Archive for October, 2014

Classical Music Program for Halloween

by Jacy Burroughs

There are a plethora of classical pieces appropriate for Halloween. The best known are arguably Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain and Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King. Here are my suggestions for a slightly less typical, yet spooky program. They are also great pieces to listen to and get you in the mood for a night of tricks and treats!

1. Isle of the Dead, 29, Sergei Rachmaninoff – 1908

Rachmaninoff was inspired to compose Isle of the Dead after he saw a black-and-white reproduction of Arnold Böcklin’s painting by the same name in Paris in 1907. The image is of a boat bearing a coffin to a fortress on a mysterious island. Rachmaninoff’s musical interpretation begins with the sound of oars in the water, represented by an irregular 5/8 meter. The urgency of the music increases as the boat approaches the island. Then, the Dies irae – the Gregorian Chant from the Mass for the Dead – takes over. Briefly, there is a struggle with music that sounds full of life, but the Dies irae theme is stronger. At the end, the piece comes full circle, returning to the relentless sound of rowing oars.

Continue reading ‘Classical Music Program for Halloween’

What is an Urtext Edition?

by Kevin Harper

We’ve all seen the term “Urtext Edition” when shopping for sheet music. But what does that mean? How is it different from other sheet music? Let’s begin with the definition of “Urtext”.

Germans famously love to combine separate words into one long word. In this case, we have the German words Ur and Text. The oldest city in the world was the city of Ur in modern-day Iraq. This word became part of the German language, meaning original, ancient, or great. For example, Great-grandfather in German is Urgrossvater. Germans use Ur to describe something that is not only very old, but also respected and distinguished.

The meaning of Text in German is easy to figure out. It is a cognate of our English word, which means they have the same definition.

So we’ve established what the word Urtext means, but what in the world does it have to do with music? Publishers use the term to refer to old editions of music, particularly those that have the music written in the hand of the composer, or with annotations and guidelines in the composer’s own words. Continue reading ‘What is an Urtext Edition?’

Transcribing Your Songs

While most classical and jazz works are written down before they are performed, songs in other genres are often worked out through a series of improvisations in which each instrument develops their own part. Because of this, it can be difficult for the songwriter to go back and write out the song later on. This process is called transcribing; the finished product is called a transcription.

WHY TRANSCRIBE?

Why would songwriters want to write out their own songs once they’re finished? There are many great reasons, including:

  • Memory guide. When you’ve got lots of music memorized and under your fingertips, it’s easy to get mixed up and forget the details of every song. Transcribing gives you a quick reference point if you’re drawing a blank before a gig or recording session.
  • New band members. Does your band personnel change frequently? Are you a solo artist who hires musicians on a per-gig basis? You could waste valuable rehearsal or studio time teaching new players your songs, OR you could have transcriptions in hand for them to read from—better yet, email PDFs ahead of time so they come in prepared and ready to play!
  • Auxiliary instruments. Haven’t you always really imagined that synth patch as a bunch of trumpets? Or the guitar line to be a violin section? Musicians from the classical and jazz worlds are used to reading their parts and would rather not have you teach them by rote while the clock is running. So, if you have a group of trumpet players ready to play that synth part, you need to have their music clearly notated.
  • Pass it around. The best flattery a songwriter can receive is another musician wanting to play their music. Your music will get played more often, in farther locales, and with greater accuracy, if you take the time to transcribe and notate it. Services like Digital Print Publishing provide a forum for musicians around the world to easily share PDF transcriptions of their songs—and earn money doing it!

GETTING STARTED

So, how do you transcribe your songs? There are many helpful resources, both electronic and interpersonal, but the best place to start is with your own ears and a piece of paper. Continue reading ‘Transcribing Your Songs’



%d bloggers like this: