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12 Dec 2016

Bob Dylan: the Elusive Genius

For the first time in the history, the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to a musician, which took the world by surprise, including the musician himself. In 2016, Bob Dylan is named the holder of the Nobel “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”. For two weeks, the press heard nothing but complete silence from Mr. Dylan who, as it became known later, said he would not be present at the ceremony either.

Bob Dylan, always known for his unshakeable views on the subjects of politics, social life and so on, has been one of the brightest figures in the world of music for 5 dozen years already. Today we are gathering a few memorable facts from Bob Dylan’s music, life and career to refresh knowledge/find out more on the man whose contribution has been recognized and rewarded by the Nobel Committee.

Below is a short compilation of the most interesting facts about this outstanding man of music art – the elusive figure of Robert Allen Zimmerman (Bob Dylan’s real name):

  1. Dylan was often referred to as the mouthpiece of his generation, his songs becoming anthems of the time. His early compositions “The Times They Are a-Changin” and “Blowin’ in the Wind” were an important part of the anti-war movement in America, while “Masters of War” remained the most influential protest song for a long time.

    Dylan, however, does not like to be called the voice of the generation, preferring to keep a rather obfuscated identity.

  2. Another powerful song by Bob Dylan, “Like a Rolling Stone”, written in 1965, has come through a lot of editing to date: the original lyrics used to take up to 20 pages.
  3. In school/college times, Dylan used to be much of a rebel. In the 10th grade, he and his band were rejected from a talent show because their performance was considered ‘too shocking’ by the council. He would often scam his friends out of clothes and cigarettes. And finally, he did not come to the graduation party.
  4. Before becoming Bob Dylan, Robert Zimmerman went by the stage name Elston Gunn for some time. He also made music under a couple of other pseudonyms: Bob Landy, Blind Boy Grunt, Robert Milkwood Thomas.
  5. The 20-year-old Bob (which is minor age in the U.S.) got a contract with Columbia Records without his parents’ legally compulsory signature by convincing John H. Hammond he was an orphan. By the way, Hammond was the man who, despite his bosses’ opinions, also signed Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen and Billie Holiday.
  6. Among his biggest lifetime influences, Dylan named Charlie Chaplin. James Dean and Elvis Presley are no doubt on that list too. As for personal inspiration sources, musician’s girlfriend Suze Rotolo served as one for many years: the songs "Ballad in Plain D”, "One Too Many Mornings", "Tomorrow Is a Long Time” are among the compositions that were born thanks to her. She is also on the cover of Dylan’s famous The Freewheelin’ album.
  7. The current Pope, Joseph Ratzinger (Benedict), for some reason strongly disapproved of Dylan’s music and even tried to stop his performance in 1997 when Dylan played for John Paul II. The then-cardinal Ratzinger named the musician ‘the wrong kind of prophet’. What was Dylan playing? "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "Forever Young".

  8. Dylan tried himself in other spheres of art too. He is actually a very prolific painter (6 books of drawings/paintings), participated in various art exhibitions and wrote the experimental novel “Tarantula” (1971)
  9. A popular bumper sticker reading “World’s Greatest Grandpa” is proudly placed on Dylan’s car: the songwriter has 9 grandchildren.
  10. Dylan became the 1st rock artist to receive a Pulitzer Prize (2008). He was introduced to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Bruce Springsteen in 1988.

Bob Dylan is a unique, versatile and prolific artist. He never stops playing music, performing in over a 100 concerts annually, which is a part of his so-called “Never-Ending Tour” that he embarked on back in the 1980ies (by the way, he learnt about the unexpected Nobel Prize while on tour too). Having already explored most of American Song traditions from folk, country and blues to gospel and rock’n’roll, he keeps embracing music. And we wish him to have an even longer journey.

30 Sep 2016

Italian Spider Song: Notable Tarantellas

Apart from being the motherland of some of the world’s most famous opera composers like Rossini, Verdi and Puccini, Italy holds another title in the list of musical phenomena birthplaces. Today’s traditional Italian weddings and national celebrations rarely come without the favourite accompaniment of this passionate people – tarantella. Traditionally an iconic dance/song, it also overflew into the instrumental music of many composers of the Romantic period.

Tarantella, often called ‘the song of Italy’, varies by region. So the Neapolitan, Calabrian and Sorrentine examples may differ in style, but what they all have in common is the fast tempo, rhythmic and lively.

Like with many historical phenomena the real roots of which are already hard to verify, the term ‘tarantella’ has a number of versions regarding its origin and purpose. The most ingenious and picturesque theory blames the wolf spider ‘tarantula’ (not same as the contemporary species) that inhabited the area near the Italian town of Taranto. According to the legend, the bite of that little creature was very poisonous and people believed that frenzied dancing in a special rhythm would rid the body of the dangerous venom that should go away with the sweat. There are even ‘testimonials’ that Middle Ages fiddlers would walk the surroundings in search of people who had been bitten by tarantulas and offer them their service of playing the cure-song and fighting off the death.

According to other sources, the popularity of the tarantella mass dance, with all of its hectic moves, could have been partly explained by the special ‘herbs’ in combination with the rhythmic music that drove people insane and that eventually raised the authorities’ concern and the subsequent ban of the practice. Some say that the spider version was invented afterwards in order to get this ritual back out of the underground.

There’s a more ‘medical’ version too. Simple: tarantella was used to cure depressions, you dance – you regain the joy of life as people watch you self-express in a rhythmic dance show. Later on, the dance itself was often performed as a courtship dance, though it could be seen danced both by couples and solo females.

No matter what the initial purpose of the dance was, what we have today is a beautiful national tradition and a number of amazing classical music works that were born inspired by it. Let’s have a look at some of them.

The ancient tarantella dancers would usually move to the beats of mandolin, accordion, guitar, and, most importantly, tambourine that helped to create the most perfect rhythmic pattern. With the flow of time, composers would add more instruments (piano, violin, flute, clarinet) and experiment with style, some making the sound more frenetic and daunting (Schubert's “Death and the Maiden Quartet” and Mendelssohn’s “Tarantella” from his Symphony No.4), while others preferred sticking to the traditional sound and the rhythm of 6/8 (Rossini’s Neapolitan “La Danza”). Below are some of the most notable tarantellas (the sheet music to all of the compositions is available in our catalogue).

Giacomo Rossini, “La Danza”. One of the most ‘classical’ works of the kind.

Louis Moreau Gottschalk, “Grande Tarantelle”. The piece was transcribed for various combinations including, piano solo, piano and violin, two pianos, two violins and piano, piano and orchestra.

Frédéric Chopin, “Tarantelle in A-flat, Op. 43”. Inspired by and similar to Rossini’s “La Danza”.

Franz Liszt, "Tarantella, Venezia e Napoli". No. 3 from the set of 3 suites for piano “Années de pèlerinage” (Year 2: Italy).

Camille Saint-Saëns, wrote a separate “Tarantella, Op. 6 in A minor” (flute, clarinet and orchestra/piano) and also used this form in the 2nd movement of his “Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor”.

Some of the most popular guitar tarantellas were composed by Santiago de Murcia and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, while for violin – by Pablo de Sarasate (“Introduction and Tarantella”) and Karol Szymanowski (“Nocturne and Tarantella”).

The list of classical compositions, be it a separate music work or a tarantella embodied in a symphony, is a long one. Above are just a few examples of this well-recognized Italian folk feature. The references to tarantella are also to be met in other forms of art like literature (“A Doll’s House” by Henrik Ibsen) and cinema (“The Godfather”).

At MusicaNeo, you can also get acquainted with the modern vision of the famous Italian dance song: this type of music is popular among contemporary composers who write tarantellas of their own.

25 Mar 2016

Eugen Doga: "Inspiration does not come out of nowhere"

The creative work of Eugen Doga can truly be called “people’s”. Many know him by the music from such motion pictures as “Offered for Singles”, “Bless the Woman”, “Gypsies Are Found Near Heaven”, “Vertical Races”, and, of course, by the famous waltz from the film “My Sweet and Tender Beast” named by UNESCO one of the four musical masterpieces of the 20th century. His music sounds everywhere, literally.

Eugen Doga

Eugen Doga, composer, academician, public figure, pedagogue, People’s Artist of USSR and Moldova

On the first day of spring 2016, Eugen Doga turned 79. By this time, a long and fruitful way has been walked, hundreds of instrumental compositions written, film music (over 200 films), music for choir, stage and radio plays composed. The ballets “Luceafarul” (that brought its author a USSR State Prize), “Venancio”, “Queen Margot” and the opera “Dialogues of Love” are very popular up to date. Children always recognized Doga’s melodies from the films “Maria, Mirabella” and “What Senka Said”. It is Doga’s music that sounds at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 1980 Olympic Games.

Eugen Doga is a well-known academician (of eight academies), People’s Artist of USSR and Moldova, Honored Man of Art of Moldova, the holder of numerous honorable prizes, titles and awards. Among them, the orders “For Merit to the Fatherland, IV degree”, “The Star of Romania”, “Patron of the Century”, the golden medal “Man-2000”, the medals of M. Eminescu and V. Rozov. And this is only a small part of the long list of the composer’s rewards.

We asked Eugen a few questions about his creative life and can’t wait to share with you what the famous composer told us.

When did you realize that music was something more than just a hobby for you?

“I don’t quite understand when some people show that they know everything about themselves, people who fix everything, provide arguments, adjust things to the calendar pages from the past. I do not, perhaps with regret, attribute myself to such a category. I remember that instinctively I wanted to create something when I was just a little boy. However, what I came up with had already been created before me. When I listened to the local wind orchestra, I wanted to think up something, a musical tale they would play, and people would dance to that music and praise me. I even invented my own recording system for those “musical tales”. And only not so long ago I found out that a similar ‘tale’ with sheet music exists in computer programs. And that’s after more than 60 years since that time, when the word ‘computer’ did not exist yet! Today I cannot imagine myself without thinking up those ‘musical tales’, without composing music. Probably some crater opened up in me at a certain moment and pours out the energy that has to be released into the world. In the form of music.”

Where do you seek inspiration for composing? Who influenced your music style?

“Inspiration does not come out of nothing. It has to be helloed, it has to be desired. That inspiration is not likely to come with a beautiful lady. It has to be sought within oneself. If one, of course, has been gifted by nature with this unique inner source of inspiration that is called the talent. As for my style, the one I envisioned at the beginning when I had just started composing was based on my desire to write simple and beautiful music. I liked Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Verdi, then began listening to the modern Neo-Romantics of Italy, France and England. At a certain point I was keen on serialism but soon plumped for the Romantic style with engaging my genetic roots that I was often reproached for but that shouldn’t be feared.”

What’s the ‘dark side’ of composing for you? Have you encountered any serious obstacles on your creative way?

“And who would like to share his/her space, especially with some young unknown musician? And especially in a small country town that doesn’t have much of that space in general? My compositions were never performed at the composers’ festivals and plenums. I wasn’t invited to the trips abroad. And only thanks to the cinema, mostly to the “Mosfilm” studio and other USSR studios, I got heard and noticed. And thanks to the listeners on the radio station “Mayak”, central TV, at my numerous concerts and creative sessions. I know that no matter how dark is the night, it will be swallowed by the Sun anyway. So I’m trying to follow the Sun and ignore the shadow that’s daddling behind me. Even if it’s my own shadow.”

Many compositions by Eugen Doga have already been living a life of their own. Thus, the song from which, in fact, his career of a composer-songwriter started – “My White City” – first became the symbol of Chisinau, and in 1998 was declared the official anthem of the Moldavian capital. Two waltzes composed by Doga – “Gramophone” and “My Sweet and Tender Beast”got into the Top 200 best classical compositions of all time.

The Romanian poet Mihai Eminescu occupies a special place in the heart and creative work of Eugen Doga. It is upon his poem that Doga’s famous ballet “Luceafarul” was created. All in all, over 40 romances were written based on the poems by Mihai Eminescu and his beloved woman, Romanian poetess Veronica Micle. The couple also inspired composer for creating the concert opera “Dialogues of Love”.

Do you have any favorites among your own compositions? Maybe some of the works are especially important to you? Why?

“I don’t contemplate my compositions for a long time. Mostly only after writing the music score. That’s when I carefully look at the notes, the way they are placed on the pages of the music paper, the way they are grouped, just like soldiers on the battlefield. Believe it or not, I like everything that I write. I simply don’t write what I don’t like. What I especially hold dear is the large-scale works that have real drama in them, powerful human passions, a bigger opportunity to set forth all you are capable of, a deep philosophic idea. Those are the ballets “Luceafarul”, “Venancio”, some arias and cantatas upon the poems by Mihai Eminescu and Veronica Micle, such as “Nu plânge” (‘Don’t Cry’) and “Am urât această lume” (‘I Hate This World’).”

What are your plans for the future as composer?

“Writing music for the big and, it seems, endless music work “Dialogues of Love” which is based on the poems by Romanian poets Mihai Eminescu and Veronica Micle. It will presumably become a theatrical musical performance, or an opera, or a musical, or something else, I am not sure, as my heroes do not quite fit into the traditional forms invented years ago. I will look for something different for them. I will also continue the concert work and will extend its geography.”

It seems that Eugen does not stop his creative search for a single minute, and we wish him to go on this way. We are happy that the sheet music to the diverse music works by Eugen Doga adorns our catalogue. We invite all admirers of his music to visit the composer’s personal site at MusicaNeo. Here you can follow the recent events in the author’s life, his concert activities and, of course, download the sheet music to the favorite works.

MusicaNeo is grateful to Eugen Doga for taking time to answer our questions and wishes him new creative altitudes and discoveries!

