Carl Orff – The Carmina Burana

symphoney orchestra playing carmina burana

The Carmina Burana was composed by Carl Orff in 1935 and 1936. It is based on a series of 24 poems from the Middle Ages, but the musical piece is wholly original. It used lyrics from those poems, but set them to completely new music.

The poems dated from the 11th and 12th century, but they were compiled into several works of literature over the years. Carl Orff used one of these dated from 1847.

symphoney orchestra playing carmina burana

He had the help of a young student and together they went through all the effort palms and organize them into new Latin versus. They also use some German and a little bit of French, but not the modern versions.

Overall, the poems talk about many different topics, from fortune and wealth, to the nature of life, to happiness and joy and how it generally comes about in spring and to what most would call the joys, but some would call the sins, of life, like drinking, gambling, eating and sex.

You’ve probably heard the Carmina Burana before. At the very least you’re familiar with the most famous section called O Fortuna. Actually, O Fortuna is only one part of the first section, which actually has two movements and it. In total there are 25 movements spread across the five sections. The first and the second to last are the most famous, with the last actually just being a repeat of the first.

The structure comes from the idea of a wheel of fortune as it were. This is not the game show version, but refers to a wheel of fortune that turns for all of us. Sometimes we are on top and sometimes we are on bottom. Life is a series of highs and lows.

Is often said that many modern performances of the Carmina Burana do not meet up to Carl Orff’s high expectations. He wanted it to be a combined work that included dancing and choreography and other visuals and stage actions, but today it is mostly just performed with music.

But the music is great, at least in my opinion. A lot of critics consider it too simple, but it has a very high appeal among the masses. If a lot of people like something, you can’t really criticize it too much. It’s a great piece, even though it might not be as complex as some of the other great pieces.

Rhythm is first and foremost for Orff and that is definitely the case with the Carmina Burana as well. The thing that sticks out the most for the majority are the choir voices. They give the piece its signature sound. Some of the solo parts are actually quite difficult for many singers, but otherwise most professional singers handle it pretty well. Most of it is not too hard. Here, have a listen.

Though many critics did not like the Carmina Burana, it was well-received among the people at the time. And today it is considered one of the greatest works from the 20th century. Everybody knows it and it has been used in tons of movies and sampled in many other songs. There are even performances held at planetariums, similar to what goes on with Pink Floyd. I’ve been to one of those and it was amazing. The Carmina Burana will stand the test of time. There’s no doubt about that. And if you have a turntable, you owe it to yourself to pick it up on vinyl and experience this wonderful piece of music for yourself.

Learning How To Sing Better

Quick, what is the oldest instrument in the world? That’s right, it’s your voice. More specifically, it’s your vocal cords. It is the one instrument we all know how to use. Of course, not all of us know how to use it well. But we can all learn.

Learning to sing is a great pursuit for anyone. And it’s not that hard to do. You can find all types of singing lessons. There are online lessons, vocal coaches, full courses that you can download or listen to on CD and various levels of music instructors. Head here for an in-depth look at all the different types of music lessons.

The first step for anyone wanting to improve their singing voice is to figure out exactly which type of lesson is good for you. Most people’s first thought will be to get free lessons. There are tons of these available online. You can find sites that describe various exercises for improving your voice and, of course, you can find hundreds of YouTube videos that will teach you how to sing better, like the following one.

The next step up from that is to buy a comprehensive online course. Courses like these are usually made by well-known instructors, but you don’t actually have any contact with the trainer himself or herself. Instead, you just watch the videos and learn on your own. It is similar to the free lessons, except you get a structured course and you don’t have to find quality articles and videos. That actually takes a lot of time, since there are so many bad ones online. It is not easy to find the good ones among all the bad ones.

These online courses are great for beginners, but they don’t do much for advanced students. If you are advanced, you will want to get a vocal coach and we will talk about that next. But for beginners they could be good. But you have to be the type of person who can motivate themselves. If you quickly lose motivation without having an actual person pushing you forward, then these courses will not work for you.

And that brings us to actual live singing instructors. There are two types here. There are in person instructors. These are people who are in your area, so that you can take lessons at their music studio or have them come to your home. These are generally the most expensive type of lessons and they require you to be in an area where good instructors are available. You also need that instructor to have free time and you to have free time at the same time.

singing lessons

The other alternative is to get an online instructor. Is basically the same as an in person instructor, except they are not in your area and you take lessons via Skype or some other online webcam video chat tool. Generally these lessons are slightly cheaper, but that is not always the case. They are more convenient, since no one needs to leave their home. The instructor stays in their place and you stay at yours. They are obviously not quite as good as in person lessons, but there as close as you can get without actually being there in person.

As I mentioned above, for most people I would recommend buying an online course when you are starting out. The reason I don’t recommend free lessons, is that it just takes too much time to find good ones and to create your own lesson plan. Many of the best courses aren’t that expensive, so this is money well spent.

Once you reach a certain level, it will be time to move on to a live instructor. By then you will also have a good idea of whether you will want to continue learning how to sing or whether you would rather move on to something else. This is another reason I say go with the cheaper online lessons first. You don’t want to spend a ton of money on an instructor, only to find out a few months later that singing isn’t really for you.

Songs in the Key of Life

Stevie Wonder plaque

The world of entertainment celebrates ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ as one of Stevie Wonder‘s most influential albums. This great album was released on 28 September 1976 by Motown Records. Among the best-selling songs in the album include “I Wish” and “Sir Duke”. Quite frankly, the album singled out Wonder as one of the most talented performers in the United States.

The popularity of this album was clear on 8 October 1976 when it debuted at the top on the Billboard Pop Albums Chart. It should be recalled that this was the third album in music history to achieve such a remarkable feat. The same popularity was on full show in Canada, where it also came at the top of the RPM albums chart.

 

Thirteen Weeks of Dominance.

In a rare proof of popularity, the album maintained an unassailable lead in the U.S for 13 consecutive weeks in 1975. Moreover, it would spend another 11 weeks at the top during the week that followed. No other album had topped the charts for such a length of time in that year. Rival albums such as Silk Degrees and Spirit were simply outperformed for the entire duration.

It was not until January 15, 1977 that the album dropped to the second slot after being overtaken by Eagles’ Hotel California. In the same year, the album was ranked as the second best-selling album in the U.S. In fact, RIAA classified the song as platinum after it hit the 10 million units mark in sales. ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ was the highest selling album on the Billboard Year-End.

Stevie Wonder plaque
A plaque commemorating Stevie Wonder

 

How the Singles Performed

The vastly popular single “I Wish” topped the chart on Billboard R&B on January 15, 1977 barely two months after its release. Remarkably, it would stay at the top of the chart for five consecutive weeks. The single also topped on Billboard Hot 100 although it stayed up there for a short while. The track continued to grow in popularity around the world, especially in the U.K.

The jazzy track “Sir Duke” hit the airwaves in March 1977. After a short while, it became obvious that this track would eventually surpass “I Wish” in popularity since it performed much better in sales. At that point, it became obvious that Wonder’s reputation as a gifted and versatile performer would remain robust on the music scene for a long time.

 

About the Last Tracks

After the initial success of the first two singles of the album, it became obvious that the subsequent tracks would not enjoy as much airplay. The release of “Another Star” was followed up quickly by the single “As”, but both tracks did not seem to connect well with the fans at home and away. The singles trailed many others in Pop and R&B charts.

Overall, ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ was an amazing album that revealed Stevie Wonder as an extraordinary performer. The positive critical reception that the album earned can be explained in part by the fact that the artiste connected very closely with his vast audience in regard to his warm human themes. The art behind the album was exceptionally brilliant.

