10 Jul 2014
13 May 2014
Il nome suo nessun saprà…
E noi dovrem, ahimè, morir, morir!
Death, horror, eternal love, tragedy and beauty – all this usually makes part of a classical opera as we know it. But what if all this drama is conveyed by a tiny 9 year old kid on stage?
In the last years, there have appeared a lot of ‘music sensation’ titles on the Internet featuring children singing classical masterpieces – the prodigy opera performers of young age. The 10 year old Jackie Evancho amazes America's Got Talent jury with a splendid performance of Ave Maria, the 11 year old Clark Rubinstein is called “the little Caruso from Boston” and is giving a solo concert singing in 7 languages; and the 9 year old Dutch girl Amira Willighagen records a full-length album of operatic arias, including Nessun Dorma ‘with Luciano Pavarotti’.
Watching these little tender stars singing such powerful arias no doubt WOWs the wide public offhand. But to look a bit deeper into the matter – is it appropriate for a kid to take up the adult repertoire of this kind?
History already remembers a few examples of such early talents. Let’s take the 1999 case of the 12 year old Charlotte Church, a girl who managed to hit the highest notes in a fierce fascinating manner that immediately conquered the listener. Or a much earlier example of the 15 year old Anna Gottlieb who in 1787 sang Barbarina from The Marriage of Figaro, and two years later – Pamina from The Magic Flute by Mozart. Sadly, the stories of these children who could sing far beyond their real age didn’t end very well. Having matured, the voice of Charlotte lost its power and luster, and Anna got bogged down in poverty when her voice finally broke.
So why didn’t the girls proceed in glory and success when they grew up? Unfortunately, too often a prodigy kid’s interests are not at all at heart. The phenomenal singing of an innocent child is not only impressive and exciting but can be exceptionally profitable in many ways. And too often adults (including the parents of the kids) do not understand that this fame and profit puts child’ physical and mental health at stake. Opera is a serious music genre that requires a lot of hard work, experience and understanding, it is not just deep-throated singing. Of course, both Jackie and Amira can sing beautifully, but can a child like that have a real idea of what opera is and perform it with actual understanding of the text?
According to the professor of psychology at Boston College, Ellen Winner, kids who have been pushed into adult activities like that are often deprived of real childhood and skip the important transitional period they need. In the future, such a child can be psychologically wounded once he/she realizes that he/she is grown and not ‘special’ anymore. Not mentioning the physical side of the whole process, when the delicate child’s throat and voice can be permanently damaged and broken for good. One might compare children opera singers with little weightlifters lifting heavy iron for someone else’s wow, entertainment or profit.
On the other hand, would we know of Mozart if he as a little kid hadn’t been pushed for practicing and carried all over Europe in concerts? But wait a minute, voice wasn’t Mozart’s instrument. If a prodigy child performer’s, say, piano is broken, another one could replace it. Unfortunately, that’s not what could be done to a kid’s voice.
But what if the child is really good? Should parents prevent him/her from singing some extra? No way – let them sing! Provided the child develops naturally under the supervision of music experts, with vocal chords regularly examined and proper training chosen relevant to the age (Amira is a self-taught YouTube girl, by the way). Why put them in oversized shoes that could shatter their walk. Let the kids be kids, after all?
Jackie Evancho, Amira Willighagen, Putri Ayu singing Nessun Dorma.
17 Apr 2014
The “ear for music” is a mysterious and unexplained thing. For the first time you may face this phenomenon when enrolling your child into a music school. The procedure of checking whether the kid has an ear for music or not usually looks as follows: a certain melody is played on the piano and the child is asked to sing to it. Besides that, depending on the amount of your luck, the entrance examination may also include having to repeat a rhythmic pattern, perform a popular song, or, if you are out of luck, to name all the notes. While ‘ear for music’ is a popular term, the ‘absolute pitch’ or ‘perfect pitch’ is normally heard only within the circle of professional musicians. I first heard it myself while taking exam at the music school for gifted children. Here’s how it happened.
The examiner, a skeptically disposed teacher, asked me to name the note I had just heard.
– But how can I name the note if you didn’t allow me to hear the tonality?! – I asked, surprised.
– Just like that. Simply tell me what note do you think it was – the teacher replies.
– Hm… but how can I know?! – I think to myself, and say aloud: – Perhaps, E…
For the next few seconds a silence settled, disturbed only by the ticking of the wall clock over the piano that suddenly seemed so deafeningly loud.
– E-flat, - the examiner pronounces slowly and watches me closely.
That was the only time when I got close to feeling that special kind of attention that’s given to children with perfect pitch. Why the only time, you’ll ask? Simply because I do not have perfect pitch. I have a very common music ear, and the (almost) correctly guessed note was just a lucky coincidence.
The curious thing is that many scientists interpret the perfect pitch as an inborn-only ability to ‘imagine’ sounds and define their pitch. And, as strange as it may sound, already from birth this ability can be “developed to different extents”. For instance, someone can define the notes played on piano only, or even played in a certain range only. Others can hear the pitch regardless of the tone color, up to hearing “at what pitch” the door creaks or the bee buzzes. But in both cases the distinctive feature of such an exceptional ear for music is its inborn nature.
My solfeggio class consisted of 12 pupils, all of which, except a boy and me, had perfect pitch. I had to do the melodic dictations “by feel”, silently singing each sound to myself and counting the needed notes from the key tones of the scale. While I needed about 8 playbacks for all the calculations and 1-2 more additional revisions, my classmates needed only 2-3 playbacks, even though the teacher prohibited making notes while the music played.
But there are two faces to everything. I noticed an interesting peculiarity: children with a perfect pitch often have difficulties with music theory. And here’s why. Imagine that theoretical studies are a long way from the bottom of the mountain to its peak. The way itself would be the study of the theoretical basics – the structure of intervals and chords, their relations, roles in tonality, etc. While reaching the peak would mean the ability to solve a musical task, in our case – the correct writing down of a melodic dictation or defining the chords in a harmonic chain. Those who know the theory can distinguish the sounds played in a music fragment on the basis of their theoretical knowledge. And the perfect pitch kids would have to go all the way up from analysis to solution.
Such pupils can be compared to travelers who were taken to the top on a helicopter and who don’t know how to find their way back down. I often observed the following situation: those with a perfect pitch, when asked to name the chords, could name the notes but couldn’t explain their harmonic functions. It was pretty clear to me: why do they need to learn the functions if they can already hear the notes played? Nevertheless, the teachers were of a different opinion and the perfect pitch wasn’t protecting anyone from a bad mark.
Just like travelers, after conquering a mountain peak, get some fit muscles as a bonus, perfect pitch holders, on their way to develop it and master musical relations for solving a musical task, receive theoretic music thinking as a reward.
In conclusion, I’d like to address all those who haven’t been given the absolute pitch by mother nature: in the end, it doesn’t matter how many talents you’ve got, but the way you multiply them does. There are many ways to conquer the peak. It is important to understand which way leads you up there and stick to it until the peak yields to you.
by Ignorant Walking. Source: Flickr.com
04 Mar 2014
His name is well known among the lovers of instrumental music balancing on the edge of minimalism, classical and pop music. Mesmerizing with its deeply emotional sounding, music works by L. Einaudi can be heard all around: in movies, on radio, in commercials and TV programs. His compositions are often used as soothing music background in cafes and restaurants, trade centers and exhibition halls. The expressive sounds immediately immerse the listener in the beautiful world created by the talented composer. Just like a light breeze picks up a hovering bird, the piano music by Ludovico Einaudi carries our thoughts away from the daily routine. The magic sounds of the piano lovingly touched by the great composer has already conquered world’s most famous music halls – Royal Albert Hall, Arena di Verona, Sydney Opera House and others.
For all those who are familiar with and fond of the creative work of Ludovico Einaudi we have prepared some interesting biographical facts about this well-known Italian composer and pianist.
- Einaudi comes from the family of a famous Italian publisher and his grandfather was Italy’s second president. The future musician received his first piano lessons from his mother.
- At first Ludovico wasn’t planning to take up a performer’s career. He was rather keen on the compositional approach and the creative side of music studying. But with time he felt he was missing out on something important. He wanted to feel the magic that is born when a composer shares his music with the listener, performing it on the stage.
- Luciano Berio, the brightest representative of the Italian school of composition of the 20th century, was one of his teachers. He conducted the premieres of some of Einaudi’s orchestral works.
- Einaudi began his creative career as composer of advanced contemporary music with complex structure and avant-garde sounds that were understandable only to a small circle of professionals. But just like a sculptor chips away unnecessary parts, Einaudi, too, with time developed a new language that became clear to listeners worldwide and brought him international recognition. It took Einaudi 10 years to find his unique style.
- The first solo piano album “Le Onde” released in 1996 immediately got onto UK charts.
- According to the composer, he’d rather be called minimalist than anything else, as minimalism is characterized by elegance and openness.
- The major part of composer’s income is covered by his grandfathers’s vineyard in Piedmont.
- In 2007, Einaudi took part in the recording of the 1st single in the 40th album of Adriano Celentano “Dormi amore, la situazione non è buona”.
- One of the important sides of Einaudi’s compositional work is film music. Among his compositions are soundtracks to “Black Swan”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Stargate Universe”.
- In 2005, the renowned musician became member of “The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic” that is awarded for “merits acquired by the nation” in the fields of literature, art, economy, charity and humanitarian activities.
The MusicaNeo catalogue stores over 70 music scores of Ludovico Einaudi’s compositions, including the popular piano pieces “Fly”, “Una Mattina”, “I Giorni”..
We are happy to announce that the result of our music project “Maestro-in-the-Making” is ready to see the world! Due to the joint efforts of MusicaNeo musicians’ community the digital sheet music edition is now published and available for free download at the project’s official page.
The team of MusicaNeo is expressing their gratitude to everyone who supported the project in one way or another. We encourage all further distribution of the booklet so that teachers and students of as many music establishments as possible find out about this unique sheet music collection by modern composers for beginning musicians.
MusicaNeo is preparing more interesting projects to support and develop art and music education in the world. Become part of that mission, stay in touch!