Arachnophonia : Jean Sibelius “Symphony No. 5, op. 82 in Eb major”

Editor’s note: Arachnophonia is a regular feature on our blog where members of the UR community can share their thoughts about items in the Parsons Music Library‘s collection. All links included in these posts will take you to either the library catalog record for the item in question or to additional relevant information from around the web.

Today’s installment of Arachnophonia is by Music Library student worker Janis (class of 2021) and features Finnish composer Jean Sibelius’ 5th Symphony, which was originally composed in 1915. Thanks, Janis!

Jean Sibelius

Symphony No. 5 in Eb Major

Sibelius Symphony No. 5

“It is as if God Almighty had thrown down pieces of a mosaic for heaven’s floor and asked me to find out what was the original pattern.” – Jean Sibelius in a 1915 personal diary entry during the composition of his 5th Symphony

Several weeks ago I visited New York for the weekend, and I got to do something I had been dreaming of since I was a kid– seeing the New York Philharmonic live. (Special shout out to student rush tickets for making this possible). I was especially excited because the Philharmonic would be paying tribute to one of my favorite composers, Jean Sibelius. My excitement only grew as I realized they would be playing Sibelius’ Symphony No. 5 in E-Flat Major, one of his most iconic and one of my personal favorite works by Sibelius.

Jean Sibelius 1913

Composer Jean Sibelius in 1913 *

The symphony was inspired by a flight of swans witnessed by Sibelius in his later years; as he aged, his compositions became increasingly inspired by the connection between the earth and music.

Swans in flight

The ethereal opening of Symphony No. 5 reflects the quiet spirituality Sibelius found in nature, describing it as “…God opens His door for a moment and His orchestra plays the Fifth Symphony.” The symphony itself is divided into three movements, with a slow opening that evokes the sunrise and culminating in 6 separated chords; the finale itself was intended to transform the call of swans at sunrise into music. It is remarkably triumphant, dramatic, and transcendent. As Jeff Counts says in a review of Symphony No. 5, “Just like the absolutely transcendent sounds of the “swan hymn” in the finale, Sibelius was merely acknowledging his fortunate ability to gather the mysterious world around him into music. As an experience, Sibelius 5 is neither modern nor quaint, only lasting.”

* fi:Daniel Nyblin (1856–1923) – What We Hear in Music, Anne S. Faulkner, Victor Talking Machine Co., 1913.
Composer Jean Sibelius

How to Start Your Own Studio (For Free)

Editor’s Note: This guest post by one of our student managers, Matthew Gizzi, relates the fun he’s had experimenting and working with audio recording. He uses the Zoom H2, which is available for checkout at the Music Library, to record demos for later use in his studio projects. Read on to learn more about the ways to use the Zoom H2.

For the better part of a year, the music library has had a small collection of H2 Zoom recorders, which are available for purposes ranging from recording private lessons to large concerts to more studio oriented recording and demoing.  Personally I’ve used them and relied on them heavily to aid my songwriting process.  They are incredibly versatile and I’d definitely recommend taking them out for a little while just to experiment with.

Originally, adding them to the library collection was a move to bring the music library into modern times.  Before the H2, we had a collection of boom boxes and tape recorders that add some recording capacity, though the quality and practicality left much to be desired.  Now though, the recorders come in a carrying case that is less than half the size of the tape recorders and still carry enough tools to help out with most jobs you’ll encounter.

H2 in use for singer-songwriter with guitar

The H2 is handy for recording your singer-songwriter demos! The stand is included with accessories for the H2.

As a musician and songwriter, I’ve noticed a number of ways the recorders have helped me.  First, I’ve learned a lot more about the instruments I play and how it is they produce sound.  Using the H2 as a 3rd ear of sorts that I can place anywhere in the room, I’ve learned how my acoustic guitar, for example, sounds from different angles.  I’ve learned how to focus the microphone to get the fullest range from Booker’s pianos, and I’ve learned how to mike an amp to get the best tone for both clean and overdriven sounds.  Through experimenting with a recorder I can use for free, I’ve learned a lot that has certainly come in handy now that my studio has grown to include more professional equipment.

H2 buttons, dials

This is the Zoom H2, front display with buttons, and the inputs and other controls on the sides.

Also handy was the fact that I could really break into multi-instrument songwriting.  Once I had one track already recorded, I could easily play over that to come up with whatever harmonies, solos, extra instruments, or choruses I thought I liked.  As a result, my music began to become much more epic and larger in scope, something that I have certainly enjoyed playing around with.  The recorder comes with a built in metronome with count in, so you will have a good reference point to make sure all your tracks line up.

piano recording via Zoom H2

Need to recording acoustic piano in a practice room? Try the Zoom H2!
Rights to photo belong to

The last thing I’ll mention about the H2 is that is has a lot of flexibility.  It is great at recording acoustic guitar, but you can also widen the recording area to capture a full band rehearsal, or record a music lesson so you can always return to some good advice.  It is unlikely that you will check it out and find it cannot do what you want it to.  So I’d say: challenge yourself.  Check out the H2 recorder and record that demo for use in your portfolio, write a multi-track song or grab some friends and cover a great tune.  You have quite a few options when it comes to the music library’s Zoom.

Hear and see our own Richuan Hu in action!

Editor’s update (1/17/13): Here is video of our student assistant, Ruiquan (Richuan) Hu performing with the UR Orchestra last semester. Bravo, Richuan!

As a part of the upcoming concerto performance that features the Music Library’s own Richuan Hu, we’d like to present a previous blog submission that Richuan wrote about his thoughts on studying a famous piano work by Franz Liszt. Please come out to the UR Orchestra concert on Wednesday, December 5 at 7:30pm in Camp Concert Hall, so you can hear Richuan in action as he performs the first piano concerto by Chopin. Richuan is the winner of the 2012 concerto competition!

UR orchestra and Richuan Hu

UR orchestra and Richuan Hu


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