Tonight we listened to two pieces from Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. Both are very famous, and the first, Morning Mood, is what I have always associated with “sunrise at the farm” scenes in movies, commercials, and cartoons. I was surprised that the girls had never heard it. This was our second listening, and after a few moments Allegra commented that it seemed “repetitive.”
I agreed that the phrases did seem to repeat themselves (to try to overcome that sentiment, I went looking for–and found–a somewhat more interesting performance of “Morning Mood.”) But in fact, we noted that the other Peer Gynt piece that we had listened to last time (“In the Hall of the Mountain King”) was also repetitive. Allegra thought that both these pieces were not really “listening” pieces so much as “soundtrack,” as in movie background. They seemed to tell a story or at least to support a story–on the one hand, a peaceful sunrise in a pastoral setting, and on the other, perhaps a gnome-like creature in a mountain cavern.
We were delighted to learn from Professor Carol (if you haven’t tried Discovering Music yet, please do so–you will learn things about music that will horrify you, tickle your fancy, shock you–or all of the above) afterwards in her lesson on the Romantic “tone poem” that this is exactly what the tone poem is! It portrays “specific events, characters, and ideas in sound.” She even mentioned movie soundtracks and some of the great soundtrack composers, like John Williams.
How wonderful that she absolutely nailed what we had been discussing just moments before we sat down to watch the lesson of the day. In honor of the Romantic tone poem, here is our absolute favorite rendition of “In the Hall of the Mountain King.” See if you don’t agree that this music tells a definite story! (And p.s. the Peer Gynt story itself is Really Strange….)