Monday 1 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Charge

 Da-da-da-DAH-da-DAH!

The origins of this simple yet remarkable tune that everyone associates with baseball (but also football, hockey and basketball) games are somewhat disputed. Apparently, it was composed by Thomas Walker, an American producer of live entertainment events who is best remembered for having been director of entertainment at Disneyland during its first twelve years of operation. (Reportedly, Disney used to tease Walker, “Everything you do is fireworks, balloons, pigeons and flags.”)

A decorated veteran of World War II, Walker returned to the University of South California as a junior in 1946 and found the football team in need of a lift. As a drum major, he wrote the famous six-note fanfare for the trumpet section, and he introduced it at a band practice. Walker once declared, “I played a few notes on the trumpet — Da-da-da-DAH-da-DAH — and the band yelled, ‛Trojan warriors, charge!’ It seemed kind of effective, so we decided to try it that Saturday.” Then, somewhere between band practice and the game, someone decided to drop the “Trojan warriors” and simply yell “Charge!”

There are a number of people, musicians included, who cling to the belief that Walker borrowed the trumpet fanfare. They mistakenly insist that his Charge is merely an adaptation of the cavalry bugle call Charge. But as anyone who has ever watched a Hollywood cavalry regiment storm across a studio lot knows, the Army's Charge is nothing like the sporting version.

Categories: Fanfares Sports musicDifficulty: easy
Tuesday 2 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Tambourin

 by François-Joseph Gossec

Even the best-known composer in his lifetime may fall into obscurity after death. Belgian composer François-Joseph Gossec was acknowledged to be the greatest instrumental composer at the close of the ancien régime in France (Marie Antoinette loved his music) and, after an amazing about-face, he was also acknowledged to be the greatest composer of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods (Robespierre loved his music).

But all his fame has faded from memory, and Gossec is instead remembered for having composed the “Tambourin” for Flute and Orchestra. Taken from his divertissement-lyrique (a genre similar to opera) Le triomphe de la République, ou Le camp de Grandpré, this delightfully bright and lively piece is nearly mandatory among flutists: James Galway and Jean-Pierre Rampal have performed and recorded it numerous times.

Categories: Classical Show-off pieces Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 3 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Maria, Marì

 Italian song by Eduardo Di Capua

Composed in 1899 by Eduardo Di Capua with lyrics by poet Vincenzo Russo, this song was originally entitled “Maria, Marì”, but it eventually came to be known as “Oi Marì” from the first words of its refrain.

The lyrics to this waltz, which are actually in Neapolitan dialect and not in Italian, depict a classical serenade: a window, a girl, and a suitor on the street below.

Open, o window!
Let Maria appear,
As I’m in the middle of the street
Hoping to see her!

I don’t have a moment's peace
I turn my night into day
To be always here
Hoping to talk to her!

Oi Marì, Oi Marì
How much sleep I lose over you!
Let me sleep
Just hugging you!

Categories: Love songs Romantic Serenades WaltzesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 4 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Air à l'Italien

 from Suite in A minor by G.P. Telemann

In the Ouverture-Suite in A minor, TWV 55:a2 Telemann is revealed once more as a master of the “mixed taste”: the suite contains a pair of French minuets, two passepieds from Brittany, a Polish polonaise, and this “Air in the Italian style”, thus enhancing Telemann's pan-European reputation for inventive use of the orchestra in a form to which he was particularly attached.

The fourth movement from the suite is titled “Air à l’Italien”, although a more correct French spelling would be “Air à l'Italienne”. (Also, this is sometimes referred to as the third movement, because the two “Les Plaisirs” preceding it may be considered as a single movement.) This “Air” is a baroque operatic aria in Italian da capo form, as found in Handel: a cantabile first part followed by a contrasting virtuoso middle section.

Categories: BaroqueDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 5 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Across the Field

 Ohio State University fight song

“(Fight The Team) Across the Field” is one of several fight songs of the Ohio State University, and the oldest one still in current use. Written in 1915 by OSU student William A. Dougherty, Jr., it made its first public appearance the same year at a pep rally for the football game against Illinois.

Although the lyrics reference football heroics, the song is used by teams of all sports, and has also been adapted by many other universities and high schools in the United States.

Categories: Fight songs Marches Sports musicDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 6 February 2010

New Article: How to Practice Sight-reading

Practical tips to improve your sight-reading skills

In response to a request by Chloe, we are posting an article about sight-reading and how to practice it. We hope this article will prove a useful addition, since the whole site is mostly about sight-reading!

The article is divided into four parts. The introductory part points out the benefits that good sight-reading skills can bring, and tries to dispel some of the myths on this subject. The second part describes what exercises you should include in your practice routine in order to be more successful at sight-reading. The third part lists all the elements that you should examine before starting to sight-read a given piece. Finally, the fourth part contains tips about how to sight-read effectively.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Menuetto

 from “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The third movement from Mozart's highly popular “Little Serenade” is a minuet and trio in A–B–A form. This movement is in the tonic key of G major, and although marked “Allegretto” it is commonly played at a fairly quick tempo of about 138–144 BPM.

It contains two themes, one in the minuet and one in the trio. The movement begins with the minuet, then the trio theme enters modulating to the dominant key of D major. The minuet is finally played once more, this time omitting the repeats, so the movement ends in G major.

Mozart's entry for Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in his catalogue shows that the work originally had two minuets, for a total of five movements; the other minuet, which in the original version of the work figured as the second movement, was later removed, but nobody knows if by Mozart himself or by someone else. This mysterious missing movement has apparently been lost, although according to some musicologists Mozart may have reused it in Piano Sonata in B-flat, K498a.

Thanks to Olivia for requesting this piece!

Categories: Classical SerenadesDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 7 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Country Gardens

 Traditional English morris dance tune

“Country Gardens” is one of the many English folk tunes that was collected and notated by British folk tune revivalist, Cecil J. Sharp.

Australian-born composer Percy Grainger arranged the tune for piano in 1918 as a birthday gift for his mother, Rose. At the ending of a concert in 1918, he played this arrangement, and the audience was so pleased with it that Grainger decided to have it published. “Country Gardens” broke all selling records; in the U.S. more than 40.000 copies a year were sold. Grainger eventually hated the piece, because he was always associated with it.

American singer Jimmie Rodgers has recorded a well-known version of the tune.

Categories: Dance tunes Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Monday 8 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Pezzo in forma di sonatina

 from Tchaikovsky's Serenade in C major

“Pezzo in forma di sonatina” is the name Tchaikovsky gave to the first movement of his Serenade for Strings in C major, Op. 48. Premiered in 1880, this work remains one of the late Romantic era's most definitive compositions.

Tchaikovsky intended the first movement to be an imitation of Mozart's style, and he based it on the form of the classical sonatina, starting with a slow introductory section. This stirring “Andante non troppo” introduction, which bears the indication "sempre marcatissimo" (“always very marked”), is restated at the end of the movement, and also reappears, transformed, in the coda of the last movement, thus tying the entire work together.

Categories: Romantic SerenadesDifficulty: advanced
Tuesday 9 February 2010

Tune of the Day: The Skye Boat Song

 Traditional Scottish song

This traditional Scottish song recalls the escape of the young pretender Charles Edward Stewart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) after his defeat at Culloden in 1746. Aided by Flora MacDonald, Prince Charles escaped to the Isle of Skye in a small boat, in the disguise of a maid-servant.

The song was first published in 1884, with lyrics written by Sir Harold Boulton to an air collected by Miss Annie MacLeod in the 1870s. It is said that Miss MacLeod was on a trip to the isle of Skye and was being rowed over Loch Coruisk when the rowers broke into a Gaelic rowing song called “Cuachag nan Craobh” (“The Cuckoo in the Grove”). She only set down what she remembered of the air when she arrived at her destination, and this is probably why, while the first half of the tune is actually believed to be an old sea shanty, the other half is traditionally attributed to Miss MacLeod.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Vocalise

 by Sergei Rachmaninoff

One of Rachmaninoff's most popular pieces, the “Vocalise” was published in 1912 as the last of his Fourteen Songs, Op. 34. Although written for voice (soprano or tenor) with piano accompaniment, the song contains no words; instead, it is sung using only one vowel.

The piece immediately became popular, and the composer fashioned several transcriptions of the work, including one for piano and another for orchestra. The pure and enchanting melody has subsequently been arranged for many different instrument combinations, ranging from tuba and piano to solo trumpet. Curiously, however, the piece has never become very popular among flutists.

Categories: 20th centuryDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 11 February 2010

Tune of the Day: My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

 Valentine's Day is approaching!

The poem “My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” was written in 1794 by the celebrated Scots poet Robert Burns. Burns worked for the final ten years of his life on projects to preserve traditional Scottish songs for the future, the most famous being “Auld Lang Syne”.

Burns oiriginally intended “A Red, Red Rose” to be published as part of Thomson's A Select Collection of Original Scottish Airs for the Voice. However, Thomson and he disagreed on the merits of that type of song, so Burns finally decided to give the song to Scots singer Pietro Urbani, who published it in his Scots Songs to an original tune that he wrote.

The song was later set to the tune of Neil Gow's “Major Graham”, which was the tune that Burns wanted, and to William Marshall's “Wishaw's Favourite”. However, the song only became really popular when Robert Archibald Smith paired it with the tune of “Low Down in the Broom” in 1821. This has become the most popular arrangement.

Categories: Celtic Music Love songs Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 12 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Radetzky March

 by Johann Strauss the Elder, arranged for flute solo

This march was composed in 1848 by Austrian composer Johann Strauss Sr. It was dedicated to the Austrian Field Marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz, and became quite a popular march among soldiers. Despite its military nature, the tone of the piece is rather festive than martial, in accordance with its dedicatee's exuberant personality and popularity in the ballroom as well as the battlefield.

When the march was first played, in front of Austrian officers in attendance, they promptly clapped and stomped their feet when they heard the chorus. This tradition is carried over today: when the march is played as the last piece of music at the Vienna New Year Concert, the conductor turns to the audience to conduct their clapping instead of the orchestra!

Categories: Marches Military music RomanticDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 13 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Buckeye Battle Cry

 Ohio State University fight song

“Buckeye Battle Cry”, composed by vaudeville performer and songwriter Frank Crumit, is one of two fight songs of the Ohio State Buckeyes, the other being Across the Field. Every football game in Ohio Stadium begins with a ramp entrance by the Ohio State University Marching Band performed to “Buckeye Battle Cry”. The song is also played after every Buckeye score.

Although Crumit was not an OSU student and was, in fact, a graduate of Ohio University, he had many friends in Columbus and was a Buckeye fan. When planning began for Ohio Stadium, the search for new fight songs to play in it also began. When a song contest was announced for in the spring of 1919, Crumit wrote and entered “Buckeye Battle Cry”. It won, and was published. By 1928, with the first ramp entrance, the song was firmly in place as one of the main symbols of Ohio State.

Thanks to Sueann for suggesting this piece!

Categories: Fight songs Sports musicDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 14 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Largo

 Flute duet by Georg Philipp Telemann

This is the third movement from the second of Telemann's “Sonatas without Bass for Two Transverse Flutes, or Two Violins, or Two Recorders”. As you may recall, we have already posted the first movement of this Sonata, Dolce. The other two movements are on their way!

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 15 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Moto perpetuo

 by Niccolò Paganini, transcribed for Flute and Piano

Paganini's now-famous Allegro vivace in C Major for violin and orchestra, usually simply called “Moto perpetuo” or “Perpetual Motion”, was composed in 1835, but remained unpublished at the time of the Composer's death in 1840. It was first put to print in 1851, but it did not really enter the standard repertoire until 1932, when Fritz Kreisler made a new transcription of the work for violin and piano; other violinists were quick to follow Kreisler's lead, and by mid-century the piece had become a staple of virtually every virtuoso's encore list.

In our transcription we have tried to imitate the way James Galway plays this piece. If you think that 144 BPM is too fast, you should go get some recordings by famous violinists like Yehudi Menuhin: they manage to play the 189-measure-long run of machine-gun sixteenth notes at a constant tempo of 200 BPM!

Of course, unless you are a really advanced player you should not attempt to play this piece at full tempo. Instead, think of it as an etude, and play it slowly as you would do with scales and arpeggios. Great flutists normally use an extended technique known as circular breathing in pieces like this one, but the average player should simply remember to always breathe musically… when at all possible!

Categories: Etudes Romantic Show-off piecesDifficulty: advanced
Tuesday 16 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Olympic Hymn

 Official Olympic Anthem
The Olympic Truce Emblem

This is the hymn that is played when the Olympic Flag is raised. In its original form it is a choral cantata, written by Greek opera composer Spyridon Samaras with words from a poem by Kostis Palamas. The anthem was performed for the first time for the ceremony of opening of the 1896 Athens Olympic Games, but wasn't declared the official hymn by the International Olympic Committee until 1957. Since 1960, it has been used at the Opening Ceremonies of each Olympic Games.

The anthem has been recorded and performed in many different languages, usually as a result of the hosting of the Games in various countries. At the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver, for instance, it was sung in a mix of English and French, to reflect Canada's bilingualism.

Categories: Sports musicDifficulty: easy
Wednesday 17 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Un bel dì vedremo

 from “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo Puccini

Madama Butterfly is a famous opera in three acts (originally two) by Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. It is set in Nagasaki, Japan, in 1904. According to some scholars, the opera was based on events that actually occurred in Nagasaki in the early 1890s.

Pinkerton, a U.S. Naval Officer, marries Cio-Cio-San (aka Madama Butterfly), a young geisha, in a ceremony she takes more seriously than he. One day, Pinkerton finds that he has been deployed and must do a tour of duty. On the last morning he is with Butterfly he promises her that he will return with roses, when the robin builds his nest again.

At the beginning of Act 2, three years have passed, but Cio-Cio-San still refuses to believe that Pinkerton has abandoned her. She says that, “un bel dì” (“one beautiful day”), they will see a puff of smoke on the far horizon. Then a ship will appear and enter the harbor. She will not go down to meet him but will wait on the hill for him to come. After a long time, she will see in the far distance a man beginning the walk out of the city and up the hill. When he arrives, he will call “Butterfly” from a distance, but she will not answer, partly for fun and partly not to die from the excitement of the first meeting. Then he will speak the names he used to call her: “Little one. Dear wife. Orange blossom.”

Categories: Arias Opera excerpts RomanticDifficulty: advanced
Thursday 18 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Fly Around My Pretty Little Miss

 Traditional American folk song

This old-timer used to be a favorite among American fiddlers and banjo players. It is known under many different names (“Pretty Little Pink”, “Western Country”), and many variations of the melody exist.

Fly around my pretty little miss
Fly around my daisy
Fly around my pretty little miss
You almost drive me crazy

This and other similar tunes seem to have originated sometime after the Civil War.

Categories: Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Friday 19 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Rondò

 from “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

The fourth and last movement of Mozart's “Little Night Music” is in sonata rondo form. This finale returns with the liveliness of the first movement, which was also marked “Allegro”. The Rondo alters between two main themes during the exposition. In the development, it modulates through various keys and ends in the tonic key of G major, then the two themes return in the recapitulation and finally end in the coda.

With this post we now have all the four movements of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. Here are the links to the other three: Allegro, Romanze, Menuetto.

Categories: Classical Rondos Serenades SonatasDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 20 February 2010

Tune of the Day: The Dunmore Lasses

 Traditional Irish tune

This traditional Irish tune is also known as “Morrison's Reel”. A reel is a typical Irish dance tune in duple meter that is usually very fast and lively; nonetheless, this particular tune is most often played slowly, sometimes almost as if it were an air. We have added some ornamentation on the sheet music, but of course you can omit if you want.

There's a wonderful recording of this tune by Irish flutist Matt Molloy in the Chieftains' 1995 album The Long Black Veil.

Categories: Celtic Music Reels Traditional/FolkDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 21 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Gavotte

 from French Suite No. 5 in G major by J.S. Bach

This lighthearted gavotte is part of French Suite No. 5 in G major for harpsichord, composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1722–1723.

Each of the six French Suites contains the four dance movements that Bach made standard for the genre: Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue. In Suite No. 5 Bach inserts three movements between the Sarabande and Gigue. The first of these is the famous Gavotte, a sprightly, French ballroom dance in 2/2 meter with a modulation to the dominant key of D major at the end of the first half.

Categories: Baroque GavottesDifficulty: intermediate
Monday 22 February 2010

Tune of the Day: A la claire fontaine

 Traditional French love song

“A la claire fontaine” is a traditional French folk song. Although the words are romantic, this song is above all a very well known nursery rhyme, at the same level as Frère Jacques or Au clair de la lune.

