Verdi

Heady Times

 

The Moai of Easter Island – of course we wanted to learn about the carved heads (moai) of Easter Island (AKA Rapa Nui).  Steadfast, benevolent, thoughtful in demeanor, some sporting jolly red hats, and of course, all preposterously large:  what’s not to love?  First, we found Easter Island on our globe – a remote tiny piece of land (a mere 64 square miles)(we discussed what 64 square miles would mean) in the Pacific Ocean (and FYI, a territory of Chile).  Then we read through James Grant-Peterkin’s “A Companion to Easter Island” to learn about the the 900 moai that honor ancestors, guard the island, and perhaps mark areas near fresh water.  We learned that – 

  • the island was formed by three volcanos and the moai were carved 500 to 800 years ago from solidified volcanic ash
  • the method of transporting the cumbersome and weighty moai from quarry to specifically chosen places around the island remains a mystery 
  • Easter Island was officially declared a “World Heritage Site” (protected by international treaties) by the United Nations in 1995
  • there are concerns by the scientific community that the island’s iconic statues nearest the shore line might sink into the ocean due to climate changes (storms, rising water levels)   

opera books

The Lewis and Clark Expedition – our final thoughts after finishing “The Captain’s Dog” by Roland Smith:   the endeavor was significantly more lengthy and challenging than anticipated, and SOMEHOW it succeeded.  One word:  LEADERSHIP.  We discussed the extraordinary skills possessed by Captains Lewis and Clark in keeping their assembly of 31 healthy, fed, and motivated for the two and a half year trek – diplomacy, bartering, first aid competence, hunting, managing difficult personalities (Charbonneau, for one), map charting, journal keeping, river navigation, quick decision making.  President Jefferson chose well.  This venture could have gone so wrong.

read by himself

More read-to-himself stories – In the last post I mentioned that I had started my son on a few “read-to-himself” short stories about family members.  This activity kept his focus, so this past week he read and answered a few questions about:
– Holly’s San Francisco Cats
– How Mom and Dad Met
– When Ben Stopped Traffic

More and more learning –

  • how does one get to be my age (dirt) and still not know the exact relationship between an ounce and a gram?  So we BOTH learned that there are around 28 grams to 1 ounce.  We breezed through a pretty good little kids book, “How Do You Measure Weight” by Thomas K. and Heather Adamson.
  • we also reviewed basic time conventions:  the 12-hour a.m./p.m. clock and the 24-hour military clock.  (Vocab:  Ante, Post, Meridiem)

opera house

We’re learning about opera! – every night we are reading one act from the 15 selected operas in “Sing Me a Story – The Metropolitan Opera’s Book of Opera Stories for Children” by Jane Rosenberg.  And one act per night is plenty:  the number of characters, disguises and deceptions worked into a single act is bewildering.  This book does a commendable job of explaining each opera while keeping our interest (and it is a perfect resource for anyone, not just children).  So far, we have read through Aida – Ahmal and the Night Visitors – The Barber of Seville – La Boheme – Carmen.

juke box

Story Problem:  Opera music at Le Fictitious Local Diner – During the fall months, the local diner is hosting Italian Night every Friday.  Three Italian cuisine specials are offered AND Chef George (opera aficionado) replaces every single jukebox selection with music from Verdi, Rossini, and Puccini.  This is quite a project, as each table’s jukebox can offer up to 100 song titles.  But we digress:

(1)  Dinner is served at the diner from 5 until 11, and each aria (vocab) lasts an average of 4 minutes.  If a typical patron is in the diner for 45 minutes, how many opera selections will said diner probably hear? 
a)  11 songs     b)  24 songs     c)  45 songs     d)  90 songs

(2)  How many aria’s will be played from the start to conclusion of dinner service?
a)  11 arias     b)  24 arias     c)  45 arias     d)  90 arias
(answers at bottom of post)

music collage

Our classical music for the week – we had no choice:  we had to sample music from the operas we were reading about – 

