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Concert Roundup: The Revenge

Let’s see what the musicians are up to this week, shall we?

  • If you happen to be hopping about in D.C., the National Symphony Orchestra will be performing Mussourgsky‘s Night on Bald Mountain. So already you want to come. In addition, Gidon Kremer will perform the Sibelius violin concerto, plus Liadov‘s The Enchanted Lake and Nielsen‘s fifth symphony. That’s October 6 through 9. See it!
  • Alternatively, if you happen to be hopping about Trafalgar Square, London (and why not?), @LMAorchestra tells me that The Gershwin Family (yes, some relation) will be performing a program of classical music from the movies, including Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Bach, Debussy, and a bunch more. It all goes down on October 6. See it!

Remember, if you have a concert coming up next week, you should let me know.

Beethoven is for everyone, including lunatics

I was originally going to post the scene from Stanley Kubrick’s film, but this is so much cooler. And by cooler, I mean nerdier. But they’re sort of the same thing, I find.


Every truly cultured music student knows

… that, as you may explain to your students, fair music teachers: you must do your scales and your arpeggios. And don’t forget to admonish them to feel the music ringing from their chest and not their nose.

I love that the little gray kitten’s name is Berlioz.

Sunset Suite #12

I ❤ The Phantom Tollbooth. And I even love the movie version. Despite the fact that I’ve never done drugs.

In the book there was a symphony orchestra for Chroma to conduct through the sunset, but still, pretty good. I just wish they hadn’t cut The Valley of Sound (I may have a fix for this later this summer!).

Charlie Chaplin, composer

Until I helped put together the 2010-2011 BSO season web presence last year, I had no idea!

Turns out Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed, starred in, and scored his 1925 film The Gold Rush. Well, the BSO is playing that music, and while they do that, they’re going to show the whole darn movie. Apparently it contains the famous “dance of the dinner rolls.” So I guess Beauty and the Beast didn’t do it first after all.

See it Friday, April 15 at 8 pm at Strathmore, or Saturday, April 16 at 8 pm and Sunday, April 17 at 3 pm at the Meyerhoff. Or if you’d like to get in free and can work REALLY FAST because unfortunately I suck and forgot to put this up earlier:

Win Tickets to The Gold Rush!

Create your own silent film to win tickets to Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush!  Get your inspiration from the master himself for your own silent film scene at http://www.charliechaplin.com/. Submitted film shorts can re-create famous moments in Chaplin’s beloved movie, or you can channel your inner-screenwriter and create something entirely new!  All films must be under 1:30 and posted to facebook.com/BSOmusic by 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13th.  The top 10 will receive a pair of ticketssimple as that! One lucky winner may even get the chance to have her or his film short viewed before the concert! (Please note: The BSO reserves the right not to choose any videos for pre-concert display.)

Fire up the webcam and get cracking!

Death and publicists

Speaking of losers, let’s talk about Dvorak!

Awww, just kidding, Anty. That was mean. Maybe I could hook you up with some representation to make it up to you. This screenshot from IMDb seems to indicate you need some.

No, seriously: the mad conductor

My sincere apologies for the extension of my blog vacation. It was supposed to end last Tuesday, but I discovered on Tuesday that I was dying of the plague and spent the remaining days up until today lying on the couch attempting to reverse the process. I have been mostly successful, I think.

Now where were we? How about I tell you about the horrifically mean, condescending, shouty music director I had in my high school enrichment orchestra? I disliked her intensely and was extremely pleased to escape her ensemble. However, a few years later I heard that she had decided to get drunk before the spring concert and spend her entire time on stage yelling out instructions and occasionally weaving into the stands to afford certain musicians more concentrated attention. This is sad and depressing and she is to be pitied and I am so incredibly sorry I missed it.

It’ll never happen again, but you can watch something similar on repeat! (Thanks to Medalist of Violar Rebekah for the catch.)

Up we go

I watched Up last night, and was struck once again by the brilliance of a movie scene paired with classical music. So I dug it up, and was delighted to discover at the top of the video’s comments the following message:

(WDanai) Great filmmaking to seamlessly incorporate such a phenomenal piece of music. With Habanera’s motif starting in a minor key (after the sadness of Ellie’s passing) and progressing into a major optimistic tone, I think that shows the strength of Carl to carry on, stubbornly. This transition is so important for the film.

My work here is done, and I hardly even had to do any work.

Music, a manipulative minx

Music creates a mood. If ever a statement deserved a ’90’s chorus of “Duh!”, that’s the one. But I’ve been thinking of it in the light of manipulation, because:

I was hanging with my dear friend Elizabeth, and we got into a conversation with her mother about our mutual tendency to roll our eyes at blatantly Emotional Scenes – that is to say, scenes where you can feel the movie hitting you over the head with the fact that This Is A Tragic Scene And You Should Be Sad (see the first scene of Star Trek), or conversely, This Is A Romantic Scene And These People Are In Love (Avatar, you were pretty, but I can’t get behind any movie that contains the line “I fell in love with the forest… the people… with you.” Also you are a sack of cliches, but lucky for you that’s not salient right now.)

Anyway, my point is, during our discourse Elizabeth’s mother mentioned how  “you hear the music swell and you know what’s coming.” Indeed! Music creates the context for the scene and informs you of what to expect.

Again: duh. But I came to think about it again this weekend, while playing a video game. Okay, first of all, whoever created Dragon Age: Origins: THANK YOU. Did you make it with me in mind? I really think you did. After all, who else would be thrilled by a minimum of combat and a maximum of dialogue choices and cut scenes?

Of course, it’s the combat, however sparse, to which I now refer: whenever an enemy approaches, my character hunkers down as ominous music is played. It’s simple and short and just a bit of dissonance in a minor key. The purpose of the music is wholly and solely to inform me that I am about to engage in battle. Nothing more, nothing less.

Now, I know movie scores and even video game scores, especially their suite forms, are often praised and played in their own rights. I’m not talking about those right now. I’m talking the little snippets meant only to rile emotion and let you know what’s coming up.


  1. Does such music, with no purpose other than to contextualize and inform, have further value?
  2. Do composers attempt to instill it with said value, or are they tossing something off in the proper key with the proper chord that they know will work?

I leave it open to the forum. What do you think? (Bonus points if you’re a composer of such music, and if so, may I have an interview please?)