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Friday, January 7, 2011

#2 - Samuel Barber - Adagio for Strings (for string orchestra)

The next installment in the "Influential Works" series is "Adagio for Strings", for string orchestra. Samuel Barber is very similar to another composer who's very influential in my work, Aaron Copland, because they are both American composers with a European sensibility. That is to say, their music sounds a lot more like their kindred spirits on the other side of the Atlantic, like Maurice Durufle (who also appears on this list,) rather than that of their compatriots, whom I think of as the "eclectric" group. This group would include Henry Cowell, La Monte Young, Harry Partch, and others, who all did their music-making in a very unique way, and in doing so greatly expanded the definition of what music was and could be. But this piece has a very special place in my listening library because I believe it is a wonderful example of the ability of music to express emotion. This has always been a huge debate in the history of music, with almost every major music critic, theorist, or composer taking part in it. If anything could be proof of an answer in the positive to that debate, it would be this piece. Listen to the chords about 3/4 of the way through the piece: each one heightens the tension until you're not sure if you can take it anymore. And just when you think you've reached your breaking point, Barber relents, and brings back the material from the start of the piece. It's very evocative. Look for other works in this series to also try to demonstrate the ability of music to express emotion. And if you're interested, again, the Adagio For Strings Wikipedia Page. Enjoy!

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