La Gioconda

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

Inventors Invent

rube goldberg

Patents and Inventions – every night for the past few weeks my son and I have looked forward to opening Travis Brown’s book, “Popular Patents”.  We’ve read about patents issued for the adding machine, barbed wire, the moveable-frame beehive, billiard balls, bottle caps, cannons, the safety elevator, fertilizer, frozen foods, glass bottles, helicopters, and the zipper.  What we love is that each story has some crazy angle (like how zippers were called “hookless fasteners” until an order for 150,000 units were  placed by the Goodrich Company for their “Zipper Boots”).  And we continue to notice how EVERY single story reveals inventors that carry patents for MULTIPLE non-related items.  They cannot seem to stop: inventors invent!

patent books and toilet

Speaking of Fertilizer (first US patent for artificial fertilizer granted in 1859) – we read through (OH MY GOSH) “TOILET – How It Works”, meticulously illustrated by David Macaulay.  This is a quick little book that can give EVERYBODY a basic knowledge of their toilet and a HUGE appreciation for every city’s wastewater treatment plant (on behalf of all clueless citizenry, thank you wastewater treatment plant workers) (possibly a type of employment that might be worse than being a middle-school bus driver).

AA006323

Yoohoo!  Vikings!  We are reading through another Graphic Library (think glorified comic book) offering, this one about the Vikings, “Lords of the Sea – the Vikings Explore the North Atlantic”.  My, these were a hardy people.  We are finding it interesting to put the Viking explorations to North America in timeline context with the likes of Christopher Columbus and the Mayflower Pilgrims.  And BTW, we’ve learned that Vikings never wore helmets with horns.

falcon book

Reading for fun – My husband and I enjoy the screenwriting of Anthony Horowitz (think “Foyle’s War”), so when I found out that he wrote for the young adult level, I knew my son and I would want to give this a try.  We have started his book, “The Falcon’s Malteser”.  Lots of things to explain to my son as we read along (starting with the title), but this is a very fun, very clever detective novel. Perfect level for my son.

chef hatchef hatchef hat

Who’s Cooking at Le Fictitious Local Diner? (story problem) – in August, the diner is offering two week-long (Monday through Friday) cooking camps; one for 7th and 8th graders and one for high school students.  The class fee is $200 per student and includes lunch every day and a chef hat. There is room for 10 students in each camp.  If it costs the diner $4 for each lunch, and $50 for cooking materials for each student for a week, and a chef’s hat costs $6 each, how much will the diner spend on each camper?  At the end of camp, how much will the diner have netted? (answer at bottom of post)

Only Fun Music Allowed (our classical music theme last night) –

  • “Dance of the Hours” (note:  this piece has a LONG 2 minute intro –  the high voltage fun begins about 7.5 minutes into piece), from the opera “La Gioconda” (1880) by Amilcare Ponchielli.  Even though this music was hilariously and successfully used in Disney’s “Fantasia” and Allen Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah”, we were sorry to learn that “La Gioconda” is actually a heart-wrenching tragedy.  But anyway:

  • “Chicken Reel”, written in 1910 by Joseph Daly (and used in several animated cartoons to depict rollicking farm life), and arranged for orchestra by LeRoy Anderson in 1946.  Anderson had so much fun with this – beginning with the ridiculously grand aggressive Paso Doble introduction. Great piece:

  • “The Pink Panther”, the iconic Henry Mancini piece composed in 1963. (My son and I love the triangle action.) This short film clip showcases Henry Mancini as conductor, as well as bits of Pink Panther cartoon magic:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
Jane BH
(story problem answers:  $76, $2,480)