Classical Music Tells Stories

This week I’ve been introducing my new blog and I might finally be getting around to talking about some real classical music. I want to encourage you to listen to Camille Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. 

This classic is easy to enjoy for a lot of reasons, it’s light, it describes very specific things like lions, elephants, kangaroos, etc. Ultimately, it describes a world that we can understand and relate to. If you’ve ever been to a zoo you know the fascination with the exotic animals and that is what Saint-Saens was going for.

By the way, Camille Saint-Saens was a French composer who lived from 1835 - 1921. A lot of his music tells very specific stories, like Carnival of the Animals. Some might say that all music tells stories, but sometimes composers would go out of their way to write music that tells a story. It’s usually indicated by the title. A composition titled Symphony No. 1 doesn’t tell the audience much, but work titled Carnival of the Animals speaks loud and clear what the piece is about.

The different animals represented are, Lions, Hens and Roosters, Donkeys, Tortoises, Elephants, Kangaroos, Fish, a Cuckoo Bird, Other Birds, Fossils (which were a huge scientific discovery in the 1800s), and The Swan. There are also two movements intended as humorous. The first is, “Characters with Long Ears.” This is probably a reference to the music critics who didn’t like Saint-Saens’ tour through Germany he had just taken. Also, there is a movement called “The Pianists.” I think he is making a joke about piano students practicing scales.  We are savages, you know.

So today enjoy “Carnival of the Animals” with your kids. Be sure to tell them which movement is playing and imagine the ferocious lions, the graceful swan, and the lumbering elephant.