5 Reasons Listening to Classical Music Could Be Good for Your Health



Classical music can be a wonderful thing to experience, with its varying moods and tones, and science actually shows us that classical music in particular can have the power to improve our health. Here are five ways you might benefit from listening to classical music.

1. Classical Music Might Lower Our Blood Pressure


Researchers from the University of Oxford presented findings at the British Cardiovascular Society Conference in Manchester recently that certain genres of music appear to lower blood pressure. The researchers believe that the key may be the 10-second repeated rhythm that is found in many classical works such as Va Pensiero, Nessun Dorma, and Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. Classical music that had a faster rhythm, such as Verdi’s Four Seasons, did not produce this effect.

The researchers caution that their findings need more extensive testing, but this may be the underlying reason why classical music has been shown to have various other benefits, and so has been greeted with cautious optimism by other researchers.

2. Can’t Sleep? Try Some Sebelius

Research has shown that stress-related insomnia can be tough to beat if we don’t resort to medication, however controlled studies have shown that students who listen to classical music tend to sleep better and sometimes for longer (in terms of unbroken sleep) than those who listen to things like audiobooks or nothing at all. It’s unlikely that classical music alone will cure a chronic case of insomnia, but it might be that if you’re just having a rough patch, classical music could form part of an improved sleep routine.

3. Classical Music May Help Calm Your Road Rage (But There’s a Catch)

Due to the fact that classical music is calming, some therapists have recommended classical music as part of a stress reduction program for people who experience what’s often termed “road rage.” Interestingly, a recent study actually showed that music by popstars like Adele might offer even more of a calming effect, and other studies show that soft-rock may have a similar impact.

However, being too relaxed on the road can be a bad thing. One study has shown that classical music might actually be too soothing and could put the average driver in danger of becoming complacent, so if you do listen to classical music while driving, try to go for lively pieces that will keep you engaged.

4. Classical Music Won’t Improve Your Memory But it Could Help You Study Better

The idea that listening to certain kinds of music can help improve your memory or even raise your intelligence has actually been disproved. Researchers have repeatedly tested the so-called Mozart effect, and found that it doesn’t hold true–or, at least, not in the way that we traditionally perceive improved brain performance. However, what the research does show is that well-chosen background music can help to make for a better study experience which in turn might lead to better fact retention and cognitive performance. It doesn’t have to be Mozart or even classical music though, as genres like soft jazz and other mostly instrumental music with a gentle tempo tend to aid concentration.

5. Classical Music May Help Boost Your Mood


It’s not going to be a substitute for medical help if you have a mental health condition, but incorporating music as part of your own wellness strategy might be a good idea. Some studies have shown that classical music and other, so called softer music, might be good for helping to ease depressive states. The reason why that might be isn’t fully understood, but some researchers think it’s because it helps us to regulate our breathing better and generally relaxes us in ways that other interventions can’t. As above, classical music also improves sleep quality, and this in turn is a known benefit for combating mood disorders. Other studies have shown that music in general helps to elevate our moods.

This is not to say that other musical genres don’t have their worth. In fact, science shows that rap music and heavy rock may be particularly good if you are working out because its tempo can help you keep your heart rate up which, if safely managed, can ensure you’re getting the maximum benefits from a fat burning workout.

Read more: Care2.com

The Composer and His Muse: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Désirée Artôt



The Belgian mezzo-soprano Désirée Artôt started her career at the Paris Opera in 1858 when Giacomo Meyerbeer engaged her to sing in his Le prophète. Berlioz, uncharacteristically, could not find enough accolades to praise her singing. However, she quickly bid farewell to the French repertoire and went on to sing in Italy a year later. With an Italian opera company under the direction of Merelli, she extensively toured throughout Europe, and in 1868 arrived in Moscow. Moscow immediately fell in love with her. An anecdote relates that at a reception for her at the home of Maria Begicheva, “the hostess knelt before Artôt and kissed her hand.” But Begicheva was not the only artistic personality smitten with Artôt. Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky had also met Artôt at a Begicheva soiree, and when they met again a couple of months later, she “started to send him invitations every day, and he became accustomed to visiting her every evening.”

He later told his brother Modest, that she possessed “exquisite gesture, grace of movement, and artistic poise.” He even stopped working on his symphonic poem Fatum to give her all his attention. Tchaikovsky did, however, write a little Romance in F minor for piano, which he dutifully dedicated to her.


Artôt’s mother was fiercely opposed to the marriage on official grounds that Tchaikovsky was too young—he was seven year’s her junior—and that he would force Désirée to live in Russia. It is more likely that she found out about Tchaikovsky’s sexual orientation and wasn’t going to allow her daughter to engage in a destined to be unhappy union.

Désirée was quickly rushed off to her next singing engagement and kept far away. Tchaikovsky sensed that something was afoot, and writes to his brother Anatoly, “This affair is beginning to fall apart.” Maybe he instinctively knew that Artôt had quietly married the Spanish baritone Mariano Padilla y Ramos without telling him. Tchaikovsky was in the middle of rehearsals for his opera The Voyevoda, and when Nikolai Rubinstein brought him the news, “he became quite upset, abandoned the rehearsal, and left immediately.” Musicologists have suggested that the musical chipper of her name, in the manner of Schumann, appears in his First Piano Concerto, and Tchaikovsky certainly never revealed the program of Fatum. And let’s not forget that Romeo and Juliet was completed a mere two months after Artôt’s clandestine marriage.


It was in December 1887 that they actually renewed their acquaintance in Berlin. He spent an evening at her place, and later wrote in his diary. “This evening is counted among the most agreeable recollections of my sojourn in Berlin. The personality and the art of this singer are as irresistibly bewitching as ever.” She asked him to compose a song on a text by a French poet, and he sent her a set of six. “I have tried my best,” he writes, “to serve you and hope that you will be able to sing them all, since all six of them correspond to the current range of your voice. I sincerely hope that you will enjoy these melodies, but unfortunately, I am not so sure of this. I must confess that I have been working very hard lately and that my latest compositions have sprung from good intentions rather than from true inspiration. And besides, it is a little awkward to write for a singer whom I consider to be the greatest among the greatest.”

