nations, and involving a specific “canon” or list of compositions, and effected by technical innovations in instruments and in methods of composition and play,  but, in total, mainly greater expressiveness)

… while listening to the VERY different examples of debussy, wagner, brahms, maybe also chopin, and beethoven, and noticing that part, but only part, but an important part, of the greater expressiveness in music was coming from innovations at the time in technology of the various instruments that we today take for granted (like those little valves that brass instruments use to change pitch/notes, but more in other instruments too), brought me to, well, to what i’ve been typing just now.

that’s it.  done.  that’s what romanticism in music was, is.

what i’ve just been typing is the result of typing first in the youtube playlist description essays through mt24, typing the afterword essays below, first the other day in the mt23 “debussy” afterword, and today (dec 3) in the mt22 “a bit of german romanticism” afterword, and now this.

done.  the idea of “romanticist music” handled.  finally.

understood in its essence in the way the music experts — the music historians, critics, students, performers, composers, conductors, writers, and music publishers — think and write and enjoy and take actions about it.

understood in a way that identifies and resolves the confusion created by the expert vs. everyday uses of the two terms, “romantic” and “classical.”  in expert use, the two terms are specific time periods, composers, compositions/music/canon, and characteristics.  in everyday use, “romantic” means “romantic love” and “classical music” means all of symphonic, chamber, and other non-pop non-jazz “serious” music from any time period or composer.

now, having gained that conceptual ground, that understanding, to enjoy it.  to take that understanding of what “romanticist music” is (and isn’t) and extend it to listening to more of wagner, brahms, debussy, and chopin and figure out who else and what other famous pieces are considered to be part of the “romanticist music” composer list and composition list (the so-called, “canon”).  and to enjoy clustering all of those sounds, people, and stories into experience and memory in ways that not only fit the way the experts think of them, but also have the opportunity to deepen understanding of why experts have come to think of them that way.

while i’m always willing to be critical of experts, the fact is that all experts become experts by noticing trends, characteristics, and categories of what’s observably and experientially true about the phenomena in some domain of experience.  sure, man-made artificial conceptual constructs get created for any of a number of practical reasons and purposes that overlap and contradict and, taken together, cause us, when we first approach an established knowledge area to find it bewildering and unhooked to something we can see, touch, hear, taste, feel, know, perceive, experience.  and then the experts that invent the concepts die off and the experts we find are those who learned the concepts maybe only by memorizing and reciting them them in impressive tones vs. by linking them clearly to common human experience.  so the challenge is always to address both the experience and the concepts and keep asking, why did they think/speak/write of it that way, in order to get closer to both what the past masters themselves experienced and to more and more and better and better of the opportunities that exist right now in and for our own direct experience.  not to mention the fun of playing with concept systems and becoming swordsmen and swordswomen with little clusters of well-anchored correct expert terminology.  😉

as mr hudson would say, “very cool.”


mt24 – – changing from ‘music theory’ to ‘musicology’.  romanticism again –

bits and pieces from the youtube description section:  “we started with diatonic modes. expanded into music theory, but that’s not big enough either. now it’s musicology, the study of music +++ making another run at romanticism. i’m now getting the impression that it’s main characteristic is that it’s more expressive. beethoven’s 1st symphony & 4th piano sonata show the new expressiveness in the early 1800s & influences a century of music. a decade after the new expressiveness is established, a secondary trend becomes clear that the new expressiveness in music will be used to express/evoke subjects from art, literature, nature, or history.  so romanticism is greater expressiveness, the associated new expressive musical techniques, a time period, a canon (a list of works experts agree are included). +++ more stuff. misc. it’s nice when the essence of a topic can be captured concisely. like blues often being minor pentatonic solos played on major chords. or a big part of jazz is that it’s got a lot of 7th chords. or schoenberg was, first, a german romantic in both the wagner & brahms styles, & later the main pioneer of atonal modernist music.  beethoven starts as classicist & becomes important romanticist.  debussy as impressionist romantic in early years & modernist in later. bartok folk music influenced innovation in greater & more flexible use of full chromatic scale for non-traditional harmonies. heavy metal rock using a lot of diatonic modes & tritone sounds +++ the bartok wiki page has bartok providing a few of these for other major composers +++ “Debussy’s great service to music was to reawaken among all musicians an awareness of harmony and its possibilities. In that, he was just as important as Beethoven, who revealed to us the possibilities of progressive form, or as Bach, who showed us the transcendent significance of counterpoint. Now, what I am always asking myself is this: is it possible to make a synthesis of these three great masters, a living synthesis that will be valid for our time?” – bela bartok +++ it’s said that beethoven’s 4th piano sonata & his 1st symphony made strong statements of expressiveness that clearly showed the difference that came to be called the change from classicism to romanticism +++”


music theory 23 – debussy: from romanticism to modernism –

afterword …

debussy impressionist or romanticist music?  i think both.

with monet’s gardens & haystacks, pissaro’s pointillism, renoir’s open-air dance halls, and van gogh’s works as my primary experience and definition of “impressionist art” (vs manet’s and toulouse-lautrec’s often more realistic images) …

i like both manet and toulouse-lautrec a lot.  for example, lunch on the grass and olympia by manet and all the night life dance hall work by t-l.  but, for a long time, i wondered why anybody would call those more realistic images, “impressionist”.  the answer is the impressionist artists didn’t call themselves, impressionists.  the term was coined by a journalist about one of monet’s seascape works that appealed to him.  the term was noticed, like, and used as a marketing convenience by the person who first promoted them all together in a few landmark (now historic) commercial art exhibitions in Paris).

