Saturday, January 29, 2022

Artist/Picture Study - Leonardo DiVinci

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, and died on May 2, 1519. He was an Italian polymath of the High Renaissance who was active as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, scientist, draughtsman, theorist. 

According to Wikipedia, "While his fame initially rested on his achievements as a painter, he also became known for his notebooks, in which he made drawings and notes on a variety of subjects, including anatomy, astronomy, botany, cartography, painting, and paleontology.

"Leonardo was educated in Florence by the Italian sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio. He began his career in the city, but then spent much time in the service of Ludovico Sforza in Milan. Later, he worked in Florence and Milan again, as well as briefly in Rome, all while attracting a large following of imitators and students."

Wikipedia also stated that "Leonardo is among the greatest painters in the history of art and is often credited as the founder of the High Renaissance.  Despite having many lost works and less than 25 attributed major works—including numerous unfinished works—he created some of the most influential paintings in Western art. 

"His magnum opus, the Mona Lisa, is his best-known work and often regarded as the world's most famous painting. The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time and his Vitruvian Man drawing is also regarded as a cultural icon."

Interestingly, relatively few of Leonardo's designs were constructed or feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to engineering and metallurgy were only in their infancy during the Renaissance. Some of Leonardo's smaller inventions, however, were manufactured without much celebration, such as a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire and an automated bobbin winder

Below are six of Leonardo DiVinci's paintings that Olivia studied. After observing them for some time, she shared what she could recall about each picture. 

Mona Lisa

This painting is painted as oil on wood. The original painting size is 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8 in) and is owned by the Government of France and is on the wall in the Louvre in Paris, France.

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there's a woman sitting on a chair on what looks like a balcony.
- In the background, you can see some mountains, what looks like a lake or an ocean, a river to the right with a bridge going over it, and to the left what look like what could be part of the river or - what I'm thinking - is a road. 
- The woman is wearing a what a green dress with gold sleeves and she has some sort of shawl with armholes that goes over the dress.
- Her hair looks like it is slightly curly and it looks like she is wearing a light veil to protect her hair. You can see a little bit of it to the left.
- She is not wearing any jewelry. 
- Her eyes seem set deeply in her face, and there's a hint of a smile, but not a full smile. 
- Her left arm is resting on the arm of her chair, and her right arm is on her wrist of her left arm.
- She seems very relaxed.
-  The colors of the picture seem kind of muted. 


The Last Supper

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there's a long table and at the table there are a bunch of people. At the center of the table, you have Jesus, and you have people on both of his right and left.
- Starting with the people on the left side of the picture, they all look like they are leaning a little bit towards Jesus...and they are listening to what the other side of the table is saying. 
- The person closest to Jesus on his right side is a woman who I'm guessing is Mary. Sitting next to Mary is a man holding a little jug of wine...I'm guessing there's wine in it. 
- They all have a robe and then they have another robe over one side, and they are all dressed like that. 
- To the right of the picture, you have a man sitting next to Jesus and he has his arm out - like he is going to turn Jesus away from someone else because the man behind him - who looks like he is going to talk to Jesus and doesn't look very happy - he is pointing up towards the ceiling. 
- The people at the end of the table on that side look like they are having an argument amongst themselves. 
- They all kind of have the same hair length and style. There's a wave in it. If they don't have that hairstyle, their hair is short or they are bald. 
- Also, one of the disciples is wearing the same exact outfit as Jesus....or at least that's what it looks like in my version of the picture.
- They all have sandals on.
- The room that they are in looks like it is in the shape of a rectangle. There are four openings/doorways on each side. At the very back wall, there looks like there is a doorway and two windows on each side of the doorway.
- There are some mountains in the distance and what looks like a green field. 
- Kind of in front of the table, but short enough down so it's not blocking the table, is this stone thing that looks like a tombstone.
- On the table, there's food, but you can't tell what it is. There are some oranges and pears on the table. 
- The ceiling is broken up into squares to give it a pattern.


Study of a Horse

Olivia remembered: 
- This isn't a full is a sketch, just like the title implies.
- You have a side view of the horse and then part of the front view of the horse - of the chest and one of his legs. 
- You can see this horse is one that they use for chariot pulling because there are a lot of muscles in the chest area.
- You can tell that there are a lot of muscles because of all the shadowing he did. 
- You can see on the side profile of the horse, part of its tail, what appears to be part of his hind legs. You can tell one is really defined - the one being lifted up. 
- The horse's mouth is open. 
- The tail is kind of curly. 
- It looks like DiVinci was having a hard time getting the proportion of the legs right because you can see some lighter marks.
- On the main drawing, he didn't finish the front leg, but it isn't the same for the other one. The other leg on the front view of the horse is complete. 
- You can see the joints where the horse bends his leg. 
- It is all neutral tones, and there isn't a ton of shading. 

Virgin of the Rocks

A very similar painting in the National Gallery, London, is also ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci, and ascribed a date before 1508. Although it was originally thought that this painting was done by Leonardo's assistants, the study of the painting during its restoration led the conservators to conclude that the greater part of the work was done by Leonardo. 

Virgin of the Rocks was painted for the chapel of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, in the church of San Francesco Maggiore in Milan. In 1781, it was sold by the church and bought by Gavin Hamilton, who took it to England. After passing through various collections, it was bought by the National Gallery in 1880.

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there is a woman who I am thinking is Mary, an angel sitting on the ground.
- There's a bunch of rocks around them and in the background.
- Some of the rocks that are closer to her that have this moss kind of stuff on them. 
- The other woman who is with her is an angel and she is sitting on the ground with her hand to the back of a child who is sitting and looking at Mary. 
- Both Mary and the two children have very thin, golden halos around their heads.
- The sky is blue and there looks like there is a little island in the distance. 
- Mary is wearing a blue dress and she has a cloak that is also blue.
- One of the kids has what looks like a short, golden cross.
- None of the kids are wearing shirts. They only have a diaper on. 
- The rocks are rounded - like Aspen's ears - and the ones to the left of the picture are kind of staggered in heigh, and a little bit around the bottom looks like a mouth opening up. 
- Trying to think....the grass is kind of yellowish. 
- She doesn't appear to be wearing any jewelry. 
- It's a very simple sash around her waist, but it looks like it could support the weight of a child. 
- Mary's hair appears to be kind of curly. 


The Burlington House Cartoon

Sometimes called The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, this drawing was done by Leonardo DiVinci in charcoal and white and black chalk. He used eight sheets of paper that are glued together. It is very large in format and size and thought to be a cartoon for a painting. However, no painting by Leonardo exists that is based directly on this cartoon. The Burlington House Cartoon can be seen at the National Gallery in London.

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there are four people - two women and two kids. 
- One kid is on the lap of Mary and the other is standing - I believe.
- The whole picture is on a tan/cream-color piece of paper.
- In the upper right corner, there are some darker lines. It looks like it might have been a city that was drawn back there. 
- Mary's foot looks like she only has two toes. 
- She is wearing a dress, though it is hard to tell. 
- The child on Mary's lap looks like he may be getting a spanking. 
- There's no halos or gold in this picture. 
- There's not a lot of attention to the feet - it's blurry. It's like he didn't actually draw them. 


Madonna and the Yarnwinder

This painting can be seen in Edinburgh at the Scottish National Gallery. For Olivia's graduation trip, we will be going to Scotland and England, and hope to see this painting. 

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there is a woman and child who is sitting on her lap and doesn't have any clothes on. 
- There's this big needle that is used for winding and it looks like it is on a stone, and is meant to turn. 
- In the background, there's the ocean and what looks like a little island.
- The woman is wearing a dress and you can't tell what color it is - either a very earthy tone or black.
- There's no halo again...definitely not a religious picture.
- The sky is very blue.
- There is no yarn that I can see.
- Again, the hair is kind of curly. I'm wondering if people just had curly hair back then. 
- I'm not sure what she is sitting on. Maybe another rock?
- The kid's eyes are open - like he is looking at what he is doing, and her eyes are cast down.
- It's a very simple background.
- Her hand is around the kid. His hands are around the needle.
- You can't see her feet. His feet are in Mary's lap. I think he's standing...I don't think he's sitting. 


Friday, January 28, 2022

Enjoying Winter and the Natural World - Outdoor Hour Challenge

This week's challenge includes a variety of different activities that focus on enjoying winter and the natural world. We also explored ways that we could enjoy the outdoors when it was too cold and it was better to be inside.

We have been having many days and nights with double-digit below zero temperatures or "feels like" temperatures. Needless to say, it's not pleasant weather to be outside in. However, we did have a break in Wednesday's weather with it being in the mid-20s. So, Olivia and I went outside to gather some snow for experiments and went on a walk around part of our farm.

We did a couple of different experiments with snow:

Filtering Snow

We gathered some snow in two clean mixing bowls and brought them inside the house to melt. 

After the snow melted, we looked at the items that were left in the water. 

There was a lot of dirt - more so than we anticipated - both particles and a film of dirt on the bowl and on the surface of the water. There was a box elder seed pod in my bowl. We also saw a lot of small pieces of vegetation in the melted snow.