Tchaikovsky never revealed exactly how deep a wound this affair inflicted, he in his personal letters, always praising her beauty and artistry.  His torch for Artot may perhaps never have been totally extinguished.

Tchaikovsky may have coded her name into works such as his First Piano Concerto and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture. The use of initials spelled out in musical pitches is a device often used by Robert Schumann (for example, in his Carnaval), and Tchaikovsky was a great admirer of Schumann's music.



There are other suggestions that Tchaikovsky coded his own name into the concerto, and Artôt's name into the symphonic poem Fatum, the Symphony No. 3, and the Romeo and Juliet Fantasy-Overture. He never revealed the program of Fatum, and later even destroyed the score (although it was reconstructed from the orchestral parts and published posthumously as Op. 77).




The Artôt episode was very fresh in Tchaikovsky's mind at the time he wrote Romeo and Juliet. He could easily have drawn a parallel between his personal loss and the tragedy of Shakespeare’s drama.

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Bizarre Musical Instruments



Since the advent of electronic instruments and the need by composers to produce unique and new sounds, many unusual instruments have been invented or restored to life. This is a list of the ten most bizarre instruments.

Aeolian Harp

The Aeolian Harp is a musical instrument that is “played” by the wind. It is named for Aeolus, the ancient Greek god of the wind. Aeolian harps were very popular as household instruments during the Romantic Era, and are still hand-crafted today. Some are now made in the form of monumental metal sound sculptures located on the roof of a building or a windy hilltop. The clip is a contemporary version – with a wind turbine provided the rhythm. The constant unchanging sound in the background is the Aeolian harp.




Ondes Martenot

The Ondes Martenot is an early electronic musical instrument with a keyboard and slide, invented in 1928 by Maurice Martenot and originally very similar in sound to the Theremin. The sonic capabilities of the instrument were subsequently expanded by the addition of filter banks and switchable loudspeakers. The instrument is especially known for its eerie wavering notes produced by the thermionic valves that produce oscillating frequencies. The ondes Martenot has been used by many composers, most notably Olivier Messiaen.

 


Theremin

The Theremin is one of the earliest fully electronic musical instruments. It was invented by Russian inventor Léon Theremin in 1919, and it is unique in that it was the first musical instrument designed to be played without being touched. It consists of two radio frequency oscillators and two metal antennas. The electric signals from the theremin are amplified and sent to a loudspeaker.

 

The Glass Armonica

The glass harmonica, also known as glass armonica, ‘”hydrocrystalophone” or simply armonica (derived from “armonia”, the Italian word for harmony) is a type of musical instrument that uses a series of glass bowls or goblets graduated in size to produce musical tones by means of friction, making it both a crystallophone and a friction idiophone). This mechanical version was invented by Benjamin Franklin.

 

Gravikord

The gravikord is an electric double harp invented and patented by Robert Grawi in 1986. It is modeled after the 21 string West African kora. It is made of welded stainless steel tubing, with 24 nylon strings but no resonating gourd or skin. The bridge is a synthetic material designed very differently from the kora and the range of pitches is greater. While the hands are in a more ergonomic and natural position to the strings, the playing technique is similar to that of the kora: the player plucks the strings with the thumb and index finger of each hand.



Read more at Listverse


Music makes everything better!

New research says singing daily reduces stress, clears sinuses, and helps you live longer 

Music makes everything better! It can relieve pain, reduces stress, makes you work harder, and helps you relax. Music is one of life's most beautiful gifts.

To quote Jimi Hendrix:
Music doesn't lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.
One of the best ways to capture the benefits of music is through singing. It allows you to truly feel the song with your mind, body, and soul.

Research has shown singing can improve your health, increase happiness and even extend your life!


No matter who or where you are, you can reap the many benefits of music by singing along to some tunes! Sing wherever you are.

Singing is even good for your brain and can make you feel high. It releases endorphins, hormones that produce pleasure, simultaneous to oxytocin, hormones that diminish stress and anxiety.

Oxytocin also decreases feelings of depression and loneliness, making us feel more connected with the world, which is precisely why singing with other people feels even better!



A study done by scientists at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found people who sing together become so connected they exhibit synchronized heartbeats.


Anyone who has ever been in choir can attest to this. When the magical sound of several people singing together is created, there is an unexplained unity between those singing.

Singing also requires deep concentration on breathing, which works major muscle groups in the upper body and is great for both lung and cardiovascular health.

Björn Vickhoff, the leader of the study, stated:

Song is a form of regular, controlled breathing, since breathing out occurs on the song phrases and inhaling takes place between these. It gives you pretty much the same effect as yoga breathing. It helps you relax, and there are indications that it does provide a heart benefit.

Therefore, one could make the argument that singing is better for you than doing yoga!

Research has also proven that singing produces lower levels of cortisol, reducing stress while improving our immune systems.

Lastly, a joint study from Harvard and Yale Universities in 2008 found singing increases life expectancy. If you want to feel less stressed, become happier, and live longer: Start singing!

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Happy Birthday Giuseppe Verdi the "King of Opera"

Image result for verdi


He might have been born 205 years ago (Oct. 10, 1813), but Verdi's box office brawn has never flagged. From Fairbanks and Philly to Seattle, Chicago, Miami and Minneapolis, Verdi productions — and concerts featuring his Requiem — have probably never been easier to find.

