Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing


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Haiku Wednesday: Chopin at Dusk

Dusk. As the light fades,
Birds sing their last song, and deer
Emerge from the woods.

A crescent moon peeks
Through the trees, gathers courage,
And rises boldly.

An open window.
Notes like fireflies twinkle
In the cool night air.

They dance for a while,
Then fade away, but surely
They’ll last forever.

You might be expecting a nocturne here.  But what inspired this was Chopin’s Andante Spianato.  Below is a performance by Daniil Trifonov.*  I also like the performance of Benjamin Grosvenor on his Dances album.  Both sublime.

Have a pleasant evening.

 

*Email subscribers, please click here to see the video on my webpage.

References

http://daniiltrifonov.com/

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Image attribution: Nightfall image via https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1324389, CC0, public domain.


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Free Public Domain Classical Music: Listening, Downloads, and Sheet Music

Creative Commons logo, circle with 2 Cs, as eyes with smile

Many generous musicians around the world are making their performances available so that more people can have access to and enjoy classical music. They are doing this through Creative Commons licensing of performances of materials in the public domain.

The rules governing what works are in the public domain vary from country to country (find your country in the list here).  Be sure that the offerings meet the public domain requirements of your country.  Don’t infringe copyright.  Don’t be that guy.1  Read more about classical music and copyright here.

Here are my latest discoveries.

Here is the opening paragraph of the https://www.hdclassicalmusic.com/ website:

Here at HDCLASSICALMUSIC.COM, we believe that classical music is the common heritage of humanity, and therefore everyone in the world should be able to enjoy it and use it for free. In order to achieve this, we are building the world’s largest and highest quality platform for releasing classical music under an open copyright license (public domain, creative commons, etc.).2

I can’t improve on that wording.  Here is the composers index, You can play the track online as well as download it.

They also offer playlists and a radio option.  You can also build your own CDs.  The quality is wonderful.  Listen here to a performance of “Mélodie” from Tchaikovsky’s Memory of  a Dear Place (Op. 42, 3rd Movement).

And then there’s MusOpen (https://musopen.org/)

Musopen is…focused on increasing access to music by creating free resources and educational materials.  We provide recordings, sheet music, and textbooks to the public for free, without copyright restrictions.  Put simply, our mission is to set music free.3

I found this entry for Bach’s Sonata No. 2 in D major (BWV 1028) featuring viola da gamba and harpsichord.  On this page, you can listen to the track, download the recording, and download the sheet music.

Here’s a comment about the Classic Cat website (http://www.classiccat.net)

Classic Cat is a great website available for downloading thousands of free classical music downloads that are completely legal for you to download and keep.4

You must use caution when exploring the Classic Cat website.  There are many ads.  Be sure to use the tiny red download buttons to get to the music you want. When you click on them, you will be taken to another website where you can hear and/or download tracks.  No downloads were automatic.  For example, if you click on Tomaso Albinoni on the composers list, you’ll be taken to a works page where you’ll see  the Sonata in C major, underlined, in a blue font.  Clicking that takes you to another page.  The tiny red button that you will then find midpage will take you to the website of the performers, the Corale San Gaudenzio, where you can hear and download a large number of tracks of various works, including Albinoni’s.  In exploring the Classic Cat site, this was a typical series of steps, leading to fine performers who have made a lot of tracks available.  It would be hard to track down all these folks independently, so Classic Cat has provided a great roundup.  A lot of steps (tread carefully), but rewarding.

And let’s not forget Wikipedia.  You may have noticed that an entry for a composer might have a link to a sound file so you can hear a representative piece of music.  There is a master list.  Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Sound/list and you’ll find links to alphabetical index pages where you can find the composer and the pieces that are available for that composer.  You can play or download the files.

Piano fans:  Lisztonian.com provides free recordings that the performer has made available for you to listen to online or download, as well as links to download the sheet music.  Here’s the composers list.

Also, see the bottom of this recent post for a list of Bach freebies.

Happy music hunting!

References

  1. Catapulting into Classical Terms of Use Page.
  2. http://www.hdclassicalmusic.com/
  3. http://musopen.org/
  4. https://www.thebalance.com/download-free-classical-music-at-classic-cat-1358019


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Haiku Wednesday:  Short Ride in a Time Machine

First of all, they crawl.
Then hold your hand and toddle.
You let go.  “Go! Go!”