We noticed that my bowl of water - which also had ice in it - had more dirt and debris in it than Olivia's bowl which was all light, fluffy snow. 

We could have taken this a step further by filtering the water through a coffee filter and then using a hand lens to examine the particles left in the filter. However, we were satisfied with what we were seeing by just observing the water. 

One thing that Olivia noticed was that her bowl of water had quite a few bubbles in the bottom of the bowl. Taking a toothpick, she moved the bubbles around. They would float to the top of bowl. They were trapped air or air pockets! 

After we were done observing the contents in the bowl and popping air bubbles, we measured the water from the melted snow. Each bowl had 3 cups of water. 

Although one bowl was bigger than the other, the smaller bowl had ice which would have had a higher water content than snow.

Snow Produces Water

We filled a two-cup measuring cup with fresh snow and let it melt. 

It resulted in 2/3 cup of water.

I looked up how much water a deer needs to survive during the winter. For every 100 pounds, a deer needs to consume 6 cups of water. We figured out that 12 cups of snow equals 4 cups of water. So, a deer would need to eat 18 cups of snow to equal 6 cups of water...and that's just one day! Without reliable water sources during the winter, deer would have to really look for snow to get enough water. 


Next, we talked a bit about snowflakes. We realized that we had done a snowflake nature study back on December 19, 2013. This was Sophia's nature journal entry:

This was Olivia's nature journal entry: 

“Water in its various changing forms, liquid, gas, and solid,
 is an example of another overlooked miracle - 
so common that we fail to see the miraculous in it.”
~ The Handbook of Nature Study, page 808 ~

I read about the geometry of a snowflake - page 809 - of The Handbook of Nature Study. A six-rayed snowflake has angles of 60 degrees. If a snowflake only has three rays, the angles between the rays are 120 degrees. 

What also is fascinating about snowflakes is their symmetry. In The Handbook of Nature Study it says, "If one ray of the six is ornamented with additional crystals the other five are decorated likewise."

Also of interest is where the snowflakes form. Those that form in the higher clouds where it is cooler, will be more solid in form and "the spaces in the angles being built out to the tips of the rays." 

Snow crystals that are "formed in the lower currents of air, and therefore in warmer regions, on the other hand, show their six rays marvelously ornamented. The reason why the snow crystals are so much more beautiful and perfect than the crystals of hoar frost or ice, is that they are formed from water vapor, and grow feeling in the regions of the upper area."

Mr. W.A. Bentley, who we read about when the girls were younger, identified nearly 5,000 distinct snowflake designs! 

Bird Watching

When Sophia and Olivia were younger, they would count how many birds they would see at the feeder during a set period of time. It was interesting to track which ones frequented the feeder more often.

On Wednesday, January 26th, we looked at the tracks that the birds are making by our home where the feeders are located. There are several more highly-visited feeder areas including this one by the dining room. There's 1 suet feeder, an open feeder on the ground, a round seed feeder in the tree and another one on the post, an open feeder near the propane tank, and an area to put seeds on top of the roosting box.

Another thing that Olivia noticed in the pasture were pheasant tracks. They are very distinctive because not only can you see the feet, but the tail leaves a trail as well.

On Thursday, January 27th, when we started observing birds around 1:30 p.m. (5 minutes per feeding station), there were NO birds that came to any of the feeding areas. It was the strangest thing. About 10 minutes later, the birds came back and were feeding at them. 

The dining room feeder (partially pictured above with the platform feeder) was so busy with activity that I couldn't keep up with counting the birds! Roughly, in five minutes, there were: 

- 19 dark-eyed juncos
- 6 American tree sparrows
- 4 black-capped chickadees

I then did bird watching at the backyard feeders. At those three stations, there are 3 suet feeders, a hanging round seed feeder from a post, a column seed feeder, 2 finch feeders, and an open tray feeder with a cover. I saw the following birds in a five-minute time period:

- 14 dark-eyed juncos (male and female)
- 2 nuthatches
- 2 black-capped chickadees
- 1 American tree sparrow

The female dark-eyed juncos are gray and white and super cute. They are all fluffed up to keep warm on these cold days. 

The nuthatch alternates between feeding at the suet feeder and searching the pine tree for food.

The American tree sparrow has a cute brown cap and two bright-white wing bars. It also has a stripe leading from the corner of its eye towards its neck.  

Brief Time Outside and Finding Winter Colors

We spent some time outside even though it was cold to see some things that had changed since the fall when we were regularly going out to explore the land.

Even though initially Sophia and Olivia felt the landscape was rather bland with only shades of brown and dull green, there ended up to be much more color and texture than we anticipated.

“There is enough to see outside in winter to satisfy any poet.
 In fact, winter may be even better because 
there aren’t so many things going on in nature 
that they crowd each other out.
It’s easier to notice what’s there.”
~ Charlotte Mason volume 1, page 86 ~

I was curious if we could find most of the colors of the rainbow - plus the neutral colors - during our time outside on January 26th. Here's how we did:

Green - pine trees. The pine trees don't look green, but they are. I happened to look up and see a hawk flying overhead. Was surprised that when I took the picture that the hawk was in between the tops of the pine trees. 

Brown - weeds and dead pine needles; pine cone; and cattails. This cattail was on the back part of the property, to the north of the mini-pine tree forest. The pine cones were under some trees that are in the west pasture. There were lots of rabbit tracks under the trees and around the pine cones. 


Looking at the birds, I saw many American Tree Sparrows. 

White - snow. These are some tracks in the snow that are leading to a branch that is partially-buried. The tracks went to the side of the branch where there was some shelter from the weather.


The gray squirrels are prolific this year. They like the corn that I put out. The goal is to keep them away from the more expensive birdseed. In concept, it real life, not so much.


While bird watching, I saw many black-capped chickadees and dark-eyed juncos. The male juncos have the darker coloring - more of a black than the gray-colored females. The black-capped chickadees, like the one below, always seem to be the first birds to find the new birdseed when I fill the feeders.

The colors we didn't find were red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and purple - all the vibrant colors we would see in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. That being said, on other days we will see red on male cardinals, orange on the beaks of female cardinals, and blue in the sky and on blue jays. Sunrises and sunsets would show any of the colors we didn't see also. 

That wraps up our nature study about winter, snow, snowflakes, birds, and colors during the winter.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Franz Schubert - Composer Study

Born on January 31, 1797, Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer of the late Classical and early Romantic eras.  


Despite his short lifetime (he died on November 19, 1828, at 31 years old), Schubert left behind a vast body of work, including more than 600 secular vocal works, seven symphonies, operas, sacred music, incidental music, and a large number of piano and chamber music pieces. 

His major works include Erlkönig (D. 328), Symphony No. 8 in B minor, D. 759 (Unfinished Symphony), Piano Quintet in A major, D. 667 (Trout Quintet), String Quintet (D. 956), "Great" Symphony No. 9 in C major, D. 944, the three last piano sonatas (D. 958–960), the opera Fierrabras (D. 796), the incidental music to the play Rosamunde (D. 797), and the song cycles Die schöne Müllerin (D. 795) and Winterreise (D. 911). 

According to Wikipedia, Schubert "was born in the Himmelpfortgrund suburb of Vienna, and showed uncommon gifts for music from an early age. His father gave him his first violin lessons and his elder brother gave him piano lessons, but Schubert soon exceeded their abilities. In 1808, at the age of eleven, he became a pupil at the Stadtkonvikt school, where he became acquainted with the orchestral music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. He left the Stadtkonvikt at the end of 1813, and returned home to live with his father, where he began studying to become a schoolteacher. Despite this, he continued his studies in composition with Antonio Salieri and still composed prolifically.

"In 1821, Schubert was admitted to the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde as a performing member, which helped establish his name among the Viennese citizenry. He gave a concert of his own works to critical acclaim in March 1828, the only time he did so in his career. He died eight months later at the age of 31, the cause officially attributed to typhoid fever."

While he was alive, Schubert's music was appreciated by only a relatively small circle of admirers in Vienna. In the decades following his death, interest in his work increased greatly; and Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and other 19th-century composers discovered and championed his works. 

"Today, Schubert is ranked among the greatest composers in the history of Western music and his work continues to be admired." 

Olivia listened to four pieces by Franz Schubert and commented on them below.

Ave Maria - sung by Andrea Bocelli
I shared with Olivia that this song was sung at my parents' wedding, my wedding, and - I believe - my dad's funeral. I can't remember if it was also sung at my mom's funeral. 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- It's pretty.
- I can see why you would play it at a funeral. It doesn't strike me as a wedding song....just from the sound of it. 
- I read to Olivia the English words of the Hail Mary (which is the translation of Latin version that is sung to Schubert's piece): Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and in the hour of our death. Amen.
- Yes, it sounds more like a song that you would hear at a funeral. 
- The singing was too overpowering over the music. 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- That was interesting! 
- Very fast. Lots of ups and downs.
- Definitely could hear the chords - especially when it is the same notes in each hand. 
- It's very short. 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- This is a little more dismal than the last piece. 
- This was a really pretty piece.  
- It was very different from the Sonata - the pace of it, the notes, the overall feeling. 