17 Feb 2016

Anders Edenroth and The Real Group

Continuing the series of spotlight articles about the most prominent composers of MusicaNeo community, we invite you to read about the Swedish composer, arranger and singer Anders Edenroth.

It would be difficult to speak about Mr. Edenroth without centering the story around the vocal ensemble The Real Group where he is the founder and an indispensable part. So a tangible part of this article is going to be dedicated to the creative work of this outstanding quintet. But first let’s focus on Mr. Edenroth and see how he started his music career.

Anders Edenroth

Anders Edenroth, Swedish composer, arranger, tenor singer, music producer and founding member of The Real Group

Anders Edenroth was born in Stockholm, Sweden. Two things designated his musical way from the early childhood – playing piano and singing. Choir singing was Anders’ major during the 10 years of studies at Adolf Fredrik’s Music School. Later the studies in this field continued at The Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm where Anders spent another 5 years studying music. It is in the academy where he met the future members of The Real Group and it’s where he realized that music would now become his lifework:

“When I was a student at The Royal Academy of Music in Stockholm 1984-89 I met with other young and devoted musicians that inspired me to aim for a career in music. At this time, I also formed a five-part vocal ensemble The Real Group with some fellow students. This became my occupation and I still tour worldwide and write a major part of the scores for the group.”

The fellow-musicians, already members of the recently formed a cappella ensemble The Real Group, went all together for a special post-graduate course finishing it with flying colors. That’s when the real journey of the real group began.

About The Real Group

The Real Group

  • A professional a cappella ensemble; the music played includes Pop and Jazz, with all of the scores either composed or arranged by the members of the group.
  • Since 1984 when the group was formed, its members have toured over 40 countries with over 2000 concerts performed and 20 albums recorded. Sometimes the members changed but it has always remained a quintet.
  • The Real Group sings in English and Swedish.
  • Among the sources of inspiration, the group marks the special influence of Bobby McFerrin’s unique vocal techniques.
  • In 2002, The Real Group performed at the FIFA World Cup opening ceremony in Seoul.

By the way, the behind-the-scenes of the group can be watched at their YouTube channel ‘therealgroupdotse’, where the ensemble leads a vlog and posts videos from both concerts/festivals and rehearsals.

Anders Edenroth has written most of the scores for the group’s repertoire. He also was the producer of some of the albums they released. We asked Mr. Edenroth about the other side of the coin, the dark side of composing and the effort it takes to be one. Where does he find the strength and, most importantly, the inspiration for composing?

“Inspiration often comes by chance. It could be a book I’m reading, an interesting conversation with a friend, a strong emotional experience of any kind. When I get these ideas I quickly write them down with a short description of how it came to me. I later use this creative scrapbook when I sit down and compose.

The biggest challenge to me as a writer is the time it takes. I’m becoming more and more thorough every year. Especially my lyrics take many hours to finalize. But throughout my artistic life I have always found things to write about and I’m still curious to see what the next unwritten song will be about.”

Anders is a busy musician. Besides the favorite quintet, he works with other bands, orchestras and vocal groups as composer and arranger, trying to experiment with the new vocal rhythms and textures. He produced albums for other musicians and wrote music for TV, commercials and shows. A few times he was awarded grants from The Swedish National Council for Cultural Affairs and STIM, Swedish Performing Rights Society.

Singing and composing aren’t the only activities, though. Anders Edenroth has also been an active keyboard player (Jazz and Pop), and his music workshops during the festivals and international tours are attended with much interest.

At the personal site of Anders Edenroth at MusicaNeo and in our sheet music catalogue you will find the original a cappella music scores written for The Real Group. Both choirs and vocal groups can get here a few interesting works to sing. The level of difficulty ranges from the easiest to advanced, therefore, every performer can pick something relevant. Some of the popular pieces include the group’s Jazz/Bossa classic “A Cappella In Acapulco” and the popular early-years song “Chili con Carne” that is now frequently picked by musicians for performing at various music competitions worldwide. Here you can also download the artist’s arrangements of popular music standards, like the 1st movement of Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 (“Gee! Mine Or Mozart’s?”). “The World for Christmas” has become the group’s manifest of the concern for the environmental protection.

At the moment, Anders Edenroth lives in Stockholm and keeps performing as a full-time singer in the group. He also goes on composing music for his quintet.

“I will continue to write scores for The Real Group but I’m also expanding my work as a commission composer and arranger. Every ensemble has its own unique expression that I try to capture in my scores.”

According to the musician, were it not for music, he might have become an inventor. Problem-solving and cooking are among Anders’ other non-musical interests. By the way, cooking often reflects in his works: take the playful comic jazz piece “Pass Me The Jazz” piece, for example.

We wish Mr. Edenroth and The Real Group further creative success and new achievements on the vocal music arena!