Guest Post: Nature in the Classics

After his wonderful presentation at our most recent Nature in the Classics concert with the Music Institute of Chicago Academy, we asked Jim Setapan if he would share a few more words about the relationship between nature and the great classical canon.  Jim is Director of the Academy and Conductor-in-Residence at the Music Institute of Chicago.  Don’t forget, our last Nature in the Classics concert is coming up on Sunday, March 18!  For more information, please see our Events listing. 

It is clear that love of nature was of paramount interest to many of the great composers. A brief list of some of those for whom a daily communication with nature was a necessity would include Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler, Elgar, Richard Strauss, Sibelius, and Mahler.

The list of works inspired by nature shows that many, many composers drew their inspiration from all matters outdoors.  A short group would include:

Vivaldi- The Four Seasons

Respighi – The Birds

Messiaen – many pieces inspired by bird calls

Prokofiev – A Summer Day

Joan Tower – Sequoia

Ferde Grofe – Grand Canyon Suite

Samuel Joners – Palo Duro Canyon Symphony

Frederick Delius – On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Borodin – In the Steppes of Central Asia

Many German Lieder (songs) speak of the beauty of nature

Beethoven – Symphony #6 (Pastorale)

A list of musical pieces inspired specifically by water would include:

Debussy – La Mer (The Sea)

Johann Strauss jr. – Thunder and Lightning Polka

Benjamin Britten – Four Sea Interludes from the Opera “Peter Grimes”

Wagner – Flying Dutchman Overture

Smetana – The Moldau (a river running through Prague)

Handel – The Water Music

Schumann – Symphony #3 (Rheinish)

The inspiration continues today; the Chicago Symphony’s 2012-13 season includes a section called Rivers, with music based on this feature of nature.

Nature informs not only the content of classical compositions, but their form as well.  Take for example the Golden Section – a sense of perfect proportion ( a division of a length so that the ration of the smaller part to the larger is the same as that of the larger part to the whole; approximately 0.618) which occurs widely in nature, and also in architecture, the visual arts…and music. Some composers used this perfect sense of proportion of form, pitch, rhythm, and tempo instinctively – Bach, Mozart, Brahms; and others, such as Bela Bartok, used it consciously.

A similar relationship has often been at work in the creation of a musical motive, such as the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: its development and growth throughout a piece of music parallels nature’s life cycle.

What a wonderful giftt nature has given us musicians!

Jim Setapen
Director of the Academy
Conductor-in-Residence
Music Institute of Chicago

Advertisements

SAVE OVER 50% ONE DAY ONLY!

Get a year-long individual membership to Friends of Ryerson Woods for just $15 (usually $35). It’s our Leap Day Special for all of our friends! Membership perks include discounts, invitations to special events and more! (Not valid for previously purchased memberships. Offer expires at March 1, 2012 at 12:00 AM CST.)

Benefits include advance registrations to special events, Ryerson Almanac newsletter, discounts and member trips.

For more information, please see: Join Friends of Ryerson Woods.

Listen to Dale Bowman’s “Outside”

Listen to Dale Bowman’s “Outside”

Take a listen to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Dale Bowman share his passion for the natural world in his podcast “Outside” (via iTunes). This week Bowman interviewed Friends of Ryerson Woods Advisory Board member Doug Stotz, Ph.D., and senior conservation ecologist for the Field Museum.  He gives context to the eruption of snowy owls this winter, then discusses other topics, from Northerly Island to Dixon Waterfowl Refuge. Take a listen!

 

Listen to Dale Bowman’s “Outside”

Take a listen to Chicago Sun-Times columnist Dale Bowman share his passion for the natural world in his podcast “Outside” (via iTunes). This week Bowman interviewed Friends of Ryerson Woods Advisory Board member Doug Stotz, Ph.D. and senior conservation ecologist for the Field Museum.  He gives context to the eruption of snowy owls this winter, then discusses other topics, from Northerly Island to Dixon Waterfowl Refuge.

Art Opening: Photographs by Colleen Plumb

Sunday, March 4, 2012
1:00 – 3 :00 p.m.

FREE ADMISSION

Don’t miss the Chicago area opening of Animals Are Outside Today, an exhibition of photographs by Colleen PlumbIn this solo show, Plumb examines relationships between humans and animals, studying how animals are woven through the fabric of culture. Living and dead, real and fake, as displays or companions, these images investigate our ambivalence or perhaps multivalent attitudes toward animals, exposing both our kinship and disjuncture from other creatures of the Earth.

Opening includes a talk by the artist and a book signing.  Her book Animals Are Outside Today is available for purchase online. This event will be held at the historic Brushwood home at Ryerson Woods.

Exhibition runs March 4 – April 29.