Goldberg Variations, Glenn Gould Recordings

The Goldberg Variations were a piece of work by Johann Sebastian Bach, published in 1741.


The piece consists of an Aria and 30 variations. Well what is an Aria? some may ask, I know I did. Aria is an Italian word meaning air, in music it means melody or describe a self contained piece for one voice, usually part of a larger work.

Bach had written them for a Count who suffered from insomnia and had requested him to write something to soothe him and help him sleep. The Count’s performer’s name was Johann Gottlieb Goldberg and may be the original performer for the piece.


In 1955 a man named Glenn Gould recorded the Goldberg Variations at Columbia Records and seemed to blow up instantaneously. He later recorded them again in 1981.

Glenn Gould was perhaps the greatest pianist of the 20th century and arguably still is to this date although he passed in 1982. His interpretations of the Goldberg Variations are unmatched in my opinion and both versions, the 1955 recording and the 1981 recording, are unparalleled and also drastically different from each other.

The 1955 version is much faster and he seems to play with more confidence, to me it feels like he is ready to take on the world. His touch is almost aggressive, even when he is playing softer it feels aggressive.

The 1981 version of the Aria has a somber almost jaded feel. Throughout the performance I get the impression that he is sad and burnt out. Aside from that this performance had more feeling behind it and the accents are more noticeable and the dynamics or more spaced out, the soft parts are softer than in the other version.

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The Rite of Spring

The Rite of Spring or Le Sacre Du Printemps was composed in 1913 by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky.

File:Igor Stravinsky Essays.jpg

Born in 1882, Stravinsky had a lonely young school life and took up the piano, studying music theory and attempted composing his own pieces. In 1901 Stravinsky began to study law at the University of St. Petersburg, in the first four years there he attended less than 50 classes. In 1902 he stayed with arguably the leading Russian composer Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov for a summer.

Nikolai Rimski-Korsakov

Over the next few years he tutored privately under Rimski-Korsakov until his death in 1908. In 1910 Stravinksy became an overnight sensation with the success of his piece The Firebird. In 1911 he wrote another piece enititled Petrushka for a ballet.

When Stravinsky was completing an earlier piece he claims in his autobiography that he had a very vivid dream of a pagan ritual, “… I saw in my imagination a solemn pagan rite: sage elders, seated in a circle, watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the god of Spring. Such was the theme of the Sacre du Printemps” (Igor Stravinsky (1962). An Autobiography. New York: W. W. Norton). When this was being performed for the very first time in 1914, the reception was not very good. The crowd at first started grumbling and didn’t enjoy it because the piece broke all the rules. As the orchestra continued to play the crowd almost broke out into a full blown riot due to the dark emotional feel of the piece. Police showed up at intermission and calmed the crowd, as the second half commenced, the riot resumed and Stravinsky fled from the building before the show was over.

Now that I have given some background on both Stravinsky, the composer, and a little on how the piece was dreamed up, I thought that I would compare the similarities and differences of the Bernstein version and the Solti version. More specifically The last 3 tracks of Part 1: The Adoration of the Earth.

Track 6: Procession of the Wise Elder

Track 7: Adoration of the Earth (The Wise Elder)

Track 8: Dance of The Earth

This is Bernstein’s version, in this version everything seems much more energetic and not as dark as I feel the piece should be. That is not to say that I don’t like it, because I do, but that is beside the point. Everything seems almost boisterous, whereas the Solti version seems almost cold and precise. It feels like Solti accented certain instruments to make the listener uncomfortable, and Bernstein accented instruments to make everything seem as big as possible

Leonard Bernstein

Sir Georg Solti

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History of Jazz

As I started my research I had initially thought that jazz was just an African-American underground scene, but I quickly found out that it had originated or was born, if you will, from slavery.

After the abolition of slavery, this led to opportunities for freed African-Americans. Most who had gifts with music found work in the early “low class” entertainment business. Pianists in bars, entertainment for dances. From roughly 1900 to 1917 a predominant style of jazz was ragtime, which is defined as propulsively¬† syncopated.

Scott Joplin who was called “King of Ragtime” published his first rag “The Maple Leaf Rag” in 1899 and later went on to publish many more such as “The Entertainer” in 1902.


In the 1920’s jazz had become the underground music of the time and played in the underground drinking clubs as dance music. Jazz was beginning to get a reputation of being immoral.

In the 1930’s Jazz was still evolving, as it always does, and the style of this time was Swing. Still dance music, but orchestrated with solos.

By the 1940’s Bebop style players began to push away from dance style music to more musician style music.

From this idea many different musicians started to push ideas but nothing really stirred until the 1950’s when free jazz came about.



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Madonna’s Like A Prayer

Misappropriation of symbolism from the Catholic church

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Guest Speaker Robert Millis

Robert Millis is a founding member of the sound art band “Climax Golden Twins” which started in 1993. He has composed many things in the band and also as a solo artist in a variety of forms, from scoring films both long and short to sound art to field recording and concrete music, he has also released many LPs and CDs through a variety of labels. At a young age he was exposed to a gramophone and the world of 78rpm records.

Here is a video from youtube of a 78rpm record playing Rock Around the Clock

Robert Millis told us a brief history of how recording music came to be.

In 1877 Thomas Edison invented recording, he built the device that could record spoken word and have it play back. He recorded to wax cylinders. He also never thought about recording music.

In 1890 Emile Berliner figured out how to record to a flat surface and the needle could move side to side as well as up and down. Also because they are flat they can be stamped, and thus faster and easier to produce.

In this time music was recorded through big horns, all playing at once, and inscribed to wax. This was then copied and stamped to schellac records to mass produce.

and here is an example of a band playing into a horn to record

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Test Post 1- Drum Head Vibrations

Drum heads vibrate with different patterns with different frequencies

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