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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Song of the Week! 1 September 2012

This year, September's first weekly pick comes from a user request. After featuring some downgraded Classic songs, it's time to talk about a rare case in Taiko; a song which had an increase in star rating first.

Flight of the Bumblebee (熊蜂の飛行) Rimsky-Korsakov
Taiko DS 1x3 (112)x3 (127) x7 (362)x9 (630)
Taiko 11 to 13, Taiko PSP 2, Taiko Wii 3x3 (112)x3 (127) x7 (362)x10 (630)
Taiko 0 M, Taiko Wii 5, Taiko 3DS 2, Taiko +x3 (112)x4 (127) x7 (362)x9 (630)
Taiko 11 to 13, Taiko 0 M, Taiko PSP 2, Taiko DS 1, Taiko 3DS 2, Taiko Wii 3, 5, Taiko +

Like Ruslan and Lyudmilla Overture, today's song is introduced by a portable Taiko game and belongs to a Russian composer as well. Flight of the Bumblebee is a tense orchestral interlude which was written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) whose orchestration studies acted as inspiration for many composers in the 19th century (Maurice Ravel, from France, was one of them).

The series of events leading up to the birth of this music is a long chain of something driving the creation of something else. Korsakov composed the Flight of the Bumblebee for his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, written between 1899–1900 after the 1831 poem by the same name, by Aleksandr Pushkin, to celebrate the writer's 100th anniversary. The original poem was in turn inspired by a popular Russian fairy tale by Vladimir Dahl.

The story is of three sisters, of whom the youngest is chosen by Tsar Saltan to be his wife, while he makes the other two his royal cook and royal weaver. They are jealous, of course, and when the tsar goes off to war, in his absence the tsaritsa (his wife) gives birth to a son, Prince Gvidon. They arrange to have her and her child sealed up in a barrel and thrown into the sea. After a perilous travel in the barrel, the prince lands on the Buyan island, where he manages to save a swan princess from a kite. As a reward for Gvidon's deed, the swan allowed his savior to return to his homeland by turning him into a variety of insects, and ultimately marries the prince by turning herself into a beautiful princess.

The Flight of the Bumblebee is the interlude of the opera's Act 3, in which the swan princess transforms prince Gvidon into a bumblebee in order to let him catch up a to ship heading to Tmutarakan, his homeland. The track is recognizable for its frantic pace when played up to tempo, with nearly uninterrupted runs of chromatic 1/16 notes, as an attempt to imitate the buzzing noise of a bumblebee's flight with the use of the violin (or pratically any other melodic instrument).

It is not so much the pitch or range of the notes that are played that challenges the musician, but simply the musician's ability to move to them quickly enough; from the original track's 3:55 minutes version to the Tzar Saltan suite's 2 minutes run, several artists tried to perform the Flight of the Bumblebee as fast as possible. The current "record" belongs to Canadian violinist Eric Speed, who managed to play the entire track in 53 seconds for the 2011 edition of the Just For Laughs festival in Montreal.

With minor BPM changes along the song, the Flight of the Bumblebee on Taiko is highly focused on a single pattern: lots and lots of 1/16 streams, from the basic 2 by 2 to more complex ones, especially difficult in the middle of the song when handswitching is thrown in mid-stream. Introduced on Taiko DS1 as a 9* Oni, it was a landmine for players trying to ascend to 10* as it was way beyond the difficulty level of all other 9* songs in that game, both in skill and stamina requirement. Flight of the Bumblebee was promptly upgraded to the 10* tier on its next appearance in Taiko 11, only for being downgraded on the final Wii game to 9*.

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