Baroque and The Three Musketeers Nov09

Baroque and The Three Musketeers...

If you are a big fan of The Three Musketeers, whether through various movie adaptations or because you’ve read the works of Alexandre Dumas, then you’ve certainly remarked that unmistakable flair in costume and setting that comes with the novel’s particular genre. The Three Musketeers is an action and adventure story set during the reign of King Louis XIII and set in the middle of the French Period of Baroque art. In short, we revisit the seventeenth century as we dash around a pastoral French countryside sporting royal blue and fighting with crimson red. During this century, art took on a much more lively form, or a style, that brought about a kind of drama and opulence rarely seen in art before. A good analogy would be to compare art before the Baroque period to a high school choir, and art during the Baroque period to going to your first operatic performance of Wagner in a grand theater. It’s big and it’s showy like a fantastic opera. The Baroque style of art was just beginning in Louis’ father’s final years, around the start of 1600. It’s useful to know that Louis’ father, Henry IV was a protestant in a Catholic country during the Protestant Reformation, and later converted to Catholicism in order to keep his state. The personal tale of a King and his future son threads into the larger story of a Catholic Church which had decreed during the Council of Trent that art should express religious themes with grandeur and more dramatic tension in order to evoke strong emotion. In other words, they wanted people to have the feels. Parisian architecture was not exempt from this and there are entire books devoted to the subject of Henry IV’s architecture and urbanism before...

The Official Musebreak Over-Simplified Guide to Western Music, part one Aug18

The Official Musebreak Over-Simplified Guide to Western Music, part one...

So, are you one of those people who think that the music of J. S. Bach is Classical? Do you think that a Mozart aria is Romantic? Well, here’s your Official Musebreak Over-Simplified Guide to Western Music (or “Why not all classical music is Classical”). Now take it from a guy who spent a lot of time catching up on his sleep during Music History lectures, this is an extremely watered-down version. Also, we’ll only be looking at the major divisions. There have been some minor divisions as well that were sub-movements in the larger divisions, and some that represent transitional periods overlapping the major ones. Impressionist is an example of the former; Rococo is one of the latter. When musicologists talk of Western music, they don’t mean Roy Rogers or Merle Haggard. They’re talking about the music traditions that covered the area from mostly Europe and later North America. Areas like the Orient and the aboriginal areas of Africa and Australia (and Native America, or course) had their own traditions, frequently following a completely different form of music theory than what we’re used to. The foundations of Western music began in ancient Greece, but we’re going to skip ahead a few centuries to get to the periods where music started becoming more formalized. The first period was the Medieval period (500-1400). It is generally thought to start about the time of the fall of the Roman empire, and as you can see it covers a period of nearly a millennium. This period brought us the Gregorian chants, and madrigals and motets. Although most of the period was monophonic (one melody, unaccompanied) the later part of the period introduced polyphony, the use of more than one line of music at a time. Basic harmonies...

Know Your Audience Jul21

Know Your Audience

My musician friends like to trot out a YouTube video every once in a while that shows violinist Joshua Bell playing “street musician” at a metro stop in Washington, DC. He received almost no attention at all, despite being one of the country’s best violinists. My friends usually present it as a demonstration of how little people care about quality music and quality performers. I like to add the comment: “The real lesson here? Know your audience.” I find it annoying when artists, any artist, assume the world revolves around them, or that everyone should enjoy exactly the same thing that they themselves enjoy. Theoretical physicists don’t assume everyone has a functional understanding of string theory. Electrical engineers don’t assume everyone knows what goes into designing a computer’s motherboard. Why should we be surprised when people moving quickly through a station in a major American city during rush hour don’t take the time to appreciate the intricacies of a virtuoso performer playing the works of J. S. Bach? Many people like to refer to music as being the “universal language”. This may be so, but any artist needs to understand that the effectiveness of the ideas and “vocabulary” one uses will vary depending on who is listening/looking/reading what they are presenting. One of my favorite writers is Harlan Ellison. There is something I’ve noticed when reading his work; his writing becomes much more complex when he’s writing a column or essay than when he writes fiction. He knows that his target audience is very different, and he tailors what he’s writing to fit who he expects to be reading it. The way this translates into music can be very obvious. However, among serious musicians it becomes a discussion of “good” music versus “bad” music....