For being known as the "king of opera," Verdi was actually born in modest circumstances in the middle-of-nowhere northern Italy (near Busseto). He struggled for success and in 1842, at age 28, it finally came with his bold new opera Nabucco, about the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. While the opera is justly famous for its moving chorus "Va, pensiero" — which became a rallying cry for Italy's struggle for independence and was sung spontaneously by a few hundred thousand people at Verdi's funeral in 1901 — it should be noted that the entire opera is a forward thrusting, rollicking affair. You would not be incorrect in describing it as "ass-kicking Verdi."





It's fun to trivialize Trovatore, Verdi's 18th opera, because of its outlandish plot. The Marx brothers spoofed it magnificently (but with a palpable appreciation) in their 1935 film A Night at the Opera. OK, so an old gypsy woman throws the wrong baby into the bonfire, setting off a string of unfortunate events. It could happen to anyone! Still, Trovatore is a treasure trove of some of Verdi's best and most hummable tunes, and they come lickety-split one after another. There's the crowd-pleasing "Anvil Chorus," plus "Di quella pira," with its brain-splitting high notes for the tenor, two gorgeous arias for soprano ("Tacea la notte" and "D'amor sull'ali rosee"), the exuberant "Stride la vampa" for the mezzo-soprano and "Il balen," a gorgeous moment of reflection for the baritone.



Verdi's operas act on deeply sociopolitical levels, and La Traviata is a perfect example. Here Verdi empowers the common individual. The opera stars a prostitute — something unheard of at the time — and she's the smartest, most sane and honest person in the opera. It takes very little imagination to see how this realistic story (nice boy falls in love with hooker, who breaks up with him to save his family's honor) dovetails with our contemporary concerns. La Traviata was also an act of daring for Verdi, a little jab at the conservatives of his native Parma who balked at the fact that he wasn't married to the woman he lived with. The lead soprano role is so multifaceted and difficult it almost requires three different types of sopranos to pull it off.


By the time Verdi wrote Simon Boccanegra, he was the king of opera. Even so, Boccanegra flopped at its 1857 premiere. (Verdi revised it successfully 24 years later.) It's not too nerdy to note that whatever one thinks of the convoluted plot (a 14th century doge, amid intense political maneuvering, manages to find his long-lost daughter), the work contains examples of two Verdi trademarks: The father-daughter duet and the "Verdi baritone." Verdi excelled at richly drawn, highly expressive roles for the baritone voice (Rigoletto, Falstaff, Macbeth, Iago, Nabucco) and Boccanegra is one of the most rewarding and detailed. He also focused on father-daughter relationships and the duet "Orfanella il tetto umile" from Boccanegra's first act, when he realizes Amelia is indeed his daughter, is a two-hankie affair.


Near the end of Verdi's incredible six decades in opera, he threatened to quit, but instead came up with one fresh work after another. Finally, after some two dozen serious operas, he capped it all off with a comedy. Falstaff is witty and furiously paced but with the autumnal warmth of an old man looking back on his life with a chuckle. Falstaff's Act 3 monologue is a slice of operatic heaven. Drenched from being dumped in the river (with the laundry), Falstaff muses on his fate in a cruel world. As the wine warms his immense belly in the late afternoon sun, he's revived, and the trill of a cricket (listen for it in the music!) brings a smile. Falstaff is one of three ingenious operas (with Macbeth and Otello) Verdi based on Shakespeare. The composer ends his final masterwork with a chorus of "Tutto nel mondo è burla" — everything in the world is a joke.

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The Relationship Between Music and Science


Music is both an art and a science, and music and science are closely related. Both use mathematical principles and logic, blended with creative thinking and inspiration to arrive at conclusions that are both enlightening and inspirational. It could be said that Science is the music of the intellect, and Music is the science of the heart. 


Music is Math


Music composition is basically a mathematical exercise. From a basic source of sounds, rhythms and tempos, an infinite variety of musical expressions and emotions can be produced. It is the interaction of sounds, tempo, and pitch that creates music, just as the interaction of known facts and knowledge coupled with imagination, conjecture and inspiration produces new scientific discoveries. Both Science and Music use “formulas” and “theories” to solve problems, and to explore the intangible mysteries of life.



Music is as complex and varied as any scientific principle or theory
There are a number of scientific theories that try to explain music. This is a clear indication that music is as complex and varied as any scientific principle or theory. As mathematics is both a science and an art, Music is both an art and a science.  In this way, the art of music and the science of mathematics are related.

Some have postulated that music is the father of mathematics. To make music, you must know how to break “sound” into elements of pitch, rhythm and tempo. Science teaches us that sound is vibration, and the frequency of vibration is what makes different sounds. Music then is the study of the sound created by those vibrations, and puts them into patterns that elicit emotion. Music is based on mathematics. And mathematicians view mathematics as “music for the intellect”. Their joy in a perfect mathematical solution or theorem is as inspiring to them as a Bach Cantata.



Music Makes Us Human

But music is not just an arranged set of noises pleasant to the ear. Music is a bridge that spans the gap between cultures and languages. Music is a means of finding compatibility within a society, as well as a link with other societies. Music has the ability to progress past science.




Music is the common human denominator. All cultures have it. All cultures share it. There are many scientific theories about music and it’s origins, but a purely scientific explanation of music misses the point. Music is emotion. Music is an unexplainable manifestation that is uniquely human. Birds “sing”, but do they weep or cheer as they march to war at the sound of it?

Music is a force that can unite humans even as they are separated by distance and culture. Science can explain many things, but science alone cannot create them. Science can explain music, but only intellect and emotion can create it.


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Happy Birthday George Gershwin

George Gershwin wrote great songs and shows for the theatre, but he always fancied himself as a serious composer. And he was - in fact, one of the 20th century’s greatest.

George Gershwin piano composer


George Gershwin was born in New York City into a Russian Jewish immigrant family. As a boy, George frequented the local Yiddish theatres, ran errands for them and appeared onstage as an extra. Around the age of 10, he took to playing the piano his parents had bought for his older brother Ira.

