A big hello to all SRC participants and friends. Hope this finds you all doing well! This week, as a little nod to Halloween week, we will be taking a look at yet another work by Bach- a piece of music that has become closely associated with Halloween and is included in MANY a “scary music playlist” around this time of year. During this year’s Halloween week, let’s take a closer look at one of the most famous works for solo organ- Bach’s ‘Toccata and Fugue in D minor’!
Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D minor opens with a toccata section, which is followed by a fugue movement and ends with a Coda section. Let’s break that apart together: In the world of music a ‘toccata’ (from the Italian word ‘toccare’: to touch) is a virtuosic work typically for a keyboard instrument or a plucked string instrument that has a high level of difficulty and is fast moving in order to show off the performer’s skill level and finger dexterity. This can be heard and noticed right away in the opening measures of this work! Bach’s toccatas that he wrote throughout his lifetime are famous for the musical form itself and are often followed by a fugue movement. A fugue is a compositional technique in which two or more ‘voices’, built around one musical theme, are introduced (often imitating each other or repeated on different starting notes) and are repeated and interwoven throughout the movement or work. Bach’s 4-voice fugue section in this piece is made up primarily of the fast moving 16th notes and although it IS technically a 4-part fugue, the majority of the time there are at most three voices represented. This approximately 9-10 minute musical work ends with a rhythmically free ‘Coda’ section, which in Italian means ‘tail’, which in the music world is defined as an “ending passage to a piece or movement.” Codas can be as short as just a few measures or can be much longer and complex. For this work, Bach chose for the Coda ending to be seventeen measures long, with various tempo changes. Not much is known about when this work was exactly composed and there are some scholars (though the minority) who even doubt and wonder about the authenticity of this piece as being a work by Johann S. Bach. This work became associated with villains and all things mysterious and scary though its inclusion in horror/scary movies throughout the years such as the 1931 “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, the 1954 “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”, and a 1962 adaptation of “The Phantom of the Opera.” It’s popularity however GREATLY increased after it was included in the 1940 Walt Disney film “Fantasia”, which animated eight different Classical works in separate segments. Now let’s take a listen together!
First let’s take a listen to this work, however not as an organ performance, but transcribed for solo piano: https://youtu.be/dvSGRckkKgo. Sound familiar? To round off our study of this famous piece of Classical “spooky music”, let me share with you another video that tells more about the work and the Music History behind it, before sharing a performance of the original organ arrangement (with sheet music for you to follow along with in the video). Check out this excellent educational video for more: https://youtu.be/S_NuEzvt-6I. Happy Halloween, friends! BONUS VIDEO: As always, please enjoy this bonus video of another Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual gig from his Facebook Live Stream from October 10th: https://youtu.be/sKgkDxf1Au0
A very warm hello to you all! I hope this finds everyone doing well and trying to get out and enjoy the beautiful Fall Season when you are able. This week will be looking into Bach’s Goldberg Variations and seeing just how brilliant of a composition style can be observed in the work. The Piano Class participants will be learning about and listening to the entirety of this work by Johann Sebastian Bach for the months of October and into November. I thought it would be fun to bring our webpage readers in on the fun!
Here is a bit of background information to catch you up: The Goldberg Variations is a musical composition by Bach originally written for harpsichord, although often recorded and performed on piano. The Goldberg Variations consist of an aria (a main song) followed by 30 short variations based off of the aria and concluding with a repetition of the same aria the piece began with. The Goldberg Variations are widely considered to be one of the most important examples of the variation form of composition.They were published in 1741 and were named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg, who may have been the first performer of the work. Today I would like to share with you two videos that talk primarily about the form and structure that Bach followed when composing this work. Here is a bit of information behind the compositional ‘form’ of the Goldberg Variations: After the opening song or “aria” at the beginning of the Goldberg Variations, the work is followed by 30 variations. The variations do NOT follow (or imitate/”vary”) the melodic aspects of the opening song, but rather use its bass line as a repeated structure with which to base the variations off of. Every THIRD variation in the series of 30 is a musical canon. A canon is a compositional technique that “employs a melody with one or more imitations of the melody played after a certain duration.” The ‘follower voices, which imitate the ‘leader voice’, can either exactly replicate the lead voice in melody/rhythm OR can brace off and transform the initial melody. A familiar example of an exactly repeated canon is when “Row, Row Row Your Boat” is sung as a ’round’ (another good example can be found when “Freire Jacques” is sung or played in a round – as demonstrated in our second video.).
On to the videos: The first video is brought to you by NPR Music and focuses primarily on the Aria (the opening song) of the Goldberg Variations. You will get to hear the Aria itself while he breaks apart what you are hearing and the composition techniques used by Bach to create this work. Please watch Video #1 first: https://youtu.be/cbmSTQs-QGU. Our second video discusses the Canon variations in the work specifically and features Nahre Sol, a woman that those in the Piano Class may recognize from her videos that we watched together last year on “prepared piano”. Please enjoy Video #2 as we look at the idea behind Bach’s canons and listen to Nahre’s own canon composition: https://youtu.be/Jrdv4ozHD9s. (Apologies for all of the ads in these videos–either just let them run or keep in mind you can usually hit the Skip button in the lower right after a few seconds). I hope this has been an interesting glimpse inside a famous Classical work and hope also that this has perhaps made you curious enough to want to listen to the entire work of the Goldberg Variations sometime. As always, here is your weekly
BONUS VIDEO: Here is your weekly Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro virtual concert from his Facebook Livestream gig on October 3rd: https://youtu.be/kYDIFhKcwgs.
