Exploring Music

..... and ‘explore’ we did! 10 weeks of a rich and varied tapestry, ranging from Monteverdi to Lady Gaga, challenged, inspired and engaged us all on a regular basis. The group quickly took ownership of both choice and presentation – and, during the first half term, where group members presented their own choice of ‘favourite’ music, we were kept on our toes with a variety of styles  – and a tremendous diversity of taste. The second 5 weeks we used themes - and participants went out of their way to ‘think outside the box’ with some fascinating and often quite educating results! The final CD reflected the most enjoyed pieces from the sessions and, again, encompassed the rich musical wealth of interest held by the group.

If this group was to have the opportunity to carry on, it was felt that it would be interesting now to look at individual pieces, artist or composers in greater depth – much in the style of a book club – to which you come having prepared with some awareness of the topic. This would be a fascinating development and one which I am sure would be most enjoyable with a  group where the participants listened so courteously to one another and respected the musical choices placed before them.

Gilly Love, Exploring Music facilitator

Where? Room 340, Music Department, Newcastle University

When? 10 workshops on Wednesdays afternoons (1:30pm - 3:30pm) between September & December 2012

What happened? The group was facilitated by Gilly Love and worked with researcher Dr Helen Thomas to explore and record their experiences of taking part in the workshops. Tracks selected as 'favourites' by participants were played at the Workshop Celebration on 12 December 2012, and the group have also compiled their reasons for selecting the tracks as CD liner notes.


Exploring Music workshop CD liner notes 

Exploring Music CD cover

Bellini ‘Casta Diva’ from Norma

One day I was listening to ‘Casta Diva’ on the radio. I turned to my Wife and expressed my pleasure and to my surprise she said she also enjoyed that music. Ever since whenever it is being played we stop and hear it together. Years ago when I could drive long distances and ‘Casta’ was being broadcast on the car radio we would increase the volume and travel along the motorways and listen to every note. Car radios with quadrophonic acoustics are really good.


Vaughan Williams 'The Lark Ascending' (extract)

I choose this sublime piece because for me in conjures up images of the countryside in spring and early summer. One of my cherished memories is of my father finding a skylark’s nest with eggs in it and being amazed at the sheer beauty of it. Every year when we are walking and hear the sound of larks I am reminded of that occasion. The violin so perfectly represents the sound of nature.


Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett 'The Lady is a Tramp'

Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga recorded a version of this song for his album Duets 2. This track originally came from the 1937 Rodgers & Hart musical Babes in Arms. I am a huge Lady Gaga fan and think she is often misrepresented. I think her performance on this track is direct, sincere and unpretentious showing a different side to her music. To quote Tony Bennett, “I see in Lady Gaga a touch of theatrical genius, she is very creative and productive. She's absolutely brilliant with what she does. She's a very, very magnificent performer and she does know how to sing and she does know how to play the piano. I've never met anyone with more talent than that lady”.


The Lady is a Tramp has too many versions to be choosey. Most bring a sound image of the record that played in a dance studio in Portsmouth when I learnt to dance long before Lady Gaga was born. Music can be shared without identical reaction or reasons!


Peggy Lee ‘Is That all There is?’

The words make me laugh and cry at the same time; the rhythm reminds me of that used often by Kurt Veil (I think);it is music's answer to a rare hybrid flower in its seeming mix of Hollywood with old Berlin.


Wagner ‘Brünnhilde’s Awakening’ from Siegfried

Prior to this year I had spent very little time listening to Wagner, and the occasional opera I had attended had not made much of an impression on me . Prior to Opera North’s performance of Die Walküre at the Sage this Summer, I spent time familiarising myself with the music, and, as a result of this, enjoyed the performance enormously. It was as if Wagner had suddenly clicked, and I look forward to hearing more.


Brünnhilde had been put to sleep on a mountain top, surrounded by a ring of fire as a punishment for disobeying her father (often disbelief has to be suspended during opera!). She can only be wakened by a kiss from a hero who is brave enough to cross the flames. The music portrays her opening her eyes, blinking in the sunlight, looking around after being asleep for 20 years, and memories slowly returning. Her first words sound ‘naff’ in English but seem to fit in the original German. ‘Hail, bright sunlight! / Hail, fair sky! / Hail, O radiant day! / Long was my sleep; / But now I wake:/ Who is the man / Wakes me to life?’. I find this music so dramatic, in the context of the story. Shortly after this scene Siegfried and Brünnhilde fall in love (he not knowing that she is his aunt, and she so besotted, doesn’t care anyway).

Copland 'Appalachian Spring' (extract)

I chose my piece of music originally as the season piece, spring. When playing it I found it really relaxing, also I loved that it was made up of the hymn Lord of the Dance and surprises. I have needed to listen to more relaxing and happy music lately.


Queen ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

I very much enjoyed listening to Bohemian Rhapsody, which was written by Freddie Mercury, with Brian May composing the guitar solo part. The single was the only to be number one with the same version, in 1975 and 1991, remained there for 14 weeks and was 5.55 minutes long. The single is elaborate and I always find something new each time I hear the intricate music. It varies from aggressive rock music to interesting gentle operatic ballad.


Albinoni (attr.) 'Adagio'

I chose my track because I think the Albinoni piece has a really special quality about it. It is compelling, its beauty is irresistible, one just has to listen to it. A most memorable moment for me was listening to this piece played by buskers in Berlin several years ago. It was December and pouring with rain. Nevertheless, the crowd was so big it nearly closed the street and not a soul stirred until the piece was over. A fantastic and tremendously moving experience.


Eleni Tsaligopoulou ‘The Wind Will Burn’

I chose Kostos’ piece of music to be played at the December gathering because I thought it was a different culture and type of music that would make people think about other places in the world and perhaps remind them of days in the sun on their holidays. My own choice for our first meeting was from Swan Lake and that was because it was the first ballet I had seen and heard the music and was greatly moved (I was 11 at the time) and it takes me back in time to my school days and my appreciation of ballet. Since then I have taken on board all kinds of music and composers.