Birth of the PlayLiszt

Franz Liszt, an early progenitor of Music History Playlists?

franz list, music history, composer compilation, romantic era

Franz Liszt was one of the most prolific and inspirational composers of the Romantic era, even arguably one of the most impressive musical figureheads of all time. He was not only a composer, and one who created a genre (the symphonic poem), but a piano virtuoso, educator, a socio-political donor, and a patron for the arts. The Romantic era gave way to new opportunities for musicians to make a living outside of being staffed by a royalty or nobles, and Liszt, while not alone, was at the forefront of this.

Much could be said about Liszt’s writing, wizard-like piano playing, teaching, and socio-political awareness, but for today we’ll focus on his affinity for supporting his peers and fellow composers, and his love and admiration for his teachers and predecessors.

A child prodigy and son of a successful cellist, he was afforded more privileges than most. This doesn’t take away from his mastery of the piano and composition, but it’s important to realize if we’re going to decipher the relationships he had with his peers.

As Liszt came into his own as a composer and a popular “rock star” touring throughout Europe, he developed entrepreneurial skills, and started publishing songbooks, not only of his own works, but of other “up and coming artists”, and of his peers who were well-known among academics but maybe not by the general public. He created compilation collections of music, showcasing newer composers, and using his popularity as a service to his peers and community. It’s very easy to imagine that many excellent emotion-grabbing works were composed around this time that were never discovered – maybe partially due to the composer’s lack of means or even a self-inflicted lack of self-promotion.

Liszt made sure that those who inspired him in his formative years were not forgotten. Many of his compositions consisted of variations on themes of Bach and Beethoven, and his letters and other writings spoke to their greatness, and even profound respect for his contemporaries.

In his later years (1884-1886), Liszt also held large “group lessons” (these kinds of lessons are now referred to as a “Master Class”) where he shared his insatiable desire for practicing and taught advanced performance skills to many hungry students.

Why This Matters

Whether you follow an artist or influencers’ Spotify playlist, are checking your mailbox for the latest NOW That’s What I Call Music CD, or you’re an indie DIY band who has been offered a chance to appear on an album with your peers, it’s no secret that throughout history, compilations have had a positive effect on everyone involved.

We all look to our influencers, past and present, with respect and awe, and we know it’s important to remember where we came from musically. A simple YouTube video master-class “play-through” of your favorite guitarist may inspire you the same way students were inspired by Liszt’s original master-class.

A composer never stops drawing influence from everything that passes into their ear canals so it’s important to pay close attention to your predecessors, and just like everything else in life – networking is everything! Never miss an opportunity to be a part of a musical compilation, playlist, or even a jam session of your peers, especially if it’s for a good cause. You’ll feel good you supported it, and it’s some of the best publicity you can receive!

Have a great week!

If you liked this article, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Email. It really helps more musicians, artists, and creatives find out how Music History Matters to them and their artistic pursuits. Thanks for reading! For more posts like this one, go to http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org

If you didn’t like this article, and from your musicological viewpoint think this so much dribble, you’re likely right. Just realize we mainly write this for non-musicologists. Move along, this isn’t the scholarly writing you’re looking for…

Setting the Standard

Claudio Monteverdi Didn’t Invent the Opera, But Did Affect Music History Forever

Sometimes creative things come along that so change our entire perspective on what an art form can be. Musically, you can look at an example like L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi. While many claim him “The Inventor of the Opera”, it may have been his work was just the first to be remembered.

“L’Orfeo wasn’t quite the first opera, but the consensus seems to be that it was the first that was any good.Some still hold it to be the greatest.” – Don Paterson, “Orfeo: looking back at Monteverdi’s masterpiece” https://www.theguardian.com/profile/don-paterson

“This 1607 masterpiece was the eureka moment in a new genre known today as opera. Let’s get something straight from the outset: Claudio Monteverdi’s 1607 music drama L’Orfeo, favola in musica was not the first opera. It wasn’t even close. Like the story of Orpheus himself, the idea that Monteverdi single-handedly gave birth to the modern music drama is nothing more than myth.” – Tom Ford, “MONTEVERDI’S L’ORFEO AND THE INVENTION OF OPERA” (https://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/features/monteverdis-lorfeo-and-the-invention-of-opera/)

“It may be that the radicalism of Monteverdi has yet to be fully grasped. Perhaps L’Orfeo does not qualify as truly revolutionary or iconoclastic, and in fact Monteverdi himself disclaimed the role of revolutionary, claiming that he was only following a line that had been developing for the last 50 years or more. That was over-modest on his part; for like Beethoven some 200 years later, he soon mastered and exhausted the musical tradition he inherited.” – John Eliot Gardiner, “Monteverdi’s Orfeo: ‘a brilliant and compelling fable to the inalienable power of music'” https://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/aug/03/monterverdi-orfeo-john-eliot-gardiner-the-inalienable-power-of-music

The point is that while Monteverdi did not “invent” opera, his work L’Orfeo certainly cemented it as a style that would still exist in a similar form over 400 years later! It was, as we look back at it, a watershed moment. Elements like the aria, the strophic song, recitative, choruses, dances, dramatic musical interludes, all were evident here.

In a way, Monteverdi set the standard for what opera would be, as it grew into a giant industry throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. We have many of these type of things in music. Gershwin’s mixing classical and jazz in his “Rhapsody in Blue”. The Beatles seemingly instantaneous invention of modern Rock n’ Roll (although any student of music history knows that the Beatles and rock n’ roll were both formed through the 50’s through many iterations.)

We have tons more examples of how things set the standard for an art form.

Before 1938, talking movies had been small screen musicals and dramas, until the amazing year of 1939 which brought us “The Wizard of Oz” and “Gone with the Wind”. These two movies showed audiences what film could be on it’s grandest scale. In 1969, Stanley Kubrick brought us “2001: A Space Odyssey”, still unbelievable in its special effects almost 50 years later! And of course in 1977, “Star Wars” redefined what science fiction could be with its adventure and mysticism, mixed with charm and style.

We’ve even seen it in tech with the iPod, then iTunes, and of course the iPhone which has turned all of us into zombies staring at our palms all day.

I haven’t even touched on art, literature, or other works that defined their genre.

Why This Matters

So the question is, will you as a musician, composer, or whatever it is you create, be someone who works to set the standard? Someone who creates a work or a style that redefines your genre? Can it still happen? Is there a new music genre, new art style, new breakthrough film waiting to blow us all away and inform what will be the next great step in an art form revolution?

I encourage you to focus all your energies on setting that standard. Not being okay with the work that you have been doing that “pays the rent”, or “keeps people happy”. Maybe when Monteverdi was commissioned to write L’Orfeo, he didn’t set out to be known centuries later as “The Inventor of Opera”. But what thing that you create will be something of that ilk?

I say we try for that.

Coda

If you liked this article, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Email. It really helps more musicians, artists, and creatives find out how Music History Matters to them and their artistic pursuits. Thanks for reading! For more posts like this one, go to http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org

If you didn’t like this article, and from your musicological viewpoint think this so much dribble, you’re likely right. Just realize we mainly write this for non-musicologists. Move along, this isn’t the scholarly writing you’re looking for…

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A Baroque Music History Murder Mystery

leclair, baroque, murder, mystery, music history

Is there anyone behind me?

A Music History Lesson in Watching Your Back!

Jean Marie Leclair (also know as the Elder as there were a few other musicians in his family) had a good life as a composer and violinist. He is often considered to have founded the French violin school. He married twice, but his second wife is also rumored to be a suspect in his murder most foul.

After his divorce to his second wife, engraver Louise Roussel, he bought a residence is a seedy part of Paris. Bad idea. Six years later he was found stabbed in the back three times.

Was it his ex-wife, who knew his music as his engraver, and was in financial straits at the time? She was able to sell his house, his stuff, and even publish some of his works. (Um, duh. What, was Jacques Clouseau on the case?)

Others point to his nephew who blamed his uncle for not supporting him enough in his own career. The gardener was also suspected as he was the one who “found” the body.

Nevertheless, it bring a terrible end to an otherwise outstanding musical career any of us would have been happy to have. Enjoy some of Leclair’s fine Baroque music here.

Why This Matters

We have to be very careful in our creative lives in how we conduct ourselves, where we choose to live, and whom we choose to associate with. Sometimes in our artistic pursuits we can forget about the world around us, and it can bring about our demise, or at least hurt our efforts to excel in our craft.

Be safe out there!

