Listening Log – Composing Music

“The Gulliver Suite” by Georg Philipp Teleman (TWV 40:108)

When I saw this name come up I had a feeling that it was in relation to Gulliver’s Travels. I believe I read the book when I was younger as I was quite a precocious book worm in my reading and chose books that were maybe far beyond my years. I re-acquainted myself with the story before I listened to the piece.

The piece is divided into 5 movements, but the book only visits 4 places so the introduction is I do believe a very jolly piece written as Lemuel Gulliver sets out on his journey to his first country and the 4 following movements reflect each country he visits as they are included in the titles of the movements.

I did not realise that when Jonathan Swift wrote this it was a reflection on society at the time and looking at it, it is rather cleverly written, poking fun at the English politics and customs as it was when the book was published in 1726. (Teleman wrote the piece two years later). The piece is a first person narrative by Lemuel Gulliver, sea captain and surgeon as he travels around the world to various places. I do not want to write too much about this book but I have taken my information from Encyclopaedia Britannica as my information on the Gullivers Travels.

The 2 violins are beautiful and the way in which they play against one another it does sound like there are more violins or additional strings involved. Each of the movements reflects the story, the Lilliputians in a childlike way, as of course they are only 6 inches tall there is a sense of wonder in this section. Moving onto Brobdingnag, which is inhabited by giants. This movement is bold and regal (there is a monarch involved in this part of the story). The violins are perfect reflecting the setting of this part of the tale. We then move onto the people of Laputa and I could instantly feel that Teleman has captured the “eyes” of the people of Laputa in the violin. This section of the book itself involves other people and there is a melancholia as we move out of this movement onto the final one, mirroring what is happening in the book. Finally the Houyhnhnms. Again Teleman captures this part of the story, its final part, with what I feel is a majestic feeling as it relates to horses and the curiosity and intelligence of the horses comes across in the way the music is played.

I throughly enjoyed the piece. It perfectly relates to the story, but I do believe that if you played this to someone and they had no knowledge of the story of Gulliver’s Travels they may just say that it is a pleasant piece. It is a short piece and really it is a shame that Teleman did not expand the piece to fully mirror the events of the book. The satirical elements of the book are not really portrayed using two violins. I suspect that a more modern composer could expand on the themes of the book using the repertoire of the orchestra. I saying this though I still really enjoyed this piece and the way in which the violins worked with one another beautifully.

Quintana, Ricardo , Cregan-Reid, Vybarr and Bauer, Pat. “Gulliver’s Travels”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 Nov. 2022, Accessed 26 January 2023.

Stockhausen – Klavierstucke IX

Taken from You Tube

I had chosen this piece to listen to but as I was searching for some of the score this came up on You Tube and I decided to listen to this as parts of the score are on screen as you are listening.

What a fascinating piece to listen to and to look at the score, was fascinating. Oh my what a complex piece of music this is to look at, but for me a delight on my ears. Stockhausen is not for everyone but in this piece I love the unpredictability of the score and as a bass player, the way in which a lot of the chords are in the bass keys, and notes are held there. Even though the pieces starts very much in the bass keys I enjoyed the way in which it felt lighter and towards the end the notes were at the very top end of the scale. I read a few comments about what this reminded people of but I disagree with some, I say that the notes in the higher region of the piece with a bass note here and there remind me of raindrops and the rumble of thunder from far off.

I do like Stockhausen and this is a fascinating loom at listening to variable metre.

Stockhausen – Zeitmasse, or Time Measures or Tempos

I found a fascinating blog article about the whole of this piece which really breaks the piece down and I have used this and captured some of the score for Zeitmasse for my blog.

Again I enjoyed this piece.I love the way Stockhausen writes and this piece sounded like there were more than 5 instruments. There are times where these instruments are in time and playing the same note but then they go off into their own phrases and structures. The complexities of this are detailed in the blog page I have referenced but I have stayed away from reading the intense deconstruction of the piece to formulate my own opinions on Zeitmasse.

From the excerpt I have referenced above ( again are the variable metres. This piece may sound messy, but I am loving the unpredictability of this piece yet again. I can’t feel any story whilst listening to this but I somehow feel a connection of some sort, whether it is because I enjoy the bands that he has influenced or whether I just feel like this is my kind of music. However I can hear the variable metres and what it brings to the piece.

Pierre Boulez – Pli salon pli

This is a piece of music which is based, loosly on the poems of Stephane Mallarme. Each part of the work refers to a musical setting of a different poem.

I found this a very difficult listen and it was due to the soprano. I found it unbearably screechy in parts and totally distracted me from what was some interesting music. In parts where there were music I enjoyed the unpredictability and the originality of Boulez as I have listened to him before but the soprano was too much. I couldn’t even get a feel for the pieces, I felt it was a total distraction. It is not a piece I would choose to revisit, simply because of the soprano. I understand that Boulez and his works were a source of inspiration and groundbreaking for many and in the past I have enjoyed his work but this…no and I hope I do not have to revisit this piece ever again


Pierre Boulez – Structures

The only information I can find about these two pieces is that they were written for 2 pianos.

I found these pieces much better to listen to. Unpredictability in both of the pieces (They are Book 1 and Book 2) but interesting in the way they move. The pieces were much more interesting. I couldn’t tell that there were two pianos playing I just thought that it was the technical skill of the players, so to me that means that they are very in tune with each other to make it sound as one. If I had listened to the piece on You Tube I would have had the full score but I wanted to see if I could listen to this after the disaster of the previous piece I listened to.

Structures. Is there a structure to each piece. I believe there is. The pieces are both different but are utilising the keyboard, and sometimes some of the notes sound almost electronic, that plinky plonk high note that you can sometimes hear when listening to an electronic based music piece, and indeed Boulez is associated with electronic music so this makes sense to me to be feeling this way about this piece. The beauty of the piano playing in this piece though, especially towards the end of the second book is very engaging with the highest pitched notes being played with a delicacy, an intensity and a then quite strongly. It worked well and I am very glad to say that I enjoyed this piece and I do not have the same feelings towards it as the previous piece by Boulez.

Stravinsky – The Firebird

I wanted to know more about the context of this piece before I listened to it. I was amazed to read that it was one of his earliest pieces. By reading the context I understood that there were lots of references to it being linked to Russian Fokelore and I bore this in mind, also the fact that it was a ballet, to be performed by the new Ballet Russes and that a number of prominent Russian composers had turned it down.

What a beautiful piece to listen to and I could really picture this set in a ballet, if I hadn’t already known it was a work for ballet I would have said that this piece would have been suitable for a ballet. You can hear the contrast between the good firebird and any of the evil that it comes across. This piece was engaging and I really could feel the story to it. You can hear main characters in the music and also picture how the ballerinas would move, which is odd as I have never done ballet but its there, the music is becoming a picture in my mind which I think is the best possible thing there is.

Schwarm, Betsy. “The Firebird”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Feb. 2018, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring

Now with this piece I didn’t read up on it before hand, simply because I wanted to get some listening done for my blog. As I listened I could hear the music representing to me the way in which winter moves into spring, harshness becoming a bit more lighter as we move into lighter nights, not so cold and frosty days. Also flowers starting to bloom and animals awakening from their hibernation. As I listened to the piece I really felt that this was the main theme. I also thought that this was simply a composition of his. I did not realise that this was a ballet! Knowing that now I really do find it incredible that this is indeed a ballet as it seems very harsh in places and I wonder how the dancers could have even performed this. Looking at the article I used for reference I really am astounded that this piece has still been used as a ballet piece. I like the piece, yes the introduction is very hard but in all honesty I really enjoyed it

Schwarm, Betsy. “The Rite of Spring”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 19 Jan. 2023, Accessed 1 February 2023.

Stravinsky- Histoire du Soldat

I was not expecting to hear what I did, and after listening I hear what made it so interesting and groundbreaking when it comes to the performance of the percussion section. I did struggle to hear the percussion but it soo reeve,and itself in some glory as I moved along a the piece.

Starting off as a marching sound I fully expected this to be the case probably throughout the majority of the piece but it turned out that this was not the case. As Boulez had said this was a piece which was a major development I listened to the recording which he himself conducted.

I felt that the piece was beautifully constructed from start to finish and very unpredictable in nature which I liked. I am not sure if it was telling a story as I do not like to research a piece before I listen as that spoils the whole piece for me as you are guided to what you are hearing.

I thought that the percussion came into its element during Part 2 – The Royal March where I heard the drum beating a time which but it was a timing that was not what I was used to hearing. The drums were very loud and clear, but I didn’t hear a “march” as I would think would be sounding but something which sounded playful in parts with woodwind and brass. It worked but I loved the beating of the drum.

Moving through the percussion popped up when I least expected it and I found this intriguing. I did feel that in times the percussion was used as emphasis. There is something in this piece that draws you in but I do not know what that is that is drawing me in, maybe its unpredictability. It wast until I listed to Three Dances that I found the percussion all the more intriguing and of interest. The way that Tango, Waltz and Ragtime are presented is effective especially in Tango. The Devil’s Dance is particularly percussion heavy but I cannot identify individual instruments at this time.

The percussion has its starring role in Triumphant March of the Devil, where triumphant is indeed used to describe what is happening with the percussion. At one point I did think I heard bongos. The climax is a beautiful.

Now that I have listened to the piece I think it may do some good to investigate the piece and see how it is described as I would like to know how close I am to what my thoughts are.

I thought it would be a good idea to investigate some more modern music using variable meter and top of my list came

Frank Zappa – Keep It Greasy

I have heard of Frank Zappa but I have never ever sat and listened. My knowledge of the band is that guitarist Warren Cucurrillo spent time in my favourite band Duran Duran. This song contains some extremely explicit lyrics for its time but the musicality! This is in variable meter but the drumming is some of the finest I have ever heard. This track is amazing I am blown away but when I did an internet search discovered some sheet music. To me it looks like the instruments are all playing at a different time signature.

This is the link for the drum music (

This is the bass tab (

This is the image of the guitar tab at the start of the piece (

There is a guitar solo and there is some variable meter in this (

I am amazed and awestruck at the complexity of this recording and I think I shall be listening to more Zappa in the future.

Another song which I found is

The First Circle by Pat Metheney Group

I am unfamiliar with the music although I know the name. I looked on you tube and there, to my utter delight was a video clip featuring the music score and you can plainly see the variable meter and I was thrilled to be able to listen and be guided by the score. I really enjoyed this too and its great to see how variable meter is working in more modern compositions