Oct 172019

A guest article was written and submitted by swlamu of Swan Lake Music

The word orchestra is originally a Greek word meaning a place for music and other performances in a theater. Before the 1600s, groups of musicians would gather and play on instruments available to them. In the 1500s, the word “consort,” referred to the group of musicians that made the music together. Composers in the Renaissance era would write parts of the music are on any instrument. The symphony orchestra, as we know it, was invented in 1607 by Renaissance/Baroque Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi.

Unlike composers of his time, Monteverdi wanted specific instruments to accompany his opera Orfeo. These instruments include fifteen viols of different sizes; two violins; four flutes, two large and two medium; two oboes, two cornetts (small wooden trumpets), four trumpets, five trombones, a harp, two harpsichords, and three small organs organized into sections.

In the time of Johann Sebastian Bach, around a century later, the orchestra evolved in instrumentation. The string section, including violins, violas, cellos, and basses, replaced viols, and the leadership of the orchestra came from a harpsichord, the first violin player, or an organ player. This keyboard player was often the composer of the music. They would use an orchestra conductor only on occasions. One of the first known uses was Italian born French composer Jean-Baptiste Lully, who worked with an orchestra for the court of Louis XIV of France. Using a long wooden staff, Lully would tap out the beats to help the orchestra play together. Unfortunately, this wooden staff played a part in the composer’s death as he hit his foot with the pole on accident resulting in gangrene. 

The Classical Era (circa 1730 to 1820) saw another change in the orchestra as the string section gained more importance, and the keyboard instruments became less prominent. Composers such as Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, continued the trend of writing for specific instrumentations for their compositions. The ensemble became more standardized with first and second violins, violas, cellos, and double basses. The woodwind section comprises two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, and two bassoons. The brass section comprises two to four horns and two trumpets, while the percussion section comprises two timpani. Even though the concertmaster continued to lead the orchestra from the first chair position, the conductor became more prominent in the ensemble’s leading. Instead of the long wooden staff, the conductor started using specific gestures using a rolled-up piece of white paper, a predecessor of the baton used today.

As the orchestra grew in the number of musicians in the 19th century, it was no longer practical for the concertmaster to lead the orchestra. The conductor became the prominent figure in the ensemble’s leadership standing front and center on a podium.

Today, orchestras vary in number based on the composition played. Often keeping its standard instrumentation of violins violas cellos and double basses, the ensemble varies between 40-200 members with larger orchestras, including more woodwinds, brass, and percussion instruments.

Dec 112017


Music and politics are married. It does not appear that such a marriage would be one made in heaven, but they are married nevertheless, and divorce or even separation is not yet a remote possibility. Politics is all about power, and music is powerful — you can see the attraction.

The marriage of music and politics did not take place in the 21st century. The two have been bound together probably since the first politician on earth made his first stump speech.

Music, used as an anti-establishment or protest tool, is also used as a tool to inspire patriotism. We have both antiwar songs and national anthems. Modern-day politicians probably choose the music that will be used in their campaigns before they decide what position they will take on current issues.

Nobody can deny the power of the Bob Dylan song “Blowin’ in the Wind” during the Vietnam war era, or the power of “We Shall Overcome” during the Civil Rights Movement.

Political music is written in every musical genre and during every decade:

Classical political music: An example is Beethoven’s Third Symphony, which was initially titled “Bonaparte.” When Napoleon crowned himself king, Beethoven changed the name by scratching out “Bonaparte.”

Folk political music: Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” was a favorite antiwar protest song.

Rock political music: Crosby, Stills & Nash, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, Rage Against the Machine, Protège, and System of a Down all deliver political messages in their music.

Punk Rock and Hip Hop political music: Almost all of the music of both genres are political in nature. They rage against racism and inequality. Both are anti-establishment.

Country political music: The political music of this genre is pro-establishment. Merle Haggard’s “The Fightin’ Side of Me” and “Okie from Muskogee” are both excellent examples.

Music and politics, or politics and music — which came first, we will never know!

Oct 032017

Indie music is a type of alternative rock which exists in the independent music world. The word is periodically used to refer to all underground music and is the opposite of indie pop music. Indie rock music emphasizes electric instruments such guitars and drums. Musicians in the genre are also known for using abstract sounds. Because these players work under smaller record labels instead of the major record companies, the term indie rock applies to them.

Though indie rock is not technically a genre, it is considered to represent the underground culture in many aspects. Indie artists are known for demanding a large amount of creative control over their music, and this is something which often alienates them from more major companies. These artists strictly rely on word of mouth, tours, and independent radio stations to promote their music. Many of the famous artists will end up becoming popular with mainstream audiences and may be signed by large record labels.

In the US indie music is considered to be a spin-off from alternative rock. The movement is believed to have started during the 1970s or 1980s. The indie rock music of the 1980s had sounds described as being cumbersome and distorted. Indie music groups in the 1990’s such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam became mainstream and indie music became better known. Once the genre became popular, major record companies begin investing large amounts of money in it.

Once this happened, the term “alternative rock” became more of a misnomer. Traditionally, many musicians who have signed with major record companies were considered to be “sell-outs” by their hardcore fans. My Original Music is an indie music site located at myoriginalmusic.com. Here you can find music by independent artists from all over the world. Today, indie rock is a term which has come to describe a wide variety of music. Psychedelic folk, synth-pop, and post-punk is also considered indie rock in a genre.

Sometimes the term indie rock becomes blurred, and some believe that the word will soon disappear much as alternative rock did. Mainstream artists such as Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys have been known to reach high levels on the indie music charts, especially in the United Kingdom. Some mainstream artists also signed to independent record labels. Many popular indie music artist become mainstream, and once this happens, they are no longer independent.

Despite the fact that many indie artists become mainstream, this is not always the case. In fact, most independent artists are not mainstream and do not wish to be. Money may be a motivating factor, but many artists play their music for the passion and not the money. Many major record labels exert a significant amount of control over their artists, and the music sold is more often the product of the record companies than the artists themselves. Because of this, many artists have fought with the major record labels over creative control of their music.



Sep 192017

Music and ballet intertwined right from the beginning of time. Without music, ballet is nothing more than the empty motions of a ritual. Without the movement and rhythm of the dance, music loses all vitality. Moreover, so, ballet as a doorway to human expression hinges on both music and dance.

Jean Baptiste Lully (1632-1687), the Italian-born French composer who founded the French national opera was not just a court composer to Louis XIV, but also a choreographer who produced court ballets for Moliere’s plays. Because of his work in music and choreographer, his productions never lacked an accompaniment. However, theater productions of the eighteenth century turned composers away from ballet and toward the music of ballroom dancing.

This phase sustained its self straight through the nineteenth century except for pieces by Russian classical composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) which include the Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty.

In the twentieth century, however, ballet came back to the spotlight. Once again considered a respectable art form, choreographers looked to the works of classical composers such as Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi, Chopin, Brahms, and Handel to perform the art of ballet dancing too.

Many agree that dance owes its very existence to the likes of those who are both composers and choreographers. Because being musicians in nature, they naturally pay close attention to ballet following the rhythmic structure of its accompaniment precisely. One who does not understand music can easily create choreography that looks good that in of itself, yet at the mercy of a great classical piece the novice falls short of expressing the true nature of the piece. Instead, they turn the production into a form of movement that is devoid of both art and beauty. The experts instead know when it is appropriate to go against the grain of the accompaniment to heighten those dramatic periods which capture their audience’s attention and leaves them breathless.

As we dawn a new era of music and dance, it is undeniable that ballet will continue to change. However, just as music and dance have always been the best of friends, the ballet will continue to find its new identity in the evolving music of today.

Do you have a brass band and looking for new music to play at your next performance? Check out and purchase my arrangement of No. 5 Pas de deux From Act I from the Ballet Swan Lake Op. 20 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky by clicking on the link.

No. 5 Pas de deux From Act I from the Ballet Swan Lake Op. 20


Sep 072017

People associate songs and music with events in their lives. Many songs hold special memories for them, and they fondly remember the songs that were playing when they went to their first dance. Maybe they remember the songs their school band performed during half time at their high school football games, the songs that they heard on our first date, or the songs they heard on the radio while driving their first car.

If you were a teenager, like my sister and brother or a child like me in the 1970’s, the music of this decade is probably the most impressive and most recognized of any other era. The artists of the 1970’s provided us with numerous songs we loved to dance and sing along. At that time most bands played their instruments and did not need to sequence part of it.

I remember how we used to listen to the music then? At first, we had eight track players in our cars; then we moved upward to cassette players. Vinyl records were the most popular way to listen to our favorite music. Every week you could go to your local variety or record store and pick up the new #1 song on a 45 record for under $1.00. Of course, there was always the radio to listen to – most of the popular channels were on am radio. We had many styles of music. Among these types include the bubble gum music of David Cassidy and the Partridge Family, soft rock of Barry Manilow, the great dance tunes of the Bee Gees and the Commodores, the rock of Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin, the brass band sounds of Chicago, or the disco beat of Chic and Donna Summer.

The nostalgia of the 1970’s music lives on today. Can we listen to it on our local 70’s radio station, on CDs, on mp3, download it on our computer, and burn it onto CDs. For those of us who prefer records, we can still purchase them at record stores, antique or second-hand stores, or yard sales. Of course, many of us have held on to our record collections and record players and can pull them out at any time when we need to relive those nostalgic days of the 1970’s. Some bands are still performing after more than 30-40 years. There’s nothing like seeing your favorite 1970’s performers live in concert!

The music of the 1970’s is still popular with people of all ages, not just those who grew up with it. It never grows old. It only gets better with each passing decade.

Relive the days of the 1970’s by purchasing these music selections. Just click on the albums below.


Feb 142017

Fingal’s Cave is a sea cave located on an island called Staffa in the Hebrides archipelago located off the west coast of Scotland. Formed from hexagonally jointed basalt columns within a Paleocene lava flow, the caves size and arched roof give the true atmosphere of a natural cathedral along with the sounds produced by the waves of the ocean.

Shortly after a tour of England, Felix Mendelssohn visited the Fingal’s Cave in 1829 and was inspired by the echoes that were produced by it. With that inspiration, a famous piece was born and named after the cave, Hebrides Overture (aka, Fingal’s Cave). The opening phrase was first jotted down on a postcard and sent to his family along with a note to his sister, Fanny that said, “To make you understand how extraordinarily The Hebrides affected me, I send you the following, which came into my head there.”

Hebrides Overture was completed December 16, 1830, and was originally entitled Die einsame Insel( The Lonely Island). Later, Mendelssohn revised the work and completed it by 20 June 1832 with a new name, Die Hebriden, or The Hebrides. Fingal’s Cave was another title that used. The piece premiered on May 14, 1832, in London and dedicated to the Crown Prince of Prussia, King Frederick William IV. William IV invited Mendelssohn to England shortly after the composer’s twentieth birthday in 1829, thus helping with the conception of the work.

Intended as a complete work itself the composition is labeled an overture, Hebrides Overture. The work also accompanies the Sibelius composition program as a demo piece, used in a scene in the cartoon “Race For Your Life Charlie Brown” and the ‘chase music’ in the radio serial “Challenge of the Yukon.”256px-Scotland-Staffa-Fingals-Cave-1900