Musical Marination

Listen to this: Punch Brothers

American bluegrass group, Punch Brothers

Image via Wikipedia

I heard an interview and some music by this group, the Punch Brothers, the other week on NPR.  Here’s an interview with them.  Their eclectic blending of bluegrass instruments and creative musicianship really tickled my fancy.  The song I’m featuring this week, Alex, really captured my heart.  The lead singer reminds me a little bit of Rufus Wainwright, and there’s a certain whimsical feel to this tune.  Enjoy!

This is dedicated to my friend, Alexandra Templer.

Listen to this: Taj Mahal

Posted in recommendations by Rivki Silver on 09/01/2010
Tags: , , , , ,

No, not the building.  I was turned on to this blues artist by another blogger, and it is some delicious music.  I’ve been listening, bobbing my head and grooving.  It is all good.

Listen to this: Operatic Aesthetics

As always, if you have any suggested listenings, please email me with your suggestions (check out my contact form).  Thanks!

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Mozart.  He did, after all, write the definitive clarinet concerto (well, at least according to some).  But Mozart did something else for me, which was completely unexpected.  He made me like opera.

Yes.  That’s right.

I didn’t really have much exposure to opera prior to 2000, when I went to study in Austria for a semester.   The experience I had had wasn’t overwhelming.  I wasn’t partial to operatic voices, and I hadn’t heard anything which wooed me.  However, while in Austria, I attended a performance of Mozart’s Magic Flute, the last opera he wrote (1791).  I was floored.  Completely astounded.

It was pleasing to the eye and the ear, all at once!  It was like an aesthetic paradise.

This week’s selection is one of the more famous arias from this opera, the Queen of the Night aria.  It demands vocal gymnastics from the soprano singing it, and it still gives me the chills.  The video excerpt is from the movie Amadeus (historically inaccurate, but a good movie nevertheless).  It doesn’t present the beginning of the aria, but it gives you an idea of the virtuosity required.

Listen to this: an “a-ha!” moment

Every Wednesday I’m going to suggest a piece of music for your listening enjoyment.  Please email me at with suggestions, I’ll take a listen, and maybe I’ll recommend your piece!  It could be from any genre, classical, world, pop, rock, whatever.

This week’s piece is the second movement of the Piano Concerto #2 in B-flat Major by Johannes Brahms (yeah, it’s a long title, I know).  It has a story to go with it, which goes a little something like this:

My sophomore year in university I took a Music History course.  Being a nerdy type, I absolutely loved it.  Memorize endless amounts of dates?  Sure thing!  Categorize pieces according to the proper time period?  Sweet!  But, hands down, my favorite part of the course was listening to loads of music.  I would go to the music library, check out the required listening, plug it into the CD player, put on the headphones and bliss out.

It was during one of these library sessions that I experienced my “a-ha!” moment.   Smack in the middle of this week’s piece, it was suddenly clear to me why I was studying music, and why I loved it so much.  It was so beautiful and moving that  I literally stood up (still in the library, mind you).  I didn’t actually say, “a-ha!” (probably a good thing, too),  but I felt it.

Here’s a video of the piece.  Feel free to listen to the whole movement (it’s under 10 minutes), but if you want to skip right to the juicy middle, the moment that I’m talking about comes at the 6:05 and is over by 6:25.  That’s right, it’s only 20 seconds.  20 seconds of sublimity.

A little background on the composer and piece:  Johannes Brahms was a German composer who lived from 1833 until 1897.  The Piano Concerto was composed from 1878-1891.  It was premiered by the composer, and was an immediate success.  I can see why.

I have friends who have listened to this piece and agree that it’s lovely, but they didn’t have the same visceral reaction that I did.  Music is funny like that.  It hits people in different ways. 

What did you think?  How did the piece make you feel?