Tag Archives: music

Zimmer ~ Composer ABCs

You know this work of this composer – Hans Zimmer. Maybe you don’t know his name but if you have seen any number of movies since the 1980s, you’ve heard his work.

Zimmer is well known for his combination of electronic sound with traditional orchestral music. It is so well accepted that he has scored over 150 movies. These include The Lion KingCrimson TideGladiator, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Dark Knight TrilogyInceptionInterstellarDunkirk, and Blade Runner 2049.

Hans Zimmer is a German-born composer. He was born in 1957 in Frankfurt. According to Zimmer, “My formal training was two weeks of piano lessons. I was thrown out of eight schools. But I joined a band. I am self-taught. But I’ve always heard music in my head. And I’m a child of the 20th century; computers came in very handy.” [Zimmer, Hans (11 June 2013). “I am Hans Zimmer – Ask Me Anything!”. RedditArchived from the original on 4 November 2020. Retrieved 28 June 2017.] While a teenager, Zimmer moved to London and spent a good deal of time working with bands of different types and styles.

Zimmer moved to the United States where his success sky rocketed. His “break” was being asked to score Rain Man, which he did masterfully. From there, he went on to score a large body of work. His work in Hollywood and on Broadway is just phenomenal. It is next to impossible to note all of the productions he has worked on and all of the recognitions he has garnered. You can see his discography on the Hans Zimmer website.

You can read a good bit more on Hans Zimmer on the iMDb biography or Wickipedia. I have not found a really solid website for a biography for him apart from these two. There are a lot of interesting stories on Zimmer, including one about him adding a chainsaw to a piano for effect. True or not? Guess it depends on how much you trust Wickipedia. 🙂

Regardless, this composer, who just happens to be the head of music at Dreamworks (my girls love their work!), has a lot to offer the music work and has left a legacy of movie music that will always be admired. Add to that the work he did on experimental sound and adding different bits to instruments and you have a composer whose music will live on for quite a long time.

I hope you have enjoyed this series on composers and that you have found some new music to listen to. Perhaps it even challenged you to break into something you would never have tried otherwise. My husband’s mantra about new-to-you music is that you have to listen to it all the way through 3 or 4 times before you truly know whether you enjoy it or not. It is a good thing to consider with anything new, right?

Thank you for joining me on this musical journey.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya
V – Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos
W – Whitacre & Willson
X – Xenakis
Y – Yoshimatsu

Yoshimatsu ~ Composer ABCs

This was probably the hardest because I don’t know even a single one of the possibilities that I came up with. I have never heard of any of them. Well, except Dwight Yoakum but I don’t know if he fits the category of composer or not. I don’t know enough about him as I have never cared at all for country music. But maybe you do so you might know. Regardless, I have chosen to look very quickly at Takashi Yoshimatsu.

Yoshimatsu is a 20th century composer who grew up in Tokyo. He listened to a lot of rock and pop while growing up in the 1960s but was also quite taken with symphonies by classical composers such as Tchaikovsky and Beethoven. This is a pattern that will continue through his life, influence by both progressive pop and rock while simultaneously being influence by the classical world.

He has written in a variety of ways, experimenting with sound through atonal music, jazz, rock, Japanese traditional music, and more. One of his most commonly known pieces is a tribute to those who influenced it (the Beatles, Pink Floyd and Emerson, Lake & Palmer). This work for string music sounds interesting so I looked it up. It is titled Atom Hearts Club Suites. Below is a movement from the first one.

