crysania4: (Default)
Carlo Gesualdo was a late Renaissance era composer. I was introduced to his music as an undergraduate during my first music history class. I love all Renaissance era music and I think most people know that. I still remember my first introduction my freshman year (a work by Palestrina called Stabat Mater -- maybe I'll post about that one later). But then in class, I got to hear Gesualdo's music and I was totally fascinated by it.

Gesualdo was the Prince of Venosa. He didn't want to be the Prince of Venosa, but was so named when his older brother died. Gesualdo's one true passion was music. He had what he called a music mania. He also suffered from depression, which got increasingly worse throughout his life.

Gesualdo is most famous, perhaps, for something non-musical however. He got married in 1586 to a woman who was, apparently, quite beautiful. Two years after they got married, she began an affair with a Duke. She managed to keep it secret from Gesualdo for two years (there were some rumors that he was uninterested in the sexual side of the marriage, but was more interested in young boys). But he did find out. And in true operatic fashion, he told her he was going away on a hunting trip, had the locks changed so he could enter from the outside, and returned at night with three of his men. They found his wife in bed with her lover. And they killed them both. Gesualdo himself killed his wife. After she was dead, he left briefly but returned and, according to the men, said he didn't believe she was dead. And then stabbed her 28 more times. He then dragged their bodies down the stairs and left them there.

Being Prince, he was immune to prosecution, but not revenge, so he got the hell out of there and headed to his castle. Where, over several months, he chopped down the forest. One tree at a time.

And you wonder why I find him so fascinating?

At any rate, because he was a nobleman and had no one to answer to, his music was incredibly experimental for his time. The chord progressions used and his heavy dose of text painting (musically depicting the words) were not seen again until quite late in the 19th century. He's a fascinating figure and I love his music.

I still remember my philosophy class in college. My professor insisted that composers were not creative, were not unique, that they were all imitating each other. While this is obviously wrong in so many ways (if this were true, we'd still be writing Gregorian chant), I cited Gesualdo as a case of a composer far out of his time (one could also cite Berlioz and Ives, but I chose someone radically different from those around him) and dared him to think he sounded like Palestrina. I saw the professor over at the music school taking out some recordings. And he never brought the issue up again.

The text of Gesualdo's madrigals were believed to have been written by him and show the torment he was living in. Many of the texts deal with death, pain, and the not so happy side of love.

A couple examples of his music:

Moro Lasso, al mio duolo I play this one for my class. The English translation of the text is as follows:

I die, alas, in my suffering,
And she who could give me life,
Alas, kills me and will not help me.

O sorrowful fate,
She who could give me life,
Alas, gives me death.


---

Io tacerò, ma nel silenzio mio This particular version is the one used in the great video about Gesualdo's life called Gesualdo: Death in Five Voices. Highly recommended video! I play it for my class whenever I talk about him. The English translation of the text is as follows:

I shall be silent, but in my silence
Tears and sighs,
Will tell of my tortures.
But if it should happen that I should die,
Death himself will cry out again for me.


Happy stuff, eh? I hope, despite its depressing subject matter, you'll enjoy it!
crysania4: (Default)
For those who enjoy classical music, I promise to get back to that soon! But I keep finding new music in my searches for various things and get intrigued. Yesterday I was on a search for another recording of Herr Mannelig, the Swedish folk song I based a story I wrote around and came up with a recording by a group called Haggard.

Not knowing anything about this group, I went and downloaded the album. They're described as being "German Symphonic metal." Now, I'm not a metal fan by any means. I know a lot of people enjoy it, but it's never been something that struck a chord with me. Except in one specific instance: when it is combined with classical music, especially operatic singing. I have no idea why, but something about the pulsing rhythmic and darkness of the metal plus symphonic or operatic music is just really awesome to me. I don't often think that classical music combines that well with other genres (for instance, Classical versions of Irish traditional tunes simply sound trite), but with metal and other harder rock, it somehow just WORKS.

So anyway, back to Haggard. I'm listening to the album now and enjoying it. It's an interesting combination of opera, symphonic, and metal music.

A few things to listen to:

Herr Mannelig

The Observer -- This may be my favourite one so far, especially for the beginning because there's almost NOTHING better than Baroque metal. Seriously. I know Bach would probably roll over in his grave but I think it's seriously awesome.

I'm admittedly still not all that thrilled with the "death metal voices" but it's part of the style and I can deal with it.

Ok and if that's a little too hard for you, I'll write some more on a favourite classical composer or piece later on.
crysania4: (Default)
Today I'm listening to music by a group called Garmarna. I know, I should feel bad that I'm not introducing you folks to more classical music. I promise to remedy that sometime soon. But for some reason I was into listening to this group today and so I thought I'd write about them.

I was actually introduced to this group through a random search I did a couple years ago. I was teaching my Masterpieces of Music class and had decided to base the entire class around pieces of music that had made their way into popular music somehow. The basis for this idea began with Procul Harem's A Whiter Shade of Pale (which uses a bit of Bach's famous "Air on a G String" from his suite in D) and then Evanescence's use of Mozart's Lacrymosa (from his Requiem) in their song of the same name. And so I had a bit of a challenge set up: Who on earth had used something from the Middle Ages? A google search brought up an album called Hildegard von Bingen by this group. Hildegard, for those who don't know, was a 12th century Nun who wrote a great number of Gregorian chants for her convent. She's a pretty famous figure of Middle Ages classical music and so imagine my surprise when I found an entire album of Swedish folk rock based around her music!