… i find i very much like the term, “impressionist music”, for debussy’s music, especially for the softer less-dissonant early work, but, as i type this, i’m realizing the dissonances are also very much little “impressions”.  debussy didn’t like the term for him or even for some of the painters or paintings (which, as i’ve just discussed, i can understand).  but too bad, dear and very brilliant claude.  in my world, you get the very high praise of being very clearly french impressionistic in your musical masterpieces!

as to romanticism, as my understanding and definition of “romanticism” music shifts to emphasize the “greater expressiveness” element (that they all have) over the “tied to subject matter” element (that most of them have) and that over the “romantic love” element (that not all “romantic” works of art have), i think “romanticist” is also a VERY good term for debussy.

in my own personal developing musical lexicon/vocabulary, debussy would clearly be both french impressionist and romanticist.

debussy’s love life was pretty lively.  see wikipedia.

i think the narrative goes something like this: 9 yrs stormy girlfriend relationship (tailor’s daughter, gaby dupont) with singer (therese roger) for a while on the side (brief engagement with mlle roger), marries girlfriend’s friend (fashion model, lily texier), goes well for a while with all their friends, introduced to student’s socialite mom (bardac) who eventually leaves france with him for england due to scandal of lily very publicly shooting herself (unsuccessful suicide attempt) in the place de la concord in paris, bardac bears claude’s only child (a daughter) while he completes la mer, finalizing his divorce from lily, and composing children’s corner dedicated to his daughter.

i’m tempted to make another romanticism joke, like the one about brahms and somebody else huge (schumann?) being more than a little interested in the same woman in vienna … but things went from colorful to kind of rough, so i’ll pass on the joke

more debussy

symphony, la mer

1 – from dawn until noon on the sea –

2 – play of the waves –

3 – dialogue of the wind and sea –


music theory 22 – recap & a bit of german romanticism –

afterword …

why are liszt and debussy vids on this list?  franz liszt was hungarian and claude debussy was french.  what are they doing on a list that’s labelled, “recap and a bit of german romanticism”?  i’ll explain.  it will be a useful in several ways, including making progress in clarifying and remembering the very specific and non-intuitive meaning of the term, “romanticism,” when it’s applied to music by music experts … by musicologists … like you and me, right?

i put wagner and brahams vids on the list right away because they are famously the center of “german romanticist music” and famously the center of a huge debate over the nature and proper role of music.

i put a lot more brahms than wagner because i already knew a fair amount about wagner’s music and backstory and wanted to learn what was the essence of brahms.  while i’d heard of brahams A LOT, i knew nothing about him or his music.  i knew i’d probably heard a lot of his music since his name was so familiar, but i couldn’t name a single title, recognize any music as being his, or know how he fit into music, philosophical, cultural, or general history of the world.  wagner, on the other hand, i knew was this huge vigorous cultural spiritual intellectual who had a famous cultural center and festivals in bayreuthe in i think the bavarian part of what became germany, composed the vigorous “ride of the valkyries” symphonic piece of an equally vigorous suite, niebelungenleit, “the ring”, also composed huge vigor-oriented operas, and was, in some way, associated with the ideas of nietzsche.  of brahms, i knew nothing.

it’s useful to pause here to point out that i’m noticing that (1) knowing and remembering wagner was this kind of person and made this kind of music very helpful and (2) noticing he’s called a leader in “romantic” “romanticist” music, helps in clearing up the confusion i’ve been struggling with caused by the narrow specialized meaning of the words, “romantic” and “romanticist music” and “romanticism in the arts and music”, as used by experts in music and the arts vs. the meaning of the word, “romantic”, in our everyday modern life.  wagner (pronounced vahg-ner, by the way) being like he was makes it clear there’s maybe overlap, but a BIG difference in “romanticism” in music and “romantic” in the modern sense of the term which is, “romantic love.”  more on that in a moment.

so i just put one wagner vid on the list, my fav of his and one of my overall symphonic favs, the ride of the valkyries, again from wagner’s ring or niebelunenliet (or something like that … gesundheit, right?) which is some sort of mythical spiritual reference that was all a part of wagner’s human vigor worldview.  as i’m writing this, i’m wondering if wagner was the type to express vigor for all of humanity (probably) or if he, being german, was part of expressing vigor as part of supposedly being part of uniquely german (probably not).  it could be either way, though.  wagner was in the 1800s. don’t know if the supremecist germans who came a century later were simply using his ideas and influence or twisting and misusing them.  yet another issue to add to the list to look into someday.  was wagner not only a genius (yes), but also a good guy? (probably).  we’ll see.  oh wait.  wasn’t he the guy who … no, that was beethoven who famously named one of his symphonies, eroica, heroic, after napolean when napolean was furthering freedom and took back the dedication when napolean had himself crowned emperor.  for getting a concise understanding of “romanticism”, it’s also useful to note that beethoven is also called one of the masters of german romanticist music, having stared out “classicist” and become “romanticist” through using more expressiveness in his music.  more expressiveness is the main key to understanding the specialized meaning of “romantic” music.  and that’s because less expressiveness was used (a lot of it hadn’t been invented yet), allowed (to be considered serious music), or possible (technology changes in music instruments and methods) in the “classical” era.  “classical” is another specialized term used differently in musicology than we use it in everyday discussion.