Coda

If you liked this article, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Email. It really helps more musicians, artists, and creatives find out how Music History Matters to them and their artistic pursuits. Thanks for reading! For more posts like this one, go to http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org

If you didn’t like this article, and from your musicological viewpoint think this so much dribble, you’re likely right. Just realize we mainly write this for non-musicologists. Move along, this isn’t the scholarly writing you’re looking for…

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Joseph Haydn and The Value of the Steady Gig

Why was Franz Joseph Haydn one of Music History’s Most Prolific? (Volume!)

I remember one of the first things early in my Music History study was the stunning output of Franz Joseph Haydn. Drink this in:

108 symphonies; 68 string quartets; 32 divertimenti for small orchestra; 126 trios for baryton, viola, and cello; 29 trios for piano, violin, and cello; 21 trios for two violins and cello; 47 piano sonatas; about 20 operas; 14 masses; 6 oratorios; and 2 cello concerti. And this is pared down from a larger number! I went through several sources and the number averages around 800 total pieces!

So, how did he write so much? The answer is…he had a gig.

franz joseph haydn, esterhazy, music history

Haydn directing an opera at the Esterhazy Theatre in 1775.

Franz Joseph Haydn’s life was like many of ours. He started with many musical pursuits, including singing in a choir, then picking up odd music jobs where could find them. He eventually found himself though leading the musical affairs for a large estate of the very rich and powerful Esterhazy famîly.

This steady gig, while sometimes taxing and demeaning, brought something to Haydn’s life that only a few of us get to enjoy. He had time. He was given funds and authority. And he had also deadlines.

Anyone who knows the pressure of putting together a church service or lesson plan every single week, knows how it also spurs creativity. Many times just the act of having to write a new song, arrange a song for your group, or come up with ideas on how to teach a subject can bring new works from your mind that wouldn’t have ever existed otherwise.

He had to write symphonies, and quartets, and operas, and even specialty trios and works when his benefactor took up the baryton (similar to a viol) and wanted music written for it. Kind of like when your pastor who is also a singer wants that perfect song to sing and has you write it. Or an amazing wunderkind on flute wanders into your orchestra. You need music, and if you are a composer, you write for that!

Haydn had weekly things he had to prepare for and since they lived out in the country, it was just easier to write it himself.

“I was cut off from the world. There was no one to confuse or torment me, and I was forced to become original.” – Joseph Haydn

Nevertheless, Haydn flourished and grew through these years and eventually became known throughout all of Europe as he defined the symphony style.

Why This Matters

Sometimes it’s easy to think of our music jobs as a hassle, or a step towards something else, or perhaps we have found ourselves in a staid job we have been doing for years, if not decades. But this gig you have had, that you were blessed to find, could be the way the sum total of your output is measured.

Like Haydn, you may move past your “Esterhazy” phase into a “Vienna” or “London” phase where you bloom even more. But without the season of work and growth, the next season of opportunity might now ever present itself.

Got a steady gig? Have some autonomy? Maybe it’s time to take more advantage of it. Haydn the heck out of your position, and write, write, write. Sometimes we forget when we are the boss, we have the opportunity to actually do what we love.

Have a great week!

Coda

If you liked this article, please share it on your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Email. It really helps more musicians, artists, and creatives find out how Music History Matters to them and their artistic pursuits. Thanks for reading! For more posts like this one, go to http://www.MusicHistoryMatters.org

If you didn’t like this article, and from your musicological viewpoint think this so much dribble, you’re likely right. Just realize we mainly write this for non-musicologists. Move along, this isn’t the scholarly writing you’re looking for…

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Beethoven, Fidelio, and Refusing to Give Up

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas A. Edison

fidelio posterBeethoven was a lot of things, but he was certainly not a quitter. In life, in love, or in his work, he often kept on in the face of defeat, heartbreak, and in the case of his only opera Fidelio, lukewarm reception.

It was a complicated process that started with another opera he was commissioned to write, which was eventually abandoned. He then found another libretto he liked better and switched over to that. The first production was first performed to an audience consisting mostly of French soldiers that had recently occupied Vienna. Tepid reviews and the French occupation shuttered the opera soon after.

Beethoven was then moved to shorten the opera from three acts to two, and saw more success for several performances before a dispute with the theatre. Many years went by, and after finding a new librettist, Georg Friedrich Treitschke, the opera was finally finished to Beethoven’s liking.

During the process of the last rewrite he recounted his difficulty with the process in a letter to Treitschke saying, “I assure you, dear Treitschke, that this opera will win me a martyr’s crown. You have by your co-operation saved what is best from the shipwreck. For all this I shall be eternally grateful to you.”

So, why did Beethoven work so hard to get his only opera just right? Why did he agree to come back to the work two more times? Beethoven was known as a composer who left copious drafts behind of much of his work. So first, second, and third drafts weren’t unusual for him. Maybe he got in and couldn’t let it go until it was up to snuff with the other operas of the day. He didn’t write any other works of this kind, and perhaps he felt it important to make sure his opera would be remembered as a great work.

Whatever the reason, Beethoven would not rest for ten years, four overtures, three librettists, and some very tepid reviews, until the opera was a hit and eventually a staple in the opera world.

Why This Matters

We all have those projects, those goals, and those jobs we are given to do in our musical life that are like a mountain we continue to climb. We fall, we get back up, and sometimes it takes a whole career to get where we are going. But with every try, even if it’s a failure, or not exactly as we pictured it, we get closer to the success we always wanted.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” – Samuel Beckett

Whether it’s that symphony you keep toiling on, never knowing if it will be realized or even performed. Or the album project that seems to be in production forever. Or the music program that you’ve been trying to build that seems like pushing a boulder up a mountain with a stick.

All our goals take trying and retrying to make them a success. It’s the most important lesson I teach people who want to make music their career – just do not quit. Find the next gig, the next teaching post, the next music project, or the next great work.

I think even in my own success story, the only way I succeeded was because I refused to give up. I kept trying and retrying ideas. When something wasn’t working I retooled it until it did work, and to some extent that has been secret to my success.

“Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.” – W. Clement Stone

Have a good week, and keep up the good work!

JEC

John Eric Copeland is not a real musicologist, but he keeps trying. Hope you will too!

Links:

YouTube

Beethoven – Fidelio (Leonore), Op. 72 – COMPLETE OPERA – 432 Hz.
https://youtu.be/Zzo2TTlm55U

Related Quotes from Beethoven

“Don’t only practice your art, but force your way into its secrets; art deserves that, for it and knowledge can raise man to the Divine.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“Nothing is more intolerable than to have to admit to yourself your own errors.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

“A true artist is expected to be all that is noble-minded, and this is not altogether a mistake; on the other hand, however, in what a mean way are critics allowed to pounce upon us.” – Ludwig van Beethoven

Music for Nothing?

musicMusicians the world over (maybe even more than other artistic people like authors or painters) have become outraged that their music be “worth” something. That with all the hard work involved being a songwriter and/or artists, they aren’t earning back enough to pay their bills and make a nice life, and perhaps music just isn’t even worth doing?

The 20th century brought recorded music via the phonograph, album, and CD. These made billions of dollars for musicians and record companies for just over 100 years. But now that the internet has brought music to the world through cheap and free streaming, music folk are screaming that they aren’t getting paid enough.

This is particularly true of those who were part of the insanely profitable music industry of the latter 20th century. But is money the only reason we make music? Is that the determining factor if we even go to the trouble to make it or not?

I just read an article where Roger Daltrey of the Who said they weren’t going to make a new album because it wouldn’t make any money.

“We’ve talked about it, but it’s not going to be easy. There’s no record industry anymore. Why would I make a record? I would have to pay to make a record. There’s no royalties so I can’t see that ever happening. There’s no record business. How do you get the money to make the records? I don’t know. I’m certainly not going to pay money to give my music away free. I can’t afford to do that. I’ve got other things I could waste the money on.” – Roger Daltrey

Then maybe you should indeed waste your money on other things, Roger. I’m sure you have enough. Perhaps your music isn’t important enough if you’re only making it for financial gain.

To me that says, you don’t want people to hear an artistic statement or even go to the trouble of making music if you don’t see good money from it. That’s just sad.

That kind of thinking goes against not just art, but why God gave us our talents in the first place. He didn’t say, “Here are talents to use and share with the world…but only if YouTube and Spotify pay well!”

“Music is the universal language of mankind.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I believe our talents are our voice and our gift to the world. Everyone deserves, maybe even needs, to hear our songs even if they only get to listen once or come across it in a Facebook feed.

Your music may never pay the bills, but it may the music that soothes someone’s soul or pushes someone to pursue music themselves. What’s the cost/benefit ratio there? Is it worth it if you bring happiness, fulfillment, and joy to someone, even if you don’t get paid for it?

“If you can do anything else other than music, do that instead.”  ― Well known music quote.

Those of us who do music consistently (and sometimes for an attempt at a living) do it because we can’t NOT do it. We can’t possibly shut it off, stop the music from coming out, or not want to share it with the world.

For those of us like this, there is no way to wake up every day for the rest of our lives and just not do music. YES, of course we want to be paid well for our efforts, but if it does not, should we quit making it?

What I’d say to Roger is, if you can quit doing music, then maybe you should go do other things. Who are you, indeed!

“There is hardly any money interest in art, and music will be there when money is gone.” – Duke Ellington

Have a great week!

EC

Eric Copeland happens to make a living through music, but not necessarily his own. But he still makes what he feels he must and gets it out to the world. You can find out more at http://www.EricCopelandMusic.com

How Recordings Changed New Music

37924378_m“It’s the latest popular song,” declared the phonograph, speaking in a sulky tone of voice. “A popular song?” “Yes. One that the feeble-minded can remember the words of and those ignorant of music can whistle or sing. That makes a popular song popular, and the time is coming when it will take the place of all other songs.” – L. Frank Baum

Before the late 1800s the only way you heard music was if you went to hear it live, or someone was playing the piano in the home. So you actively went to hear chamber music, or opera, or other live events to hear the newest music. It was very much the same as when a new movie comes out. We are going to consume something new and we hope exciting. (More on that in a minute.)

But with the invention of the phonograph, suddenly you could have a recording of a song you loved and play it over and over. Thus the first century of recorded music was born, and so was an industry. Phonographs, and then the radio brought music to listeners so they could hear their songs all the time and fall in love with tunes.

“As recently as the late nineteenth century, even the most devoted music lover might hear his or her favourite piece just three or four times in his or her whole life. Unless you happened to be a virtuoso musician with access to both sheet music and instruments, it was almost impossible to bring large-scale forms of music into your own home. Not until the dawn of recording and radio technology did our ancestors have any great choice as to what they listened to and when.” – Howard Goodall

With so much recorded music available for people to consume, the tastes changed for what they wanted to hear at live concerts. No longer were they going to hear a concert to hear new music. Now they were going to hear their favorite recorded song.

Audiences began to (and still do) demand these favorites in concert, rather than new, original pieces by artists. This changed the way new music was introduced forever, and still holds today.

Amazing popular composers like Billy Joel, Elton John, and the Eagles aren’t actively writing and recording new songs because they know fans don’t really want to hear new songs when they go to their concerts. It’s not much different for current artists like Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, big bands or cover bands. Modern concert audiences want to hear what they’ve already heard recorded, not the newest thing the artists are working on.

To be honest there is much more money in live performance for artists, especially today. Why spend time writing, recording, and marketing new material that will bring in little in royalties, if you can just hook a tour, repackage, and keep selling the old stuff while making a tidy profit?

This Ain’t the Movies

“There’s no business like show business!” – Irving Berlin

The film industry has worked out a unique strategy that keeps money flowing quite well. It releases its newest movies mainly in stages. They start with a big blowout, large theatrical release, then it goes to smaller screen theaters, then to pay per view, then DVD/Bluray, then Netflix, cable, broadcast, etc). It’s an amazing cycle of marketing opportunities and makes money every step of the way.

New music has been introduced for more than a century as a recorded form that people are inundated with first. Sure there still may be some orchestral works that have live premieres, but popular music by and large is blasted out to ears whether they want it or not. And those that have the deepest pockets get their music heard the most.

Don’t think people haven’t tried to think of ways of doing this “windowing” technique and trying to release music to CD then downloads then streaming. It just hasn’t and won’t work. People now want to stream it the minute it is released. It’s not about convenience for the artist or label, it’s about the wants and needs of the consumer.

The funny part of all this is that recorded music had an unparalleled run through the last century, due in part to technology starting with the phonograph through the CD. But the tech of this century has now put us in a quandary on the future of the whole recording industry.

Will we ever go back to hearing (or wanting) new music live again? Or will we continue to depend on media tastemakers to tell us what the best new music is?

Your thoughts (and best guesses!) are welcome.

“So people will come along and do new things and sometimes return to the spirit of an earlier age.” – Norman McLaren

Have a great week!

EC

John Eric Copeland is not a musicologist, or a fortune teller, but through the writings and community of Music History Matters, he can look back and see the parallels and lessons of the past in music today.