June 24, 2010

Camille Saint-Saëns - Aquarium


Strings without double-bass, two pianos, flute, and glass harmonica: This is one of the more musically rich movements. The melody is played by the flute, backed by the strings, on top of tumultuous, glissando like runs in the piano. The first piano plays a descending ten-on-one ostinato, while the second plays a six-on-one. These figures, plus the occasional glissando from the harmonica—often played on celesta or glockenspiel—are evocative of a peaceful, dimly-lit aquarium.
[from Wikipedia]

Artwork: Leonora Carrington

Camille Saint-Saëns - The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods

Le coucou au fond des bois (The Cuckoo in the Depths of the Woods):
Two pianos and clarinet: The pianos play large, soft chords while the clarinet plays a single two-note ostinato, over and over; a C and an A flat, mimicking the call of a cuckoo bird.
[from Wikipedia]

Artwork: Remedios Varo,"Creation of the Birds"
Played by: French National Radio Orchestra (Pierre Carbidier)

Camille Saint-Saëns - Danse Macabre

Danse Macabre (first performed in 1875) is the name of opus 40 by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

The composition is based upon a poem by Henri Cazalis, on an old French superstition:
Zig, zig, zig, Death in a cadence, Striking with his heel a tomb, Death at midnight plays a dance-tune, Zig, zig, zig, on his violin. The winter wind blows and the night is dark; Moans are heard in the linden trees. Through the gloom, white skeletons pass, Running and leaping in their shrouds. Zig, zig, zig, each one is frisking, The bones of the dancers are heard to crack— But hist! of a sudden they quit the round, They push forward, they fly; the cock has crowed.

According to the ancient superstition, "Death" appears at midnight every year on Halloween. Death has the power to call forth the dead from their graves to dance for him while he plays his fiddle (represented by a solo violin with its E-string tuned to an E-flat in an example of scordatura tuning). His skeletons dance for him until the first break of dawn, when they must return to their graves until the next year.

The piece opens with a harp playing a single note, D, twelve times to signify the clock striking midnight, accompanied by soft chords from the string section. This then leads to the eerie E flat and A chords (also known as a tritone or the "Devil's chord") played by a solo violin, representing death on his fiddle. After which the main theme is heard on a solo flute and is followed by a descending scale on the solo violin. The rest of the orchestra, particularly the lower instruments of the string section, then joins in on the descending scale. The main theme and the scale is then heard throughout the various sections of the orchestra until it breaks to the solo violin and the harp playing the scale. The piece becomes more energetic and climaxes at this point; the full orchestra playing with strong dynamics.Towards the end of the piece, there is another violin solo, now modulating, which is then joined by the rest of the orchestra. The final section, a pianissimo, represents the dawn breaking and the skeletons returning to their graves.

The piece makes particular use of the xylophone in a particular theme to imitate the sounds of rattling bones. Saint-Saëns uses a similar motif in the Fossils part of his Carnival of the Animals.
[from Wikipedia]

Artwork: Remedios Varo,"Les Feuilles Mortes".
Played by: National Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Leopold Stokowski

Camille Saint-Saëns - The Swan

Le Carnaval des Animaux (The Carnival of the Animals) is a musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns.

Le Carnaval was composed in February 1886 while Saint-Saëns was vacationing in a small Austrian village. It was originally scored for a chamber group of flute, clarinet, two pianos, glass harmonica, xylophone, two violins, viola, cello and double bass, but is usually performed today with a full orchestra of strings, and with a glockenspiel substituting for the rare glass harmonica.

Saint-Saëns, apparently concerned that the piece was too frivolous and likely to harm his reputation as a serious composer, suppressed performances of it and only allowed one movement, Le Cygne, to be published in his lifetime. Only small private performances were given for close friends like Franz Liszt.

Saint-Saëns did, however, include a provision which allowed the suite to be published after his death, and it has since become one of his most popular works. It is a favorite of music teachers and young children, along with Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf and Britten's The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra.

Le Cygne (The Swan)

Two pianos and cello: This is by far the most famous movement of the suite, often performed sole and is used to showcase the interpretive skills of the cellist. The lushly romantic cello solo is played over rippling sixteenths in one piano and rolled chords in the other.
[from Wikipedia]

Artwork: Leonora Carrington

June 17, 2010

June 13, 2010

Betty Boop Meets Dracula

Mae Questel and Bela Lugosi

Betty Boop, M.D.

"The most bizarre Betty Boop cartoon of all time."

June 5, 2010

Jupiter Moves to Aries: Fortunate Times Ahead

On June 6, expansive, lucky Jupiter dances into dynamically go-ahead Aries to stay there until early September. This is the first time in 12 years that Jupiter has been here and it will have the feel of a new cycle of growth and good fortune beginning.

All signs will benefit depending on where Jupiter falls in relation to their sign. The Fire signs will benefit most of all in terms of confidence – Aries, Leo and Sagittarius. The Water signs – Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces – will get a career or cash boost. The Earth signs – Taurus, Virgo and Capricorn - will be emotionally better supported. The Air signs – Gemini, Libra and Aquarius – will be firing on all cylinders.

Jupiter in Aries brings either a positive fountain of inspiration or leadership abilities to the fore. However, beware -- the downside can be recklessness and over confidence. Be cautious when it comes to thinking -- there’s nothing you cannot do.

What makes this Jupiter in Aries all the more exciting is that it is conjunct (close to) Uranus on the 8th. This brings great relief as a lucky turn of circumstance will suddenly make life easier. Whatever good things happen, it will come in from left field and open your life up in a way that you could not have imagined. This may not be a life changing even but it will bring up more freedom and open up new opportunities for the times ahead.

June 3, 2010

Mars Opposite Neptune: Savor Some Downtime

The planet Mars, which has been in fiery Leo for an exceptionally long time (since last October), makes one final aspect on June 4 as it opposes (180 degrees) Neptune across the zodiac. These are entirely different energies. Mars is assertive, go-ahead, energetic and decisive. Whereas Neptune is vague, dreamy, and lack-lustre, with a can’t be bothered attitude. This is an odd combination.

Neptune is the oceanic watery planet so you may feel as if your will-power and motivation are being dissolved. Nothing feels as if it is going to plan. You may even smell failure in the air. Don't panic even if you feel slightly paralyzed. There's a way of turning this pause to your advantage.

If your physical energy is low, then sit down. Use the time to think. Mars and Neptune aspects can bring inspirations. It will also point out where you haven't thought things through well enough so you can remedy that. Mars has a habit especially in a fire sign of going full steam ahead but isn't always good about allowing you to recharge your batteries. Savor some down time with this transit.

The positive side of Mars, Neptune can bring glamour even publicity your way. There's a show biz feel to it with Neptune bringing dreams to life, with Mars powering up your motor.

Just take it steady until Mars moves into earthy Virgo on June 6. That's when you get real, get focused on details and really start shifting projects in the right direction. Maybe you will also imagine no one can do anything as well as you, so you will get impatient at other people's mistakes and dithering. Maybe this is the time to become more independent. Do your own thing and take pride in a job well done.

June 1, 2010

June Astrology Forecast

As we swing into summer in the northern hemisphere and winter approaches in the countries south of the equator, the June astrological sky is a busy one. The chatty, restless, multi-tasking Gemini Sun is around for the first three weeks so there’s not a moment to spare or the slightest chance of boredom. The conversation will be lively, varied and not too intense.

Some of us might get the odd sinking moment as watery Neptune undermines Mars’ forward gear in opposition on June 4, but that is only a blip of uncertainty. Expansive, confident Jupiter then dances into Aries on June 5-6 to join adventurous Uranus which moved in late May. They'll join hands in a conjunction on June 8 to produce a mood of high excitement and great relief. Jupiter and Uranus joining hands will bring sudden surprises of the positive variety which may get rid of tensions and put smiles on faces. Jupiter will continue in upbeat and wildly enthusiastic mood all month. It will be so much easier to be upfront about what you want since Aries is never backwards about coming forward to speak its mind.

Admittedly Mars does move into hard-working Virgo on June 7 for a few weeks which will keep career matters firmly in the foreground. But with such high spirits around nothing will seem like a chore. And with affectionate Venus in party loving Leo after mid-month there will be rather glitzy social occasions to add yet more sparkle.

The planets, however, move into a more complicated pattern around the middle of the month. A rather discouraging Saturn square Sun (90 degrees) on the 19th is followed by lack lustre Sun Neptune trine (120 degrees). But it is what comes next that will be interesting though challenging. Just as we celebrate the Summer Solstice, the Cancer Sun is in a rebellious square to Uranus from June 21, then a lucky and over-confident square to Jupiter and then in a powerful opposition (180 degrees) to Pluto. And all in the span of four days! This could be a time for lucky breaks, though it will also involve a fair amount of pressure. Events will happen suddenly which require determined handling. There will be good luck as well as some stress.

As if that were not enough there is a Lunar Eclipse on June 26, which is a powerful Full Moon. Eclipses always bring a sense of heightened anticipation. This one will challenge you to re-balance your life. Be warned - there will be no time to think - the choices are either this or that. Some of us may have to find a way to balance contradictory demands. But if you get it right then it'll keep you on an even keel in the months ahead.