Richard Strauss

New Year, New Books

2019

(Christmas gift – thank you Jimmy)  On the basis of a single book, “Women in Science”, my son and I welcome to our academic library ANY book book written by Rachel Ignotofsky.  WOW.  Ms. Ignotofsky certainly meets her goal of creating educational works of art;  this  dazzling book is intelligently organized and jammed with the kind of information we want to know about.  So far, we have been enticed into learning about the contributions of women astronomers, chemists, mathematicians, entomologists, paleontologists, engineers, electricians, geneticists, and geologists.  This book is such a keeper.

timeline book

(Christmas gift – thank you Aunt Janet)  The Smithsonian “Timelines of Everything” book offers up approximately 150 timelines, each commanding a giant two-page spread.  The focus of each timeline is narrow and we always find something worth discussing further.  For instance:

  • agriculture – we spent some time musing over the fact that sheep were raised for milk and food beginning around 7,000 BCE, but wool was not woven into into fabric until 4,000 BCE (Whoa. A 3,000 year time gap).
  • the wheel – the first wheels were potters’ wheels (we did not guess this – and we do know all about potters’ wheels from our study of ceramic artist George E. Ohr).  
  • the written word – we marveled over the Rosetta Stone.
  • games – we now know that when we play tic-tac-toe we are playing one of mankind’s oldest games (first century BCE) (seriously, the 3 Wise Men could have known how to play tic-tac-toe).
  • religions – I had no idea that this would lead to a discussion of REINCARNATION.  But, duh, OF COURSE.  If one hasn’t heard of reincarnation one would want to spend a bit of time grasping the concept.

styx malone

Fiction Fun – “The Season of Styx Malone”, by Kekla Magoon. Styx is full throttle coolness and confidence.  Do we trust him?  We just don’t know.  This keeps us leaning forward as we read chapter after chapter.  Please don’t disappoint us Styx!

running dog

A super short, super easy Farmer Brown story problem – Often people visiting the ranch bring their dogs, so Farmer Brown’s farmhands have fenced in two dog runs for visiting canines.  Which dog run will give the animals more square footage:  the 6’x25’ run or the 5’x30’ run?  (answer at bottom of post)

conductor match

Classical Quiz – I wanted to check to see if my son was retaining info about the great musicians we have been listening to, so he matched up virtuosos with their instrument.  A few conductors were tossed into the mix to make things tricky.  FYI:  my son scored 100%.

music notes

That sounds familiar –  It is no secret that composers often borrow musical ideas from other composers.  (Usually they give credit, sometimes they get into BIG trouble).  Anyway,  I happen to like tracing routes of melodies through the centuries, so my lucky son gets to enjoy listening to my melody match-ups.  Quick examples:

  • Jacque Arcadelt’s Ave Maria melody of the mid 1500’s can be found in both Camille Saint-Saens’ 1886 Organ Symphony and the Finlandia Hymn from Jean Sibelius’ 1899 symphonic poem, Finlandia.
  • Luigi Denza’s Finiculi Funicula (1880) is front and center in Richard Strauss’s  Aus Italian (1886) and in Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Neapolitan Song (1907).
  • Brahms’ Symphony 3, movement 3 (1883) provides the melody line for  Carlos Santana’s Love of My Life (1999).

And this leads us to Bach and Rock – 

lute

Last week we listened to Bourrée in E minor from JS Bach’s Lute Suite No. 1, composed around 1710.  Nice, short, memorable melody (and my son learned that a guitar may be substituted for a lute).  A jewel of a performance by Kevin Low – and check out the loose  guitar strings:  

Then we listened to rock-group-from-the-60’s/70’s Jethro Tull’s recording of “Bouree”.  Such a lively interpretation of the Bach suite movement, but it is clear that lead musician, Ian Anderson, had not much experience playing the flute.  We read a few interviews and found out that Anderson was a self-taught flutist, admitting that he had no idea what he was doing.  So we say BRAVO to his CAN DO attitude.  

We concluded by listening to a 2005 recording of Ian Anderson playing the same piece, “Bouree”, with orchestral support.  Anderson did well with the 35 year practice period!  YAY. 

