Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks

sacks-music

Writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, who died on Sunday, August 30, 2015 at age 82, spent his life wondering on the myriad connections among biology, thought, emotion and perception.

For those of us who obsess over the how and why of music, Sacks’ work on sound and its effects on the brain – and vice versa – was particularly illuminating. His book on the subject, “Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain,” remains essential reading for those who want to understand the mechanics of music.

Through bountiful research and mesmerizing case studies, Sacks addressed topics including music and amnesia, music therapy, musical prodigies and those who suffer from debilitating aural hallucinations.

Read more at Oliver Sacks & music: On brainworms, hallucinations and sonic overload – LA Times

The O’Connor Music Studio has a copy of Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain if anyone would like to borrow it.

 

Piano Maestro: Vivaldi’s Spring

vivaldi

 

Vivaldi, one of the greatest baroque composers, has a very interesting story. He ran an orphanage in the 18th century in Italy that became famous all over the western world for its musically talented children. A lot of his pieces were written for specific children in his school. Vivaldi learned the violin from his father, and was trained as a priest. He was nicknamed “the red priest” for his red hair and was apparently somewhat sure of himself, having claimed once he can compose a concerto faster than it can be copied.

Vivaldi wrote over 500 pieces, most of which are lost today. He is considered one of the greatest musical landmarks in history, having inspired many composers that followed him, including J.S.Bach and others.

Other fun facts about Vivaldi can be found here.

Vivaldi’s Spring is available on Piano Maestro, which is available to my students free of charge.

Manuscript of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K331 Discovered in Budapest in 2014

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The manuscript of Mozart’s A major piano sonata K331 has recently been discovered in Budapest. Having spent the majority of its life in the Budapest’s National Széchényi Library for decades, the coveted manuscript was rediscovered by Haydn scholar Balazs Mikusi.

“When I first laid eyes upon the manuscript, the handwriting already looked suspiciously ‘Mozartish’,” said Mikusi, who is the head of the music collection at National Szechenyi Library. “Then I started reading the notes, and realised it is the famous A Major sonata … My heart rate shot up.”

The piece was composed in 1783 and contains Mozart’s most popular jam, “Turkish March,” which has become a piano lesson staple all over the world.

Although, unfortunately, Mikusi can’t say how or when these pages found their way to Hungary; they reveal subtle differences from the published editions of the sonata. The key variances are seen in the phrasing, dynamics and occasionally the notes themselves.

“It is very rare that a Mozart manuscript pops up. Moreover the A Major Sonata had no known manuscript, so it is a really big discovery,” he said.

The library has only released teasing images of the manuscript, nothing more.

 

From Manuscript of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K331 Discovered in Budapest’s National Széchényi Library : Classical : Classicalite.

The whole sonata:

 

From the Radio Show Piano Puzzlers!

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The Piano Puzzlers book is available in the O’Connor Music Studio library if you’d like to give any a try.  Piano Puzzlers as heard on American Public Media’s “Performance Today.” Includes 32 tunes with songs by Gershwin, Berlin, Arlen, Porter, Rodgers, Fats Waller, Lennon & McCartney, and others disguised in the styles of Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, Chopin, Janacek, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Copland.

Includes an introduction by Fred Child, host of “Performance Today” as well as background info by Bruce Adolphe. “Bruce Adolphe has taken a common musician’s party game and elevated it to high art and truly funny musical slapsticks. The Piano Puzzlers are a unique combination of extraordinary insight into the styles of many composers subtle, expert workmanship and great, great fun!”

From http://jasonmorris.blogsome.com/2008/08/08/piano-puzzlers/

If you’re a music geek (like me), I have a program for you. Now, let me be clear, to fully qualify as a music geek…you must have a fond appreciation for classical music (no, Poison, Quiet Riot, and Zepplin do not count as classical music). So, if you’re a “music geek” without an appreciation for classical music…well, I hate to burst your bubble…but, you’re not truly a music geek. Instead, you’re a music appreciator, but not a geek. So, if you just listen to indie music and scowl at anything on a label larger than Matador…don’t bother following the link I’ll provide…the fun will be lost on you…And, you probably won’t have a chance.

Every Wednesday night, on my way home from WNL, I turn on my local NPR station to listen to Piano Puzzlers on Performance Today. It’s absolutely incredible. A pianist/composer (Bruce Adolphe) takes a familiar folk or pop tune and sets it inside a classical masterpiece (or in the style of a particular composer). Sometimes it’s easy…sometimes it’s ridiculously difficult. There are days when I say, “got it” on the first pass. Then there are days when I say, “what the heck?” And, more often than not, I’m able to get either the popular/folk tune or the composer.

This is sad to admit, but there are nights when I’ll slow down on the drive home or sit in the car in the driveway to finish an episode. In fact, I get a little worked up if someone stops me after WNL…as I might miss the beginning of Piano Puzzlers (it usually hits around 8:20pm on our local station).

Take a listen to some of the archives and see if you can figure it out! It’s really cool…but probably only appreciated by music geeks (the kind of people that listen to NPR for their musical programs and not just the snipets of cool indie rock between segments on All Things Considered…which is a great show too).

Play Piano Puzzlers HERE!

July 10 ~ Daily Listening Assignment

 

Today’s piece is Solfeggietto by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (aka C.P.E. Bach). The piece is commonly assigned to piano students and appears in many books because it fosters the playing of an even sixteenth note rhythm by alternating hands.

 

 

Bass guitar

Clarinet starting about a minute in:

On harp

Find it on IMSLP,  in several anthologies of music at the O’Connor Music Studio, in Piano Pronto: Encore

July 9 ~ Daily Listening Assignment

 

Today’s Listening Assignment is Country Gardens by Percy Grainger.

“Country Gardens” is an English folk tune collected by Cecil Sharp from the playing of William Kimber and arranged for piano in 1918 by Percy Grainger.

The tune and the Grainger arrangement for piano and orchestra is a favorite with school orchestras, and other performances of the work include morris dancing.

A piano version:

Piano duet (four-hands)

Clarinet solo

 

Orchestra

From the Muppets

And, how a Morris Dance is done:

Find Country Gardens on IMSLP, Piano Maestro (under the method book section) and Piano Pronto: Movement 2

July 7 ~ Daily Listening Assignment

 

Today, we’ll listen to the Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, of Ludwig van Beethoven.  It was written between 1804–1808. It is one of the best-known compositions in classical music, and one of the most frequently played symphonies. As is typical of symphonies in the classical period, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is in four movements.

I’m sure you’ve heard the first 8 notes before…

 

Since it was written for orchestra, each instrument has its own line:

A piano version, transcribed by Liszt

From Disney’s Fantasia 2000:

Pink learns to play the violin, and interrupts a performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with the Pink Panther theme played on various instruments.

Beethoven’s Wig:

 

Arrangements of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony can be found in Piano Maestro and lots of books including Piano Pronto’s Movement 2, Movement 5 (Victory Theme) and Beethoven: Exploring His Life and Music.