Edward Benjamin Britten [1913-1976] — Marina Kanavaki (Reblog)

On this day, November 22, 1913 English composer, conductor, and pianist. Edward Benjamin Britten was born He was a central figure of 20th-century British music, with a range of works including opera, other vocal music, orchestral and chamber pieces. His best-known works include the opera Peter Grimes (1945), the War Requiem (1962) and the orchestral […]

Edward Benjamin Britten [1913-1976] — Marina Kanavaki

Prokofiev: Prodigy to Innovator – Astrology Musings

It could be argued that pianist and conductor Sergei Prokofiev was the most popular composer of the 2oth Century. Writing such entrancing classics as ‘Peter and the Wolf’, ‘Lieutenant Kije’ and the ‘Romeo and Juliet’ ballet, there’s little wonder he is so loved now, even if he wasn’t appreciated all the time in his native USSR.

Based on his known birth data, can we begin to deduce what made this musical genius tick?

Born in Ukraine in 1891, Sergei’s musical ability was discovered early. In 1900 aged only nine years he wrote his first piano score for opera.

A Revolutionary

In 1904 he went to the prestigious St Petersburg Conservatory where he was to shine. He established an early reputation for thinking outside of the box. He was an innovator of music, a revolutionary not afraid of change.

He was brilliant at many forms of classical music too, writing seven operas, seven symphonies, eight ballets, five piano concertos, two violin concertos, a cello concerto, a symphony for cello and orchestra and nine piano sonatas. Yet of all these disciplines, opera appears to have been his favourite.

Traditional Subjects

Prokofiev was a sun Taurean in basic terms, the major luminary being placed in the eighth astrological house of shared security. The Bull is ruled by musical, creative Venus and has produced many a great composer.

Yet Taurus is traditional, not a radical at all. Mercury’s presence in Taurus in the same house indicates that his basic mentality worked along similarly practical, functional lines, with an interest in investing his time profitably.

Prokofiev’s choice of subject was certainly traditional, yet if his instinct for melody and beauty may partly derive from his Taurean essence, what drove him to such heights of innovation?

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Magician in the Mix

When he was born the cardinal air sign of Libra was rising, which is also ruled by Venus. Libra is diplomatic, generally courteous, often with an artistic flair, so we may assume that Sergei was rather pleasant to meet and easy going.

His Moon is also in this sign, indicating a strong need to be liked socially and keen to meet people. However, Uranus the ‘Magician’ is close to the Moon in his first house, and this may give us the first clue to his revolutionary personality and approach. So whilst being an attractive person, he was also somewhat unusual, eccentric, disruptive in some way.

Selfless Unity in Sound

Let’s look at the important planet of Venus, ruler of the chart and of his sun sign. We find Venus in Pisces, sign of its exaltation, where the uniting principle works at its most selfless.

Venus is in the sixth house of work and efficiency, so this is where this beautifully placed Venusian energy expressed itself, in his day to day activities, bringing beauty in the form of sound to everyone who may care to listen. I am particularly reminded here of Prokofiev’s lovely ‘Peter and the Wolf’ and how effective his choice of melody and intrument are in telling the old tale.

We find another intriguing layer to this complex man in his ninth house of the higher mind and travel. Here are housed Mars, Neptune, the Moon’s north node and Pluto, all within five degrees of early Gemini.

An Interesting Vibration

This conjunction is an interesting vibration. Neptune, as I have discovered previously, is very often prominent in some way in the charts of creative people, particularly musicians and composers. Music does, after all, have ways of touching the soul that other creative forms cannot.

This coupled with Mars in Gemini lends much mental and dexterous energy and expression to Neptune’s other worldly inspiration. Add Pluto to the mix and we have a higher mind of much depth as well as creative diversity.

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So here too is a man whose philosophy of life is crucial to him, yet difficult, for the north node’s position here indicates that contemplating wider issues did not necessarily come that easy to him but was one he had to embrace. We know he left Russia during the 1918 revolution, living elsewhere, including the USA and France, until he finally returned in 1933.

Ethical Problems and Loneliness

I think the close opposition of Jupiter to Saturn on his sixth/twelfth house axis also reveals the deeper ethical problems he must have encountered on leaving his native land in 1918, probably feeling that circumstances were hardly going to be conducive to his livelihood.

This strongly hints of periods of intense loneliness and isolation, especially when being ‘out of favour’.

Indeed, several of his works were banned by the Soviets after his return, they being deemed not suitable for the new communistic philosophy and culture. Nevertheless, a few years after his death in 1953, his general reputation at home in the USSR was restored.

Copyright Francis Barker 2020

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Poem ‘Girl with a Cello’

Girl with a Cello

In a diamond city night we’re
taxied through floodlit streets

angled snow alabasters old facades
medieval histories beyond all guessing

Flanders is frozen outside this misted glass
the two of us sitting nose to nose

our tongues loosening aperitif smiles
white burgundy cutting through brie

making heads light and cheeks flush
and toe touch toe

Our eyes meet when bare soul strokes calf
kissing slim fingers one by one

plied each day to taut cello strings
sneak previews to plots and suites of night

© copyright francis barker 2012

Claude Debussy : Préludes Book II – performed by Paavali Jumppanen

A beautiful Debussy podcast by Oannes. Τρία Πρελούδια από το Δεύτερο Βιβλίο του Claude Debussy.Αποδίδει συναρπαστικά ο Φινλανδός πιανίστας Paavali …

Claude Debussy : Préludes Book II – performed by Paavali Jumppanen

Poem Update: Girl With A Cello

people woman art hand
Photo by Gimmeges on Pexels.com

In a diamond city night we’re
taxied through floodlit streets

angled snow alabasters old facades
medieval histories beyond all guessing

Flanders is frozen outside this misted glass
the two of us sitting nose to nose

our tongues loosening aperitif smiles
white burgundy cutting through brie

making heads light and cheeks flush
and toe touch toe

Our eyes meet when bare soul strokes calf
kissing slim fingers one by one

plied each day to taut cello strings
sneak previews to plots and suites of night

© copyright Francis Barker 2012

Stockhausen: Neptune, Uranus and the Nature of Genius. Astrology Musings

red lights in line on black surface
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Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the most important composers of the 20th century, was also one its most controversial. The outer planets, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are generational in influence, but if one or more of them touch sensitive parts of our birth chart, they can put us in touch with powerful trans-personal energy.

