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Here’s an original a’cappella version of Lana del Rey’s song, “Summertime Sadness.” I love her style! Hope you like my rendition of it! This was recorded at an Open Mic night at a coffee shop.

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I wrote this in April 2011 after going to see Don Giovanni at the Staatsoper when I was studying abroad in Vienna, Austria. Unfortunately, I was feeling ill in the middle of it and left early.

 

The final live musical performance I attended was Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Staatsoper. It was a bittersweet experience in that I will rarely have the opportunity to witness music and productions of the quality that I have seen in the United States without having to pay a very large sum of money.

Mozart always had the flare for the dramatic, and he truly brings it out in the opening overture to Don Giovanni. It certainly reflects the story of the wooer of women and the melodrama, comedy, and supernatural elements that ensue. The backdrop of the stage consists of a screen with a picture of the cityscape in black and white. The bumbling and swooping of the low instruments brings about the loping manservant of Don Giovanni, Leporello, that sings of how he is tired of keeping watch while his master seduces women. It is a great musical portrayal of the “opera buffa” elements, as the listener feels a sense of rustic buffoonery. I thought that Leporello had a nice strong and comedic presence onstage with a resonating deep voice. Then Donna Anna appears, chasing a masked Don Giovanni and demanding to know his identity. Her voice was a bit lackluster and not too impressive, but she was attractive. Don Giovanni was also very good-looking and had a deep, powerful voice. The Commendatore appeared to defend his daughter’s honor and is killed by Don Giovanni while Donna Anna seeks help. Her grief really shines through with the music when she returns with her fiancé Don Ottavio, finding her father dead. In my opinion, Don Ottavio had the weakest and most inexperienced voice out of the entire ensemble. It was very weak, especially in the high register. They swear revenge on the unidentified man as the music swells dramatically into the scene change.

The next scene looks almost like a tavern where we see a woman, Donna Elvira, cursing Don Giovanni for leaving her and scorning her love. Leporello and Don Giovanni enter and find her, Giovanni taking some time to try to woo her until he realized she was a past conquest. A group of women gather there to celebrate perhaps the wedding shower of Zerlina, a beautiful country girl, and Leporello takes the time to brag of the large number of Giovanni’s conquests. This is one of my favourite arias in the opera, and it certainly drew laughter from the crowd. Don Giovanni arrives and is instantly taken with Zerlina and is set upon making her one of the notches on his belt. He offers to host the wedding celebration at his own lavish house, and Masetto, Zerlina’s fiancé, becomes suspicious and jealous. Elvira re-enters and tries to persuade them not to follow through with it and reveals Don Giovanni’s true nature.

Donna Anna and Don Ottavio come to the abode of Don Giovanni in an attempt to ask his help in finding the murderer of her father without realizing that they are right in front of him. Again, I was thwarted with the lackluster quality in voices. Elvira once again enters to reveal the seducing nature of Don Giovanni, and after those two depart Donna Anna realizes and recognizes Giovanni as her father’s killer.

The next scene takes place at the ball at Giovanni’s estate. I really enjoyed the elaborate costuming, but some of them just made me laugh. Leporello looked like a giant, frilly clown, and poor Masetto appeared as if he was in some kind of feathery bird costume. Masetto hides in a closet of sorts, trying to catch Zerlina with Giovanni in a compromising position. Upon discovering him there, Giovanni leads Zerlina to her fiancé and leaves them together. Meanwhile a group of masked ballgoers (Donna Elvira, Donna Anna, and Don Ottavio) enter, hoping to catch Giovanni in foul play and are ushered in by Leporello. Leporello then distracts Masetto by dancing with him in an effort to distract him from Don Giovanni’s renewed pursuit of Zerlina. We are suddenly met with Zerlina’s cries for help as Giovanni tries to frame her distress on Leporello. The group of masked guests reveal themselves and exclaims how they know the truth. Guns are drawn as the music swells into a crescendo as the act ends in suspense.

