Everybody loves The Planets. Well, more accurately, everyone knows Mars and Jupiter, and probably wouldn't recognize anything else as part the suite even if you told them the name of the movement was "Saturn" or "Venus". But pimping Uranus (ha ha) isn't the point of this post. One of the things people don't know about Gustav Holst is that he was a trombone player and did a lot of non-orchestral composition, much of it for wind or military band. And unless you're a band geek like me, you probably won't be familiar with any of his other literature.
One of Holst's contemporaries was a fellow Briton named Edward Elgar. Elgar is best known for his Pomp and Circumstance marches. (You already know the first one because it's played at every single graduation ceremony in the Anglosphere.) While the marches are quite good, I'm actually a bigger fan of his other compositions - especially his Enigma Variations, a cryptographic musical love letter to his family, friends, and (in the true hubristic spirit of the 19th Century artist) himself.
Unlike Holst, Elgar never wrote directly for wind band, but his compositions are relatively simple and have been transcribed for (and largely played by) wind ensembles. I'm going to exclusively use band arrangements for both composers here. I encourage you to find orchestral versions and listen to those as well.
Continue reading Music Plug #4: Holst, Elgar
So here's a weird post-Gen Con thought: when you play tabletop RPGs and you think about the game later, do you ever think about, say, who sat in a particular seat and find yourself picturing the character and not the player?
I am pretty solidly attached to reality, but this is a still thing that sometimes happens to me, to the point where my initial mental image can even get things like the gender of the person wrong. I can always call up the real person's face, but it's still sort of a strange moment of cognitive dissonance. It doesn't happen in every game - maybe it depends on the level of role-playing at the table, or how deep I am in my own character...?
Anyway, yeah, that's just a thing I guess. Any thoughts?
Hacking the Apocalypse World system is all the rage these days. Game designers are using the core framework to create brand new games across multiple genres - from horror to romance to historical fiction.
Many of these hacks are complete re-imaginings that take the game away from its post-apocalyptic roots. But there's also a lot of room in the AW system for small hacks - things that keep the gritty, desperate feel of the game while changing the focus or tone just enough to make the setting feel different. Here are three that I've come up with that can be used individually or together.
Continue reading Three Small AW Hacks
I said last time that I'd been planning on plugging Brahms, but I got a little distracted by some other awesome stuff. And yeah, it feels like a bit of a cop-out to plug one of the most famous Romantic composers, but compared to his contemporaries, I think Brahms gets short shrift.
Ludwig van Beethoven started in the Classical period but paved the way for musical Romanticism. Johannes Brahms started in the Romantic period but created works with the epic solidity of his Classical forebearers. Brahms' compositions are deep, patient, and philosophically weighty. He does more storytelling with color and harmony and dynamics (especially in his vocal compositions) than any of his predecessors and the vast majority of his successors.
Continue reading Music Plug #3: Brahms