According to his known birth data, he was born with Leo rising, with a Leo Sun exactly conjunct Neptune.

A fount of inspiration

Here is a powerful, creative individual, with a personal connection to the numinous through Neptune, with all the inspirational, spiritual qualities associated with that planet. He was certainly a major visionary in musical terms and has had a huge influence on jazz and popular music as well as classical.

As we have seen previously, Neptune is invariably prominent in some way in the birth charts of creative artists, but he was clearly no idle dreamer.

Practical application

With Mercury and Venus in Virgo in house 2, the latter trine Jupiter in Taurus in house 10, he was very keen to apply his undoubted inspiration practically, effectively, in detail, and to disseminate it, not only in way to earn a living, but in building a successful career out of it. Indeed, he was also a fine writer and communicator too, teaching his ideas successfully. Without this grounding effect, his genius may well have been lost to the world.

What is more, revolutionary Uranus was very close to the MC (midheaven) in Aries in house 9.

The shock of the new

This midheaven point is traditionally associated with the career or life direction and with Uranus in Aries activating this very personal angle of his chart, we can see the unusual, avant-garde, revolutionary and pioneering qualities he brought to bear in his career. Revolutionary literally means turning upside down: he essentially did this, being a pioneer in the sphere of electronic music.

More than once, his music has been described as ‘disruptive’ (Uranus) and unfathomable (Neptune). He also has Mars in good aspect to Uranus, bringing much supportive, instigating energy and (in Gemini) variability to his repertoire.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

The Brilliance of Britten: Astrology Musings, Neptune inspires again

ocean wave
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One of England’s greatest composers, Benjamin Britten composed some of the most memorable music of the 20th century.

So let’s take a quick look at his birth chart. He has Cancer rising, with a wide Mars Neptune conjunction near the ascending degree, the latter being closely trine his Sun and a retrograde Mercury on either side of the Scorpio/Sagittarius cusp. Sounds complicated?

Inspirational Neptune

As I have noted before, Neptune is very often prominent in some way in the charts of creative artists and composers.

I suspect this is the source of much inspiration. Britten was from Lowestoft in Suffolk in the east of England, he was brought up by the sea and had a strong connection to it. One of his most famous pieces, the opera ‘Peter Grimes’ was inspired by this.

Emotional force

Neptune in Cancer in his first house symbolises this, with the added emotional force of Mars, which may have been difficult to control at times.

In my own mind, I equate that wonderful sound in music of the rolling waves releasing on the beach from the ‘Four Sea Interludes‘ of ‘Peter Grimes’, to the Neptune Mars in Cancer conjunction. It’s beautiful, imaginative, and slightly disquieting. Neptune’s supportive connection to the Sun will give him further innate sensitivity.

Retrograde Mercury thinking out of the box

I am also interested by the Sun conjunct a retrograde Mercury bestriding the Scorpio Sagittarius cusp, in houses 5 and 6.

It’s almost like a confusion of identity here, where the mental processes are turned more inwardly, unusually, and ‘out of the box’, and where the sense of self (the Sun in last minute of Scorpio) is always looking beyond but never quite getting there.

In some sense this may have been another prime reason for him becoming a composer and musician, in that the challenges of expressing thought conventionally with the retrograde Mercury, can be given over to creative, musical inspiration, expressed through ways alluded to above.

Strong attachment to roots

Mars is also ruler of houses 5 and 10, giving much energetic support and a link between his creativity and career path. And it is interesting to note that he was a fine conductor and pianist too.

His ruler, the Moon, is in Virgo in house 3 but very close to the Nadir of the chart, trine to Jupiter. He clearly has a strong emotional connection to his roots, probably his mother, and he never lost that sense of ‘belonging’ to the Suffolk coast.

However, in Virgo the Moon is quite fastidious, supported by a more circumspect Jupiter in Capricorn, a quality which will certainly help the art of putting all that inspiration from Neptune down on paper.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019

The Proms: An Extraordinary British Tradition

united kingdom flag tied to a wooden bench
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The Proms begin today, July 19, perhaps the quintessential British cultural event, held each year in several venues in London between July and September, though most notably at The Royal Albert Hall.

The word proms is in fact a shortening of the term Promenade Concerts, a cultural phenomena which had its origins in 18th century London, which took place in pleasure gardens where the spectators were allowed to move around the orchestras. The word promenade is a borrowing from the French language, meaning to walk.

Music for the masses

In the 19th century this style of concert moved indoors as well, leading eventually to the establishment of ‘The Proms’ on August 10 1895 at the Queens Hall, Langham Place by the well known impresario, Robert Newman.

The idea was to offer the experience of classical music to the general public, with lower ticket prices in an informal setting. It has to be said that the idea worked, with a comprehensive schedule of performances spanning over two months.

Too English?

However, the Proms do have their detractors. For instance, I have heard it said more than once that they are too English. Whilst there is certainly a great deal of flag waving, a cursory look at the famous ‘Last Night of the Proms’, will reveal flags from all over the world.

What is more, much time and energy has been put in to diversifying the content, with the inclusion of world music, as well as folk music from all over Great Britain and Ireland.

copyright Leofwine Tanner 2019