Monday, January 15, 2018

VIVALDI's "The Four Seasons"

Deutsch: Antonio Lucio Vivaldi
Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Another day, another vindication. I had been asked to do this post because it's true that these pieces are everywhere. The first of these is featured in almost every lazy film where people are meant to look snooty while sipping tea out in their formal gardens while being served by extravagantly mustachioed butlers. The second has been hardly spared, either, though I will say that it was the first one that was most recently featured in a commercial touting colon health. What "Spring" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons has to do with the lower intestine is beyond me, but I suppose any publicity is good 250 years post-mortem.

Antonio Vivaldi was born during an earthquake in Venice in the year 1678. Well, perhaps not during the earthquake itself, but there was certainly one in the city that day. He was the contemporary of both Handel and Bach, and I suppose one could say he represents Italy in terms of great Baroque composers. His father was a violinist and perhaps a composer, and though not much is known for certain about Antonio's childhood, one can safely assume that he was taught much of what he knew by his father. Antonio was a student of the violin as well as composition - childhood respiratory illnesses kept him away from woodwinds, as well as other childhood activities, I'm sure. He began studying for the priesthood at 15 and was ordained at 25. His nickname, "The Red Priest," is the fusing of his original vocation as well as a nod to his red hair. That's right. Antonio Vivaldi was a ginger.

At 25, he also began a long working relationship with the Ospedale della Pietà in Venice, an orphanage that was oddly forward-thinking. There were five of these orphanages in Venice at the time, and while the boys were eventually trained for a trade, the girls were educated in music - and this was a HUGE deal, as women were generally not allowed to see music as anything more than a hobby. The Pietà featured a choir and orchestra entirely comprised of women and girls, and they were, by all accounts, incredible. Vivaldi began there as a violin teacher and spent many years working up the ranks at the orphanage until, in 1716, he was named the music director of the entire organization.

In 1705, when Vivaldi was 27, his first collection of compositions was published. These were mostly sonatas and other smaller forms of music, though he was about to embark on a long and decidedly fruitful career as an opera composer. Italy (both at the time, and, arguably, for about two hundred years afterward) was the center of opera - still a somewhat new art form at the time - and in 1713, Vivaldi jumped on the bandwagon with Ottone in villa. In his lifetime, he composed at least 50 and as many as 95 operas, and the fact that attention hasn't been paid to them is really quite surprising. Between the late 1710s and 1725, he moved around Italy, living in Mantua, Rome, and Milan, but by 1725 - the year The Four Seasons was premiered - he was back in Venice. He was wildly successful for a time, but by his middle age, he was considered out of style and moved to Vienna to try and make a fresh start. It didn't work out, unfortunately, and he died there at the age of 63, all but penniless. To rub salt in that indignity, Vivaldi was never given the 19th-century renaissance that Handel and Bach both (posthumously, of course) enjoyed. It wasn't until the 1920s that interest in Vivaldi was rekindled - and even now, he is really only known for one work, though his catalog is gigantic. But yes - enough lamenting his lack of acknowledgment. On to The Four Seasons.

The Four Seasons is a set of four violin concertos composed in 1723 and published in 1725 as the first third of a set of twelve. The concert itself is an interesting genre of music. Older than the symphony, it first appeared in the 17th century. The word "concerto" is thought to come from Italian words meaning "together" and "competition," which makes sense - in the concerto (and its slightly earlier counterpart, the concerto grosso, which simply translates to "big concerto"), musical material is passed between a large ensemble and a small ensemble (in the grosso) or a soloist. It is usually in three movements (opposed to the generally four-movement symphony), and by Vivaldi's time and afterward, it was used to highlight a solo instrument. Vivaldi was one of the early masters of the concerto, and it was his work that dictated the form of the style for many years after his time.

Beyond being a set of four elegant concertos, The Four Seasons may be one of the earliest examples of program music. Composers have tried for hundreds of years to evoke specific emotions or even concrete images with music. In vocal pieces, this is called word painting - an example being a rising melody line on words that imply height, such as 'mountain' or 'sky.' Program music takes this idea further by giving an entire narrative to instrumental music. The Four Seasons was written to accompany four sonnets that may have been written by Vivaldi himself, and if they were, then they are some of the earliest examples of programs being prescribed to instrumental pieces. Vivaldi liked the music he composed for the set so much that he transplanted the opening of the "Spring" concerto to the beginning of his pastoral opera Dorilla in Tempe. And today, well... it's been transplanted to people trying to make colon health fancy. Not exactly the highest of praise, I suppose, but at least it's something.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

How to SING Deep

Illu01 head neck.jpg
. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Are you looking for tips on how to sing deep or to just deepen your voice overall?  This can give you more singing range and even help the sound of your voice when you're just talking. Men especially are often concerned with having a deeper voice but women too may find their voice is too "pitchy" or may sound nasal as well.

You can learn singing deep with a few simple tips to consider. First, remember to strengthen your diaphragm muscles in order to deepen your voice. This means working on your breathing; take deep, full breaths. They should be deliberate breaths that you pull slowly and hold for a few seconds before exhaling. You can also try panting quickly and deeply as well to strengthen the diaphragm.

Second, mind your posture. Remember that singing comes not just from the throat but from many different muscles in the body. Good posture will help those muscles to be properly aligned and ready to support that deep voice. Think of having a long tail that extends past your tailbone and how you want to stand up enough to support that tail. This will help train your posture to support those muscles as well. You also need to raise your chest and pull the shoulders back a bit so they too are properly aligned.

Learning how to sing deep is not difficult if you practice these simple tips. It helps to try them in between singing sessions. When you're at a microphone is not the time to start practicing your breathing! Your posture especially is something that should be a part of your everyday life; if you work on it regularly you'll just have naturally supportive posture. Try these tips and see if you don't notice a beautiful deepening of your singing voice!

Saturday, January 13, 2018


Percussion instruments3
Percussion instruments3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Anthropologists and historians repeatedly speculate that percussion instruments were the first musical apparatus ever came into being. But with the utmost certainty, the human voice was the first musical instrument, and surely, percussion tools such as feet, hands, rocks, sticks, and logs came in second to the on-going evolution of music. When humans developed tools for hunting and agriculture, their knowledge alongside with skill, enabled them to produce more complex tools. They use slit drum, made from a hollowed-out tree trunk. For instance, a simple log may have been shaped to generate louder tones (log drum) and may have been pooled to create numerous tones (set of log drums).

As time moved on, so is the evolution of percussion instruments. In the early 10th century, it was known that most tribes in Africa use sorts of percussions such as djembe, macaras used in Latin America, karimbas in Asia and seed rattles in Australia for their recreational and worship rituals and sometimes used in sending signals.

Percussion instruments that are displayed in orchestra first came from Asia Minor. In the 15th century, people began migrating east and brought with them numerous instruments. Our percussion instruments got their initial stages there when the Crusades took back the drums that they found in the Middle East. From then on, an evolution of percussion and drums kicked up a notch and assortments of percussion instruments came into being.

Percussion is categorized by a variety of criteria at times depending on their cultural origin, construction and function within the musical orchestration. It is generally referred as ?the heartbeat? of a musical ensemble, often functioning close collaboration with bass instruments if present.

Drums and percussions, as well as bass, are known as the rhythm section of the most popular music genres. Most classical pieces written for an orchestra since the time of Mozart and Haydn are schemed to put emphasis on strings, brass, and woodwinds. However, time and again they include a pair of timpani (kettle drums) although not played continuously. But moderately, they serve to offer additional accents when needed.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, more percussion instruments (like the cymbals or triangles) came to being and frequently, again moderately and cautiously played in general. The massive uses of percussion instruments become more recurrent in the 20th century, on classical music.

In almost all types of music, percussion plays a fundamental role. In a military parade, it is the strike of the bass drum that holds the soldiers' instep and at a normal speed, and it is the snare that endows that crisp, vital air to the tune of a troop. In traditional jazz, one almost instantly thinks of the distinguishing rhythm of the hi-hats or the ride cymbal when the word "swing" is uttered. In more current popular music genres, it is almost impossible to name at least three or four rock, hip-hop, rap, funk, punk, techno, grunge, alternative and blues songs that don?t have some kind of percussive beat maintaining the tune in time.

Because of the mixture and wide assortments of percussive instruments, it is not unusual to find large musical gathering composed wholly of percussion. Rhythm, harmony, and melody are all evident and alive in these musical factions, and in live performances, they are quite a spectacle to see.

Friday, January 12, 2018

MOZART's Don Giovanni: How Women Become More Important Than Men

A scene from Don Giovanni as perform'd at the ...
A scene from Don Giovanni as performed at the Kings Theatre (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mozart used Don Giovanni as a means to show his affinity towards the female roles he experienced in his life. He was one of the first in the 18th century to show that women could be intelligent and vibrant in public life. This extrovert portrayal of the women would be more prevalent at the beginning of the 19th century when women played an important role in European salons and the literary circles. Mozart took the audacious move of showing a "mélange" of social classes. He also showed men to be weak and in need of women rather than the contrary. His men are shown to be pathetic creatures.

In the 18th century, women were given intellectual and artistic liberties as long as they were discrete. Their sitting rooms of the aristocracy had male servants and ladies-in-waiting. The dual existence was to show that their devotion to their husbands took precedence. Donna Anna was engaged to get married though she had been "scorned" by Don Giovanni. It would have put her aristocratic standing in question. Donna Elvira was also supposed to get married She was in constant conflict with Don Giovanni. Their love-hate relationship prevailed throughout the opera.

Sexual freedom was part of the social etiquette in the period of Enlightenment. It was quite common for both men and women to have discrete extramarital affairs in 18th century Europe. Mozart's wife tolerated his affairs only with the servant girls. She would not allow him to philanderer with the aristocrats or other women from the social elite. One must understand Mozart often wrote his female roles for specific women with whom he had a relationship. He was the man who had never found his mother. It was well-known.

Don Giovanni was never discrete. He had not come from the aristocratic class. Mozart was a Don Giovanni in disguise. He was not terribly discrete and he was still considered part of the court. He had his patron and worked under the orders of the Prince or the Church who employed him at the time of his musical composition.

By the end of the first act of the opera, the three women unite together to show they are capable of existing without the need of their male counterparts. In the second act, they work to get Don Giovanni.

Donna Anna, who was engaged, would have had a waiting room with either a man-servant or a lady-in-waiting. She was an strong-willed young woman who obviously pretended as though she had been humiliated. Don Giovanni would never have had access to her inner chambers. Donna Anna shows her aristocratic intelligence by running down the stair singing she had been scorned. Perhaps it was only her pride or ego which had been insulted. She is the stronger of the two showing Don Giovanni running away from her. Mozart liked strong, intelligent women.

Donna Elvira also is a strong-willed aristocratic woman who had been deceived two times by Don Giovanni. She unites with Donna Anna. The two of them go looking for him. They find themselves at a tavern. Mozart mixed the social classes again. Don Giovanni who had tried to get into the aristocratic class is now singing to Zerlina, a young tavern girl who was also supposed to be engaged. Mozart shows three women who are off-limits to the outside world.

The three men in the opera can be analyzed as weak and capricious. At the end of the 2nd act, the three women see Don Giovanni for whom he really was He is a young weak man who never gets what he wants. He goes after women who are impossible to have. The father who becomes the stone statue when he loses his life in a dual asks for Don Giovanni to repent. When he refuses, the Commendatore pulls him into the earth. Perhaps they both have been pulled into hell?

The opera shows the social tension. The pride of the woman's public reputation is more important than her own personal integrity. The duality of reputation over sexual freedom behind doors is used by Donna Anna to her benefit. She frees herself from Don Giovanni and she keeps her reputation. No one will ever know what happened. Donna Elvira forgives Don Giovanni and asks him to change his ways. He loses interest in her. Donna Elvira spends her life in a convent. Zerlina is free to go back to her fiancé. Donna Anna refuses requests to get married as her father only just died. Did she want her freedom as Mozart implied, or did she want to respect the year custom after a parent died? Mozart made a mockery of the different social customs

Mozart made a courageous stand by showing that women's existence did not depend on men. Women stood together and achieved what they were after. In the opera, the three women stand together. Mozart was ahead of his time. They were strong, vibrant women who took control. Don Giovanni, the frustrated young man, looks for the mother he never finds. Mozart was a prolific composer who died a pauper. His infatuation with women and his low esteem for men would be the vice which would be his downfall.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Shakuhachi player (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
These days Japanese bamboo flutes or Shakuhachi flutes are used by a lot of practitioners of Zen Buddhism and meditation as well as for playing Jazz, Classical, Japanese folk music and improvisation. The soothing sound of the Japanese bamboo flute or Shakuhachi helps guide us, breath by breath, into a more relaxed and peaceful state of being, while gifting ourselves and others with the beauty of the unique sound.

The Shakuhachi bamboo flute is made from the very bottom of a bamboo tree, but versions now exist in ABS and hardwoods. The name shakuhachi is derived from the term "isshaku hassun" meaning one shaku and eight sun (1.8 Japanese feet). Generally, the term shakuhachi refers to the standard size instrument, which is 54.5 cm in length, but it can also refer to many different sizes ranging from 1.3 - 2.5 shaku (39.4 - 75.7 cm) and longer. The shakuhachi is frequently made from the root portion of a thick-walled bamboo (known as madake in Japanese).

If you see a Japanese bamboo flute you can see that it looks simple in appearance. But, did you know that it is very difficult to play? If played by a master this bamboo flute can create amazing, subtle, sensual music - prized as being perfect for meditation and relaxation. It's beautiful, soulful sound is wonderful to listen to when you are taking a good rest or are relaxing or getting ready for sleep. If you are into Zen then having a Japanese bamboo flute can help you with your focus. The soothing sounds that the bamboo flute make create a calm feeling. Did you know that The Zen flute came from China to Japan sometime in the 6th century? The instrument was then adopted by a sect of Zen Buddhist monks around the 15th century. This fact definitely explains the bamboo flutes long relationship with martial arts.

If you are looking for an instrument for your energetic child to learn, look no further. The Shakuhachi will help calm your child's soul and give them focus and concentration. Imagine if your child took up the bamboo flute as one of their hobbies. Not only it is safe but at the same time your children will be musically inclined and be calmer and more focused because of their daily practice.
Another good thing about bamboo flutes is that you can buy them cheaply or you can make them at home. If you are going to make a homemade bamboo flute just make sure to have the right guidelines and information. You need to know the proper measurements, the holes and the exact length and weight of a good bamboo flute which you can find online. Get yourself a bamboo flute and have soothing and relaxing sounds anytime you want in your own home!