I immediately bought the album and fell in love with it. The sound is unique and really quite interesting. Some time later, I went looking for a recording of an old Swedish ballad called Herr Mannelig, which I was going to base a Phantom of the Opera fanfic around, and imagine my surprise when I found the name Garmarna come up again. Today I decided to dig up some more albums by them and am enjoying listening to it.

Garmarna is a folk rock band from Sweden that was formed in 1990. I'm not sure they're still together. It appears their last album was the Hildegard one in 2001.

Here's the music video to Euchari from the Hildegard von Bingen album. This isn't exactly how it sounds on the album. I like it much better on the album, but it gives you a general idea. I tried to find the one I actually used in class, which is the second track on the album called Viridissima Virga, but with no luck.

Here's Herr Mannelig off their album Guds spelemän (The Fiddlers of God).

Enjoy!
crysania4: (Default)
I discovered the music of Einaudi through a sort of chance happening. I came across a video in a dog community that I found so amazing, so striking, so beautiful, that I watched it over and over again. Eventually, after seeing it several times, I started to focus on the music and came to wonder exactly who the composer was.

Well, as it turned out, many other people had asked. The work was entitled I Giorni and was by Italian composer Ludovico Einaudi.

I know I've mentioned him here before, but mostly in connection with that video. According to his website, his music has been alternately described as "minimalist, classical, ambient, contemporary and deeply touching, the welcome sound of stillness in a hectic world." I think all of these are fairly accurate in description. His music almost defies description. Or, perhaps to put it a better way, it could fit any number of descriptions.

Interestingly enough, he began his career as a truly classical composer, studying at the Milan Conservatory under such greats as Luciano Berio.

I think, after the horror of the recent Andrew Lloyd Webber music that I have spent the last few days focusing on, this is a welcome respite.

First I present the video that first brought his music to my attention. It contains all of piece called I Giorni off the album of the same name. I really do think this is one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. In a way it corresponds to my last post. THIS is why I love dogs so much.




And now for a few more of my favourites:

Uno

Divenire

In Principio
crysania4: (Default)
Today I'm listening to the music of E.S. Posthumus. I had never heard of this group (described, on wikipedia, as a group "that produces cinematic style music") until fairly recently. Someone in a classical music community posted the music as a sort of crossover. And I suppose it is. Added to a sort of classical-esque orchestral sound are drums and synths. It's a neat sound and I was glad that I tried it out.

The name, E.S. Posthumus, comes from two things. "E.S." stands for Environmental Sounds. Posthumus is apparently not Latin, but rather from a sort of mock-Latin, and means "ll things past".

I can't identify what it is I love so much about this music, but I think it's done really well. It might be that classical "crossover" works can often be simply trite. I find a lot of people trying to "improve" the music they're crossing over with (I get a sense of this a LOT when classical musicians play arrangements of Irish trad music -- it's cleaned up and "perfect," which goes very much against the spirit of it...it loses its wildness!). But in this case, they really do a wonderful blend of styles. Give it a listen and let me know what you think!

The group has three albums. Of those, I have two. A smattering of tracks are posted to youtube.

From Unearthed:

Antissa
Tikal

From Cartographer:

Nolitus

While searching on Youtube, I found an interesting remix of Nolitus. You can listen to that version here.
crysania4: (Default)
After a discussion with [livejournal.com profile] bellakara in her journal I've decided that I should start talking more about music and specifically about some works I'm listening to at the moment or ones I particularly love. My musical interest is somewhat varied, though most of what I like is Classical, Irish traditional, or New Age.

I thought I would kick this idea off with a favourite work of mine by a composer many haven't heard of. Let me tell you the story of how I came across this composer, because it's always been one I remember. Some composers I've always known about. I don't remember "discovering" Mozart or Beethoven or even Berlioz or Brahms. But I do remember discovering Lowell Liebermann.

It was over 10 years ago now. I was heading home to central New York from Terre Haute, Indiana with my good friend Jason. The trip is long...some 12 hours. When we got into New York state, I put on the classical music station and this piece I had never heard before was playing.

Words can't describe how instantly in love with this piece we both were. We missed the exit for the service plaza and had to turn around to get back to it (tradition, you see, says we MUST stop at the Angola service station and walk on the walkway above the Thruway and wait while the tractor trailers, or semis as some folks call them, come rushing under and shake the bridge). But more than that, we had to sit in the car and wait until we found out the name of the piece and composer. Sitting in the car, wasting time, on a 12 hour long trip, of which we were into the 9th hour of! This is how important it was that we find out who this composer was.

It obviously turned out to be Lowell Liebermann and the work was his Flute Concerto. I ran out immediately and bought two recordings of his music. And promptly fell even more in love with the Piccolo Concerto.

Lowell Liebermann, as I found out, was born in 1961. I have to admit that it thrilled me to hear such wonderful music written by a living composer! It's rare for a classical music station to play music by someone still alive. He began his career young, like so many others did, by debuting his first major work, the Piano Sonata, op. 1 at Carnegie Hall when he was only 15. He got three degrees from Julliard and has spent his time almost solely a composer in a world where few get to be "just" a composer.

The Concerto for Piccolo and Orchestra, op. 50 was composed in 1996 and was commissioned by the National Flute Association. Its first performance was August 18, 1996 and is dedicated to Jan Gippo, the piccolo player who premiered the work.

The entire work is up on youtube (with simply a blank background), though the second movement is split into two separate files. This is the recording I have, done by James Galway. The first movement is my favourite of the three, though I love the whole work.


Mvt. I

Mvt. II, part 1
Mvt. II, part 2

Mvt. III

The last is humorous. Can you identify the famous classical work he quotes?

December 2012

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