I was unable to see the second act due to my feeling very ill throughout the first act. It distracted me somewhat from enjoying the performance fully, but I still wish that I could have experienced the entire production. It would have been great to see the dramatic conclusion of Don Giovanni being dragged down to Hell.

dongiovanni

 

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Heavenly Embrace

To celebrate the return of my singing voice, I recorded a video of an original song that I wrote back in 2010 for a Music Theory project. I went above and beyond the requirements, created a melody, and wrote lyrics for it. In fact, I think I already shared the lyrics with you all in the past. I was inspired by the first few chords from Howard Shore’s “Evenstar” from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.

My voice isn’t perfect yet, and my full range isn’t back, but I do love what I’m hearing so far! In two weeks, I will be at full vocal health and capabilities!

Out of the darkness

Into light

You took my hand and

Held me tight

Then all my fears they

Fled through the night

And you kissed the

Tears from my eyes

I felt a passion

Burning in my breast

All the way through me

In magnificence

Wrapped in your splendor

As we gazed into the night

It was if the stars fell from the

Sky

With your lips pressed

Softly on my cheek

You whispered lightly

Of your hopes and dreams

I smiled brightly

Beaming with light

As we drifted through thought

Space and time

My heart sang in joy

Beating all with your heart in time

We forever one

Always together

Never to part

Though we may be far away

In this moment we’ll forever

Stay

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Coming Soon

I’ve been thinking and getting this itch that’s getting stronger every day.

For the longest time, I’ve been writing so much poetry. Of course I won’t stop.
But now I have a burning desire to start writing music and melodies. I’ll need to start recording and printing off blank sheet music and putting the notes in my head to paper.

I want to make a Demo CD.

It will come soon! Within the year!
And now you readers might just hold me accountable for this.

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(I wrote this during my spring semester of university in 2010 for my Music History II class.)

 

The familiar musical work, Clair de Lune, creates a dreamlike and soothing atmosphere that has become one of the most treasured classical pieces of all time. It has thrived through the years and has been incorporated in film soundtracks such as Oceans Eleven and Atonement. The man behind the music, Claude Debussy (1862-1918) established a new style for himself, daring to be unique, and created ideas that would greatly influence many future well-known composers and musicians, for instance: Ravel, Boulez, Ives, Bartók, and American jazz and popular musicians. He composed many various works such as songs for voice, concertos, string quartets, chamber music, and orchestral works, but his true talent and virtuosity will always be remembered in his pieces for the piano.

History

            Achille-Claude Debussy was born on August 22, 1862 in Île-de-France, Saint-Germaine-en-Laye to a middle class family. Musical talent was not remarked in the other members of his family with backgrounds of craftsmen and farm workers. His sister described him as “a shy, sweet, undemonstrative child who watched others play, more than he played; moody and a little aloof, but not unfriendly…neither abnormal or spoiled.”[1] Over the years, he never went to school for a formal education. At the age of nine, he began taking piano lessons. His father was very strict with his expectations and would have him practice six to eight hours each day.[2] During that time, Madame Mauté de Fleurville, a formal pupil of Chopin, recognized his talent and offered to give him free lessons under her tutelage, nourishing and helping to further develop his excellence.[3] Her help was a great contributing factor in his acceptance into the Paris Conservatoire at age ten. It was there that he would spend the next eleven years of his life devoted to piano and composition. Even at this young age, he showed a high degree of musicality and interest in unusual chords, complex rhythms, and unexpected progressions of subtle harmonies.[4] Over the years, he was seen at the Conservatoire as an eccentric, even a “dangerous revolutionary” with his independent regard to traditional teachings.[5] Yet he did receive encouragement from professors with open minds willing to embrace different ideas. Throughout his training, he gradually became favorably recognized and awarded with several medals and honorable mentions for solfège and piano competitions.

