Good morning!

This is the best morning music ever.  I am not a diehard or knowledgeable fan of classical music, which, given the circles I run in, sometimes makes me feel left behind, but there is much of the music I love, and one of them is Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloé (1912), a beautiful ballet. In fact, I like much of Ravel, which some, I’m sure, will see as a moral weakness—a penchant for romantic rather than intellectual music.

Nevertheless, this bit from the score, “Lever du jour” (“Sunrise”) always moves me, and it perfectly evokes a sunrise. I love the flutes being birds. I hope you enjoy the five-minute excerpt from the score.

I’m not sure which version this one is (it’s not given in the YouTube notes), so let us know if you recognize it.


  1. Steve Knoll
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    for evocation, I’ve always found this one hard to beat

  2. Amy
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:12 am | Permalink


  3. Kevin
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    I will be listening to Ravel all day. Many thanks.

  4. Dominic
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:15 am | Permalink

    “some, I’m sure, will see as a moral weakness” – you should not feel inadequate because of any particular musical likes.

    One of my favourite composers Vaughan Williams studied composition with Ravel in 1907/8 & they remained friends. I think you can hear the Ravel influence in Vaughan Williams’s music.

    • Dominic
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      Come to think of it, while I think I know what you mean by ‘weak’, what would be ‘morally strong’ music?! Do you mean ‘popular/easy listening’ classical music as opposed to more taxing or challenging music say by Penderecki?

      • Dominic
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:20 am | Permalink

        …or what some call ‘plink-plonk’ modern music?

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:19 am | Permalink

        Beethoven’s late string quartets, which I simply can’t get into.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

          Perhaps ironically, Beethoven himself probably would’ve called those works his most Romantic. His intent in writing them was to get away from the prevailing formal and even harmonic paradigms of the day.

          (Of course, that’s not to say that they are whim from start to finish; Beethoven did not abandon his architectural nature in writing them. But that is a big discussion and this probably isn’t the place.)

        • merilee
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:13 am | Permalink

          I LOVE the late Beethoven string quartets.

          Bolero was ruined for me when the girls upstairs in college played it night and day for what seemed like like forever….

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

            The local FM station in a town we used to live in would play Bolero 2 or 3 times a week in the early afternoon before the kids came home…

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

          If you can, try listening to the Busch Quartet playing the Beethoven quartets, and in particular their performance of opus 132. I have tried, but I have never found a quartet who comes near them. And Adolf Busch, the leader, was a wonderful man who stood up to the Nazis, refused to perform in Germany, and left Germany (with his Jewish son-in-law Rudolf Serkin).

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

            Luckily, it’s available complete on YouTube:

            Quartet No. 15 in A Minor, Op. 132: I. Assai Sostenuto – Allegro

            The least one can say, it’s not a festive piece, sounding more like a mourning lament, like grieving after the death of a beloved wife, but one that refuses to sink into despair, but accepts this fate with a certain stoic equanimity, and a resolve to live on, with the diffuse knowledge that there are still other women around that can justify making sense of a new rebound of hope.

            Now, Tim, it’s up to you to give us a synopsis of your emotional reaction to this rather abstract piece.

            • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

              Oh well, I guess I made the no-no boo-boo of embedding. Sorry.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted September 1, 2014 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

              Well, I shall join you in WEIT Hell, I fear. No, I agree with you that you can deal with aspects of musical expression separately, and why not? – so long as one recognises that these necessarily come together in performance. I am certainly not suggesting that the analysis of harmony is wrong – very far from it: obviously, in western music in particular, it is of huge importance, and if a performer does not understand what is and is not important harmonically in a piece, they cannot do a piece justice. That is why books like Tovey’s or Rosen’s are important and illuminating. Nor am I criticising your passionate interest in harmony, and your knowledge of it. I like and respect both very much. What has worried me about what you are saying (and not only on this occasion), is that you seem to reify harmony as the only important aspect of music (you even seem to suggest that the analysis of harmony is the only truly musical kind of analysis), everything else being a sort of expendable Pinkerian frill and the effects music has being not worthy of consideration – which does not seem to me to be so different from Ira Braun’s position and his idolisation of what he calls ‘structure’.

              Well, there we are! I have enjoyed and learnt much from this discussion. Thank you!

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 1, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

                But I MUST add this: (

                I qauote you:

                ‘Yes! The context is what bestows “meaning” on a musical phenomenon.

                What I am saying is that it absolutely is possible to analyze the musical phenomena in purely musical terms; that is, to separate them from the context – and that this is not a practice to be poo-pooed.’

                What do you think music is? This is not sarcastic: I am genuinely interested. What are ‘THE musical phenomena’? What are ‘purely musical terms’? There is ‘context’, too, for musical motifs outside that centaur-form, the opera, and, surely, it is not just context that bestows meaning but the interplay between motif and context that creates meaning; this is not to mention those musical motifs that, partly because of their own nature which was thought to suit a particular affect and partly because some great composer used it effectively in this way, have taken on a great musical – or would you say, ‘extra-musical’? – importance: say, the descending chromatic ground-bass that Purcell uses to such great effect in Dido’s ‘Lament’ and in ‘Saul & the Witch of Endor’, which derives from Monteverdi and was subsequently taken up by Bach? I really cannot see ‘music’ as some pristine ‘structure’ that is subsequently sullied, alas, by being put into a context and having those disgraceful things, feelings and meanings, imposed upon them. I can certainly see the point of, and interest in, looking at harmonic structures independently of any expressive significance they might possess in or out of context, just as I can see the point of Husserl’s ‘phenomenological reduction’, but to go from there to suggest that that alone is the truly musical way- no.