Choosing The Ideal Turntables For DJs

turntable record player deck

Ask any vinyl DJ what their most important piece of gear is, and you’ll almost certainly always get the same response – “my decks”. There are many reasons for this, but it might help if you think of your decks as the interface between you and the music – your decks are your way of controlling what your audience hears, you can touch them and move them and you need to know how they respond in every tiny detail.

turntable record player deck
A Dj’s turntable deck

Seeing as your decks will be such a crucial part of your DJ setup, you need to be sure that they perform at the right level for you. Different DJs play in different ways, so it’s (unfortunately) not just a case of going out and buying ‘The ideal turntable for DJs ever made’, even if you could afford it. The fact is, every DJ develops their own style, and some decks are more suited to some styles than others.

Ideally, you would want to try out any deck before you actually buy it; a good way of doing this is by making a lot of DJ friends, so you can then pop over to their house or garage, or wherever they practice, and have a go on their gear. This is by far the best way to figure out if a particular brand or model of turntable suits your playing style. If you’re not sure about how to DJ at all, this is also a good way to learn the ropes – if you can get an expert to show you the basics, you’ll pick up the essentials much more quickly than if you’re just trying to figure it all out on your own.

 

DJ Decks – Belt Drive or Direct Drive?

Anyway, if you are looking to get yourself a new set of DJ decks, then there are a couple of big points to look out for. DJ turntables come in two flavors – belt drive and direct drive. If you ask a DJ about this, they will probably say you should never get belt drive decks – and they would probably be right.

Direct drive decks are generally far superior, but they are also generally far more expensive. So, if you’re on a really tight budget and are not sure that you’re going to be doing a lot of DJing and making some money from it, then maybe a belt drive deck might be the better option. A decent belt drive deck will do the trick if you’re just cueing up one record after another and not doing any complex beat matching or scratching, and will save you a few quid to start up.

However, if you know that you want to DJ for the rest of your life and nothing but the best will do (well, as much as your budget can stretch to) then you’ll need to get yourself a good set of direct drive decks. These have much higher torque ratings than belt drive decks, offer better tempo control and are essential if you intend on doing any serious scratching.

Contemporary-Classical Music Composers

Max Richter a great composer

When it comes to Contemporary-classical music a lot can come to mind. For example one of my personal choices would be Dustin O’Halloran. With a Eric Satie like style his pieces are an exquisite form of art. The way the notes are articulated make the spirit wander on a long and internal journey each time one tries to listen to him.

For example, “A Great Divide”, starts relatively slow and then all of the composer’s creativity rushes in as if there was nothing else of greater importance. It’s like a deep sea adventure on a stormy day. The top of it is all gloomy and wavy whereas the bottom of it is as quiet as it can get. I can go on for hours on end, but if I stroked your strings even the tiniest bit then I would recommend listening to it.

Max Richter a great composer
Max Richter at Cadogan Hall
Another great contemporary composer is Max Richter. His style is quite original and exotic. As an example I would take the finale of “The Art of Mirrors”. The whole 14 minutes are a joyride of sadness and lost memories. It’s like your whole hidden being resurfaces to just feel it. I cant really explain it, but that piece has been one of the most intense I have ever heard. Everything about it is just perfect.

After hearing it some might say that at some point it gets repetitive and non original. But that’s exactly why Max is an esteemed composer. His ability to use the same sound with minor alternations give you the vibe of a never-ending journey into whatever makes you feel deeply.

If I were to add another composer that would be Ólafur Arnalds. Almost all of his pieces are an intense outburst of creativity. An example would be “Broken”. This piece would take quite a while to describe. It starts off slow as if it was making its way through a tight hole. Then surprisingly, it gets farther and farther until all you can feel is a mix of emotions. Its like a roller coaster of feelings. You can feel sad, happy, overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time. It just grabs your whole being and keeps it fixated until its done.

Rare are the pieces that can really make you feel such powerful emotions without even awakening them in the first place. The last composition I felt that way about goes way back to the early 20th century. It is the Carmina Burana, one of my all-time favorites.

