The Wand of Youth

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

Brownie Points

smithsonian left

Brownie points for us!  It was LENGTHY, but we have finished The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects, compiled by Richard Kurin (currently Acting Provost and Under Secretary for Museums and Research at the Smithsonian Institution).  And brownie points for this first-rate endeavor, a superior textbook choice for a full semester of American History.  My son’s favorite chapters:

  • Lewis and Clark’s Pocket Compass – we loved our unit on the Lewis and Clark expedition (see “From the Wanderlust Files”, August 27, 2019), and couldn’t believe we were actually viewing an artifact from the journey.
  • Helen Keller’s Watch – first of all, this is a VERY INTERESTING WATCH. Secondly, here is something that cheered us – totally unrelated to the watch – Helen Keller’s tuition to Radcliffe was arranged by Mark Twain!!!
  • The Tsimshian Totem Pole – an utterly elegant piece of art that became more enchanting after we understood the story this totem pole reveals.
  • Marian Anderson’s Mink Coat – a well balanced account of events that prompted an ice cold outdoor concert (Easter Sunday, 1939) given by American treasure, contralto Marian Anderson.  We have now added Ms. Anderson’s  recording of “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” to our Sunday night listening –
  • The Brownie Camera – the most captivating chapter! We learned about George Eastman and his concept for the Brownie camera (provoking us to read The Brownie Book, Palmer Cox’s mini stories of mini spirits, which inspired Eastman to name his little camera, “The Brownie”) and we were riveted reading the report of the teenage girl, traveling in 1912 aboard the RMS Carpathia, using her Brownie camera to record the rescuing of survivors from the sinking Titanic.

The Photo Ark, by Joel Sartore – a coffee table book with a noble purpose:  to create awareness of extinction possibilities threatening Earth’s current animal kingdom.  Each of the 399 photographs touched our heart.

  • Our favorite chapter – the success stories of species that have been brought back from the brink of extinction.
  • My son’s selection for most beautiful animal photographed in the book –  a three-way tie:  the California Sea Lion, the Pink-Tipped Anemone, and the Bali Mynah.  I would include photos, but the new format options on this blog site have me perplexed.
  • What we learned – most of the monkey-type animals (OK, this is an outrageously incorrect generalization, but this is the easiest way for my son to grasp the idea of the primates-minus-humans group) are in danger of becoming extinct.
  • What we learned – most insects are not in danger of becoming extinct.   (hmmm, drat)
  • What we learned – The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s list of threatened species codes:

EX= Extinct EW= Extinct in the Wild CR= Critically Endangered
EN= Endangered VU= Vulnerable NT= Near Threatened
LC= Least Concern DD= Data Deficient NE= Not Evaluated

Story Problem – Brownies are served! – The local diner is offering adorable after-school snack boxes for $5.  Each box includes 2 of their town-famous peppermint frosted brownies and a small bottle of apple cider.   If there are 500 students in town and every single student purchases a snack box once a week, and each box costs the diner $3, how much will the diner net after a month of after-school treat sales? (answer at bottom of post)

A)  $1,000     B)  $2,500     C)  $4,000     D)  $10,000

Classical Music Listening – we were smiling over the detailed engravings in Palmer Cox’s The Brownie Book, so we put together a program of background music for his merry mischievous brownies – 

  • Badinerie, from JS Bach’s “Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor” (1738). This piece makes us imagine brownies dashing all over the place doing good works for the nice people and tripping things up for the mean people – 
  • Banjoland Buffoonery, by Grant Kirkhope for the 2008 video game, “Banjo-Kazooie:  Nuts & Bolts”.  The brownies are up to no good and having a good laugh at the same time.  You do not want to get on the bad side of the brownies – 
  • The Wild Bears, by Sir Edward Elgar, from his “The Wand of Youth, Suite No. 2” of 1908.  This superb short composition has got everything – speed, originality, hold-your-breath moments, a smashing ending – the brownies are sneaking around and this is easily their theme music –

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers:  Farmer Brown’s question: “Yes”. Diner question: C). $4,000).

Too much gushing?

We plow through so many poorly edited books (case in point: the North American Birds book that had a chapter entitled “Finches” in which there was no mention of finches in said chapter), or stupefyingly boring books (case in point: the recent purchase of a most disappointing volume on the history of yodeling), so when we come across books such as we’ve been reading these past weeks, I gush.  Sorry.  Not sorry. 

Paddle-to-the-Sea – this book is so A++++.  Written and illustrated in 1941 by Holling Clancy Holling, and selected as a Caldecott Honor Book in 1942.  This soothing reading is: 

  • a geography lesson in the Great Lakes (which provoked us to order a rather large Great Lakes map poster for my son’s room):

lakes map

  • a lesson in “sticking to the plan”
  • a lesson in “letting go”
  • a lesson in observation
  • a lesson about the kindness of strangers

For us, “Paddle-to-the-Sea” was one almost poetic page per night, accompanied by detailed illustrations, to help us follow the journey of a small hand-carved wooden canoe, complete with hand-carved wooden passenger, as it traveled from a river in Canada through the Great Lakes and eventually on to the Atlantic Ocean.  The 4 year voyage concludes in a most satisfying manner (I was sort of weeping).  Excellent, excellent night-time reading.

Dinosaur Atlas  a spectacular, though slightly unwieldy effort (it is a large book whose large pages unfold making an even larger book) from Lonely Planet Kids.  This book is FILLED with late-breaking dinosaur findings, photos, and deliciously bold graphics.

News to us:

  • 80% of identified dinosaurs have been named since 1990. Those among us who learned everything they know about dinosaurs from “The Flintstones” should take note
  • dinosaur fossils have been found in abundance in every continent INCLUDING Antarctica
  • there is a strong possibility that all theropods (meat eaters that marched around on the 2 hind legs (think T-Rex)) – HAD FEATHERS! (not for flying, perhaps for warmth)

The Flag Book – another keeper resource from Lonely Planet Kids.  All world flags displayed and analyzed, PLUS flag topics that drew an intrigued look from my son: 

  • Car race flags
  • Why the flag on the right side tail of a national airplane is displayed backwards
  • Jamaican flag – only flag in the world that does not contain red or white or blue
  • Bermuda flag – only flag in the world that showcases a disaster (a shipwreck)
  • Why the state flag of Hawaii features the British “Union Jack” flag in its design
  • Hey!  We couldn’t help but notice – the flag of Chile is so similar to our Texas flag

The Smithsonian’s History of America in 101 Objects – this is the type of book that makes us more appreciative citizens.  Each short chapter provides background information on a treasured item from the Smithsonian collection, then explains how the Smithsonian came in possession of the object.  First-rate writing.  Since the last post, the items that provoked extensive side conversations between my son and I:

  • A compass from the Lewis and Clark expedition
  • Harriet Tubman’s shawl from THE QUEEN OF ENGLAND!!!
  • The Brownie camera that shot pictures of the RMS Carpathia rescue of Titanic passengers

pickles

Story Problem:  gushing about Farmer Brown’s newest product – Farmer Brown had such luck with his cucumber crop this year that he has gone into pickle production.  Using his grandmother’s recipe, he has made jars and jars and jars of dill pickles.  He is not only selling them at his road-side stand, but a national food catalog has made a substantial purchase.  

– If Farmer Brown slices 2 cloves of garlic into each jar of his extremely popular dill pickles, and there are approximately 10 cloves in a head of garlic, and he has filled 12 dozen jars, how many heads of garlic were needed?

A).  10     B).  18     C).  25     D).  29  (answer at bottom of post)

Speaking of story problems!  Coming semi-soon! –  A booklet that will include 100 story problems from this blog.  Illustrations are finished!  This will be available from this website  before Christmas.  STAY TUNED. 

