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#2140574 - 08/29/13 07:29 AM Nature and classical music
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
As a lover of the outdoors and classical music and piano (- an odd combination, I know grin, but there is a great precedence in Ansel Adams, who was a concert pianist before he saw Yosemite..), I've often wondered if there's been any music composed for piano and sounds of nature.

Among my greatest natural experiences are standing on the summits of great 8000m mountains, with clouds far below me, and (slightly more easily attained wink ) waking up to the sound of the dawn chorus after sleeping out under the stars overnight - in Yosemite, Yellowstone, Denali NPs, Canadian Rockies etc.

The only classical music I know of that use natural sounds (on tape) mixed into actual performance are Rautavaara's Cantus arcticus (Concerto for birds and orchestra) and Hovhaness's And God Created Great Whales. There are lots of contemporary compositions that use taped recordings as well as real instruments, of course, and even one for piano and iPad, but they employ mostly synthesized electronic sounds, not sounds of nature. Messiaen, as far as I know, never used real birdsongs; Beethoven had to resort to the woodwind for his birds wink .

I have a (commercial) CD recording of Cage's 4:33 which has the sound of birds singing from outside the open window, bouncing off the BlĂĽthner grand's soundboard and into the microphones grin, but I'd love to know of more classical music that's been composed that specifically uses the sound of nature - it can be that of a flowing river, or waterfall, or thunderstorm, or any animal or bird (including dinosaurs) or reptile....

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#2140577 - 08/29/13 07:48 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
FSO Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/03/12
Posts: 853
Loc: UK, Brighton
As far as I know there are no dinosaur duets. Um...I was *very* interested in moving into this a few years ago; I have always lacked any real sound recording device and, so, my dream remains such...I frequently play *with* the seagulls that roost in my roof, um, they hate my attempts at Chopin. Apparently they think there *is* a limit before rubato becomes poor technique...ho hum laugh Not to mention the rain and the wind...now, I only mention this as it's only me; um...I can't give you any real examples I'm afraid, but...if I'm interested in this, and you're interested in this, there's doubtlessly *tonnes* out there! laugh Maybe...well, maybe it will take a few years to come to light or...or maybe it never will...but I don't doubt people are doing it...if not right now, then in a few minutes laugh
Xxxx
_________________________
Sometimes, we all just need to be shown a little kindness <3

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#2140581 - 08/29/13 08:14 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Michael Sayers Online   content
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/13
Posts: 878
Loc: Stockholms län, Sverige
I think this is part of the appeal of outdoor concerts, and also Shakespeare in the park - much more romantic out under the stars even in the Texas summer heat than in a theatre.

As well the Santa Fe Opera is partly open air, and that area of New Mexico from Santa Fe into Taos and the mountains to the north is quite beautiful - I know this because of several trips to New Mexico!

For music as you say there is Beethoven's sixth symphony, the birds in the first Liszt Legende, horses running in various Liszt and Chopin works, representations of water especially in Debussy and also some Liszt (and also storms as with Orage), and I think a lot of Mahler is nature derived.

M.

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#2140582 - 08/29/13 08:18 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
wr Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 7767
The first such piece I know of that used an actual recording of a sound from nature (it was a bird) was one of Resphigi's extravaganzas - I think it was Pines of Rome.

Since musique concrète dealt with using recorded sounds as raw musical material, and those sounds could be from nature as well as of anything else, that genre would be a place to look. But I don't think that the source material was always listed, so it might be tricky to isolate sounds from nature.

Steve Reich's "It's Gonna Rain" presents an interesting question - is human speech part of nature? If so, then that piece would qualify (well, there's also the sound of a pigeon's wings in it, along with other incidental stuff). If not a sound of nature, then what is it?

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#2140595 - 08/29/13 08:49 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: wr]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
Originally Posted By: wr
The first such piece I know of that used an actual recording of a sound from nature (it was a bird) was one of Resphigi's extravaganzas - I think it was Pines of Rome.




You are right - I thought of Respighi's The Birds, but there are no recorded birdsongs in it. However, the third movement of Pini di Roma uses a recording of a nightingale.

As for human speech, well, it's all-pervasive. Especially when one doesn't want to hear it. Whether it's a sound of nature.... grin

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#2140598 - 08/29/13 08:57 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: FSO]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
Originally Posted By: FSO
As far as I know there are no dinosaur duets.


