I’m a mess, sorry, I should’ve told you I’m not very organized. I’m doing my best to get these in everyday.

So, today was a special personal day for me, I’m settled back in at Lawrence! I’m ready to start my sophomore year and do all that fun college stuff (mainly comp, oboe, and organ).

Anyway, here’s today’s Vaughan Williams piece,

I would like to dedicate this post to those who have suffered as a result of the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon 13 years ago this day. I would like to dedicate this post to our friends and family who have stuck together through those times and hardships and to those heroes who took action to protect their friends and family here. I would like to dedicate this post to our troops who have bravely defended our nation these past 13 years. I want to dedicate this post to the Arab families and communities who have had to endure the wrath of those blinded by corruption. I want to dedicate this post to the Muslims that follow the Qu’ran with their heart, and to those who do the same with the bible, and to anyone else who was able to see past the corruption of their leadership and refused to let it affect their spirituality.

These are scary times we are facing, it gets scarier when the reality gets closer to us. With threats coming from halfway around the world, it can seem like they’re a long way off, it can be easy to ignore them. I am Lebanese myself. I spent this past summer there as ISIS continued to grow around Iraq and Syria. They even attempted a skirmish on the border of Lebanon but thanks to the brave soldiers of the Lebanese Army, they were not able to get past the border.

In the face of trouble ahead. When dealing with violence, hatred, and blood, it can be easy to get overwhelmed, and sometimes, you may forget to question morality.

Some people have asked me for my word on what we should do in the Middle East, this is all I have to say.

Well friends, I’m going to have to be honest, I think I may have to skip a couple days this month to make time in my schedule. I hope that’s alright with you. 

Well, today i’ll give you another short one. This piece really doesn’t need much of an introduction, the music really speaks for itself on this one. I’ll just say that I want to quote this piece when I write my opera on Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (it’s gonna happen, I know it’s overly ambitious at this point, but I’m gonna make it happen) I will quote this piece. Mainly because of the story of Lazarus and its connection to both these pieces. So, instead of giving you my deep analysis of this piece, I’d like to hear what you think. How does this piece compare to the story of Lazarus? Lazarus, for those that don’t know, is a biblical story where a sister and mother were grieving for this dead man in a tomb, Jesus went down and kissed him and he went back to life. Other than Dives and Lazarus being the theme, do you think there might be more to this piece? This is a case of I-haven’t-studied-this-piece-enough-but-would-like-your-opinion which I have quite often actually. So here you go, 

5 Variants of “Dives and Lazarus”

Well, we had Symphony 4 on Day 4, Symphony 5 on Day 5, guess what we have today? I do see these symphonies as a trio. Before, During, and after World War II, these symphonies all characterize everything that is Vaughan Williams, and it also characterizes the war. Vaughan Williams never wanted us to associate the music too much with the war, but art is influenced by the world it lives in, and the entire world was completely engulfed in the war. The fourth movement is my favorite in this one, all I can say is that is a musical representation of a nuclear wasteland. This entire symphony is in four linked movements, so there’s no break, I will give this piece a much shorter description than the last one. In fact, I have one word per movement. Desperate, chilling, menacing, haunting. 

Ladies and gentlemen, Vaughan Williams 6

Wow posting every day takes a lot more energy than I thought…especially when I’m just starting this. Ok, enough excuses let’s get down to business. 

This next piece is my absolute favorite. Ever. I have fallen in love with this symphony from the minute I heard it. It has become my best friend, the piece I go to whenever I need a hug, the piece I listen when I need to reconnect with my soul. It has been with me through every moment of my life. It was there to calm me in tragedy, and there to calm me from anger, and there to humble me from conceit. 

Vaughan Williams Symphony no. 5

I love this piece. I bought a score my junior year of high school, after listening to it for a couple hundred times. I bring that score with me everywhere I go, and I ask every composer I meet to sign it.

I still remember every version of that piece I have listened to. I started with the version by the Toronto Symphony, conducted by Peter Oundjian. I remember hearing the original recording conducted by Vaughan Williams. I remember the day I decided that Vaughan Williams’ tempi were wrong and so was his conducting (I’ll make a blog post on conductor/composer things later, don’t worry), I remember hearing the version by the London Symphony, the Columbia Symphony, and the Scottish Symphony. But for sure my favorite recording is by the Halle Orchestra conducted by Sir Mark Elder, who, in my opinion, conducts Vaughan Williams’ music better than any other conductor I’ve seen. (totally waiting to see if Simon Rattle makes a recording that would change my mind though)

First let me talk about the Symphony for a bit. 

