MUSICALIZATION – Chapter 1
(Link to the “Playlist” at the bottom)
Artist of the chapter: F. Chopin (click for bio)
One of my favorite composer and pianist from the classical era is without any doubt Chopin. The unique, raw compositional talent that he had has yet to be surpassed. The range, from tender, flowing, soft melodic lines to virtuosic waves of harmony, dynamics and sounds that require the finest technical and interpretative abilities by the pianist, is wider that I have seen any composer have.
One of the things I love about Chopin as a (struggling) pianist myself is the illusion of freedom he creates in the melodic lines. Especially in his slower pieces like some Mazurkas and most Nocturnes. It is like he has left you an empty coloring book for you to color with your music. But at the end you end up choosing the colors he had strategically planned for you to use all along. I have never experienced the same level of “understanding the actual player” from any other composer. It is without any doubt true that Chopin composed as a pianist by a pianist for a pianist.
From a technical point of view Chopin was revolutionary and his compositional genius was evident from an early age. He said that the natural position of the hand lays on the scale of Db – something that sounds like a nightmare to all starting pianists as everyone knows the “easiest” key is C. His fingerings for fast and difficult phrases are so on point that they start to “sit in” so you feel like the fingers are leading your hand instead.
He was the pioneer of arpeggiated harmony that stretches over one octave – something that nobody thought would be pleasant or acceptable. But he made it work as he proves in his “Ocean” Etude (Op. 10 n. 1). The inspiration for a lot of his melodic lines comes from the classic Italian operas and operettas. He adored the music of Verdi. This explains why his melodies are so easy to whistle and sing.
He wrote his revolutionary etudes (op. 10 and op.25) from as early as 19 years old. He revolutionized the etude and made it a piece of art from which you gain a technical ability as a “supplement”. The whole reason why he wrote the etudes was that people could technically play all the passages from his ballades. He also expanded on the nocturne form of John Field and made it “the” nocturne form we all associate Chopin to.
I already said more than what I had planned for. It is just so hard to write a compact summary of someone as great as Chopin.
Interesting fact: Chopin had a relationship with the famous poet and writer George Sand
Chopin’s “Playlist” example:
- Etude N5 op25 in E minor / Giorgia Thomassi
Artist of the chapter: Michel Petrucciani
Petrucciani suffered from osteogenesis imperfecta, a genetic disease that causes brittle bones and, in his case, short stature. That meant that he experienced great pain in his bones during playing. Despite his setback he has become one of the greatest jazz piano artists of all time. His unbelievable precision and technical mastery had no match. Dynamics ranging from the softest whisper to a hurricane of sounds were a breeze for him. He outlived his prognosis by several decades, living a full life as a father and a husband (of more than one wife), an educator and most of all a pianist and an artist. He died at the age of 33 and, coincidently for this post, was buried next to Frederic Chopin’s tomb in Paris.
Even though he has passed away I would like to talk about his playing in the present tense since this is how I “hear” him. I am always amazed by the precision and rhythmic control that Petrucciani has. His phrasing is on point even at the highest tempo. His comping is complex, “wide” and appropriate. One of the things I love about his playing is his left hand. From the flawless walking bass lines to the incredible arsenal of chord structures and voicings. Everything is so precise it is almost inhuman. Enjoy getting that Petrucciani 6-pack!
Interesting fact: His brother Louie is a bass player and they can be heard playing as a duo on the album Flashback
Petrucciani’s “Playlist” Example:
- Home / Trio in Tokio
Artist of the chapter: Blacklicious
Blacklicious is a MC/DJ-Producer duo made up of MC Gift of Gab DJ-Producer Chief Xcel. I got into the group in high school when I heard the album The Craft, their third one published. It was not your standard hip-hop run-of-the-mill beat and rapping. No way. The sampling ranged from Rachmaninov’s C-minor prelude to modern rock, funk and RnB styles. The producing was outstanding and every song had its own character, something that is rare in a hip-hop artist. You could see the artistic touch that Grammy Award-winning engineer Russell Elevado put on the record. There are a lot of amazing featuring singers and musicians that actually recorded live in the studio. That is why this raises the album above a lot of other ones. I even had the song World of Vibrations (from that album) as my ringtone for a long time before my phone broke.After that I dug a bit deeper into the group. I listened to the other albums too – Nia, Blazing Arrow and the newest one released in 2015 Imani Vol. 1.
Technically GoG is precise, articulate and has an incredible rhythmic sense. His voice is live and flexible, though mostly kept on the down low, a bit like Charlie 2na from Jurassic 5. The phrasing is on point and he keeps the freestyle-culture live – a true Gift of Gab. He has an incredible natural flow when doing multi-syllable rhyming and polyrhythmic filler-syllables. A great artist for the recording studio and the freestyle cypher. I will try to add songs form several albums in the playlist. Enjoy getting that Blackalicious 6-pack!
Interesting fact: Their song Alphabet Aerobics has become a social phenomenon as more and more people try to recite the ever-accelerating lyrical flow of words (in alphabetic order).
Blackalicious’ “Playlist” example:
- World of Vibrations / The Craft
Want to expand your Classical/Jazz/Hip-Hop musical vocabulary? Check out “The Playlist”!
(c) 2017-2018 Sibil Yanev