… drafting …

when we hear, “romantic”, we think of “romantic love.”  romantic love is one of the things expressed in “romanticist” or “romantic” music, but that’s not what musicologists mean by the term.  (noticing i’m finally able to be clear in my thinking and in expressing about this point.)

… drafting …

… i added debussy because he’s considered another central figure in “romanticist music”, but in French romanticist music vs. German.  having some debussy here helps see the diversity of “romanticist music” in general, but also see the difference between french vs german, and — in wagner vs brahms — the differences within german, all of which beautifully makes the most important point about “romanticist period in music” that it was primarily about increased expressiveness compared to the prior historical music periods.  not any unique sound that one can say, “oh, that’s romanticist.”  it’s a lot of different and very expressive sounds by different composers from different places at around the same time period. as for debussy, the next youtube video list and discussion is all about the wonderful debussy, so enough about him for now.

… i don’t remember why i added liszt to the list … uh oh …  anyway, coming back to the liszt, no, the list, today, i was just now going to consider that as being a mistake and drop him from the list (so to speak … liszt/list … anyway), but wikipedia said he, though hungarian, was associated with a german-sounding movement, they didn’t say romanticist, but they did say he funded wagner … so more analysis needed to figure out how to list liszt … right … anyway … [ update:  adding this link for easy access to 2nd hungarian rhapsody vid that has text bio and is in the romantic era playlist ]the wikipedia on liszt indicates liszt was a very interesting man:

Franz Liszt (HungarianFerencz Liszt, in modern use Ferenc Liszt,[note 1] from 1859 to 1867 officially Franz Ritter von Liszt)[note 2](October 22, 1811 – July 31, 1886) was a 19th century Hungarian composervirtuoso pianist and teacher.

Liszt became renowned throughout Europe during the 19th century for his great skill as a performer. He was said by his contemporaries to have been the most technically advanced pianist of his age and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time.[1] He was also an important and influential composer, a notable piano teacher, a conductor who contributed significantly to the modern development of the art, and a benefactor to other composers and performers, notably Richard WagnerHector BerliozCamille Saint-SaënsEdvard Grieg and Alexander Borodin.

As a composer, Liszt was one of the most prominent representatives of the “Neudeutsche Schule” (“New German School”). He left behind an extensive and diverse body of work, in which he influenced his forward-looking contemporaries and anticipated some 20th-century ideas and trends. Some of his most notable contributions were the invention of the symphonic poem, developing the concept of thematic transformationas part of his experiments in musical form and making radical departures in harmony.[2]

so we’re leaving liszt on the list, for now.


music theory 21 – “the emancipation of dissonance” –

music theory 20 – atonal music – apparently, there’s a running gag in the serious music world re music w/ no key 🙂 –

music theory 19 – the “axis system” – ernő lendvai’s analysis of the music of béla bartók –

music theory 18 – béla bartók’s axis theory vs joe satriani’s pitch axis theory –

music theory 17 – broadening the discussion of diatonic modes to include all of it. all of music –

diatonic modes 16 – church music meets rock music –

diatonic modes 15 – tones, moods, chants, rituals, religions –

modes 14 – perspectives: great riffs vs theory –

modes 13 – back to tedious – for concept geeks only –

modes 12 – becoming even more instant expert on diatonic modes jamming on the piano – – adding left-hand chords 🙂

modes 11 – try this on any keyboard – – instant expert diatonic modes improv by anybody on any keyboard 🙂

modes 10 – can’t really avoid an interesting little stroll down seventh chord lane –

modes 9 – mining shiny little nuggets from the @andrewwassongold mines –

modes 8 – the “what” has been handled. next: the “when” & the “how” – – chords & chord progressions

modes 7- keeping conceptual stuff in perspective –

modes 6: mother nature vs mind of man, as applied to music – – musings, so to speak …

(modes 5) making progress on music “modes” –

(modes 4) house of the rising sun. great song in key of A minor. uses A minor chord a lot. wonder why “minor” is called “minor”?

(modes 3) still messing around with issues arising from question of wtf’s up with these “modes” guitarists talk about lately –

(modes 2) another look at those phrygging modes … um … phrygian modes … those phrygging phrygian (& other diatonic) modes –

(modes 1) first look at frigging “modes.” what? not frigging? phrygian? oh. ok. first look at phrygian & other modes. <> diddy “_


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