Scarlatti Special

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Starting on Thursday 5/7, I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

For today’s recording, I visited the wayback machine. This is a sonata by Domenico Scarlatti (1685-1757), one of the great names of the Baroque Era in music history (about 1600-1750). This piece is still a favorite of mine, but I thought I already had a recording of it, so went looking and found this video I made almost four years ago.

Scarlatti modeled his sonatas on the structure of popular dances of the time. Dances like the minuet, sarabande, courante, and gigue were part of the daily life of the Baroque era. They were elegant and delicate musical “microcosms.” Scarlatti imitated that graceful dancelike character in his solo keyboard pieces.

This particular sonata has a lovely sound that harks back to the Renaissance. As you listen, you’ll hear some harmonies especially in the left hand that suggest music from an even older time. Those unusual harmonies are one reason why I’ve always loved this sonata.

As you listen, if you’d like, see if this piece evokes a particular time and place for you. Use it as a way to “transport” yourself to another setting. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

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If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

Re-post: Bach Talk

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Starting on Thursday 5/7, I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

The content of this post originally appeared on the blog on March 22.

Today’s music is a pairing: a prelude and fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach. Bach was one of the icons of the Baroque era (1600-1750) in music history, especially famous for his fugues. He was such a force that after his death in 1750, the next generation of composers had to come up with new techniques and styles to use in their music, because no one could follow Bach’s act.

Fugue is a complicated musical form that involves several lines of melody going at the same time. Every fugue has a short musical idea, called the subject, that gets passed between the different melody lines. The subject usually also has a partner, the countersubject. When one line of melody, or “voice,” has the subject, another “voice” often has the countersubject.

Writing a fugue means that you have to follow a lot of complex rules. You also, ideally, have to write a piece of music that sounds beautiful even if you don’t know about all of the compositional trickery going on. Bach was fascinated with fugue and made a lifelong study of it. He was a master at making it work.

His collection The Well-Tempered Clavier includes forty-eight fugues, two in every key it’s possible to write in. Each of those fugues has a companion prelude. In today’s recordings, you’ll hear the Prelude and Fugue in C sharp Major, from the second volume of The Well-Tempered Clavier. 

As you listen, see if you notice the different lines of melody working together, especially in the fugue. See if you can hear a musical idea that gets passed around between the “voices.” Then, if you’d like, imagine that the voices in the music are actual people having a conversation. What are they talking about? What kind of moods do you hear as the conversation goes along? As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

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Re-post: Mozart Meditation

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. Starting on Tuesday 5/5, I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

The content of this post originally appeared on the blog on March 16.

The music featured today is the slow movement of a sonata by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), one of the greats of the Classical era of music history.

Mozart’s style is often elegant and precise, the kind of writing Classical composers idealized. He also includes drama, humor, and deep expression in his works, even though on the outside they might sound straightforward. This sonata movement is a beautiful, lyrical short piece, both meditative and expressive.

Use the listening time to quiet your mind. If you’d like, as you listen, focus on a mental image that evokes peace for you. Maybe it’s an object, or a place, or a particular activity, like walking along a beach. Bring it to your mind and picture it in vivid detail.

If you have any thoughts about the experience, or would like to share the image you focused on, please post about it in the comments. 🙂

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

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Friday dance

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

Today’s piece continues my Beethoven trend (I will get back to other composers again, I promise 😉 ). This Bagatelle, in G minor, has a slightly different flavor than the others I’ve posted. The minor key gives it a darker sound, but it’s still full of charming energy and lovely contrast. Beethoven changes key in the middle with a hymnlike melody that contrasts with the light, percussive opening. Then he comes back to the tune from the beginning, but writes an intricate little variation on it. He ends the piece in G Major, a bright resolution to the darker beginning, with a lovely final cadence that gets back to the hymnlike sound of the middle section.

As you listen, if you’d like, see if this little piece with its contrasts it conjures up any particular story for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

Wednesday cheer

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here.

If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here. New posts go up on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays. I’m also doing a Storytelling and Sound project through Facebook, which you can check out by following me at Kris Faatz, Writer.

Today’s post continues my Beethoven Bagatelle explorations. This piece caught my attention when I was reading through some of the Bagatelles I’d never studied before…looking for pieces short and straightforward enough to pick up quickly and record for the blog.

This one starts out sounding charmingly simple, a lilting country tune. Very soon, though, Beethoven shifts the harmony into a totally different place. The simplicity of the tune never changes, but that sudden twist gives the piece a whole new character.

It’s a delightful little piece. As you listen, if you’d like, see if it conjures up any particular story for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

Monday smile

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features daily short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here.

Today I’m continuing with my Beethoven Bagatelle streak. This piece is a favorite bagatelle, which I first learned somewhere around thirty years ago (yikes). It’s warm and charming and full of the humor that comes through often in Beethoven’s music. We tend to think of Beethoven as angsty and angry at life, which he often was, but he also loved jokes, puns, wordplay and music-play. This piece showcases his lighter side.

The ending, especially, is classic Beethoven. After the drama and contrast of everything that came before, he decides to sit on one chord for the whole last line of the piece. He milks that last chord for everything it’s worth while he lets the music tiptoe away until it disappears. Playing it, I couldn’t help smiling. I could just imagine Beethoven laughing as he wrote it.

As you listen, if you’d like, see if this “miniature” piece with all its contrasts conjures up any particular story for you. See if it sparks your imagination about the man who wrote it. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

Sunday in the Renaissance

Today’s post is a re-post of a piece I put up just a few days ago. I think this particular music deserves some more love. 😉 It’s also perfect for a quiet Sunday morning. 

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features daily short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here.

Today’s piece is one of my favorites by English Renaissance composer William Byrd (1540-1623). This is one of Byrd’s folk-tune settings, in which he took a popular melody of the time and wrote a series of variations on it for solo keyboard. The song, called “The Maiden’s Song,” is gentle and contemplative, a little bittersweet. Byrd’s variations on it start out simple, and then get gradually more intricate before he returns to the original theme at the end.

I’ve posted before about Byrd’s harmonies, which can sound unusual to our ears as modern listeners because they’re based on an older tonal system. You can read more about the seven “modes” of Medieval and Renaissance music in this post. “The Maiden’s Song” also has an unusual feel to it, harmonically, because it’s in one of the modes that we don’t run into much anymore. This mode is called Mixolydian, very similar to major but with one note that sounds a little “off.” (If you have a piano or keyboard, you can hear the Mixolydian mode by playing from one G to the next G, one note at a time, using only the white keys. As you see, it’s a lot like G Major except for the F natural instead of F sharp.) Mixolydian was one of the most commonly used modes in folk music, and to our modern ears, it gives this particular piece its particularly Renaissance flavor.

As you listen, let the music take you back in history to a quieter time, with less ambient noise, clearer skies, and fresher air. See if this piece conjures up any particular images or ideas for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

Folktale in Music

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features daily short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here.

I went to the wayback machine for today’s piece: this is one I actually recorded a couple of years ago. It’s the second movement from a short suite called Tales of the Old Grandmother, by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953).

Prokofiev witnessed the Communist Revolution in Russia, and like many artists, found himself trying to maintain an especially tough balance. Russian artists were revered as showcasing all that was right about Communism for the world to admire. At the same time, as free thinkers and free speakers, artists were considered potentially dangerous and subversive, enemies to the new Communist state.

Prokofiev was in a particularly difficult position because he traveled outside Russia as a young man, spending time in Europe and the United States with the sanction and blessing – initially – of the Communist government. When he came back to Russia in the 1930s, though, he found that his time in the West made him particularly suspect to Stalin’s regime. He spent the rest of his life in a strange and often dangerous limbo, both an ambassador of the State and a potential traitor to it.

Tales of the Old Grandmother is a short, technically simple, but evocative suite for solo piano. Prokofiev is “storytelling” here in a literal sense, capturing the flavor of mysterious and magical folk tales in his writing.

The second movement, featured in today’s video, is my favorite of the suite’s four movements. It’s quite short, less than two minutes, but lovely and bittersweet. For me, it always conjures up the summer when I first learned the suite, some twenty-five years ago. As you listen, if you’d like, see if it calls up any particular story in your mind, or perhaps a favorite memory. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

Friday Bagatelle

Welcome! 🙂 This blog features daily short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, which initially was going to be a couple of weeks. I’m determined to keep it going as long as needed, in hopes that if you need a mental break during these tough times, you can find one here. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, the first one is here.

Today’s piece is one of my favorite short works by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). This is one of a set of Bagatelles he wrote late in his compositional life. Beethoven, as I’ve written about before here on the blog, was an innovator who single-handedly changed the course of music history.

When we think of Beethoven, we might think mostly about his heroic, passionate style in music like the Ninth Symphony, which is a huge-scale piece of music, both in length and in terms of the number of performers it needs. Beethoven was definitely interested in expanding musical forms, especially in the middle and late periods of his career. But he was also interested in miniatures. His Bagatelles, which he wrote at various points during his compositional life, showcase that side of him.

Today’s Bagatelle is a lovely, lyrical little piece. Its gentle harmonies sound sweet and wistful. As you listen, see if the music conjures up any particular image or story for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz

The Maiden’s Song

Welcome! 🙂 I hope the daily music posts here on the blog are giving you a boost, in these strange and unsettling times. If you’re new to the series and would like to check out earlier posts, you’ll find the first one here.

Today’s piece is one of my favorites by English Renaissance composer William Byrd (1540-1623). This is one of Byrd’s folk-tune settings, in which he took a popular melody of the time and wrote a series of variations on it for solo keyboard. The song, called “The Maiden’s Song,” is gentle and contemplative, a little bittersweet. Byrd’s variations on it start out simple, and then get gradually more intricate before he returns to the original theme at the end.

I’ve posted before about Byrd’s harmonies, which can sound unusual to our ears as modern listeners because they’re based on an older tonal system. You can read more about the seven “modes” of Medieval and Renaissance music in this post. “The Maiden’s Song” also has an unusual feel to it, harmonically, because it’s in one of the modes that we don’t run into much anymore. This mode is called Mixolydian, very similar to major but with one note that sounds a little “off.” (If you have a piano or keyboard, you can hear the Mixolydian mode by playing from one G to the next G, one note at a time, using only the white keys. As you see, it’s a lot like G Major except for the F natural instead of F sharp.) Mixolydian was one of the most commonly used modes in folk music, and to our modern ears, it gives this particular piece its particularly Renaissance flavor.

As you listen, let the music take you back in history to a quieter time, with less ambient noise, clearer skies, and fresher air. See if this piece conjures up any particular images or ideas for you. As always, you’re welcome to share your thoughts and responses to the music in the comments.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a daily dose of music, and visit back soon!

Tip Jar (no pressure!):

If you’re enjoying the blog and would like to help support it, please consider clicking on the link below to leave me a tip. You’ll choose your own payment amount and pay securely through PayPal’s platform. As always, thanks for visiting!

https://www.paypal.com/paypalme2/krisfaatz