Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Genius of Maurice Ravel

Hello, students! For our last listening assignment of the school year, I'd like to introduce you to Maurice Ravel, a true Impressionist master and one of my favorite composers.

 Ravel was born on March 7, 1875, in France. He remains one of the best known composers of all time and is now regarded as one of the great Impressionist artists.

Ravel began studying at the Paris Conservatory at age 14 and continued there into his early twenties. During his long career he wrote music for all kinds of instruments, including some very famous works for the piano. Ravel loved to take pieces written for other instruments and rewrite them for the orchestra. His best known works for the piano include Jeux d'eau (Fountains), Miroirs (Mirrors), and Le Tombeau de Couperin (the Tomb of Couperin). Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's piano piece, Pictures at an Exhibition, is widely played and well loved. Ravel died in Paris, France on December 28, 1937.
This year we've been studying some of the qualities of Impressionist music, and when you listen carefully you will hear many of these ideas in Ravel's music. Can you hear each of the Impressionist ideas we've studied in Jeux d'eau (Playing Water) linked below?
1) Dissonance - Notes that don't quite "fit" together.
2) Perpetual Motion - Motion that doesn't stop
3) Intervals of 4ths and 5ths
4) Large leaps between low and high sounds
5) Pedal effects that may sound veiled or blurry