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:58 pm | Permalink


            For reasons I don’t understand, it is the fifth movement with its main theme that has remained the most firmly engraved in my memory. It comes back very naturally to me in a way the previous movements don’t.
            Tim, you may have an explanation.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:36 am | Permalink

              Roo, the thing is that I really don’t find music I like abstract at all. Milton famously called poetry ‘less suttle and fine, but more simple, sensuous and passionate’ than logic or rhetoric, and I think music is even more ‘simple, sensuous and passionate’ than poetry. Against those who go on about the spirituality of music, the sociologist and philosopher Pierre Bourdieu called music the most ‘corporeal’ of arts, and I agree with him, just as I agree with Milton. What fascinates me in any of the arts of time (particularly in music, poetry and drama, but also in the short story or the novel) is the way something moves and develops. And this, for me, is a very physical thing, not abstract at all. And I think it is so for any good performer. I am not a musician, but my wife is a pianist, and I have lived among musicians and worked with them since I was in my early twenties; where plays are concerned (since I act and direct), I really think of them in near musical terms, as consisting of tensions and releases, of slow changes or abrupt transitions – which is one reason I love Pinter, whose plays are, to me, wonderfully musical, which is to say language and event in these plays have first of all a physical effect on me, and, though I have read the critics on his plays, I find critical interpretations, concerned as they are mostly with ‘meaning’ conceived of as something that can be extrapolated from the plays, often curiously irrelevant to what happens on stage and irrelevant, too, to how a play, well performed, is understood by an audience (the interpretation of a play consists first of all in the articulation in space of what is adumbrated in the text – if a director doesn’t understand that, he or she cannot do good work). The same is true of the analyses of what Charles Eliot Gardiner calls ‘positivist’ musicologists, which divorce musical structure from musical expression on the seeming assumption that it is ‘structure’ alone (as though there can be such a thing as ‘structure alone’ in any expressive art) that is important – that is a trap that the neuro-scientist Patel in his great book on music, language and the brain does not fall into. Which of course is not to suggest that the creation of a good work of art does not require intellectual gifts of a high order and a lot of hard intellectual work. A great Bach fugue is exhilarating because of the way Bach is able to sustain a strong advancing movement amidst a huge complexity of voices. Shakespeare’s plays are remarkable for their complexity, and exhilarating in the way this complexity is played with and used not for its own sake, but to serve the advancement and deepening of the story.

              As for Beethoven’s opus 132, that great ‘Largo’ movement is, in Beethoven’s own words, “Heiliger Dankgesang eines Genesenen an die Gottheit, in der lydischen Tonart” (Holy song of thanksgiving of a convalescent to the Deity, in the Lydian Mode). He meant it! For me, that movement is an immense and extraordinary journey, a journey that is filled with events and has a strange and solemn gaiety to it. T.S. Eliot put it well, in a letter to Stephen Spender: ‘I find it quite inexhaustible to study. There is a sort of heavenly or at least more than human gaiety about some of his later things which one imagines might come to oneself as the fruit of reconciliation and relief after immense suffering; I should like to get something of that into verse before I die.’ And it’s not ambiguous: that feeling is there, and the Busch Quartet, in their attention to what happens and the way they keep this great movement afloat, so to speak (for it could easily become intolerably boring in bad hands), express it. I don’t know it should be the fifth movement that has impressed itself so strongly on your memory, but that is what good and strong music does (though there always those ‘ear-worms’ that can afflict one – they certainly do me on occasion!).

              I think the ‘positivist’ musicologists concentrate on what they take to be ‘structure’ because of a mistrust of emotion, which they take to be arbitrary, differing from person to person. I think they are trying to be ‘scientific’, whereas, as Patel’s book makes clear, they are not being truly scientific at all. I can’t resist quoting Felix Mendelssohn’s remarks about ‘ambiguity’ in music: ‘People often complain that music is too ambiguous, that what they should think when they hear it is so unclear, whereas everyone understands words. With me, it is exactly the opposite, and not only with regard to an entire speech but also with individual words. These, too, seem to me so ambiguous, so vague, so easily misunderstood in comparison to genuine music, which fills the soul with a thousand things better than words. The thoughts which are expressed to me by music that I love are not too indefinite to be put into words, but on the contrary, too definite.’

              This is gone too long, but to end I must say that I adore Ravel. He’s wonderful.

              • darrelle
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:33 am | Permalink

                A long comment, but quite interesting. Well worth reading. But, since it agrees with my own general opinions, I may be biased. In short that the primary effect that distinguishes good music (and other art!) is the evocation of an unpremeditated, autonomic if you will, largely emotional response.

                Post hoc analysis of how the art achieved that can certainly be rewarding in itself, and is of course absolutely appropriate to study in order to improve the chances of creating good art. But the primary metric is, does it move people.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:42 am | Permalink

                I don’t whether I should add this, but here goes: it was Beethoven’s opus 132 that I put on when I heard the news that my greatest friend, the writer and actor Alan Booth, with whom I used to perform, had cancer, and that I listened to again and again as he was dying, lingeringly, of it; that and George Enescu’s violin playing. As I recall, Stephen Hawking would listen again and again to Wagner’s operas after learning that he had motor neuron disease.

              • Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

                I’ve not read John Eliot Gardiner’s book on Bach, so I’m assuming you both mean “positivist musicologists” in its usual definition, ie, as those musicologists who present facts and data about music and music history without critical interpretation. I don’t know why this should be demonized. It’s what we want from our news outlets. No one says critical analysis can’t also be undertaken, but there’s certainly a place for “just the facts, ma’am” music history chroniclers. I’d be interested to learn the context in which Gardiner allegedly condemns these musicologists, because while he may be making a good point, I doubt it’s the “more subjectivism, less objectivism” one you seem to impute to him. He is a fixture of the period ensemble movement, and has much more in common with Roger Norrington (for whom, IIRC, you have much disdain) than an arch-romantic like Toscanini. My guess is that he wishes more biographers of Bach would’ve used available data to elucidate the man’s character, rather than simply reporting events. In any event, I think it’s a mistake to condemn musicologists (whose specialty is music history) for not presenting the kind of musical analysis of pieces you’d like to see. Analysis of actual music is the purview of theorists.

                Which brings me to my next point. You’re going to have to provide me with names of theorists who think the actual performance of music is “irrelevant”, because I don’t know of any. The whole point of music, of course, is to be performed! But it absolutely is a problem, from the analytical perspective, that individual reactions and experiences differ. Therefore, a good analysis looks only at what is unquestionably there on the page itself. The point of a good analysis is to inform a performer’s interpretation – not to prescribe it. For example: a good analysis will say “this passage travels quickly around the circle of fifths and makes use of many dissonances in the form of 9-8 suspensions”. A bad analysis will say “this passage evokes a swirling maelstrom; it must be played with complete abandon in order to convey the frenetic and tortured state of the composer’s mind”. First, we have no idea what the state of a long dead composer’s mind was. Second, it’s up to the performer to decide how to play those dissonances, and it’s up to the listener to invent mental imagery to accompany the music. And yes, this is even true for explicitly programmatic music. Sometimes it’s fun to imagine other stories for the Symphonie Fantastique! Indeed, the illustrators of the original Fantasia ignored Stravinsky’s intended story when they came up with their animation for Le Sacre du Printemps!

                Regarding the Mendelssohn quote, of course we’d both have to ask him for clarification as to what precisely he meant (ironically), but based on what I’ve read of Mendelssohn, I’d be surprised if he intended it to support the idea of musical hermeneutics. I feel he’s trying to say that music and spoken language are not particularly analogous; that paragraphs, sentences, and individual words are all often multivalent and can allow for different interpretations. A musical gesture or event, like an ascending seconds sequence, is so precise that “meaning” is no longer applicable – it is what it is, unambiguously so. It cannot be mistaken for an ascending thirds sequence.

                The main thrust of the point I want to make is that I believe it’s an unfortunate mistake to think in the binary terms of “thinker” and “feeler” and to denigrate analysis in purely musical terms. It is quality thinking that makes quality feelings, or quality experiences possible. It seems to me that the difference between your view and mine is that you want pastry chefs, when talking about baking ginger cookies, or writing recipes for them, to do so in terms of christmases past, roaring fires, grandma’s house, etc. I agree, that’s all great, but I’d also be interested in learning what kind of flour to use and why, whether the dough should be chilled and why, etc. I think it’s obvious that what aspiring pastry chefs need to concentrate on is my approach. The first approach will happen all on its own, in a different way in each consumer.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

                Thank you, Musical Beef! I have re-read what I wrote, and I don’t say anywhere that there are theorists of music who assert that the performance of music is irrelevant to analysis. What I do say, is that I have found, in putting on plays, that the kind of thing that is provided by literary critics often seems oddly irrelevant to what happens on stage. To make things clearer: the kind of analysis one makes for the performance of a play is rather different from the kind of analysis that a literary critic makes, which is not to say that one cannot learn things from good literary critics, although I have learnt more from scholars of performance. I have no objections to people who provide facts about the history of the theatre (or music): much of the best of modern Shakespeare performance has come out of the work of people like William Poel and Harley Granville Barker, who studied how Shakespeare’s plays were actually presented in Elizabethan and Jacobean times. Both Poel & Granville Barker were of course performers as well as theorists, and great historians of the theatre like E.K.Chambers and theorists like Styan were interested in elucidating the performance practices that inform Elizabethan and Jacobean plays and which are therefore part of their meaning and part of how they were intended to be performed.

                Thus, regarding what is ‘unquestionably there on the page’, it seems to me to be not as simple as you appear to suppose. As you must know, there is a great and on-going debate among musicologists over the extent to which performance practice in different eras is relevant to what is there ‘on the page’ – for composers certainly make assumptions about how their pieces should be played based on the performance practices of their time: and just as a playwright cannot specify in his text all that he or she might expect from a performer, nor can the composer; and any playwright or composer knows that good performers may well find things in a piece that its creator was not consciously aware of – the complexity of a great play or a great piece of music means that not everything is in its creator’s conscious control: which is why there is a history of interpretation, both critical and in performance. There are, it seems, some contemporary composers who try to control every aspect of a performance of their music, but in the past composers were not so exact in their notation and allowed performers a certain latitude.

                You ask me to name a ‘positivist musicologist’. Well, how about Ira Braus, who the music historian Richard Taruskin brings up in connexion with a performance of Wagner by Roger Norrington? I quote: ‘Mr. Norrington’s prejudices are demonstrably those of a modernist. His performance is fascinatingly of a piece with a curious little article by Ira Braus, a music theorist of similar modernist bent, which recently appeared, sporting a contentious question for a title: “Why Doesn’t Anyone Play Bars 1-11 of ‘Tristan’ in Tempo?” Answers would seem to come readily enough. How about because the score is marked “Slowly and languishingly” (“Langsam und schmachtend”)? Or because the whole thrust of Wagner’s remarks on conducting had to do with achieving a sufficiently nuanced and flexible execution? Or because the interrupted cadences, and the silences between them, give tangible form to the “yearning, yearning, unquenchable, ever-regenerated longing – languishing, thirsting” of which the whole story of the opera, according to Wagner’s famous program note, is a metaphor? Mr. Braus, however, sweeps all of that away. Unless the piece is played in strict tempo, he asserts, its structure is obscured. That structure is something wholly independent of all the contingencies that are usually – and irrelevantly – brought to bear on the act of performing it.’

                Or on Norrington’s Beethoven: ‘Roger Norrington launches a meteoric career as ”historical” performer of the standard classical repertory with a cycle of Beethoven symphonies on CD in which the composer’s metronome indications are not only (pretty much) followed, but also emblazoned on the containers in an act of pious bravado. Having set the tempos, however, the conductor adheres to them with dogged rigidity, contradicting every eye-witness report we have of Beethoven’s own conducting, as well as the explicit instructions of 18th-century conducting manuals.’

                Taruskin’s quotation of Wagner’s programme note also shows that Wagner makes no distinction between the ‘structure’ of his piece and what it expresses. The dichotomy you draw between ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ (two words that I have come to dislike very much indeed), which you seem to suppose, rather as Hanslick did, is one between a sort of Platonic structure or ding-an-sich that is quite independent of any expressive significance and a wholly arbitrary and irresponsible imposition on that structure, is, I fear, a false one.

                This has gone on too long: I do recommend reading Patel’s chapter on meaning and affect in music in his ‘Music, Language and the Brain’.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted August 30, 2014 at 12:45 am | Permalink

                And I really do not think that it is me who is making the mistake of drawing a binary distinction between ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’.

              • Posted August 31, 2014 at 10:24 am | Permalink

                Yes, this is getting to be a lot of commentary so I’ll cool it after this.

                There’s quite a lot in that reply that I agree with, and I suspect that some of our differences arise from the fact that dealing with theater and dealing with music involve methods that are not particularly analogous.

                I think I see now what you meant with the “irrelevant” remark. I do want to reiterate that it’s a mistake to conflate musicology and music theory (which, to forestall any confusion, is nothing like literary theory). It’s not the job of musicologists to analyze music the way theorists do. When a theorist separates any storytelling the music is supposed to do from the purely musical mechanics of the piece, it is not the same as when a “positivist musicologist” ignores tempo/character indications and statements by the composer himself about how the piece should be expressed. I suppose I do think that music *theorists* will find the performance (“what happens on the stage”) irrelevant to their theoretical analyses: it doesn’t matter whether a performer plays a passage legato or staccato when what you’re saying about the passage is that it consists of a series of third relations. You throw out at least half of the useful thought about music when you throw out this kind of musical analysis. However, this kind of analysis is not irrelevant at all for performance. Understanding the nuts and bolts of how the music works, at a purely musical level, is one of the things that can help a performer decide how to execute; it can help give the performer those conscious reasons for doing things a certain way which you mentioned you insist on in the Pinker thread.

                I agree that “why doesn’t anyone play the opening of Tristan in tempo” is a silly question, but not because Braus can be shown to be wrong. I agree that the reasons given for employing considerable rubato are good reasons, but it is up to the performer(s) to decide how they want to perform it. In strict time won’t be to my taste, but “wrong”? Are you sure you want to be so prescriptivist? This is one of the problems with thinking that the notes on the page are not, in addition to being the vehicles for expression that they obviously are, also “things unto themselves”. What does a predominant augmented 6th express? What does a voice exchange between the soprano and the tenor express? These are the “ingredients” in the first few bars of Tristan. But you can’t say predominant aug 6th chords express “languishing”, much less a voice exchange, which isn’t even a sonority but a contrapuntal procedure. You’ll find these ingredients in pieces that span the gamut of expression from “schmachtend” to jocular to noble to austere to etc, etc. But serious musicians will find this kind of analysis necessary, just as serious pastry chefs will find discussion of various types of flour necessary. Talking about aug 6ths, or the unfolding of auxiliary tones, or any of myriad other purely musical concepts no more invokes Platonism than talking about the properties of various kinds of flour, quite apart from what any particular dish means to a particular consumer.

                Perhaps this kind of analysis doesn’t work or perhaps even exist in the theatrical world. I wouldn’t presume to comment. I assure you it exists and is indispensable in the musical world.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted August 31, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

                Articulation marks for ‘legato’ or ‘staccato’ are surely as much ‘indubitably on the page’ as a quarter-note or a hemi-semi-quaver. And if a composer writes in the score ‘slowly and languishingly’ that, too, is just as much ‘indubitably on the page’. One may ignore these things, no doubt, and do something different, but I think one wants better reasons for doing so than a dogma about the inviolability of ‘structure’ and a fondness for that tired cliche about removing old varnish from paintings which allows certain musicians to feel that they are doing something new, creative and exciting when they are not. I have certainly ignored a playwright’s directions when I put on a play, but I do so for very specific reasons having first taken into account why he put the direction there. I have also come across foolish directors who say at the first reading, ‘Right, let’s scrub all the stage directions out…’, and who do not begin to take them into account. ‘Prescriptivism’ – come on! If that is such a bad thing, why not make radical changes to what you term the ‘structure’ of a composer’s score and basically rewrite it?Perhaps you should tell us what parts of what is ‘there on the page’ may be ignored and what may not.

                All you seem to be saying is that a performer should understand musical notation and read the score carefully, which is what any good music school teaches. This is basic and essential, certainly, but as for interpretation, you yourself in an an unguarded moment in another comment spoke of a musical ‘gesture’ or ‘event’: a ‘gesture’ is more than a movement: it has meaning and focus; and a musical event is usually something more interesting than one tick of a clock following another. I took Tovey’s book on Beethoven’s sonatas down from the shelf and opened it at random to find this: ‘The G major sonata states its bold harmonies with a nervous and jocular air of paradox’ Or on the sonata in E minor: ‘As if in bewilderment, this figure (y) is then developed…’; the avoidance of the dominant chord in cadential positions is ‘expressive of the dramatic discovery that the questions “When and where” are to be answered by “Already here and now”.’ There is a similar understanding of musical expression as inseparable from structure throughout Charles Rosen’s companion to Beethoven’s sonatas. One may certainly disagree with their particular interpretations (as I disagree with some of Helen Vendler’s analyses of Shakespeare’s sonnets), and feel that you have a better one, but what they say is not an arbitrary gloss on some inviolable (however qualified by a dread of ‘prescriptivism’) and inexpressive structure. What one does notice, though, is how often good musicians are in basic agreement regarding what is expressed in a passage or piece.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 1, 2014 at 7:58 am | Permalink

                Also, regarding your ‘what does a predominant augmented sixth express?’ and the answer ‘you can’t say that predominant augmented sixth chords express “languishing”. No, of course you cannot, if what you are asserting is that all such chords have a fixed affect and express ‘languishing’ in whatever musical context they may appear. But who in their senses would assert that? In ‘Tristan’ those chords have a context, which is the whole work, and Wagner is using them to create an effect that he wants. Do you really think that context is irrelevant to the interpretation of particular motifs? I find that astounding.

              • Posted September 1, 2014 at 11:28 am | Permalink

                I said I’d cool it so I’ll limit myself to this:

                “Articulation marks for ‘legato’ or ‘staccato’ are surely as much ‘indubitably on the page’ as a quarter-note”

                This misses the point. First, performer can decide to play something legato or staccato whether or not there are indications to do so in the score. Second, the presence or absence of articulation marks in the score doesn’t best at all on whether the passage in question operates as a series of third relations, or a trip around the circle of fifths, or as an omnibus progression or etc, etc. These things are separable.

              • Posted September 1, 2014 at 11:33 am | Permalink

                And this:

                Yes! The context is what bestows “meaning” on a musical phenomenon.

                What I am saying is that it absolutely is possible to analyze the musical phenomena in purely musical terms; that is, to separate them from the context – and that this is not a practice to be poo-pooed.

              • Posted September 1, 2014 at 11:34 am | Permalink

                “…doesn’t best at all..” = “doesn’t bear at all…”

              • Posted September 1, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

                A thousand apologies for this one further comment! I promise it will be my last!

                You may want to reread Rosen. I’m very well-acquainted with his work. His claim is that all the disparate elements of music (harmonic language, rhythmic character, tempo, dynamics, articulation, etc) work together to create an affect, or expression, not that you can’t talk about those elements as things in themselves. In fact, when he writes, in Music and Sentiment, that “no isolated element of tonal music can ever give us a satisfactory approach to the expressive character of any work”, he is acknowledging that those elements are separable – only that in their separated state they probably won’t be able to tell us what affect is intended. But that is not to say that analyzing the separate elements gives us no useful knowledge.

              • Posted September 1, 2014 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

                Oh my gosh, I’m going to roast in WEIT hell for reading my promise, I know, but I think this may be the best way to make my point:

                Let’s revisit the opening of Tristan. A lot has been written about how to analyze the infamous Tristan Chord (the first vertical simultaneity in measure two). I simplified things a bit when I explained it as an augmented 6th and a voice exchange. The augmented sixth is there as an interval, but it’s somewhat problematic to call it an aug 6th chord, however, because it includes a Gsharp, and the traditionally recognized aug 6th chords (Italian, French, and German) do not include an augmented second. One might argue that the Gsharp is an anticipation tone and actually belongs to the resolution. There’s also the issue of the upper member of the aug 6th resolving the “wrong” way, that is, down to D instead of up to E. This phenomenon resembles the not uncommon practice of “resolving” leading tones down to what becomes the minor seventh of a chord. One tendency tone is supplanted or interrupted by another. And there’s a lot more to say in this vein about those two measures. Nowhere in this kind of analysis does the definition of “languid” enter; neither is reference to the plot of the opera necessary.

                Now, you may not find thinking about music like this interesting, but that doesn’t mean others don’t, and it certainly doesn’t mean that it’s the wrong way to think about music. It is one way among many to talk about music, and it is not useless or wrong.

              • Posted September 1, 2014 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                Lord almighty.

                reading = breaking

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 1, 2014 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

                Dear MB,
                I am joining you in WEIT Hell, but I stuck my reply in the wrong place. If you feel up to looking at it, scroll upwards!

          • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:45 am | Permalink


            That’s a fantastic answer. An in-depth explanation of the power of music on our mind.

            I try to simplify your explanation by seeing everything through the grid of the aspects of the real working brain, as described by, for instance, Daniel Kahneman.
Kahneman has reviewed and summarized the findings of about 500 elite experimental psychologists during the 1950 – 2010 period. And those findings offer a range of expressions and features that form the model of our modern understanding of how the brain manifests its various working modes. 
Nothing in there basically diverges from the “radical empiricism” professed by modern philosophers and psychologists.

            Kahneman describes mental products as the result of two activities of the brain,
            – the first one, more important, labeled “System 1″: immediate, intuitive impressions, perceptions, emotions, spontaneous judgments, all intuitive material that comes to mind immediately and spontaneously and forms the basic content of mental activity;
            – and “System 2″: critical reflection, observation, comparison, studied evaluations of the data of System 1, corrections of immediate data.
            The activity of System 2 is the activity usually subsumed when mentioning “reason”, “rationality”, etc. Which are categories or concepts that refer to no mental entities with real existence, but refer to the experienced activity of System 2, which is “reasoning”.

            Seen through this grid, the basic fact is then that music acts as an impression of System 1 primarily, which only can feel beauty, order, emotional appeal, and even attribute a level of magnitude based on immediate comparison using a simple emotional scale, like more, less,etc.

            All “reasoning” and critical thinking applied to music comes in a second phase, depending on instruction and experience. All the intelligent disquisitions about music delivered by musicians, music teachers and critics, are developed through the activity of their System 2, and all such learned analysis can never replace the immediate impact of music on System 1.

            • Tim Harris
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:10 am | Permalink

              I see what you mean, I think, but I feel that, particularly in music, and even more particularly in Western classical music, with its rules of harmony (which may of course be broken, and anyway harmony can never be a closed system), etc, there has been, in the case of a good composer, the incorporation of a great amount of what might seem to be ‘System 2’ thinking into Kahnemann’s ‘System 1’, so that the practitioner is able to use such rules in a ready and immediate way. And I think that that is surely true, too, of something like mathematics, or, even, philosophy as practiced by a virtuoso like Bernard Williams: there is an ability to play with ideas, rules and concepts that, in the case of someone like myself where mathematics is concerned, others would work with ploddingly and uneasily, producing work of no interest. (As ever, I recall Gedalge’s distinction between a fugue as a musical form and a fugue as a school exercise.) But anyway, though I know Kahnemann’s name, and even, I think, read some time ago one of his books (‘Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow’, is that one of his?), I really don’t know his work well enough to make a judgement. I shall look him up!

              • Tim Harris
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                I find a lot of people seem to regard the performance of a play as being the illustration of a prior intellectual understanding, on the part particularly of the director, of the play, when it’s not that at all. One obviously starts with some rough ideas about a play, but not with a blueprint. Rehearsals are not primarily about learning lines and moves but about feeling your way into the play and its events. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of music. I like the French word for rehearsal: ‘repetition’ (add the accents). It is through repetition and thinking about what has come up as a result (which is perhaps DK’s System 2 at work)that an interpretation is created.

    • GBJames
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:21 am | Permalink

      Even “Ballad of the Green Berets” by Barry Sadler? If someone likes that one I think they should feel inadequate. 😉

      • JimGorton
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:32 am | Permalink

        I have recently returned to an interest in synthesized music. I was taken aback by the work of Animusic – not so much for what it is now but for where sight and sound poetry might go in the future.

        Check out this video on YouTube:

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

          At the risk of being mocked, they look like crab or crayfish legs to me. 🙂

          • GBJames
            Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

            Those are mock crab legs.

      • merilee
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:11 am | Permalink


    • Barry Lyons
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Yes (on the influence Ravel had on Vaughan Williams).

  5. Andrew
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    You have excellent taste. 🙂

    You should have a listen to the first few minutes of the Alpine Symphony by Richard Strauss – an even more pictorial musical sunrise: If it was actually possible to hear the first rays of sunlight appearing over a mountain, 2:50 or thereabouts would be what it would sound like.

