Music Appreciation

World Music Exploration - Spanish Flamenco

This month, we are exploring the music and culture of Spain. I have some relatives there whom I hope to visit someday.
Flamenco music is very old. Some pundits believe the style "evolved out of a mixture of early Byzantine, Arab, Jewish and Gypsy cultures in Andalucía". That makes sense historically, considering some of the cultures Spain traded with (or conquered).
You only have to listen/watch a few bars to see how rhythmically and technically challenging it is. This type of traditional Spanish music is played by guitar and castanets. And I understand that the cajón is used as well. [Learn more about the cajón on my other blog.]

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Andrea Bocelli

This week, we are listening to Italian tenor, Andrea Bocelli, sometimes referred to as "the fourth tenor."  He has made a name for himself in opera as well as pop ballads, having recorded duets with Celine Dion, Sarah Brightman, Eros Ramazzotti and Al Jarreau,  This is "Dare to Live" (Vivere), one of my favourite tracks from from The Best of Andrea Bocelli:


It was nominated for a Latin Grammy in 2008.

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Vivaldi's Four Seasons

Our musical journey moves northward to Venezia (Venice) for this week's clip. While setting up the clip, I surveyed my students."Pizza" and "pasta" are the first words that came to mind when asked about their knowledge of Italy. "It's shaped like a boot," came third. However,  One of my 10 year-old students impressed me with his knowledge of Italian history, namely all about the city states and which country owned which area.


This week, we are listening to the music of Antonio Vivaldi (1675-1741). He was nicknamed the "red priest" because of his red hair, which was unusual at the time. He worked at Conservatorio dell'Ospedale della Pietà, which was a music school for orphaned girls.
Vivaldi composed cantatas, concerti, chamber music, church music, operas and an oratorio. He was one of the first Baroque composers to write for clarinet.
This is "Winter" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. This work is comprised of four violin concerti:
The first thing my students have commented on are the dramatic masks, which Venice is famous for. Next, their eyes bug out when they hear the opening theme played on the solo violin.
Four Seasons is an example of programme music. Based on sonnets, this work is rich in imagery. My students and I have decided that this excerpt could be used for a snowstorm. One student imagined a couple of dogs chasing and playing in the snow.

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Tarantella

Now that the ensemble classes and Virtual Choir 3.0 (that's another story) are behind us, we can resume our world music exploration. This month, my students and I are exploring one of my favourite countries in the world: Italy.


Italy is rich in history, food, culture and of course - music! This is perhaps one of Italy's most famous folk dances, the Tarantella:


It translates to "tarantula". It's a circle dance which features changes in direction and tempo. This recording features the mandolin. The above version is Neopeltana one. There is also a Sicilian and Calabrese Tarantella.


All this talk of Italy has given me a huge craving for Italian cuisine and limone gelato.
(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Nigerian Gospel Music

This week, we are reminded that we are in the middle of winter. With temperatures in the -20's (Celsius), taking a virtual trip to Nigeria is a nice change.

This week, we are looking at Nigerian Gospel music. Judging from the vast number of videos on Youtube, one can surmise that this is a huge part of the fabric of Nigerian Music.

This is the ECWA Yoruba Choir Mushin. The music is extremely upbeat and their clothing is bright too.
(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - Traditional Dance Music from Nigeria

When I chose this month's musical destination back in the summer, I assumed we would be in the middle of a cold snap. For the most part, we have been enjoying a rather mild winter in Alberta.


We are exploring Nigeria this month. According to Wikipedia, "Nigeria has been called "the heart of African music" because of its role in the development of West African highlife and palm-wine music, which fuses native rhythms with techniques imported from the Congo for the development of several popular styles that were unique to Nigeria, like apala, fuji, jùjú, highlife, and Yo-pop."  After listening to some music from Nigeria, put on some hip hop or reggae. You'll probably notice some similarities.


There are over 250 ethnic groups in Nigeria. Each group has a distinct style of music. Some of their songs are works songs and some are based on epic poetry. Many of their songs have a call and response form. They use mainly percussion instruments plus voice.


This clip features three dances:


  1. Yoruba: uses the dundun hourglass tension drums
  2. Hausa: call and response song uses the Arabic scale and is played on a one-stringed goje
  3. Igbo: known for incorporating foreign styles,. Instruments used include the 13-stringed zither, called an obo., slit drums, xylophones, flutes, lyres, udus and lutes and European brass instruments.

(c) 2012 by Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

World Music Exploration - German Trance Music

Trance music isn't something you'd normally hear at a piano lesson. However, since the idea is to expose students to a wide variety of musical genres, why not?

Wisegeek defines trance music as: "an art form that relies heavily on the use of electronic equipment and a specific tempo range, typically 130-160 beats per minute (BPM), to create a musical arrangement that is understood to have somewhat hypnotic qualities." It came onto the scene in the 1990's.There is a set form to trance music. The repetitive melodies are "connected by a series of crescendos and breakdowns." Sounds a bit like minimalist music in a way.

Here is an example of trance music from Germany. Enjoy!
(c) Musespeak(TM), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.