Outside of the Conservatoire, Debussy worked with singing teacher Madame Moreau-Sainti as an accompanist in 1882 and then with the esteemed Société Concordia.[6] He composed everywhere that he went, by the piano and while walking, singing the phrases to himself until he was able to write them down.[7] After years of hard work, he was awarded the 1884 Prix de Rome, a highly prestigious honor, for L’Enfant Prodigue, a setting of a poem by Edouard Guinand. As time went on, he would give piano and voice lessons as well as continue to work as an accompanist to continue to earn funds. In 1901, he completed a set Pour le Piano which included Prélude, Sarabande, and Toccata. On January 11, 1902 the set was played and favorably accepted at the Société Nationale by Ricardo Viñes, later considered to be an accredited interpreter of Debussy.[8] The titles for his pieces usually had evocative titles like Estampes (1903)which included Pagodes, Soirée dans Grenade, and Jardins Sous la Pluie.

World War I broke out in 1914, which negatively impacted Debussy as an artist. He believed that he should abandon composing during this time of suffering and tragedy and would not touch his piano for weeks.[9] However, in honor of the gallantry of King Albert and his Belgian soldiers in their efforts, he composed a piece called Berceuse Héroïque (1914).[10] His health began to steadily deteriorate, and with a diagnosis of cancer, he underwent an operation in 1915. The treatments and medications did not relieve him from the pain, but despite his weakness, he had the courage and stamina to make public appearances and continue work. In 1916, he wrote that he had made up his mind to ignore his “tyrannical malady and would work in spite of everything; life was endurable only if [he] composed a great deal.”[11] Unfortunately, by 1917 he could barely work anymore. As the war raged on, France was in desperate need of military aid, being constantly bombarded by airships and long-distance guns during the German offensive. Debussy was in such a delicate condition that he could not be carried to shelter.[12] It was on March 25, 1918 that this talented composer and musician died, receiving only a small funeral but receiving many memorials and tributes in the future.

Style

            Claude Debussy was known as an impressionist. He valued symbolism and maintained a sense of detached observation in his music, not expressing deeply felt emotion or storylines as in the Romantic style.[13] Carraud wrote a critique in La Liberté describing Debussy as being:

…one of the most original artists of the day…being endowed with spontaneous originality, and whom it is difficult to connect with any of his predecessors…he knows how to combine harmonies and timbres in ever-changing ratios…today he seems to have attained to complete lucidity of thought and accuracy of expression.[14]

 

Debussy believed that musicians should not be hindered by theoretical rules, placing importance on independence and encouraging them to establish personal adaptations to suit the character of their creations.[15] His idea was that pianists should avoid all romantic affectations, not attempting melody emphasis, but letting it occur within its own prominence. They should not stress chords that establish the main themes but instead blend the patterns into one sound.[16] His chief instruction given to his students was to “play with more sensitiveness in the fingertips. Play chords as if the keys were being attracted to your fingertips and rose to you hand as to a magnet.”[17] He said:

I should like to see the creation—I, myself, shall achieve it—of a kind of music free from themes or motives, or formed on a single continuous theme, which nothing interrupts and which never returns upon itself. Then there will be a logical, compact, deductive development. There will not be, between two restatements of the same characteristic theme, a hasty and superfluous ‘filling in!’ The development will no longer be that amplification of material, that professional rhetoric which is the badge of excellent training, but it will be given a more universal and essential psychic conception.[18]

 

Motives need not necessarily be developed but can be repeated with small changes and different perspectives. Unresolved dissonances, parallel motion in sonorities, as well as diverse instrumental timbres are important to the content rather than simply adding embellishments.[19] He maintained a tonal focus yet the chords retained a sense of independence. The main goal was not resolution but to experience and enjoy the music as it came.[20] The music of Debussy paints a picture and evokes a certain mood, feeling, atmosphere, or scene. The normal syntax is disrupted as individual images drive the meaning and structure of the works through harmony, motives, instrumental timbres, exotic scales such as the whole-tone, octatonic, and pentatonic, juxtaposing them as the music progresses.[21] Tiersot wrote a critique in Ménestrel of the composer: “…his work gives evidence of a skill which is the result of deep and serious study. As regards to the general feeling, it is essentially original and highly modern.”[22] This set Debussy in a class of unique and intelligent musicians that sought out ways to embrace new concepts and formulate a style of their own.

