Sunday, May 6, 2012

BEDIM 6 - And Today's Random Topic is....

Musical Theme and Variations!!!

I think that most people who know me personally know that I love music and playing the piano (though I think if you DO know me personally then you've probably also been annoyed at me for playing the piano too much), and I love the mechanics of music, its history, etc.... I took Music Theory in college just for fun, and I loved it! I email my friend - and former short-time piano teacher - every once in a while and bombard her with questions and info about random pieces of music and composers and stuff, I'm sure to her annoyance too.
Anyway, today's topic is on musical theme and variation, which is explained by Wikipedia as follows:
"A [musical] technique where material is repeated in an altered form. The changes may involve harmony, melody, counterpoint, rhythm, timbre, orchestration or any combination of these."
An example that came to mind right away was the famous "Variations on a Theme by Paganini" by Rachmaninoff. Rachmaninoff is one of my favorite composers and I just love his music. He did a whole set of variations on a theme created by Paganini, my favorite variation being number 18. In the picture below you can see the original melody was simply inverted (turned upside down) and put in D flat major. It is so pretty!
Here is the 18th variation for your listening pleasure. I hope you love it!

As nice and pretty as that 18th Variation is, there was recently another, modern piece that surprised me with its own awesome variation. As I've said before, I like Nintendo, and I was pleased as could be that the newest Zelda game, "Skyward Sword" came with a really great orchestrated music CD with very well made arrangements from the series' melodies. (Am I a nerd or what?) The last piece on the album is the theme from "Skyward Sword," and it's epic and original. Right? 
To show what I mean, I'm afraid there will have to be a couple more videos to watch (but I promise they're worth it, and not very long either!).
Ok, so this is the theme from the newest game, called "Ballad of the Goddess"...

Okay, so here is one of the main themes from the series as a whole, called "Zelda's Lullaby." It's a simple theme that basically any person who's ever played any Zelda game should know instantly:
(If you want, just listen to the first 25 seconds for main gist.) 

So there we have two songs that don't really seem to have that much in common, right? Let's listen to that "Ballad of the Goddess" again, except this time, played backwards.

Holy cow! When I read that the "ballad" tune was an arranged and modified version of the "lullaby" I hardly believed it, but after listening, I love the music so much more! For accompanying a game that deals so much with time and going forward and backward in time to save the world, this variation fits so perfectly.

So there you have it, some short thoughts on musical theme and variation and my two favorite examples. I didn't think that the random topic chooser would lead me to a post that I liked writing so much. 
So, dear readers, do you know of any other cool themes and variations I should know about? Post a comment!

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