Training wheels off, they
Teeter on their bike until
You let go. “Go! Go!”

You sit next to them.
They take the wheel, learn to drive:
“Light’s green now—go, go!”

Then one day they stride
License in hand to their car.
Their stuff is all packed.
And then as you watch
The red lights leave the driveway,
You let go.  “Go! Go!”

 

Today’s music is John Adams’s Short Ride in a Fast MachineYou can hear John Adams tell the story of the origin of the piece here.  He says, “You know how it is when someone asks you to ride in a terrific sports car, and then you wish you hadn’t?”

Sometimes in life you do things that are exciting, and somewhat terrifying, and you’re extraordinarily glad you did.


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New Digital Audio Guide Page on Streaming and CD, LP Conversion

Stick figure confused by music note comprised of ones and zeroes

Now available in the Digital Audio Guide tab is Drinking from the Firehose: Giant Music Libraries at Home and Online.  This page will give you background information on what’s involved in turning your physical musical media (CDs and LPs) into audio files on your computer.  It will also provide a quick overview of on-demand streaming services.  I hope you’ll check it out.

Speaking of streaming services, Primephonic has inaugurated its new streaming service specializing in classical music.  You can stream in MP3 or FLAC format.  They are offering a 30-day free trial.  Here is the link for the signup.


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Haiku Wednesday:  An Unexpected Jazz Suite

Dmitri Shostakovich with dark glasses

Tapping my toes to
Some lively jazzy music
Really makes my day.
So who wrote this piece?
Dmitri Shostakovich.
Wait…what?!  Believe it!

I was streaming some classical music, probably Bach, and all of a sudden, I realized I was listening to some jazz-like music, probably 1930s vintage, judging from the sound of it.  What was this?  Shostakovich Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1.  What?!  And then the Hawaiian guitar came in.  Mind blown.

Better known for his symphonies and film music (and operas), Dmitri Shostakovich also wrote two jazz suites.  The first was written in 1934, and the second in 1938 for the Soviet Union’s new State Jazz Orchestra.  Each of the suites has three movements.  The first has a waltz, polka, and foxtrot; the second a scherzo, lullaby, and serenade.

Here you can see a performance of Shostakovich’s Suite for Jazz Orchestra No. 1.

The score of the second suite was lost during the Second World War, but a piano score was found in 1999.  An orchestral arrangement was created, and you can see Suite No. 2 performed here.

Prior to the rediscovery of the piano score, Shostakovich’s Suite for Variety Orchestra was mistakenly believed to be Jazz Suite No. 2.  You can see the Suite for Variety Orchestra here.

References

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suite_for_Jazz_Orchestra_No._1_(Shostakovich)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suite_for_Jazz_Orchestra_No._2_(Shostakovich)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suite_for_Variety_Orchestra_(Shostakovich)

http://www.classicfm.com/composers/shostakovich/music/jazz-suites/

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Image attribution: Dmitri Shostakovich in the audience at the Bach Celebration of July 28, 1950. Photo by Roger & Renate Rössing, retouched, Deutsche Fotothek (By Fotothek_df_roe-neg_0002792_002_Portrait_Dmitri_Dmitrijewitsch_Schostakowitchs_im_Publikum_der_Bachfeier.jpg: Roger & Renate Rössing, credit Deutsche Fotothek. derivative work: Improvist [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons).  Lenses modified by C. Gallant.


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Sing for Your Supper:  Renaissance Notation Knives

Renaissance Notation Knife, about 1550

Renaissance Notation Knife, about 1550. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

A slice of life from Renaissance Italy has been preserved in the form of knives with musical notation.  These rare knives, dating from about 1550, can be found in the collections of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and in a few other locations.  For a detailed picture of a complete set, see this article from the WQXR blog.

Each knife contains the vocal line for one male voice (superius, contratenor, tenor, bassus).  One side of the blade displays a benediction, and the other, grace to be sung at the table.  You can hear (and download) recordings of the beautiful polyphonic music on the knives from this webpage of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

If you’re thinking, “they don’t make things like that anymore,”

Plastic Notation Knife

you’re almost right.  One artisan has created a beautiful modern reproduction that you can see at the link.

