The GB Album Club 046 - The Miraculous Mandarin by Béla Bartók

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unclejam23

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#1  Edited By unclejam23

Duders! Welcome to the 46th edition of the Unofficial Giant Bomb Album Club! The clubs. The streets. The parties. TikTok. You know what they're all fucking with? One act ballets with an emphasis on horror aesthetics, that's what. And because NOBODY has their finger on the pulse to the extent that the GB Album Club does, that's exactly what we're covering. This week's album is... actually not technically an album, it is a piece of music, and that piece of music is The Miraculous Mandarin by Béla Bartók! This album(?) was selected by @zombiepie, and here are the links he provided:

YouTube(with sheet music):https://youtu.be/Ka8mTjVpkLI?si=uheIGXTFuOt7rHYk

YouTube(with live performance/ballet):https://youtu.be/5PAFCTiyCkI?si=-B1WVPh2DlGDMWTG

YouTube(Live performance no ballet):https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zhr_QJGzLjg

The GB album club. We gathered in a Discord, we made a pool of albums, and we select one every week at random to listen to and discuss. You like that shit? Then come on down!

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unclejam23

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It's hard for me to not group classical music, ballet, and opera in my head as one unit, and it's a unit that I always approach with a little bit of an attitude. On one hand, to stand out in any of these fields, you have to be immensely talented. Depending on which specific medium you're talking about, you need to be able to understand music in its purest form and have a mastery of what your body is capable of communicating to an audience.

On the other hand, all three frequently seem like holdovers from Europe taking over the world and now we consider them high art simply because we haven't thought about it that much. Or we have and we simply don't care. In short, I don't fuck with specifically ballet or opera on a personal level.

All that said, when it comes to classical music, I can stop being an asshole and appreciate it for what it is regardless of the context, and hey, turns out classical music frequently rules, and yeah, The Miraculous Mandarin rules.

I chose to go about this by first reading a summary of the story. A basic summary: Three tramps force a woman to lure in men by dancing in the window so they can rob them. The first two are broke, but the third is the titular miraculous Mandarin. They mug him and try to kill him multiple times, but he only dies once he's allowed to "embrace" the woman. You have noticed a possible red flag or two re: race depending on how you interpret it, but you don't have to read or factor in the story in order to listen to the music.

I then listened to the composition without any video accompanimentand I loved it. It's exciting, it's bombastic, and it never fully lets up. Moreover, it doesn't just sound like the soundtrack to a story. It sounds like a story. Much like any effective narrative, there's build-up and there's release. Moments of high drama and quieter sequences to give the specatcle more heft. When you're listening to the music on its own, the specific beats of the story don't matter because the music does such a good job of mirroring story structure that you can fill in the blanks yourself. And, simply put, it's dope horror classical music shit.

I'm sure @zombiepie can get into more of the specifics, but I had a great time with this, and I'm happy the pot got stirred.

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Justin258

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(Fair warning – I’m using the generic, overarching term “classical music” and not the specific term for the specific period referring to specific things.)

I have only occasionally listened to some classical music. I liked Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I’ve liked some other stuff here and there. More than anything else, the thing getting in the way of me listening to classical music is trying to figure out which performance of a thing to listen to. If I suggest that someone go listen to Heart’s Dreamboat Annie, something I’ve listened to a few times recently, all I have to do is say the name of that album and you know where to look. Meanwhile, there are a zillion different performances of any given classical piece and any of them might have a different flavor or might be flawed in some way or, as in the case of Bela Bartok, there's a "suite" version of The Miraculous Mandarin that is missing the last third because of controversy in the early twentieth century or whatever. And I have always found looking up classical music to be an exercise in "am I listening to the right one?" instead of just enjoying whatever performance I happened to find.

So do I have anything significant to say about this specific piece? Yes! I did enjoy it! I kind of roll my eyes when metalheads compare their favorite genre to classical music, but as a metalhead, I tend towards the proggy side of things at least in part because I really enjoy music that rises and falls and rises again in intensity and frequently changes feel. And I’m sort of in the same headspace with this. This is a piece of music that’s always doing something interesting, I feel like I could listen to it a hundred times and find something new to appreciate and enjoy and then do the same thing a hundred more times. Like everyone else, I love a good catchy rhythm and fun melody, but something like this can stick with me for years if I listen to it more than a few times.

I didn’t comment in the thread about what new music I listened to this year because, uh, I’m bad about listening to new music these days, I’ve got a rotation of stuff and that’s what I listen to and I rarely add anything new. I want to change that in 2024 and it seems like I should put some more stuff like this on my palate. I suppose I just gotta pick a classical piece and listen to whatever first performance I come across and find more if I’m really interested in that piece.

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redwing42

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I've got a general background in Classical music, but I haven't exercised my ear for it in quite a while, to the point that I really have to think to point out specific differences between composers and such. I watched the live performance without the attached ballet, for reference. It reminded me of The Sorcerer's Apprentice by Dukas in its stylings. If we are talking about specifics of the performance, I would have liked the percussion/tympani to be a bit more forward at times. The composition itself was no "Pictures at an Exhibition" or "The Planets", but I enjoyed it well enough. I should look into more single movement self contained performances like this.

Also, English Horns are ridiculous instruments that are terribly named.