Hit play on the playlist above and listen along for a string of strange connections.
A few days ago, I crossed paths with the song "Terrence Loves You" from Lana del Rey's new album Honeymoon. It's a great, hypnotic, trance-like song that despite its slow tempo has a lot of energy and drives to the end. But what really caught me by surprise comes about 2/3s of the way through the piece, at 3:24, when del Rey begins singing "Ground control to Major Tom".
Yeah, that Major Tom, from David Bowie's 1969 "Space Oddity". I'd heard before that Bowie's song was inspired in both theme and title by the famous Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. What I didn't know was that the first part of the music was also inspired by some of the music used in the film. Specifically, the very soft, unclear instrumental at the beginning of the song is inspired by the famous "Also Sprach Zarathustra".
Richard Strauss' 1896 tone poem Also Sprach Zarathustra was inspired by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's novel of the same name. (Apparently, in his spare time Nietzsche was something of a composer as well!) Among other things, the novel features a parable on the death of God.
Many of Nietzsche's musings on power and the gods were originally inspired by German composer Richard Wagner. (They later fell out and Nietzsche wrote some terrible words about Wagner.) Possibly the biggest inspiration for Nietzsche (and certainly the biggest work for Wagner) was the Ring cycle, a 15-hour epic opera cycle that makes a Lord of the Rings movie marathon look like a commercial break. Curiously, the whole cycle begins with a wash of music that starts, like the beginning of "Terrence Loves You", "Space Oddity", and Also Sprach Zarathustra, very softly and with no clear rhythm. Coincidence? I think not.
So go get Lana del Rey's new album, and think fondly of David Bowie and Richard Wagner when you listen.
This post is the first of a new series, Crosscurrents, in which I draw connections around a theme or a topic across several time periods in music.
Deep in Virginia's Luray Caverns sits what claims to be the world's largest musical instrument: The Great Stalacpipe Organ. Made up of tuned stalactites spread out over 3.5 acres, it can apparently be heard over all 64 acres of the Caverns without amplification.
Just a heads up that the jaballesteros.net domain will be expiring in the next week, so be sure to reset your bookmarks to the .com domain adopted during last year's website redesign!
Production has wrapped up and we're into post for the short films "Some of His Things", written and directed by fellow Boston Arts Academy teachers Chris Flaherty and Dan Sullivan; and BAA student Jeyrie Rodriguez's film "Unbalanced". Special thanks to film teacher John ADEkoje for making all of this possible.
Reserve your free tickets for the premiere screening and a full slate of shorts! (Monday 18 May, 7-9pm, at the Paramount Center in downtown Boston)
(And as an addendum, a few recent changes to the site:
- a splash of color!
- a Twitter feed in the sidebar!
- a collection of links to great ensembles, composers, and other wonderful things, right below the Twitter feed!
- and a few other small tweaks to improve your experience; contact me if you have any suggestions for posts, questions about the music, or comments on the site.)
This winter has been one to remember in Boston, but it looks like it's finally tapering away. In memory of the many fallen records from the season, here's a collection of winter- and snow-inspired music over the past few centuries.
1720: Vivaldi's Winter, the Fourth of his Four Seasons concerti, performed by Gli Incogniti, Amandine Beyer soloist:
1828: Schubert's haunting song cycle Winterreise, a tale of a man's winter journey as Schubert himself reached the end of his brief life, here performed by the inimitable Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau:
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 1, subtitled Winter Daydreams, here performed by the Royal Concertgebouw:
And finally, a more modern strain: the 3rd of Chaya Czernowin's Winter Songs, an icy, tenebrous cycle that she describes as "reflect[ing] the aspect of winter which is about being pulled into the inner cave… At the same time, underneath, in the ground, the roots of life slowly grow stiff and blindly start to search for a path between the stones.” This performance is by Ensemble Nikel and Quatuor Diotima: