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BBQ: Ether Game Playlist

The Ether Game Brain Trust fired up the grill this week with a show called "BBQ." For each of nine selections, each composer's last name began with either a B, another B or a Q, in that order. Browse below to see how it all played out over three sets of BBQ! 

Georges Bizet (1838-1875) L'Arlesienne: Extracts from the Incidental Music Bizet created the orchestral suite we just listened to from music he wrote for Alphonse Daudet’s play L’Arlésienne. The play follows a real event in the life of the poet Mistral, whose young relative had  killed himself over a heartless girl. Bizet borrows several features from the Baroque dance suite for this work, such as a lively prelude to kick off the music. This prelude would later become the most famous melody from the collection. Known as Farandole and often attributed to Bizet, it’s actually borrowed from a French Christmas carol entitled The March of the Kings. 

Burt Bacharach (1928-2023 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head From the late 1950s through most of the 1970s, Burt Bacharach became one of the most successful songwriters to come out of the Brill Building, a songwriting factory near Times Square in New York City. Bacharach and his frequent collaborator Hal David wrote over seventy top 40 hits during the next several decades, which is interesting because Bacharach’s songs are much more complex than your average pop song, often with odd chord progressions, weird phrasing, and changes in meter. Over the years, Bacharach has worked with many different musicians other than Hal David, including Elvis Costello, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, and  Dionne Warwick.

Johann Joachim Quantz (1697-1773) Flute Concerto in G: III. Allegro vivace Johann Joachim Quantz is remembered not only for his music, but for his writings, which included volumes of advice for amateur musicians and a treatise titled “On Playing the Flute.” Quantz himself was a flutist, and taught one of the most notable amateur flutists, Frederick the Great. Quantz was employed as a composer and teacher in the royal court, and he was the only person allowed to criticize the King’s playing. Quantz was also an instrument maker. He changed the hole and key placement of his flutes to improve their intonation and playability. In the Classical period, flutes were not made of metal as they are now, but of wood, ivory, bone, or a combination. They had only a few keys, and as a result could not play in multiple key signatures with as much ease as modern instruments.

Frank Bridge (1879-1941) Enter Spring Frank Bridge’s symphonic rhapsody Enter Spring comes from the later period of his compositional career. As one of his major post-war works, the piece exhibits his gradual move into writing more daring and radical harmonies, which marginalized him from the attention enjoyed by British composers in the 1920’s who focused on an idyllic pastoral aesthetic used as a means of escapism from the horrors of World War I. However, it was a rare performance of Enter Spring that Benjamin Britten heard at age 14 which proved to be formative in inspiring him to become a composer, and seek Bridge out to teach him composition. Britten would be an ardent supporter of his teacher’s work, and caused a revival of interest in Frank Bridge’s music in the 1970’s where Enter Spring became appreciated in its own right as a masterpiece of British inter-war music.

Alban Berg (1885-1935) Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6 If you heard WFIU’s broadcast of Berg’s opera Wozzeck (VOTT-Seck) last weekend, then this music might sound a little familiar. Berg’s Three Pieces for Orchestra were completed right before he began writing Wozzeck, and were, in fact, his first major foray into large-scale orchestral writing. Berg accepted a challenge from his teacher Arnold Schoenberg, who had bemoaned the fact that before 1914, Berg had not attempted any large-scale works. The real challenge in this music however,  is its performance. Berg makes virtuosic demands on all sections of the orchestra, particularly the brass, and for this reason the Three Pieces are seldom performed. We listened to the prelude, in which the composer takes the the piece’s title quite literally. From silence emerges primeval sound, and from this, organized music, only to fade away again at the end into percussion. 

Roger Quilter (1877-1953) Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal: Go, Lovely Rose While the golden age of German Lieder was in the early 19th-century, encompassing the songs of Franz Schubert and Robert Schumann, the golden age of British song was about a century later, spanning from the late Victorian era to the outbreak of World War II. The new generation of British composers at this time including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Benjamin Britten, Arthur Somervell, and Roger Quilter, all explored the art of song. Roger Quilter’s song “Now Sleeps the Crimson Petal” uses poetry from Victorian poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and the text to his song “Go, Lovely Rose” was by 17th-century poet Edmund Waller. Quilter composed songs almost exclusively, and in his day he was championed by the most popular British tenor at the time, Gervase Elwes. 

Luciano Berio (1925-2003) Sequenza XI for Guitar In 1958 the Italian composer Luciano Berio embarked on composing a series of musical “sequenzas,” each focusing on a different solo instrument, starting with the flute. These 14 sequenzas express Berio’s fascination with virtuosity. For Berio, virtuosity represented not just technical dexterity, but also acute musical intelligence. Broadly speaking, the sequences in these compositions refer to a series of harmonic fields over which Berio has experimented with melodic and harmonic potential. This becomes infinitely more complex by requiring the performer to know extra-physical aspects and extended non-melodic techniques for playing, as well as even the entire cultural history of their instrument, as Berio mixes references to historical styles as well as modern techniques.

Antoine Busnois (c.1430-1492) Missa L'homme armé L’homme Armé, or the “Armed Man,” was a song melody that many composers used as the basis for mass and motet compositions. The origins of the tune are murky, but many think that it was written by Burgundian composer Antoine Busnois. Busnois' own L'homme Armé mass is one of the most influential works of the 15th century. He’s credited with introducing techniques in this mass, such as pervasive imitation, that would become style hallmarks of hugely popular 16th-century composers such as Josquin Desprez and Palestrina, both of whom would also write their own L'homme Armé masses.

Questlove/Black Thought The Fire  In 1989, drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson performed with friend and rapper Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter in a Philadelphia high school talent show under the name Radio Activity. It was the first organized gig of the musical collaboration that would later become known as the Square Roots. Then in 1992, after the addition of more bandmates, simply, The Roots. What was first Questlove drumming on plastic buckets while Black Thought rapped and busked, became a 12-musician, undeniable hip-hop force by 2013, when they were certified platinum. The Roots are now known for their eclectic sound, using live musicians rather than sampling, and mixing hip hop and rap with jazz, funk, soul and gospel. The Fire is the 11th track from their ninth studio album How I Got Over, which features a departure from the band’s high energy sound for a more somber tone, and a running theme of self-determination.

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