(Dec 22, 2018)
Eleanor Rigby, popular for 52 years
- Eleanor Rigby, a song by the Beatles, was released in 1966, and I first heard it in my first year of college. It was written primarily by Paul McCartney, and credited to Lennon–McCartney. I was blown away by the originality.
- Eleanor Rigby broke sharply with popular music conventions, both musically and lyrically. (This is a common theme, typical of the greatest music ever written for hundreds of years.)
- Eleanor Rigby employs a classical string ensemble with 8 studio musicians, comprising four violins, two violas, and two cellos. The score was composed by producer George Martin.
- The players kept moving away from the microphones until Martin ordered them to “Stop moving the chairs!”.
Is this “classical” music? And do we care about the label? It is without doubt one of the most original songs ever written.
The Planets, extremely popular for almost 100 years, delayed premiere
- The Planets, Op. 32, is a seven-movement orchestral suite by the English composer Gustav Holst, written between 1914 and 1916. Each movement of the suite is named after a planet of the Solar System and its corresponding astrological character as defined by Holst.
- It has remained one of the most popular pieces of music ever written right to this very moment, and if you listen carefully, it could be something written for a movie in 2018. But it’s over a century years old.
- The work was not heard in a complete public performance, however, until some years after it was completed. The first complete public performance was finally given in London by Albert Coates conducting the London Symphony Orchestra on 15 November 1920.
So in 1916 the world was not yet ready for this music by Holst. It was too revolutionary!
Pomp and Circumstances, popular for 117 years
- In 1901, Sir Edward Elgar composed Pomp And Circumstance March No. 1 In D major. The title comes from Shakespeare’s Othello – “Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!”
- Elgar conducted his own work at the premiere.
- The march was played two days later at a London Promenade Concert in London. The audience “rose and yelled”.
- It is, of course, still played at countless graduation ceremonies. It is unlikely that anyone will not recognize the famous theme.
So this piece was reasonably successful from the very first performance – 117 years ago, and it picked up more and more popularity over time.
Gymnopédie No. 3, popular for 130 years
Erik Satie was born May 17, 1866, and died July 1, 1925, Paris. He was a French composer whose unconventional style was a major influence on younger musicians then and now.
- The title “Gymnopédies” comes from a made-up profession Satie invented for himself. What is a gymnopedist? Someone who writes Gymnopédies, according to Satie.
- When Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire in 1879, at around age 13, his teachers thought he was a lazy kid with poor technique, and he washed out. He tried again 1885 at age 19, with the same result.
- Three years later, in 1888, he published the first of these now-famous piano compositions. Thank God Satie did pay much attention to teachers.
- He was called “a clumsy but subtle technician” in a book on contemporary French composers published in 1911. He definitely had the last laugh.
- The Gymnopédies defy traditional harmonies and structures. Satie was a quiet rebel his entire life.
- Satie was friends with, among others, both Debussy and Ravel. In 1898, Debussy published an orchestration of “Gymnopédies”. Quite obviously Debussy did not think Satie was a “a clumsy but subtle technician”. Once again little minds dismissed far greater minds as inferior.
- Blood, Sweat & Tears won a Grammy for their 1968 interpretation Gymnopédie No. 3.
- Satie’s music has been used in movies going back to the early 1900s and will be in featured in “Kampai! Sake Sisters”, scheduled for release in 2019. We can say without a moment’s hesitation that Satie is one of the greatest popular composers of all time.