Young George GershwinThe acclaimed piano teacher Charles Hambitzer took Gershwin on at the age of 14 and immediately realized the level of talent he had on his hands. ‘I have a new pupil who will make his mark if anybody will. The boy is a genius,’ Hambitzer wrote to his sister. Gershwin was sent off to concerts and given significant pieces by the great composers to learn for the piano. Hambitzer's efforts certainly paid off.

Gershwin began his career as a song plugger in New York’s Tin Pan Alley. To earn extra, he also worked as a rehearsal pianist for Broadway singers. In 1916, he composed his first published song, ‘When You Want ’Em You Can’t Get ’Em.’ His first big hit was 'Swanee', composed in 10 minutes on a bus. Not long afterwards, the singer Al Jolson heard it and recorded it. ‘Swanee’ sold a million sheet music copies, and an estimated two million records. It became the biggest-selling song of Gershwin’s career.


 
In his 20s, Gershwin started composing Broadway musical theatre works with his brother Ira writing the lyrics. They even created an experimental one-act jazz opera Blue Monday, set in Harlem – a pre-cursor to Porgy and Bess. In 1924, the brothers collaborated on the stage musical Lady Be Good, which included the classic song Fascinating Rhythm. 


 
Gershwin's most ambitious composition was Porgy and Bess, which he called a ‘folk opera’. The action takes place in the fictional neighbourhood of Catfish Row, South Carolina. The opera contains some of Gershwin's most sophisticated music and some huge hit arias – ‘Summertime’, ‘I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'’ and ‘It Ain't Necessarily So’. When it was first performed in 1935, it was a box office flop. It is now widely regarded as one of the most important American operas of the 20th century.

After the disappointing reception for Porgy and Bess, Gershwin moved to Hollywood and worked on many film scores. His music for Shall We Dance, starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, married ballet with jazz in a new way, and ran for more than an hour in length. It took Gershwin several months to write and orchestrate it.


 
Early in 1937, Gershwin began to complain of blinding headaches and there were signs he was suffering coordination problems. He was diagnosed with a brain tumour. An operation was unsuccessful, and Gershwin died on 11 July at the age of 38.

From the opening clarinet glissando of Rhapsody in Blue to such standards as 'Embraceable You' and 'Someone to Watch Over Me', Gershwin's music has been part of our world for almost a century. It evokes an era of glamour and sophistication and gave the United States its first authentic voice in the concert hall. The American singer Michael Feinstein has said, 'The Gershwin legacy is extraordinary because George Gershwin died in 1937, but his music is as fresh and vital today as when he originally created it.'

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Amazing Women in Classical Music History

All pioneering and inspiring in their stories and music.



Ethel Smyth


 

One of this country's greatest composers was an English composer from Sidcup, Kent in 1858. Her father was opposed to her pursuing a career in music, but Smyth was determined to make it as a composer and her studies led her all the way to the prestigious Leipzig Conservatory. Her compositions include works for voice, piano, chamber groups and orchestra. In 1910 she joined the women’s suffrage movement and her composition The March of the Women became the anthem of movement. Smyth was awarded Damehood in 1922 - the first female composer ever to receive such an honour.

Teresa Carreño



Teresa Carreño was a pianist, singer, composer and conductor born in Caracas, Venezuela in 1853. Her father was from a very musical family and gave her music lessons from an early age and was quite the prodigy. Over her life she became a world renowned pianist and composed around 75 pieces for voice, piano, choir, orchestra and instrumental ensemble. She also sang roles in operas like Don Giovanni, Les Huguenots and many more. What a star.


Marianna Martines

 

 

Let's go back to Vienna in 1744 where an exceptional pianist, singer and composer was born. Marianna Martines took keyboard lessons from none other than Joseph Haydn (you'd want to do you practise with a teacher like that). She soon began to show a talent for composition and took lessons with Imperial Court composer Giuseppe Bonno. As her music became more well known she joined the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna in 1773 and really indulged in the Italian style (it was very fashionable at the time). Her compositions included two oratorios in Italian as well as a number of cantatas, motets and masses - and here's one of her sonatas.


Isabella Leonarda

 

 

Isabella Leonarda was a composer from Novara, Italy. She entered the Collegio di Sant'Orsola, an Ursuline convent, at the age of 16 and remained there for the rest of her life. Her compositions spanned almost every genre of sacred music, including psalms, responsories and Magnificats. She was also the first woman to publish sonatas, writing many in her lifetime. Listen to her 'Sonata duodecima' for violin solo and continuo - it's just stunning.

Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre



Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre was a French harpsichordist and composer, born in Paris in 1665, into a wonderful (and possibly quite noisy) family of musicians and instrument-makers. She received her music education as a child from her father, performing to King Louis XIV at a young age. As a teenager her education was overseen by the king’s mistress in the French court. After her marriage in 1684 she taught, performed around Paris and composed opera and ballet. Her opera Céphale et Procris was the first opera to be published by a woman in France.

Augusta Browne
This American composer and author was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1820 and crossed the Atlantic with family when she was a child. She gained fame in the mid-1800s as part of the first wave of female composers in the US. She liked to compose music that would be enjoyed by the masses, writing over 200 works for piano and voice in addition to numerous hymns and secular pieces. She was also a rather outspoken writer and music critic.

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Happy Birthday Clara Schumann

 Composing gives me great pleasure... there is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation, if only because through it one wins hours of self-forgetfulness, when one lives in a world of sound.
— Clara Schumann

Clara Schumann was a German musician and composer, considered one of the most distinguished pianists of the Romantic era. She exerted her influence over a 61-year concert career, changing the format and repertoire of the piano recital and the tastes of the listening public. Her husband was the composer Robert Schumann. Together they encouraged Johannes Brahms. She was the first to perform publicly any work by Brahms.


Clara Schumann had a brilliant career as a pianist from the age of 13 up to her marriage. Her marriage to Schumann was opposed by her father. She continued to perform and compose after the marriage even as she raised seven children.

