What’s in a Name? – Fantasia

2nd March, 2011 - Posted by DisAnim - Comments Off on What’s in a Name? – Fantasia

“Fantasia” is a rather broad musical term that has meant various things throughout time, but it seems to have its roots in improvisation and irregularity. Dictionary.com gives a secondary definition as being “a medley of familiar themes, with variations and interludes.” Apparently this was the definition being used when describing the project originally. Eventually, Fantasia went from being the project’s descriptor to the project’s name. For the record, the term is the Italian form of the English word “Fantasy.”

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor – A toccata is a kind of music, usually for keyboard, designed to demonstrate the player’s dexterity. A fugue is another kind of music in which the melody is repeated in different “voices.” D Minor is a minor scale based on the D note. Hence, the name of this song is merely a description of the kind of song it is.

Nutcracker Suite – The song is a two-act ballet based off of a story called “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King.” One of the main characters is a prince who was turned into a nutcracker. I wish that the song would have been named “Mouse King Suite”—but somehow that probably wouldn’t have the same lasting appeal for most people. Of course, the Fantasia version has lost anything to do with the original story or even nutcrackers in general.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – The name comes from the main character (Mickey, in Fantasia’s case). Quite frankly, he is an apprentice of the sorcerer.

The Rite of Spring – The title suggests sacred rituals during the springtime. This would generally bring to mind something a little less severe than what the song actually sounds like, but Stravinsky’s idea of sacred rituals in this case is of a pagan girl dancing herself to death. Again, the title’s meaning is lost in the Fantasia version.

The Pastoral Symphony – Again, a “symphony” is a kind of music, usually a longer piece written for a full orchestra. Usually the modern connotation of “pastor” is a church leader, but the word’s roots actually suggest a shepherd. Hence, pastoral is an adjective to describe the countryside. This was Beethoven’s intention in the title.

Dance of the Hours – This name actually has meaning in the Fantasia version. There are four sections, each with a corresponding time of day (morning, daytime, evening, and night). In Fantasia, each is also accompanied by a dance by a particular animal (ostrich, hippopotamus, elephant, and alligator, respectively).

Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria – The word “bald” is also sometimes rendered “bare” in English translations. The suggestion is basically a mountaintop devoid of trees or much other foliage. The original idea behind the music was a witches’ sabbath occurring on St. John’s Eve (think Halloween, for simplicity’s sake in a comparison). The words “Ave Maria,” on the other hand, suggest the opposite. The words are Latin for “Hail Mary”—a Catholic prayer.

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