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10 minutes | Sep 13, 2021
Addendum to Season 2
A short addendum to Dr. Music Season 2, including a quote from W.E.B. Du Bois!
30 minutes | Sep 6, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 20 - Season Finale
Happy Labor Day! Almost everybody is familiar with the Ode To Joy theme from the fourth movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - right? But how many people, other than musicologists, are familiar with exactly how that monumental movement is constructed? What makes masterpieces of music great is not the melody itself. The French children's song, Ah! vous dirai-je, maman, is a very memorable melody...but look what Mozart did with it! Likewise, Beethoven writes a very memorable theme, set to Schiller's famous poem, and forges one of the greatest symphonic movements in the entire Western European music tradition. Once you have listened to this episode, the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony will take on a whole new light (and a whole new "Freude," as Beethoven would say)!
21 minutes | Aug 30, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 19
The French composer Jules Massanet (1842-1912) is known mainly for his operas, though general audiences are often familiar with either specific arias or suites from operas. Besides the very popular Meditation from his opera Thaïs , the ballet suite from Le Cid contains some popular Spanish folk pieces. Yet how does one make a simple folk-like melody sound interesting and fresh within a serious orchestral composition? It takes the hand of a very talented composer like Massanet to breathe new life into what could have been a bland, conventional presentation of a folk melody. We shall see how Massanet treats two pieces from his ballet suite, the Castillane and the Aragonaise. This episode will show how a singable folk melody can be packed with surprises!
24 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 18
What does the French word Gymnopédie mean? It could mean an ancient Greek dance, but only Erik Satie, the composer of three piano pieces bearing that name, knows the real answer. Being a mysterious man, it is possible he wanted the meaning to remain mysterious. Yet if the title is mysterious, the music itself is a lesson in unadorned beauty. Gymnopédie No. 1, the most well-known of the three, is the subject of this episode. We will see how Satie rejects the complexity of large scale traditional forms in favor of basking in music's elemental nature -- the simplicity of melody. In addition, we will take a look at Debussy's take on the piece in his very unique orchestral arrangement.
27 minutes | Aug 16, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 17
When you think of a concerto, most often you think of a piece for solo instrument or instruments with orchestral accompaniment--piano concerto, violin concerto, trumpet concerto, etc. What about a concerto for orchestra? That is exactly what the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók wrote in 1943 while he was living in New York City. One of his most popular pieces, Concerto for Orchestra, displays the kind of virtuosic performance technique one would expect from any solo concerto, except that the solo passages are performed by not only individual soloists, but entire sections of the orchestra. Experience Bartók's unique musical language and also his sense of humor as we listen to notable excerpts from all five movements!
32 minutes | Aug 9, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 16
This episode features the podcast's very first interview with a professional musician! I am privileged to know Dr. Jerry Felker, an educator, arranger, band director, and performer, holding a Doctor of Musical Arts in trombone performance. Dr. Felker will be speaking about his extensive career, ranging from his experience playing in an army band, to both chamber and concert performances of jazz and classical music, to arranging various works in the trombone repertoire. Regardless of whether you know a professional musician, you will find his story both interesting and enlightening. At the conclusion of the episode, you will hear a recording of Dr. Felker playing a movement from Vaughan Williams's Concerto for Bass Tuba! (Of course on a trombone.) And perhaps he will inspire some of you out there to begin taking instrumental lessons -- it's never too late!
24 minutes | Aug 2, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 15
The idea of listening to a "death dance" may not be very appetizing...until you hear one by Franz Liszt. His 1849 composition for piano solo and orchestra, Totentanz, is a tour de force in virtousic performance, featuring Liszt's "transcendental" piano technique. The piece is a set of variations on the 13th century monophonic chant, Dies Irae, or "Day Of Wrath." In the hands of Liszt (and he had two very large hands), these variations encompass styles ranging from Baroque imitative counterpoint to the cutting edge new Romantic style of the mid to late 19th century. You're in for quite a rollercoaster ride with piece, and don't worry--this "death dance" is completely safe for your musical health!
21 minutes | Jul 26, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 14
As a companion to Episode 5, we will take a look at another German lied - not by Schubert, but by his successor, Robert Schumann. Like Schubert, Schumann wrote some of the most beautiful song cycles in the history of western European music. Perhaps his most popular cycle, Dichterliebe, is based on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, and contains a wealth of musical poetry. How, in the space of only a minute and a half, can Schumann so vividly evoke the meaning of the text through his manipulation of keys and harmonies? We will gain a clear insight into how this is accomplished by examining the first song in the cycle, Im wunderschönen Monat Mai, or In The Beautiful Month of May.
21 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 13
Hearing a jazz chord automatically makes us think of the jazz idiom, but who actually wrote the first jazz chords? Those rich sonorities actually have their beginnings in the Romantic period with composers like Chopin and Liszt. But we can actually hear the beginnings of the jazz style in the music of late 19th century French impressionism. In this episode, we will revisit the composer of Season 1, Episode 1, Claude Debussy, one of the most important composers of the Western European music tradition. As we examine one of the preludes from Debussy's second book, Heather, we shall see how he synthesizes basic tonal progressions of his predecessors with a new approach to how music can paint a picture. And when you hear those jazz progressions, remember that "jazz" as a historical current has not been invented yet!
24 minutes | Jul 12, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 12
Edvard Grieg is certainly the most famous composer of Norway, though he rightly has secured a position among the top composers of the 19th century. Besides his well-known incidental music for Peer Gynt (discussed in Season 1, Episode 12), Grieg's Piano Concerto In A Minor, the only one he wrote, is one of his most popular compositions, and a standard of the genre. Like many great pieces of music, the themes have hidden connections that the casual listener may miss. That is why it is Dr. Music's duty to reveal those connections! So sit back as we take a peek at the first movement, and explore what it is that makes this music so enduring.