I live in hope, especially after watching the programme on BBC 2 during Bank Holiday Monday - Horizon: Dinosaurs - the Hunt for Life, which shows Dr Mary Schweitzer finding traces of DNA in a tyrannosaurus rex fossil. And there're lots more fossils in the Gobi Desert waiting to be excavated.

Steven Spielberg's vision may yet come to fruition....... wink

P.S. For non-British forumers, it was on August 26th at 9pm: www.bbc.co.uk/horizon

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#2140648 - 08/29/13 11:15 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Derek Hartwell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 219
Loc: United Kingdom
Originally Posted By: bennevis


Messiaen, as far as I know, never used real birdsongs;


To my knowledge Messiaen did not use recordings of birdsong but he imitated real birdsong in his works especially in his great cycle of piano music 'Catalogue d'Oiseaux'. He was a lover of nature and his realizations of many different birdsongs on the piano,the result of his assiduous writing down and collection of birdsongs, are astonishing.
Many other composers have imitated birdsongs in their music, but none, in my opinion, has equalled Messiaen's rhythmic accuracy and sense of the wild.

rk
_________________________
Music Teacher (Piano/Theory/Musicianship)

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#2141120 - 08/30/13 01:32 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Ferdinand Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/23/07
Posts: 936
Loc: California
Strauss's tone poem Don Quixote employs a wind machine.

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#2141209 - 08/30/13 07:12 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: Ferdinand]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
Originally Posted By: Ferdinand
Strauss's tone poem Don Quixote employs a wind machine.


Yes, the wind machine, or æoliphone, is used quite frequently in classical music - as long ago as Rameau, in fact (in Les Boréades). I suppose nowadays one could easily use a recording of real wind in performance, but you probably couldn't control its volume and intensity like a percussionist could, using a machine.

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#2141212 - 08/30/13 07:22 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: Derek Hartwell]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
Originally Posted By: Derek Hartwell

Many other composers have imitated birdsongs in their music, but none, in my opinion, has equalled Messiaen's rhythmic accuracy and sense of the wild.

rk


I've heard different opinions on the accuracy (or otherwise) of Messiaen's "transcriptions" of birdsong. In one radio program, an experienced ornithologist couldn't positively identify any of the birds Messiaen depicted in RĂ©veil des oiseaux and Catalogue d'oiseaux when the recordings were played to him (- that ornithologist had never heard of Messiaen), though he could guess at one or two of them, based mainly on the rhythm of the music.

But what do I know, the only birdsong I can identify with certainty is that of the cuckoo grin.

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#2141270 - 08/30/13 09:39 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...But what do I know, the only birdsong I can identify with certainty is that of the cuckoo grin..."

Same here, and that one only from the cuckoo clock we had when I was a kid.
_________________________
Clef


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#2141278 - 08/30/13 09:54 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Arghhh Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/31/08
Posts: 1048
Regarding Messaien's bird song "transcriptions" he wrote

Originally Posted By: Messaien
Birds are able to sing in extremely high registers that cannot be reproduced on our instruments … for the same reasons I’m obliged to eliminate any tiny intervals that our instruments cannot execute. I replace those intervals, which are of the order of one or two microtones, by semitones, but I respect the proportions of the different intervals, which is to say that if a few microtones correspond to a semitone, a whole tone, or a third will correspond to a real semitone; all are enlarged, but the proportions remain identical….on a more human scale.


And here is a website where you can compare the original recording to Messaien's music. Messaien Bird songs

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#2141317 - 08/30/13 11:23 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
While imitation of birdsong is not too infrequent in classical music, the use of real birds is harder to ascertain. The most "radical" involvement of birds in music must be the "Concerto pour Rossignol et Orchestre" by Jean Wiener, of which there is no known commercial recording. You can hear its opening in this Duvivier movie clip (Voici le Temps des Assassins), attached below. Jean Wiener wrote the score, thus perhaps the inclusion of his concerto.

