It’s all about ME

July 27, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Some people get delightfully embarrassed if you sing a song about them. Think about the feeling you might get when your friends sing you “Happy Birthday”, or when that special someone sang “A Whole New World” to you at the karaoke bar.

And then there are those people who are so self-focused that they feel the need to constantly sing about themselves. This famous aria from Gioachino Rossini‘s The Barber of Seville is practically a love-song that Figaro sings to himself. Does he deserve all this praise? Well, he just might. Try singing along with him at 3:45 – just use the syllable “la”. Not so easy, eh? Not only does he need super-human tongue abilities, he needs to sound good and sing loud at the same time.

Ok, ok, you win – go ahead and sing about how awesome you are. You deserve it.

There’s really nothing weird about singing a song about how awesome you are. Modern-day popular examples include “Ice, Ice, Baby“, “What’s My Name“, “My Name Is” (it’s practically a rite of passage for a hip-hop artist to use a song to promote him/herself).

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The Viking Age continues

June 8, 2016 at 11:30 am

According to Wikipedia, the Viking Age began on June 8th, 793, which makes today the beginning of the 1224th year of the Viking Age. Still going strong.

I posted some Wagner yesterday, so it feels wrong to post Wagner again – but I just can’t help it. This aria is a love-song that a bad-ass Nord (who is also a dumb-ass) named Siegfried sings to a Viking’s most valuable possession – his sword. The little troll guy running around that Siegfried abuses is a horrid nuisance who also happens to be the sword’s creator.

This opera comes from a set of four operas by Wagner, known as the Ring Cycle, which tell a story from Norse mythology which bears great similarity to The Lord of the Rings. This epic opera cycle is so significant that you can hear its influence in the music of practically every medieval / fantasy movie ever made.

the video ends abruptly … Wagner arias are hard to contain into bite-sized chunks – I wrote about this yesterday.

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Morgenstern, Abendstern,

June 7, 2016 at 10:08 am

A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of playing the violin in an orchestra while a friend of mine sang this beautiful aria from Richard Wagner‘s opera, Tannhäuser. This was a joy to me for three reasons:

  1. The violin part was easy enough for me to play without noticeably screwing up.
  2. My friend’s rich bass-baritone voice was like rich gravy on a perfectly roasted Thanksgiving turkey. (I love to compare music to food, by the way.)
  3. Um, it’s WAGNER!

This famous aria is often used to introduce young musicians (singers and instrumentalists alike) to Wagner. Unlike earlier scene-and-aria operas, Wagner’s arias are difficult to extract from the action of the opera. In an 18th century opera, there are very clear beginnings and ends to pieces; by the mid-19th-century, composer like Wagner blurred those lines, which allowed the action and music to flow seamlessly from one scene to the next. So it’s rare to find a piece like “O du mein holder Abendstern” – a complete aria, with a clear beginning and end, with poetic words that can be taken out of the action and not lose its integrity.

Tannhäuser was one of Wagner’s early operas, but the sound of this aria really captures the essence of his musical legacy – at least, the softer side of it.

When I hear the word “Abendstern” (Evening Star), I can’t help but think of the brightness of its opposite, the “Morgenstern” (Morning Star.)

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