Countdown to Fireworks!

December 31, 2015 at 11:15 am

Many of the instruments in the orchestra were originally used in the battlefield as a way to quickly communicate over large distances. The shrill piccolo or brassy trumpet will cut through loud gunfire or swordfighting (think about why Yankee Doodle is played on a fife, or a trumpet playing “charge!”)

George Frederic Handel wrote his Music for the Royal Fireworks to accompany an outdoor performance of fireworks. He wisely used the modern descendants of battlefield instruments because of their ability to be heard outdoors while explosives were going off all around them. The score calls for nine trumpets, nine horns, three pairs of timpani, and no less than 24 oboes and 13 bassoons. Even by modern standards, that’s rock & roll; and, just like a rock concert, the first performances of the piece caused a three-hour traffic jam on London bridge, and a building was burned down. Seriously. Rock.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve! And here’s some early fireworks for you:

There are videos available with pictures of actual fireworks, but I chose this one because I like the high-speed performance.


As the year comes to a close …

December 30, 2015 at 10:30 am

… think about all the Giant Steps you during the earth’s last rotation around the sun.

The lore surrounding saxophonist John Coltrane is wild, almost as wild as his playing. He managed to cram eighty years of living into forty years of life. Some people find his music impossible to listen to; they can’t tell whether it is overly complex or completely random (however you think it sounds, the truth is that everything he did was carefully crafted and practiced). His music is now over 50 years old – so if it sounds normal to you, well, you have Coltrane to thank for that. Art Music is always progressing towards new territory – some people just get there faster.

Saint John Coltrane was canonized by the African Orthodox Church


Must the winter come so soon?

December 29, 2015 at 10:30 am

For the most part, the holidays are now over. Now comes the big let-down, as we begin to endure the long, cold winter with little respite.

American composer Samuel Barber won the Pulitzer Prize for his opera Vanessa. This aria, “Must the Winter Come so Soon?” is often used by voice teachers to introduce their students to modern American opera.