Yoshimatsu has written concertos for instruments that do not traditionally get solo pieces, including bassoon, cello, guitar, trombone, alto saxophone, soprano saxophone, marimba, chamber orchestra, traditional Japanese instruments, and two for piano (one for the left hand only and one for both hands). There are also a number of symphonies included his list of compositions. Among his other credits is the music for the 2003 remake of the anime series Astro Boy.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya
V – Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos
W – Whitacre & Willson
X – Xenakis

Featured Last Week for the Letter X:
– Every Bed of Roses chatted about X-Factor in Your Homeschool
– Our Homeschool Notebook showed a lego X is for Xylophone 
– Homeschooling Highway included a set of Homeschooling Tips: X

Xenakis ~ Composer ABCs

Scientific approaches to music do not tend to lend themselves to the comment of enjoyable or interesting but it certainly can be labeled interesting. This is the case with today’s composer – Iannis Xenakis. This 20th century composer has an architectural background and thus this influence on his music is very specific.

Xenakis was born in Eastern Europe to Greek parents. After his mother died (he was 5), he had a difficult childhood, resulting in being sent to Greece to attend boarding school. At this school, he participated in the choir and studied many composers. Learning notation and solfege (do, re mi, etc) was also included in his music education at this school. He moved to Athens and began university studies in 1938 but the ensuing wars cut his studies short. (The Greco-Italian War, WWI, and a civil war all took place within the next decade.) He became involved with a communist group, fighting street battles, and was severely injured, losing sight in one eye. He was sentenced to death but had his sentence commuted to 10 year and then finally, fully lifted in 1974 after yet another group took over leadership of the country.

In 1947, Xenakis fled to Paris illegally and remained there, eventually becoming a French citizen. When he reached Paris, he sought employment in an architecture agency. He was a talented architect and quickly rose from apprentice to working side-by-side with the owner of the agency, Le Corbusier. He designed many well-known buildings. This background bled into his music and composition.

He sought to learn many times and from many people but found it difficult to get instruction. He had quite unique ideas about music and finally found some encouragement from Messiaen. Xenakis’ music was methodical, mathematical, and rhythmic. It is considered minimalistic and I personally find it difficult to listen to. But, it is truly a scientific form of music as he applied formulas to composition to create some of his works.

One of his most recognized pieces is Anastenaria (1953–54): a triptych for choir and orchestra based on an ancient Dionysian ritual. The third part of the triptych, Metastaseis, is generally regarded as the composer’s first mature piece. It is often performed as a stand-alone piece.

Serialism in music, the use of musique concrète, or utilizing recorded sounds as raw musical material, applying mathematical formulae to composition, electronic music – these are all advanced 20th century composition techniques that Xenakis excelled at.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya
V – Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos
W – Whitacre & Willson

Featured Last Week for the Letter W:
– Every Bed of Roses chatted about Writing Cursive
– Our Homeschool Notebook showed a lego World
– Homeschooling Highway included a set of Homeschooling Tips: W

Whitacre & Willson ~ Composer ABCs

Today we are featuring more of what I consider band composers. Eric Whitacre and Meredith Willson. Both of these men wrote for more than band but since band is where I came to know them through playing their music, well, that is how they stuck for me.

Eric Whitacre composed for band due to what is called a fluke on his website. I found it interesting that he stumbled on a rehearsal, sat enthralled listening to it, and decided he had to write a piece for that group. According to what he said, he had never written for musical instruments at that point, only voice. He studied every instrument by talking to players of that instrument and asking asking all the questions he could – What is your favorite piece to play? What range are you most comfortable in? and more. The piece that came out of that is Ghost Train and one that I must have played right after it was released. A strange piece for certain but one that brings interest to the band world.

Deep Field is a piece that I find quite interesting. It is based on imagery from the Hubble Telescope and a film was created through collaboration with Whitacre, his Virtual Choir 5 which included 8,000 voices ages 4-87 from 120 different countries, producers Music Productions, scientists and visualizers from the Space Telescope Science Institute and multi award-winning artists 59 Productions. It is imagining the deepest reaches of space. The film created for the music shows some of Hubble’s amazing images, as well as never-before-shown fly-bys of galaxies. The images in the film are stunning and go beautifully with the music. There is even an app to be downloaded and cued by the conductor when this is played live.

