January 2017 A Night on Bald Mountain - Mussorgsky
“A Night on Bald Mountain” by Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky
STOP! Before reading any further, listen to this piece with your eyes closed using the following link!
What pictures or storylines come to you? What could this piece be about?
Tone poems were a popular type of music in the Romantic Era. A tone poem is a piece of music based on a story, a poem, or an image. The composer brings to life the meaning of the story, poem, or image through sound. Mussorgsky’s A Night on Bald Mountain is based on a literary legend from Russia about a witch’s Sabbath on the eve of St. John’s Day. The piece has a lot of different emotions that run through it. Some are scary, others relaxed and calm. Walt Disney turned the legend and music into an animated cartoon in his movie, Fantasia. Is this what you pictured when you listened to the piece with your eyes closed? Maybe and maybe not! Like any art, interpretation is in the eyes and ears of the beholder!
Now, listen again and see what images your imagination can stir up!
Pick a project/activity:
- Make a full-page color picture of “Bald Mountain”. Pick 5 or more specific times from the performance to include in your art piece. For example, how would you visually depict the ominous sounds of the brass at 00:27 to 00:42? Or, what might be happening at 3:15 when the orchestra quiets and the woodwinds gently tip toe? What image comes to mind from 10:40 to 11:23 when the piece turns major and a lone clarinet lyrically plays a solo? Be sure to note the specific times you pick on the back of your art piece!
- Watch Walt Disney’s animated cartoon depicting Night on Bald Mountain. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SLCuL-K39eQ
- Listen to A Night on Bald Mountain transcribed for organ. A pipe organ, in its grand scope and might, has the ability to powerfully resonate as well as to mimic the characteristic sounds of the orchestra. Though it is only one instrument playing, it sounds like a full orchestra and literally ‘rocks the house’! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlPHSzQBmwY