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Flight Of The Bumblebee Song Analysis Essay

The orchestral interlude from Rimsky-Kovsakov's opera The Tale of Tsar Sultan is the close to Act III, Tableau 1. In this interlude, the Swan-Bird transforms himself into an insect so that he can fly off to visit his father, who does not know he is alive.

In the image above, the leitmotif of the flight (1) and the transformation (2), are, of course, the thematic ideas that bind the work together. So, in drawing a...

The orchestral interlude from Rimsky-Kovsakov's opera The Tale of Tsar Sultan is the close to Act III, Tableau 1. In this interlude, the Swan-Bird transforms himself into an insect so that he can fly off to visit his father, who does not know he is alive.

In the image above, the leitmotif of the flight (1) and the transformation (2), are, of course, the thematic ideas that bind the work together. So, in drawing a music map, these notes could be copied and inserted as they tie together the pictorial depiction of sound (as fence posts hold the wire in place every so many feet). Remembering that music and art are simply different mediums for the expression of the same concept or feeling, the student may wish to use color and line to convey the rhythm and melodies and chord progressions of the music. (There are some people, called "synesthetes," who experience double sensory experiences such as hearing a sound while also seeing a color.)

Here's another suggestion: Watch and listen to the video of the links below and try to visualize the sound in lines and imagine into what color this sound can be translated. For example, as the conductor moves his baton, imagine it is a sparkler in the dark that creates lines of light and draw this line which then moves with the progression of the music (vary the thickness, color, etc.). For example, when the flutes are being played, the line will be thinner; when the cello comes in, the line thickens, and so forth. Perhaps, the student can conceptualize the leitmotif as the body of the bee, and the lines emanating from him in his transformation and flight. And, what about flowers? Bees hover over them often in their flights.

The important thing is to free the imagination and feel, experience personally, the color and line; closing the eyes and imagining line and color can be the way to translate sound into other senses--even dance! With regard to the other link, the Canadian Brass rendition, the tuba has such round, bold notes in contrast to the sharp, staccato of the trumpet that line can easily express these sounds. 

Rimsky-Korsakov was quite prolific in the realm of opera, having completed 15, leaving four others in sketch form. The Tale of Tsar Saltan was the tenth and its music is among the most-familiar scores the composer wrote, both in operatic form and in the suite derived from the opera. The Flight of the Bumblebee has emerged as the score's most-famous musical passage, arguably as familiar-sounding as anything in Scheherazade, Rimsky-Korsakov's most often-heard large work. Though many recordings of the Tsar Saltan Suite include it, The Flight of the Bumblebee is not a part of that work. It has also appeared in various arrangements for piano (Cziffra made a well-known one), for violin and piano, for brass ensemble, and many other instrumental combinations. The music occurs in the opera when Prince Gvidon consents to be turned into a bumblebee by a magical Swan, whose life he saved in his youth. The strings are heard buzzing hurriedly about at the outset, brilliantly conveying images of a busy bee racing about. A flute and later, a clarinet, joins in the fun, though the orchestral soloists negotiating the myriad of notes at breakneck speed may consider it anything but fun. Eventually, the Russian-flavored counter theme, played throughout in the background by pizzicato strings, is played more emphatically by low, pizzicato strings against the buzzing and bustling strings. The whole piece, all two minutes or so of it, is brilliant and colorful, its music having an instant catchiness.

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