All Aboard! Five Pieces Inspired by Trains

Music reflects the sounds of the time. In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, music was centered around the human voice and the motion of the body through dance. Music of the eighteenth century emerged from the pastoral sounds of nature, hunting horns, and the bugle calls of the battlefield. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, music got louder and more discordant amid the mechanized roar of the Industrial Revolution. Perhaps electricity and computers inform …

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Dona Nobis Pacem: Six Musical Invocations of Peace

The phrase Dona nobis pacem (“Grant us Peace”) comes from the Agnus Dei section of the Roman Catholic mass. It’s a simple, yet eternally powerful, invocation which has come to life in countless musical settings, from the serene simplicity of the traditional canon to the melodic perfection of Schubert’s Mass No. 6 in E-flat Major. At the end of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, it emerges as a triumphant celebration. In the twentieth century, it becomes a …

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Pastorale d’été

J’ai embrassé l’aube d’été. (I have embraced the summer dawn). This epigraph by French poet Arthur Rimbaud is inscribed in the score of Arthur Honegger’s atmospheric tone poem, Pastorale d’été (Summer Pastorale). The piece is like a musical painting. It doesn’t evoke literal images, but instead feelings and loose associations. The natural world awakens amid the powerful inevitability of dawn. The soul of nature speaks through the music. Consider the distinct personas of the …

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Different Trains

One of my fondest early childhood memories was visiting the Arcade and Attica Railroad for a summer afternoon train ride. Nestled in the rolling Western New York countryside east of Buffalo, it’s one of a handful of places where visitors can get up close and personal with a steam locomotive. Beyond the soot and flying cinders, the sound of a steam engine may be the most memorable aspect of the experience. It huffs, …

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