Music of the Day: Kassia – Byzantine Hymns

Today’s Music is Kassia’s Byzantine Hymns.

St. Kassia (c.805-865), born in Constantinople, was an Byzantine abbess, poet, composer, and hymnographer. She is one of the first medieval composers whose scores are both extant and able to be interpreted by modern scholars and musicians.

Because the German ensemble of VocaMe’s performance is so good, I was surprised that the music from the early Middle Ages could be so vividly conveyed.
Of course, there is considerable freedom regarding interpretation and arrangement, but when compared to the playing of Hildegard von Bingen’s works that performed by the same ensemble, the difference in musicality is stark.

Hildegard’s music is a monophony, and there doesn’t seem to be anything noteworthy in the melody from what I heard. Although, I do not mean to negate the spiritual aspect of Hildegard at all.
After all (from my point of view), the essence of music exists in the flow of time on this earth, and it exists only in the dimension and time of the earth.

On the other hand, Kassia’s aura is sexy, if I had to say. For some reason, there seems to be a great sense of physical existance conveyed through the music.

Well, Kassia, known for her extraordinary beauty, once entered a contest to choose an empress when she was young.
However, the Byzantine Emperor Theophilos (Θεόφιλος: 800-805 – 842), hurt by her words in return, reluctantly chose another woman. Still, for him, it is hard to forget her. It might be a little smiling to hear about a following anecdote:
When Theophilos came up to the convent wanting to see her one more time before he died, Kassia secretly hid in a closet to peek him.


Music of the Day: Afghanistan – Rubab Ensemble

Today’s Music is an Afghan duo of Rubab (string instruments: 3 strings & resonant-stringed) and Dohl (Afghan drum).
The Rubab is performed by virtuoso Ustad Mohammad Omar (1905-1980).
We feel comfortable the Rubab sound with its plump tone and long lingering effects and then Dohl joins, we can enjoy rhythmic interplay.

Music of the Day: Bolcom – HYDRAULIS for Pipe Organ

Today’s music is “Hydraulis” (1971) by the American composer William Bolcom.
The Hydrauris is an instrument invented by Ktesibios of Alexandria in ancient Greece and is said to be the prototype of the present pipe organ. This organ work named after it.

We will find that the richness of the registration (timbre) and the contrast between the intense undulations and the serene beauty of the music. These characteristics make it one of the masterpieces to listen to among the contemporary organ works.
However, there are no recordings and this is the first precious sound source on the Net as far as we could find.

Organist: Helge Gramstrup (Recorded at the Vestervig Church in Denmark in 1979)
Recording Engeneer and Editor: Toku Ohbayashi

William Bolcom – HYDRAULIS for Pipe Organ (1971) edited by William Albright
Helge Gramstrup (org)
Vestervig Church, Early Summer of 1979 on the Marcussen organ (1978, 52/IV/P)

Music of the Day: Beck – Symphony in g minor op.3-3

Today’s music is Symphony in g minor, op. 3-3, by Franz Ignaz Beck (1734 – 1809).
Beck was a disciple of Johann Stamitz. He was considered to be a talented person of the next generation of the Mannheim School, but after injuring his opponent in a duel, he left Germany and went to Italy and France. He lived a tumultuous life, including being involved in the French Revolution.

In comparison to the mild‐mannered Mannheim School’s works, dominance of strong emotions looking like a “Sturm und Drang” in his works seems to reflect the very trajectory of his life.

Franz Ignaz Beck (1734 – 1809) – Symphony in g minor op.3 no.3
Michael Schneider & La Stagione Frankfurt

Music of the Day: Congo (Kanyok) – Song and Ensemble

Today’s music is song and ensemble by the Kanyok people of the Congo, probably recorded in the 1950s.

The sound is characterized by a sense of color that shines brightly like the Congolese sun and a pleasant percussion that sways gently as it bounces. The energy of the music is pretty strong, but it is worth noting that the music is sublimated into exhilarating rhythms rather than intense emotions.

The recording was by Hugh Tracy, who lived in South Africa and continued to record traditional music of the southern half of Africa. His works are not only valuable recordings of African traditional folk music, but there is nothing in his local recordings that is not musically interesting.