Okay, my third literature post on here will be this weekend. But in the meantime I figured it’d be a glorious opportunity to put a bit of other-worldly genius music on the blog. This being the internet, the music had to be accompanied by some serious creative brilliance, so there really was only one place to turn.
Stephen Malinowski (the American composer and educator) offers one of the finest YouTube channels out there—his videos (made using the Music Animation Machine) really are a modern marvel. He’s been making these educational animations since the early 1990s and received press interest in America back then, but with the advent of the internet and the arrival of YouTube, the popularity of his animations skyrocketed.
He’s recently updated his process for making the animations, spicing up the old formula with mathematical concepts. These ideas have made it into some of his more recent projects, most notably whilst working through Bach’s 48 preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier.
Consequently, you can find animations that replicate Voronoi diagrams and, elsewhere, ChromaDepth 3D technology was used to bring old classics revolving brilliantly into the 21st century. Others are like a merry-go-round of retro video games or simply hurtle along at a flat out pace to keep up with the works of genius composers. It’s quite the trip!
You can visit his YouTube channel smalin to find his full collection, but I’ll show off some of the finest below. If this post is a hit I’ll make a further selection in the future to pick up some gems you may have missed.
I’ve done a couple of articles for LifeHack about this before (with Mr. Malinowski’s permission, of course), but the second one ended up being spoiled by a sub-editor, so this time around I can bung the videos on as they were intended.
Entering this world of music in animated form is a unique experience, not entirely unlike entering a literary world—you’re taken on an intellectual journey and it’s simultaneously one inspiring and educational experience.
1. Chopin, Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Opus 9 No. 2
Jokes about Chopin and where he did his shoppin’ aside, the man was a genius who was also somewhat reclusive. Despite his abilities and the brilliance of his compositions, the Polish composer lived out much of his adult life in Paris.
He rarely performed in public and instead held private performances in his flat for luminaries of the time.
2. Chopin, Nocturne in D-flat Major, Opus No. 2
This video showcases the Voronoi diagram (being useless at mathematics, I’m not going to pretend I know what it is) style, which Stephen Malinowski suggests offers “an analogue to music perception”.
The result is certainly magnificent—like the splendour of a church’s windows set to Chopin, eh?
3. Beethoven, Symphony 9, 2nd Movement
This is the second movement of Beethoven’s monumental masterpiece—his 9th symphony. This thing is synonymous with music, although its famous choral section barely lasts for 60 seconds and the rest of the hour-long symphony is pretty spectacular, to put it mildly.
The outstanding genius of the symphony surely cements Beethoven as the greatest composer in history in terms of the sheer scope of his intellectual pursuits – the piece very much as a progressive-leaning.
4. Vivaldi, Four Seasons (Allegro)
Virtuoso violinist and genius composer Antonio Vivaldi penned this masterpiece in 1723 and it remains one of those compositions pretty much everybody has heard.
So, yes, it’s another piece synonymous with music, and seeing as it’s almost winter, why not get in the mood and get this thing buzzing through your mind?
5. Bach, Preludio, Partita in E Major, Lara St. John
I’m going a bit Bach crazy after this as Stephen Malinowski’s recent project brought dozens of preludes and fugues by the great man to life. This is a particularly artistic rendition of an extremely hectic violin solo and certainly catches the eye.
6. Bach, Organ Sonata No. 4, BMV 528
This is part of Bach’s organ sonata and was composed circa 1727, some scholars believe this was composed by Bach as practice for his other works. Whatever, it’s a pretty special piece of work and shows off the man’s talent in fine style.
7. Bach, Cantata 35, 5. Sinfonia
J.S. Bach was one stunningly accomplished musician. During his 65 years (he died in 1750) he composed over 1,000 pieces. This may sound remarkable, but it would certainly have been bettered by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had the precocious fellow not died mysteriously aged 35 with 600 compositions to his name.
This isn’t a competition, of course, as displayed by this uplifting piece—it was clearly all for the love music.
8. Bach, Cello Suite No.1, 1st Movement
One of the wonders of the Music Animation Machine is it shows popular music in a new light, such as with Bach’s renowned piece here.
Suite No. 1 (BMV 1007) is, of course, another extremely famous classical music piece that regularly turns up in TV and film, even in something as daft as the second Hangover film!
9. Mozart, Symphony 25, G Minor, First Movement
Eagle-eared listeners will recognise this as the opening to the 1984 Oscar-winning film Amadeus. Mozart composed this when he was only 17 and it still sounds as remarkable and as alien a statement now as it probably did over 200 years ago.
10. Tallis, Spem in Alium (40-Voice Motet)
This stunning composition from Thomas Tallis (an English composer—well done, England). Composed circa 1570, the religiosity breathes out of every vocal chord.
In an era ravaged by illness and sporadic bouts of plague outbreak, it’s somewhat marvellous to see many individuals kept themselves busy and dedicate themselves to creative and intellectual pursuits.
On a final note, “spem in alium” is, of course, Latin and it means this: “hope in any other”.
Plus, one more for good luck…
11. Pachelbel, Canon in D, (ChromaDepth 3D)
Finally, ending on a high, we have Pachelbel’s Canon in D—quite the legendary little number. We’ve written about its peculiar history on our other blog (follow the link), but this video displays the piece as you’ve likely never seen it before. It revolves around and shows how each violin picks up Pachelbel’s Canon, which includes the rather notorious bass section to the piece (which some people have a problem with, but I think rather suits it).
Addendum: About the Composition Naming Process
I’d always been confused about how classical music works picked up their names and couldn’t find a definitive answer online. So I asked an expert in the form of Stephen Malinowski and I was provided with the following information:
First, you have the name that the composer gives to a piece. If they do. Or they might give it more than one name. Or a publisher may pick a name they think will sell better. The name can be poetic, like Debussy naming a piece for solo flute Syrinx (which is another name for pan pipes). Or it can tell what instruments play it (like String Quartet no. 3). Or it can be the form or manner of composition of the piece (like Sonata or Fugue). Often, for music that’s in a key, the key will be part of the name (Nocturne in D-flat major). Or, the piece might have a function (like Etude or Intrada). For dance music, the name can be the name of the dance (like Waltz or Polka). And then, there are names like Symphony, or Overture, or Prelude which started out with a certain meaning but got applied to so many different kinds of things over time that you need to know what the context is before you know what it’s telling you (for example, Bach called his 3-part inventions for keyboard Sinfonias, which is the same word as Symphony).
The opus numbers follow, which are laid out based on the point of publication—essentially this makes them a basic guide for when they were written. If something is published posthumously a different set of numbers are assigned to a piece.
As has happened regularly over the centuries, many new composers come along and rearrange old works. Pachelbel’s Canon in D, for instance, was rearranged in the 1960s to great success, and Bach’s Air on the G String was reworked at the start of the 20th century. This alters the name in the following way, as explained by Mr. Malinowski:
For example, for Domenico Scarlatti, Alessandro Longo was the first [example]; he assigned “Longo numbers” (L. 46). Then Ralph Kirkpatrick redid it, and assigned “Kirkpatrick numbers” (K. 152). More recently, Emilia Fadini renumbered them again (I guess resulting in “Fadini numbers,” but in her edition, which I have, her number is simple THE number, with the L and K numbers given for cross reference).
Finally, some people don’t bother using their name in the numbering and use a different form of indicator. This means Bach has the BWV (Bach Werke Verzeichnis—”Bach works directory”) and Handel has HWV.
For others such as Antonio Vivaldi, Ryom Verzeichnis is the standard catalog and was created by Peter Ryom. This helps people to identify the composer’s works more easily.
In other words, it’s quite a complex system but one which, with a little commitment and learning, makes a great deal of sense and helps you piece together the remarkable and complex world of classical music.