Josef Strauss

Music Notes

Music, music, music.  And only music, music, music.

Longing for L-O-N-G classical music pieces:

Music to lull someone to sleep – 

Someone in the family has been waking in the middle of the night (I might be glaring at my son right now) and the only way to get said person back to sleep is to sit with him in his darkened room and listen to two or three calming, lengthy (this is key, short ‘n’ choppy does not do the trick) classical music pieces.  Each one needs to whisper, “you are getting sleepy, you are getting sleepy, you are getting sleepy”:

  • 14+ minutes:  Ralph Vaughan Williams “The Lark Ascending”
  • 12+ minutes”  Dvorak’s “Symphony No. 9” (“From the New World”), movement II
  • 12+ minutes:  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 in F major”, movement I
  • 12+ minutes:  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 6 in F major”, movement II
  • 9+ minutes:  Mozart’s “Concerto for Flute and Harp in C major”, movement II (the Andantino)
  • 9+ minutes:  Schumann’s “Symphony No. 3 in E flat” (“The Rhenish”), movement I
  • 9+ minutes:  Josef Strauss’s “Music of the Spheres”
  • 8+ minutes:  Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade”, movement I (“The Sea and Sinbad”)
  • 6+ minutes:  William Grant Still’s “Song of the Riverman” from “The American Scene – The Southwest”
  • 5+ minutes:  John Williams’ “Approaching the Summit”, from the movie, “Seven Years in Tibet”

Music to draw out the evening – 

Sometimes we speed through stories and studies and it is still quite early in the evening.  We have time for longer classical music selections than usual, and we pick livelier than the “lulling to sleep” pieces:

  • 12+ minutes:  Mendelssohn’s “Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
  • 11+ minutes:  Smetana’s “The Moldau” 
  • 10+ minutes:  Dukas’s “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” 
  • 9+ minutes:  von Suppe’s “Poet and Peasant Overture”
  • 9+ minutes:  Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours” from his opera, “La Gioconda”
  • 9+ minutes:  Mendelssohn’s “The Hebrides Overture”

April looks back at March:

Music for St. Patrick’s Day –

We compared two interpretations of the jig,  “The Irish Washerwoman”, inspired by the 17th century English Folk tune, “The Dargason” (Anglo-Saxon word for fairy)(not a river as I first assumed)(but seriously, doesn’t “The Dargason” sound like a river name?) –

– Gustav Holst’s “Fantasia on the Dargason”, composed in 1911 for his “Second Suite for Military Band”.  An excellent VIRTUAL performance by the Sacramento State Symphonic Wind Ensemble from October 2020. 

– Leroy Anderson’s “The Irish Washerwoman” from movement one of his “Irish Suite”, first performed in 1947.  Rollicking (we expect no less from Leroy Anderson) –

Music Madness –

We created our own March Madness Classical Music Brackets and pitted our favorite pieces by British composers (Handel, Holst, Vaughan Williams, Elgar, Binge, Sullivan, Clarke, and Alwyn) against each other.  After 9 grueling rounds, the top thrilling three:  

“The Wild Bears”, by Sir Edward Elgar from “The Wand of Youth”, suite II (1908).  No question about this, “The Wild Bears” is my son’s favorite classical music piece.  It has everything – scampering, tiptoeing, abrupt twists and turns, superb use of every instrument in the orchestra, and a smashing conclusion – all packed into 2+ minutes:

“Arrival of the Queen of Sheba”, by George Frederich Handel from his oratorio, “Solomon” (1749).  Don’t miss this short video if you want to see your first THEORBO (a ridiculously large lute-type instrument):

“Sailing By”, by Ronald Binge (1963).  This is the BBC4 Shipping Forecast theme, and we love it.  Comfort listening:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH

The Fireproof Safe

safe third

Prologue-
Q: Did my son know what a safe was?
Q: Did my son know what “fireproof” meant?
Those resolved, Q: If my son owned a factory that produced fireproof safes, how would he mark the occasion of the sale of the 20,000th safe?  (Wait, what?)  Would he do what the Wertheim Company of Vienna did in 1869?
The story – I estimate that my son and I have listened to Joseph Strauss’s “Feuerfest Polka” about 240 times.  It is fast-moving, happy, accented with the pinging of a hammer on an anvil, and comes with an adorable story – the polka was commissioned in 1869 by Franz von Wertheim, whose firm produced fireproof safes (feuerfest means fireproof in German).  The music was in celebration of Wertheim’s 20,000th safe! My son and I spent time imagining a company today commissioning a polka for the 20,000th production of anything.  This is SO GOLD.
“Feuerfest Polka”: the story continues – Because of the hammer/anvil pinging, we’ve been referring to Strauss’s piece as the “Blacksmith Polka” for years.  But last week it occurred to me that my son might not know what a blacksmith was.  Did he?  No.  Oh, dear.  Time to find out about blacksmithing.  We chose “History of the Blacksmith in Photographs” by Bryan Crawmer, and “The Backyard Blacksmith” by Lorelei Sims.  Both exceptionally helpful.  To conclude this unit I read aloud (the quite lengthy), “The Village Blacksmith” by Longfellow.

blacksmith books

Epilogue – Because of a very short piece of music, my son now knows about blacksmithing and fireproof safes.  AND BTW, The Wertheim Company is still making safes.

All is calm – We have just finished “The Prairie Builders” a superb book by Sneed B. Collard III, for which he received the American Association for Advancement of Science Award in 2006.  It chronicles the reconstruction of an 8,000+ acre tall grass prairie in Iowa, beginning in 1992 – the site preparation, the reintroduction of native seeds, bison, elk, butterflies. The pureness, calmness of both endeavor and writing reminds us of “The Ox-Cart Man” (Donald Hall/ Barbara Cooney, Caldecott Medal 1980).  Both soothing reads make us appreciate focused, honest work.

“How Trains Work” – a comprehensive, high energy, vibrantly illustrated Lonely Planet Kids Book. Our two favorite takeaways:
– We found out exactly how a funicular works.  We have known about funiculars, but did not have a grasp on the mechanics. (See blog post of November 22, 2014, “Mounting Interest”) (the post is one of my faves)
– We were reading about suspension railways (sort of like an upside-down monorail) and came across this SHOCKINGLY AWFUL YET HILARIOUS account: in 1950, for an ill-thought-out circus publicity stunt, an elephant named Tuffi was traveling on a suspension railway in Germany.  She FREAKED OUT and jumped out of the train (40 feet above ground). LUCKILY she landed in a river and was rescued. Well! This certainly speaks to the sturdiness of that particular suspension railroad.

Reading for great pleasure – We have just started Richard Peck’s book of short stories, “Past Perfect, Present Tense” and it is so A+.  The introduction, an essay on the short story genre, should be required reading. Two points stuck with us –
(semi-direct quote)  “Stories present the metaphor of change, to prepare the readers for changes coming in their lives.  NON-READERS WILL NEVER BE READY” (I added the caps)
(semi-direct quote)  “A short story isn’t easier to write than a novel.  It has less time to plead its case.”
Last night we read the first story in the collection, “Priscilla and the Wimps”, AND LOVED IT.  In the span of 4 pages, the best short story we have ever read.  First of all, THE TITLE.  Second of all, SWEET JUSTICE! Oh my gosh, the ending!  This is re-read worthy.

Story Problem – Le Fictitious Local Diner has an app! (not really)(for story problem purposes only) – And what’s on the app?  Videos of cooking demonstrations from local celebrity/diner chef Jeanette.  The diner is paying Chef Jeanette $50 for each uploaded video and $1 for every view.  Views so far:
– “Bake your own Potato Chips with Chef Jeanette”:  20 views
– “Diner Cherry Pie with Chef Jeanette”:  15 views
– “Diner Healthy Diet Plate with Chef Jeanette”:  0 views
– “Hot Dogs in Pastry Dough with Chef Jeanette”:  25 views
– “Let’s Make Salmon Treats for your Cat with Chef Jeanette”:  500 views
At this point, how much does the diner owe Chef Jeanette?
A) $250    B) $560    C) $810    D) $1,000 (answer at bottom of post)

From our classical music time –
To honor short stories:  the very shortest piece on our iPod – Glenn Gould’s lightning fast interpretation of Bach’s Invention No. 13 in A minor (composed in the early 1700’s).  Usually this piece takes just over a minute, Gould has shaved off 15 seconds –

To honor the Regal Fritillary butterfly, reintroduced to the prairie project:  a composition for piano and two flutes, “Deux Papillons” (Two Butterflies) by Emil Kronke, composed in 1739.  Spritely performance in gorgeous cathedral setting –

And of course, to honor Franz von Wertheim’s 20,000th fireproof safe, Josef Strauss’s “Feuerfest Polka”:  this performance is pretty cute, with conductor and “local blacksmith” fighting for control of the orchestra –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answer: C). $810)

26 Candles!

candles

My son celebrated his birthday this past week!  Among the wrapped presents, two spectacular books:

wonder-garden-book

“Star Talk” by astrophysicist and consummate showman, Neil deGrasse Tyson.  So far – tremendously engrossing; last night we read about why astronauts grow taller in space (due to lack of gravity) (and apparently this is NOT good for bone density), the night before we learned how long it would take to travel to Mars via current space travel technology. (3 years).  Full of quirky facts and explanations, this is exactly the type of book we like to spend time with.

“The Wonder Garden” by Kristjana S. Williams and Jenny Broom focuses upon animal life in five distinct habitats (vocab) around the world.  We are in the middle of the Amazon Rain Forest (located it on the new globe/another birthday present!) chapter.  Gross fact from last night: the green anaconda NEVER STOPS GROWING.  Ewww ewww ewww.  Aside from that, this book is a jewel. The obsessively decorative artwork is first rate, the book is well written and the excellent research is apparent.  Learning materials were NOT this captivating when I was in school.

horseshoe

Story problem – Farmer Brown recycles used horseshoes!  Farmer Brown has 6 horses and is filling up a barrel with used horseshoes.  He has found a craftsman who would like to purchase the horseshoes and turn them into “good luck” wall art items.  If each horse gets fitted for new shoes every other month, how many used shoes will Farmer Brown have in the barrel at the end of a year?  If he is able to sell the used shoes to the craftsman for $10 each, how much money will he collect by the end of a year?  If it costs $125 to shoe one horse, how many horses could be shod from the money earned from selling the old shoes? (answers at bottom of post)

blacksmith

Speaking of horseshoes – our poem for the evening was “The Village Blacksmith” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1840), which led us to look at and talk about anvils (vocab) and bellows (vocab), which led us to our music theme:

Plink, clank, plink – the anvil as musical instrument!  What a most satisfactory listening experience:

anvil

The Anvil Chorus from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera of 1853, “Il Trovatore” (The Troubadour).  This song of the gypsies praises hard work, good wine, and gypsy women.  For my son, I emphasized the hard work and the unique sound of the sledge hammer hitting the anvil, and sort of didn’t mention the good wine and gypsy women.  Outstanding production:

The Feuerfest (fireproof) Polka, composed in 1869 by Josef Strauss, brother of waltz king, Johann Strauss II.  This is probably one of our top ten favorite classical pieces; we like to anticipate each anvil clang.  In this linked video Mariss Jansons conducts the Vienna Philharmonic WHILE “playing” the hammers and anvil.  Adorable, and kind of spellbinding.

– Finally, “Heigh Ho” from Disney’s 1937 blockbuster, “Snow White”.  Music by Frank Churchill, words by Larry Morey.  Anvil plinking all over the place.

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 144,   $1,440,   11 horses)

780 Pairs of Saddle Shoes

Did ya miss me?  The past week my husband was visiting relatives and I was mired in single parenthood and there was no brainpower left to reflect upon what my son and I were learning together.

But, finally, a few free hours –

Saddle Shoes: One of the books we are reading mentioned somebody polishing up their saddle shoes.  I don’t believe my son has come into contact with anyone sporting saddle shoes, so we had to Google image said 50’s footwear. There are 39 pages of photos of saddle shoes.  Not a lot of variation, folks.  39 pages?

 saddle shoes 1 photos saddle shoes 2 saddle shoes 3

We finished an outstanding Nobel Prize unit: Thanks to a well-written book, “The Nobel Prize”, by Michael Worek, we are conversant with the prize categories (medicine, physics, chemistry, literature, peace, and economics), the basic set-up of the prize system, and we read about some of the more notable Laureates. The book ends with a chronological listing of the prizes. So, GREAT BIRTHDAY CARD IDEA!!! Along with the usual felicitations, why not include the list of the Nobel Prize Laureates from the year that the birthday honoree was born?

nobel book

Novel update: We decided that the two novels we were reading (“Under the Egg” and “The Absolute Value of Mike”) were too complex to be read at the same time. We decided to take a break from both books. My son chose an old favorite, “While Mrs. Coverlet was Away” as our current novel. When we conclude this book, we will return to either the Egg or the Mike book, but one at a time.

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem: Last night found Farmer Brown packing up crates of oranges to sell to sea captains interested in the prevention of scurvy.  We talked about Farmer Brown’s price per crate ($3.00), how many oranges were in each container (100), the subsequent cost of each orange, and how much a sea captain could make if he sold individual oranges for a quarter.

Our Classical Music theme was “All in the (ridiculously gifted) Family”:

  • The father, Johann Strauss, senior: “Radetzky March”: a glorious march, easily confused with the work of John Philip Sousa.
  • The brother, Josef Strauss: “Feuerfest Polka”:  we LOVE this piece and we refer to it as the “Blacksmith Polka” because it is accented with what sounds like a hammer hitting an anvil. This just has to be the inspiration for “Heigh-Ho” from Disney’s “Snow White”.
  • The Waltz King, Johann Strauss, junior: The Thunder and Lightning Polka”: take a gander at “Unter Donner und Blitz Polka” (“The Thunder and Lightning Polka”).  The conductor, Carlos Kleiber, is having way too much fun with this piece.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH