To fully appreciate something, it can be necessary to have the right vocabulary to describe it. Music for example can be a very emotional and abstract concept. Like art, it has a tendency to be very subjective. What one person deems as beautiful or a masterpiece, another person may think mediocre. To gain a greater appreciation for others' perspectives, sometimes it helps to step into their shoes or put on their glasses. Changing your view can change your appreciation.
The book 'What to Listen for in Music' by Aaron Copland may just be the pair of glasses you have been looking for. If you have ever wondered why some music sounds the way it does, or how a composer thinks, this book could open up some new knowledge for you.
Students, Friends, & Followers....I highly recommend you all check out the following group: ESME.
ESME stands for Eclectic String Music Ensemble. They are an amazing group. Gene Hahn on violin and Jeremy Crosmer on cello are two amazingly talented musicians and composers/arrangers. To my students, I highly recommend their CD. Be on the lookout for some of their educational opportunities as well. You can follow them on Facebook here: www.facebook.com/esmelivemusic
In a recent Q&A session via instagram, I asked my followers if they had any questions or thoughts for any new blog posts. I needed inspiration. A friend and co-worker thought it would be a great idea to add a 'Top 10 List' of violin pieces. I thought this was such a great idea!! So here goes....My Top 10 List of Violin Solos.
Theses pieces span from Baroque, to Classical, to Romantic, to Neo-Classical. They all feature the violin as a solo instrument. I recommend you listen to all of these, let me know of your thoughts. Students, what techniques do you hear these violinists and composers using in these pieces?
What I did with this top 10 list was choose pieces that resonate with my soul. Basically, when I listen to these pieces of music I feel something, I have an emotional connection.
I also picked different soloists for each of these 10 pieces. (Some of the soloists play multiple of these). Take a listen and maybe even try to search for one of the pieces played by a different violinist. For example, Joshua Bell plays 'Aprés un Reve', the Vivaldi 'Winter' piece, and Fauré Violin Sonata Mov. 1. Listen to the versions I chose, then go back and listen to his interpretations of the same pieces. This goes back to my previous blog, each soloist has their own take on a composition, completely unique. If you wanted, you could spend an entire lifetime perfecting or changing just this list of pieces.
LF's Top 10 Violin Solos
1) 'Aprés un Reve' by Gabriel Fauré, Violinist: Janine Jansen
2) 'Suite Populaire Espagnole II - Nana' by Manuel de Falla, Violinist: James Ehnes
3) 'Musica Universalis' by Alex Baranowski, Violinist: Daniel Hope
4) 'Chaconne' by J.S. Bach, Violinist: Christian Kim
5) 'The Four Seasons - III. L'inverno: Winter' by Antonio Vivaldi, Violinist: Itzhak Perlman
6) 'Violin Sonata No. 1 in A Major - I. Allegro Molto' by Gabriel Fauré, Violinist: Giora Schmidt
7) 'Violin Concerto in E minor Op. 64 Mov. III' by Felix Mendelssohn, Violinist: Hilary Hahn
*Starting at 21 minutes and 30 seconds
8) 'Chaconne' by Tomaso Antonio Vitali, Violinist: Sarah Chang
9) 'Ladies in Lavender' by Nigel Hess, Violinist: Joshua Bell
10) 'Caprice No. 24' by Nicolo Paganini, Violinist: Zia Hyunsu Shin
Hope you all enjoyed this!
P.S. Thanks for the great photo Ariel Vincent!!
Have you ever thought about the unique sounds found in nature? The leaves on the trees in the wind, crickets signaling the night, the waves crashing on the shore... There are over 10,000 different species of birds alone known today. More than 10,000! Can you imagine how many different bird songs and calls there are that you have never heard?
Have you also ever thought about the unique voices of every single person you have ever known? There are about 7.4 billion people on the planet today. Physiologically, most everyone has the same general makeup of vocal chords, throat, nose, mouth...but why do we all sound different? We have the same tools, but each and every single one of us is crafted just a bit differently. We are all unique.
