Monday, November 21, 2016

A Psychedelic Orchestra

Sometimes even the most serious musicians are a little bit tired of being serious and way too responsible. Everyday rehearsals and lots, lots of work on themselves is tiresome and can make one need some way to release the accumulated stress. Symphonic music is a hard work so why not have fun from time to time?

I do love it when the industry monsters like BBC can make fun of the things that are considered to be a ‘serious matter’. So here’s a great thingy I found on the web that made me sincerely laugh aloud and praise BBC for the little fun post compilation. The called it "Orchestral Disturbance No 1 in E flat Major" and it really is something psychedelic yet very entertaining.

To very musically sensitive souls: don’t get mad at the creators, no feelings were intended to be hurt!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Recorder Is Back!

The instrument that has been neglected for dozens of years seems to cause a splash of interest among contemporary musicians. They say that fashion, be it clothing, music, art or even lifestyle in general, comes and goes in rounds, so the long-forgotten things are highly likely to come back to fashion one day. It seems to me that this is exactly what’s happening to the Recorder at the moment. We might be at the start of the 3rd wave of its popularity right now (1st – Renaissance, 2nd – 20th century).

Traditionally associated with the natural soothing sounds of singing birds, recorder has been known for its wide range of articulations. The effects that can be produced with the help of this unsophisticated musical stick are surprisingly diverse. Modern recorder music thus is quite varied too. Although it is still being widely used in educational purposes, being perfect for starting kids’ musical journey, the recorder has also become interesting to the alternative musicians for all sorts of experiments. I’ve found this adorable video (below) of a guy playing some mind-blowing beatbox on the seemingly classical-only recorder. I believe the true capabilities of this tiny shepherd’s instrument are only being discovered now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Hidden Music Illusions in Classical Music

Some composers were not only great in their music-writing abilities but even went beyond great in ‘having fun’ with some of their creations, already great.

Let’s look at Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 47. Besides being an outstanding and quite a complex composition in general, it has a specific menuet (“Minuetto al Roverso”) which is now called a palindrome. Haydn wrote it in such a way that the 2nd half of the piece is the mirror of the 1st one. It means that it sounds the same when played backwards:

Some other examples of palindrome can be found in works by Alban Berg, James Tenney, Béla Bartók, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern and others.

Another fun phenomenon can be seen in Bach’s collection of fugues and canons known as “The Musical Offering”. Today the term is known as ‘table canon’ and formally means that the music combines inversion with retrogression. But in practice, it’s explained easier: if two musicians are placed in front of each other and the music score is put on the table between them, they will be reading the same line in opposite directions and play the piece together. The same musical set by Bach also contains a ‘crab canon’ which is quite similar to the palindrome, where two lines are backward and complement each other.

Music Surrealism by Michael Cheval
And there’s also a ‘mirror canon’ (e.g. “Quaerendo invenietis” from the same set by Bach). Just like the table canon, it can be popularly explained with the help of the mirror: the sheet music is placed in front of a mirror, while the leading voice is played along its own inversion (the upside down reflection of the score).

I find it quite an exciting revelation of a composer’s genius, don’t you?

Do you know of more curious examples?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Going to a Concert: Things to Remember

Attending a concert of classical music might be a very exciting event, and if you are not a frequent concert-goer – especially. But even experienced concert-lovers might feel anxious every time before getting ready for a classical gig. It’s an overwhelming experience after all. I have come across a brief and clear guide on how to be a proper concert-goer and I though it’s a good thing to remind ourselves what should be remembered first of all in order to avoid embarrassment.

My own biggest problem is the uncontrollable urge to clap. I really can’t hold it back if the music is really good. But the rule is you can only clap before and after the performance. No intermission clapping.

Another problem is the health issues. I mean coughing or sneezing. If you caught a cold, I suggest you don’t go to the concert at all, don’t be an egoist. As for spontaneous coughs, better get some pills beforehand that would help you deal with the urges for a few hours.

And the biggest issue of the modern world – the inability to go without our mobile gadgets. Come on, guys, if you’ve chosen to come to enjoy such a unique experience as a classical concert is – enjoy it! Let your phones be forgotten at least for this time. Phones off, music on!

Well, some artists do not get disoriented so easily. Here’s how a pianist punished the disobedient listener for the unsilenced mobile phone:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

World's Largest Orchestra (7500 Musicians)

Every year people strive for new records, beating the previous ones or setting new heights. It is within our nature – the desire to compete, win and be called the best in something.

Music is just like all other spheres where records are regularly set, be it in the run for a title or just out of creative curiosity. The list of international music competitions is as diverse as it could possibly be and I would call it a good sign. Bela Bartok, however, would not agree, he used to say that "competitions are for horses, not artists". Whatever it is, I still find it great that people strive to make the most of their lives by reaching new peaks.

The summer of 2016 has been interesting in this regard. On July 9, 7500 classically trained musicians gathered at a football stadium in the German Frankfurt to achieve a new record. By some magic order, the crowd formed a professional orchestra and presented an impressive 45-minute performance. Some of the best pieces of symphonic music by composers like Beethoven, Dvořák, Miles, Webber were united in a beautiful medley under the baton of Wolf Kerschek.

In a regular-sized orchestra, you may have problems watching the conductor’s moves if you have a bad sight. Now imagine what it’s like for the guy in the last row of 7500 people do it? The organizers said it was the most challenging part of the thing. For everyone to start playing at once and not get lost in the middle of the performance, there was a huge screen installed at the stadium. With all of this work done, the guys now officially hold the world record for the biggest orchestra that ever performed.