This week music, especially programmatic music, has surrounded me. It’s remarkable how music so effectively conveys mood and feeling, and how a simple change in musical tone can shift one’s entire interpretation of a scene or visual.
So it seemed like an opportune time to revisit this highly imaginative and emotional work from Hector Berlioz, himself a rather tempest-tossed personality, adrift on a sea of emotions.
Also, my Middle School Music Students are listening to the fourth and fifth movements today while I am away—fun!
I love it when I’ve been blogging long enough that some pieces get the coveted “TBT^4” designation (or higher!). I don’t know if readers pick up on this delight, or that I’m even layering commentary upon commentary, but it’s one of those little things that I enjoy about the blog.
I particularly love it when I get to reblog a post about something I really like. I know classical music isn’t exactly the hot new thing, but most of the hot new things stink, and this music has stood and will continue to stand the tests of time and fashion.
That’s probably no truer than for the music of Beethoven, a truly titanic, tumultuous, troubled figure, the man who bridged the gap between the symmetry and precision of classical music and the stormy, emotional grandiloquence of Romantic music.
Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, the “Pastoral,” is my favorite of his symphonies. I’m a sucker for programmatic music, and Beethoven takes us on a moving trip through the countryside.
As Ponty and I have been going through the worst movies ever, it seems like a palette cleanser is in order. Too much of a good thing is a problem, but too much of a bad thing is probably worse (by definition, I suppose it is!).
As is my custom, I dedicate a few days each Spring Break to recommending and reviewing various short stories. Typically, I read through an anthology of short stories over break and highlight three or four of the best stories from them.
However, I neglected to take an anthology with me when I left town for Easter weekend, and I didn’t have the time to pluck one from my parents’ substantial library. So, I’m doing a one-off today (and possibly for other Spring Break Shorty Story Recommendation 2022 installments this week), although I am sure this story has appeared in many anthologies.
It is, I believe, one of the great works of prophetic science fiction. There’s a great deal of that from the mid-twentieth century; Forster was predicting things like FaceTime and social media in 1909.
It being a week of romance and lots of artistic endeavors, I decided to look back this Thursday to a post about the great French composer, Hector Berlioz.
Berlioz is the quintessential Romantic: he wrote the subject of today’s post, the very fun Symphonie Fantastique, to deal with his lovesickness—and he ended up getting the girl because of it!
Another Berlioz heartbreak anecdote: after his fiancée left him for another man (note, this woman is not the same as the subject of the Symphonie Fantastique), Berlioz plotted her and her new husband’s murder. He traveled to Nice, where the couple was living, and took along weapons, disguises, and other murder paraphernalia. When he disembarked from the train, he came to his senses, and abandoned his ill-conceived plot. Instead, he spent a couple of weeks in Nice composing.
Talk about a whiplash! I’m a sensitive poet-warrior at times, and I’ve experienced lovesickness, but never to the extent of Berlioz. Still, I identify with his desire to compose music to get (or to cope with not getting) chicks.
One of the many benefits of teaching music is (re)discovering beloved favorite works. During last week’s round of distance learning, I had to pull out some of the classics. If we’re going to sit on a Google Meet call, let’s listen to some music, not just talk about it.
I really love programmatic music—instrumental music that tells a story, often accompanied by program notes explaining (usually very briefly) what the listener is supposed to hear in the musical “story.” Students often like to imagine their own stories when listening to instrumental music, which is great, but I find that programmatic works give students (and myself!) some guideposts to follow.
Fortunately, Ludwig von Beethoven provided some handy ones for us in his Sixth Symphony, quite possibly my favorite symphony, and certainly my favorite of Beethoven’s. It’s the so-called “Pastoral” symphony, as it depicts a pleasant trip to the country (besides the roiling thunderstorm in the fourth movement).
It’s also unusual in two respects: instead of the standard four movements of the classical symphony (a fast opening movement, a slow second movement, a dancelike third movement, and a fast fourth movement), Beethoven includes five; and the third, fourth, and fifth movements all flow seamlessly into one another, without the customary pause between each.
It is also long, especially by the standards of the classical symphony (the Romantics, however, would have easily matched Beethoven for runtime), clocking in at nearly forty-five minutes (the typical classical symphony averages around twenty-five-to-thirty minutes, but forty-five would have been the upper limit for the time). But that length is in service to Beethoven’s vision, and he fully explores every theme in this symphony.
My local library has been screening the classic Universal Monster Movies every Saturday night this month, which is just about the greatest thing any library has ever done (besides, you know, storing all of that knowledge). They kicked off the month with 1941’s The Wolf Man, but I think they saved the best for last—1931’s Dracula (this weekend they’re showing a non-Universal Monster flick).
With all the gloomy weather in South Carolina over the past week (please pray for the poor folks in Texas, who are facing truly dangerous weather conditions), it’s been ideal weather for staying home and watching movies. Surprisingly, Hulu has upped its game a bit in terms of selection.
I’m running a tad behind with today’s post, so I figured rather than diving deeply into one movie, I’d give a quick round-up of several movies, with some quick notes on each.