When it comes to musicians and listening to different soloists, I think this comes out if you really pay close attention. Sure, there are thousands of violinists in the world. But, everyone has a different violin made of different wood, played with different emotions. Remember this. Remember how unique you are! Never think you are just another person, or that you are normal. No one is normal. Everyone is unique. Everyone plays a part in this world. Everyone has a different story to tell, different life experiences, different gifts and talents they can bring to create beauty and joy.
To my students, I challenge you to look up a piece of music you like, this can be any genre. But look it up and listen to maybe 5 different versions of it...a cover with different instruments, a different vocalist, the same musician playing it live for an audience vs. in a recording session, one with a vocalist, one without. Did you experience different emotions each time you listened to that same piece of music? What do you think after this experiment?
Recently I visited Paris, France & Rome, Italy. Enjoy some pictures of some of the street music I saw and heard.
The Baroque style is one of my favorite time periods in music as well as architecture (1580-1730 AD). It bridges the gap between the Renaissance and Classical Eras in music. Europe was in the midst of the Protestant Reformation during this time period. Therefore religious, political, and artistic climates were all dramatically changing in Europe as power, beliefs, and borders were shifting.
The word Baroque was initially a negative term for the music and time period. It came from the Portuguese word barroco meaning 'misshapen pearl'. Baroque artists focused more on curved lines, drama, and passion than before. The period was known for realism and dynamic ornamentation. Its aim was to be impressive and impact the senses.
The ornamented style, complexity of rhythms, and further development of harmonies from previous styles makes me really appreciate the technical skill of musicians and composers of this era. Much of the music was improvised over an underlying chord structure or basso continuo and the use of tonalities for certain pieces was starting to take root. It is interesting to think that much of this music was highly critiqued during its inception as being too ornate. Personally, this is one of the reasons I like it.
The violin itself was undergoing changes during this time period as well. During the Baroque Era, the Golden Age for the violin was commencing. The sizes, shapes, types of bows, and materials for strings looked somewhat different in early violins than what you may think of today. It was around 1550 when the violin appeared in its modern form.
In Cremona, Italy two renowned violin makers started to set the standard for the violin's size, shape, and overall structure. Nicolo Amati (1596-1684) and Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) were two of the most influential violin makers in Europe and by 1600 Cremona was the undisputed center for violin making.
The below linked video of a Mandolinist and Harpist shows some of the intricate technical abilities and ornamentation used in some of this music. Nicola Benedetti's recording of a Vivaldi Concerto showcases much of the violin's range and highlights of the style during this era.
The origin and definition of words can change over time and have differing meanings. The word orchestra is an example of this. Orchestra as I typically use the word refers to a group of musicians playing together. Below is Merriam-Webster's definition of the word and a bit of its history.
Origin and Etymology:
Latin, from Greek orchēstra, , from orcheisthai to dance; perhaps akin to Sanskrit ṛghāyati he trembles, he rages.
First Known Use: 1606
1a : the circular space used by the chorus in front of the proscenium in an ancient Greek theater
b : a corresponding semicircular space in a Roman theater used for seating important persons
2a : the space in front of the stage in a modern theater that is used by an orchestra
b : the forward section of seats on the main floor of a theaterc : the main floor of a theater
3 : a group of musicians including especially string players organized to perform ensemble music — compare band.
History of Orchestra
"In ancient Greek plays the chorus danced and sang in a space in front of the stage. The Greek name for this space was orchēstra, which came from the verb orcheisthai, “to dance.” The English word orchestra came from the Greek word for the space in front of a stage. At first the English word was used to refer to such a space but is now used to mean “the front part of the main floor.” In today's theaters a group of musicians often sits in the space in front of the stage. Such a group, too, came to be called an orchestra."
The power of sound on the body has been a topic of debate and discussion for centuries. In a recent study by Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson, participants who listened to a song -- "Weightless" -- experienced "a striking 65 percent reduction in ... overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates."
The below song "Weightless", by Marconi Union, was created in collaboration with sound therapists. "Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener's heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol."
Remember, sound literally moves the human body when the disturbances and waves hit your eardrum. I wonder what specific patterns and frequencies would affect people with not only stress, but illness? Learning the intricacies of these topics could lead to further medical proof for the importance of music and its power to heal. I wonder how many composers specifically create music with this in mind? What if a doctor prescribed a song instead of a pill? What if concerts were crafted for you based on your health that week?
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