References

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/a-notation-knife/

http://www.wqxr.org/story/listen-these-knives-can-carry-tune/

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Image attribution:  Renaissance notation knife, Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/a/a-notation-knife/

Modern clear plastic notation knife, C. Gallant, 2017.


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It’s Been a Wonderful Future: Accidental Time Travel with Bach

Recursive clocks in a snail-shell pattern. Photo Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5 by CityGypsy11

Photo: Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5 by CityGypsy11 (Flickr.com/Creative Commons).

I did some unintentional time travelling yesterday.

I was testing out a new audio cable, and decided to connect it to my audio receiver.

On a whim, I decided to try it with an LP. I randomly grabbed a record from a section of the shelf I knew would yield some favorite, and put on my headphones.

As the needle settled into the groove, I settled into my armchair.  The sound was fine.  In fact, it was superb.

I had picked out an album of Bach organ works that I’ve had since I was a teenager.  I found myself sitting in the same position I would have been in then: seated diagonally, head nestled in the wing of the armchair, leg draped over the armrest, dangling, foot keeping time.  Like then, I closed my eyes and absorbed the sound of what my mother would call “staring into space music.”

Here is the Fugue in C Minor (BWV 537) played by Ton Koopman.

Back then the world was still a mostly unknown place to me.  Germany, where Bach was from, was a far-off land where they spoke a language I didn’t understand.  I was sure I’d never get there.  People didn’t just go to Europe.  Not the folks I knew, anyway.

Then, and now, the music made me think of the soaring stained-glass windows of cathedrals that I’d seen in books.  If I opened my eyes back then, outside my window I saw soaring green trees, or the tracery of bare branches, or autumn leaves forming their own stained-glass pattern.  At dusk, the view was marred by the light of a small gas station sign beyond the woods that seemed so far off then, though it was only a mile away.

I wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing, but I was looking forward to stepping out into that great big world and starting the adventure.  As there was no internet at the time, and “blogger” would have sounded like some made-up nonsense word, well, how could I have known?

Here is the Fugue in G Minor (BWV 578) also played by Ton Koopman.

And then, the reverie was broken; an LP side only lasts so long.  And I was back to the future, now my present.

And how unexpectedly glorious that future had been.  Once I learned to drive, I passed that gas station regularly, though I didn’t recognize it and make the connection at first.  The world grew.  I learned to speak German, and have been to Germany a couple of times, though not yet to any of Bach’s towns.

And as I had listened to Bach in my current comfortable chair, I realized I understood more of what was happening, there were more “I see what you did there” moments.  I now have access to sheet music, to see for myself—and now everyone does.  And if you’ve got an internet connection, you can listen online to Bach works for organ, cello and more for free without annoying pops or crackles from the record (though they’re so familiar now I find them somewhat endearing).

I don’t know where Bach will take you, but I believe it will be a wonderful journey.

Bon voyage!

Here is the Toccata in F Major (BWV 540) played by Diane Bish.  Some folks will say this is played too fast, but I love it, it’s exciting!

List of Bach Freebies

Performances

Organ http://www.blockmrecords.org/bach/

Cello https://costanzabach.stanford.edu/

Vocal and instrumental http://allofbach.com/en/ (this website will eventually have performances of all of Bach’s compositions; read about it here)

Goldberg Variations:  http://www.opengoldbergvariations.org/ and https://kimiko-piano.com/open-goldberg

Spotify users:  someone has made curated playlists for all of Bach’s works.  Read about it here.

Spotify users:  if you want to hear the Hänssler Classic complete set of Bach recordings (under the direction of Helmuth Rilling), read about it here.

Sheet music

Sheet music and, for some pieces, MIDI or mp3 files http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Bach,_Johann_Sebastian

Open Well-Tempered Clavier https://musescore.com/opengoldberg/sets/openwtc

Open Goldberg Variations  https://musescore.com/opengoldberg/goldberg-variations

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Image attribution: Recursive clocks in a snail-shell pattern. Photo Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5 by CityGypsy11, Flickr.com, Creative Commons CC-BY-NC 2.0. Click here for source page.