Whitacre was born in Nevada in 1970 and studied at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. After graduation there, which is where his first compositions came to life, he studied at Juilliard School of Music, graduating with a Master of Music in 1997. His works are actually quite varied, though I initially knew only of his band music. He has written a large body of work for orchestra, choirs, film (including Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice), and more. He is a visiting conductor and a speaker. He has given TED talks. He is considered to be the pioneer of virtual choirs. (Virtual Choir 6: Sing Gently is below. It is a must listen.) And this is all for a composer who is still producing work. Keep your eye on this guy. His website has a list of all the compositions he has completed if you are looking for more to listen to and/or view.


Meredith Willson is going to be best known for writing The Music Man. Born in 1902 in Iowa, he has a long career as musician, composer, conductor, arranger, author, and radio personality. Shortly after high school, he was playing flute with John Philip Sousa’s band and later with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He toured and performed for a good while. His wife Rini also toured with him as a singer.

Willson wrote the script, lyrics, and music for the Broadway musical The Music Man. It was released in 1957 and played on Broadway for several years. It was then purchased for movie rights and found success on the big screen, also. The Music Man is a semi-autobiographical story of his Iowa boyhood. It includes many numbers that are well-known and the story is always a joy. (The song below is one that I often think of but I like all of the pieces. I had a hard time choosing which to post here. “Til There Was You” or “76 Trombones” or “Gary, Indiana” or others.)

Willson also wrote the book for The Unsinkable Molly Brown, another Broadway musical that was a solid success. Another of his musicals is Here’s Love but that one is not well-known.

Having spent a lot of time writing for radio, there are many, many popular songs that are credited to Willson. These include “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas,” “Till There Was You,” (a hit by the Beatles), and more. His body of work is interesting and includes campaign pieces (“Chicken Fat” was the theme song for President Kennedy’s youth fitness program) and school fight songs (University of Iowa and Iowa State Univeristy).

Willson died in 1984 in California.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya
V – Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos

Featured from last week the letter V…

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is W is for World
This week over at Every Bed of Roses the topic is Writing Cursive

Vaughan Williams and Villa-Lobos ~ Composer ABCs

Folk music plays an important part in the upbringing of most people and that is also true of composers. Both of the composers from today have a background highly influenced by the music of their lands and cultures.

Ralph Vaughan Williams was an English composer. He was born in Down Ampney in 1872 and died in 1958. His family history is aristocratic – his father was a prominent lawyer and his mother is from the family known for Wedgwood pottery. He is also a descendant of the Darwin family. He was taught piano and violin as a child. He was sent to Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated in both history and music. He continued musical study at Royal College where he became life-long friends with Gustav Holst.

Shortly after his marriage and a visit to Paris, he became very interested in folk song and spent a number of years collecting songs from the many small villages and towns around the country. While in Paris, he studied orchestration with Ravel and had his first piece performed – A Sea Symphony. He also was able to set his Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis in 1910. After WWI broke out, he served in the military for a bit and was able to put his musical skill to a bit of use. During the war, in 1914, he wrote London Symphony and a work for violin and orchestra, The Lark Ascending.

After the war, he returned to the Royal College of Music as a professor. He remained there until 1938. During this time, though he was often considered an athiest or a “Christian agnostic”, his musical ability and knowledge of folk music made him the key person to help edit a hymnal for the Church of England. He was diligent about this project and it was very successful and well accepted. He wrote many hymns for the book, utilized many folk themes and applied text to them, and used music from previous composers, including Tallis, Gibbons, and Holst.

One of the reasons Vaughan Williams is considered such a successful composer is because his music reflects his homeland. England’s music is well represented in his compositions. Melody is clear and flowing. Harmony is bright and lovely. Holding onto the history of the music, Vaughan Williams also caught the hearts of the listeners. There is a large body of work to choose from. There are symphonies, hymns, concertos (he even wrote a concerto for the bass tuba as a virtuoso instrument!), overtures, masses, fantasias, motets, film music, and more.

Heitor Villa-Lobos is a Brazilian composer. He was born in 1887 and died in 1959. Both events were in Rio de Janiero. His father hosted weekly musical get-togethers and from this was born Villa-Lobos’ love of music. He learned to play cello by age 6. He was highly influenced by Bach’s music. He also was able to travel the country with his family and fell in love with the folk music of his native land. When he returned to Rio de Janiero, he began to find and associate with musicians playing native folk music. He also learned to play the guitar.

He left home at 18 and traveled the country. He played the cello and the guitar to support himself. He began to compose also. He eventually returned to the city and began studying the European composers which had begun to influence him at an early age. He studied hard and this influence can be heard in his early compositions. His work was featured on a concert in 1915. His work was beginning to merge the traditional Western music with the rhythmic ethnicity of Brazilian music.

Traveling to Paris in the ealry 1920s brought Villa-Lobos to the epicenter of music. He brought with him a tremendous number of works (over 2000 are credited to him at this time) but his style and his voice were still developing. He continued to study and learn and write. He returned to Brazil in 1932 when he took charge of music education for the schools in the country. He continued to travel and listen and learn, never stopping the evolution of his music.

Villa-Lobos is known for his blending of traditional Brazilian music, particularly the melodies and rhythms, with Western tradition music. Bachianas brasileiras is probably his most well-known piece. It is a set of 9 piece for various instrumental and vocal combinations incorporate a contrapuntal technique in the manner of Bach which is applied to themes of Brazilian origin. He also wrote concertos, string quartet pieces, solo instrument pieces, symphonic poems, trios, quintets, symphonies, film music, and more.

Not mentioned in many of his biographies, Villa-Lobos also wrote a large body of work for guitar. The following is a long video (over an hour) of his guitar music.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky
U – Ustvolskaya

Featured from last week the letter U…

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is V is for Vacation
This week over at Every Bed of Roses the topic is Value Added Learning

Also be sure to visit others who ling up. You can the Blogging Through The Alphabet link up at Our Homeschool Notebook or Every Bed of Roses.

Ustvolskaya ~ Composer ABCs

I had to really search to find a composer for this week. As far as I can tell, we own nothing by any composer starting with U other than a couple of hymns in the songbook. But I don’t know those two songs and didn’t find them particularly interesting. So, I searched online and found Ustvolskaya in a couple of interesting lists. Taking a look and a listen at her music, I wouldn’t particularly search her music out but it does provide quite the contrast to much we have looked at.

Galina Ustvolskaya is a Russian composer who lived from 1919-2006. She studied music early in her life and was studying formally in the Rimsky-Korsakov Leningrad Conservatory when WWII struck. She was forced to put a hold on her studies but did come back to them in 1946. She studied composition. After her studies, she also taught at the same school for 30 years.

Her music is often called austere or stark, harsh or sharp. It is what I studied in 20th century music – abstract, difficult to follow, non-melodic (to my ear). She was accused of Formalism, which is a formal approach to music that leaves the listener apart or lost as far as following the music. It is considered quite abstract and this did not sit well with the audiences of the mid-1900s. She had to create more melodic pieces that audiences could better relate to. Her response was a tone poem Stepan Razin’s Dream.

In the 1950s Russia, music that didn’t fit the expected format or composers that didn’t conform often had a hard time getting their music to the stage. This was true for Ustvolskaya. Her works often spent years after completion on the shelf. Her name and her music became more known in the 1960s and 1970s. She was a sort of cult name in Moscos and Leningrad during the 1970s.

Ustvolskaya lived a quiet life in her hometown of Petrograd (now St. Petersburg). She rarely left and refused to leave Russia, even when prompted to do so. She considered her art, her music, as her voice and stuck to her ideals with it, seldom compromising her vision for her works. This definitely left her out of the public eye yet we have an interesting composer to explore today because of it.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius
T – Tavener & Tchaikovsky

Featured from last week the letter T…

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is LEGO ABCs: U is for Unicorn 
This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is Uniquitous Homeschooler

Tavener & Tchaikovsky ~ Composer ABCs

If you don’t recognize at least one of these, you have been in hiding, I do believe. Everyone, it seems, knows The Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky. Tavener may be a bit more unfamiliar to you, though he is a contemporary composer.

