Bach Progress – Update I

The Bach Translation project proceeds apace.

This morning, I completed the translation of cantata BWV 140, which is probably one of his best (and is definitely one of my favourites). Cantatas 141 and 142 weren’t written by Bach, so BWV 143 is next off the runway.

Given that I declared BWV 100 done on July 16th and it’s now August 8th… well, I make that 43 cantatas (there’s a 120a as well as a 120!) done in 23 Read More...

The Classical CD Ripper, Version 3

The Classical CD Ripper (CCDR) has been updated and a new version (Version 3.0, for anyone keeping count!) is now available for download. Upgrading consists of merely deleting your existing copy of the shell script, downloading the new one in its place, and remembering to make it executable (chmod +x

The changes from the previous version are extensive. Out goes all the coloured text and other attempts to prettify its output: it’s a text-based application, so deal with it!

Out,

A Universal Audio Converter

This blog post’s title is a bit of a stretch! For starters, I almost exclusively use FLAC audio files for my primary music store, so my need to be able to handle other audio formats is not exactly great. Still less do I need to handle so many different audio formats that you could describe a tool that handles them all as truly ‘universal’!

But I do have need to create MP3 copies of my FLAC music files -because I upload them to OneDrive and am able to play them from Read More...

Mozart: finis!

Today would have been Mozart’s 264th birthday… and, quite by chance, it happens also to be the day that I’ve finally finished the first draft of the new Dizwell catalogue of his works.

The last few vocal works have now been excerpted and incipits found for each of them, so that makes 674 incipits prepared, uploaded and applied to the database, along with 635 40-second audio excerpts for most items. (The difference between the two numbers is that there are a handful of works Read More...

Mozart: A Progress Report

Having begun the process of re-cataloguing my collection of Mozart music just before Christmas (see the previous blog post), I thought it about time I posted a bit of a progress report. Naturally, what began as merely an exercise in re-naming things (for example, ‘Requiem, K626’ would become ‘DZ 02082 Requiem’ using the new Dizwell numbering scheme), rapidly became a full-on musicological cataloguing Read More...

How are your Köchels?

In the world of musicology, I doubt anyone is quite so famous as Ludwig Ritter von Köchel, pictured left. That’s because he catalogued Mozart’s music in the 1860s and thus bestowed on every Mozart composition then known the ‘K’ numbers that have adorned them ever since. Mozart, of course, being the veritable God of classical music, Herr Köchel therefore has acquired some of his glory by reflection!

So, whilst non-musicologists might talk about Mozart’s Symphony

Windows Music Players

I am old enough to remember that my first experiences of listening to serious music on serious equipment involved visits to my brother-in-law and borrowing his component hifi for the afternoon!

I “progressed” from that to, in the late eighties, listening on my very own ‘integrated’ hifi (which, given my income levels at the time, was pushing the term ‘hifi’ to its limits, I now realise!)

So what does the listening equipment look like in these days of digital Read More...

Getting Started with Classical Music

When you want to begin listening to classical music, how do you get started? Which pieces or composers are essential to the point of being almost ‘compulsory’ and which aren’t?

Well, to begin with, I should state very clearly that there is absolutely no compulsion for anybody to like every, or any, particular piece of classical music! Each of us has individual tastes and what is glorious and wonderful to one person is found to be tedious and discordant to another.

It is, however,

What is Classical Music?

As this website is all about listening to “classical music”, I thought I’d better start off by defining what exactly is meant by the phrase, ‘classical music’, at least when this website uses it!

At its broadest, the term ‘classical music’ means something that sounds like this:

…or potentially like this:

The first of those samples was written around 925; the second in around 1979. There’s getting on for 1000 years of history between the two …yet both are usually thought to be examples of ‘classical music’ (and both might be played on BBC Radio 3, which might thought to be another defining characteristic of all ‘classical music’!)

But using the one term to cover both pieces (and everything in between, written over a thousand years or so) is, I think, stretching language beyond the point where it remains meaningful.

It doesn’t help, either, that there is a period within that thousand-year history when genuinely “Classical” music (with a capital C!) was being written, by the likes of Mozart and Haydn. The truly Classical period, in art, architecture and music, was the few decades around the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, sandwiched between the Baroque and the Romantic periods.

So, we are cursed with using the term ‘classical music’ when we want to refer to any piece of music that could have been written any time in the last thousand years -or maybe within just the 40-odd years either side of the turn of the 19th century. It’s not really a very helpful term, then, is it?!

It is because of the manifest absurdity of using one term to mean pretty much anything musical written in the past thousand years that other terms are sometimes used in its place, such as ‘Art music’ or ‘Serious music’… but those have their own problems: is a 19th century comic opera ‘serious music’, for starters?! And isn’t Jazz just as much a legitimate art form as a violin concerto by Mozart?

But let me take one word from that last paragraph as the real key to what we’re talking about here: “written”. That which we call ‘classical music’ is all, for the most part, written down, on a stave (or staff), indicating pitch, note durations and rhythm. Classical music is a literate form of music -in a way that, for example, ‘pop’ music rarely is. Compare Beethoven’s ability to write down the music of his 9th Symphony when completely deaf -the same notes we play today in much the same way as Beethoven intended with his ‘inner ear’- to the way the Beatles ‘wrote’ their music, for example:

In their early years, Lennon and McCartney wrote songs together and one of their rules was that if they wrote a song but then couldn’t remember how it went, they’d junk it. Since they were trying to write songs that were catchy, this rule worked very well. They wrote words down and changed them on the page, and they might scribble guitar chord names above the words, but as far as the tunes and guitar parts were concerned, they just remembered them.