This piece could not have been written at a more perfect time. It was in the middle of World War II and Britain was suffering. This was not the time for a loud aggression, people were hearing bombs exploding over their head the whole time, their loved ones were either dead or dying, hope was dimming and being alive was turning into not dead yet. What everyone needed was hope, love, sincerity, love. 

Love was indeed what Vaughan Williams had. I remember watching a documentary called The Passion of Vaughan Williams by the BBC. (you can watch it here)

I don’t want to go too deep into analogies because this piece is definitely not programmatic in anyway and this piece should go straight to the heart, not being pestered by images it creates in your head. 

When I hear it, I think of it like getting four different kinds of hugs. The first movement is so passionate, yet light. It’s a huge splash of color that calmly invites you to a hugging embrace. Listening to this first movement gives me the same feelings I get when I see my family after I get off my plane at the end of the school year. It’s beautiful, inviting, warm, and loving. You may have noticed that this piece speaks to me in ways which are beyond words. 

The second movement, the Scherzo, is more like the kind of hug when you see a friend walking down the street and you sneak up behind them and surprise them with a hug. 

The third movement, is beyond words. I’m listening to it now, and I’m holding back tears. I hold back tears every time. I think Vaughan Williams put it best when he was considering (and eventually decided not to) put this quote above just that symphony. I apologize I’m not able to find it out for sure, but I think this might be it. Spoken by Pilgrim from his opera, Pilgrim’s Progress. 

Save me, Lord! My burden is greater than I can bear

 

Where the Romanza is like a hug to help someone through grief, the fourth movement is when that person hugs you bit longer, so that you get over the grief. I usually relate the Romanza to losing a loved one while the Passacaglia is gaining a loved one. 

Click here for a more thorough analysis of this work

Forgive me if I seem like I’m too crazy for this piece. No, I take that back. I never need to ask forgiveness for something I love. Music has the power to enter your soul and transform it, and if anyone finds it obsessive or worthy of nothing more than being mocked, then I’m sorry for you, because you have yet to witness the power of art, and I invite you to join me, and release that cage, and let your heart roam for a bit. (read my last blog post, with the program notes about my piece if you didn’t get it

Here you go friends. 

and here’s a pic of my score and the place where every composer I meet signs! Yes, I just taped the program from Roomful of Teeth, for those that don’t know, Caroline Shaw is a Pulitzer prize winning composer who composed this treasure

Displaying photo.JPG

yes, I know it’s after midnight, I’m sorry, my brother kept me up with a terrible romance movie (people, take note, hooters is a terrible place for a first date). Anyway, here’s my submission for the 4th day of Vaughan Williams month. I’ve shown you the beauty, glory, and passion of Vaughan Williams, now for the rage. 

Vaughan Williams symphony no. 4 is probably his most aggressive piece, and is one of the two symphonies of his that ends loudly, and only one of them is good  the other being the eighth symphony (well, I’m not really sure about the 9th but I’m sure anyone is) . I’d like to imagine what it must have been like being at that premiere, probably expecting something like his 3rd Symphony, which is profound, beautiful, and subtle. It’s about his recollections from World War I, but not the war, but of the soldiers themselves, paying tribute to those who died. What soldiers felt in their hearts after battle. But that’s for another day. Today, you get the Symphony no. 4, a piece of absolute music, and also a huge influence on William Walton. I’ll let you make the comparison. Yes my dear reader, today you get two pieces! Because of the connection Walton had with this symphony and his own, I couldn’t help but also post Walton Symphony no. 1. I view the two pieces almost like siblings, and this would make a great pairing for a concert conductors (please please please someone let this concert happen, please, that would make my life)

interview from BBC again, pieces starts at 3:07 if you’re too impatient. 

and here is Walton1, enjoy! 

Ok I have 7 minutes before midnight, here we go!

before I get on to Vaughan Williams, I would like to make an announcement. As you may or may not know, the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will be performing my piece, O Great Mystery on September 27th at the Schlesinger Center at the NOVA Campus. It is a huge honor to get such a rewarding premiere from such an amazing orchestra, I really hope all of you can make it. If you’re in the area, you can buy tickets here!

Meanwhile, here are the program notes so you can get an idea of what the piece is about (sorry, not posting a MIDI for this one).

Most of my music can be broken down to one essential question, Where is God? O Great Mystery marks the start of this musical quest. In essence, this piece can be split into three parts, the first part being an introduction to the motif of conservatism. When I wrote this part, I imagined a line of monks chanting in an ancient, grand cathedral. It’s beautiful and mystic, but has a sense of darkness inside. The theme of this introduction goes back to when I was in choir in high school, and my teacher handed out a piece she was considering for us to do, and then played us a recording. The piece was “O Magnum Mysterium” by Tomas Luis de Victoria. I quoted the first two lines of the piece and included a translation from its original Latin.

