Music with a story
Introducing music pieces with an interesting story or a fact wich the hope that this will make you like the music more likely.
A Slack channel in Merlon I created to give and receive great tips from colleagues.
A musical palindrome (2020-12-01)
Something I consider one of the finest pieces of music ever written. It’s J. S. Bach’s Crab Canon from Musical offering. When Bach was old, he was invited to the court of Frederick the Great. He was given a theme (0:00–0:35, Crab canon starts at 10:20) and was asked to improvize a 6 part fugue. After a while he realized that the theme was not very suitable for this so improvized only a 3 part fugue. He was unsatisfied with the achievement and after returning home he set out to compose Musical offering: a set of structuraly complex pieces based on the royal theme. One of the pieces is the Crab Canon: one melody forwards is accompanied with the same melody played backwards. The amazing thing is that despite the insane complexity and sophistication of the pieces, they are still beautiful and can be appreciated even without the understanding of the structure. There is also a nice video of playing the canon from a Möbius strip.
Má hra (2020-12-02)
Blue Effect – Nová syntéza – Má hra. You may know The Magic Key from French band One T + Cool T but you may not know that the music is heavily inspired (ok, they even paid a licence for using the music) by an instrumental piece Má hra from Czech rock band Blue Effect. Its frontman, recently deceased Radim Hladík (my brother was given a name after him), was a great Czech guitarist (my brother is also very good guitarist :), but there were many great Czech and Slovak musicians in the band since 1968 as well (I will recommend them later for sure). Their two albums Nová syntéza I and II were composed and recorded with a jazz orchestra and are mostly instrumental. I highly recommend both albums together with other album Svitanie. I believe that they (and a few other bands from Czechoslovakia) would achieve world fame if there wasn’t communism and normalization at the time of their peak performance.
The melting pot in the Balkans
The Balkans is a complicated but mesmerizing part of Europe and its music never stops to amaze me. There are so many ethnic groups and influence comes from all sides. Moravian (eastern part of Czech Republic) and Slovak folk songs are partially influences by it as well (about this later…). Let’s start with Ederlezi. A song traditionally sung by Romani people in the Balkans. The name comes from a feast celebrated by Serbs which in turn came from Turkish tradition. This version is from Kusturica’s (Serb) movie sung by Vaska Jankovska (Macedonian) with Serbo-Croatian lyrics.
Sometimes I judge music, sometimes my goosebumps are judging it for me. As is the case with Miserere mei, Deus from Allegri. It is considered to be one of the most sublime choral work ever (wait for the high C). But what makes it even more interesting is the fact that when Mozart (14 year old) visited Rome with his father, he was overwhelmed by the music. It was to be sung only in Sistine chapel during Easter. It was forbidden to perform it elsewhere and make copies of the score. But Mozart, later that day sat down and wrote it down by heart. By the way, there are 2 choirs with 4 and 5 voices respectively. I think he said somewhere that he listened to the 4 voices with his left ear and the rest 5 voices with his right ear (or vice versa). Since it was forbidden to make copies, he and his father brought the manuscript back to the chapel.
Pope approved. He beknighted Mozart with the Order of the Golden Spur. Mozart liked it. ;)
Yat-Kha – Yenisei Punk (1993). Surprisingly listenable “punk” from Southern Siberia with sounds of traditional instruments, throat singing and folk influences. I recommend the whole album but will point out one particular song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GpQkYxING4I&t=302s
No interesting story for this one, just that at high school (~20 years ago), a classmate gave me CD with a strange “Yat-Kha” label to give it a try. Totally unexpected. It would be nice if youtube/spotify algorithms could randomly recommend a music but with a high probability I will like it. I believe there are thousands hours of music I would love but still waiting to be discovered…
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells I
Mike Oldfield – Tubular Bells I. His first album (which he originally recorded on his own as he can play all the instruments, as 18 yo) and also the first album by Richard Branson’s Virgin Records (now Virgin Group conglomerate). Oldfield is quite prolific composer and you surely know some of his songs. Another gem is his 60 minute album Amarok (and Tubular Bells II, Platinum, …).
Georgian chant – Mravalzaminer
Izrael anthem – Vltava – Moldau
ELP – Janáček
Nikhil, this one specially to you, get well soon! :)
ELP is one of my favourite music bands. British art/progressive rock. Unfortunately, two of the three musicians died recently. Emerson took his own life, Lake died from cancer.
Many of their songs are inspired by classical music, Emerson cites Bach’s pieces, Pictures at the Exhibition are their original take on Musorgskij’s famous piece, etc.
Despite I know Janáček’s music pretty well, only recently did I discover that there is one piece heavily inspired by Janáček’s Sinfonietta (a great piece on its own): On Knife’s Edge. You need to listen to both to enjoy it properly. :)
And don’t let me started about insane Rachel Flowers, a blind girl which is one of a few people who can play Emerson’s music! I will save it for later.
Bach in popular music
Erbarme dich in Arabic
- Karel Svoboda, Dobrodružství kriminalistiky vs.
Vangelis, Blade Runner
- W. A. Mozart, Koncertantní symfonie Es dur, KVApp009 vs.
Česká hymna, Kde domov můj
Reconstruction of the final fugue from Bach’s Art of the Fugue
- Zoltán Göncz – ‘‘Reconstruction of the Final Contrapunctus of The Art of Fugue’', //International Journal of Musicology// Vol. 5, 1997, 25–93. ISBN 3-631-49809-8; Vol. 6, 1998, 103–119.
Collegium Musicum – Nech žije človek
- Mozart: Turecký pochod
- Bach: Well-tempered Clavier Bk II fugue no 7 BWV 876