28 minutes | Jul 5, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 11
Out of all the classical music you've ever listened to, have you ever listened to the music of Josquin des Prez? If you've never heard of him, don't feel bad. He's not a household name like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. Musicologists refer to him affectionately as "Josquin," because he is by far one of the most famous composers of the entire Renaissance Period. The music of the Renaissance is quite different than the tonal music we are all so familiar with, but no less beautiful. It is a singular beauty that has endured to this day. This will become immediately apparent when you listen to Josquin's lovely motet, Ave Maria, the subject piece of this episode.
25 minutes | Jun 28, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 10
Peter Tchaikovsky is known mainly for his popular ballets, like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and The Sleeping Beauty, but he was more fond of his serious larger works, especially his symphonies. In this episode, we will take a look (and listen) at the first movement of his great Symphony No. 5, a work that continues to enjoy a healthy life in the standard symphonic repertoire. Like we saw in the last episode with Gershwin's Concerto In F, a composer of the Romantic style like Tchaikovsky is very concerned with creating tension and extending it as long as possible. We shall see what it is about Tchaikovsky's procedure that makes him so exceptional!
27 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 9
If you've listened to prior episodes of this podcast, you know that a little bit of music theory goes a long way in unlocking the mysteries of why musical gestures produce certain effects. Great composers like George Gershwin possessed an innate sense of how simply voicing a chord in a particular way can dramatically change how a listener experiences the muslc. In this episode, we will focus on about 20 measures from the first movement of Gershwin's fabulous piano concerto, Concerto In F. Within the framework of a unique genre, symphonic jazz, these measures are a lesson on how tension is created and sustained -- in the spirit of the entire Western European tradition!
25 minutes | Jun 14, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 8
If you are familiar with the ragtime classic, The Entertainer, it is possibly due to the 1973 hit film, The Sting. Scott Joplin's rags, of course, were performed and admired long before that movie was released. While we don't often associate Scott Joplin with classical music, he can certainly be credited with elevating the art of ragtime to a hitherto unseen level. This is particularly true of his later pieces, which expand the established dictates of what a rag is "supposed" to sound like. In this episode, we will examine one of these works, Euphonic Sounds, and discover what it is about Joplin's rags that merits their inclusion among the vast pantheon of masterworks: namely, their unique transcendence of its own genre.
22 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 7
Polish composer Frederic Chopin was a master of both the short and long forms, and one of the great pianists of the nineteenth century. Like Bach, he composed a piece in each of the 24 keys, calling them preludes. But while Bach's preludes were introductory pieces to his fugues, Chopin's preludes are pieces unto themselves. Nobody at that time had ever composed a prelude by itself. Though often short, and based on one musical idea, there is an art to creating musical tension within a limited amount of time - even 30 seconds! To illustrate how this is done, we shall explore Chopin's Prelude in G Major, thus opening the key to the rest of this impressive musical compendium!
21 minutes | May 31, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 6
Imagine you heard a quick, sprightly theme, followed by a slow, lyrical, gorgeously romantic theme. The two themes sound very different in both profile and emotional mood. Now imagine you are told that the second theme is the first one in disguise! That is the magic of theme and variations, which we have discussed in previous episodes. In the hands of an incredibly gifted composer like Sergei Rachmaninoff, a theme by the 19th-century virtuoso violinist, Nicolo Paganini, can take on so many different guises that a variation of the theme can become more famous than the theme itself! That is exactly what occurs in the 18th variation of Rachmaninoff's masterpiece, Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. This episode will chart the course of exactly how that works!
22 minutes | May 24, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 5
The German lied, or song, can demonstrate the level of artistic heights attained within a symphony, in the hands of composers like Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann. In this episode, we will examine the lied Auf Dem Flusse, from Schubert's song cycle, Winterreise. By the end of this episode, you will appreciate more how a talented composer does not merely write pretty, singable melodies. The poetic relationship between text and music is what makes these short pieces absolute gems, and why they continue to be performed and studied throughout the world. Discover what makes an art song an art song!
26 minutes | May 17, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 4
In Episode 23 of Season 1, we briefly discussed Mozart's Fantasy In D Minor to introduce rhapsodies in music. We return to it in this episode. A fantasy, like a rhapsody, is improvisatory in nature, and doesn't subscribe to any rigid formal scheme. The challenge in writing such a composition is making it all somehow hold together, and there are many different methods a composer may employ to achieve this. In this episode, we will gain a glimpse into the mind of an artistic genius -- but it takes a theoretical magnifying glass to discover the hidden threads that bind this piece together!
25 minutes | May 10, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 3
Do you think it's possible for a single piece of music to incorporate multiple harmonic systems and still remain stylistically consistent? Often that is more the rule than the exception in 20th century music. In this episode, we will be examining part of Ravel's beautiful ballet, Mother Goose, to reveal how 20th century composers can draw upon various harmonic systems - some dating back to the Middle Ages and some modern - to paint a musical canvas as vivid and colorful as the nursery rhymes it depicts!
26 minutes | May 3, 2021
Dr. Music Season 2 Episode 2
The late piano sonatas of Beethoven are among the most amazing piano compositions ever composed. Beethoven wrote these sonatas essentially deaf, and it was this afflction that ironically motivated him to produce some of the most original, personal music of the entire 19th century. In this episode, we will be looking at the Opus 109 Piano Sonata in E Major. It is amazing how, through the course of the sonata, how he can not only develop a theme, but a simple musical interval - the third, to be exact!
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