Listening Adventures
February 26, 2005 3:16 AM   Subscribe

From the New World, Symphony No. 9, by Antonín Dvorák (flash). Navigation help here.
posted by hypersloth (21 comments total)

My favorite symphony.

Wonder who the conductor is? Seems to be Gunzenhauser, AFAICT.
posted by Gyan at 4:05 AM on February 26, 2005

posted by caddis at 4:59 AM on February 26, 2005

This reminds me of an old HyperCard stack which did the same thing with Beethoven's 9th. It was brilliant in its detailed analysis of what was going on on in the music, and actually went put up bits of the score as it went along.
posted by ancientgower at 5:27 AM on February 26, 2005

AG - I remember that! The day I first saw the Beethoven-Mac program still ranks up there as one of my top-3 all-time favorite multimedia moments.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:34 AM on February 26, 2005

They missed the opportunity to score some points off of John Williams by inserting some random pic of Darth Vader in the 4th Movement.

Very good link.
posted by briank at 6:12 AM on February 26, 2005

Interesting idea, but why not let us follow along with the score?
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:20 AM on February 26, 2005

I think the Marlboro Man's theme was stolen from the second theme of the 3rd movement!
posted by growli at 6:52 AM on February 26, 2005

Wow. Excellent.

Minor quibble: a sailing ship as a passenger liner in 1891? Wouldn't it be steamship?

But excellent introduction for the not so musically knowledgeable, like me.
posted by orthogonality at 6:53 AM on February 26, 2005

It was an interesting experience. I followed the whole thing and enjoyed it, but I always resist overly programmatic interpretations, i.e. this theme equals the sea, this one birds, trains, New York. These never really work out. You find yourself second guessing the visuals. Maybe the sea theme in movement three is say, the Mississippi river. Any why is there a Statue of Liberty in 1893?

Great post though. It's a interesting teaching tool and nice way to think about a familiar symphony.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 7:40 AM on February 26, 2005

I've got a friend teaching Dvorák in a PhD program in Turkey right now. He's a Luddite, but this may help convert him. Excellent post, thank you.
posted by jenleigh at 9:35 AM on February 26, 2005

I always resist overly programmatic interpretations

I agree; my initial reaction was, "oh, a low-budget Fantasia." But it's a lot more. I liked how they cleverly worked in showing visual representations of the themes (particularly handy when Dvorak quotes them again later on), what instruments are playing, etc.

Any why is there a Statue of Liberty in 1893?

Because it was finished and dedicated in 1886.

Excellent link. One of the best multimedia things I've ever seen. I went expecting to spend three minutes -- I stayed for the whole thing.
posted by pmurray63 at 9:43 AM on February 26, 2005

Here's a site that looks at the structures in Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. Pick one of the fugues on the left and watch the clockwork.
posted by horsewithnoname at 10:31 AM on February 26, 2005

A bit simplistic and the sound quality is awful. Bad audio is what turns many off to classical. Pop sounds fine on crap systems, but classical comes out lame. It's just not designed to be reduced to compressed little hooks. But perhaps it will prompt a few to seek out better versions of the muisic.

One reason so many cite classical as merely their 'relaxing' music is that their system is unable to reproduce it at it's meant to be listened to volume without turning it into a screetching distortion horror, so they only ever listen to it turned way down and lose all its dynamic power.

Listen to Shostakovich on an audiophile system and it's more kick-in-the-ass than the most aggressive rap.
posted by HTuttle at 12:10 PM on February 26, 2005

horsewithnoname: What a great link...I've been looking for a visual companion to Bach's fugues and this certainly does the job!
posted by ch3ch2oh at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2005

This has always been one of my favourite symphonies, but while I thought the visual presentation was a bit simplistic at first, it not only taught be a bit more about the structure, I actually teared up during the second movement for the first time ever. Weird.

The Glass Engine from Philip Glass (Java required) is also pretty damned nifty. (Discussed here previously).
posted by maudlin at 1:11 PM on February 26, 2005

I'm running XP Home SP 2 and MSIE 6, and I have Flash Player installed, music. I guess I can always download the symphony off of Gnutella and follow along that way, but...oh, well.
posted by alumshubby at 9:08 AM on February 27, 2005

horsewithnoname, it's a shame nobody's done this yet with the Anna Magdelena Notebook.
posted by alumshubby at 9:15 AM on February 27, 2005

I just have to echo what HTuttle says, only with one addendum - if you want kick-in-the-ass aggressive, you have to _play_ a Shostakovich symphony. Seriously. It's worth the years of learning JUST for that.
posted by coriolisdave at 7:07 PM on February 27, 2005

Great link, thanks, hypersloth. This is one of my all-time favorite symphonies, which I already know very well, but even then I was surprised at how much I picked up from this. Like pmurray63, I also thought, "oh great, a low-budget Fantasia," but yes, it does much more than that. My only complaint would be that it would have been nice to be able to explore the ancillary activities and background info while the symphony was continuously playing rather than have every piece spoon-fed to you in discrete bits. But that's a small matter.

The Bach WTC page looks nice but gave me a lot of Shockwave-installation grief. Even after plowing through that, I was disappointed to find the interface a little clunky, and the music played on the piano rather than harpsichord. Good idea, though, and I look forward to more people taking this creative approach to "music appreciation."

P.S. growli, though this site only scratches the surface, its worth underscoring that Dvorak was responsible, either by composing it or promoting it, for establishing a lot of what we think of as quintessential "American" music. And yeah, "The Magnificent Seven" is quite clearly ripped right out of that 3rd movement.
posted by soyjoy at 9:30 AM on February 28, 2005

I should've warned you about the shockwave.

I was disappointed to find the interface a little clunky, and the music played on the piano rather than harpsichord.

It's interesting that you raise the question. The WTC was composed to explore Andreas Werckmeister's new tunings. At the same time, keyboard instruments were evolving quickly. There's no definitive consensus on Bach's intention on what instrument the WTC was written for, but this article covers some of the issues. Good to see some Bach fans here!
posted by horsewithnoname at 11:04 PM on February 28, 2005

Well, I wasn't intending to open the "what instrument was the WTC written for" can of worms. I enjoy hearing WTC pieces played on the piano, and have anjoyed playing a few of them myself as such (especially barn-burners such as the D minor prelude and the E minor fugue - don't get me started!). I've also arranged a few for different ensembles.

But as "absolute music," as your article argues, I think that we can agree there's a certain basic level of interpretation required to get the pieces across to the listener on a keyboard without dynamic variability (e.g. harpsichord, clavichord), and an additional level beyond that to get it across on something like a fortepiano or a pianoforte. So for this I guess I would have expected something examining the pieces as absolute would have used something with fewer layers of human decision-making.

What turned that into disappointment, possibly, was that I completely disagreed with the dynamic approach taken by the pianist on the first fugue, making many of the notes nearly inaudible on my speakers. At any rate, thanks for the link.
posted by soyjoy at 8:26 AM on March 1, 2005

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