~The Sound of the Sugar Plum Fairy~
December 24, 2003 7:27 AM   Subscribe

"When Tchaikovsky heard the celesta during a trip to Paris, he wrote a letter to his publisher saying, "get me one of those before another composer steals it." The Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker couldn't dance without it. We have the history of the celesta -- and hear it in a special performance by Lambert Orkis of the National Symphony Orchestra." From NPR's Morning Edition a look at this relatively obscure instrument that young wizards music are made of. If you can't play or afford the real thing, try the chime.
posted by azul (6 comments total)
Isn't it true that Tchaikovsky came to hate the Nutcracker music, the way that Arthur Conan Doyle came to hate Sherlock Holmes -- the way that creators often feel trapped by their most popular works? I think he also didn't like his own "1812 Overture" and "Sleeping Beauty Waltz." All I can say to that is, if he didn't like those knockout crowd pleasers from his own pen, what did he like? In any case, here's a toast to one of the great melodists of all time -- one whom I'm glad never got his hands on a synthesizer. Because, you see, what the world needs now is not more orchestral sounds, not more musical color, not new instruments, but melody, melody, melody!
posted by Faze at 7:42 AM on December 24, 2003

Well, he did kill himself (supposedly) after all, so how reliable could his judgment of "Tchaikovsky" be?
posted by soyjoy at 8:14 AM on December 24, 2003

I fail to see how the presence or absence of synthesizers has any relationship to the presence or absence of melody. The only thing that synthesizers bring to the table is an expansion of the artist's acoustic palette.

If you've listened to modern classical music, you know that composers are capable of eschewing traditional melodies while writing for a traditional orchestra.

As a great lover of music, I want composers to use orchestras, choirs, synthesizers, organs, or anything else that can help them create the world they envision. Maybe I'll like it, maybe I won't, but the last thing this world needs is melody without imagination.
posted by mosch at 8:46 AM on December 24, 2003

No, the last thing this world needs is more rhythm without melody, I'll take unimaginative but listenable melodies to rap, hip hop, and techno any day.
posted by Grod at 10:45 AM on December 24, 2003

Nutcracker, Schmutcracker. One of the greatest uses of the celesta was by one Thelonious Monk, for his recording of "Pannonica" on the sublime Brilliant Corners album with Sonny Rollins.
posted by digaman at 11:26 AM on December 24, 2003

Mosch, A great melody like the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies will sound as good played on an ocarina as by a full orchestra complete with celeste. Synthesizers are just another means by which contemporary composers hide their crippling lack of inspiration, and total inability to write melody, melody, melody!
posted by Faze at 7:44 PM on December 24, 2003

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