Solomon

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

A Glimpse and a Glance

What was life like for my son’s grandparents, who were teenagers during the Great Depression and young adults during World War II?  

We got a glimpse of the Great Depression – through Cheryl Mullenbach’s first-rate book “The Great Depression for Kids”:

  • setting the scene for the Great Depression: the roaring twenties
  • Herbert Hoover’s policies and FDR’s “New Deal”
  • and when things could not get any worse: the Dust Bowl of the 1930’s
  • differences between city schools and country schools
  • fun diversions:  roller derbies, the circus, Shirley Temple
  • neighbor helping neighbor, farmer helping farmer  (very heartening)
  • vocabulary and concepts defined:  migrant workers, prohibition, the stock market, banks collapsing, breadlines, striking workers, rationing, silent movies /“talkies”, rural, urban

We got a glimpse of the early days of World War II – through Richard Peck’s YA novel, “On the Wings of Heroes”.  Peck’s short chapters seamlessly combine the realities of a nation at war with a middle school student’s realities:

  • an adored older brother serving in the air force
  • rationing (we did not know that even shoes were rationed)
  • collection drives for the war effort (rubber tires, paper, all types of metal), culminating in the most wonderful town event:  a parade of rusted out jalopies headed for the scrap yard
  • ineffectual teachers vs. dynamite craftier-than-a-fox teachers
  • classroom bullies (who are served their just desserts)
  • the best friend
  • the hilarious next door neighbors

This is a comforting book set during nervous times and a perfect follow up to our study of the Great Depression.

A glimpse at trees and the high seas – 

Trees, a Rooted History” –  Socha and Grajkowski explore 32 tantalizing tree topics and team them with clever, superbly executed illustrations.  Our favorite two-page spreads: prehistoric trees (lots of fern-like leaves), the tallest trees (FYI, the tallest tree in the world:  “Hyperion”, a coast redwood in California), tree houses (why yes, we would like to stay in the treehouse on the grounds of  Amberley Castle in England), and the art of bonsai (who can’t love the sheer art and patience evident in a bonsai tree?).

We concluded our tree unit with a fill-in-the-blank version of the Joyce Kilmer’s poem of 1913, “Trees”.  (This was easy for my son – we have read this poem many times.)

Speaking of trees:  a Farmer Brown story problem – Farmer Brown’s cat, Olive, loves to scamper to the top of the front yard apple tree, but is jittery about the descent.  Smart thinking Farmer Brown has been successful in coaxing Olive down the tree with a fragrant offering of tuna.  If a can of tuna costs $4 and Farmer Brown needs to lure Olive down around 7 times a month, will $400 be enough to cover the cost of Olive’s “rescue tuna” this year?  (answer at bottom of post)

deep sea voyage

Professor Astro Cat’s Deep-Sea Voyage” – YAY! We have the new book by Dr. Dominic Walliman and Ben Newman!  My son and I have loved every book by this team (especially “Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space”).  And once again, THIS IS WHAT A LEARNING EXPERIENCE SHOULD LOOK LIKE IN BOOK FORM.  We are only half way through, but here is what has grasped our attention so far:

  • How low can you go?  My son and I both shivered as we read about depth zones in the ocean.  How it gets darker/colder and darker/colder and darker/colder the lower you go (thank heavens for deep sea vents) .  We found the Mariana Trench (the deepest known place on Earth) on our globe and pondered how anybody found this in the first place.
  • Ocean birds:  We are giving “A+ for Effort Awards” to cormorants, sea birds that can dive to 130 feet below sea level, and Arctic terns, who migrate further than any other animal on Earth (from north pole to south pole).
  • Octopuses have NINE brains: each arm has a brain – after getting over the semi-creepiness of this, we mused over the mechanics of an arm having a brain.
  • Most thought provoking:  those who have viewed fish tanks at any aquarium will have seen schools of fish moving together quickly and almost poetically.  Now that we think about it, we have never seen fish bumping into each other.  WHY?  Because fish have something totally confusing called the LATERAL LINE SYSTEM which enables them to detect vibrations, movement, and pressure from their surroundings.  

manderinefish

  • The utterly elegant manderinefish:  our new favorite fish 

A glance at ants –  If you need to know about ants, may we recommend, “The Life and Times of the Ant”, by Charles Micucci.  It is simply jammed with all sorts of stuff we budding ant scholars did not know previously, like:  

  • an ant scholar is properly known as a myrmecologist (what an RTW – really tough word)
  • a queen ant can live for up to 15 years and can produce 1million eggs annually
  • all worker ants are ladies;  the only job for male ants is fathering ant young ’uns
  • ants rely on the senses of touch, smell, sound, and taste (but not sight)

Concluding thought:   ants have been busy on Earth for around 100 million years.  They are smart, strong and supremely organized.  Homo sapiens have been busy on Earth for less than 1 million years.  Some of us are smart, some are strong, few are supremely organized.  No wonder we cannot get a handle on how to deal with ants in the sugar bowl.

Classical Music Time – we created a soundtrack for busy ants:

  • Moto Perpetuo by Niccolo Paganini,  1835.  We’re imagining ants with teeny iPods, working non-stop to the rhythm of Paganini’s composition.  Do they notice how this four and a half minute piece seems to be managed on a single breath by trumpet virtuoso, Wynton Marsalis?

  • Arrival of the Queen of Sheba, composed in 1748 by George Frideric Handel for his oratorio, “Solomon”.  All hail the Queen of the Ant Colony!  After producing all those eggs, this little lady deserves all the royal pomp that Handel can muster – 

  • Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4, movement 3 – Oh my, it is as if Tchaikovsky was writing about ants marching toward the ultimate prize:  A PICNIC BASKET.  There they go!  March, march, march, up and down little hills on the trail, no time for funny business.  But wait!  About a minute and a half in, AN OBSTACLE in the middle of the path!  A big leaf perhaps?  But take heart, quick thinking ants maneuver around the leaf and by minute 3, they are back on track.  What a grand ending as the picnic basket is reached (even the orchestra’s conductor is jubilant!).  Treasures (maybe a potato chip and cookie crumbs) are hoisted to bring back to the Queen, and the march back to the colony’s nest commences.  (My son LOVED the commentary and welcomed it again in the next night’s music line-up)(success!) –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  yes)

That’s Gotta Hurt

pike manpike manpike manpike man

The Macedonian Pike – my son and I are now studying Alexander the Great, who spent his short life (for thousands upon thousands of people, a life not short enough) as a most capable warmonger.  Home base was Macedonia (perched right atop Greece) (found it on the globe), where his Macedonian soldiers were totally whipped into shape and marched with 15-foot tall pikes.  YIKES (there is a sharp metal knife at the end of each pole).  LOADS of warmonger vocabulary words: phalanx, chariot, catapult, mercenary, infantry, cavalry.

alexander the great

Shakespeare this past week – we finished up the comedy, “Much Ado about Nothing” and we have just started the history, “Julius Caesar”.

peck novels

Reading for fun – to balance the war and intrigue study, we need novels that make us laugh.  We LOVED “A Long Way from Chicago” by Richard Peck. LOVED IT.  Every single chapter had an hilarious twist that had us marveling. This book WILL be re-read.  We are following “A Long Way from Chicago” with its sequel, “A Year Down Yonder”.  So far, it is a lot of fun (and it is a Newbery Award Winner), but for us,  probably isn’t in line for a re-read.  But maybe it will be!  Hope springs eternal.

pencil grip

We write – My daughter directed us toward “The Pencil Grip Writing Claw”, and I found a pack of six on Amazon – can’t remember the price, but very cheap.  My son has been practicing writing with this for the past week, and is getting comfortable using this little rubbery appliance on his fingertips.  It truly makes one grasp a writing utensil correctly.

Our Farmer Brown Story Problem of the week – Farmer Brown has 15 field hands who needed new summer hats to keep the blazing sun off their faces.  He purchased a dozen straw cowboy hats for $360 and a dozen canvas “outback” style hats for $300.  Ten of the field hands wanted cowboy hats and the others chose outback hats. Farmer Brown donated the remaining hats to a local farming extension office because they are always so short on funds. How much was his donation worth?

One of the music themes from last week: “Melodies from Exotic Lands” –

  • “Scheherazade” by Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, movement I, composed in 1888.  Based upon “The Arabian Nights”, SO elegant.

  • Overture from “Abduction from the Seraglio” by Mozart, composed in 1782.  Two words:  Turkish harem!  What’s not to like, and in this short overture we CANNOT get enough of the smashing symbols.

  • “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” by Handel, composed in 1748, as part of his oratorio, “Solomon”.   We sort of chuckle every time we hear it, because the music seems more evocative of an arrival at Kensington Palace in the 18th century than the Queen of Sheba’s arrival in Jerusalem during Old Testament times.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH