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Music in the Making

Music In The Making: When It Rains, It Pours!

This week, we’re listening to music inspired by the sea and rain, featuring Debussy, Blitzstein, Britten…and Jim Henson!


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On this week’s episode of Music in the Making, we’re listening to music inspired by water: either in the sea, or from the sky!

Claude Debussy – La Mer
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra
Stude Concert Hall

At the time of La Mer’s premiere in 1905, it was very unusual for a piece of programmatic music to be written about a simple setting. These works used to be centered around characters, mythology or any type of story with a plot-line. So considering this, many twentieth-century listeners thought La Mer was a rambling work with no real purpose. However, modern listeners now appreciate Debussy’s most famous work for those exact same reasons. While it does not have an exact plot or climax, Debussy uses subtleties like color and instrumentation to create a large palette of emotions that can be heard throughout this work, from the most serene to dangerously turbulent waters.

A picture of Hokusai's "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa"
Do the wave: A picture of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa”

Marc Blitzstein – “Rain Quartet” from Regina
Members of Moores Concert Chorale
Moores Opera House

Our next selection is taken from a lesser-known opera entitled “Regina”. As you listen to this excerpt, you can probably draw many parallels between this and the more famous operas of Leonard Bernstein. Like Bernstein, Marc Blitzstein uses large instrumentation along with jazz, folk and broadway influences. In this particular excerpt from the opera, various characters describe the sound of the rain (which sounds much more peaceful than the recent rains in Texas)!

Benjamin Britten – Four Sea Interludes
Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra
Stude Concert Hall

When Benjamin Britten created the setting for his opera Peter Grimes, it’s possible that he was thinking of his own home in Aldeburgh on England’s east coast. In a similar way, Peter Grimes is set in a coastal village and Britten wrote the music to illustrate this seaside environment. In the incidental music for this opera, he describes various aspects of life on the water, including dawn, moonlight, and even a storm. These pieces were put together into an orchestral suite now known as the Four Sea Interludes.

Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher (arr. Laz Estrada and Alex Bruce) – Rainbow Connection
Men of Moores
Moores Opera House

In order to put a smile on your face after all this foul weather, we’re going to listen to a light-hearted work that reminds us that the rain is always followed by a rainbow. This song, written in 1979 for The Muppet Movie by Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher, became an unlikely radio success, remaining on the Billboard Top 40 for seven weeks after it’s debut. The song went on to be nominated for an Academy Award later that year.

This episode originally aired Sunday, April 24th, 2016. Catch Music in the Making every Sunday at 7:06 PM on Classical 91.7.