Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pachelbel: Canon in D

The conversation went something like this:

Me:  Who remembers the name of this song?
Ella:  Taco Bell's
Me:  Close - it's Pachelbel's Canon in D.  What do you hear?
Ella:  Slow.....Violins......  It sounds happy and sad both.  I think they play it at weddings alot.

Insightful, I thought, for a girl who's only been to two weddings, neither of which played Pachelbel's Canon.  Was she already perceiving that weddings are intuitively both happy and sad?  The celebration of new love and that bittersweetness of leaving home?  This is why my children are simply not allowed to date.  Because, if they do, then someday they will leave me.  And if they leave me, then I will make them walk down the aisle to the beautiful, bittersweet happy-sadness of Pachelbel's Canon in D.  This will remind them that while they might be blissfully happy, I am only happy-sad.  Happy-sad like Pachelbel's Canon in D.

Although the circumstances of the piece's composition are wholly unknown, one writer hypothesized that the Canon may have indeed been composed for a wedding.  The wedding was that of Johann Christoph Bach, on October 23, 1694.  The music for the occasion was provided by Johann Ambrosius Bach, Pachelbel, and other friends and family members.  Johann Christoph Bach was a former pupil of Pachelbel's and was also Johann Sebastian Bach's oldest brother.

Canon in D major is the most famous piece of music by German Baroque composer, Johann Pachelbel.  It was originally scored for three violins and basso continuo and paired with a gigue in the same key.  Like most other works by Pachelbel and other pre-1700 composers, the Canon remained forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered only in the 20th century.  Several decades after is was first published in 1919, the piece became extremely popular, and today it frequently played at weddings and included on classical music compilations.  

Pachelbel's Canon combines the techniques of canon and ground bass.  Canon is a polyphonic device in which several voices play the same music, entering in sequence. (Think a round like, Row, Row, Row Your Boat.)  In Pachelbel's piece, there are three voices engaged in canon (see below), but there is also a fourth voice, the basso continuo, which plays an independent part.  The bass keeps repeating the same two-bar line throughout the piece.  This is called ostinato, or ground bass.

Source:  Wikipedia

What did the other kids think?

Kid Critique:

SAMUEL:  (the human calculator) say, "It's simplistically beautiful, I guess."

ANNA:  It makes me feel like I'm in a boat on a lake with my family and having a good time.

ARIELLE:  I can't even tell it's a canon (a round ) because it's so beautiful.


TRANSLATION:  Sweet sounds, pretty music.  It kind of  sounds like Swan Lake.  It sounds like a princess music.

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