Tune on Tuesday
Celebrating all life on Earth and our place in nature - one species among many.
music for gypsy traveller history month
The gypsy traveller community have given so much to music, taking their very special sound and musicianship around the world not only in caravans but performing in some of the most famous concert halls in Capital cities around the world.
The melodies in this piece by Pablo de Sarasate 'Zigeunerweisen' are based on the tunes of Hungarian Gypsies. The violinist is Józef Lendvay. He was born in 1974 and is the son of famous Gypsy Violinist also called Józef 'Csócsi Lendvay. He studied at the Béla Bartók Conservatory in Budapest, Hungary. A Conservatory is the name for a special music school - it's like University but only for musicians.
In the clip Lendvay is playing at the BBC Proms, the biggest classical music festival in the world. Classical composers have drawn on or magpied tunes and melodies from folk tunes, including gypsy music, as inspiration for their classical work for orchestras. Some people like to put their music in boxes and choose only like one sort. But musicians and folk who really love music know that great music can be heard in all different types: folk (including Gypsy music), jazz, classical, pop, as well as the many musical traditions from all over the world.
A virtuoso is a musical word for a person who shows amazing talent and technical ability in the music. Józef Lendvay and his father are virtuosos of the violin. When someone is a virtuoso they make it look easy but behind the flair and apparent ease are many thousands of hours of practice. To make it look this easy takes a lot of self-discipline!
In Eastern Europe, Jewish and Gypsy musicians shared a travelling way of living and also a liking for Oriental music (oriental is another word for Eastern). One often saw Jews and Gypsies play in a same orchestra, to perform doinas or dancing music, especially at weddings.
Klezmer music is a unique sound and is a strange mix of jolly and more melancholy (sad) music. This piece is from Western Europe though, Barcelona. Spanish Flamenco and Portuguese Fado are types of folk or traditional music and they both have a sound a bit similar to Jewish and Gypsy klezmer music. Folk music is interesting. It belongs in particular places and folk musicians take pride in their unique heritage and identity. At the same time it also unites people from different countries, people who speak different languages and have different beliefs.
Gypsies came from the East of Europe. Like the Spanish and Portuguese, they are mostly Christian. Their music is similar to Jewish Klezmer that can be heard when Jewish people come together for weddings and celebrations. Celebrations bring people together and are important for all of us and are so much better with music. Music moves people of every religion, language, colour and continent. It show us beautifully that we are all similar in many more ways than we are different.
Happy listening! Ms S :-)
Summer Term 2021
carnival of the animals
Carnival of the Animals was written by French composer Saint-Saëns in 1886. It is a humerous (funny) piece and often performed in concerts for children. The original version was scored (written) for two pianos, two violins, viola, cello, double bass, flute (and piccolo), two clarinets (C and B♭), glass harmonica, and xylophone.
From the beginning, Saint-Saëns regarded the work as a piece of fun. On 9 February 1886, he wrote to his publishers confessing that he knew he should be working on his Third Symphony, but that this work was "such fun" ("... mais c'est si amusant!"). It has continued to amuse and delight audiences for over a hundred years.
This piece is played here by a bigger orchestra than Saint-Saëns wrote it for and it's conducted by American conductor Marin Allsop. It is only short and may benefit from more than one listening if you are to get the most from it. There are two parts: an introduction to the whole piece and also the Royal March of the Lion.
Why might Saint-Saëns have chosen to open his carnival with a Lion?
Can you hear where the introduction ends and the March of the Lion begins?
How does Saint-Saëns' music paint a sound picture of a lion? Do you think he does it well? Why?
This video shows the music score. This is what musicians read to play a piece of classical music. Can you follow it?
How well do you think Saint-Saëns captures the idea of hens, chickens and roosters? What instruments would you use? How fast or slow would your music be? Why?
Today's tunes are could not be more different in tempo. Listen to them both and work out what tempo means in music.
These animals are so fast there is just one instrument, racing ahead. Can you tell what it is? There is something you may not have noticed while listening to the piece that you see when worth noticing though when you watch it being played that you might not have noticed while listening.
Why did seeing the piece played help you notice something you might not have noticed by listening?
Does this make the music more like wild donkeys? How?
Do you think it's harder or easier to play? Why?
This starts with a musical joke. The tune is taken from another French piece that is played really fast. Imagine the Tortoises tune speeded up - do you know what tune it is? It's often thought of as the national dance of France. The joke Saint-Saëns makes is to use what is a very fast and energetic piece to paint a picture of a very slow animal. He does this by changing the speed the music is played; notes and tune don't change, they are just slowed down. Everyone in France would have known this dance at the time Carnival of the Animals was written so they would have got the joke straight away.