Another piece worth mentioning is “Undan Hulu”. It is not appealing to any emotion in particular, because of the simple fact that it can be associated with whatever emotion the listener desires. It’s quite calm, like a winter breeze blowing through your chest on a snowy day. You can feel it there but it’s not really present due to the cold of the day. But it feels warm in one way. That’s the feeling this piece transmits to me.

As it turns out, I have talked about more than one composer which might seem a little odd when it comes to vinyl record reviews. But their style is similar and yet so contradictory that I couldn’t let any of them out. I hope you enjoyed reading this and I most certainly hope you will listen to some of the pieces I listed.

How to Clean a Turntable Record Player

Cleaning a record player

Maybe it’s the way the needle strikes the fine hidden groves on the vinyl records to produce crisp clear high pitched soothing sounds that always leave you in a trance… or maybe it’s the classic sophisticated classic look and status the “music time-machine” oozes from the corner of your living room, but one thing’s for sure, it feels awesome to own one. A quality record player, like the Pro-ject Debut Carbon (link to review), is one of the greatest gifts from our glorious past that music lovers can enjoy holding on to for the next couple of decades. That is if we can keep them clean and operational for that long… right??

Cleaning a record player
The stylus is the most delicate part and needs to be cleaned regularly.

So how do you clean your one of a kind record player? How do you ensure that the quality of music it plays is always crisp and flowing without any annoying skips or loops or even that your stylus (needle) doesn’t suddenly snap off due to clogged dust or dirt?

Or even worse, can you imagine that all time favorite vinyl record from your collection, you know… I’m talking about that priced hand-me-down from ol’ grandpa Jones, the 1959 James Brown’s album “Please Please Please” or that Bob Dylan original record. Can you imagine that record getting a crack or a mean scratch and it’s totally ruined just because you decided it was okay to neglect your record player?

Now, just like anything else in your home, record players (especially the old antique ones…), need some love and care for them to continue operating properly and blaring those cool tunes we love so much. Your vinyl records do too…

 

Why You Need To Clean Your Turntable Record Player On A Regular Basis

There’s some simple grade school science that goes on while playing music from a turntable record player which leaves the needle, the vinyl record and the turntable surface (platter) very attractive to dust particles. All the dust just wants to fly and settle there! As the needle and the vinyl record rub together, static charges are created on both surfaces and any speck of dust floating around there just can’t stay away from the record player. No matter how clean you think your home is! I once took my old record player’s cartridge for repair because the thing just stopped working, only for it to be sent back after a day with a note that read:

“Dear Tom,

We are deeply sorry that you had to miss your 5 o’clock dose of smooth Jazz yesterday. We know how much you enjoy that. Anyway, we are glad to tell you that your cartridge is fine and the problem was only caused by some little built up dust on your stylus. Be careful to keep your record player clean each time you use it. Before and after Tom… before and after, okay?

Kind reargds,

Martha

SpeakOut Classic Music Shop”

 

What You’ll Need For Cleaning Your Record Player

  • Two pieces of cloth – one lint-free, the other should be antistatic
  • Compressed air can if necessary
  • Cleaning (or rubbing) alcohol
  • A stylus brush… they have these in most record shops
  • Soft paint brush or Q-tips where the stylus cleaning brush is unavailable

 

How To Clean Your Turntable Record Player – Step By Step

Step 1: Start with the Playing Mechanism

The first step is to clean the platter and the needle.

The Platter

This is the circular turntable surface that spins the vinyl records. Take the lint-free cloth and dampen it with a little rubbing alcohol then clean the platter in circular-spiral motions. Remember, it’s advised that you start from the center heading outwards. Make sure to remove all dust and debris sticking on the surface. Use the can of compressed air to blow any loose debris on the platter if necessary. Using your mouth to blow off dust means there’s a risk you might leave your saliva there.

