Category Archives: Music

Video of the Week: The Turkish Rondo as You’ve Never Heard It Before


Edvard Grieg


At  an early age, Edvard Grieg (Norwegian, June 15, 1843—September 4, 1907) showed a strong interest in playing the piano. He spent hours sitting at the piano, picking out melodies and making up his own songs. While his father groomed Edvard’s brother John to take over the family mercantile business, his mother cultivated Edvard’s interest in music. He wasn’t a cooperative pupil; he preferred to discover music by himself; rather than practice etudes, he chose to improvise and compose his own tunes. In school, he was a poor student. Everything was secondary to his music exploration.

Edvard’s uncle, Ole Bull, was a famous violin virtuoso. In the summer of 1858, Uncle Ole visited the family, and Edvard was called on to play piano for him. After he had heard him playing some of his own small compositions, the uncle had a serious conversation with the boy’s parents, convincing them to enroll him in the music conservatory in Leipzig, Germany. (This conservatory was founded in 1843 by Felix Mendelsohn, and was reputed to be the best music school in Europe.)

Having spent his youth in the small city of Bergen in Norway, Grieg experienced culture shock in the metropolis of Leipzig with its narrow streets, tall buildings and crowds of people. He battled homesickness and his inability with the German language, but quickly adjusted. His stay in Leipzig exposed him to the greater European music tradition: he studied the works of Mozart and Beethoven, but also the compositions of more modern composers like Mendelsohn, Schumann and Wagner. During this time he contracted pleuritt, a kind of tuberculosis, which plagued him for the rest of his life. His left lung collapsed, which bent his back and greatly reduced his lung capacity. Nevertheless, he successfully graduated from the conservatory in 1862.

Edvard Grieg gave his first concert August 18, 1861, in the Swedish city of Karlshamn. His debut in his hometown came the next year. Among other works at this concert, his string quartet in d-minor was performed, a work that has disappeared without a trace. Grieg’s goal was to compose Norwegian music, but as a realist he knew that he had to go abroad to immerse himself in an environment that could help him develop as a composer; so he went to Copenhagen, the only Scandinavian city with a rich cultural life on an international level.

The time in Denmark was a happy one for Grieg. He made several lifelong friends, the most important of which was his cousin, Nina Hagerup. They had grown up together in Bergen, but Nina moved with her family to Copenhagen when she was eight years old. Nina was an excellent pianist, but it was her voice that fascinated Grieg. He was so charmed by his cousin that they were secretly engaged in 1864. They married on June 11, 1867.

The Griegs went from Copenhagen to Kristiania (Oslo) in order to participate in the building of a Norwegian music scene in the Norwegian capital. Their daughter Alexandra was born on April 10, 1868. That same year Grieg composed his brilliant piano concerto in a minor. This masterpiece was his breakthrough as a composer, and he was recognized as one of the greatest composers of his day.

In the early 1870s, Grieg collaborated extensively with the Norwegian author Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, setting Bjørnson’s poems to music. Their most ambitious project was a national opera based on the history of the Norwegian king Olav Trygvason. The work progressed well in the beginning, but after a while they both lost some of their inspiration and conflict arose between the two. As the work on the opera came to a half, it freed up time for Grieg to compose music for the Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen’s dramatic poem Peer Gynt. Bjørnson felt so betrayed by Grieg’s abandoning their opera that a conflict rose between them that lasted almost 16 years.

Setting music to Peer Gynt wasn’t as easy as he had thought it would be, but on the February 24, 1876, the play was performed for the first time on Christiania Theater in Oslo, and was an immediate success. Alongside the work with Peer Gynt, Grieg also set music to six poems by Ibsen. In 1888 and in 1893 Grieg published respectively the Peer Gynt Suite I and II, which contained the most popular melodies from the play Peer Gynt. These two suites are among the most played orchestral pieces in our time.

Grieg traveled extensively and found new ways to insert Norwegian folk music into his compositions. In late 19th century France musicologists spoke about two main styles of music: the Russian school and the Norwegian School. On his many journeys he became acquainted with the composers Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Frederic Delius, and Camille Saint-Saens. His music influenced the works of Bela Bartok, Maurice Ravel, and Claude Debussy.

Even though Edvard Grieg was well paid by Peters Verlag in Leipzig for his compositions, it was through his tours that Grieg received his main income. His heavy touring schedule, combined with his weakened lungs, took a great toll, but he was able to return to Norway and Troldhaugen for the summers, and through walks in nature get his energy back before he left again in the autumn. In September 1907 he and Nina planned to participate in the music festival in Leeds, England. They left Troldhaugen for the season and lodged at Hotel Norge in Bergen, waiting for the boat that would take them to England via Oslo. Grieg fell seriously ill and was hospitalized in Bergen, where he died on September 4th 1907 of chronic exhaustion.

Edvard Grieg was fortunate to be a successful composer while during his lifetime. His most famous works were his Piano Concerto in A Minor and the music for Peer Gynt, but he was also known for his Romances and smaller piano pieces.

Music for Writing

Music for Writing

Do you like to listen to music while you’re writing? I do. While I write, I prefer music that has a mysterious mood, usually instrumental, or with vocals whose lyrics do not demand that I listen to the words. (Don’t distract me with compelling words when I’m trying to come up with my own compelling words!)

I’ve selected 10 of my favorite pieces of writing music for your listening pleasure:

Philip Glass, Secret Agent:

Enya, Orinoco Flow:

The Piano Guys, Arwen’s Vigil:

John Williams, Hedwig’s Theme:

Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings:

Johannes Brahms, Violin Sonata No. 3, first movement

John Tesh, Bastille Day:

Astor Piazzolla, Oblivion:

Léo Delibes, Flower Duet:

Camille Saint-Saëns, Aquarium:

Do you like my writing music? Would you like to listen to it when you write? Bookmark this article and have the music playing in the background while working on your scenes. Or listen to these pieces and more on the ARHtistic License Creative Playlist on YouTube.

Now it’s your turn. Do you like to listen to music as you write, paint, quilt, or make your art? What kind of music do you like when you’re working? Do you have a playlist? Share in the comments below.

Creative Juice #296

Creative Juice #296

So many of these articles touch my heart.

Video of the Day: Hey, Mama


John Philip Sousa, All-American Composer

John Philip Sousa
John Philip Sousa

When I taught elementary general music, one of the objectives for Grade 1 was to be able to recognize march music. So, of course, we practiced conducting in cut time, and marched to the music of John Philip Sousa. He was quite a character, and my students enjoyed hearing about his life.

Sousa was born on November 6, 1854, in Washington D.C., near the Marine barracks where his father played trombone in the U.S. Marine Band. He was the third of ten children in the family. He grew up surrounded by military band music, and when he was six years old began music lessons, studying voice, violin, piano, flute, cornet, baritone, trombone, and alto horn.

John Philip loved adventure, and when he was 13, tried to run away and join the circus as a musician. His father intercepted him, and instead enlisted him in the Marine Band as an apprentice so he could keep an eye on him. (Can you believe he was allowed to do that? I doubt that would be allowed today. He must have had connections. John Philip’s rank during this time was “boy.”) He remained in the Marine Band until he was 21 (except for a hiatus of 6 months). In addition to his band training, he studied music theory and composition. During his enlistment, he wrote his first piece, Moonlight on the Potomac Waltzes.

After his discharge from the Marines in 1875, Sousa began performing on violin, touring, and eventually conducting theater orchestras, including Gilbert & Sullivan’s H.M.S. Pinafore on Broadway.

On December 30, 1879, Sousa married Jane Bellis. While on tour in St. Louis, Sousa received a telegram from the Marine Corps offering him the conductorship of the Marine Band; so the couple moved back to Washington D.C. in 1880. For the next 12 years, Sousa conducted the band known as The President’s Own, serving under Presidents Hayes, Garfield, Cleveland, Arthur, and Harrison. He raised performance expectations for the Band, threw away most of their music, transcribed orchestral pieces for them, and composed new marches.

Sousa resigned from the Marine Band in 1892 to organize his own civilian concert band. He continued to conduct, compose, and tour for the rest of his life, right up until his death on March 6, 1932.

John Philip Sousa wrote 136 military marches and is rightfully celebrated as the March King.

Creative Juice #292

Creative Juice #292

Beautiful quilts. Articles on writing. Bluegrass music. Photography. And more.

  • Pets trying to hide.
  • Wildlife in Botswana.
  • Pretty quilts.
  • Round robin quilts.
  • For most of my life, I’ve been conservative in my beliefs. Conservatives resist change. However, now that the world is so insane, I see the need for change. . .
  • Prizewinning quilts.
  • Like bluegrass? Listen to some wonderful covers. The Petersens.
  • Journaling for fiction writers.
  • I had Scrivener (writing software) on my previous laptop, and I was thinking about buying it again for my new one. On the one hand, I like some of the features, but on the other hand, do I really want to spend the money? I never understood the full functionality of Scrivener anyway. Now I see there is another software, Plottr, with a free trial, and is in some ways superior to Scrivener (although I realize that’s a subjective judgment). See this comparison of Scrivener and Plottr.
  • What do Ukranian refugees need. Quilts, of course. (You had to ask?)
  • There was a wisteria tree in our front yard when I was a little girl. My dad loved flowers, and he loved that tree. Here are some beautiful ones in Japan.
  • Kehinde Wiley first appeared on my radar when his official portrait of President Barack Obama was unveiled. But did you know he’s also an accomplished sculptor?

Video of the Day: Y is for Yodel


Video of the Week # 355: X is for Xylophone


T is for Telemann


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767) was possibly the most prolific composer in history. He is considered one of the foremost German composers during the Baroque era, and is often compared to Bach and Handel, with whom he was well-acquainted.

Concerto for Traverso and Recorder in E minor:

Telemann’s father passed away when he was four. His mother disapproved of wasting time on music, but young Georg found himself a music teacher when he was 10, and by the time he was 12 had composed his first opera.

Musique de Table Quartet in G Major:

Telemann composed 33 operas in all; church music, including series of passions, cantatas, and oratorios; several orchestral suites and chamber music pieces; fantasias, overtures, and fugues for keyboard; chorales, fugues, and chorale harmonizations for organ; numerous concertos for violin, viola, horn, trumpet, chalumeau, oboe, bassoon, recorder, and flute; and sonatas for oboe and bassoon.

Adagio from Trumpet Concerto:

Telemann’s style evolved as he aged and incorporated influences from French, Italian, and Polish styles. He was a driving force during the late Baroque and early Classical periods, although his writing remained complex contrapuntally and harmonically, and he considered some of his contemporaries’ works as too simplistic.

Brecht ihr müden Augenlider:

Telemann insisted on exclusive publication rights for his works, thereby setting one of the most important early precedents for regarding music as the intellectual property of the composer. 

Burlesque de Quixotte: