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Images from Classical Music

Discussion in 'Orchestral Technique [DB]' started by Johnny L, May 5, 2006.


  1. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    As I was driving this evening, I was listening to Shostakovich's 2nd piano trio concerto...which was great!

    But before the performance, the announcer was discussing the scherzo and how the dynamics for that section intended to reveal soldiers vomiting from nervousness and fear as they enter the front lines of battle.

    Not the performance, but the discussion reminded me of Bottesini's Tarantella and my own teacher revealing how the different "moods" intended to illustrate the tarantula's actions and other things I can't remember in a masterclass he was giving.

    These translations from sound to image aren't at all intuitive to me. I don't see things when I hear songs. So I am hoping this thread can be used to reveal what images come to mind when we hear some song...or alternatively what images some composer intends to communicate when we hear his/her work.

    Thanks!
    Johnny
     
  2. I have thought about it but I never really think of images unless something sounds like a hero type thing. I mainly feel the emotion. The closest thing I have come to relate with images is that if you pluck your E (or any string just see it better on E)string and look at it vibrate openly you'll see a rainbow of colors in side of it.
     
  3. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    Interesting thread...there's a lot cool programatic music that offers cool depictions of events, pictures...other cool stuff like that.

    Berlioz: Symphonie Fantastique (my personal favorite) - Click here for program notes

    Mussourgsky: Pictures at an Exhibition - Some more program notes

    Strauss: Don Quixote - Based on aforementioned story...personally I love the second variation...the depiction of him charging the sheep...
     
  4. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    Also, on that note of Shostakovich...there's a book (or maybe a few books) written on what his music really means based on memoirs and stuff, forgot the name of it off hand. You see things like motifs he uses in many of his works depicting Stalin, the supressed Russian people...cool stuff like that. Definitely worth a look.

    p.s.- this is a very brief/limited description of what this book actually talks about.
     
  5. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York

    Its called Testimony and it is actually a printing of Shostakovich's "memoirs". Unfortunately, it is more likely that they are Simon Volkov's rememberances of conversations with the composer than Shostakovich's own words.
     
  6. In the solo bass piece "Were You Angry With the Rivers" it is supposed to be a frustrating conversation. Here are the footnotes " Here is a conversation between a human and God- perhaps a complaint, perhaps a vexed questioning, perhaps a frustrated prophet who cannot see what God can-- and therefore rages against a lack of comprehension and understanding....This piece may reflect one of many such conversations-- and I have only one stringed instrument: a Bass."
     
  7. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    haha yea, that's it. I guess I forgot to say that it is all very controversial...
     
  8. From what I can gather, Testimony is probably more embellishment than anything else. However, most people who knew Shostakovich personally tend to agree that he would have approved of the book's message.
     
  9. EFischer1

    EFischer1 Guest

    Mar 17, 2002
    New York, New York
    "Irina Shostakovich, the late composer's wife, points out that Shostakovich only met Volkov briefly 3 or 4 times, certainly not, as she says, enough to have obtained information for a book."

    "The book was declared a fraud, invented by Solomon Volkov, that "has nothing in common with the true reminiscences of D. D. Shostakovich" by a panel of six prominent former Soviet composers- students and friends of Shostakovich- Basner, Karnev, Karen Khachaturian, Levitin, Tishchenko, and Vainberg."

    "The only seven bits of actual DS material in the book can be found on pages 32, 77, 106, 154, 178, 226, and 245. All are from previously published Soviet articles."
     
  10. I'm not going to waste my time having this argument again. It tends to go around in circles, with two camps of people who believe what they want to believe and selectively find facts to support themselves. All I can tell you is if you want to look into the matter in-depth, I would highly recommend the book "Shostakovich Reconsidered".
     
  11. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    So how about those cool programatic pieces...
     
  12. sibass89

    sibass89

    Jan 29, 2006
    Cincinnati, OH
    I think there is more than just those programatic pieces. For every pieces I play, Mr. Levinson suggests that I write a story in my head and imagine myself as the main character. He is very much for this photographic memory and creating images, and it has really helped get into the music. For every piece I play I always have images in my head to really get me emotionally attached.

    As for those pieces, I recently did a concert where we played Pictures at an Exhibition with all the pictures around the room. It was really cool seeing the pictures and what Mussorgsky was to create.

    Don Quixote is a legend and I'd imagine you can see some of the stuff like the windmills and everything that is in the story (if you know the legend), but its not based off of images such as Pictures at and Exhibition.

    I'm having trouble thinking of pieces composed to portray images themselves. But I find it hard to believe that people dont visualize what they're are playing. It's like reading a book and not seeing anything in your head just reading words.
     
  13. BGreaney

    BGreaney Guest

    Mar 7, 2005
    Right, I actually think the pieces that are similar to Pictures are the ones that are fewer and far between. I can't really think of other pieces that depict specific pictures rather than events/actions and what not...Actually, basically any of the Strauss tone poems are really cool depictions of the stories they go along with...also, Liszt's tone poems are worth a listen. Oh, and I guess Beethoven 6 would fall into this catergory as well...
     
  14. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    In Shostakovich's 11th Symphony - the first movement definitely conjures up extreme cold and snow - while you can quite clearly hear a pitched battle among the percussion in the middle. :)
     
  15. Johnny L

    Johnny L

    Feb 14, 2002
    Victoria, TX
    Hmm it seems Shostakovich may be a great 20th century role model to help one explore music as a means of communicating (sculpting?) specific images.
     
  16. Stan Haskins

    Stan Haskins

    Nov 17, 2005
    NY and Miami
    How about Sibelius' fifth? Every time I hear the beginning, I can definitely see those big Viking longboats (Finnish Vikings? I dunno) plowing through a stormy sea . . .

    On imagery in general, I find that in my elementary teaching classroom, it's much easier to get kids to focus on the music better when they have some image to go along with the performance. That's why Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals are such great pieces to use as an introduction to the orchestra.
     
  17. Stan Haskins

    Stan Haskins

    Nov 17, 2005
    NY and Miami
    Prokofiev is certainly another great one.
     
  18. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member In Memoriam

    Another one that springs to mind is Vaughan Williams and in particular his "Sinfonia Antarctica" which specifically mentions in movement titles : things like Penguins, Huge Walls of Ice etc. etc.
     
  19. EliMarcusBass

    EliMarcusBass

    Jul 14, 2006
    Whenever I play a symphony in my orchestra, I love finding out the background of what the composer was thinking and feeling at the time so I can try and convey what he seemingly was trying to on paper.

    Theres a great book called The Symphony by Michael Steinberg which goes through many symphonies and explains the background of each one and what was going on in the composers life at the time and any other notes and interesting facts about the piece.

    Definitely a good buy either way =)
     
  20. MonetBass

    MonetBass ♪ Just listen ♫ Supporting Member

    Sep 15, 2006
    Tulsa, OK
    Ahh, ya beat me to it. Prokofiev is one of my favorites in terms of 'sound painting' through the use of themes. Great stuff.
     

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