Show 251: Listening Guide

From the Top’s broadcast for Show 251 was taped in Hosmer Concert Hall at Crane School of Music-SUNY Potsdam on Saturday, April 21, 2012. We asked our performers to tell us about the music they performed on the show:

John Lee, cello, 17
Dance of the Green Devil
By: Gaspar Cassado

I knew what a devil was, and I knew what a red devil was, but a green devil? Not so much. After scouring through pages about green devil tattoos, green devil designs and the boss in the MegaMan game series, I gave up my search
and decided that the green-ness described the devil’s playfulness and quirky nature. But I was not satisfied, so I headed back to Google and finally hit the jackpot: the devil wears green, just as hunter wear camouflage, to hide among men and capture their souls. Indeed, Cassado captures this wily nature of the green devil: quick, tricky, and hard to find on Google.

For me, the most difficult task was also the most enjoyable one: delivering a portrayal of the green devil. From the tip-toeing of the bow to the blood-boiling runs to the shockingly celestial glissandos, the piece itself provides a framework of the devil. However, the artist has the job of coloring that framework green and filling the piece with the emotion of the devil itself.

Post Show Reflection: My favorite memory was definitely the interview with Chris on stage – I’ve never felt so refreshed and excited to speak to an audience. The performance was a wonderful experience for me, both as a musician and a person. Being onstage was so exciting and I would do almost anything to relive that moment.

I believe that music has the ability to reach into the hearts and minds of people as human and create another world in which we can flourish and there.

Avery Gagliano, piano, 10
“The Cat and the Mouse”
By: Aaron Copland

I think Aaron Copland’s “The Cat and the Mouse” is very energetic, fun, and exciting. When I play this piece, I tell the story of “The Cat and the Mouse” and picture in my mind an exaggerated cartoon. The music makes me think about the cartoon Tom and Jerry: I see images of cats pouncing, mice skittering, and everybody going around and around. The story behind this piece of music is about a cat and a mouse that always fight: from dawn to dusk they bicker until one day, the cat retires for the day and lounges around admiring himself, feeling all confident and superior. All of a sudden, the mouse takes advantage of the moment thinking that he might be able to get a snack or do something exciting. Then, the cat follows and begins to chase the mouse again. In the end, the cat and the mouse move on to live new lives in separate places, but there is still a little bit of their energy and excitement left in the old house they used to live in, which is represented by a little tinkering in the last few notes.

Since the music of “The Cat and the Mouse” is so wild and creative, I can experiment a lot with it. It is full of false harmonies (meaning harmonies that don’t really sound harmonic), and many other interesting things you can observe in the music. For example, there is sometimes a moment when everything begins to speed up and then all of a sudden, it slows down again and hushes up. Things like this make me love “The Cat and the Mouse” and I think it is a great piece to play.

I also find “The Cat and Mouse” extremely catchy. I am attracted to it partially because it reflects my own character. I usually find all pieces easy to communicate with but this piece caught my attention immediately. For me, the most important thing to do in order to play well is to tell a story through the music, and to bring out all the juice inside of it. Other pieces I have played besides “The Cat and the Mouse” take a longer time for me to find and unravel their stories. This piece has a story that comes naturally and quickly. It isn’t very melodic and singable, unlike most pieces that are composed for dance, singing, etc. Instead, “The Cat and the Mouse” is straightforward, telling the story right away; this is why it is so special and unique to me.

Post Show Reflection:

Over-all, I had an amazing experience participating on From The Top. My favorite moments were the pizza party on Friday (it was awesome!) and being on the show. The actual performance was simply amazing! I felt comfortable and quite relaxed. Before going onstage, I was nervous, but when I walked onto the stage to perform, I felt mentally prepared in a way I’ve never felt before. Everything was so enjoyable.  

I believe that music has the power to do anything. It changes so many people’s lives and is completely unpredictable. I believe that depending on the situations, music is capable of doing so many different and wonderful things. One other thing that I cannot forget about music is that besides changing my life, it has brought to me new joy and inspiration that has made my life more valuable. This is why I am thankful and grateful for the gift of music.

Margaux Filet, flute, 18
By: George Enescu

The Cantabile is serene and graceful.  When I listen to this piece, I think of a person walking through a garden in the springtime, marveling at the gorgeous array of flowers and taking in the beautiful scenery. The person at this point in time doesn’t have a care in the world.

I remember one night after coming home late from an orchestra rehearsal, my mother told me that she found a really great YouTube video of Ron Paul playing the Cantabile by Georges Enescu. I thought that was kind of strange and intriguing that a presidential candidate played the flute. When I looked at her inquisitively, she was puzzled and asked what was so odd about Ron Paul playing the flute. After a minute or so I asked if she meant Rampal, as in Jean-Pierre Rampal.  It turns out that the YouTube video was of Jean-Pierre Rampal playing Cantabile. We both had a good laugh when we realized the error in communication. Just out of curiosity, we checked online to see Ron Paul plays an instrument: it doesn’t appear that the flute or any other instruments are fundamental to the success of his campaign strategy.

The most difficult aspect of this piece is making the phrase lines long, smooth and graceful. It is very easy to accent the unimportant notes.  I find that singing my part has really helped me understand musically how to convey the beauty of the piece to my audience. Sometimes I even sing and play the flute at the same time; I find that helps focus my sound.

Post Show Reflection: The outreach at the high schools was a favorite memory for me! I enjoyed talking to the students about music and sharing several pieces with them. They seemed to be really engaged with the entire presentation. The show was definitely the highlight out of the three-day experience. I was definitely a little nervous but mostly excited to perform for everyone and to share my story. Mr. O’ Riley made me feel more at ease with his enthusiastic personality. It was quite an experience to walk out on stage with all of the recording equipment and to see a full house. I enjoyed every moment of the show and I will cherish this phenomenal performance opportunity forever!

This show reinforced the idea that music can help others feel better about themselves and the world around them. Music makes us aware of what is important in life and helps makes us better citizens.  I believe Plato, aptly describes the power of music when he says, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.”

Quartet Al Dente
I. Allegro Rustico from String Quartet No.2, op. 26
By: Alberto Ginastera

Ade Williams, violin, 14

I love the Ginastera! I love how it’s so intense. To me it sounds sort of like a rock song combined with a really uncertain, anticipating melody. I think the story of this piece is a horror movie because the chords are chaotic and remind me of Shostakovich.

This is the first modern string quartet I’ve ever played! The first time I heard this piece was last year on tour with the Sphinx Virtuosi, and I immediately wanted to play it. The hardest part of this piece is playing together. Usually we’re divided two and two with rhythm, with one group being just one eighth note off from the other; so if you find yourself together with other group, then it’s very likely to fall apart.

Post Show Reflection: I loved performing in front of the live audience and having to take three bows because they liked it so much! It was an amazing feeling! I’ve never performed in front of a live audience and get recorded at the same time. I loved it. It was also the first time performing the Ginastera!

I believe music has the power to make you happy, sad, in love, angry, etc. I believe that it can heal you emotionally and physically.

Claire Bourg, violin, 17

This piece is extremely intense right off the bat. The rhythm is very catchy and small changes that occur every once and a while can throw everyone off sometimes! When I am playing it, I sometimes feel like I am hurting my violin, because it is so loud and powerful! Because everything moves so quickly, I think about being in a car that is going so fast the images outside the windows are a blur!

This is such a unique and rustic piece. It is relentless and requires such teamwork to play, because the four of us are in unison a lot. While there is a clear theme, I am used to playing pieces with some sort of melodic theme, but this piece is just crazy! There is one rhythmic section where the violins’ are opposite along with viola and cello, and it is nearly impossible to nail! We had to practice four measures like 600 times!

Post Show Reflection: Performing on the show was my favorite memory, in front of a live audience. It was so much fun just playing music and having such a responsive audience that got into it! Surprisingly, my nerves went away on stage and it was just all about playing music and having a great time. At times, it was nice to look out into the audience and see people really having a good experience listening.

I believe music has the power to bring the entire world together. It is such a strong thing that brings all different types of people together.

Caitlin Adamson, viola, 16

I love the intensity in this music. Even though the piece keeps you on your toes the entire time, it has unparalleled intensity that is unlike any lyrical melodies. In order to create the intense feeling that Ginastera conveys, he uses pairings of instruments and plays them off of one another resulting in a very complex musical experience.

This piece has a more rhythmic feel similar Smetana. While there are slower more lyrical passages, most of the piece is percussive and groove. It is almost impossible to count in the Ginastera because it just makes it more complicated. You really have to get the feeling for it.

Post Show Reflection: The performance was definitely the favorite memory for me; hearing the audience laugh at what we said was so rewarding. I felt like what we said really connected to them. Performing on that stage was incredibly comfortable. The audience was so alive and we fed off of their fantastic energy.

Music has the power to change people. It can help make the world a better place to just be you. Music is all about free expression and putting yourself out there in your most natural form.

Tara Safavi, cello, 16

This piece in very rustic and quite different than anything I’ve ever played before. There’s nothing elegant or polished about it, but that’s what makes it fun to play. It’s “fast-stomping” music – when I listen to it or play it, I image Argentinean cowboys (Gauchos) riding their horses across the plains of South America. The moods in this piece alternate between violent and calm, which to me evokes a storm with brief interludes of quiet between thunderclaps.

This piece is especially difficult rhythmically because we all have to stay together as a quartet, and yet play different rhythmic figures correctly. For example, in one section I am counting in groups of 4 while the others are counting in groups of three, and we have to simultaneously pay attention to our group mates but not play the same rhythm as each other. It can get really confusing, but when it all fits together it’s really rewarding!

Post Show Reflection: Playing on stage in the live recording was definitely the highlight of my weekend. The audience was great and I was incredibly proud of the group for all of our hard work. The interview with Christopher O’Riley was a lot of fun too because we got to describe the Ginastera as “relentless rock music”. Knowing that we made other people happy makes me happy. The audience gave us such great energy, and we completely reacted off of that energy. We gave it our all and really enjoyed every second of it. I don’t think any of us were nervous – we were having way too much fun. By the time the piece was over, I think we were all physically exhausted. We also lost quite a few bow hairs in the process!

Music has the power to alter one’s perception of the world. When you are first introduced to music, you are introduced to a whole different way of life. Music is a really powerful form of expression; it is often said that music takes over where words fail. That is how I can view music’s power.

Jieming Tang, violin, 14
Melodie, Op 42, No. 3
By: Peter IIyich Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky’s Melodie is one of my most favorite pieces. It sings of sweet remembrance. This piece comprises of three sections. My favorite parts are the first and third sections which feature the beautiful violin melodies stretching out in dreaminess. The third section is more passionate and diverse with a sentimental conclusion. I enjoy playing it very much. Every time I play this touching piece, I can feel a warm current flowing through my whole body.

This is a short piece of music, but it contains so many dramatic points which offer a great deal of room for the performer’s own creative interpretation and expression. I think this is what makes this piece very special. It is full of diversity and smoothness throughout the whole piece which make playing it a very natural enjoyment. I think smoothness is the most important and the hardest thing for me to go for.

Post Show Reflection: The actual concert was fun and exciting. I kept reminding myself to present my best music to the audience when I was on the stage, but I still was a little nervous. A favorite moment for me was when we partied after the show.

Music can purify people’s souls.