In the various tours on which she accompanied her husband, she extended her own reputation further than the outskirts of Germany, and it was thanks to her efforts that his compositions became generally known in Europe. Johannes Brahms, at age 20, met the couple in 1853 and his friendship with Clara Schumann lasted until her death. J. Brahms helped Clara Schumann through the illness of her husband with a caring that bordered on love. Later that year, she also met violinist Joseph Joachim who became one of her frequent performance partners. Clara Schumann is credited with refining the tastes of audiences through her presentation of works by earlier composers including those of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven as well as those of Robert Schumann and J. Brahms.

Although for many years after her death Clara Schumann was not widely recognized as a composer, as a pianist she made an impression which lasts until today. She was one of the first pianists to perform from memory, making that the standard for concertizing. Trained by her father to play by ear and to memorize, she gave public performances from memory as early as age thirteen, a fact noted as something exceptional by her reviewers.

She was also instrumental in changing the kind of programs expected of concert pianists. In her early career, before her marriage to Robert, she played what was then customary, mainly bravura pieces designed to showcase the artist's technique, often in the form of arrangements or variations on popular themes from operas, written by virtuosos such as Thalberg, Herz, or Henselt. And, as it was also customary to play one's own compositions, she included at least one of her own works in every program, works such as her Variations on a Theme by Bellini (Op. 8) and her popular Scherzo (Op. 10). However, as she became a more independent artist, her repertoire contained mainly music by leading composers.


Clara Schumann, "one of the most soulful and famous pianists of the day", according to Edvard Grieg

Clara Schumann's influence also spread through her teaching, which emphasized a singing tone and expression, with technique entirely subordinated to the intentions of the composer. One of her students, Mathilde Verne, carried her teaching to England where she taught, among others, Solomon; while another of her students, Carl Friedberg, carried the tradition to the Juilliard School in America, where his students included Malcolm Frager and Bruce Hungerford.

Clara was also instrumental in getting the works of Robert Schumann recognized, appreciated and added to the repertoire. She promoted him tirelessly, beginning when his music was unknown or disliked, when the only other important figure in music to play Schumann occasionally was Liszt, and continuing until the end of her long career.

Happy Birthday John Cage!



An American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.

Born in Los Angeles in 1912, Cage studied for a short time at Pamona College, and later at UCLA with classical composer Arthur Schoenberg. There he realized that the music he wanted to make was radically different from the music of his time. “I certainly had no feeling for harmony, and Schoenberg thought that that would make it impossible for me to write music. He said ‘You’ll come to a wall you won’t be able to get through.’ So I said, ‘I’ll beat my head against that wall.'” But it wasn’t long before Cage found that there were others equally interested in making art in ways that broke from the rigid forms of the past. Two of the most important of Cage’s early collaborators were the dancer Merce Cunningham and the painter Robert Rauschenberg.






The piece 4’33” written by John Cage, is possibly the most famous and important piece in twentieth century avant-garde. 4’33” was a distillation of years of working with found sound, noise, and alternative instruments. In one short piece, Cage broke from the history of classical composition and proposed that the primary act of musical performance was not making music, but listening.

A Musician's Brain is Different!

Aside from general pleasure, learning and playing music benefits your mind in a number of ways.

Happy Birthday Claude Debussy


Born in 1862, Claude-Achille Debussy was one of the most important French composers ever to sit at a piano, but he also boasted a romantic history to make even the most salacious tabloid journalist salivate.

Aged just 18 Debussy began an eight-year affair with Blanche Vasnier, wife of a wealthy Parisian lawyer. After Blanche, Debussy lived ‘in sin’ with Garielle Dupont, a tailor’s daughter from Lisieux. He cheated on Gaby with Thérèse Roger (to whom he was briefly engaged) before leaving her for her friend, fashion model Rosalie Texier, whom he did eventually marry. Rosalie clearly had the looks but not the brain to interest Debussy long-term, and she was soon packed back to her father’s home when Debussy met the captivating Emma Bardac, the mother of one of his students and wife of a Parisian banker. It’s something of an understatement to say that Rosalie did not take the rejection well. She shot herself in the chest while standing in the middle of Paris’s Place de la Concorde. Amazingly she survived this violent suicide attempt, but the bullet stayed lodged in her spine until her death 28 years later.

Claude Debussy at the home of Ernest Chausson

This was one scandal too many for Debussy. He and the now pregnant Emma found themselves so unpopular that they were forced to flee to England, before eventually returning to France for the birth of their eponymous daughter Claude- Emma.

When Parisians first heard Debussy’s music they didn’t know what to make of it. It was different to anything they had heard before, but they liked it. His visionary Préludeàl’après-midi d’unfaune premiered in 1894 and even now when you listen to the music, every note is surprising. It sounds incredibly earthy and sensuous, yet deliciously light. Predictably the work was not without its critics, but it got a standing ovation at its premiere and it is still popular today.

Inspired by Stephane Mallarmé’s poem ‘Afternoon of a Faun’, the work tells of a faun trying to seduce two nymphs. The poem is full of the sounds of nature and has a sultry, hazy atmosphere, all of which can be heard in the music. The faun tries to seduce his nymphs with sound by making a flute, an incident from the poem which can clearly be heard in the work. Just as Mallarmé’s Faun inspired Debussy, Debussy’s Faun inspired a ballet by the world renowned Vaslav Nijinsky in 1912.



Though he rejected the term himself, Debussy is considered to be a central figure of the Impressionist movement by music historians.

When Debussy died in Paris in March 1918 after a long illness, Stravinsky honored his colleague with a musical tribute:

 “I was sincerely attached to him as a man, and I grieved not only at the loss of one whose great friendship had been marked with unfailing kindness towards myself and my work, but at the passing of an artist who, in spite of maturity and health already hopelessly undermined, had still been able to retain his creative powers to the full, and whose musical genius had been in no way impaired throughout the whole period of his activity.”

When the Parisian Revue Musicale published a memorial supplement to Debussy, Stravinsky submitted a chorale that would, a short while later, form the final section of his Symphonies of Wind Instruments, a single-movement piece for twenty-four woodwind and brass instruments dedicated to the memory of Claude Debussy.






5 Surprisingly deep benefits of listening to classical music

VIOLINS

Even for a country or rock fan, classical music can reduce stress and boost creativity, among other things.

Many of the greatest classical composers attributed their masterpieces to their worship of God. Johann Sebastian Bach once said, “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

Classical music provides its listeners with a number of benefits, both physical and psychological.


1. It boosts brain power and creativity

Craig Ballantyne, editor of the self-improvement website Early to Rise, explains the “Mozart effect” as a mental result of listening to classical music, particularly Mozart’s. “In a controlled University of California study, students who listened to 10 minutes of Mozart before taking SATs had higher scores than students who didn’t,” explained Ballantyne. He also pointed to a study done by the University of Washington in which copyeditors who listened to classical music while editing caught 21 percent more errors than those who did not.

Author Cinda Yager raves about the psychological effect that classical music had on her. “Encouraged by the music, my imagination came out to play. It played through scenes in the novel I was working on, presenting solutions to problems, giving me ideas to flesh out characterizations, suggesting necessary edits I had not seen before. This was amazing to me.”


2. It deepens musical appreciation

The instrumentals contained in classical music are unlike those of any other genre in their ability to reach a person. Fittingly, Albert Einstein once said that Mozart’s music “was so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe, waiting to be discovered by the master.”


3. It has healing properties

If the sound of classical music results in water’s formation of elegant ice crystals, one has to wonder what it can do for our bodies, which are made up of 70 percent water. The man responsible for the study, Dr. Masaru Emoto, “sees energy as vibrations moving through matter.” These vibrations include the sound waves of music, which can affect us in various ways. Dr. Emoto refers to the vibrations as hado. He gives several examples of specific classical songs and their healing effects.


4. Acts as a stress reducer

PsychCentral reported that classical music “can have a beneficial effect on our physiological functions, slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.”


5. It aids in expressing one’s emotions


Southern Methodist University conducted a study in which 85 individuals were asked to verbally reflect upon their life’s most significant experience. The participants whose interview involved classical music playing in the background were found to be more expressive and detailed in their reports. This is because classical music is “cognitively and in turn emotionally arousing,” the report concluded.

Having trouble articulating your feelings? Try listening to some Mozart or Beethoven and see if it helps you express your deepest self.


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Lili Boulanger: the fragile, forgotten genius of classical music

Lili Boulanger was one of the most exciting composers of the early 20th century, until her tragically early death at the age of 24. 


 Lili Boulanger was a child prodigy 

Marie-Juliette Olga (Lili) Boulanger was born on 21 August 1893. When she was just two the great composer Gabriel Fauré – a friend of the family – spotted that she had perfect pitch. At the age of two she also contracted bronchial pneumonia. She survived, but the illness left her immune system weakened for the rest of her life. 

She came from musical – and royal – stock 

Her mother was a Russian princess who fell in love with, and eventually married, her Paris Conservatoire teacher Ernest Boulanger and both her grandparents (on the Boulanger side) had been musicians. Lili herself played (deep breath) piano, violin, cello, harp and organ. Oh and she sang. 

She was the first woman to win the Prix de Rome 


Photo: Lili with composers (L) Claude Delvincourt, Lili Boulanger, (R) Marc Delmas and Edouard Mignan.


The Prix de Rome was the most prestigious honour for artists. It was a prize, first awarded in the 17th century, that allowed the winner to live in Rome for three to five years, all expenses paid. In the 19th century it was awarded to a composer for the first time. In 1913 Lili Boulanger became the first woman to win the Prix de Rome… though the judges couldn’t quite bear to let her enjoy the honour on her own. So they also awarded first prize that year to Claude Delvincourt. 


She wrote her cantata Faust et Hélène in just 4 weeks



It’s the piece that gave the Prix de Rome judges no choice but to give her the award. The rules of the competition stated that the piece had to be written in four weeks. So that’s what the precocious 19-year-old Lili did. It’s 30 minutes long and is written for a full orchestra. It tells the story of Faust, the man seduced by the power offered by Mephistopheles. And the music Boulanger uses to tell the story sounds Wagnerian, with hints of Debussy. It’s no surprise it won the most prestigious prize of the day. 

She was famous for her use of harmony 

In her own time she was noted for her lush harmonies, instrumentation and elegant text setting. Try this eerie setting of Psalm 130, ‘Du fond de l’abime’ (also known as De Profundis, or in English ‘Out of the depths’) 




Her final work is a beautiful Pie Jesu 

Lili was 24 when she wrote this piece. She dictated the piece to her sister from her sick bed. The text asks Jesus to grant someone ‘everlasting rest’. She died shortly afterwards. 





Nadia found a new calling 



Her sister Nadia was so affected by Lili’s death that she stopped composing and turned her attention to teaching. She went on to become one of the most renowned teachers of the 20th century and taught composers including Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Thea Musgrave, Leonard Bernstein and Philip Glass. 

Here she is with Leonard Bernstein, composer of West Side Story and Candide. (Picture Getty) 

And Lili’s star lives on 

Lili may have only lived for 24 short years, but there are plenty who admire her music – including the jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, who calls her one of his favorite composers. This year marks the centenary death. Perhaps 2018 will be the year her genius gets the attention it truly deserves. 

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In Daddy’s Footsteps! Franz Xaver Mozart

Rather predictably, the deciphering of the human genome has done little to provide conclusive answers to questions regarding musical talent and ability. Although we have learned that certain genes control unique sites in the brain, which in turn determine levels of pitch perception, we are also aware that encouragement, nurture, and training represent significant factors. 