John Tavener is an English composer who was born in 1945. He writes music that is highly influenced by the spirituality of the Russian Orthodox Church. He studied music at the Royal Academy of Music, taking the world by storm with a cantata written in 1968 and titled The Whale. His music is quite original and fuses the peace and beauty of eastern influenced music (long chant passages, clear harmonic tranquility, a stillness to the music) with the more active spirit of western influenced music. Before his death in 2013, he wrote a large amount of choral music, with a fewer number of intrumental pieces. He wrote some music that was used in films but he was still mostly influenced by religious thought, practice, and liturgy. Likely his most famous piece is Song for Athene. It was written not for the goddess, as many suppose, but in memory of a family friend who died. He wrote it combining the text of Shakespeare’s Hamlet with the Orthodox funeral service. It was written in 1993, starting very quiet and ending a great deal louder to go from barely noticed to completely overtaking the listener’s attention. The piece is quiet beautiful so it is understandable that is was used during the funeral service of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. It became quite well known after that event.

Pytor Ilyich Tchaikovsky is a Russian composer whose music is known and loved around the world, though it would have come as a surprise to the composer himself and the critics of his time. Tchaikovsky lived from 1840 to 1893 and came to music after a short career as a law clerk. He did study at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, developing strong composition techniques. He developed a large output of music, much of which is largely unknown. His commonly acknowledged works include mostly his ballet scores. In the time of Tchaikovsky, writing for a ballet was considered akin to creating what we would likely call “elevator music” or “background music.” Tchaikovsky’s work, though elevated it to the point that it takes almost a starring role with the dancers and the story. This is hard to see, though, when we consider that his first ballets, including Swan Lake and The Nutcracker, were considered a disaster and the music a failure. As we now know, this was not a long-lived opinion and we are able to enjoy these ballets, as well as The Sleeping Beauty.

Tchaikovsky wrote a wide variety of music in addition to the ballets. This included symphonies, operas, suites, piano concertos, a violin concerto, overtures, cantatas, choral works, string quartets, a string sextet, and more than 100 songs and piano pieces. With this large a body of works, it seems strange that we don’t really know a whole lot more of his music. His deep, rich harmonies accompanying the soaring, proud melodies of his music call out to be known. Some say that one reason the critics disliked Tchaikovsky was that people would often leave the concert humming or whistling the melody and that made it not sophisticated enough. Consider listening to The Tempest (based on Shakespeare’s play), Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”), Symphony No. 3, Rococo Varioations or any of his other pieces. Don’t forget to look up his ballet scores, which I am not sharing here because they are quite common. Instead, we’ll look at a couple of other pieces of his that are wonderful to listen to.

1812 Overture was written as a patriotic showcase. It is written for public occasions and while it is not considered his “deepest” work, it is an enjoyable one.

Romeo and Juliet was based off of the Shakespeare play by the same name. It is even based in form on the play, resembling very closely a sonata form. It was originally written in 1870 but was revised several times. This pieces represents some of Tchaikovsky’s genius in that the music is a story, pushing the drama to the forefront of the orchestra’s sound. Even if you don’t recognize the title, you’ll recognize some of the themes, especially as the drama comes to a close (the last 5 minutes or so).

Marche Slave is another of his patriotic pieces that shows his ability to harness melody and harmony to bring about excitement and patriotism. The melodic themes from this piece are so memorable. Enjoy.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel
S – Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still, Smetana, Sibelius

Visit the hosts and the link up:
This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is T is for Tensegrity 
This week over at Every Bed of Roses the topic is Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie 

Featured from last week the letter P…

Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, Still ~ Composer ABCs

Once again, there are a lot of excellent composers who fit into the S category. I’m putting up Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, and Still. I’d also add Smetana and Sibelius. So, I’m going pretty generic in information this week. Or at least I’m going to try. 🙂

Camille Saint-Saëns is a French composer of the same era as Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms, Grieg, and Dvorak. One of the main ideas in play during their time was to use the cultural music of their country to inform their composition. Saint-Saëns continued in this yet was innovative in his approaches to it. He was a prolific composer as well as a gifted pianist and organist. He additionally did some conducting. Much of his work is influenced in some part by Liszt, including unity among the movements of a piece, developing in complexity and thematic transformation. This is brought to an exciting height in the Organ Symphony (Symphony No 3 in C Minor, Op. 78). This is an exciting piece, but you must listen all the way through to the finale. Don’t miss the thundering organ at the end. Another fabulous example of Saint-Saëns work is a tone poem titled Carnival of the Animals. These tone poems all work together and present 14 animals through sound. It is a brilliant work that I loved using when I taught elementary music. The students could often recognize the animal being represented by the sound with no help from me. They always enjoyed moving to the sounds also, trying to imitate the music and animal in their movement. The wit and wonder expressed in this composition is a joy.

Dmitri Shostakovich is a Russian composer who was greatly affected by the Russian revolution. He was a Soviet composer by his own description and desired for his music to show that heroic nature he saw in the revolution. After writing his First Symphony at 19, he was quickly noticed by international conductors. His writing became quickly appreciated and at only 21, he wrote October Symphony for the 10th anniversary of the revolution and it was simultaneously premiered in four Russian cities. During WWII, he wrote symphonies that fit the expected nationalistic style but as the war came to an end, he found an unusual “light and sunny mood” (his words) for his 9th symphony. Festive Overture is a favorite piece of mine for it broad style and is described as “socialist realism at its best.” This is because it showed strong, powerful melodies and was premiered for the 30th anniversary of the revolution.

William Grant Still (1895-1978) was an American composer whose works are numerous and broad in genre. He was born in born in Woodville, MS, but when his father died while he was quite young, his mother moved him to Little Rock, AR. He grew up there, greatly influenced by his surroundings, learning violin, listening to symphonies, and being immersed in his heritage. His mother wanted him to study medicine, and while he did enroll in those courses, he actually did more music than medicine. He was able to learn music through playing the oboe (eventually getting a job in a pit orchestra for Shuffle Along. He took lessons in composition from George Chadwick and Edgar Varese. He studied under W.C. Handy “the father of the blues.” His wide education in music allowed him to have a great understanding of a variety of music, writing for orchestra, band, voice, chamber ensembles, stage works (ballets and operas), screen works (for Columbia Pictures, movie scores such as “Stormy Weather”, music for “Gunsmoke” and “Perry Mason”), and piano works. Many of his piano pieces were composer for his wife Verna Arvey, who was a concert pianist. His Symphony No. 1 (Afro-American Symphony) grew in his mind over several years and stands as an important “first” in many ways. It was truly his first symphony. It was the first symphony by a black composer performed by a major American symphony. It was premiered by the Rochester Symphony in 1931 and the performed by the New York Philarharmonic in 1935 at Carnegie Hall. It was also later performed in Europe, another first for a black American composer. Regardless of these firsts, it is a lovely, important piece of music that is worth the listen. The four movements were given titles by the composer – Longings, Sorrows, Humor, and Aspirations.

Bedřich Smetana is a Czech composer whose heart shows through his music. He is often studied for his musical melodies that bring to life his home country and land. The Bohemia of his life is reflected in his music. He wrote much throughout his life. He worked to bring the folk songs and dances of his land into his music and wrote operas on Czech texts and subjects. One of his most famous works is Má vlast, completed in the last few years of his life. It was premiered in 1879. This set of 6 tone poems beautifully recalls “the Bohemia of old – its woods and cultivated plains, its villages, its romantic hills and old legends . . .” (Paul Stefan) It is quite ironic that these beautiful melodies were begun at the time he lost his hearing completely.

