Review: Brahms 118,2 & Newman's Plastic Bag Theme

Steven’s monthly recommendation


Every month, starting from now on, I am going to present some music that especially inspires me. It is not about any specific style, but could be anything from Classical, to Jazz or Contemporary Music. These recommendations will be written in English only.

I am excited about discussions on the pieces. Feel also free to leave me your favourite pieces so that we can exchange and enrich our musical journeys.

PS: Just a small hint for the first post: it is going to be “romantic. =D

Wirsing, Steven =)




Empfehlung der Woche


Ab sofort möchte ich Euch jeden Monat musikalische Beiträge präsentieren, die mich besonders inspirieren und berühren. Das wird durch alle musikalischen Epochen und Stilrichtungen gehen. Von Klassik über Jazz bis hin zu zeitgenössischer Musik, mal einzelne Stücke, mal Komponisten, also die ganze Bandbreite, was immer gerade so relevant ist.

Diese Beiträge werden dann in englischer Sprache verfasst sein. 
Schreibt mir gerne in die Kommentare, was ihr so darüber denkt. :)

Ich freue mich außerdem auf die Diskussionen über die Stücke, lasst mir gerne auch Eure Herzensstücke da, dann können wir uns gegenseitig austauschen und bereichern. (=

PS.: Kleiner Tipp für den ersten Post: wird es „romantisch“. :D

Wirsing, Steven =)





Steven’s recommendation Nr. 1 (Opus 118 / 2 - Johannes Brahms)


Please note that this is not a perfect musical analysis, but rather my personal experience how I feel the music. Find the link for the music below. :-)

            The first piece I will introduce to you is by Johannes Brahms. It is called 2. Intermezzo (op. 118 / 2) and immediately touched my heart when I first listened to it. It was actually introduced to me by one of my piano teachers, who compared it to one of my pieces and since then I started to think about it from time to time. Last week we talked again about its emotional richness and passion and because I was so excited about its beauty I decided to learn it. Every evening, before I go to bed, I sit down and practice it for half an hour and just enjoy the wonderful sounds Brahms had created in that one. He was a romantic composer and definitely tried to include new sounds into his music, while, at the same time, keeping older structures from role models like Bach or Mozart alive. These new sounds really become audible for me in op. 118 / 2. The melody of the first section is so catchy and memorable. What makes it especially beautiful to me is the fact that he often leads two voices at the same time. Sometimes, the second voice just marks its presence for a single note or phrase (e.g. in 1:40) and hides itself immediately back behind the main voice. Then there is the second part of the piece, which I find even more striking than the first one (starting at 2:26). It is so elegant how it builds up slowly and then, all of a sudden, becomes so big by increasing the dynamics and register (2:35). The second voice comes in again by occasionally adding a sixth or third interval to the melody, which makes it so touching and emotional. It really emphasizes its intimate atmosphere for me. And when he repeats this section again at 3:35, it is even more intense than the first time, like the climax of the whole piece, trying to reach the maximum of emotional power by adding the parallels of sixth intervals (at 3:49), while passing these beautiful Lydian sounds like at 3:52, that are as well so commonly used in film music, as it sounds just mind blowing… He finishes the piece almost exactly as he started it, which gives the listener the chance to once again experience the beautiful melody, he already introduced to us, which is also creating a nice ABA form for the overall structure.

I really think this is a wonderful piece and I am excited to play it on the piano and to learn from it for my own compositions. :-)


This is the link to my favourite interpretation of the piece so far. The references I made in the text are based on this interpretation of the piece:



Feel free to leave me a comment, on how you like this piece by Brahms or if you have any questions on my post. See you for the next one!


#Wirsing, Steven :)




Steven’s recommendation Nr. 2 (Plastic Bag Theme – Thomas Newman)


This week’s recommendation is the ‘Plastic Bag Theme’ (Any Other Name), from the film American Beauty (1999), composed by Thomas Newman. He is a film composer, who scored other films like Passengers (2016), 007 Spectre (2015) and Skyfall (2012), WALL-E (2008), Lemony Snicket (2004), Finding Nemo (2003), The Green Mile (1999), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and many others. I really like his style of writing, especially in films like Finding Nemo, where he manages it perfectly to emphasize and to reinforce the visual mood of the film, but I also enjoy it a lot to listen to his tracks just on its own.

My favourite piece of his works in the moment probably is the ‘Plastic Bag Theme’ (Any Other Name), which is a very minimalistic piano piece, that contains string orchestra and electronical elements in it. The piece basically consists of one small motive that gets repeated through the whole piece.

It starts off with this drone (or pedal tones), that gather your attention immediately. These notes create a perfect fifth interval that highly contributes to the open character of the piece as there is no third that usually defines a major or minor tonality.

Soon, the piano joins by adding its minimalistic, but very catchy motive that contains two voices that move in a homophonic way (i.e. they have the exact same rhythm). The melody as well the underlying chords outline a Dorian sound, that evoke a mysterious or other-worldly, but majestic feeling for me (Cm – F).

Between 1.30 min to 1.35 min, Newman used a Lydian suspension, which I mentioned in the last recommendation of Brahm’s op 118 / Nr. 2, which is one of my favourite chord progressions as it is so emotional and powerful (Eb – A). One of the reasons for that is the Tritone (or augmented fourth / #4), which is the most dissonant and instable interval in western music. Lydian progressions however emphasize the triton heavily, which creates this fragile, but very emotional mood, that I could listen to for hours. Dynamics and space are also very important features that need to mentioned. The piece maintains its calm mood for the whole time. There are only little exceptions, where he raised the overall volume to a mezzo piano, while expanding the register by adding basses, which is not a huge difference in dynamics. However, it feels kind of big or opening compared to the rest of the piece as it is mostly played in piano (i.e. soft and quiet). The piece ends with a soft fade out, which makes it perfect for endless repetitions as it does not give you the feeling of a real ending.

When I wrote these lines, I listened to it over and over again. These open sounds and the minimal mood together with the Dorian melody makes perfectly soothing for me and calms me down whenever I listen to it.

This is the link to the recording of the piece by Thomas Newman. The references I made in the text are based on that video:



Feel free to leave me a comment, on how you like this piece by Newman or if you have any questions on my post. See you for the next one!


#Wirsing, Steven :)



To be continued ...


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