Cinco de Mayo

May 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

Cinco de Mayo is not the Mexican version of the Fourth of July, but rather a commemoration of a military victory. In the US, it is a day spent celebrating Mexican-American culture (not unlike how Irish-American culture is celebrated on St. Patrick’s Day).

Carlos Chávez is to Mexican Art Music as Aaron Copland is to American Art Music. Chávez’s Sinfonía India sets melodies of indigenous Mexican cultures to the exciting sound of a full symphony orchestra. Like Copland, the music is enjoyable to listen to, employs lots of different instrumental timbres, is harmonically and rhythmically accessible, and gives a taste of the culture from which it was born.


Labor Day

September 5, 2016 at 10:30 am

There’s a handful of pieces that would be good for Labor Day: there’s the musicians’ walkout of Haydn’s “Farewell” Symphony; there’s the joy of the workers in the Anvil Chorus; and of course there’s the Fanfare for the Common Man to cheer on the proletariat.

But I want something that really captures the down-and-dirty manual laborers of the early 20th century. The Plow that Broke the Plains was a 1936 short movie, sponsored by the US government, which linked the dust bowl to uncontrolled farming. While not specifically about the labor movement, the film does demonstrate how greed in high places can displace and destroy the workers in the low places. The score, by Virgil Thomson, incorporates hymns, American folk tunes, and cowboy melodies.


still working hard …

August 24, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Yesterday‘s anvil-themed post prompted a person’s comment which introduced me to a piece I’ve never heard before which also features the anvil. And since this week is a brutal one for me (running a 60-kid Choir Camp), I’m going to run with the hard work / anvil theme here!

Despite his very German name, Gustav Holst was very English (in his compositional style). And while his most famous piece is without a doubt The Planets, wind players know and love his suites for band. These, like many of his pieces, use or imitate English folk songs (which was all the rage while he was alive, thanks to Ralph Vaughan Williams).

This video is particularly magnificent because 1) the anvil-player’s (anvilist?) attire 2) the cinematographic zoom-in on the anvilist at the end 3) the awesome, blacksmith-inspired gaze of the anvilist.