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.

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. It was created in a secure recording studio and the positive critical reception that the album earned can be explained in part by the fact that the artist connected very closely with his vast audience in regard to his warm human themes. The art behind the album was exceptionally brilliant.

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.

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.