Rock Around the Croc: Igor Stravinsky and Rhythm as Theme

Happy Sunday you glorious bumblebees on the stamens of life’s great buttercup. It’s time once again to talk about the wonderful world of music, as we continue our journey through 20th Century Modernism with our featured artist is Igor Stravinsky. Shall we? Let’s shall!

Continue reading

Rememeber Meme When

Continue reading

Rock Around the Croc: Claude Debussy and an Introduction to the Modern Era

Good morning, you gently-swaying daffodils on the breeze of charm and delight, happy Sunday and welcome back to my little music series (hopefully none of you read last week’s installment and decide to just skip the content entirely from now on), and an introduction to the Modern Era.

When speaking of the modern era in concert music, I mean the period from the early nineteen hundreds to basically the present (some say we’re in the post-modern era, but whatevs). In Robert Greenburg’s wonderful series How to Listen to and Appreciate Great Music, his study of this era introduces the composers Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, and Arnold Schoenberg, and that’s what I’m going to do as well, but this is a rich time period that also includes Mahler, Strauss, Sibelius, Ravel, Bartok, Prokofiev and so many more that we get to explore. Let’s listen to some music now:

Continue reading

Rock Around the Croc: Jacques Offenbach

Happy Sunday, my friends, I cannot tell you how thrilled I am that once again you’re here to learn about and listen to the music with me. Today we continue with our exploration of the Romantic Era, and German-born French composer Jacques Offenbach. Shall we? Let’s!

Continue reading

Rock Around the Croc: Just a Couple Dance Tracks

Ready to shake your booty? Good, here’s some booty-shakin’ music.

Earth Wind and Fire, September:

Continue reading

Rock Around the Croc: Weber and German Opera

Happy Sunday, you lovely maraschino cherries atop the banana split of eternal bliss. I am Sobek, your host on a journey through the ethereal realms of sound and feeling. Today we continue our experience of the the Romantic Era, and the development of German Romantic Opera. Let’s listen to some German music together, shall we?

Continue reading

You Don’t Know Meme

Continue reading

Rock Around the Croc: Edvard Grieg

Happy Sunday, you lovely pimentos in the olive loaf of happiness. Are you ready to listen to some fancy-person music, and also some awful garbage? Good, let’s do this thing. This week we get to learn about the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg:

It’s pretty easy to cover Edvard Grieg. All I have to do is post Peer Gynt Suite (of which In the Hall of the Mountain King is a part) and I guess the Piano Concerto in A Minor, and that’s it, those are the most famous of his works, and then I could get back to spamming the blog with Faith No More videos. But I won’t do that, because then I wouldn’t be helping you, the reader/listener, in your life journey to become a hugely pretentious snob, and that’s simply not going to be acceptable. So buckle up.

Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born on October 17, 1842, and then (due to a scheduling error) again on June 15, 1843. His uncle recognized his musical talents and persuaded his father to send him to study in Leipzig, but he did not much care for his time there, writing, “I left Lepzig Conservatory just as stupid as I entered it.” He returned to his hometown of Bergen, Norway and began a career as a concert pianist. In 1868, while vacationing in Denmark, he wrote one of this most famous pieces, the Piano Concerto in A Minor, which sounds like this:

Even though it is the only concerto that Grieg completed, it is one of his most popular works, and one of the most popular piano concertos ever. The opening flourish is based on Norwegian folk music, which once again leads us to one of the key themes of the Romantic Era of music: musical nationalism. Grieg is considered the father of Norwegian concert music, in the same way that Smetana was for Czech music and Sibelius for Finnish. Here’s a fun bit of trivia – in 1909, this concerto became the first every to be recorded, although due to technological limitations it was abridged down to about six minutes.

Here’s some nationalism for you, Four Norwegian Dances:

Here’s the Violin Sonata No. 1. Grieg met Franz Liszt in Rome and showed him the score, which Liszt proceeded to play through on sight. Although Liszt, who was much more famous and established, made suggestions to Grieg on this and the Piano Concerto, Grieg decided to keep them as they were, which I think shows a lot of confidence:

That leads us into what is by far Grieg’s most famous set of works, the Peer Gynt Suite. It was initially composed as incidental music for Henrik Ibsen’s play, Peer Gynt, based on a Norwegian fairy tale. Incidental music is basically like a movie soundtrack, and differs from a concert overture in that it is not intended for a standalone performance. After the success of the play, however, Grieg adapted the music into it’s current, well-known form as concert music.

Here’s a very short summary of the five-act play. We follow the story of a young man, the titular Peer Gynt, a poet and braggart whose mother hoped would restore the lost fortunes of the family, although it quickly becomes apparent he’s not the man for the job. He goes to the wedding of Ingrid, who he loved, but his reputation has spoiled his chances with her. He asks Solveig to dance with him, but she refuses because it will bring shame on her. Peer Gynt drinks himself into a stupor, then kidnaps Ingrid and runs off into the hills with her.

In Act II, Peer Gynt lives in the hills where he has been banished. He gets drunk, hits his head on a rock, and the rest of the act may be a hallucination. He meets a green woman who says she is the daughter of the Troll King. They go to the King’s palace.

Once there, they negotiate over whether Peer Gynt will marry the daughter, and when Peer Gynt ultimately declines, he is told that the daughter is pregnant, although he denies having touched her. The King tells Peer Gynt that he begot the child in his mind. In this act, themes of egotism and avoidance of responsibility are introduced that are central to the play. When Peer Gynt regains consciousness, he is found by Solveig’s sister, who sends Solveig’s regards.

In Act III, Peer Gynt is trying to build a cabin in the mountains. Solveig arrives and insists upon living there with him, stating that now she has made her choice, there will be no returning home for her. When she enters the cabin, she sees a woman dressed in green and her crippled son. The woman has cursed Peer Gynt by forcing him to remember her whenever he sees Solveig. Peer Gynt decides to run away. Before leaving Norway, he returns to the village, in time to find his mother has died.

Peer spends Act IV travelling through and living in Morocco and Egypt, suffering various misadventures, living a generally amoral life, gaining and losing fortunes and friends.

He finds some stolen Bedouin gear and puts it on, then tries to seduce Anitra, the daughter of a local chieftan. Instead she steals his money and rings and gets away.

I absolutely love this piece, and easily think it ranks up with Morning Mood and In the Hall of the Mountain King, although it is not so well known. Those plucked strings sparkling through the flowing melody are what music is all about.

Peer is an old man in Act V, finally on his way home to Norway, but he is shipwrecked and arrives on shore, bitter and stripped of all his possessions.

In this final Act, Peer is confronted with painful questions about all he has left undone, all his wasted potential. He begs Solveig to forgive his sins, but she responds that he has committed none. He asks her, “Where has Peer Gynt been since we last met? Where was I as the one I should have been, whole and true, with the mark of God on my brow?” She answers, “In my faith, in my hope, in my love.” The play ends ambiguously, suggesting Peer has died without explicitly saying so.

And that, my friends, is why people listen to Grieg. His Piano Concerto is great. His Violin Sonata is great. But the Peer Gynt Suites are earth-shaking.

The final piece to link is another that I discovered while doing the research for this post, the Holberg Suite. Originally composed for piano in 1884 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Danish-Norwegian playwright Ludvig Holberg, Grieg later arranged it for full orchestra. It is a wonderful piece of Romanticism, a combination of Norwegian nationalism with the forms and styles of the Classical Era. The fourth movement, titled “Air,” is this wonderfully lilting and melodic piece that carries you around on a cloud, followed by the fifth movement, “Rigaudon,” which comes in blazing and reminding me almost of a hoe down.

Grieg died on September 4, 1907, after defying his doctor’s orders to stop putting so many Skittles in his nose. His last words were “hold deg ferske osteposer,” and they are inscribed at the base of his statue in Bergen.

Not so long ago I was driving along the Red River, in northern Minnesota and North Dakota, flipping through radio stations, thinking of what a high percentage of them were country stations, and I thought to myself how funny it would be if there were enough angsty teens in the area to support a death metal station. As if by magic, within minutes, as luck would have it, the radio landed on The Black Dove radio show. I swear this is one hundred percent true, I would not lie about something like this. I bring this up because Norway’s two most famous exports are Edvard Grieg and black metal. Now as much as I like to joke about listening to death metal (and it really is a joke – I don’t actually listen to Slayer or Cannibal Corpse), I don’t know black metal, and I don’t care to learn. Where Slayer is fronted by a practicing Catholic who uses demonic imagery in his music for the shock value, black metal is centered on actual, no-fooling Satanism. So as much as I want to follow the theme of Norwegian music in this post, I’m not going to go looking for black metal songs to play for you all, sorry not sorry.

Instead, here’s my favorite metal band featuring two guitarists from Norway, Dethklok, the band at the center of the wonderful series Metalocalypse. In this clip, the band has travelled to northern Norway to play a coffee jingle for Duncan Hills Coffee Corp (as Nathan Explosion explains, they are there to make coffee metal – to make everything metal. The band is so metal that their shows always involve mass-negligent-manslaughter. Bitchin!

Here’s William Murderface playing a bass solo. Please be warned that this clip shows a cartoon image of Murderface’s hairy butt. I’m linking it rather than embedding it because the preview frame shows the aforementioned hairy butt. That is not the most messed up thing in the clip. But if you don’t click that link, you will never know Murderface’s secret talent. Also, MURDERFACE!!!

Okay, one more, and I promise you’ll actually like this one. I know it’s old, but worth watching again. I present to you The Black Satans, performing “Satan From Hell,” but with a nice little twist to it.

And that’s it. I hope you all have as much today as the Black Satans obviously did when making that video.

Rock Around the Croc: Dynamics

Happy Sunday, cheese bags, and welcome to my little music class. Today we take a quick break from featuring an individual composer to talk about one of the elements of music, and we’re covering dynamics:

Continue reading

Rock Around the Croc: Antonin Dvorak

‘Sup, goobers? Time to put on your fancy britches and listen to some music. Woo! Let’s start with something humorous:

Continue reading