merry Monday

Well, as merry as a Monday can be, I suppose.

Today I had this joyful piece playing over and over in my head:

I find it quite merry and jolly, despite how fast and frantic it sounds. It quite matched the tempo of my Monday morning, anyway. One can be busy and in good spirits!

I’m quite chuffed that I now get classical music stuck in my head instead of run-of-the-mill pop songs. It’s certainly less irritating.

I’m also chuffed that I recognised this as something composed by Mozart. I guess they must play it on the radio quite a bit, but Mozart has composed so much that I thought my chances of hearing any singular piece enough times to recognise it as Mozart was quite slim.

Anyway, I think this Rondo Alla Turca has probably been used in TV and movies and whatnot, so maybe it might sound at least vaguely familiar to a lot of people, even if you aren’t a regular classical music fan.

sunsets

Lately I’ve been getting Sunsets by Powderfinger stuck in my head. I don’t think I’ve heard it anywhere anytime recently, so I’m not sure how it randomly got in my head, but there it is.

This song was released back in 2003, and I do remember liking the song back then, but I think part of that was the music video, which was an animation rather than actual people. It was really cool, and I liked watching cartoons a lot back then (still do, really). Many years later, as it turns out, I still really like the song itself.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find the MV on Youtube, but here is the original audio:

I found the MV on Vimeo, but the audio quality doesn’t seem as good (?) The little description thing says the video is based on a Chinese myth about a warrior named Hou Yi, and ten suns.

Anyway, perhaps it’s just a fitting song for the end of the year, and that’s why it has resurfaced from the depths of my memory. Or maybe I heard it somewhere recently but didn’t consciously register it at the time. Either way, I’m glad this song has revisited me, and I’m happy to be sharing some Australian music on my blog.

Jupiter

I think it’s too hot this week to even think about writing, so instead I’m just going to share this:

It’s Jupiter, composed by Gustav Holst. It’s part of an entire suite titled The Planets, which is amazingly magical, but I think many people consider this the highlight.

I never get sick of hearing this on the radio (and they do seem to play it a lot, and for good reason).

Enjoy, relax, stay cool.

Saint-Saëns

Before I started listening to classical music on the radio, I’d never heard of Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns. I think most people probably don’t know who he was, which is a shame, considering he was a very remarkable composer and musician. I mean, most people know who Beethoven and Mozart were, even if they don’t like or don’t listen to classical music.

I was actually going to publish this post last week, but when I was doing some reading about him, I learnt that his birthday is actually today, so I thought that today would be better. I also learnt that he was a bit of an over-achiever, and was performing concerts by the time he was ten years old. He was also a genius of sight-reading music, and could play the most complicated pieces at first sight (something I could only dream of doing).

Saint-Saëns apparently started composing music around the age of six, but I think his best work (that I have heard so far) was one he completed in his early fifties. Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3 — also known as the “Organ Symphony” — is also one of my favourite pieces of classical music, and almost always catches my attention when it’s played on the radio (provided I’m not too absorbed in some task).

I actually never thought the sound of the organ was particularly pleasant, but I think this symphony would not be as good any other way. Perhaps the problem was that I’d only ever heard the organ on its own, not together with and amongst other instruments.

To me, the Organ Symphony sounds majestic, regal and uplifting, and is something I never get sick of hearing. The first few times I heard it, I thought it sounded like something from a movie — maybe Lord of the Rings or something epic like that. But there’s a certain part of the symphony that’s very distinct, and I realised it is actually used in Babe, that delightful movie about a pig who becomes a sheepdog (or sheep-pig), which you might consider epic in its own way.

If you have time, I think it’s worth a listen. If nothing else, it makes for excellent background music.

Boccherini the bold

I really like learning random facts about the composers who create the music I listen to. Last week, the featured composer on ABC Classic was Luigi Boccherini, and what I learnt about him had me grinning so much, I just had to share.

Boccherini, born in the 18th Century, inherited his father’s talent for playing cello, and showed marvellous skill from a very young age. When he was just 18, the Spanish Royal Family discovered his talents, and he gained patronage from the king’s brother.

However, his career took a turn when the king told him to change part of a composition — something as minor as removing a line from the piece. Boccherini disagreed with this suggestion, and believed (as stated by the radio presenter) that the king should “stick to ruling the country, and leave the composing to him”. In defiance, rather than removing the line as requested/ordered, he repeated it.

Even without knowing anything about the King of Spain of that time, you can imagine that he did not take too kindly to Boccherini’s modification. As a result, Boccherini was promptly sacked. Soon after, he left Madrid, and moved to the Gredos Mountains (which apparently provided him lots of inspiration for composing).

I did some skim reading through Google, and looks like Boccherini died quite poor, so it was possibly not the greatest move on his part to disobey the King of Spain, but I do quite commend his chutzpah.

The moral I took from this anecdote was that if you create something, and you have confidence in what you’ve created, you shouldn’t let anyone — not even the King of Spain — tell you that you’re wrong. Taking feedback is a necessary part of self-improvement, but sometimes you just have to stand your ground.

doubt and composition

The presenters on ABC Classic, my favourite radio station, sometimes provide little bits of information about classical composers in between the music. Since I know very little about music history, I find it quite interesting, and will often make an effort to stop and listen to what they say.

This week I learnt that Clara Schumann, one of the world’s greatest composers and pianists, experienced a lot of self-doubt about her worth as a composer, and, despite her obvious talent, not to mention her own enjoyment of composing, felt that it was not a suitable endeavour for her (or other women — such were the times back then).

She was also limited by needing to support her family (she had seven children) after the death of her husband, Robert Schumann, at a relatively young age. She spent much of the rest of her life playing piano recitals/concerts in order to stay afloat financially.

Continue reading