Greetings SRC participants & friends. I hope this finds you all doing well! This week is our third installment from the mini-theme that I like to call “Weird, Wacky and Bizarre Instruments.” In week 19 we learned all about the mysterious Theremin and in Week 24 we discovered the huge giant that is the Octobass. This week we turn our attention to another bizarre instrument that has often been loosely referred to as being the “largest natural instrument in the world” – the Great Stalacpipe Organ of Luray Caverns! (Yes, you read that correctly– stalacpipe!).
The Great Stalacpipe Organ is an “electrically actuated lithophone” that can be found in the Luray Caverns near the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. To clarify, a ‘lithophone’ is defined as a “musical instrument consisting of rock or pieces of rock which are struck to produce notes.” According to the Hornbostel-Sachs instrument classification system that we learned about in Week 26 of our webpage content, all lithophones are designated as a directly struck percussion instrument. Found deep in the caverns themselves, the Stalacpipe Organ (a play on words from ‘stalactite’) works by using a custom made organ console that then produces the tapping on 37 various sized stalactites with rubber mallets, all that are connected to the traditional organ console. This unique instrument took 3 years to be conceptualized and then designed and was implemented in the Luray Caverns in 1956 by a man named Leland W. Sprinkle. One ‘origin story legend’ says that Leland Sprinkle came up with the idea for this strange instrument when touring the caverns with his young son and hearing the tone that rang out after his son hit his head on one of the hanging stalactites. Over a three year period, Sprinkle selected and then shaved down the stalactites in the cavern to allow for them to produce specific notes when struck. Mallets were then wired for each stalactite, to be activated by pressing the appropriate key on the console’s keyboard. The 37 stalactites used in The Great Stalacpipe Organ are spread out over 3.5 acres and the organ console itself was the product of “Klann Organ Supply” in Waynesboro, VA. During its first three decades, vinyl records of song samples being played on this strange organ were available for purchase in the Luray Caverns gift shop, featuring Sprinkle himself as the organist. The sound this “natural organ” produces is often described as “soothing and mello.” On a personal note, I just realized that when I toured the “Shenandoah Caverns” three years ago while in Virginia for my cousin’s wedding, I was only roughly 20 miles from this musical oddity!
Now, to see what I mean- some video clips. Here is a brief segment of a PBS news story done about the organ: https://youtu.be/YXnb6QKNMPE. Also, here is an even shorter clip I was able to find that briefly shows the mechanism itself: https://youtu.be/vm1_aCjrC5o. For our last clip, please enjoy song samples I was able to find directly from the souvenir vinyl records that were sold in the gift shop–the Great Stalacpipe Organ being played by the creator himself, Leland W. Sprinkle: https://youtu.be/LsjN2AK8l1o. BONUS VIDEO: For your weekly virtual gig from the one and only Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro, please enjoy this half hour performance from his Facebook LiveStream on September 26th- https://youtu.be/zCfegpMikL0.
A very warm greeting to all SRC participants & friends. As we did back in Week 23 here on our webpage, this week I would like to again ‘honor’ all College Students across our country by sharing with you yet another ‘typical Collegiate Music student concert experience’. While last time in Week 23 we focused on the concert experience of a ‘Faculty Recital’, this week I’d love to share with you a video that is a good example of the College Music School’s “Guest Recital” from artists and groups outside the College.
I was able to enjoy quite a few “Guest Recitals” during my time at Ithaca College. I would have to say my personal favorite was the internationally renowned vocal jazz group- ‘NY Voices’, who not only came to give a concert at the College, but also gave vocal jazz workshops for all of the College Choral groups. This week, I’d love to share with you the full length Guest Recital from Ithaca College’s 2017-2018 school year concert online archives: the group ‘Trio Ink’ presented on April 27, 2018, again performed in my favorite recital hall on campus- Hockett Hall (haha, clearly but this tie you’ve figured out my love for this hall on campus runs deep!). Their program consists of 3 works and they entitled the theme of their Recital as “Love Triangle”. They very strategically chose 3 works from 3 seperate composers: Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann to represent the well- known (at least in the Classical Music world) ‘love triangle’ between these three famous composers. For more information on this Music History ‘Love Triangle’, here is an interesting article you can explore, if you wish: https://thetso.org/blog/love-triangle . Before I share the web link for this Guest Recital with you, let me give you some background information on their first selection in the program, a work by Clara Schumann. First up on the Recital program is Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in g minor. This was Clara’s only piano trio that she composed and was her first attempt at writing music for instruments other than piano and voice. Her Piano Trio was composed when her husband, Robert Schumann was extremely ill, somewhere between the years of 1845-146. This piano trio- comprised of piano, violin and cello has four separate movements and has been called “probably the masterpiece among her compositions.” Here is the weblink for the ‘Trio Ink” Guest recital: https://www.ithaca.edu/music/live/2017_2018/20180427_trioink/.
Please note that you have the ability to make the video larger/full screen by pressing the bottom right arrow button at any time (before or after you have pressed play). Enjoy the ‘love triangle’ Classical Recital and while you are watching, make sure that you send your best positive thoughts/prayers for all of the College Students who are now roughly halfway through a very strange and different semester.
Bonus Video: As always, please enjoy yet another of Henry ‘Hank’ Shapiro’s live streamed virtual gigs, streamed every Saturday through his Facebook page. This week’s virtual gig is from Saturday, September 19th: https://youtu.be/3nQe7Vh7fwc
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SAVE THE DATE: Festival of Trees – “An Old Fashioned Christmas” – December 2023