    As a musician, the notion that music can be morally good or bad is just garbage. If you like the sound of something, that’s alpha and omega. Lyrics of course are a different matter.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:24 am | Permalink

      Thanks for leading us to Strauss and to revisiting his monumental Alpine Symphony.
      There’s nowhere any trace of a feeling of exertion or fatigue. As an long-time mountain hiker, I could never associate this music with any effective mountain walk or sweating climb.
      I feel this musical trip is more like an ideal effortless surveying flight by some soaring eagle than any real mountain trip. It relates to the mountains of our imagination.

  6. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Thanks to Youtube, I recently rediscovered Bolero. My favourite version has to be the one with LSO conducted by Valery Gergiev, not least because I’m fascinated watching the conductor – at the start he looks as if he’s asleep, as if he’s had a hard night on the town the night before and they tipped him out of bed, stuck a suit on him and filled him full of coffee and wakey wakey pills, and propped him up at the podium. And as the music winds up, so he gets more and more animated. Of course the rhythm of Bolero is strangely exotic and compelling too.

    Oh, link:

    • darrelle
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

      I have always loved Bolero. I had my favorite recording on a vinyl master disk, and then I went digital. I spent years trying all sorts of digital recordings until I finally found one that is very good, my new favorite. It is Ricardo Muti conducting the Philadelphia Orchestra, recorded by the Musical Heritage Society.

      Sitting in the perfect chair, in the perfect spot, volume at eleven, a wonderful sound system creating a perfect sound image, crystal clear, close your eyes and you are sitting in the center front at the live performance with the horns over there & the strings over there, every subtle caress of brush on drumhead, drift off to another world.

    • merilee
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      I’ve seen Gergiev a few times on film and once live and very close. Can’t remember now what he was conducting but he does that flitting bird thing with his hands which is totally his own, and very fun to watch. Somewhere I read that he was great buds with Putin??

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Fans of Bolero and of evolution should check out this clip from Allegro Non Troppo, a 1976 spoof of Disney’s Fantasia by Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      As an aside, judging by the evidence on Youtube, Bolero also seems to be a favourite with flash mobs. I would surmise that one reason for that is, it’s easily adapted to give a turn to each of whatever instruments happens to be available (one flashmob even includes a xylophone, IIRC)

  7. Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    There is romantic, and then there is romantic.

    The alluring approach denotes perfect wit, where each detail fits, nothing less, nothing more. The essence is flow, give and take, enlivened with drama. Its presence drifts between reality and fantasy. And yes, Ravel, knew how to translate these aspects into his score. 🙂

  8. M Janello
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    Ravel is great. I’ve always loved the String Quartet, and La Valse (which has a lovely 2-piano arrangement by Ravel as well as the original orchestral version).

    Ravel’s writing for orchestra is so brilliant. Wind players especially both love and hate him (listen to the very quiet, very fast flute and clarinet parts at the very beginning of the Daphnis & C for a great example of why!).

  9. Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    I love Ravel and DeBussy (and Liszt).

    Listening to them, you can hear their influence on many rock ‘n’ roll pianists.

    I also love Bach and I love Beethoven’s solo piano works.

    In classical music, I have a preference for solo works and small ensembles as compared to orchestral works (generally speaking). I sometimes find Orchestral works “over the top”.

    But then, I’m a guitarist, and, IMO, the greatest classical guitar works are solo pieces. Probably the source of my bias.

  10. darrelle
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:30 am | Permalink

    I am not a music expert, but I can’t hear anything wrong with this Jerry. Beautiful.

    Speaking of music experts, I know there are several hear (=^_^=), and I always look forward to their comments on posts like this. Particularly Musicalbeef (awesome name too, should start a group with that name).

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:48 am | Permalink

      Why thank you, sir. I thought it struck a nice balance between goofy humor and a more serious though not obvious meaning.

      I always enjoyed the comments from Another Matt. Great comments on any topic, really, but his comments on music were especially insightful. Haven’t seen him around these parts for a while.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:42 am | Permalink


  11. Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Speaking of sunrise music, I like “Sunrise over Haleakala” by Merl Saunders and Jerry Garcia. Haleakala is the volcano on the island of Maui. Merl is Merl, and Jerry is Jerry.


    I forgot how to stop links from embedding so I just put an extra space in the address above. I hope that works.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

      It worked. Also, forgot to mention, the actual “musical sunrise” occurs at about 6 minutes in.

  12. Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    What a climax! As much as music can glisten (although “blaze” might be more appropriate), this music does it.

    Ravel was a wizard with respect to orchestration. Every color he produced, it seems, was effective and beautiful. Another Ravel favorite of mine is the Mother Goose suite. And if you want to hear a pianist earn her stripes, listen to Gaspard de la Nuit, particularly Scarbo.

  13. Rick B
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    I too love Ravel and Debussy. I grew up on rock n roll but was introduced to classical by listening to CBC. Unfortunately CBC has decided they have to be all things to all people and classical music is relegated to a couple of hours a day.
    Anyways, one of my favourite pieces is Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune by Debussy. The flutes are haunting.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:43 am | Permalink


    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      I miss Jurgen Goth on CBC ( and the woman with the lovely voice ( French?)who hosted late-night jazz. Don’t bother to listen much to the new and “improved” version. Have gotten hooked on the classical station on satellite radio; lots of good stuff, including much chamber music. Not just the old standards. The Met Opera channel us really good, too ( and the jazz, blues, and classic vinyl stations. Great for road trips. Also Siriusly Sinatra:-)

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Rick, I really miss Tom Allen’s morning Classical Music show on CBC 2. He was one of the best classical DJs in the world, and now… well, we switched to CBC 1, which is informative, but oh so much less pleasant to wake up to.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

        Tom Allen was really good, too.

  14. Blue
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    So, so appreciative of this person’s talents and, most especially, with her specific rendition of Mr Liszt’s mornin’ music, “La Campanella” of .

    Ms Lisitsa is actually of solo pianists living today … … the awesomest.

    A nice person, too, she is.


  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    That is one of my absolutely favorite pieces of classical music (though I slightly prefer the arrangement with a wordless women’s chorus).

    But there’s nothing wrong (morally or otherwise) with liking Romantic music. Perhaps there is a problem with liking schmaltzy or syrupy music, but that’s a !*degeneration of Romanticism*!

    But many would say Ravel is both romantic AND intellectual. Although his music sounds similar to Debussy’s, his music is much more solidly structured that Debussy’s.

    The following (massively overtechnical- so sorry!) quote from Robert Morgan notes this:

    “Yet Ravel’s music projects little of the ambiguity or mystery so characteristic of Debussy. To Debussy’s seemingly unbroken transitional flow, it opposes lucid formal articulations, and Ravel’s harmonic innovations are more firmly tied to traditional root movements, providing a stronger tonal pull. Indeed, in general Ravel’s music seems more solid, more firmly anchored, than Debussy’s.”
    – Robert Morgan. Twentieth-Century Music: A History of Musical Style in Modern Europe and America. p. 125

    (Other faves of mine are Mahler’s 3rd symphony, Delius’ “Mass of Life”, and almost anything by that troubled and troubling fellow Richard Wagner.)

    • merilee
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      I’ve tried for years to love Wagner, but it just doesn’t seem to take. I’ve seen the complete Ring, plus Parsifal and Tristan. Going to see Meistersinger this Fall. Some of the music in Tristan does really grab me Nacht der Liebe and Liebestod, especially by Kirsten Flagstaad), but in general I find that the music “wanders” too much (and the plots are even cornier than the average opera…) Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, Chopin, Schumann, Schubert, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev(!) “speak” to me, as do Verdi and Puccini (and Bizet) in the opera world. I have no formal musical training but have listened to a huge amount of classical music through the years, both at live concerts and on records/tapes/CDs/radio.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

        Your problem may be that word “complete”. There is music by Wagner that I love, but I, and I have to imagine anyone, would find their attention wandering when trying to sit through entire operas of his.

        Try listening to just the prelude to act I of Meistersinger, or just the immolation scene from Götterdämmerung, or just the Good Friday music from Parsifal, or especially Wotan’s Farewell from Walküre.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

          I’ve always found the Ring to be one of those works like Tolkien’s The Ring, big, sweeping, and an acquired taste.

          I also admire Wagner’s amazing genius, but sometimes have a hard time getting past what an anti-semitic SOB he was. He is proof that someone can be a great artist and a terrible person.

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, W’s operas are too bloody long! Wonder if he was paid by the note, as, apparently, Dickens was paid by the word. I believe Woody Allen said of Bach, there’re too many notes, but don’t agree with him here at all:-)

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

        My father both finds that many of his favorite German philosophers adore Wagner, and that he finds his operas almost unwatchable.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      The choir is not an addition by an arranger. That’s Ravel’s; it’s in the original. I think it may be in this recording, just not very prominently. Tough to tell with my phone’s speaker.

      I actually find just the opposite about Ravel and Debussy. Ravel seems to me to be much more libertine with respect to form, harmonic language and counterpoint than Debussy!

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink

        No, I think you’re right. This is the choir-less version.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

        Both the choirless and choired version are by Ravel. When performed without a ballet, it’s more often the choirless version.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        If you listen to some Ravel works, like the Introduction and Allegro for Harp, String Quartet, Flute and Clarinet, the Piano Trio, or Tombeau de Couperin and then compare them to Debussy’s Preludes or his ballets, I think you’ll find that Ravel builds very regular phrases that are much like older music, but then peppers them with his unique feeling for harmony. Debussy’s harmonies are often less choice, but his phrase lengths and gestures are all over the map. The Introduction and Allegro repeats every phrase twice. You’ll never see Debussy doing that, even in his most conservative moments.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

          But in general terms, you’re much more likely to see a good ol’ fashioned ABA if you’re looking at Debussy than if you’re looking at Ravel. And Debussy, at least based on the works with which I’m familiar, is more likely to come close to writing contrapuntally, that is, worrying about the shape individual voices take on their own as well as in relation to each other. Ravel more likely to proceed in chunks of harmony.

          That last difference is the biggie. Getting away from counterpoint was one of the chief projects of the early 20th century.

  16. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    The link in this post labeled “Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe” doesn’t work.

  17. J Smith
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Almost as good as Muskrat Love, wouldn’t yah say? Of course that is a joke.

  18. thh1859
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    The intellect required to conjure the sounds in Daphnis and Chloe while providing a continuity to the piece that needs no effort from the listener is many times greater than that needed to compose the typical consciously structural music of the second half of the 20th century. (Most 21C music now being composed rejects that barren period.)

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      Oh, yes, with a vengeance, IMO.

  19. darrelle
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    I’ll have to save this thread. It is going to take some time to properly listen to all of the suggestions and evaluate the associated comments.

    One of the wonderful things about a site like this one you’ve provided, Jerry. So many interesting people with such varied knowledge, experience and taste. There are many threads from the past several years that I have saved for reference for, music, food, books and arguments.


  20. RGBowman
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Now to fly off of the rails, “Sunrise” reminds me of Lenny White’s Venusian Summer album (Fusion) which you can also find on YouTube.

  21. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    That Ravel piece is a great work. You also might want to check out Debussy’s “La Mer.”

    But being the extreme classical nut that I am, I could go on all day with this. But to recommend another work that you may not know, look for a recording of “The Swan of Tuonela” by Sibelius. You’ll love it.

    I’m a big fan of chamber music. Some favorite works in this regard include Brahms’s Horn Trio, Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, and Debussy’s Violin Sonata.

    I also like a good deal of “difficult” music from many 20th century moderns — and not-so-difficult works, such as Richard Strauss’s “Metamorphosen” from 1945. Wow, what a gorgeous work! Getting a bit more adventurous, there is Bartok’s great “Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta” (his “Concerto for Orchestra” is great, too) and Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring.”

    • darrelle
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      I was introduced to Shostakovich a couple of years ago by a friend. Good stuff. He was influenced by Stravinsky, and many others of course. Apparently, though, it was not uniform admiration.

      “Stravinsky the composer I worship. Stravinsky the thinker I despise.”

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

        I don’t claim to be an expert on either man, but I suspect Shostakovich, as a good Soviet citizen and aspiring Party member, was more or less obliged to denounce Stravinsky’s Westernized attitudes and politics.

        • Barry Lyons
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

          Not sure what you mean by “good Soviet citizen,” as Shostakovich, along with Prokofiev, lived in fear of Stalin (both composers were formally denounced in 1948).

          As for Shostakvich’s music, I much prefer the string quartets over the symphonies, many of which are bloated and could have used an editor. But Shostakovich’s cycle of string quartets is on the of the best of the 20th century. The most popular quartets are the Seventh and Eighth.