Jean Sibelius is a composer from Finland, at the time it was under the control of Tsarist Russia. There was little musical background in the country, no tradition or legacy to grab hold of. There was, however, a rich national mythology that influenced Sibelius in his tone poems and symphonies. These are a large portion of Sibelius’ output. His music represents the history of the mythology, in many cases. It is intended to bring about images and ideas, not to tell a story. This musical painting recalls nature, Finnish forests, seasons, weather. Unlike most composers, Sibelius did not compose from early on all the way through to his death. His last major pieces was composed more than 30 years prior to his death in 1957. Expect much emotion from the work of Sibelius. It is one of the reasons I am sharing it with you.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter
R – Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel

So I’m late getting the composer post up this week. It won’t be added to the link up but you can still visit the link and find other posts for the letter S.

The S post over at Our Homeschool Notebook is S is for Sea creatures 
The S post over at Every Bed of Roses is Science in your Homeschool

Other posts to visit –

Featured from last week the letter R…

Respighi, Rimsky-Korsakov, Rachmaninoff, Ravel ~ Composer ABCs

I had a number of excellent composers to choose from today, so I am going to highlight a couple of them, rather than go in depth on one or two.

Ottorino Respighi was born in 1879 in Bologna, Italy. His music reflects that national heritage, along with many of the places he visited during his creative career. He began as a violin performer and for several years, worked professionally. He struggled with whether to perform or to compose and tried to blend the two for several years. Eventually, he moved to composing. He was a deep believer in the lyricism of the Romantic style and this is very clear in his music.

Respighi studied in both Italy and in Russia, under another composer we’ll talk about shortly – Rimsky-Korsakov. His work was also influenced some by German composers and music. Additionally, the folk music he encountered during his travels often found its way into his writing.

Respighi is best known among brass players for The Pines of Rome. This is a wonderful piece that includes an antiphonal brass choir, which adds a lot of joy to the piece. Once again, this is a popular pieces that has been used in soundtracks and to accompany other pieces of video work. I believe it was included on one of the Fantasia recordings.

Other pieces that are commonly performed by Respighi include The Fountains of Rome, Brazilian Impressions, The Birds, Laud to the Nativity (a choral piece on the nativity from the shepherds persepctive), Suite in E Major, and a series of pieces titled Ancient Airs and Dances. These are truly just a few of his pieces so please do continue to enjoy much more of his music.

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov was born in Russia in 1844 in Tikhvin, east of St. Petersburg. His early life did not contain the expected music training. He was instead trained as a naval officer. It was after some time aboard a ship that he began his work composing, not even knowing chords. This is quite impressive as he learned much while writing his first symphony, with the help of Balakirev. Rimsky-Korsakov became well known and is one of the group known as The Mighty Handful or The Russian Five, sometimes just called The Five. This group includes Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, and Mussorgsky, also.

Rimsky-Korsakov is best know, probably for his piece Scheherazade. This tone picture is a symphonic piece and is performed often. It musically illustrates the characters from Arabian Night and show much influence from the Arabian culture and music.

Rimsky-Korsakov also wrote other pieces influence by culture, including Russian Easter Festival (Russian Orthdox liturgical themes), and Capriccio Espagnol. He also wrote a number of pieces for symphony, opera, choral music, and some church music later in his life. He was a teacher at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, which is now named for him. While teaching, he had many students who went on to become composers in their own right, including Mussorgsky and Stravinsky. It is said that due to Rimsky-Korsakov, we have the work of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

One last note of a well-known piece from Rimsky-Korsakov – this exceprt from the opera Tsar Sultan – The Flight of the Bumblebee. It was originally a symphonic piece but this excerpt is done on piano. I like watching the hands of the musician.