Classical Music we gush over –

pick 3

About 4 times a week, I make a list of 10 classical music pieces and have my son select the three we are going to listen to that evening.  If one of the following is on the list, it ALWAYS gets picked. I would estimate that we have listened to each of these no less than 400 times –

  • The Moldau, the second movement from Bedrich Smetana’s symphonic poem, “Ma Vlast”, which premiered in 1882.  The piece follows a river’s path, passing woodlands, meadows, a wedding, mermaids, castles and ruins.  An abrupt and fabulous ending: 

  • The Wild Bears, the sixth movement from Sir Edward Elgar’s “The Wand of Youth” (second suite), premiering in 1908.  A rollicking 3 minutes, full of sophisticated orchestration,  surprises, and a smashing ending.  We also really like Mariss Jansons, the conductor in this video:

  • Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D major, movement III (AKA “Fandango”), composed by Luigi Boccherini in 1798.  Soothing, warm, intriguing.  Not much to look at in this video, but this is the recording we love:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answer:  D).  29 cloves of garlic)

Peace, Love, and Tambourines

   peace symbol tiedye       peace symbol daisy       peace symbol

Can ya dig it?  One of our current novels, “Schooled”, by Gordon Korman, references the hippie lifestyle and communes, so we took a look at iconic items of this outrageously creative movement; the fashions, hairstyles, crafts (macramé/tie-dying). My son poured over the photos, completely fascinated by the psychedelic colors, flower head wreathes, fringed leather vests, granny glasses, macramé belts and plant hangers.  EVERYTHING.

News from the vocabulary front – I have added a new tab (“The Wordery”) to the menu bar under the blog title…we are now keeping a running list of vocabulary words that we find from our study units or novels.

A new academic unit – Napoleon!  And I think we have the perfect starter reference.  This little book is well organized and clearly written.  It is helping us to understand the complexities and career of this unique (I am not sure this is a strong enough word) man.

napoleon 2

Book care – we had a bit of a conversation about bookmarks (greeting cards from the grandmothers make great bookmarks) vs. dog-earing. We saw how dog-earing weakens the paper, and decided it was a mean thing to do to books.

Exponents – My son has been familiar with the concept of square roots for several years, so now we are going the other way – exponents. We began with 5 to the power of 10. We multiplied and multiplied and multiplied.  I have found a jazzy math app that gives quizzes about exponents. I think it is really neat, but it is enjoying only moderate enthusiasm from my son.  Further update in next post.

 tambourine

Let’s talk tambourines – the “must-have” accessory for 60’s and 70’s band groupies:  here’s a fact – a tambourine is a great gift idea.  Who doesn’t dream of sequestering oneself in an empty house and jangling a tambourine for five minutes straight?  How can this not be therapeutic?  But back to the gift idea – tambourines are not particularly expensive, and if you have little nieces and nephews, this is the birthday gift they want (and their parents don’t want them to have).  You’re welcome.

Tambourines showcased in music – here is what we listened to:

  • “Mr. Tambourine Man”, our nod to the hippie era continues.  This was written by Bob Dylan in 1965 and popularized by both Mr. Dylan and “The Byrds”.  Semi-interesting: in the Bob Dylan version there is no trace of a tambourine sound.  See for yourself:

  • “Tarantella”, originally written as a piano piece by Gioachino Rossini (1835) and orchestrated by Ottorino Respighi (1919).  MARVELOUS.  I couldn’t find a film clip that shows the tambourine being played, but you can definitely hear it.

  • “The Russian Dance” or “Trepak” from Tchaikovsky’s ballet, The Nutcracker (1892).  A power packed minute, thanks to the tambourine.

  • And lastly, one of our top 10 – probably top 5 – favorites, “The Wild Bears”, from Sir Edward Elgar’s suite, “The Wand of Youth” (1908).  This piece was OH MY! composed while Elgar worked in an insane asylum. Hmmm, interesting.  This particular video is perfect – we love this conductor (Mariss Jansons) and the video footage gives the tambourine the attention it deserves.

Welcome to the best part of my day!

– Jane BH