Review: Hamilton the Musical

Rating: 5 out of 5

Absolutely loved it — but to be clear, I haven’t seen it but just listened to it. There is so much to enjoy in the rich world it creates though of course some ahistorical notes also creep in. I feel, however, that any deviations from the truth as we know it are thoroughly warranted by the virtue of making another Founding Father accessible to the modern public.  Continue reading “Review: Hamilton the Musical”

‘Das gibt’s nur einmal, das kommt nicht wieder’

This is the song I quoted in the previous post — and it is amazing.

Listening to it is a jolly affair as I see it, and I have recently found it soothing. Almost enough to consider watching ‘The Congress Dances’… but not quite. It is probably good enough to be worth watching though.

But, yes, I listen to this and it has a tone which is so often missing in music…


Neujahrskonzert 2014

As every year, 2014 began with a resounding concert in the halls of the Viennese Philharmonic Orchestra. The New Year was greeted ceremoniously with many compositions by Johann Strauss that were brought back to light. Alongside the King of Waltzes, his father and brothers were represented as well as pieces by Joseph Hellmesberger Junior, Joseph Lanner, Léo Delibes, and Richard Strauss were played on the 1st of January.

All of these composers together made for quite a spectacle. I have long enjoyed the Neujahrskonzerts, and this one did not disappoint. I think it is more than anything the pleasure that the orchestra takes in playing the two pieces in the very end — the resounding story of the Radetsky March is always with me when I listen to those notes.

Partly, I think, I enjoy this concert so much since many of the different commentaries are historically aware — and they want to inform. The comments relate stories regarding the composers and the music. As an example from this year, I believe it was the piece from Léo Delibes’ ‘Sylvia’ that was said to evoke a reaction in Pyotr Tschaikovsky to the effect that he would not have written his ‘Swan Lake’ had he heard ‘Sylvia’ before. Could there be greater praise than to have an artist say that their own greatest piece would have been unnecessary if they knew of someone else’s work?

These revelations (and others) are what make Neujahrskonzert enjoyable in ways other than just listening to classical music. A link I would post here is this site (in German) where brief introductions are given to all of the compositions that this year brought to the concert. I do wish I was better at reading German so that I could comprehend that site better — one thing that is definitely lacking to a large degree in English is information on the backgrounds of the plentiful compositions that the Viennese composers created.

Other than that, what else can I say that it will be a pleasure to listen to this year’s music again! And, I am looking forward to the next one!

‘Arkenstone’, Summoning

Summoning is a band that I would generally put into a darker category, and yet I really like them. I think it is the depth of sound in their tracks which makes me so well disposed towards them. As a brief introduction it is worth noting that the vast majority of their titles concern themselves with the world Mr Tolkien built and created, and this has also spoken well in favour of the band.

One of the tracks I really enjoy by them is called ‘Arkenstone’. Now, there’s a story that comes with this track as there is a story with every item and phrase from Middle Earth. In this case, the Arkenstone is the Heart of the Mountain and the most guarded treasure that has been found under the Lonely Mountain. It is quite literally the embodiment of the Lonely Mountain as I see it — the Arkenstone represents the collective hopes and wishes of the Dwarves who live under the Mountain.

That is at least how I see the Arkenstone — what Thorin Oakenshield’s actions in ‘The Hobbit’ have made the stone be to me. I think it could be described as the sole reason for the Quest to take the treasure back from Smaug and that would probably not be entirely wrong. In fact, I think it might be a more honest measure of the Dwarves’ goals than much else of what was said or done — even if everything else failed, they would have succeeded had they only glimpsed the Arkenstone!

What Summoning has managed to accomplish for me in this song is to make this sense of depth of the Arkenstone a reality. I can imagine the beauty and splendor of the Heart of the Mountain when I listen to these sounds, and I can see light reflecting back from it in a thousand fragmented rays. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine my hand reaching out to the Arkenstone and grasping it — but it would be slightly out of reach. Just slightly out of reach, because unfortunately it is too brilliant for our mortal realm. It is too beautiful to exist in anything but our wishes.

And that is the reason why we have to have our imagination run free!

‘So Right’

A friend showed me this song by the Dave Matthews Band (DMB), and I’d have you listen to it first. By ‘first’ I mean before I say anything else about it.

Now, to begin with I’ll say that I did not like it that much the first time I heard the song. However, since I’ve not liked any songs recently after the first try I went for another one — and it somehow took hold of my mind and did not let go. It is just so… well compiled, I guess.

A random thought: What’s the greatest possible praise for a song? [And this brought that short story of A.C. Clarke to my mind where they try to find the perfect melody.]

In any case, I decided to give DMB a try after listening to this, and I think it was worth it. But coming back to the song: It has an interesting vibe to it. The video looks so very American — it is quite difficult to use any other adjective to describe it. But it’s not the video that caught me. It must be the words.

For, indeed,

…tonight my dance is all about you

Although it could be that the American-ness I sense in this video can also be described as ‘lightness’: not being that concerned, and having a better thought for the future… even though future might have every reason to make you concerned, why care about that?

Lastly that moment two-thirds through when everything stops for a moment — I want the song to continue then, and this even applied the first time I listened when I didn’t much appreciate the song in general. Now, that thought, ‘continue!’ — it is almost a prayer.

And tonight my dance is all about you


What is hope? Where is hope? How can we create hope?

There is a song that I quite like which includes the lines:

Songs I have sung deep in the silence
Nobody finds hope in defiance

Now, I personally find these lines very intriguing because as far as I am concerned it is the exact opposite: hope is found in defiance. A Google search for “define hope” gave me a result as follows “A feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”. This is as I would have generally thought of “hope”, and I guess the general context for “hope” is that “I have a problem that needs to be solved, but I don’t know how to start. — I hope I can solve it.”

The other option, naturally, which might be a bit closer to my mind is that in a situation where there is no hope — no hope of being saved, no hope of surviving, no hope of external help — the only way to retain sanity is to still appear outwardly defiant, ready to defend oneself from the world.

But maybe this other option is the less used common sense way of reading hope? Could that be where I have gone wrong?

Is the more common sense way of looking at ‘hope’ the one where there is no threat? If this were the case, it would make sense that defiance would not work since this defiance could not be targeted at anything — and defiance without a target would be a useless way to express strength. In effect, that would be wastage.

However, as soon as I bring myself back to the side of hope where there is a defined reason that we would need hope for — say a threat that looms in the foreground. How could we possibly find hope *not* in defiance in a situation like this? The question here could also be ostensibly be phrased as: if one is not defiant, then how can one hope for a positive outcome?

So, in the end I wonder if the take I have on this is not the more common one — and the more reasonable one. But then again, I might have missed some feature of hope. If so, do not hesitate to bring it up!

Thus far though, if you need hope — do not surrender or give in. Problems need to be faced down and solved. Even the most difficult of questions can probably be reasoned in some way or form, but no good can come of just surrendering your position. Be certain of where you stand, and stand proud!

‘The Radetzky March’, J. Strauss (Vater)

I have always been a great fan of ‘The Radetzky March’ but it is only now after reading a biography of the Marshal Joseph Radetzky that I can actually appreciate the full sense of what makes that piece so moving. Indeed, I believe I may have gained some sense of people listening to it for the first time would have thought.

For, what is this march? We are speaking of a celebratory march, much unlike most popular marches, and one to a far happier tune.

This was the situation: Just recently, in March 1848 the commander of the Italian armies of the Austrian Empire, Joseph Radetzky, had been forced to move out of the capital of Lombardy in Milan towards a series of forts. This was partly due to the general being outnumbered around four times by the incoming Piedmontese troops and also the general restless and hostile population of the city that numbered around 170,000 (to Radetzky’s 15,000). This retreat, however, was a potential disaster for the court in Vienna which if it lost the Italian territories, as now seemed inevitable, could face insurrections everywhere and quite probably a war on a number of fronts against revolutionary forces.

The soon-to-be-Marshal, however, regrouped at the forts he had moved to, the main one of which was Verona, and then attacked the oncoming Piedmontese troops who were led by their King Charles August. His troops were defeated decisively at Custoza in the end of July, and Radetzky moved back into Milan where he could consider to have concluded his campaign not a very long time after it started.

As a summary, the quick and decisive action by Joseph Radetzky quite probably saved Vienna and the Monarchy from great trouble and reinforced Austrian nationalism and army morale.

Johann Strauss (the Father) was the composer whose task it was to commemorate this event with a march, and I can quite imagine that the people who heard it first were entirely taken away by how in-theme this celebratory tone was to the events of the month, how apt the tone that describes the movements of the army under their octogenarian general, and how much Vienna itself owed to the good man for what position it was to retain for a while longer.

So, here I’ve attached firstly a quick paragraph from the book by Alan Sked which mentioned the march and also a version of the march from the well-deserved position of the last item to be played on Neujahrskonzert.

“It was on a splendid evening in August 1848 at a concert at the Wasserglacis in Vienna that Johann Strauss the elder concluded his Radetzky March for the very first time. There was a storm of celebration. The march was demanded time and time again and soon, in one historian’s singularly apt phrase, it became ‘a national anthem without words’.”


‘Faces of Rome’

Despite this being a measly trailer for Rome 2 Total War (or as they like doing it these days, Total War: Rome II), I really enjoy ‘Faces of Rome’. It has this dramatic appearance plus the very excellent music… and how brilliant are those few keynotes in the end!

The end makes me so want to see the next day in Rome!

[This also makes me wonder whether I should post a really bad example of a trailer I saw earlier on, which I might just do for the fun of it. Then people can see how a dramatic and striking appearance that can generate interest is set contrary to a base idea of what people could like.]

The music for ‘Faces of Rome’ was done by Jeff van Dyck, and he is also the composer/author for the Rome: Total War soundtrack. Admittedly, I can’t remember much of it, but people seem to say it was good. This here is a link to his own blog/site where he has a more thorough video of this trailer. Enjoy!

‘A Voice in the Dark’

This song, being one of the few that Blind Guardian has bothered to turn into a video, seemed fitting to sum up some of the artistic talent gone into it. Make no mistake, however, the video for ‘War of Thrones’ would in my opinion be quite a bit more entertaining though they have done well for this one as well.

For anyone who does not comprehend it (for either lack of hints, or background) then this song is well related to George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book-saga. I am confident that in the near days I will mention him again due to the fifth book that I am currently reading; right now, however, I am more interested in this song. Not as broad as the other ASOAIF track from that album, ‘A Voice in the Dark’ is related to the character Brandon Stark, but it would seem as if these lyrics are wise enough to tell something to us all.

In vain
Still I don’t understand
So talk to me again
Why do I fear these words?
What keeps holding me back?

Not necessarily these lines but the story of the boy (I hope that I will not spoil anyone’s existence, as long as you’ve read a few of the first chapters of the book or seen the first episode nothing that comes after should be a surprise) who fell is surely something that most people can relate to — being good (or rather, thinking that we are good) at something and then we are surprised, we fall, we withdraw into our shell.

Letting go of the things which have held us back should be a foremost goal; overcoming them a sign of strength and of the wish to become a better person. Turn outwards instead of inwards, and remember that mind is the only thing which matters in the end: “Too much mind. No mind.”

Free your mind

Learn to roam
Don’t look back”

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