  • Aida – we learned that Verdi was commissioned to compose SOMETHING to commemorate the opening of the Suez Canal.  Aida premiered in 1871 (the canal opened in 1869).  Here we watch the “Triumphal March” and WHAT A PRODUCTION.  The first half has soldiers marching across the stage and there are so many of them that my son and I paused to wonder if there were really only a handful of soldier/actors that marched across the stage and then ran full speed across the backstage to reappear as more solders.  Anyway, a very authoritative, majestic march:

  • Barber of Seville – Rossini’s popular opera, which premiered in 1816, and we listened to one of the most popular songs in the entire opera repertoire, “Largo al factotum”.  Lots of fun:

  • La Boheme – Puccini’s heartbreaker opera, premiering in 1896.  We listened to “Musetta’s Waltz”, after I explained to my son the term, “flirtatious”.   That Musetta!  A consummate flirt:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(Story problem answers:  (1) a)  11 songs and (2) d)  90 arias)
P.S.  We’re still here.  I am hating the time gap since my last post (a series of holy disaster disruptions in our agenda), but we are still here, and we are still exploring new topics and reading stories every night.

2016 – Gone, but not forgotten

2016-quiz

2016:  the year we learned more about –  the California Gold Rush, the insanely brilliant architecture of Gaudi, the work of bees, Eugene Bullard, homonyms, Hannibal, dwarf planets, George Washington Carver, patents, rodents, Rube Goldberg, computation involving triangles, etc, etc, etc.  Last night, my son took matching quiz that reviewed our academic studies from the past year, and earned an A+.  Good year.

macaulay-book

New book!  For Christmas, a special aunt and uncle sent my son David Macaulay’s classic, “The Way Things Work”.  This is obviously a mechanical engineering book lurking behind precise illustrations and hilarious examples.  This past week, we became experts on “the inclined plane” and “the lever”.  (In 2016, we learned a lot from Macauley’s books on “The Toilet” and “The Mill”, so we should emerge MENSA-worthy if we can absorb everything this comprehensive book offers.)

electricity

Story Problem from Le Fictitious Local Diner – The diner spent a lot of money on electricity in 2016; management is reviewing usage to see if they can cut back (perhaps a weekly “dining by candle-light” event might make a teeny dent in the diner’s electrical consumption).  To make decisions, management needs some facts:  if the diner was open 6 days a week, how many days in 2016 were they using electricity?  If the cooks were at the diner from 6 a.m. until 11 p.m., how many hours last year was the diner using electricity? (story problem answers at bottom of post)

2016

Music Listening in 2016 – My son and I welcomed an additional 85 classical (in the broadest sense) pieces into our iPod library this past year.  Last night, I presented a list of our fave 10 of these compositions and then my son picked his top three for listening.

10 pieces we first listened to in 2016 –

Ave Maria – Arcadelt
Banjoland Buffoonery – Kirkhope
Brandenberg Concerto No. 3 – Bach
Harp Concerto in A major – Dittersdorf
Organ Symphony, finale – Saint-Saens
Persian March – Strauss
Sailing By – Binge
String Quartet No. 2, scherzo – Borodin
The Anvil Chorus (Il Trovatore) – Verdi
Toccata in A major – Paradisi

music-faves-2016

My son’s selections for last night’s listening –

“Banjoland Buffoonery”, composed in 1998 by Grant Kirkhope for the Nintendo 64 video game, “Banjo-Kazooie”.  A short piece, packed with rollicking fun, AND an excellent (and accessible for the likes of my son and myself) example of theme and variation:

“Persian March”, composed by Johann Strauss II, in 1864.   My son cannot stop his toes from tapping to this marvelously exotic march (expertly played by a Polish youth orchestra) (SO heartening to witness excellence in youth):

“Sailing By”, written by Ronald Binge in 1963 and used by BBC Radio to introduce the late shipping forcast.  This sweet,  slumberous waltz gets our vote for most soothing lullaby.  When we just cannot deal with one more thing, THIS is our music:

Welcome to the best part of my day!
– Jane BH
(story problem answers: 1) 312 days 2) 5,304 hours)

The Liberace Instigation

liberace

This post is not about the man, Liberace, but about a GLARING ERROR he made before treating the TV audience to his take on the classic Strauss “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”.  See for yourself:

You saw the problem, right?