The music is by Franz Schubert and the poem is by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The video is a shadow puppet show with Shubert's music and sung by a tenor who sings the poem. It was well worth watching the video. 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- It made what the song and lyrics were about it more obvious with the words there and the shadow puppets. 
- It was a song that was telling a story.
- I feel like I heard the story about the Elf King.
- It was loud when the son was saying, "My father! My father!" and also when the father was talking to the son.
- When the Elf King was talking, the music was softer...more quiet. 
- I got a sense of panic when the music was going faster. 
- He saw the Elf King and he died. Maybe the Elf King only appears to the kids. It could be that parents make up the story and tell it to their kids. 
- I liked this one.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Artist/Picture Study - Flavia Arlotta

On May 9, 1913, Flavia Arlotta was born in Naples into a cosmopolitan family. Her father Ugo was wealthy and her mother was a Russian sculptress. At the age of 17, Flavia went to live in Florence to study painting. 

According to the Giovanni Colacicchi website, Flavia met Giovanni Colacicchi through Felice Cerena, and the two married. She received her diploma at the Accademia in 1935. Giovanni and Flavia then had two sons: Piero in 1937 and Francesco in 1942. 

Flavia "participated in various collective exhibitions in the 1930s and 1940s at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence and the Galleria d'arte Moderna in Rome. In 1939 her father bought her the studio house in Via dell'Osservatorio which remained the well-loved residence of Flavia and Giovanni for the rest of their lives. 

She painted still lifes, portraits, and landscapes, and had three solo exhibitions in Florence in 1979, 1984, and 1998. Besides her art, Flavia dedicated her life to the conservation of Florence and the environment. 

Flavia died in Florence on December 13, 2010, in her house in Via dell'Osservatorio.

Below are five of Flavia's pieces that Olivia observed. Without looking at the pieces, she recalled different aspects of each one as noted.

Natura Morta con Scatola di Datteri
(Still Life with a Date Box)

Olivia remembered: 
- There are two pieces of cloth - one is gray and the other is navy blue.
- There's a vase, two halves of a shell, and two blue rectangle-shaped boxes stacked on top of one another.
- The vase is small and white. The boxes - they look like they are light brown to yellow in the center - and it looks like there is a wrapper on top that has been broken. 
- The shells - they are kind of long - they are almost like oyster shells of some sort. 
- You can see all the creases and folds of the fabric. 
- The vase is narrow at the top, then it gets wider, and then it gets narrow again. 
- Most of the background is the fabric. To the left, you can see a light brown table. The wall or flooring is a darker brown or tan. 
- It almost looks like she used pastels because there are white spots. 
- The top of the boxes looks like it has a pattern that was done in white. 
- It was a pretty simple picture. 


Il Campo Degli Hildebrand a San Francesco di Paola
(The Hildebrand Orchard at San Francesco di Paola) 

Olivia remembered: 
- This picture reminds me of the Italian countryside. You have lots of trees and what looks like little plots of vineyards and then you have some houses with walls surrounding them.
- The trees are all skinny and tall trees. They aren't very wide. 
- The houses are very normal, rectangle-shaped houses. There isn't a lot of detail on the houses.
- Some of the trees have white flowers or leaves on I feel like this is maybe springtime or maybe late spring because some of the trees are still bare as well. 
- Whatever is in the field is low to the ground - like they are shrubs. 
- The sky is blue, but there are light grayish clouds, and some of the same colors can be seen in the background in the plots that are further away. 
- The trees on the left are tall and they look like they have gold I don't know if that's the color of the leaves or something...I'm not sure. 
- You can see a little bit of a road leading to a house in the distance. 
- It also seems kind of hilly.
- You can't see very much of the sky.
- The colors are greens, browns, and white. Nothing is eye-popping. All the colors go well together. 


Natura Morta col Nastro Rosso
(Still Life with a Red Ribbon)

Olivia remembered: 
- She seemed to have a thing for shells. Again, she has shells in this picture. 
- There are two shells - one on the right and one on the left. In between the shells, there is a vase with flowers, and a red ribbon with what looks like more shells in it. 
- All of the colors are blues and grays. The color that stands out the most is the red ribbon.
- The flowers in the vase look like they are arranged to be a sea anemone. 
- The vase they are in looks like it has blue swirls all over it.
- Everything looks like it is on a blue shelf against a wall.
- There looks like there are two shells on the ribbon and they are darker. 
- There also looks like there is something coming out of the big shell on the right. 
- The flower arrangement looks like it is more than one flower. It kind of looks like a sunflower except it is not yellow. It is dead. It is made out of more than one flower too. 


Flori de Campo
Wild Flowers

Olivia remembered: 
- In the picture, there is a single vase filled with flowers. There's several of them at the base of the vase that look like they are little daisies.
- There's light coming in from the left of the picture - showing there is possibly a window, even though you can't see it. 
- All the flowers in the vase are kind of hanging over, like they don't have strong stems to keep them upright. 
- Some of the flowers in there are roses, daisies, there's one that looks like a hyacinth, there are some yellow flowers and white ones, and some grass blades and ferns in there too. 
- The vase looks like it is silver, but it is actually made out of glass since you can see some of the stems. 
- One of the yellow flowers on the left looks like a little yellow butterfly.
- The table looks like it is covered with a tablecloth that is white/light gray.
- The wall behind the vase is blue and kind of looks like it has a swirly texture to it...or just the way she painted it. 
- For such a small vase, there is a lot of negative space around it. 
- There's not a lot to these pictures. They are very simple - not super distracting. 


Presepe Dipinto Per Giovanni
(Christmas Creche Painted for Giovanni) 

Olivia remembered: 
- This picture is like a very chaotic setup of a we set up for Christmas.
- There's a little rectangle/square in the middle on a platform surrounded by some rocks. There are people and animals all over the rocks. 
- On top of the manger, there's some grass or something. Standing on top of the grass are three angels - one has blue wings, the second has yellow or gold wings, and the third has green wings. There are also like these big leaf plants that look like palm leaves....just a little thicker.  
- To the left of the angels, there is a more leafy branch that is trying to be a tree. Then right under the tree, there are some people who are standing around - the three wisemen - and they all have gifts. You can tell they are wisemen because they are on donkeys. 
- Next to them, there are some more people with gifts and some people are carrying gifts on their heads. They are in urns or jars. 
- On the big rock there's a woman - or at least what I think is a woman - and a sheep and then there's a boy behind the sheep who I think is the shepherd. 
- There's some more people behind them, a little lower down, on a rock.
- In the manger, you have Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Baby Jesus is facing towards the wisemen. Joseph is standing in the back like he always is, but you can't see his face. There's a blue glow over his face - like he is a ghost. 
- Mary is in the classic pose with her hand over her heart. 
- In the upper right corner is a star. It's suppose to look like a shooting star, but it looks more like a shooting daisy.


Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Composer Study - Domenico Scarlatti

Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti, also known as Domingo or Doménico Scarlatti, was an Italian composer who was born on October 26, 1685, in Naples and died on July 23, 1757, in Madrid. Although Scarlatti was classified primarily as a Baroque composer chronologically, his music was influential in the development of the Classical style. 

According to Wikipedia, "Like his renowned father Alessandro Scarlatti, he composed in a variety of musical forms, although today he is known mainly for his 555 keyboard sonatas. He spent much of his life in the service of the Portuguese and Spanish royal families." 

Scarlatti was born in 1685, the same year as George Frideric Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. He was the sixth of ten children, and came from a family of artists. His dad was a teacher and composer, and his older brother (Pietro Filippo) was a musician. 

Scarlatti was appointed as the organist and composer at the royal chapel in Naples in 1701. In 1703, his father sent him to Venice. Six years later, in 1709, he went to Rome and entered the service of the exiled Polish queen Marie Casimire. There, he composed several operas for Queen Casimire's private theatre. 

Only a small number of Scarlatti's compositions were published during his lifetime. Wikipedia states, "Scarlatti's 555 keyboard sonatas are single movements, mostly in binary form, and some in early sonata form, and mostly written for harpsichord or the earliest pianofortes....Other distinctive attributes of his music are: The influence of Iberian (Portuguese and Spanish) folk music."

Olivia listened to four pieces by Scarlatti, and her comments and thoughts follow.

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- Definitely happy and fast-paced. This would be hard to play. It would be challenging.
- In terms of playing, I'm not at this speed. 
- The part at 2:31 - there are more notes and the use of dynamics. 
- There's a lot of repetition in this piece. 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- You know if he didn't play it this fast, it sounds kind of like a creepy song that you would hear in a creepy mansion. But you don't get that feel because it is played so fast. Because of the tempo, it's not as creepy. 
- It looks like a mini-organ. 
- I'm surprised how tiny and tall the harpsichord is. 
- It's impressive that she could play it that fast. I think I liked the first one [Sonata in D Major] better.

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- It's weird that her fingers can move that fast. It doesn't seem natural. 
- How do you come up with something like this? 
- It's crazy how they can come up with music like this, but they come up with boring names for the songs.
- That felt a lot longer than about three minutes. He crammed a lot in the song. It was good.
Sonata L. 366/K.1 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 
- I feel like they [the songs we've heard] start with almost the same note. 
- In parts, it does seem slower than some of the other ones we listened to.

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Composer Study - Ludwig von Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven, a German composer and pianist, was baptized on December 17, 1770 and died on March 26, 1827. According to Wikipedia, "He remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music; and his works rank among the most performed of the classical music repertoire and span the transition from the Classical period to the Romantic era in classical music. 

"His career has conventionally been divided into early, middle, and late periods. His early period, during which he forged his craft, is typically considered to have lasted until 1802. From 1802 to around 1812, his middle period showed an individual development from the styles of Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and is sometimes characterized as heroic. During this time, he began to suffer increasingly from deafness. In his late period, from 1812 to 1827, he extended his innovations in musical form and expression."

Beethoven's musical talent was obvious at an early age. His father, Johann van Beethoven, taught the young Ludwig very harshly and intensively. Later, he was taught by Christian Gottlob Neefe who was a composer and conductor. It was under Neefe's direction, in 1783, that Beethoven published his first work, a set of keyboard variations. 

Coming from a dysfunctional home, he found relief with the family of Helene von Breuning, whose children he befriended, loved, and taught piano. At the age of 21, he moved to Vienna and studied composition with Haydn. 

In 1800, Beethoven's first major orchestral work, the First Symphony, premiered, and his first set of string quartets was published in 1801. Despite the deterioration of his hearing during this period, he continued to conduct, and premiered his Third and Fifth Symphonies in 1804 and 1808, respectively. 

Beethoven was almost completely deaf by 1814, and he then gave up performing and appearing in public. Wikipedia states, "He described his problems with health and his unfulfilled personal life in two letters, his Heiligenstadt Testament (1802) to his brothers and his unsent love letter to an unknown 'Immortal Beloved' (1812). After 1810, increasingly less socially involved, Beethoven composed many of his most admired works, including later symphonies, mature chamber music, and the late piano sonatas."

His late string quartets which were written in his last years, including the Grosse Fuge, are among his final achievements. He died in 1827 after some months of bedridden illness. Beethoven's works remain the mainstays of classical music repertoire.

Olivia listened to three pieces composed by Ludwig von Beethoven and commented on them below.

Fur Elise 

- This is a classic piece that everyone knows.

- I've listened to it on Spotify.

- At around 1 minute, I don't like that part. Then when it changes back, at 1:23, I like that. 

- At 1:50 - I didn't care for that part either. I like the nice, flowing part at 2:23 again.

Sonata - Claro de Luna 

- I prefer the violin version of this one. It seems to flow a little bit better.

- It is a lot of the same thing. That's pretty common for sonata. 

- It is very's not sad.

Fifth Symphony

- Right...this one. I've heard this a lot. 

- Wasn't this in the Little Einsteins...the ones who were going into a cave?

- At 1:27, that's the part I hear a lot. 

- I like this one. 

Composer Study - Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, a French composer, was born on August 22, 1862, and died on March 25, 1918, and is sometimes seen as the first Impressionist composer. 

According to Wikipedia, Debussy was among the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. "Born to a family of modest means and little cultural involvement, Debussy showed enough musical talent to be admitted at the age of ten to France's leading music college, the Conservatoire de Paris. He originally studied the piano, but found his vocation in innovative composition, despite the disapproval of the Conservatoire's conservative professors. He took many years to develop his mature style, and was nearly 40 when he achieved international fame in 1902 with the only opera he completed, Pelléas et Mélisande.

Debussy's music was a reaction against the German musical tradition. "He regarded the classical symphony as obsolete and sought an alternative in his 'symphonic sketches'....His piano works include sets of 24 Préludes and 12 Études. Throughout his career, he wrote melodies based on a wide variety of poetry, including his own."

Wikipedia also stated that, "His works have strongly influenced a wide range of composers including Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, George Benjamin, and the jazz pianist and composer Bill Evans. Debussy died from cancer at his home in Paris at the age of 55 after a composing career of a little more than 30 years."

Olivia listened to four pieces by Claude Debussy and had comments about them while she listened to them. The songs are below.

Clair De Lune

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- I don't think I've heard this one. I've played a couple of his pieces of his before, but this one doesn't sound familiar at all. 

- It is a relaxing song. 

- It's not sad, but it's not overly happy either. 

- It's a very soft piece. The lower keys...the's flowy.

Arabesque No. 1 

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- I might have played this song. I'm guessing that it is either this one or the other one (Arabesque No. 2).

- He does a lot of flowy pieces. In terms of rhythm, they are much easier to play. You don't have to be right on the dot with it which is nice. 

- This is definitely a harder version than what I played. I also think that the piece I played wasn't this long. 


Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- He was the only composer who I know of who wrote the accents and some of his terms that you have in music in French. I believe it was him. Everything else is Italian-based.

- I feel like he does a lot of scale work. It makes it easy [to play] since you're only going up or down the scale. 

- The chords do sound nice together starting at 3:21.

- You can always tell when the ending is coming up with his pieces. It's always a soft ending.

The Girl with the Flaxen Hair

Olivia's thoughts and comments: 

- It's like he is watching the girl from afar. Saying that out loud, it kind of sounds creepy. 

- Soft ending.

- That's a short piece. 

- I liked his music. It was nice. His stuff falls in the more contemporary area of music. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

Composer Study: Antonín Dvořák

Antonín Leopold Dvořák, a Czech composer, was born on September 8, 1841 and died on May 1, 1904. He was one of the first Czech composers to achieve worldwide recognition. 

According to Wikipedia, "Dvořák frequently employed rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia, following the Romantic-era nationalist example of his predecessor Bedřich Smetana. Dvořák's style has been described as 'the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them.'"

From the age of six years old, Dvořák was a talented violin student. In 1872, the first public performances of his works were occuring in Prague. Wikipedia also stated that "in 1874, he made a submission to the Austrian State Prize for Composition, including scores of two further symphonies and other works. Although Dvořák was not aware of it, Johannes Brahms was the leading member of the jury and was highly impressed. The prize was awarded to Dvořák in 1874 and again in 1876 and in 1877, when Brahms and the prominent critic Eduard Hanslick, also a member of the jury, made themselves known to him. Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who soon afterward commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46."

Wikipedia continues, "In his career, Dvořák made nine invited visits to England, often conducting performances of his own works. His Seventh Symphony was written for London. Visiting Russia in March 1890, he conducted concerts of his own music in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1891, Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory. In 1890–91, he wrote his Dumky Trio, one of his most successful chamber music pieces. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. The President of the National Conservatory of Music in America, Jeannette Thurber, offered Dvořák an annual salary of $15,000 – an incredibly lavish sum for the era (equivalent to $432,056 in 2020), 25 times what he was paid at the Prague Conservatory. While in the United States, Dvořák wrote his two most successful orchestral works: the Symphony From the New World, which spread his reputation worldwide, and his Cello Concerto, one of the most highly regarded of all cello concerti.

"In the summer of 1893, Dvořák moved from New York City to Spillville, Iowa, following the advice of his secretary, J.J. Kovarík. Dvořák had originally planned to come back to Bohemia, but Spillville was made up of mostly Czech immigrants, and thus he felt less homesick....This is where he wrote his most famous piece of chamber music, his String Quartet in F major, Op. 96, which was later nicknamed the American Quartet. 

"Shortly after his time in Iowa, Dvorák extended his contract at the National Conservatory for another two years. However, the economic crisis of April 1893 resulted in Thurber's husband's loss of income, and directly influenced the National Conservatory's funding. Shortfalls in payment of his salary, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness, led him to leave the United States and return to Bohemia in 1895. 

"All of Dvořák's nine operas, except his first, have librettos in Czech and were intended to convey the Czech national spirit, as were some of his choral works. By far the most successful of the operas is Rusalka

Dvořák has been described as "arguably the most versatile... composer of his time". In fact, as a celebration of his life and works, there's an annual Dvořák Prague International Music Festival. 

Olivia's comments:
- It kind of seems like it would be a lullaby. It kind of has that sad tune to it. It's not terribly cheerful.
- It's nice - there's more emphasis on the violin than the piano as the piece goes on. 
- That was short. 
- It definitely seemed more like a lullaby.

Olivia's comments:
- Did he not have any happy songs? 
- Silent Woods - shows that it won't be terribly energetic. It feels like you are in a creepy forest. Just listening to it, you can feel it. 
- It may be a silent forest, but this feels more like a dead forest or a forest in wintertime. Normally, forests have a lot of sound with the birds. 
- It sounds like he's more fond of the violin in his music.

Olivia's comments:
- I can hear the sonatina - the parts repeat.
- It changes...and then it goes back. There are three different parts of it. 
- The violin is better in this piece. Songs in major keys tend to be happier and lighter.
- The tempo has changed (from the first two pieces) to a much faster one. 
- Compared to the other two pieces, this one was much better for me. 

Olivia's comments:
- It's in the middle - it's not super sad, but it's not super happy. 
- This sounds like a song you'd maybe play to help kids fall asleep. 
- It's nice to hear it on the harp. I think the main instrument he liked to compose for was the violin. 
- It was more of an abrupt ending than I thought. I pictured more of a slower ending.