Leopold Mozart was much determined to foster Wolfgang Amadeus’ natural abilities, and Constanze Mozart made sure that her son Franz Xaver Mozart (1791-1844) studied with the best teachers in Vienna. Of course you know that Wolfie married Constanze Weber, who also came from a highly talented musical family at home in Mannheim. You might not know, however, that the couple had 6 children, with only 2 surviving into adulthood. Karl Thomas Mozart, who entered into the service of the Viceroy of Naples in an administrative capacity, was never really interested in music at all. He remained unmarried and childless. And there was Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart, who was only four months old when his father died.

But then, we really can’t be sure who was actually the boy’s father. “Franx Xaver” had been the first names of Mozart’s student Süssmayr — the one who put the finishing touches on the Requiem — and when Wolfie passed away, Constanze changed the boy’s name to “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Sohn).” No wonder Vienna was buzzing with rumors that Süssmayr might actually have been the biological father. Be that as it may, Franz Xaver received his early musical education from the Mozart student Johann Nepomuk Hummel, and from Georg Friedrich Albrechtsberger, who had taught Haydn and Beethoven. Antonio Salieri suggested, “the boy has a rare talent for music, and his future might not be inferior to that of his celebrated father.”



Franz Xaver with elder brother Karl Thomas
Of course, it was always going to be slightly difficult to fill his father’s musical shoes. Franz Xaver was certainly a gifted pianist who toured extensively through the German speaking parts of Europe, but also in Denmark, Russia and Italy, and then spent most of his life as a private music tutor in the Ukraine. He also remained unmarried and had no children, so that particular musical lineage sadly disappeared. 

In terms of personality, Franz Xaver was very unlike his father. He was introverted, constantly underrated his own talent and feared that whatever he composed would be compared to the compositions of his father, and of course, it was. His father’s shadow even followed him after his death. On his tombstone we can read, “May the name of his father be his epitaph, as his veneration for him was the essence of his life.”



Franz Xaver composed about 30 compositions, assorted Sonatas, some chamber music and 2 piano concertos, with his music remaining stylistically firmly in the mature musical style of his father. Franz Xaver was never going to be able to escape the shadow of his father, but both composers were born with exceptional musical talent and aptitude into a fertile environment that recognized, encouraged and nurtured that particular talent. And as Wolfie told us, that’s really all that matters!

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Music Education: More Than Just Music!



Whether your child is the next Beyonce or more likely to sing her solos in the shower, she is bound to benefit from some form of music education. Research shows that learning the do-re-mis can help children excel in ways beyond the basic ABCs.

More Than Just Music


Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. “A music-rich experience for children of singing, listening and moving is really bringing a very serious benefit to children as they progress into more formal learning,” says Mary Luehrisen, executive director of the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) Foundation, a not-for-profit association that promotes the benefits of making music.

Making music involves more than the voice or fingers playing an instrument; a child learning about music has to tap into multiple skill sets, often simultaneously. For instance, people use their ears and eyes, as well as large and small muscles, says Kenneth Guilmartin, cofounder of Music Together, an early childhood music development program for infants through kindergarteners that involves parents or caregivers in the classes.

“Music learning supports all learning. Not that Mozart makes you smarter, but it’s a very integrating, stimulating pastime or activity,” Guilmartin says.

Language Development


“When you look at children ages two to nine, one of the breakthroughs in that area is music’s benefit for language development, which is so important at that stage,” says Luehrisen. While children come into the world ready to decode sounds and words, music education helps enhance those natural abilities. “Growing up in a musically rich environment is often advantageous for children’s language development,” she says. But Luehrisen adds that those inborn capacities need to be “reinforced, practiced, celebrated,” which can be done at home or in a more formal music education setting.

According to the Children’s Music Workshop, the effect of music education on language development can be seen in the brain. “Recent studies have clearly indicated that musical training physically develops the part of the left side of the brain known to be involved with processing language, and can actually wire the brain’s circuits in specific ways. Linking familiar songs to new information can also help imprint information on young minds,” the group claims.

This relationship between music and language development is also socially advantageous to young children. “The development of language over time tends to enhance parts of the brain that help process music,” says Dr. Kyle Pruett, clinical professor of child psychiatry at Yale School of Medicine and a practicing musician. “Language competence is at the root of social competence. Musical experience strengthens the capacity to be verbally competent.”

Increased IQ


A study by E. Glenn Schellenberg at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, as published in a 2004 issue of Psychological Science, found a small increase in the IQs of six-year-olds who were given weekly voice and piano lessons. Schellenberg provided nine months of piano and voice lessons to a dozen six-year-olds, drama lessons (to see if exposure to arts in general versus just music had an effect) to a second group of six-year-olds, and no lessons to a third group. The children’s IQs were tested before entering the first grade, then again before entering the second grade.

Surprisingly, the children who were given music lessons over the school year tested on average three IQ points higher than the other groups. The drama group didn’t have the same increase in IQ, but did experience increased social behavior benefits not seen in the music-only group.

The Brain Works Harder

 
Research indicates the brain of a musician, even a young one, works differently than that of a nonmusician. “There’s some good neuroscience research that children involved in music have larger growth of neural activity than people not in music training. When you’re a musician and you’re playing an instrument, you have to be using more of your brain,” says Dr. Eric Rasmussen, chair of the Early Childhood Music Department at the Peabody Preparatory of The Johns Hopkins University, where he teaches a specialized music curriculum for children aged two months to nine years.

In fact, a study led by Ellen Winner, professor of psychology at Boston College, and Gottfried Schlaug, professor of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, found changes in the brain images of children who underwent 15 months of weekly music instruction and practice. The students in the study who received music instruction had improved sound discrimination and fine motor tasks, and brain imaging showed changes to the networks in the brain associated with those abilities, according to the Dana Foundation, a private philanthropic organization that supports brain research.

Spatial-Temporal Skills


Research has also found a causal link between music and spatial intelligence, which means that understanding music can help children visualize various elements that should go together, like they would do when solving a math problem.

“We have some pretty good data that music instruction does reliably improve spatial-temporal skills in children over time,” explains Pruett, who helped found the Performing Arts Medicine Association. These skills come into play in solving multistep problems one would encounter in architecture, engineering, math, art, gaming, and especially working with computers.

Improved Test Scores


A study published in 2007 by Christopher Johnson, professor of music education and music therapy at the University of Kansas, revealed that students in elementary schools with superior music education programs scored around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests, compared to schools with low-quality music programs, regardless of socioeconomic disparities among the schools or school districts. Johnson compares the concentration that music training requires to the focus needed to perform well on a standardized test.

Aside from test score results, Johnson’s study highlights the positive effects that a quality music education can have on a young child’s success. Luehrisen explains this psychological phenomenon in two sentences: “Schools that have rigorous programs and high-quality music and arts teachers probably have high-quality teachers in other areas. If you have an environment where there are a lot of people doing creative, smart, great things, joyful things, even people who aren’t doing that have a tendency to go up and do better.”

And it doesn’t end there: along with better performance results on concentration-based tasks, music training can help with basic memory recall. “Formal training in music is also associated with other cognitive strengths such as verbal recall proficiency,” Pruett says. “People who have had formal musical training tend to be pretty good at remembering verbal information stored in memory.”

Being Musical


Music can improve your child’ abilities in learning and other nonmusic tasks, but it’s important to understand that music does not make one smarter. As Pruett explains, the many intrinsic benefits to music education include being disciplined, learning a skill, being part of the music world, managing performance, being part of something you can be proud of, and even struggling with a less than perfect teacher.

“It’s important not to oversell how smart music can make you,” Pruett says. “Music makes your kid interesting and happy, and smart will come later. It enriches his or her appetite for things that bring you pleasure and for the friends you meet.”
While parents may hope that enrolling their child in a music program will make her a better student, the primary reasons to provide your child with a musical education should be to help them become more musical, to appreciate all aspects of music, and to respect the process of learning an instrument or learning to sing, which is valuable on its own merit.

“There is a massive benefit from being musical that we don’t understand, but it’s individual. Music is for music’s sake,” Rasmussen says. “The benefit of music education for me is about being musical. It gives you have a better understanding of yourself. The horizons are higher when you are involved in music,” he adds. “Your understanding of art and the world, and how you can think and express yourself, are enhanced.”
 


Laura Lewis Brown caught the writing bug as soon as she could hold a pen. For several years, she wrote a national online column on relationships, and she now teaches writing as an adjunct professor. She lives in Baltimore with her husband and three young children, who give her a lot of material for her blog, EarlyMorningMom.com.

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Thomas Jefferson as a Violinist and Advocate for Music Education



Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, was also a violinist and strong advocate for music education. Family and holiday gatherings, solo performances, or as a way to have some time alone, the violin was important to him throughout his life.

His violin studies as a young man paid off during his courtship of his future wife, Martha Skelton. While she sang and played the harpsichord at parties, he would often join in, playing his violin and singing. Christmas celebrations at the White House and in his home, Monticello, included him playing the violin for family and guests.

According to Jefferson family tradition, as recorded by biographer Henry S. Randall, Jefferson’s musical ability dispelled the hopes of other suitors:

Two of Mr. Jefferson's rivals happened to meet on Mrs. Skelton's door-stone. They were shown into a room from which they heard her harpsichord and voice, accompanied by Mr. Jefferson's violin and voice, in the passages of a touching song. They listened for a stanza or two. Whether something in the words, or in the tones of the singers appeared suggestive to them, tradition does not say, but it does state that they took their hats and retired, to return no more on the same errand!

Jefferson and Martha Skelton were wed on January 1, 1772.


When time permitted, Jefferson played at least three hours a day. While he was a law student, he gave weekly concerts with other musicians. His music library at his home, Monticello, contained violin works by Corelli, Handel, Vivaldi, and other composers. His selected works by Corelli required an advanced level of skill due to advanced bowings and techniques for the left hand. He also had a violin technique book by Francesco Geminiani (1680-1762), The Art of Playing on the Violin, which further indicated his level of proficiency.


Jefferson’s Music Technique Book




Francesco Geminiani (1680–1762). Rules for Playing in a True Taste on the Violin German, Flute, Violoncello, and Harpsicord. . . .  London: J. Johnson, 1751. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (S. 4255) (40.00.00)

Music, according to Jefferson, was his “favorite passion” and the violin his preferred instrument. Jefferson was schooled in music at an early age and cultivated his love of music throughout his life. As an accomplished violinist and music aficionado, Jefferson owned four violins, including a so-called “kit,” an instrument small enough to fit neatly into a coat pocket. He was known to take his kit along on his travels to practice while away.

The instrument's body is very small, but its fingerboard is made long relative to the instrument's overall size in order to preserve as much of the instrument's melodic range as possible.

Many violinists in the eighteenth century used kits because of their portability. Thomas Jefferson owned at least two kits.

At home, he could play his other instruments as well as consult his personal copies of contemporary musical treatises such as this one by Francesco Geminiani. Jefferson rarely wrote in his books, but this book includes Jefferson’s inscription of Charles Burney’s discussion of violin technique.

Jefferson insisted that his daughters and granddaughters learn to play the violin. He hired Frances Alberti, an Italian immigrant, as a music tutor. Jefferson felt that a music education was “invaluable,” especially pertaining to young women, and that it provided “recreation” and “respite” from the concerns of the day, which would last through the rest of one’s life.

Monticello has several instruments on display that reflect the Jefferson household. In addition to violins, daughter, Martha, played harpsichord, and his other daughter, Maria, played guitar. He encouraged them not to neglect their music.



A violin owned by Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States

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