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The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Selections Annotated and Explained by Malaspina Great Books Web Editor Russell McNeil PhD
The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius:
Selections Annotated and Explained

Russell McNeil, PhD
Editor, Malaspina Great Books

In 1862 the English literary critic and poet Matthew Arnold described Marcus Aurelius as "the most beautiful figure in history." The Stoicism of Aurelius is grounded in rationality and rests solidly on an ethical approach rooted in nature. Stoicism promises real happiness and joy in this life and a serenity that can never be soured by personal misfortune. This philosophy has universal appeal with practical implications on problems ranging from climate change and terrorism to the personal management of sickness, aging, depression and addiction. I truly believe that the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius has much to offer us now...(Click on book cover for more)

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Modern Music
Name:Carl Orff
Birth Year:1895
Death Year:1982
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Biography, Lectures, and Research Links: Malaspina Great Books - Carl Orff (1895-1982) Biography

Blog Carl Orff

Carl Orff (July 10, 1895, Munich - March 29, 1982 Munich), composer. Orff is most known for Carmina Burana (1938), a 'scenic cantata'. It is the first of a trilogy that also included Catulli Carmina and Triunfo de Aphrodite, which reflected his interest in Medieval German poetry. While "modern" in some of his compositional techniques, Orff in the trilogy is able to capture the spirit of the Medieval period with infectious rhythms and easy tonalities. The Medieval poems written in an early form of German and in Latin were often racy, but without descending into smut for smut's sake.

In pedagogical circles he is probably best remembered for his Schulwerk (1930-35), translated into English as his Music for Children. Its simple musical instrumentation allowed even untutored child musicians to perform the piece with relative ease. Much of his life Orff worked with children, using music as an educational tool. Both melody and rhythm are often determined by the words, in either the German or English production. There is a feeling of enthusiasm that echo the joy the performers obviously feel in creating such beautiful music.

Orff was reluctant to call any of his works just operas. For example, he called Der Mond (The Moon) (1939) a 'Märchenoper': Fairytale Opera. Die Kluge (The Wise Woman) (1943) would fall into the same category. In both there is that same Medieval or timeless sound without actually copying the musical idioms of the period. The melodies, rhythms and, with them, the text are so memorable that they can be recalled years after one hearing, which is proof of a rare and flawless union of words and music.

Of his Antigone (1949) Orff said specifically, that it was not an opera, but a Vertonung, a "musical setting" of the ancient tragedy. The text is an excellent German translation, executed by Friedrich Hölderlin, of Sophocles' play of that name. The orchestration, particularly for the percussion section, is greater than tremendous. Some have called the style minimalist, which it may be in terms of melodic line, but it matches the emotional content of the original play with ease. His last work, De Temporum Fine Comoedia (A Play of the End of Time) had its premiere in Salzburg in 1967. In this highly personal work Orff presented a mystery play in which he summarized his view of the end time, sung in Greek, German, and Latin. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Carl Orff.]

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This web page is part of a biographical database on Great Ideas. These are living ideas that have shaped, defined and directed world culture for over 2,500 years. By definition the Great Ideas are radical. As such they are sometimes misread, or distorted by popular simplifications. Understanding a Great Idea demands personal engagement. Our selection of Great Ideas is drawn from literature and philosophy, science, art, music, theatre, and cinema. We also include biographies of pivotal historical and religious figures, as well as contributions from women and other historically under-represented minorities. The result is an integrated multi-cultural and multi-disciplinary database built upon the framework of the always controversial Great Books Core List published in 1940 by the late Great Books Pioneer Mortimer Adler (1902-2001). Most of the works on that list are available in the 60 volume Great Books of the Western World.

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