Sammy Hakim is an up-and-coming young songwriter based in New York City. In May, 2018 she graduated from Berklee College of Music with a Major in songwriting and a focus in music business. These days she spends most of her time in songwriting sessions with artists all over the country.
There are many contenders for the title of the 20th century’s “greatest opera,” and Alban Berg’s transgressive magnum opus Lulu is undoubtedly one of them. Love, eroticism, and death have always been stalwart themes of opera, yet Lulu still has the ability to surprise audiences through its unflinching examination of these themes — in part due to Berg’s incorporation of a complex, full-orchestral palindrome at the heart of the work.
A further fragmentation of the material brings us to (d.). This rhythmic cell is then chopped into (d1.) and (d2.), which reinforces the sense of urgency. All this material is also subject to octave displacement and expansion of registers (0:59 onwards): From a low A3, the fragments are interspersed with notes in the upper octaves (A4, A5). The note A6 is presented as an interval of an octave (A5 and A6) with a leap in register (1:31).
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In the story, Lulu is loved by many, but manipulates her lovers, moving from one to the next. At the height of her adoration, her fortunes begin to fall: she’s chased by the police, imprisoned, forced into prostitution, and then eventually murdered. To drive this musical and thematic symmetry home, Berg specified that the actors that play her first three lovers are the same actors that play her last three clients when she is a prostitute. This dramatic palindrome dovetails with the musical palindrome: Berg’s marriage of disturbing musical formalism with dramatic technique highlights Wedekind’s unearthing of the violence within patriarchal sexuality.
With overwhelmingly positive results, we’re happy to share a few testimonials of Soundfly’s Orchestration For Strings course directly from our students.
Today I want to look at his first movement from “Musica Ricercata,” a piece for solo piano which features a very unusual choice: The use of one single note for the vast majority of the composition. Listen below.
The odd timing, as the sequence starts on the “4” beat of the end of the solo, instead of the expected “1” beat, catches the ear off guard and adds to the mystical feel of this little interlude. The icing on the cake can be tasted when the bass doubles the notes from octaves below it — though at the start of the third octave, Jones dips back to the third below it, and finishes his last arpeggio back at the top of the second octave, instead of continuing on to the top of the third with Page. It’s a wise decision, as the widening gap in pitches helps accentuate the guitar’s rise to its zenith. It’s yet another classic example of Jones’ flashy but never overdone playing.
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I found a MIDI version of the piece and brought it into Ableton Live. The MIDI file put the left and right hand of the piano on separate tracks, so I used separate instruments for each one: a palm-muted guitar for the right, and a synth pluck for the left.
This pioneering record is a sizzling cauldron of soul, funk, blues, and something electric and ineffable. It’s perfect in almost every way, but it almost didn’t come to be…
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“Perhaps the more important feedback was something that he did himself. He paid close attention to which aspects of a string of digits caused him problems. If he’d gotten the string wrong, he usually knew exactly why and which digits he had messed up on. Even if he got the string correct, he could report to me afterward which digits had given him trouble and which had been no problem. By recognizing where his weaknesses were, he could switch his focus appropriately and come up with new memorization techniques that would address those weaknesses.”
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