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Sister Arts
The composer Handel wrote music especially for the Royal Fireworks sometime during the 18th century.

Sister Arts

Music is the most abstract of arts: temporary (though it rings on in the mind and memory), non-figurative (though it can 'depict' and evoke landscapes, emotions, occasions, people, creatures etc.) and yet it can reach deep into our soul.

It also works fruitfully in conjunction with many of the other Arts, as we are about to consider. How 'synaesthetically aware' are you of such links?

Pictures at an Exhibition is, itself, surely one of the monumental classics of 19th-century Romantic 'programme music', consisting of a suite of piano pieces composed in response to an art show. The artist-architect Viktor Hartmann had died suddenly, aged just 39, and this retrospective exhibition was held in St Petersburg in 1874.
The (musical) work is even better known through a sensitively orchestrated version by a later composer; how is it usually credited on programmes, CD liners etc.?
Borodin, orch. Dvorak
Balakirev, orch. Tchaikovsky
Chopin, orch. Douglas
Mussorgsky, orch. Ravel
Interestingly (in view of Hartmann's dual activities as an architect), at least three of the 'pictures' are of buildings: Baba Yaga's Hut, the Great Gate of Kiev, and the Old Castle (hauntingly orchestrated by Ravel with a solo saxophone representing the minstrel in the foreground). So far as is known ~ and we can be sure many must have tried ~ the original images are now all dispersed and possibly lost, yet the entirely abstract pieces with their titles remain effectively evocative, forever, of these visual things.
Incidentally, there is a piano work by Chopin and orchestrated by Roy Douglas (Answer 3), but that's the ballet Les Sylphides; Chopin was dead by 1874 in any case. The other alternative answers were complete fabrications
Music as a medium of public entertainment and education arose particularly in the 19th century; and once it also became possible to entertain and educate people with moving pictures (i.e. thanks to the invention of cinematography) around the end of that century, the race was on to yoke music and dialogue to these via a soundtrack for a 'multi-sensory' experience, as achieved in the first 'talkie' in 1928.
Until and beyond that time, there were also theatre and cinema organs which allowed 'orchestral-style' playing of atmospheric music, and were often also equipped with some sound effects on the 'toy counter' of the console: horse-hoofs, bells, sirens, wind and rain noises, bird-whistles and the like. By the technological standards of the day these were clever, remarkable, practical and fun. The author Aldous Huxley in his Brave New World (1931) goes at least one step better: his 'cinema trip', in the then-near future, is developed into which of these experiences?
The film is in 3D and the soundtrack plays through individual binaural stereo headphones
The music is played through speakers inside the auditorium seats, to provide immediacy to it and anticipating 'sensurround'
The show is called 'the Feelies', with audience members gripping a brass knob on the armrest that allows sensations to be sent direct to their nerves by electric current; and in the interval, an organ-like console ascends onto the stage, but it plays a 'symphony of smells and scents' rather than music for the ears
The music is all-electronic and comes from loudspeakers which move around the auditorium, or else the control system is sophisticated enough to make that seem to be what is happening
The 'scent organ' at the Feelies is a most intriguing figment of Huxley's imagination
Music and movement have obviously gone hand-in-hand (as it were), in ritual and recreational contexts, practically since the dawn of civilisation. Which of these would you regard as the 'oddest one out'?
The march
The sea-shanty
The minuet
The barcarolle
The Minuet was always only ever a form of dance, though music composed for it often has intrinsic merit and may be played 'un-danced' as an instrumental. The other forms are work-songs, usually with a strong beat to help and encourage the people involved and to keep them in rhythm. The Barcarolle (Answer 4) is a boating-song: it usually combines a sense of the surface of the water, with a strong downbeat for the stroke of an oar or the pole of a punt or gondola (as in the famous example from The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach).
The Minuet is also probably the only one in Compound Time (3 beats to the bar), though there are some Shanties that are in triple-time (e.g. Spanish Ladies) and the Barcarolle is usually written in 6/8. So probably that way of slicing the Answers would not produce a clear 'winner'
If poetry is one step above ordinary prose and dialogue, the setting of such poetry to music is presumably a further step upwards. Who is regarded as the pioneer of the Art Song ~ a form in which music festivals sometimes adjudicate the 'singer and pianist as a team', in their joint interpretation and projection of the text or story in its musicalised version?
Franz Schubert
Hugo Wolf
Franz Joseph Haydn
Claude Debussy
Schubert was the prime begetter of the Lied, though of course he was far from being the first composer ever to set text to music. In his 39 years he produced an impressive corpus of over 600 such works, sometimes more than one in a day.
Your writer in his bumptious youth once entered himself as both singer and pianist in just such a Festival class (performing precisely which Lied, a quarter-century since has kindly erased the memory) ... and the following year's rubrics had been subtly altered to read 'singer and separate pianist as a team'!
What with (massive) electric amplification and computers, many of us are well aware of outdoor sound-and-light (Son-et-Lumiere) and laser shows. But the history of multi-sensory spectacle goes back at least as far as Handel's Music for the Royal Fireworks ... in which year?
... When, by all accounts, the logistics were something of a fiasco with major traffic jams (of horse-drawn carriages, over 3hrs reportedly), the collapse of the central arch of the fairly newly-built London Bridge, and (unintended) fire breaking out at the venue itself in Green Park
Dance, ballet and choreography can of course be performed to splendid effect with a cast of humans and a band of musicians; but ever since the mechanical wherewithal has existed, there has been an understandable temptation to put on performances, to music, with various other forms of 'things moving in formation'. Which of these is the odd one out?
The Musical Ride of the Household Cavalry
The Red Arrows
The Hamburg Harbour tugboat ballet
Leroy Anderson's 'Sandpaper Ballet'
Well may you have wondered how many of these actually exist: they all do! (Try Answers 1 and 3 on YouTube, for instance!)
Answer 4 is the simplest because it is just the title of a piece of music, in which one of the percussionists has to make rhythmic use of a sandblock; no moving vehicles or animals are involved.
It once came as something of a surprise to your author, as perhaps to others with a musical or even gymnastic background, to attend a commented Red Arrows display, at one point during which the loudspeakers told us something along the lines that 'Our soloist is on his way now, if you look over to the left beyond the trees'. The soloist, rather than a static musician with a Stradivarius violin, or whatever, in his hands, was a virtuoso aerobat piloting a multi-million-pound warplane at hair-raising speeds!
Music can be, even shamelessly, enlisted to manipulate (rather than 'merely' articulate) the public mood on special occasions of celebration, mourning or for any other purpose. 'Oom-pah' and 'rah-rah' bands spring readily to mind, or the great funeral marches and elegies etc., on Remembrance Day.
Whose music is associated both with Remembrance Day and also with the Last Night of the Proms, thus representing both our national 'downs' as well as our 'ups', so to put it?
Charles Hubert Hastings Parry
Edward Elgar
Charles Villiers Stanford
Henry Walford Davies
Elgar is the one of this quartet of musical Knights whose music crops up on both occasions: with his dignified, melancholy Nimrod from the Enigma Variations, and the first of his Pomp and Circumstance Marches, respectively
Of course, many writers and other 'flat-static-medium' artists and sculptors have tried their best to evoke the nature and spirit of music. Most of us know such lapidary quotations as Shakespeare's 'If music be the food of love, play on' and the famous ode 'To Music' (An die Musik), duly set by Schubert to the short poem by his near-namesake Franz von Schober.
But who wrote ~ oh, so truly ~ 'Music has charms to soothe the savage breast'?
Oft slightly misquoted, this is the very opening pentameter of his 1697 play The Mourning Bride
For many centuries it was fondly believed that the great rhythms of the heavenly bodies, moving slowly across our night skies, were a physical form of music with its own harmony and choreography ~ which we humans, with our limited senses and intellect, could not fully appreciate, but which pointed us towards the elegance, pleasure and 'truth' of our own little forms of earthly music.
It took a particularly bold composer to try and illustrate The Music of the Spheres in the form of an orchestral dance by that title: who was he?
John Philip Sousa
Johann Strauss
Hector Berlioz
Richard Wagner
There is a waltz by this title (his Op.235) which makes pleasant listening, but in the fairly educated opinion of this reviewer it does not amount to conspicuously more than a standard and recognisable Strauss Waltz. Listen for yourself and consider it!
If you have ever watched Stanley Kubrick's (1969) film 2001: A Space Odyssey, you will at least be semi-prepared, from having watched the spaceships swinging gracefully about to the strains of Strauss' Blue Danube Waltz
Shakespeare (him again!) obviously had a keen ear for language and communication, and a ready sense for the 'rhythm' of people interacting privately and on the stage. Music is a recurrent and fruitful metaphorical field for him, not least in his 'problem play' Troilus and Cressida, during which, as the Trojan War looms, one character considers the threat to the 'Elizabethan World Order' in just such musical terms:
'Take but degree [= rank, order and hierarchy] away, untune that string, and ... (?)
... hark, what discord follows!
... harmony is banished
... all is lost forever
... civ'lisation falters
Ulysses says this in Act I, scene iii; and how truly this still rings, both technically and metaphorically, if we may say so!


Author:  Ian Miles

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