Daily listening Saturday 16th May

Yesterday we heard Ravi Shankar’s music combining Indian and Western classical instrumentation. Today we will hear how Ravi inspired many other musicians, including George Harrison from The Beatles.

George Harrison playing the sitar with Ravi Shankar in the 1960s

Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)” is a song by The Beatles from their 1965 album Rubber Soul. The track features a sitar part, played by lead guitarist George Harrison. This was the first appearance of the Indian string instrument on a Western rock recording. The song also helped elevate Ravi Shankar and Indian classical music to mainstream popularity in the West, and the song is recognised as a key work in the early evolution of world music.

Many other rock and pop artists, including the Rolling Stones went on to integrate elements of Indian classical music into their musical approach. This became know as raga rock.

Here is another example of raga rock from the 1960s:

Daily listening Friday 15th May

Ravi Shankar in 1969

Indian musician and composer Ravi Shankar wrote this piece in 1980. The work is subtitled Raga Mala (“A Garland of Ragas”), presenting 29 ragas in four big movements. A raga forms the melody in Indian classical music. Ragas are patterns of notes but are different to a scale or melody in Western music. They are really a combination of both. Each rag:

  • has a particular ascending and descending pattern
  • is associated with a different time of the day, season, mood or special occasion

Each raga will have some notes that are more important than others. Ragas also contain short musical phrases. The raga is traditionally played on a sitar.

The sitar

  • Is a long-necked plucked string instrument with movable frets and a gourd resonator.
  • Is played by plucking the strings with a metal plectrum.
  • Has six or seven main strings and twelve or more sympathetic strings running underneath them, which resonate in sympathy.
  • Has a characteristic shimmering sound.

Listen out for the sitar player improvising using the notes of the raga in many different ways:

  • playing pitch bends (done by physically bending the string as it is played)
  • playing fast scales or runs
  • playing glissandos (slides)
  • ornamentation (fast notes that are added to a melody to embellish them)
Anoushka Shankar (Ravi’s daughter) playing the sitar

This piece was written with the following instrumentation:

 3 flutes , 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, timpani, percussion (anvil, bass drum, bongos, chimes, clave, conga, cymbals, finger cymbals, glockenspiel, marimba, snare drum, suspended cymbals, tambourine, tam-tams, thunder sheet, triangle, vibraphone, whip, wind machine, xylophone), harp, celesta, strings, and solo sitar

Daily Listening Thursday 14th May

Claude Debussy was a French composer (1862-1918). He was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Suite bergamasque  is one of Debussy’s most famous piano suites. It was first composed by Debussy around 1890, at the age of 28, but was significantly revised just before its publication in 1905. The third and most famous movement of Suite bergamasque is “Clair de lune”, written in the key of D♭ major. Its time signature is 98 and the music is marked andante très expressif meaning at a walking speed; very expressive. Listen out for the homophonic texture. This literally means ”sounding together”. The texture of a piece can be described as homophonic when several parts move together (e.g. in the same rhythm). A good example of this can be heard around 1 min 36.

Daily listening Wednesday 13th May

Ella Fitzgerald (1917-1996) was an American jazz singer. She was sometimes referred to as the First Lady of Song, Queen of Jazz, and Lady Ella. She is considered by many to be one of the greatest scat singers in jazz history. Scat singing is vocal improvisation with wordless or nonsense syllables or without words at all. In scat singing, the singer improvises melodies and rhythms using the voice as an instrument. Notice the fast tempo, typical of jazz styles such as such as swing and bebop.

Scat emerged in jazz in the early 1900s when singers in New Orleans began to imitate the first jazz instrumentalists. Legend has it that Louis Armstrong, the great trumpeter, vocalist and pioneer of improvisation in jazz, became the first to record scat in the 1926 track “Heebie Jeebies”, when he forgot the words during a recording session. Louis Armstrong has already featured on the music blog back in April: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/hayesmusic.blog/977

Learn more about Ella Fitzgerald here:

Daily listening Tuesday 12th May

El Tanbura is an Egyptian band, formed in the 1980s. El Tanbura are one of Egypt’s leading folk bands, and they show pride in their country’s history of resistance through their protest songs. El Tanbura is a collective of veteran Egyptian master musicians, singers, fishermen and philosophers based in Port Said. For almost two decades they have been the custodians of some of Egypt’s oldest folk melodies. Their performances are based on traditional Egyptian music, featuring the simsimiyya instrument.

The simsimiyya is a traditional plucked lyre used in Egypt, Jordan and Yemen. In Egypt it is traditionally used to accompany a dance called bambutiyya.

A simsimiyya being played

At the heart of the group’s music is the spirit of celebration, of magic, of dance, and reverie – and the simsimiyya.

Celebrating three decades of folk band El Tanbura - Egypt Today

Daily listening Monday 11th May

This song was from her second and final studio album, Back to Black (2006)

Amy Winehouse (14 September 1983 – 23 July 2011) was an English singer and songwriter. She was known for her deep, expressive contralto vocals and her eclectic mix of musical genres, including soul, rhythm and blues and jazz. Contralto is a lower female voice. You may remember learning about the different voice types in the first home-learning task you completed for music.

Amy composed the lyrics and melody for this song and combined these with chord progressions and melodies from Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s 1967 hit song Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. Recreating musical ideas from an existing song in this way is called interpolation. Listen to the 1967 song here and see if you can hear the musical similarities.

Daily listening Sunday 10th May

Bob Marley and The Wailers performing ‘Stir it up’ live in 1973. The song was written by Bob Marley in 1967 and it was Marley’s first successful song outside Jamaica.

Bob Marley (1945-1981) was an Jamaican singer, songwriter and musician. He was one of the pioneers of reggae and his contributions to music increased the visibility of Jamaican music worldwide, and made him a global figure in popular culture for over a decade. Reggae is a music genre that developed from a mixture of calypso, jazz and rhythm ‘n’ blues (R’n’B) in Jamaica in the late 1960s. It is characterised by:

  • electric guitars and drums line-up
  • amplified bass guitar riffs – short repeated patterns
  • an association with Rastafarianism – a religious movement worshipping Haile Selassie
  • a rhythm in 4/4 with emphasis on the missing beat
  • use of repeated offbeat quavers
  • use of dub remixing techniques where effects such as delay are added
  • simple chord sequences
  • verse-chorus form
  • political themes in the lyrics

Reggae lyrics are often about struggle, but the music has a laid-back feel. The drums and bass guitar create the rhythm. Listen out for the strong accents on the second and fourth beats of the bar.

Daily listening Saturday 9th May

Fanfare for the Common Man is a musical work composed in 1942 by the American composer Aaron Copland.

fanfare is a piece of music usually introducing an event or another piece of music. They are most often short, rhythmic, exciting and often loud. Fanfares can be scored for any instruments, but instruments which excel at loud and percussive sounds, such as organ, brass and percussion are most effective.

This fanfare was originally written for the following instruments:

four horns 

three trumpets

three trombones

tuba

timpani

tam-tam (similar to a gong)

bass drum

The recording above was conducted by Marin Alsop. Marin is an American conductor and violinist. On the 7th September 2013, she became the first female conductor of the Last Night of the Proms concert at Royal Albert Hall.

Marin Alsop is an acclaimed conductor. She has conducted most of the leading U.S. orchestras and many of the most distinguished European orchestras.

Find out more about how to conduct here:

https://www.classicfm.com/artists/marin-alsop/guides/masterclass-beating-time/

Daily listening Friday 8th May

Today is the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Victory in Europe (VE) Day on 8 May 1945 saw Britain and its Allies formally accept Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender after almost six years of war. At 15:00, Prime Minister Winston Churchill announced on the radio that the war in Europe had come to an end, following Germany’s surrender the day before.

One song that you may hear being sung during the celebrations today is We’ll Meet Again. It is a 1939 British song made famous by singer Vera Lynn with music and lyrics composed and written by English songwriters Ross Parker and Hughie Charles. The song is one of the most famous of the Second World War era, and resonated with soldiers going off to fight as well as their families and sweethearts. Dame Vera Lynn is widely known as “the Forces Sweetheart” for giving outdoor concerts for the troops in Egypt, India and Burma during the war as part of Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA). Other songs most associated with her are “The White Cliffs of Dover”, “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” and “There’ll Always Be an England”.

We’ll Meet Again by Vera Lynn

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away

So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song

We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day

(Repeat from the top)

Daily listening Thursday 7th May

Here is the beautiful Aerith’s Theme from the video game series Final Fantasy. Aerith Gainsborough is a young flower seller who joins the mercenary hero Cloud Strife and his anti-government group in the pursuit of the evil Sephiroth. Her theme is played several times throughout the game, serving as a leitmotif during flashback scenes and also at her sad demise at the hands of Sephiroth. A leitmotif is a recurring musical idea (a melody, chord sequence, rhythm or a combination of these) which is associated with a particular idea, character or place. They are often used by film music composers to help build a sense of continuity (think of the famous example from the film Jaws).

Follow the first part of the theme A from 43 seconds and notice when the melody moves in leaps or steps.

Nobuo Uematsu served as the series’ sole composer from its inception in 1986 until Final Fantasy X in 2001, when he was joined by two others.

Today, the genre of video game music has broken out of the console and computer, and become an international obsession. Major orchestras frequently hold concerts of the best-loved game music that sell out the world’s biggest concert halls, and there are now Grammy and BAFTA awards for video game music. In the UK, classical radio stations like BBC Radio 3 and Classic FM regularly broadcast video game music.

Discover more video game music here:

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/periods-genres/video-game/video-game-music-15-great-computer-game-scores/