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Music and Transfiguration

The Power of Art

I recently had a rather interesting conversation with a friend of mine. She is currently going through law school and has a keen interest in politics. We each also share an interest for the other's respective fields; me for politics and she for the arts. Our conversation centered around basically the current state of affairs in the world and, regardless of which side of the political fence you sit on, the eminent disasters the world is speeding towards. My friend, unfortunately, has a rather pessimistic view of the coming decades.

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The Most Musical Music

I'm sitting here listening to the Bach suites for cello performed by one of the greats, Mstislav Rostropovich. While I greatly admire the symphonies of Beethoven and Brahms and the operas of Wagner, it is the music for the lone performer that intrigues me the most. Being a trombonist, much of my performance experience has been as part of a group, be it an orchestra or wind ensemble, or a smaller chamber group. Although I do enjoy the ensemble experience and there is a lot of great literature for just about any ensemble group, a part of me always grudgingly accepts it.

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In Memoriam

Throughout its history, music has always been regarded as the most subtle of the arts, the one closest to the heart of man. The Romantic philosophers regarded music as the most noble of the arts, a gift from heaven itself, and the language of the angels. Music has the power to make clear what we cannot comprehend in any other way. It searches the deepest recesses of what makes us human. It gives expression to feelings when there is no other adequate way. It calms us. It inspires. It can lift us up when we're down. It can give us the motivation needed to press on.

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Classical Music and Peace of Mind

If you have kept up with recent news, then you undoubtedly know about the volcanic eruption that occurred in Iceland last week. Due to the ash cloud from the eruption, air travel was completely suspended throughout much of Europe. Thousands of flights were canceled and thousands more people were stranded with virtually no way of getting home. I was one of them. I had only been in England for two days when I heard the news of the volcano eruption. My return flight to the US was scheduled for this past Monday, but air travel didn't resume until the following Wednesday.


Basic Ideas about Music Theory

Music theory has always been a strong point of mine. It is an intriguing subject—a challenge, and it requires a constant mental effort. This is one of the reasons why I love it. From my point of view, though, it is also a subject of much confusion and contradictions.

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The Distant Guiding Sun

Being a composer is difficult, and being a perfectionist makes it even worse. It is difficult to compose without, at some point, realizing that there are many great names that have come before you—that your work, whether you like it or not, is going to be judged against that standard. Depending on your particular niche in the classical music world, those names might be more fear-inducing than inspiring. Even Johannes Brahms commented that it was difficult to compose when one hears the footsteps of that giant Beethoven behind him.

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Then and Now

Studying C.P.E Bach's Essay has turned out to be far more interesting and exciting than I had anticipated. I am completely changing the way I think about music and its theory. One thing is overwhelmingly obvious: music theory can't be divorced from practical application. What I mean by this is that music theory can never become a dry academic study without any immediate, palpable influence on composition or performance. In the Baroque period, and even into the Classical period as well, figured bass was music theory.


The Heart of Man Can Speak

There are some things you read, or that people say, that just leave you speechless. Something that just reaches down into the core of your being and touches something there. For me, one such example is a quote I read some time ago by the 19th century author Jean Paul and I always keep it close by so I can re-read it. I don't want to give any commentary on it because, frankly, I can't. The quote seems to say it all and I don't know what else to add. Also, I want to just put this quote out there for you to read and ponder on it yourself, without any outside commentary.

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A Thought While Reading C.P.E. Bach's Essay

The past week I have finally found the time to really get into C.P.E. Bach’s Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments. It has been sitting on my bookshelf for quite some time now. However, knowing ahead of time the historical significance of the book, I made up my mind to not get into it until I knew I had plenty of time to really get the most out of it. I’ve skipped over the first part of the book dealing with keyboard performance because I am mainly concerned with the portion on music theory. Prior to this, J.G.


A Composer's Last Works

It’s always fascinating to look at the entire works of a composer, to witness the development of an artist from his earliest works to his last. Sometimes, even just a particular genre, tells much of the story of the developing musician. Take for example Beethoven’s piano sonatas--starting with the Opus 2 sonatas that are so much in the spirit of Mozart and Haydn, you then pass through the Pathétique, the Waldstein and the Appassionata, then the colossal Hammerklavier, and end with the 32nd sonata in C minor.

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