          As for other quartets of the 20th century, the two by Janacek are great. I also like Prokofiev’s two string quartets. Britten’s quartets are also great, particularly the Third. Also, Alwyn’s quartets, but then that’s a very esoteric recommendation!

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

            Shostakovich’s preludes and fugues for the piano (an homage to Bach) are also exquisite.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            I thought living in fear of Stalin was what all good Soviet citizens did.

            • Barry Lyons
              Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

              Ah, you were being cheeky. Fine. I thought you meant he eagerly towed the Stalinist line, as did the repellent Khrennikov (a lousy composer, as if that’s a surprise).

              • Tim Harris
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

                ‘TOE the line’! NOT ‘tow’!

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of Richard Strauss, his 4 Last Songs are exquisite, especially sung by Renée Fleming.

      • Barry Lyons
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        Great, shattering work. I have the recording with Gundula Janowitz (wouldn’t mind owning another). It’s considered by many Straussians to be one of the best recordings.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

          I sort of heard Renée sing them at Tanglewood about 10 years ago. Just as she opened her mouth to begin, the rain came crashing down onto the (tin?) roof of The Shed and I mainly heard the rain, punctuated by some thunder, but since I had listened to her CD many times I could hear her in my mind.

  22. Kurt Helf
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Lovely, you can almost see the sunlight burst over the horizon at 4:40.

  23. Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Ravel. Another fine atheist.

  24. JohnJay
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I love classical music, and for sure impressionists are great, but sometimes I need to go to the ethereal. Granted, its based on sacred music (Psalm 51 setting), but for me just sitting with my eyes closed for 10 minutes and listening to Allegri’s Miserere Mei calms me from all my ills and recharges me. Here’s a video of the song’s interesting history. The actual full performance starts around 16:30.


    • JohnJay
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      Read the Roolz to try and avoid embedding a video, but I must have missed something in the syntax. Another try:

      • JohnJay
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

        Still no? Here’s the text to cut and paste:


    • Barry Lyons
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

      I can understand that. Stephen Jay Gould, staunch atheist that he was, use to love singing in the Harvard choir for Handel’s “Messiah”. Staunch atheist though I am, I plan to get a good recording of Bach’s “Mass in B Minor” one day.

      • GBJames
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure I’d use the phrase “staunch atheist” to describe Gould what with all that accomodationist NOMA stuff.

        • Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

          I agree with GB on Gould. I thought he had some remnants of Jewish faith.

  25. Dietrich
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    There’s a very interesting episode of Radiolab where they discuss the brain disorder that killed Ravel, along with a connection to a woman who suffered the same fate:

    It’s about 20min long; you can click stream to listen to it in your browser.

    • Barry Lyons
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Terrible. Though the worst early death in the history of music belongs to Schubert. Let’s just say he saw one too many prostitutes (so goes the accepted view of his fate). To think that during the last two weeks Schubert had taken his first formal counterpoint class! Wow. After giving us his brilliant String Quintet (one of THE greatest chamber works by anybody) and his Eighth and Ninth symphonies, the man was clearly on to greater things.

      Nice lecture, by the way.

      P.S.: I don’t dislike “Bolero” but it’s hardly a favorite work for me by Ravel. Check out his “Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet.” Love that work. There’s a nice Decca CD of it with Franck’s Violin Sonata (a really nice, underrated work).

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of underrated Franck, there’s his Pièce Héroïque for organ and his Symphony in D minor. When that quasi-mournful English Horn tune comes thundering back in full orchestra only to give way to the major final section…those are some special moments.

        • Tim Harris
          Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:54 am | Permalink

          Do you know R.J.Stove’s book on Franck? I found it fascinating.

        • Barry Lyons
          Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:17 am | Permalink

          Yes, Franck’s lone symphony is great.

  26. Posted August 30, 2014 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Tim Harris:

    You said:
    “I do recommend reading Patel’s chapter on meaning and affect in music in his ‘Music, Language and the Brain’.”

    A million thanks for alerting us to this book that looks so interesting.

    1. Here is a 2010 interview with Patel in the NYTimes, “Exploring Music’s Hold on the Mind” in which he explains why in 1990 he had to abandon the ants of Edward O. Wilson to get back to the neurobiology of music:

    2. We are lucky, since his 2008 big book, “Music, Language, and the Brain”, 528 p., is posted as a Google book, which can be perused for its Table of contents, and Introduction, and many passages:

    3. Here is a 2010 professional review of the book in “Psychomusicology: Music, Mind & Brain”:

    4. And then, the page in Amazon Books,
    with some 10 insightful readers’ reviews

    The top editorial review is highly laudatory:
    “In the first comprehensive study of the relationship between music and language from the standpoint of cognitive neuroscience, Aniruddh D. Patel challenges the widespread belief that music and language are processed independently. Since Plato’s time, the relationship between music and language has attracted interest and debate from a wide range of thinkers. Recently, scientific research on this topic has been growing rapidly, as scholars from diverse disciplines, including linguistics, cognitive science, music cognition, and neuroscience are drawn to the music-language interface as one way to explore the extent to which different mental abilities are processed by separate brain mechanisms. Accordingly, the relevant data and theories have been spread across a range of disciplines. This volume provides the first synthesis, arguing that music and language share deep and critical connections, and that comparative research provides a powerful way to study the cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying these uniquely human abilities.

    Winner of the 2008 ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.”

    5. And finally, for the really curious, an online 2012 article by Patel himself, which is an excerpt from the book “Language and Music as Cognitive Systems”:
    “Language, music, and the brain: a resource-sharing framework”:

    No doubt, this is a book to buy and study.
    $33 seems pretty reasonable for a quality Oxford Un. Press book. I usually prefer hardbacks, but then this one costs a whopping $85.
    You have to pay dear for “an objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education”, but it’s worth it.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted August 30, 2014 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

      I think this book really IS worth it. Thank you for putting this up,and for attaching that very good review.

  27. Filippo
    Posted August 30, 2014 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    This is a gorgeous piece of music.

    I’m reminded of Massenet’s “Pan and the Birds.” James Galway’s version is superb.

    I say go with the Romantic every time all the way, both in music and poetry. As Khayyam said, “Take the cash, and let the credit go.”

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