Lost in Brahms
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
1M ago
Four or five days ago, a Facebook friend posted an image of the opening two pages from the finale of Brahms German Requiem. Alongside, he wrote: "I've just spent 55 minutes on these nine bars. The downbeats evaporate at m. 5 like a bubble popping...." Part of the experience of being a musician is getting happily lost in a tiny bit of music. Or maybe not always happily. I and, I'm sure, many other music students have memories of lessons where the teacher somehow never got past the opening bars. Although the purpose of such microscopic focus is to make sure everything is good under the hood ..read more
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Sound Tracks
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
1M ago
I was flying back to Boston from Atlanta Friday night, and by good fortune had a port side window seat in front of the wing. I hadn't thought much of the view I might get on this budget Spirit Airlines flight, but as we descended from clouds into the Greater Boston area, I started noticing I could see a lot of detail out the side, although honestly the window looked too small and smudgey to think I could do any worthwhile photography. I took a few phone photos that looked pretty bad and kind of put the idea way.  Then as I started seeing the Boston skyline way in the distance, I thought t ..read more
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Preluding and Fuguing
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
2M ago
Only a couple of days before Christmas, I mentioned using a "make myself write a fugue trick" by submitting a title for a work that did not yet exist for the Christmas Eve service leaflets. I suppose this trick works because it's very easy to commit by email to doing something, and I know that once the paper is printed, I will have successfully backed myself into a corner. It's even possible that I have done this in the past because it's easier in the moment to commit to writing something (which ultimately will take a lot of time) than it might be to find an alternative piece to play. I might ..read more
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Seventeen, Going on Eighteen
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
4M ago
No time for a major post to celebrate this blog's seventeenth anniversary. But I thought I'd post this fun video I made a little over a year ago. It's been on my list of things to blog about for all of that time, and I'd still like to say more about it, but the basics are as follows: I'd created a worksheet for an Intro to Music Theory class which provided a series of arpeggios. The students' job was to identify the triad quality represented by each arpeggio. As usual with a worksheet, I made some effort to create a semi-random sequence of triads so there wouldn't be any obvious pattern to hel ..read more
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Whose Fault Is It Anyway?
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
4M ago
One of my favorite parts of teaching middle school boys the past five years is that we spend a quarter of every fall semester slow-watching Into the Woods. In my opinion, it's a perfect musical for this transitional age - a show that is constantly exploring what lies "in-between" the safety and familiarity of childhood/home and the excitement and danger found in wishing for more freedom and responsibility.  Every middle schooler lives in this transition between kid and grownup. In addition to watching, we do multiple projects which give the students a hands-on opportunity to engage with S ..read more
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Once upon a time...
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
5M ago
Once upon a time, I wrote my first twenty-first century fugue back in December, 2015. (I do have one ancient twentieth century fugue as well.) I've played this fugue at some point just about every year since, but have never been happy with the original piano recording I made on an out-of-tune piano. So, the other day when I found time on a beautiful Steinway to record my new "O come, all ye faithful" fugue, I did a few takes of Fugue in Royal David's City and definitely improved on the old version. (A better organ version is still on the to-do list.)  Just in case you don't know ..read more
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'Tis the Season
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
6M ago
Back in 2014, the 50th anniversary year for Terry Riley's iconic aleatoric masterpiece In C, I was inspired by a pun (as so often) to create a holiday homage. It may have been that the pulsing C's which traditionally anchor performances of Riley's work first reminded me of jingle bells. I can't remember for sure, but once I made the "In C  → In Season" connection, there was no going back. Best of all, I think it really works. Rather than the 53 generic riffs in C Major that Riley devised, I used melodic snippets based on well-known seasonal tunes. Thus, part of the game of liste ..read more
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Sondheim Slanted Evening
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
7M ago
Hopefully the post title is reason enough to be wary of where we're headed here. Just two years and one day ago, I was writing a tribute to the remarkable creative force behind Company, Sweeney Todd, and Into the Woods, and here I am presenting a couple of silly distortions of his exquisite musical/lyrical ideas. But it certainly comes from a place of affection. First up, a couple of months ago, I mentioned seeing just a two-bar cadential figure shown in a question on a Facebook group and I knew at once I'd played this flourish. It took me a bit of time to realize it's the closing gesture (he ..read more
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Concentric Circles: Nardini → Kreisler
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
7M ago
Time and again, I return here because of some happenstance by which I make unexpected connections between two works. We've had: Stravinsky and Copland Copland and Mendelssohn Beethoven and Strauss Shostakovich and Vaughan Williams Britten and Ives Jackson and Menken In the last few weeks, I've been doing a lot of accompanying of young string players, and it's provided opportunity for a couple of unexpected new discoveries. The first connection came up two weeks ago when I had back-to-back rehearsals for a concerto competition with a violinist playing the first movement of Prokofiev's first c ..read more
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It talks!
MMmusing
by MICHAEL MONROE
8M ago
Just to put a bow on my previous post, I'm back with one more version of my Erlkönig in G Major. Though it might seem I'd taken this as far as I could, there was still a level of horror to unlock: have a creepy synth voice sing the new "translation" I'd made to go with the major/minor tonality flips. (Please don't mention that there is theoretically yet another step, which would be to have a real person sing this.) So, what better day than October 31 to prove that Schubert had only begun to explore the darkness in his iconic song? There is lovely irony in the fact that turning the tune to majo ..read more
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