Also, we learned that the real Jethro Tull (inspiration for the rock group’s name) was a noted British agriculture pioneer (1674-1741).

jethro tull

Welcome to the best part of my day!
-Jane BH
(Story problem answer:  both dog run designs have the same square footage – 150 square feet)

Looking North

Our Canadian Unit: the 49th parallel propels us into action – While reading about Canadian provinces, and we came across this:  British Colombia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba border the United States along the 49th parallel north. WHAT???????? It was like our alarm clock clanged!  It was obviously time to learn about parallels, longitude, latitude and the like.  So, two books to the rescue:  we’re reading through the scholarly and quite fascinating “Longitude” by Dava Sobel, and “Maphead” by Ken Jennings is on deck.  BTW, “Wow Canada!” by Vivien Bowers is proving to be an excellent resource.

olivia 3

Fiction Fun – We were sorry to finish two entertaining books this past week: our 10th Tom Gates book, “Top of the Class (nearly)” by the utterly imaginative Liz Pichon (gosh we love those Tom Gates books) and a revisit read of Gordon Korman’s insightful “Schooled” (important read).  We’ve just begun “Olivia Bean Trivia Queen”, written by Donna Gephart, a new author for us. So far: YAY!

Reporting in on our Buffalo Bill unit:
– We have just finished “Presenting Buffalo Bill” –  We’ve impressed ourselves by absorbing the material of Candace Fleming’s long, brilliantly researched book.  We probably learned EVERYTHING about this over-the-top man,  a LOT about the myth of the “wild west”, and a BIT about some unsettling American government policies of the late 18th century.
– A side note:  Buffalo Bill fits the profile –  My son and I have studied many “larger than life” individuals whose impact has been significant.  To a person, the greater the achievement, the more glaring the personal deficit(s) (vocab).  William Cody fits the profile.  Poor Bill – literally POOR BILL – had no concept of money management.  Although this is a comparatively benign (vocab) deficit, how could his friends and family not shudder in horror as he plunged unthinkable quantities of money into one ill-advised investment after another.  Oh Bill!

canadian geese

Farmer Brown and the Canadian Geese story problem – Farmer Brown loves the honking sound of Canadian Geese as they fly over his ranch, migrating south for the winter or back north for the summer.  He was interested to read that a town in Kansas counted 1,800 geese as year-round residents, their number increasing to 18,000 every winter.  A percentage increase of what?  A. 10%      B. 100%      C. 1,000%  (answer at bottom of post)

Back to our Canada studies:  WE DID NOT SEE THIS COMING – Here we are knee deep into our unit on the Canadian provinces, learning about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Calgary Stampede, the Canadian Shield, poutine, puffins, prairie dogs – lovely, lovely, lovely and then, WHOA: smack in the middle of Canada, in the province of Manitoba: THE NARCISSE SNAKE DENS.  SNAKE DENS!!!!  We had to drop everything, find out more and look at GROSS WRIGGLING PHOTOS.  OK, here is the deal: every spring and fall, thousands and thousands of red-sided garter snakes congregate for a three week mating frenzy.

narcisse snake dens

Last night’s music:  A HISSY FIT – we pretended that the director of the Narcisse Snake Dens phoned and pleaded with us to plan a program of background music for the slithering sweethearts:

snakes

  • “Dance of the Seven Veils” from Richard Strauss’ one act opera, “Salome”, which premiered in 1905 (but was banned in London until 1907 for being WAY too steamy) (my son doesn’t need to know this).  This piece masterfully scores the out of control fever of the snake pits (thank you timpani) with the sinuous gliding of the snakes over and under each other (thank you snake charmy oboes).  This performance by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Santiago, conducted by Paolo Bortolameolli is SUPERB. TONS of energy:

  • “Blue Tango” by Leroy Anderson, composed in 1951.  We just laugh and laugh through this whole piece.  This is the go-to sassy music for a garter snake meet and greet:

  • We anthropomorphized (vocab) the snakes and imagined two snakes eyeing each other from opposite sides of the crowded and heaving den – and their hearts connect (we are laughing so hard) to “Some Enchanted Evening” from Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1949 “South Pacific” production:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer: C. 1,000% increase)

One thing leads to another

Our December was as jam packed as everyone else’s, so although I didn’t post, my son and I still gathered nightly for STUDIES AND STORIES.  In the midst of Christmas chaos, we discussed/looked up/whatever: the concept of alliteration – charm bracelets – the Chunnel – poppies – rafts – storks – submarines. Good month.  But now, we are back in business!

lighthouse  dominator  fog

One thing leads to another – for some reason, my son and I were reading about the big lenses used in lighthouses…this led me to show him a photo of the lighthouse in the town where I grew up….this led me to tell him about the SS Dominator, an unlucky freighter that sank pretty darn close to our local lighthouse in 1961 (fog issues)…this led us to look at photos of the Dominator, where we noticed: RUST.  So this led us to do a bit of a study on rust.  And fog.  Yay to the freedom of studying in a zigzag fashion.

Last night we began a unit on CATS – all kinds of felines, wild and domesticated (vocab word).   Interesting take-aways from last night: (1) take any type of feline, and the male and female look pretty much alike, EXCEPT one type of cat.  Can you guess?  Answer: LIONS (the male lion looking way different than his female counter-part).  Just the kind of fact that interests us, and (2) the Clouded Leopard: weird weird weird fur pattern.  Doesn’t it look like the design on the back of a tortoise?

clouded leopard

Our current novel: L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.  Our book has extreme, contemporary, WONDERFUL graphics by Olimpia Zagnoli.

oz book

Thought: Baum wrote this as a book for children, so is there a need for so many watered down “children’s” versions? Don’t you think that diluted re-writes are an insult to our children’s minds?

Our Farmer Brown story problem: Farmer Brown’s cousin, Farmer Jimmy, produces maple syrup from the trees on his Vermont farm. He has asked Farmer Brown to sell the syrup for him, so he can concentrate on his syrup making techniques.  Farmer Jimmy is going to pay Farmer Brown 20% of everything sold.  A pint of maple syrup will sell for $8.00.  If Farmer Brown can sell 200 pints, how much money will he earn after he forks over most of the money to his cousin?

Our music theme: “One Thing Leads To Another” – we thought 2014 should go out with a bang and 2015 should enter with a bang…so we selected music that prominently features a booming instrument we want so badly to play – the TIMPANI (kettledrums):

  • Two by Richard Strauss!  “Dance of the Seven Veils” from his opera, “Salome” (pha-yew!  This is IN YOUR FACE sensuality set to music, but I would NEVER say this in front of my son – rather, I DO say that this is a staggering work of genius, and let’s concentrate on listening for the timpani) and “Also Sprach Zarathustra” (otherwise known as the theme music to the movie “2001, A Space Odyssey”).
  • Aram Khachaturian’s “Sabre Dance” – who cannot be delighted by this piece? C’mon! It’s a circus staple, what’s not to love? In the video, you will find the timpani positioned smack in the middle of the back row. What a great instrument!

 Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH

Mounting Interest

Mount Everest

Our Wonders of the World unit: last night, Mount Everest.  Mount Everest is 29,029 feet above sea level at the summit (the summit being about as big as my son’s bed – we spent a few minutes thinking about whether we could be up so high, standing on something so small without freaking out and throwing up).  But back to the height:  when we fly to LA, our cruising altitude is not that much higher than the top of Mount Everest.  Wouldn’t it be weird to be in a plane, just about cruising altitude and look eye to eye with a person outside the airplane?  This puts the size of the Everest into a perspective that forces us to understand that THIS IS ONE GIANT MOUNTAIN.

New unit: George Ohr, potter. We started a most interesting book, “The Mad Potter, George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius”. George Ohr (1857 – 1918) tried/failed about 14 different career paths before he was trained in ceramics.  In his own words, he “took to the potter’s wheel like a duck to water”. My son needed to know what a potter’s wheel looked like, so we viewed a neat video of a skilled potter throwing a pot.  He was spellbound as the solid lump of clay was transformed into a rather large bowl. Here is the video we watched:

Last night’s music theme celebrated Mount Vesuvius!

funicular illustration

Here is the story:  in 1880, a local journalist (Peppino Turco) teamed with composer Luigi Denza to create the immensely popular “advertising” jingle, “Funiculi Funicula”, commemorating the grand opening of a funicular cable car up the side of Mount Vesuvius. The original words are essentially “ride the totally cool cable car to the top of the mountain, see what you can see, bring a love interest”. The song went as viral as viral could be in 1880.

THEN!  Only 6 years later, composer Richard Strauss was touring Italy, heard the song – thought it was an old traditional Neapolitan theme – and wove it into movement 4 of his “Aus Italien” tone poem. Bad surprise: Denza sued Richard Strauss, won the lawsuit, and Strauss paid royalties every time “Aus Italien” was performed.

THEN!  (here we go again) 21 years after the Denza vs. Strauss dust-up, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov was touring Italy, heard the song – thought it was an old traditional Neapolitan theme – so he polished it up for full orchestra and it became “Neapolitan Song”.  He apparently was not sued. This is a sparkling orchestration, but my son and I think the original, unrefined rendition is THE BEST. (spoiler alert:  this is a flawed video visually – you will see what I mean immediately, but Pope Benedict is in the audience, so that is pretty awesome)

Final note:  Vesuvius is a dormant volcano, but in 1944 it erupted and the cable car was a casualty.  Rats.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH