Saturday, January 18, 2020

Polyphony of Baroque Music

Repeat Best of the Tales first published on July 18, 2015

Johann Sebastian Bach
One of the many characteristics of music in the Baroque era [think Johann Sebastian Bach] is the use of polyphony, literally meaning many voices.  In Baroque music, many times you will hear two or more melodic lines played at the same time.  That is why first time listeners of Baroque music sometimes find it hard to listen to, as it seems like a lot is going on at the same time.  Once you understand the many voices technique, which are in a lot of Baroque compositions, your ear will be able to detect the different melodic lines playing at the same time and you will love the beauty of it.

I remember my daughter's Suzuki piano lessons began with music from the Baroque Era, which was the foundation out of which came the classical, romantic and modern eras of music.  Her great teacher, Mrs. Kurinets, would have her practice the melodic lines of the right and left hand separately before putting them together.  I would think to myself...that is a nice melody when she would practice the left hand.  I would think the exact same thing when she played the right hand.  When she put her hands together I marveled at the genius of how the different melodic lines could sound so good played together in one piece.  Even though the hands and different melodic lines were played at the same time, because of her practice with separate hands, I could actually hear both lines at the same time.  That really gave me a new perspective and love of Baroque music that I hadn't had previously.

The many voices technique used in Baroque music wasn't necessarily different melodic voices [lines].  They were sometimes the same melodic line but played at different times. This technique, where one line is played, then that same melodic line comes in again but in a different voice is called point/counter point.  An example, familiar with all, would be "Row, Row, Row Your Boat..."   I think you can remember in  "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" how the exact same melodic line is sung, but it [the separate voice] enters at different points.  This type of counterpoint is called a canon [which modernly sometimes is called a round].

Probably the most famous use of the canon technique is displayed in Pachelbel's Canon in D-Major.  When you hear this amazing piece, you will hear the voice that is played over and over again, first as the dominant voice, than it becomes the secondary voice you hear in the background for the rest of the piece as other dominant themes are also used in the point/counter point manner throughout the piece.

Another type of counterpoint is a fugue, which is just like a canon but the melodic line coming in at different points will not be the exact line as the first.  Probably the most famous fugues come from the quintessential Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach.  Most of his fugues were in his set of compositions for the keyboard entitled  "The Well Tempered Clavier". 

Johann Sebastian Bach is considered by many the greatest composer of all because his introduction of various techniques [like polyphony] in his plethora of wonderful compositions which laid the foundation for all music up to today.  That is why Johann Sebastian Bach is one of my favorite composers.

Here are five great examples of the polyphony technique used in Baroque music, one by Pachelbel and four by J.S. Bach:  Pachelbel's Canon in D Major; Johann Sebastian Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor [for organ]; Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C minor [for piano]; Bach's Allegro Assai movement from his great Brandenburg Concerto #2; and the final movement from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #6. 

In the Bach prelude and fugue in d minor, start listening for the multiple voices when the fugue starts at the 2:42 starts with two voices then later on with three and maybe even four voices being played at the same time.  Pure genius.

In the Bach prelude and fugue in c minor you can not only hear the polyphony [when the fugue starts after the prelude] you can watch the pianist play different thematic lines on each hand at the same time. 

Please turn up the volume and enjoy these great polyphonic pieces from the Baroque era of  music.

Johann Pachelbel: Canon in D Major:

J.S. Bach: Toccata and Fugue in D minor for organ:

J.S. Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C minor for piano, BWV 847:

J.S. Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Major, Movement 3, Allegro Assai:

J.S Bach: Brandenburg Concerto #6 in B-Flat Major, Movement 3, Allegro:

Friday, January 17, 2020

Lionel Richie In Minute Maid Park

Well, this weekend the fetching Mrs. B and I will be in both of our homes away from home.  On Saturday once again we will be in Jones Hall to hear our Houston Symphony Orchestra in a concert featuring Tchaikovsky's Symphony #6, called "Pathetique".

And on this Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, we will be in Minute Maid Park, home of our great Astros  [sorry Astros haters we still love our Astros], to hear a concert featuring [R & B/Soul singer] Lionel Richie, the once great lead singer of the Commodores, and now great solo singer.

Lionel Richie [born June 20, 1949]
Can't wait to hear some great music this weekend.

On Friday night Lionel Richie just may be singing:

Lionel Richie: "You Mean More To Me":

Lionel Richie: Three Times A Lady:

Welcome to Houston Lionel Richie!


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Happy Birthday, Rev Martin Luther King, Jr.!

Today, Wednesday, Jan 15, 2020, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. would have celebrated his 91st Birthday! 

Martin Luther King, Jr. [Jan. 15, 1929 - April 4, 1968]

From the  Biography web site of Martin Luther King, Jr.:  Martin Luther King Jr. was born on January 15, 1929, in Atlanta, Georgia. King, both a Baptist minister and civil-rights activist, had a seismic impact on race relations in the United States, beginning in the mid-1950s. Among many efforts, King headed the SCLC.  Through his activism, he played a pivotal role in ending the legal segregation of African-American citizens in the South and other areas of the nation, as well as the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, among several other honors.  King was assassinated in April 1968, and continues to be remembered as one of the most lauded African-American leaders in history, often referenced by his 1963 speech, "I Have a Dream."

From the Bio page on You Tube this Mini Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr.:

On August 28, 1963 there was a huge civil rights "March on Washington for jobs and freedom", which culminated in Martin Luther King's iconic "I have a dream speech" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, before hundreds of thousands [some estimate 250,000] of Americans.

Excerpt from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I have a dream" speech in Washington, D.C. August 28, 1963: 

On April 16, 1963 Martin Luther King in Birmingham, AL wrote one of the most important, inspiring, and iconic pieces of American treatises, with his "Letter From a Birmingham Jail".  It was a very long letter that I hope you will take time to read in its entirety by clicking this web site here.

From that web site, the "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" starts:
 "16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen
While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would have little time for anything other than such correspondence in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms."

and the letter ends
"If I have said anything in this letter that overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

I hope this letter finds you strong in the faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood, Martin Luther King, Jr."

On this Monday Jan. 20, 2020, the whole nation will celebrate and honor this great patriot, with the official, Martin Luther King Day. 

Martin Luther King deservedly gets this day of honor in his memory

As this great man is now delivering his inspiring words to the angels in heaven, Tales salutes Martin Luther King, Jr. and wishes everyone on this upcoming Monday, January 20 a Happy MLK Day!

January 20, 2020: Happy MLK Day!

Monday, January 13, 2020

This 'Carousel' Presents Some Beautiful Music

A repeat Tales classical music post from April of 2016 when the fetching Mrs. B and I attended Houston's Wortham Center for a wonderful production by the Houston Grand Opera of Rodgers and Hammerstein's great musical, "Carousel". 

Written as a stage musical in 1945 by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II and adapted for film in 1956, this epic show tune musical contains some beautiful music, as do all of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals. 

Trying to keep somewhat with the classical format, please turn up the volume and listen to this ultra beautiful music from Carousel in symphonic orchestral form.  

Warning:  You may need some Kleenex for the emotional song, "You'll never walk alone", in the fourth video.

Rodgers and Hammerstein: "Carousel" Orchestral Suite - Cincinnati Pops Orchestra:
© 1992 All rights belong to Telarc and to the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. No copyright infringement is intended.

Rodgers and Hammerstein: "Carousel" - "If I loved you":

Rodgers and Hammerstein: "Carousel" - "June Is Bustin' Out All Over":

Rodgers and Hammerstein: "Carousel" - "You'll never walk alone." [Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra]:

Bravo!, and thank you, Houston Grand Opera!