Listening Log 2019-2020

May 2020


Tangos are a type of dramatic ballroom dance in 4/4 or 2/4 meter that started to become popular in Argentina and Uruguay in the late 1800s. The dancers can be very serious but sometimes they are playful too. Tango music has accented rhythms and sudden pauses. In this video Carmen Quesada and Nolan Alexander Ancil play a tango composed by Astor Piazzolla.

Astor Piazzolla was born in 1921 in Argentina to Italian parents. When he was young, his family moved to New York City. While he was growing up there, Astor was exposed to many different musical styles including the music of J. S. Bach and jazz. As a young adult he composed “Buenos Aires Symphony” and entered it into a contest. The judges liked his piece so much they awarded him a grant (scholarship) to study composition with a famous teacher, Nadia Boulanger, in France.

After his studies he returned to Argentina and continued composing. He stretched the boundaries for tango music, trying many new ideas like counterpoint and jazz-like melodies and harmonies. At first many Argentinians did not like this new tango music. As time passed people appreciated his work more and more and he became famous.

April 2020

Colorful Sonatina

This month we are sharpening our observational skills. The more specific your comments the more helpful they will be. I hope you will include encouraging messages as well as kind suggestions for improvements. Smilie faces feedback is fine for students 7-years-old and under. If you are 8-years-old or older please write out your thoughtful observations.

This composition is by Nancy Faber and is in the Level One Gold Star Performance Book. It is performed by Justin & Alexander Siek.

March 2020

Prelude & Fugue No. 22 in Bb Minor BWV 867

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is one of the most important composers of the Baroque Period (1600-1750). In his day he was best known for his impressive organ playing. Bach built some organs. He worked as a court musician and for various churches as a musician, composer and director. He also was a private music teacher. In the 1800s musicians started to dig in to his compositions and they were recognized as masterpieces. Some of his most beloved works include: “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” “Brandenburg Concertos,” “Toccata & Fugue in Dm,” “Air on the G String” and “St. Matthew’s Passion”.

“The Well-Tempered Clavier” is a collection of 24 preludes and fugues composed for keyboard instruments (harpsichord, clavichord, and organ). In this video András Schiff performs the 22nd piece from this collection. The prelude (0:00-2:40) is an introduction to the fugue (2:40-5:33) that follows. A fugue is a piece of music that has several melodies (or voices). It comes from the Italian word “fuga” which means flight.

February 2020

When the Saints Go Marching In

Louis Armstrong was one of the most influential musicians in the last century. His cheerful and confident stage presence, creative improvisations and unique style of singing and trumpet playing attracted many people to jazz music. He was well-loved and was given the nickname Satchmo by his friends.

When he was young he fired a gun in the street. It probably was a dare from his friends. He was sentenced to live in a boy’s detention home for a while. During his time there he was recruited for their band. The band master, Captain Peter Davis, saw how much Louis wanted to learn music and taught him how to play the cornet (a brass instrument similar to the trumpet). Even though he was being punished, something very positive happened that changed his life and eventually had a global impact. When he grew up, Louis Armstrong was very popular and travelled the world performing music with his band.

January 2020

Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in CM K. 467, Allegro maestoso, Andante

A concerto is a set of musical pieces written for a solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed many piano concertos for himself to play. He was a brilliant pianist. His concertos usually begin with a fast movement (piece), are followed by a slower movement and end with an energetic one. Audiences do not clap in between the individual movements but rather wait until all the pieces have been played.

Murray Perahia not only plays the piano solo but also conducts the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in this performance. Often in concertos the ensemble stops playing and the soloist gets to improvise a cadenza. Be sure to listen to Mr. Perahia’s cadenza (12:29-14:04).

December 2019

We Three Kings

The Piano Guys filmed this video at the ice rink at Bryant Park in Manhattan, NYC. (I used to skate there!) “We Three Kings” is a traditional Christmas carol but they made it sound new by playing it in a Latin jazz style. Originally the carol is in 3/4 but their arrangement starts out in a different meter. When they get to the B section (1:02-1:26) the time signature changes. When a piece uses more than one time signature that is called “mixed meter”. They throw in a couple of improv sessions and invite skaters to free-style skate with them. So fun! 🙂

November 2019

Silent Night

This month we are sharpening our observational skills to prepare for our upcoming workshop. Please use the updated feedback form. The more specific your comments the more helpful they will be. I hope you will be thoughtful and include encouraging messages as well as kind suggestions for improvements.

October 2019

Sonata X

John Cage (1912-1992) loved to explore new sonorities (sounds) and compositional techniques. He composed several pieces for “prepared piano”. He would write very specific instructions for musicians, telling them to put items into the strings of their grand pianos. Sometimes he would give the performers choices about what order to play the different sections of his compositions. One of his most famous pieces is called 4’ 33”. He directs the pianist to sit at a piano for 4 minutes and 33 seconds in silence so the audience can hear music in all the natural sounds around them.

Sometimes it is difficult to fully appreciate 20th century music (music composed in the 1900s)  with only one hearing. I personally need to listen to “new” music several times before I can decide how I feel about it. Please listen to Tim Ovens play John Cage’s “Sonata X” several times before completing your listening log worksheet.

September 2019

Six Écossaises, WoO 83

The Écossaise is a type of partner dance that was popular in France and Great Britain in the late 1700s and early 1800s, when Beethoven was growing up. The écossaise was usually danced in 2/4 time in two lines, with men facing the women. As the dance continues, couples move to the head of the line.  Écossaise dance music usually has dynamic contrasts and lively rhythms which make it exciting. Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Frédéric Chopin all composed écossaises.

Dr. Alan Huckleberry does an excellent job bringing out the individual character of all six of these écossaises composed by Beethoven (1770-1827). Watch the Jane Austen Society of France recreate this dance!