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Sunday, October 26, 2014


You can read all the academic analyses you want, but there is something universal and magical about repetitive minimalism in music.  From African and Far East compositions to Gregorian chants, Philip Glass, jazz, disco and rap, I especially can note that classical masterpieces are infused with this style.  Beethoven and Schubert creatively applied repetition, and it is said that Johann Maelzel's (that's him to the left) metronome (he so patented this invention in 1815) was the inspiration.

I might post a part 2 and more in the future on other genres, but here are my all-time classical favorites featuring the same thing over and over again:

1.  Composed three and a third centuries ago by Johann Pachelbel, his Canon in D (some say this is the ultimate best) is as simple as "three violins,one cello and eight bars of music repeated 28 times." One original version.  Actually, this piece was essentially lost for 300 years until French conductor Jean-Francois Paillard made a recording in the 1970's.  Click on his name for this "original" that inspired a thousand copycats.  Not generally known is that Handel, Haydn and Mozart borrowed the iconic bass line in their own compositions.  Pachelbel wrote more than 500 pieces and taught the man who became Bach's teacher.  It's possible that my love of Baroque music began with Canon in D, and this might have been in 1980 with the film, Ordinary Peoplethe directorial debut of Robert Redford.  He not only won the Oscar for Best Director, but this was the Best Picture of the Year, and also won Oscars for Mary Tyler Moore as Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actor for both Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton (and this was his first film).

2.  Maurice Ravel's Bolero has 18 repetitive bars.  After the first performance in 1928, said Ravel:

I am particularly desirous there should be no misunderstanding about this work. It constitutes an experiment in a very special and limited direction and should not be suspected of aiming at achieving other or more than it actually does.

Nevertheless, one analysis suggests Ravel was at the beginning stages of premature Alzheimer's, and, certainly, as used in 10, a 1979 film with Bo Derek (above, and that's her more recently to the left, a third of a century later), there is always the connotation of the sexual act itself.  I once sat across the aisle from her on a flight from Los Angeles to Honolulu.  She was friendly, but her husband John was hostile.  Their relationship began when she was 16, and he was 30 years her senior.  What surprised me most was that she was so short (5 feet 3 inches).  But back to the music, as simple as it was, it took Ravel 5 months to perfect the piece.  Here are ten things you might not know about Ravel's Bolero.

3.  Ludwig van Beethoven's Wellington's Victory is not in the mode of the two above, but I insert here because things seem to repeat, and whenever I have a monumental victory, I listen to this composition.  I once owned that album to the right.  The victory of Wellington over Napoleon has to do with the Battle of Vitoria, not Waterloo.  It is exactly 15 minutes long.  Interestingly enough, Johann Maezel actually sketched the concept of the Battle of Vitoria, which Beethoven put into music.  Keep in mind that Beethoven did not create "God Save the King" and "The Bear Went Over the Mountain."  He borrowed from the British and French.

I had a list of ten, but let me stop here and wish you a great Sunday.


1 comment:

pattygolden said...

Do you still feel that the "Deficit is not the Problem"? Circumstances have changed since you wrote the Huffington Post article in 2011. I am very curious. Warm Regards, Patty