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.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Four Seasons on Accordion

Not so long ago YouTube welcomed another work in the row of videos viewed more than 100 million times since the moment of the upload. This time, it was not some scandalous footage or a pop song from Korea, nor was it any video filming a natural disaster or the details of some public figure’s private life. This time, it was a music video of a classical composition, one of the legendary masterpieces of all time – Antonio Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons”, the famous group of 4 concerti. And it’s amazing!

As someone commented below the video (it’s actually some visuals laid upon the Budapest recording of the concerts), – “faith in humanity restored!” I am so glad to realize that people do listen to classics extensively, not just in the limited groups but in a viral manner in the highly competitive sphere the digital world is. An even better piece of news is that the interest to classical music is gкowing not only in terms of listening and enjoying, but also as a warmed up desire to TRY it on one own. I am referring to both taking up some instrument (for beginners) and to experiment with the classics in form of music arrangements (for advancing musicians).

Vivaldi’s renowned work features the strings in all of the parts, and I wouldn’t imagine it otherwise. But the imagination of some musicians and the desire to try extends beyond the traditional style sometimes. If I played marimbas, for instance, I think I’d also dream of playing The Four Seasons on them :) I have found this absolutely amazing performance of the “Winter” on the, unexpectedly, accordion. It’s so emotional, so strong that I couldn’t but admire it and share with you.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Bach in a Visual Flow

I think that classical music has for years had an image of a very limited sphere of interest meant for and available to just a few (compared to the mass pop music culture, for example).

Excerpt from the music video Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier
However, with a certain approach and a bit of imagination, I’m sure it could become as popular as the Pop itself! Why are people so attracted to the mass culture? It has all the necessary attention-holding elements in it: bright imagery, colours and various contrasts. So why not present the same in a classical music ‘video’, for example?

Of course, the best of classics should be experienced and lived preferably live in a concert hall. But we are talking about the other side, about spreading its influence into the masses. Here is a perfect video example of turning classical music into an exciting visual adventure as well. One of Bach’s popular pieces Well-Tempered Clavier was sort of split into sections, each appearing on the screen in form of real-time notes-playing. The attraction, the brightness, the contrast and colours are all there. I watched the video a few times and caught myself thinking that even if I were much younger and not a classical musicians – I would still go for it!