Ten inspiring pieces of music 6: Bartok Violin Concerto No.1

Bela Bartok (1881-1945) wrote two violin concertos, both great pieces. However the first violin concerto was only published in 1959 after his death . Why? Therein lies a sorry tale, and part of the reason why I find this piece so moving and why I count it as particularly ‘inspirational’. Bartok was in love. With a […]

Ten inspiring pieces of music 5: Mozart Don Giovanni – Commendatore scene

Some Mozart today – and what to choose? Despite dying in his early 30s he left behind a wealth of music, some of it trivial and trite it has to be said, but more masterpieces than is decent. The piece that keeps coming to mind is a single scene from one of his late operas, […]

Ten inspiring pieces of music 4: Berlioz Symphonie funèbre et triomphale

I was going through my CDs when I got to Berlioz and suddenly thought about this. It’s a piece that’s not widely known and I only encountered it as a filler on, I think, the Berlioz Te Deum (which is another contender for this slot). So if you read my first three posts and thought my […]

Ten inspiring pieces of music 3: Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius

Elgar wrote The Dream of Gerontius in 1899/1900, a setting of the poem by Cardinal (now Saint) Newman. By the time he wrote it, Elgar had gained something of a reputation internationally, especially for his choral works, and this was a commission for the Birmingham Triennial Festival. It was completed only three months before the […]

Ten inspiring pieces of music 2: Vaughan Williams – Tallis Fantasia

Today’s inspiring piece is rather well-known: The Tallis Fantasia by the English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. It’s based on a theme by the Tudor composer Thomas Tallis and was written with Gloucester Cathedral in mind, where it was premiered in 1910. There are three string sections, a full-sized string orchestra, a single desk from each […]

Ten inspiring pieces of music 1: Mahler’s 2nd Symphony

I’ve been asked on Facebook to nominate a piece of ‘inspirational’ music each day for ten days. I’d been thinking about doing something like this here anyway so here goes. My first piece is the finale from Mahler’s 2nd Symphony, ‘The Resurrection’. The symphony as a whole is an hour and a half long and […]

How to kill a design fairy

(Image spotted on Twitter from Mitch Goldstein) No matter how often I’ve insisted to students otherwise, it’s frightening how often “research” is thought to be “Googling” rather than understanding a problem by thinking about it, exploring the situation (e.g. by watching people or talking to them) and then prototyping. It doesn’t matter what the brief […]