Look for the second instrument, the one that comes in after the pianist starts the piece. Do you know what is is called? It is too big to be a violin. Bigger instruments make lower notes; the bigger the instrument the lower the sound and the smaller the instrument the higher the sound. Why do you think Saint-Saëns chose the lower instruments for his piece depicting Tortoises?
The highness and lowness of a note is called the pitch. You can have a high C or low C, high A or low A - it's the same note, just higher or lower - a different pitch.
I have changed the titles to their French names as it is interesting to compare the two languages and Les Carnaval des Animaux is a French piece. There are two pieces from the same performance today, each with the verse Ogden Nash wrote to accompany Saint-Saëns' music. The poems are read by Roger Moore who your parents (more likely your grandparents) will remember as he played James Bond.
The piano and double bass feature in the L'Éléphant. Why do you think the composer wanted a double bass for an elephant? Can you think of another instrument you could use instead?
By the way, 'pourquois' means 'why' in French.
Why do you think Saint-Saëns chose two pianos for the Kangaroo tune? Do you think it works well? Pourquois?
Which instruments would you choose to make a sound picture of a Kangaroo? Pourquois?
This is a beautiful piece and possibly the most famous of all Saint-Saëns' pieces in the Carnival suite. It has been used for advertisements, on TV and in films. It is played by violins, viola, cello (string quartet), two pianos, flute, and glass harmonica. A glass harmonica? Qu'est-ce que c'est? It was invented in 1761 by Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. Click to see and hear a glass harmonica here. What makes the glass harmonica a good instrument to describe the Aquarium?
Have a listen. What animals make a sound like this?
Both Aquarium and Personages á longues orielles use violins. The violins in the two pieces make a different sound, they have a different timbre. Timbre is a word that describes how things sound different: a human voice, a trumpet, flute or cello can all sing or play the same tune but they sound quite different - that's timbre. Violins are a very versatile instrument and can sound very different as in these two pieces from Carnival.
Try listening with your eyes closed at first; you will all be able to hear the cuckoo but how many of you can hear what instrument the cuckoo sound is being played on? What about the other instrument? Close your eyes and picture the woods, what can you see, smell and feel. Can you hear anything other than the cuckoo?
An aviary is a large cage for keeping birds. There are two short recordings here so you can listen without seeing the instruments before seeing the orchestra play it. Can you hear what's playing? What do you think about Saint-Saëns' choice of instruments for this short piece?
We hope you are getting better at being instrument detectives - telling what instrument is playing without seeing it, from its sound.
Saint-Saëns' including pianists (people) in his Carnival of the Animals is humerous. The music gives the audience a view of what they would never usually see or hear - musicians practising their scales. Musicians can find scale practice tedious and frustrating. How is this shown in this performance? Of course we know that pianists, footballers, knitters and explorers - all people - are animals, a rather unusual species of ape called Homo Sapien.
Extinct animals were not missed our in Carnival. This music represents the bones and fossils of animals no longer with us but exhibited in museums. Do you the instruments chosen for bones was a good choice?
Written in 1972 and subtitled Concerto for Birds and Orchestra, it incorporates tape recordings of birdsong recorded near the Arctic Circle, and on the bogs of Liminka, in northern Finland. A concerto is a piece for a particular instrumental sound accompanied by an orchestra. In Cantus Arcticus the particular sound is not made by humankind but is provided by birds who live wild in the Arctic circle.
Can you tell which sounds are the birdsong and which are the instruments? Which instruments sound most like the birds?
Birds and humans are not the only animals who sing. We know whales and dolphins communicate through their songs. Environmental scientists think human pollution in the oceans and noise from machines like speedboats and oil rigs is getting in the way of some animals' communication, causing them to be unable to find their way in the dark undersea world where hearing can count for more than sight.
The arctic is warming at almost twice the rate of the rest of the planet. Much of the wildlife depend on the cold climate and sea ice and many are already critically endangered.
In the link above the music is accompanied by a kinetic painting. Kinetic is a word for energy and movement. All painters use kinetic energy to make their work and paintings move while they're being made. But with digital media, painters can make their work move for the audience so the work is never still and, like nature, always on the move. This is the first tune for Summer term, the term where we will be thinking a lot about nature and our part as just one species (humankind) among many.
Musicians might be interested in following the score or you can hear an orchestra play the concerto.