Educational Shows

Popular Music Through the Ages

What is ‘Classical Music’? Its symphonies and stuff, right? What is pop music? It’s any music that is cool and your parents don’t like, right? Well, we’re here to try to blur those boundaries. At its root, classical music is well… ‘classic’; it is music that has stood the test of time is still played long after its creators are gone. It often means music of European extraction, played by certain instruments, but you’ll see that often the music we consider classical, was really just good pop music when it was written.

Traditional classical, Opera was greatest hits of the day
La Forza del Destino by Giuseppi Verdi
This first piece is your traditional classical music; it’s the overture to an opera by Giuseppi Verdi called ‘La Forza del Destino (the force of destiny)’ and was premiered in 1862 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Lots of emotion, traditional instruments, organized, hard to play, right? Not pop music… believe it or not Opera was the social and entertainment highlight of the times. Anyone who was anyone went to the Opera and the Overture was basically the ‘greatest hits’ included in the rest of the show. You just heard the Top 40 count down from 1897.

Music in the home, entertainment
To a Wild Rose by Edward McDowell
Well if you couldn’t go to the opera, like almost everyone in America at the time, what did you do for entertainment in 1897? Remember this is before I-pods, movies, the invention of tv, or even radio. Hopefully a friend or family member was musically talented. This next work, written by Edward McDowell, an American born in New York, was originally written for piano and would not only have been played in concert halls, but at peoples homes to entertain each other. It is simple and pretty, the kind of song almost everyone can enjoy, and was one of the most popular tunes of the day.

Music for dancing
Minute Waltz by Federic Chopin
Most music, especially popular music is written to serve a purpose; and one of the most common is to accompany dancing. For most of the 19th century your social standing was determined by your ability to dance such dances as the waltz. Today, if you want to have your song to be a hit, you’d write it so it could be played in a dance club, or be moshed to at a concert. In the 1800’s everyone was familiar with the waltz, and so would understand the style and mood of this piece: the Minute (really he meant minute) Waltz by Polish composer Frederic Chopin.

Dance music, borrowing foreign influence
Libertango by Astor Piazzolla
This is another work inspired by dance music, only this time instead of coming from Europe, it is a Tango from Argentina written by Astor Piazzolla. Musicians have always used the sounds of the music around them, Piazzolla studied in Europe and wrote many ‘classical’ pieces but his true talent lay in incorporating the music of his home and culture. Emotion is at the heart of all music and one of the reasons for this style’s popularity is the smoldering passion just under the surface. Feel the energetic pulse in the music, what kind of mood do you suppose this dance inspires? Would you tango with your grandmother?

Inclusion of blues/jazz folk elements
Summertime from Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin
This next pieces comes from another opera, Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin. Gershwin borrowed the sounds of the blues and early jazz including mutes, growls, swing rhythms and put it into classical forms. This is high art using popular music, and the formula has paid off… it has been performed millions of times by classical groups, blues, jazz, pop, even punk bands… The big innovation and novelty is the back-beat feel; the emphasis in the beats in on 2 and 4. Why don’t you snap along and help us highlight this.

Dance music elevated to art
Ellington Medley
This originally was popular dance music in the 1930’s, but became so popular and was so well written that it has become as highly regarded as any classical piece. Just like rock bands today, Ellington toured the world with his band, playing at bars, dance halls, concert stages, anywhere people could gather to hear them. At the time the dancing and gathering of young crowds caused as much controversy as any artists today, some people thought it was corrupting the youth and destroying music? You can still feel the bounce and energy in the music 80 years later. And you tell me… did it ruin America?

Foreign music using our pop influences, latin/jazz
Manea Tiganilor as performed by Fanfare Ciocarli
This next piece is dance music from Romania, but it isn’t classical music. It uses instruments usually associated with classical music, but is based on folk music and popular influences. The title, Manea, usually implies bad neighborhoods and young people bragging about their romantic skills. They have borrowed Latin and Pop influences and combined it with their own traditions. This is the Manea Tiganilor, aka the Underground Cocek. The basic feel is the same as the tango *clap rhythm*.

Contemporary Popular tune using foreign influences
Baby Boy by Beyonce
This next piece was written in 2003 and is another dance piece that uses different influences. It has Arabic/Middle Eastern Rhythms and Melodies and combines them with with contemporary R&B and Jamaican Dancehall. feat. Sean Paul and with writing credits from Scott Storch, Robert Waller, and Jay-Z this is Beyonce’s Baby Boy Let us leave you with this question, will Beyonce be classical music to your kids? your grand-kids? Will we sit down in a concert hall to listen to My Chemical Romance? It’s already happened to Jazz and a lot of—get ready—‘Classic’ rock. Maybe your kids will rock out to music like opera, or maybe not.

Contemporary Pop tune played by classical musicians
Sugar We're Going Down by Fall Out Boy


Music from the Macrabe

Theme from Beetlejuice (1988) by Danny Elfman (1953-)
Theme from Halloween (1978) by John Carpenter (1948-)
In Evening Air (1966) by Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
Will 'o the Wisp from Woodland Sketches, Op. 5 by Edward MacDowell (1860-1908)
Toccata and Fugue in Dm, BWV. 565 by J.S. Bach (1685-1750)
Castlevania Suite (1987) by Masahiro Kimura, Motoaki Furukawa, from Konami's Akumajo Dorakyura for Nintendo and Mariko Egawa
Der Erlkonig, Opus 1 D. 328 by Franz Schubert (1797-1828)
A Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881)
Ave Dulcissima Maria by Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613)
Round Midnight (1944) by Thelonius Monk (1917-1982), arr. L. Pilzer


Of Birds and Flight

“The Cuckoo and the Nightingale” from Organ Concerto #13 in F major HWV 295 by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759), arr. Kofoed
Green Finch and Linnet Bird from Sweeney Todd by Stephen Sondheim (b. 1930)
The Greedy Hawk from Songs of sundrie natures, no.14 by William Byrd (1540-1623)
Siegfried and the Woodbird by Richard Wagner (1813-1883), arr.Kofoed
Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks, from Pictures at an Exhibition by Modest Mussorgsky (1839-1881), arr. Kofoed
Three lovely birds from paradise by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
Die Nachtigall attr. F. J. Haydn (1732-1809)
Pilentse Pee (The Nightingale) by Krassimir Kyurkchiyski (b. 1936)
Green Bird from Cowboy Bebop by Yoko Kanno (b. 1964)
Birdland by Joe Zawinul (1932-2007)
I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly (b. 1967)


Music Inspired by Autumn

Autumn Concerto, Movement III by Antonio Vivaldi
Otono Porteno by Astor Piazzolla
Harvest Moon by Neil Young
Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin
Erntelied by Franz Schubert
In Autumn by Edward MacDowell
October Song by Tchaikowsky September Song by Wiell
Bayerischer Defiliermarsch
Ein Prosit variations