The Stylus

You’ll need the stylus cleaning brush for this. The stylus should always be cleaned using back and forth strokes (following the direction of a playing record) and never sideways! Thorough cleaning may require you to deep the stylus cleaning brush in some bit of rubbing alcohol but generally you can do it with the brush only depending on how often you clean your stylus.

Using your fingers to remove dust from the needle is very much discouraged. Chances are… you might leave some sweat or oil on the stylus which would accelerate the buildup of stubborn dirt. Use the soft brush or stylus brush all the time. Remember also not to blow the stylus with your mouth. The high-pressured can of compressed air is not advised either. Just keep it to the brush and you’ll be fine.

Step 2: Clean the Rest of the Record Player

The second step is to clean the record player casing

The Outer Case

Use a damp cloth to wipe the outer casing clean. Most record player come with a wooden or hard plastic casing which can easily be wiped clean. However, it’s better to use the anti-static cloth for this for obvious reasons. Another thing to consider when wiping the casing is to avoid getting any liquid in the ports or wires. Use the compressed air can to blow out any dust or debris trapped inside the ports. After cleaning the record player’s case, make sure you cover it well with the enclosing cover it came with. If it didn’t, use a clean piece of cloth large enough to cover the entire record player from all sides.

 

Bonus Tips

  • Always clean the stylus before and after playing any records
  • Always clean your vinyl records before and after playing them
  • You can cover the record player while playing records to reduce the accumulation of dust due to the static charges

Vinyls Rock and Dylan Rocked Vinyls

Bob Dylan with Joan Baez

Just hearing a vinyl record can bring some music lovers to theirs knees. It is something about that real, true grit sound wailing from the speakers. Records have earned their special place in classic music history. More often then not, modern day recording studios are filled with thousands of dollars of audio sound equipment, along with some individual paid thousands of dollars, who is trained in making audio changes digitally.

Vinyl records were recorded in studios where digital technology simply did not exist. This is why an artist had to actually have talent. Not only a voice to sing with, but literally a brain . They had to rely upon their own words, their own lyrics, and songs, which is why some music aficionados believe the art of music died when digital studios replaced the necessity for talent .

Bob Dylan with Joan Baez
Bob Dylan singing with Joan Baez

Bob Dylan: poet, lyricist, song-writer and humanitarian/ These are just a few basic nouns to sum up the life of a this great man. Bod Dylan possessed the raw, natural talent necessary to succeed in the music industry during his lifetime. This great man has sold thousands of records. He has played countless sold out crowds. However, just like many poetic, literary greats of his time, he was misunderstood by many.

This was because he put his heart and soul into every word he wrote. Love, hate, and passion flew from his mouth and straight to paper. At first, people saw his lyrics as poetry, not as music. However, that is and forever will be what made Bod Dylan, Dylan. He had something to say about the sad state the world was in and did not care what people thought about him in the process. All he knew was that he had a passion for humanity, a passion for the art of music and poetry. He was going to use that any way he could.

 

2016 Noble Peace Prize

This man of heart and steel, deserved every bit of his earned title of a noble peace prize winner in literature. The times definitely were a’ changing . During the 1960’s, some of the most influential human rights movements had already begun. Black men and black women were being beaten, slaughtered and burned just to earn the right to vote. The Vietnam war was taking sons, brothers, and fathers. People had enough and began to protest in the streets and through walk outs and sit ins on college campus lawns.

Words from Dylan and others like him let people know they were not alone. Their words also soothed their weary souls and gave them a chance, through music, to persevere, to keep going when food was scarce and money was even more scarce and to convince each other that people had to start helping to take care of each other in times of need.

We, not as a nations, but as human beings, had to learn humility, respect, and how to be humane with everyone.

The intriguing thing is, when Bob Dylan found out that he had won the Noble Prize, he was first quite troubled at accepting the prize altogether. The New York times called him rude and disrespectful for this potential possibility. But, you have to understand the heart and soul of this truly humble, humane man to respect his decision. He never wrote to help himself, nor to make money. He wrote to help a struggling generation of people become better individuals.