Clair de Lune

            Clair de Lune is one of Claude Debussy’s most well-known pieces. It is originally a part of his Suite Bergamasque which also includes Prélude, Menuet, and Passepied. He made an effort to recapture the delicacy and elegance of the clavecin, using seconds and unexpected key juxtapositions to create a sense of harmonic freshness.[23] It evokes a very emotional feeling, and it is essential that it be played with a luscious tone kept floating with an overlapping legato pedal.[24] The delicate sonorities invoked while playing rise up into a transparent atmosphere, where they unite without merging and dissolve in iridescent mists.[25] The serene melancholy of the much sustained melody is surrounded by the moonlight atmosphere of the accompaniment by persistent patterns, modal coloring, and unexpected successions of accumulated intervals. It is even considered daring the way he blends the mobile harmonies that follow freely.[26] When describing this piece, one notices:

the airy flowering of arpeggios ascending the keyboard, leaping up like a fountain jet which scatters its water on the air then relapses into calm again in solemn tonic and dominant undulations, upon which the theme spreads out, ample, sonorous, and expressive.[27]

 

The music fills the listener with a peaceful tranquility that is very soothing to the ear. It almost brings forth a memory of a magical night experienced and summons a feeling of longing and desire flowing through in tides, hoping to recapture the moment once more. The compound meter in a slow yet expressive state maintains a dreamlike quality to the atmosphere. This piece has a quiet strength with complexity hidden in what seems to be a simple melody. As time passes, Clair de Lune continues to captivate and charm those who discover this masterpiece of Debussy.

Despite reservations about Claude Debussy and his innovative ideas initially as a composer, he became successful and admired throughout the world, influencing many.  It is through these risks and explorations of musicality that musical geniuses are found and honored. It can certainly be said that Debussy was truly un musicien français (a French musician).

 

claudedebussy

 

Bibliography

Burkholder, J. Peter, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca. A History of Western Music. 8 ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2010.

Debussy, Claude. Clair de lune: de la Suite bergamasque. Edited by Jean Jobert. Philadelphia: Elkan-Vogel Co., Inc, 1927.

Gatti, Guido M., Claude Debussy, and Frederick H. Martens. “The Piano Works of Claude Debussy.” The Musical Quarterly 7, no. 3 (jul. 1921): 418-460.

Thompson, Oscar. Debussy: Man and Artist. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1967.

Vallas, Léon. Claude Debussy: His Life and Works. Translated by Maire O’Brien and Grace O’Brien. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1973.


[1] Oscar Thompson, Debussy: Man and Artist (New York: Dover Publications Inc, 1967), 35.

[2] Léon Vallas, Claude Debussy: His Life and Works (New York: Dover Publications, Inc, 1973) 4.

[3] Vallas, 3-4.

[4] Ibid, 4.

[5] Ibid, 18.

[6] Thompson, 53-54.

[7] Ibid, 56.

[8] Ibid, 144-145.

[9] Ibid, 224-225.

[10] Ibid, 225.

[11] Ibid, 230.

[12] Vallas, 270.

[13] Peter J. Burkholder, Donald Jay Grout, and Claude V. Palisca, A History of Western Music (New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 2010) 790.

[14] Vallas, 118-119.

[15] Ibid, 148.

[16] Ibid, 157.

[17] Thompson, 251.

[18] Ibid, 103.

[19] Burkholder, 792.

[20] Ibid, 793.

[21] Ibid, 790, 792.

[22] Vallas, 80-81.

[23] Thompson, 256.

[24] Ibid, 256.

[25] Ibid, 251.

[26] Vallas, 74.

[27] Guido M. Gatti, “The Piano Works of Claude Debussy,” The Musical Quarterly 7, no.3 (London: Oxford University Press, 1921) 424.

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