At the clear fountain
While I was walking by
I found the water so lovely
That I went for a bathe

It's been so long that I've loved you
Never will your memory fade

The song was played at the very end of the 2006 film The Painted Veil, an adaptation of W. Somerset Maugham's novel with Ed Norton and Naomi Watts.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Allegro

 Flute duet by Georg Philipp Telemann

This is the second movement from Telemann's Sonata No. 2 in D major for two flutes/recorders, published by the great Baroque Composer himself in 1727. This movement is marked “Allegro” and should thus ideally be played at a quick, lively tempo. As usual, take your time, and don't try to play along with the MP3 recording straightaway.

Categories: Baroque Sonatas Written for FluteDifficulty: intermediate
Wednesday 24 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Serenade

 from “Les millions d'Arlequin” by R. Drigo

Les millions d'Arlequin (or Harlequinade) is a ballet in two acts with libretto and choreography by Marius Petipa and music by Italian composer Riccardo Drigo. It was first presented in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1900.

Drigo's score spawned the popular salon repertory piece known as the “Serenade”, which the composer later rewrote as a song called “Notturno d'amore” for the Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli. The piece has since been arranged for every conceivable instrument, particularly the violin and piano.

Categories: Ballet excerpts Romantic SerenadesDifficulty: intermediate
Thursday 25 February 2010

Tune of the Day: On Top of Old Smoky

 Traditional American folk song

Old Smoky is often identified with a high mountain somewhere in the Ozarks or the central Appalachians, since the tune of this traditional American ballad bears the stylistic hallmarks of the Scottish and Irish people who settled that region. Possibilities include Clingmans Dome, named “Smoky Dome” by local Scots-Irish inhabitants, but exactly which mountain it is may be lost to antiquity.

On top of Old Smoky, all covered with snow
I lost my true lover, for courtin' too slow

“On Top of Old Smoky” was notably recorded by The Weavers in 1951, using an arrangement by Pete Seeger; it reached the pop music charts, and sold over a million copies.

The song has many parody versions, the most famous being the 1963 hit “On Top of Spaghetti” by Tom Glazer, which deals with the loss of a meatball “when somebody sneezed.”

Categories: Ballads Nursery rhymes Traditional/FolkDifficulty: easy
Friday 26 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Gymnopédie No. 1

 from “Trois Gymnopédies” by Erik Satie

The three Gymnopédies were composed during 1888, while Satie was working as a cabaret pianist in Paris.

Gymnopédie No. 1 is marked “Lent et douloureux” (slow and mournful). Its steady 3/4 meter music falls into two nearly identical halves, with an accompaniment that sets up a regular rhythm (short-long, short-long) in the first bars and then veers from that rhythm only at the very end of each half. Atop this gently swaying background is a melody of the most peculiarly expressive kind; its quarter notes are translucent, its longer notes somehow hollow at their center.

Thanks to Maria for suggesting this piece!

Categories: 20th centuryDifficulty: intermediate
Saturday 27 February 2010

Tune of the Day: Trumpet Tune in D

 Attributed to Henry Purcell

Like the even more famous “Trumpet Voluntary”, this Trumpet Tune in D has long been attributed to the celebrated baroque composer Henry Purcell, while the real author of the piece was English organist Jeremiah Clarke (1674–1707). The tune was taken from the semi-opera The Island Princess, which was a joint musical production of Clarke and Daniel Purcell (Henry Purcell's younger brother), probably leading to the confusion.

Contrary to what you may think, trumpet tunes like this one were written not for the brass instrument, the trumpet, but for the “trumpet” set of pipes on the organ. These brassy reed pipes were used for joyful, rhythmic tunes. Today, this piece has become a standard at weddings, and it is usually played right before the beginning of the ceremony.

Categories: Baroque Wedding musicDifficulty: intermediate
Sunday 28 February 2010

Tune of the Day: The Easy Winners

 A Ragtime Two Step by Scott Joplin

Written in 1901, “The Easy Winners” is one of Scott Joplin's most popular works. Quite unusually for Joplin, he chose to publish the piece himself. Why his usual publisher, John Stark, didn't publish the rag is not known for certain.

In any case, many commentators believe “The Easy Winners”, which is something of a celebration of the sporting world, particularly horse racing, to be one of Joplin's greatest rags. Certainly it was one of his most popular right from the beginning; it was one of only four Joplin pieces to be recorded before 1940.

Categories: RagtimeDifficulty: intermediate