At my next class, April 29, I would like you to imagine you are a composer. Your job is to organize sounds into coherent form. Where do you look for inspiration? You might begin by looking at sources close by: Music you heard as a baby, rocking in your mother’s arms. Or in school, in church, or when your grandmother sang to you. Maybe you remember music you heard at dances, weddings or funerals, on the radio, in recordings or on soundtracks to films. And some of this music stuck with you.
It spoke to you with its rhythms and melodies — moved your heart, resonated deep inside because it said something about who you are, where you live, the work you did, the stories you heard, the joys and sorrows you read about or experienced.
We’re talking about music that has been passed down from one generation to another — folk music — an enormously rich tradition that has inspired classical composers for centuries, and continues, today.
We will hear how Bach inserted popular ditties into his sublime “Goldberg” Variations. Chopin found echoes of his Polish homeland in the Mazurka. Lou Harrison merged Indonesia’s gentle gamelan with his own beautiful melodies and Portland’s Kenji Bunch evokes the pounding rhythms of southern chain gangs in a mesmerizing symphony.
Join us, 4 p.m. Sunday, April 29, at Classic Pianos.
Here's a sample:
We covered a lot of music at my class, March 25, and I'm sorry we didn't get to everything I had prepared. The class felt a little rushed and I'm sorry we didn't spend more time discussing each performance. Next time, I'll reduce the number of performers.
Here are all 16 of the performances I had planned to share with you. We heard two singers perform the same aria so we could compare voices, personalities and musical styles, and we explored how each singer acted with his or her voice. We had to skip Nos. 9 and 10, Fritz Wunderlich and Francisco Araiza in "Dies Bildnis" from Mozart's "The Magic Flute," and Nos. 13 and 14, Gerald Finley and Dietrich Henschel singing "Batter My Heart" from "Dr. Atomic" by John Adams. And we listened to only a few moments of Nos. 15 and 16, Barbara Hannigan and Audrey Luna, in Gyorgy Ligeti's "Le Grand Macabre."
Enjoy, and I'll see you April 29 for folk-inspired music. Many composers, from Mozart, Chopin and Brahms to Bartok, Astor Piazzolla and Osvaldo Golijov, found inspiration in folk music, transforming their work while keeping it grounded in the classical tradition.
David Stabler is a teacher, writer, dad and cyclist. He's working on a novel based on his childhood years living in Africa and rode across America with his brother in 2017.