Of course, I am referring to the introductory comment: “…I would like to take you back…many hundreds of years ago to that wonderful, romantic night when Johann Strauss first introduced the waltz…”.  Here is the GLARING ERROR:  Johann Strauss II premiered “The Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz” in 1867, just 86 years (NOT many hundreds of years) prior to Liberace’s 1953 TV show.

I sort of want my son to have a more accurate sense of when important musical compositions were written, so I have put together a simple chart of classical pieces that he is familiar with, and paired them with US Presidential administrations. This will give us both a bit of a sense of what was going on in the world when each piece was written, and remind us that many great compositions are not as old as we think (or Liberace thought)(seriously, I suspect a lot of people think classical music was written 500 years ago, in a galaxy far, far away).

The chart works this way:

USA Presidential Administration – 1 orchestral piece composed or premiered during that time period

George Washington  –  Haydn’s “Symphony No. 94” (Surprise Symphony), 1791
John Adams  –  Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14” (Moonlight Sonata), 1801
Thomas Jefferson  –  Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5”, 1808
James Madison  –  Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville”, 1816
James Monroe  –  Schubert’s “Marche Militaire”, 1822
John Quincy Adams  –  Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”, 1829
Andrew Jackson  –  Mendelssohn’s “Hebrides Overture”, 1830
Martin Van Buren  –  Chopin’s “Piano Sonata No. 2” (The Funeral March), 1837
William Henry Harrison  –  Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, 1841
John Tyler  –  Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March”, 1842
James Polk  –  Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2”, 1847
Zachery Taylor  –  Schumann’s “Symphony No. 3” (The Rhenish), 1850
Millard Fillmore  –  Verdi’s “Rigoletto”, 1851
Franklin Pierce  –  Foster’s “Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, 1854
James Buchanan  –  Offenbach’s “Orpheus in the Underworld” (the Can-Can!), 1858
Abraham Lincoln  –  Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic”, 1862
Andrew Johnson –  Strauss II’s “Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz”, 1867
Ulysses S. Grant  –  Grieg’s “Peer Gynt Suite”, 1876
Rutherford B. Hayes  –  Gilbert & Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”, 1878
James Garfield  –  Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy”, 1881
Chester A. Arthur  –  Waldteufel’s “The Skater’s Waltz”, 1882
Grover Cleveland  –  Saint-Saens’ “Carnival of the Animals”, 1886
Benjamin Harrison  –  Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker”, 1892
Grover Cleveland  –  Dukas’ “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, 1897
William McKinley  –  Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight of the Bumblebee”, 1900
Teddy Roosevelt  –  Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance, No. 1”, 1901
William H. Taft  –  Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”, 1913
Woodrow Wilson  –  Holst’s “The Planets”, 1916
Warren G. Harding  –  Berlin’s “What’ll I Do”, 1923
Calvin Coolidge  –  Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”, 1924
Herbert Hoover  –  Grofe’s “Grand Canyon Suite”, 1931
Franklin D. Roosevelt  –  Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”, 1944
Harry S Truman  –  Anderson’s “The Typewriter”, 1950
Dwight Eisenhower – Bernstein’s “West Side Story”, 1957
John F. Kennedy  –  Mancini’s “The Pink Panther Theme”, 1963
Lyndon Johnson  –  The Beatles’ “Yesterday”, 1965
Richard Nixon  –  Weissberg/Mandell’s “Dueling Banjos”, 1973
Gerald Ford  –  Williams’ “Theme from Jaws”, 1975
Jimmy Carter  –  Williams’ “The Imperial March” (Darth Vader’s Theme), 1980
Ronald Reagan  –  Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera”, 1986
George H.W. Bush  –  George Winston’s “Hummingbird”, 1991
Bill Clinton  –  Doyle’s “Steam Engine” (from “Sense and Sensibility”), 1995
George W. Bush  –  Kirkhope’s “Viva Piñata Soundtrack”, 2006
Barack Obama  –  Williams’ “The Adventures of Tintin”, 2011

(and yes!  My son is quite familiar with all of the above pieces.)

jacques c      otto

BTW, this week we have been ALSO learning about Jacques Cousteau and Otto Von Bismarck.

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