Monday, August 5, 2013

"Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the river, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering." ~Saint Augustine

Greetings, scholars! 

The Great Wave at Kanagawa by Hokusai

During my family's recent hike to Snow Lake near Alpental at the Snoqualmie Pass, I couldn't help but think of The Pines of Rome by Respighi, especially the 4th movement, The Appian Way. As you watch this video, can you hear with your little ear children playing peacefully under the pines at the beginning of the movement, followed by a walk past the catacombs - Trombones imitate the priests chanting! - and culminating with the Roman soldiers marching triumphantly to Capitoline Hill? (The word capitol is derived from the name of this citadel.)

My family also loves to go boating in the Puget Sound during the summer. We enjoy the excitement of tying up and waiting in the Ballard Locks and then heading out to sea! A marvelous tone poem about the ocean is La Mer by Debussy. Impressionistic, like the art of Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cassatt, and Degas, Debussy paints moods or impressions with music. As a lad, his parents wanted him to become a sailor, but he had other ideas. He preferred looking at the sea in a painting or reading about the sea from great literature. Listen to the lovely and exciting conversations between the wind and the sea. The accompanying paintings are by Turner, an Englishman who influenced the French Impressionists.

What have you and your family been doing over summer vacation? Perhaps, on the occasional rainy day, you have had time to review your music theory? (The greatest composers and conductors typically did not wait to be taught theory, but were autodidacts; an autodidact is a person who is self-taught, requiring intense self-discipline and intellectual curiosity.)

The Piano Lesson by George Goodwin Kilburne (1871)

"A swan-like end, fading in music..." ~Portia in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice

I have decided to retire from teaching in the fall. Our 4th grandchild is expected in September and I am looking forward to spending Saturdays with my family. I will be coming to the Academy on occasion to teach Yoga for Musicians workshops. Please keep in touch and let me know of your myriad accomplishments. What a pleasure it has been to watch you grow into budding musicians and scholars!

The Music Lesson by Lord Frederick Leighton (1877)

"Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." ~Ludwig van Beethoven

"To leave a place is to die a little." ~French proverb

Arrivederci, amici! Adieu, mes amis!

Mrs. Dike

Monday, April 22, 2013

Greetings, scholars! Let's promenade!

Take a trip to the Seattle Art Museum before May 19th and you will get to promenade through the special exhibit, European Masters. You will see paintings by Rembrandt, Van Dyke, and Gainsborough, among others. As you walk through the gallery, you will find a portraiture of a little girl and a painting of two young boys on horseback with their playful dogs running alongside. Children in the 19th century enjoyed having fun, just as you do!

Little Miss Murray by Sir Thomas Lawrence

The Hon. E. S. Russell and His Brother by Edwin Landseer

Pause for a while during your museum promenade to gaze at Mr. Rembrandt's self-portraiture:

Portrait of the Artist by Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt created almost one hundred self-portraitures! Fifty were paintings and the rest were etchings and drawings. Can you spy with your little eye his maulstick, palette, and brushes? 
 Notice Rembrandt's brilliant use of the color white, which is why the fancy, expensive toothpaste is named after him. He is one of the masters of chiaroscuro, which means light and dark in Italian. The other master is my favorite, Caravaggio.
Homework: What is the purpose of a maulstick when painting?

Do you remember the maulstick in Velázquez' painting, Las Meninas (The Ladies-in-Waiting)? Let's review what we discovered about the world's most beloved painting.

Las Meninas by Velázquez

Velázquez was the court painter for King Philip IV of Spain. He worked very hard for the king. After he died, the king painted the honorary red cross on Velázquez' chest that you see in the painting. The dwarf and the young jester (playfully teasing the family dog) and the ladies-in-waiting to the lovely Princess Margarita are all welcomed into the fold of family for this group portraiture. Velázquez created a sense of movement in the painting that makes us want to jump into the scene and play. He had some fun with anyone who views this huge painting, as well. Who is the subject? It was commissioned by the king and queen, but they are painted only as a dim reflection in the mirror. Is the princess the subject? 

Could it be true?
The subject is you!

WARNING: If you do get a chance to visit SAM, beware of the Stendahl Syndrome - fainting and heart-racing after viewing fine art. This sickness is named after Mr. Stendahl and his fainting spell upon seeing great artworks in the Uffizi Gallery Museum in Florence, Italy. Mrs. Dike has endured this sickness myriad times. The first episode followed seeing Copley's Watson and the Shark in the Detroit Art Museum when she was 10.

Listen once again to Modest Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibitiona piece he wrote to honor his dear, artist/architect friend, Victor Hartmann, who had died just before the piece was composed. Pictures at an Exhibition was written for piano, but is now usually played by orchestra in an arrangement by Ravel.

Let's go on an artistic/musical treasure hunt! Find:
  1. Promenade theme...How many times does it reappear throughout the piece? Listen carefully; Sometimes it's disguised! 
  2. Clumsy, shrieking nutcracker 
  3. Sad troubadour by a castle (Saxophone alert!?)
  4. Children playing in the Tuileries Garden
  5. Peasant singing as he drives comes closer in his wagon with giant wheels pulled by huge oxen
  6. Unhatched chicks dancing a ballet - only legs, arms, and heads showing
  7. Rich, conceited man arguing with a poor, whining man
  8. Ladies arguing and bickering over fine Limoges china at a sale in Paris
  9. Scary, underground tombs (catacombs)
  10. Baba Yaga, the witch of Russian folktales, flying around on a clock-shaped hut
  11. The Great Gate of Kiev - Listen for the pealing bells and the final, triumphant return of the Promenade!
Hartmann's Chicks Sketch

Baba Yaga's Hut on Hen's Legs

Ars longa, vita brevis! (Life is short, art lasts!)

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Haydn Seek: Surprises, Jokes, Pranks, a Pun, and a Poem!

Greetings, scholars!

Happy Birthday to Franz Joseph Haydn, the Classical composer, born on March 31, 1732! Haydn was born in Austria. (Be the first to find it on our class globe this week!) Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven spent much time composing and performing in the beautiful city of Vienna, Austria and are thus known as Viennese Classical composers. Haydn was a choirboy and he taught himself music theory!

Haydn playing string quartets

Haydn's nickname was "Papa" because he was good-natured and kind to everyone. Also, although he did not have any children, he is considered the father of the symphony and the string quartet. Papa Haydn's symphonies (106 in all) were often given nicknames, as well. Listen to the second movement of Symphony #101 in D Major and see if you can guess why it is nicknamed the "Clock."

I hope you enjoyed a happy April Fool's Day! Scherzo is a musical term that means joke. Papa Haydn loved to include jokes in his music. His Symphony #94 (nicknamed the "Surprise Symphony") is bound to make you giggle. Brace yourself for the fortissimo
(very loud) chord during the pianissimo (very soft) section of the 2nd movement. Perhaps Haydn was trying to put you to sleep, only to wake you up again?

My favorite musical prank is from Haydn's "Farewell Symphony" (#41). Haydn added a 5th movement in order to convince the Duke of Esterhazy that his exhausted musicians needed a break and the chance to be with their own families for a time. Enjoy the graceful, gentle Finale and watch for the musicians and conductor to slyly and gradually leave the stage until only the first two desks of violins are left. Below, the violinists turn off their stand lights; In Haydn's day, they would have blown out their stand candles!

Alas, the Duke allowed the musicians a well-deserved vacation. Extra credit for knowing which instrument the Duke played. His first name was Nikolaus I.

Princess Henriette (daughter of Louis XV) playing the Viola da Gamba, by Nattier c.1754

Homework: Draw a self-portraiture, including your finest 18th century attire, playing an instrument from that period. We will hang your portraits in the lobby.

Haydn Seek
My poem for you is no joke;
Toward you, little fun would I poke.
Always remember,
Whether June or December:
Meeting and greeting
Trump tweeting.
Haydn and Mozart? They met!
Mozart and Beethoven? You bet!
Haydn and Beethoven? Teacher's pet!
Each of these pairs 
Of Viennese Classicists
Enjoyed a tete-a-tete!
~Mrs. Dike

Friday, March 15, 2013

Greetings, scholars!

England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales:
Four little puppy dogs without any tails!

The poem above helps wee geographers remember the names of the British Isles. As St. Patrick's Day is upon us, we shall focus on Irish music and art this week.

Chi Rho (letters of the Greek alphabet) Page from the Book of Kells (c.800)

This illuminated manuscript from the Medieval Period (Middle Ages) was created by Celtic (from Ireland) monks on vellum (animal skin). It contains beautiful Irish knots, a red-headed Mary and Jesus, and many animals and mythical beasts. The Book of Kells is Ireland's greatest treasure!

Look closely for these hidden images (Click HERE to magnify):

1. cat with rats eating a communion wafer
2. moths (symbols of rebirth)
3. otter on his back, holding a fish

Listen to the Finale to Gustav Holst's St. Paul Suite. You will hear a jolly Irish dance called a Dargasson alongside the melancholy English folksong, Greensleeves.

Beware the Ides of March and draw your own illuminated manuscript based on an initial in your name, in the style of the Book of Kells.

Further explore the world's most beautiful book here and here. Lastly, read about the history of St. Patrick's Day here.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Greetings, Scholars!

Tarantella Time!

The Tarantella is an Italian folk dance with light, quick steps (staccato) and teasing behavior toward one's partner. The lady dancers carry tambourines and wear wreaths with streaming ribbons in their hair. The music is in lively 6/8 time - compound duple meter. The tarantella dance is connected with tarantism, a disease resulting in hysteria that appeared in Italy in the 15th to 17th centuries and was thought to have been caused by the bite of the tarantula spider. Victims were cured by wild dancing! All three words are derived from the name of the town of Taranto, Italy. Can you find Italy on your globe? Can you remember our Baroque composers from Italy?* 
(Hint: Their names end in the letter i, as in spaghetti, ravioli, biscotti, and cannoli. Don't forget to eat your zucchini and broccoli!)  

Enjoy watching and listening to Gottschalk's Grand Tarantella!

The Tarantella
Our syllables for 6/8 time (6 beats per measure - an eighth note gets one beat) are: stroll for the dotted quarter notes, e-ven-ly for the eighth notes, and gal-lop for the quarter notes followed by the eighth notes. Dance those spiders away!

*Corelli, Scarlatti, and Vivaldi!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Valentine's Riddle for Sweet, Singing Scholars:

 I am round and sweet,
Sold on a Salzburg street,
Where marzipan and hazelnut meet.
I'm named after Mozart - a treat!
What am I?

Answer the riddle and receive your just desserts!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Greetings, scholars!

Congratulations on a pleasant, praiseworthy Pezzo Performance (Alliteration!) last Saturday.
Bravo, brava, bravi!

The great Renaissance artist, Giuseppi Arcimboldo, loved to create visual puns with his oil paintings on wood and canvas. In the winter months he enjoyed using root vegetables for his subjects.

Stand on your head to see a delicious bowl of veggies below!

The Gardener by Giuseppe Arcimboldo, c. 1500

Use your keen ears to find three different movements: 

1. Bounty  
2. Aversion to Carrots  
3. Rah!

In which instrument family does the clarinet belong?
 Can you hear the canon?

We will learn a new part (QUODLIBET) for Singing School after our semester break and compose more leitmotifs for One Morning in Maine

 We are also going to begin learning The Orchestra Song. The lyrics for the first and second verses are below, so that you can get an early start:

The fiddles - they sing it, and sob it, and swing it; 
They sway and they play it; they sing all they say!
The clarinet, the clarinet says dua-dua-dua-dua-det; 
The clarinet, the clarinet says dua-dua-dua-det.

Homework: Listen to Eat Your Vegetables! and try your artistic hand at a visual pun. Bring your artwork in after semester break to share with your classmates.

See you on Saturday, February 2nd!