well then …

November 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

I had two different pieces lined up for today, depending on the outcome of the election. I have to admit that I really didn’t expect to be playing this one. We humans are strange indeed. If you’re happy with the election results, congratulations. If you’re saddened, music can be healing. This short piece of incidental music by Edvard Grieg speaks directly to the sore heart. Like most of the other movements of his Peer Gynt suite, it uses a simple four-measure melody that repeats a lot. The simplicity is refreshing, though – sometimes you just don’t have the energy to get involved with a long musical narrative.

Remember that humans are capable of creating things of beauty.

(Aase is Peer Gynt‘s mother.)



1) write a four-measure phrase. 2) repeat.

October 27, 2016 at 1:51 pm

A couple years ago, I was teaching a class on Musical Form & Analysis. I gave my students an assignment to take a short piece and analyze the phrase structure. For most people, their analysis looked like “A, A’, B, A'” or “A, A, B, A, C, D, C, A, B, A”. And then there was that one cheeky student who analyzed Edvard Grieg‘s “In the Hall of the Mountain King” —

A, A, A’, A’, A, A”; A, A, A’, A’, A, A”; A, A, A”’, A”’, A, A”; coda (based on A)

A lot of hip-hop, dance, and techno music is just a two-measure phrase repeated ad nauseam. Well, Grieg’s famous spooky work isn’t much more than that. It’s a four-measure phrase, grouped into a six-phrase unit which is repeated three times, with a little ending. He does two things to keep us from banging our heads against the wall in boredom: 1) in each six-phrase unit, the middle two phrases begin on a different note 2) each successive phrase gets a little bit louder and faster.

The work is from a suite of incidental music Grieg wrote for the Norwegian satirical play Peer Gynt. It’s the closest thing to humor a Scandinavian has ever created.


Send in the Trolls

October 20, 2016 at 10:30 am

Of Europe’s 750 million people, Norway claims only 5. Norway is the sticks, the boondocks, the land of country bumpkins.

Joking aside, it is relatively small and remote. It was even more so a century ago, before cars and the internet made the earth a lot smaller. So when Norwegian hero Edvard Grieg wrote magnificent music, he put this small country on the maps and in the minds of the rest of the continent. His compositions are flavored with Norwegian legends and mythology – this is the land of giants, trolls, gnomes, swords, spears, and Vikings. One of my favorite Halloweentide pieces is his March of the Trolls, which comes from a series of short character pieces he wrote for piano.

This piece is in trio form – ABA. There’s an opening section in which you can hear the excited little trolls running around, followed by a middle section where the trolls sit around and relax a spell; the piece ends with an exact repeat of the first section.