Daily listening Friday 17th July

Summertime” is a song by American hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. The duo consisted of rapper Will Smith (the Fresh Prince) and disc jockey Jeff Townes (DJ Jazzy Jeff). The song was released in May 1991 and became their most successful single.

The song samples the 1974 song “Summer Madness” by the American band, Kool & the Gang.

Have a fabulous summer holiday! Maybe do some really lovely musical things – try a new instrument, learn a new piece, or listen to something different. We look forward to hearing all about it next term.

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Daily listening Thursday 16th July

His third album ‘Hide and Seek’ was released in March 2020.

Adam Ben Ezra (born 1982) is an Israeli self-taught multi-instrumentalist, composer and educator, known for his double bass performances. He is also an online sensation with more than ten million hits on YouTube and a strong social media following. He was introduced to the double-bass at age 16 and was instantly attracted to the instrument’s rich sound. He incorporates elements of Jazz, Funk, Latin and Mediterranean music into his playing, and often uses a combination of electronic effects and pedals to loop his notes in order to deliver a rich wall of sound.

Find out more about the double bass here

Daily listening Wednesday 15th July

Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington (1899 – 1974) was an American composer, pianist and big-band bandleader who composed thousands of scores over his 50-year career. He composed It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) in 1931. The lyrics were written by Irving Mills. The song is now accepted as a jazz standard.

big band is a type of ensemble of jazz music. They dominated jazz in the early 1940s when swing music was most popular and the big bands provided the accompaniment for dancing. Swing music uses subtle syncopated rhythms (rhythm patterns where stressed notes are placed off the beat).

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It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. I swear, it's ...

In contrast to the typical jazz emphasis on improvisation, big bands relied more on written compositions and arrangements. They gave a greater role to bandleaders, arrangers, and sections of instruments rather than soloists. Big bands usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section.

Daily listening Monday 13th July

This is Rondo alla Mambo (inspired by the Third Movement of W. A. Mozart’s Horn Concerto No.3) played by French Horn player, Sarah Willis, and the Havana Lyceum Orchestra of Cuba. Sarah Willis is a horn player in the world-renowned Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. She travelled to Havana in Cuba to teach and discovered that music was everywhere, and was very surprised to come across a monument commemorating Mozart. This was the inspiration for her project ‘Mozart y Mambo’ a one-time musical experience combining Mozart’s horn concertos with traditional Cuban music. Find out more about this project here.

The mambo is a genre of Cuban dance music which originated in Cuba in the 1940s. Listen out for the syncopated rhythms and exciting percussion. Compare the mambo-style melody in today’s extract above (from 57 seconds) with Mozart’s original version here from the 1780s.

Daily listening Sunday 12th July

Do Not Be Afraid is a choral song composed by Philip Stopford with words by Gerard Markland. It is based on four verses from the Book of Isaiah, Chapter 43.

Philip Stopford (born 1977) is an English sacred music choral composer and choir director. He is known for his contemporary a cappella and accompanied settings of traditional Latin and English prayers and hymns. A cappella means vocal music performed without instrumental accompaniment as can be heard in today’s piece. A cappella is Italian for ‘”in the manner of the chapel”‘ – it was originally used in religious music.

Daily listening Saturday 11th July

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 1 / Sir Simon Rattle, conductor · Berliner Philharmoniker / Recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie, 5 November 2010

Gustav Mahler (1860 – 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian composer and conductor from the late Romantic period of music. Today’s piece, the Symphony No. 1 in D major was mainly composed between late 1887 and March 1888.

The extract is from the start of the fourth movement.

Things to listen out for:

  • The introduction consisting of an abrupt cymbal crash, a loud chord in the upper woodwinds, string and brass, and a timpani roll, all in succession.
  • Fanfares in the brass section

The symphony is scored for a very large orchestra, consisting of the following:

  • Woodwinds – 4 flutes, 4 oboes, 4 clarinets, 3 bassoons 
  • Brass – 7 horns, 5 trumpets, 4 trombones, 1 tuba
  • Percussion – 6 timpani, 1 bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tam-tam
  • Strings – 1 harp, 1st violins, 2nd violins, violas, cellos, double basses

Daily listening Friday 10th July

Flight of the Bumblebee is an orchestral piece written by Rimsky-Korsakov for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, composed in 1899–1900 during the late Romantic period of music. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844 –1908) was a Russian composer who is regarded as a master of orchestration. Orchestration is the practice of writing music for an orchestra.

The composition of today’s piece is intended to musically evoke the seemingly chaotic and rapidly changing flying pattern of a bumblebee. 

Things to listen out for:

  • The rapid chromatic scales played by the solo violinist. A chromatic scale is a pattern of notes consisting of semitones. A semitone is the smallest gap between 2 notes, for example C to C#. Using semitones creates musical tension.
  • The virtuosic melody line with a light accompaniment from pizzicato orchestral strings. Pizzicato means the instruments are played by plucking the strings with the finger instead of using the bow.
  • A steady pulse

Daily listening Thursday 9th July

Alexis Ffrench (born 1970) is a contemporary composer and pianist from the UK. He is known for his unique style of combining his classical training on the piano with a love of roots music and R&B (rhythm and blues).

Today’s piece, Waterfalls comes from his debut album, Evolution.

Things to listen out for:

  • The piece begins in 3/4 time with a 1-in-a-bar feel. 
  • The right-hand melody mainly consists of step-wise movement.
  • The opening melody is repeated several times. At 00:51 listen out for the violin counter-melody (a secondary tune heard at the same time as the main melody).
  • The music builds up to a climactic moment at 02:01 where the piano note values are halved, creating a cascading feel (like a waterfall)
  • A percussion instrument called a mark tree is used at various points during the piece. See if you can hear when it is being played.
25 Bar Mark Tree by Gear4music: Amazon.co.uk: Musical Instruments
A mark tree

Daily listening Wednesday 8th July

Mary O’Brien (1939 – 1999), professionally known as Dusty Springfield, was an English pop singer and record producer. Her career extended from the late 1950s to the 1990s and at her peak, she was one of the most successful British female performers, famous for her distinctive mezzo-soprano sound.

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Today’s song, “Son of a Preacher Man” is a song written and composed by American songwriters John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins. Springfield recorded the song in September 1968 for her album Dusty in Memphis.

As a fan of US soul music, she brought many little-known soul singers to the attention of a wider UK record-buying audience. Since her death, Springfield has been widely commended as the leading British soul singer of the twentieth century. She is remembered as an icon of the Swinging Sixties, and her album Dusty in Memphis is recognised as a pop-R&B masterpiece.

Dusty Springfield Takes The Reigns Of Blue-Eyed Soul