O magnum mysterium,                                            O great mystery,

et admirabile sacramentum,                                    and wonderful sacrement, 

The piece has such a beautiful mysticism to it, and the color of the words themselves, even without the music, gives off the perfect sense wonder yet it has a slightly ominous quality to it. What is this great mystery? It’s beautiful, yet ambiguous.  

While this piece is not programmatic, nor is it sacred, I believe this metaphor will help make this piece as understandable as possible. By this point, one of our monks decided he would leave the comfort of his church. He went out of the dark enclosed church and entered a strange world. Our monk here never really questioned anything he’s been told, and sort of followed what he was told almost blindly. Now he realizes that outside of home, he’s free. He lifts the rusty cage from his heart and lets it roam. This middle section, to give it a broader sense is about liberalism. It’s about leaving your mind and letting your heart roam free. But, absolute freedom can be overwhelming, and our hearts are wild. It’s almost too much, to be out into a free world and eventually, the freedom turns into fear, and you wish you were caged again.

Here is where our monk returns to his church, but like Plato’s philosopher coming back to his cave, he cannot help but feel the emptiness in the prayers of that church. So he fills it, he realizes that his heart and his mind don’t need to be separate and neither the old and the new, rather, they should both be embraced, and only then can there be passion, foundation, and unity.

It should be noted that I don’t write for myself, nor do I believe my music comes from me, therefore, please do not treat this analysis as an extension of the piece, but rather a way of seeing it from someone who loves the piece, but is indeed separated from it. Therefore your view of the piece is no less important than mine, nor does it need to be similar.

This piece is a journey, I wrote it when I first started to hear the world I was witnessing, and I hope you enjoy my sharing of this mysterious voyage with you.

I hope at least some of you are as excited as I am for this premiere, it’s going to be a spectacular.

Now for Vaughan Williams. This time I’m going away from his choral works and focusing on a piece that almost no one knows of. This right here is the second movement of the Vaughan Williams piano concerto, which has been performed like, almost never. I admit, this is not his best work, but this second movement is so rich and luscious, filled with that classic Vaughan Williams passion that we’ve all come to love. There is practically no history on this piece other than the fact this is a really hard concerto. It’s still a beautiful movement, despite being so hidden in the repertoire. Here’s the second movement with a scrolling score! (yay!)

Hello all, so I guess my schedule’s gonna be to post these at the last minute of everyday. 

So today’s piece is the introduction to Vaughan Williams’ Sea Symphony. As far as first symphonies go, I got the same impression as I got from almost every other composer on their first symphony, which was, “I like the rest more” although I will admit, this beginning is fantastic and this doesn’t sound like a composer’s first symphony. It sounds like he’s already mastered crafting enormous universes before tackling his first, and right away, you see the universe he creates by setting these poems by Walt Whitman (who, by the way, happens to be my favorite poet). Once again, he reaches into the poems and digs the music out of them, creating a strong link between the lyrics and the notes. 

Also, I’m wondering if anyone might know any history behind this piece? Mainly, who had that much faith in a rising composer that they asked him to compose such a huge work for chorus and orchestra without anything remotely that large in his name? 

This video shows and interview by the conductor and the piece starts at around 5:40, enjoy! 

In a quest to stop being afraid of this blank space I would need to fill and fear that people wouldn’t like what I write, and to do something with this blog, I shall bring to you Vaughan Williams month! Each day I will post a piece I adore by him and also put up a blurb about why I love the piece. I got this idea from a blog post a friend of mine wrote. A while ago she tried this with Mozart and now she’s doing poetry. here’s the post, please do check it out, she has exquisite taste! I’m very tempted to go on a long rant on why I’m upset there’s not enough collaboration between writers and composers and how literature and art music are so much more similar than we tend to think but that’s probably something I should write later on. Meanwhile, I suppose I shall start! 

Today’s piece is the Turtle Dove for Baritone and Mixed-or-male chorus (I prefer mixed). Vaughan Williams loved poetry and he had an extraordinary  sense of the music portrayed between the words of the poems he read and composed a perfect combination of language and music that work together to create a beautiful and heart-wrenching farewell. 

Since I can’t find a good recording on Youtube, here’s a Spotify track. Please let me know if this doesn’t work, I didn’t even know Spotify could be embedded until now.