There are two more composers that I’m going to throw out there with a couple of pieces because I just can’t not introduce you to them.

Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943) is a Russian composer who escaped from the Revolution in 1917 to the world outside of Russia, never to return. He lived much of his life in Switzerland and the United States, settling in the US permanently in 1935. He toured as a pianist and composed and was recognized as gifted. He is likely best known for his Second Symphony. You might also recognize the theme of Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. It was featured in a couple of movies, including Somewhere In Time and Mr. Holland’s Opus.

Finally, let’s mention Maurice Ravel. Ravel was born in 1875. This French composer is considered one of the best in writing for instrumental virtuosity. He created beautiful melody with harmonic uniqueness. His writing is unparallelled in the musical world and it was noted quite early on in his career. He utilized music of the impressionist techniques and used color well in his music. His most famous piece is likely Bolero, which incorporated Spanish dance patterns into two melodies that were repeated over and over, unchanged throughout, with the changes of symphonic color being the driving force. Another of his well-known pieces is Pavane for a Deceased Infant, which actually was his first highly successful piece.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev
Q – Quilter

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

This Week over at Our Homeschool Notebook the topic is R is for Race Cars 
This Week over at Every Bed of Roses the topic is Read-A-Loud in your homeschool

Featured from last week the letter Q…

Quilter ~ Composer ABCs

I had to search hard for a Q composer. I found three but we are just going to look at one of those. The other two were difficult to find anything about. I found one small sampling of the keyboard music of Charles Quarles (see #11 sample on this site for his piece “A Lesson”) and nothing for Guglielmo Quarenghi. So we are going to look at a composer who is best known for his art song setting, a particular favorite writer for him to set pieces from was Shakespeare.

Roger Quilter was an English composer, born in 1877 and he died in 1953. Quilter was educated at Eaton and studied composition at Frankfort. His first successes came with voice and pianoforte settings of Shakespeare. These first success included the text from ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘As You Like It.’ He became well known for his lyrical writing of melody and the harmonizing that was unique and unusual. While Shakespeare was likely his favorite, he chose many other writers to include in his songs, from Elizabethan writers to Tennyson.

In addition to his songs, Quilter wrote some orchestral pieces, though not many. One of these is Three English Dances.

He also wrote some light operas, including his most well known one, Julia. Among his incidental music is ‘Where the Rainbow Ends,’ which was for a fairy play. Here is what Wikipedia says about this storyline:

Where the Rainbow Ends is a children’s play, originally written for Christmas 1911 by Clifford Mills and John Ramsey. The incidental music was composed by Roger Quilter.

Where the Rainbow Ends is a fantasy story which follows the journey of four children, two girls, two boys and a pet lion cub in search of their parents. Travelling on a magic carpet they face various dangers on their way to rescue their parents and are guarded and helped by Saint George. The rainbow story is a symbol of hope with its magic carpet of faith and its noble hero St. George of England in shining armour ready now, as in olden times, to fight and conquer the dragon of evil. Most of the story is set in ‘Rainbow Land’ complete with talking animals, mythical creatures and even a white witch.

Quilter has some interesting music and I found myself really enjoying this piece, Where The Rainbow Ends. It was fun for me to explore a few new composers and one that I am going to be adding to my collection sometime.

Blessings,
Lori, At Home.

Composer ABCs in this series:
A – Leroy Anderson
B – Bernstein, Bizet, Bax
C – Copland
D – Debussy and de Meij
E – Elgar
F – Fauré
G – Grainger and Ginastera
H – Holst
I – Ives
J – Joplin and Janacek
K – Kern
L – Liszt
M – Mussorgsky
N – Nelson
O – Offenbach
P – Palestrina and Prokofiev

Thank you for joining me this week for Composer ABCs. Please visit the hosts to find the linky and other participants.

Desiree @ Our Homeschool Notebook – This week is Q is for quit
Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses – This week is Q for Quintessentially Homeschool.

Featured from last week the letter P…

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