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#2141325 - 08/30/13 11:42 AM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: bennevis]
Anne'sson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/25/12
Posts: 142
Loc: El Paso, TX
Vivaldi used the viola to imitate the sound of a dog barking in the slow movement of "Summer" from the Four Seasons. In "Winter" from the same work, pizzicato strings simulate rain. And of course Chopin uses repeated stacatto notes for the same effect in the "Raindrop" prelude.
_________________________
Anne'sson
El Paso, TX

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#2141364 - 08/30/13 12:49 PM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: Arghhh]
Derek Hartwell Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/03/09
Posts: 219
Loc: United Kingdom
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
Regarding Messaien's bird song "transcriptions" he wrote

Originally Posted By: Messaien
Birds are able to sing in extremely high registers that cannot be reproduced on our instruments … for the same reasons I’m obliged to eliminate any tiny intervals that our instruments cannot execute. I replace those intervals, which are of the order of one or two microtones, by semitones, but I respect the proportions of the different intervals, which is to say that if a few microtones correspond to a semitone, a whole tone, or a third will correspond to a real semitone; all are enlarged, but the proportions remain identical….on a more human scale.


And here is a website where you can compare the original recording to Messaien's music. Messaien Bird songs


Thanks for that, Arghhh. It's very interesting.
I have a 2-CD set of birdsongs and so I have been able to compare quite a number of the natural "calls" with Messiaen's imitations in 'Catalogue d'Oiseaux'. The recordings on the CDs are somewhat longer than the extracts produced on the website and therefore enable a more detailed comparison to be made.
However,some of the birds Messiaen imitated are not included in my CDs so I cannot compare all of them.

Regards.
rk
_________________________
Music Teacher (Piano/Theory/Musicianship)

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#2141415 - 08/30/13 02:08 PM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: Arghhh]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
Originally Posted By: Arghhh
Regarding Messaien's bird song "transcriptions" he wrote

Originally Posted By: Messaien
Birds are able to sing in extremely high registers that cannot be reproduced on our instruments … for the same reasons I’m obliged to eliminate any tiny intervals that our instruments cannot execute. I replace those intervals, which are of the order of one or two microtones, by semitones, but I respect the proportions of the different intervals, which is to say that if a few microtones correspond to a semitone, a whole tone, or a third will correspond to a real semitone; all are enlarged, but the proportions remain identical….on a more human scale.


And here is a website where you can compare the original recording to Messaien's music. Messaien Bird songs


Thanks for that.

However, I can see why an ornithologist might hear a resemblance, but won't positively identify which bird Messiaen was depicting in his transcriptions.

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#2141437 - 08/30/13 03:11 PM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: Michael Sayers]
BruceD Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 17836
Loc: Victoria, BC
Originally Posted By: Michael Sayers
I think this is part of the appeal of outdoor concerts[...]


Outdoor concerts rarely have any appeal for me.

Regards,
_________________________
BruceD
- - - - -
Estonia 190

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#2141448 - 08/30/13 03:53 PM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: BruceD]
Andromaque Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 3886
Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Michael Sayers
I think this is part of the appeal of outdoor concerts[...]


Outdoor concerts rarely have any appeal for me.

Regards,



Agreed. And I live in a city that offers many, often free, outdoor performances: NYPhil, Shakespeare in the Park and even Opera or song recitals! I find the acoustics to be often terrible and the crowds annoying: kids, food, running commentary...Not for me!

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#2141452 - 08/30/13 04:06 PM Re: Nature and classical music [Re: Andromaque]
bennevis Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 4838
Originally Posted By: Andromaque
Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: Michael Sayers
I think this is part of the appeal of outdoor concerts[...]


Outdoor concerts rarely have any appeal for me.

Regards,



Agreed. And I live in a city that offers many, often free, outdoor performances: NYPhil, Shakespeare in the Park and even Opera or song recitals! I find the acoustics to be often terrible and the crowds annoying: kids, food, running commentary...Not for me!


I went to an outdoor opera performance once (- Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro in English, which the producer translated as "Figaro's Wedding" rather than 'The Marriage of Figaro') - because a couple of female friends asked me, and bribed me with a picnic dinner, which of course I couldn't resist grin.

As it turned out, it was one of those rare balmy summer evenings in England, and a good time was had by all - partly because the staging and the acting were quite witty, and the words were easily understandable via the decent amplification.

Even the evening chorus by the birds contributed to the sense of occasion.....

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