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The romantic era grew out of social and political upheavals of the French Revolution and came into full bloom near the midpoint of the 19th century. The slogan of the French Revolution--”Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”--inspired hopes and visions to which artists responded with zeal. Sympathy for the oppressed, interest in simple folk and in children, faith in humankind and its destiny, all formed part of the increasingly democratic character of the Romantic period. In terms of the arts, the themes of the Romantic era were centered on individual expression as a medium to communicate “natural” human values. With this trend there is a switch from sacred themes of worship to secular expression of an individual. This of course carried into the music of the era and variety of unique Romantic characteristics emerged such as rubato (flexible-rhythm), long emotional melodies, complex harmonies (chromaticism), sensuous tone color, and an attempt to express all shades of emotion. Ludwig van Beethoven was the pinnacle of the 'Romantic' ideal as seen through E.T.A. Hoffmann's article where he comments on Beethoven's ability to put himself into his music as a medium to express his woes as a starving artist exacerbated by the Beethoven Myth. Although Beethoven's life was nothing like most people portrayed it, his Heiligenstadt Testament was what people perceived as the quintessential ideas of Romanticism where artists “live only for their art.”
Beethoven Myth
The idea that Beethoven the artist was a suffering outsider and courageous hero, expressing his torment emotions through art. The source of this idea comes from a variety of angles but none match Beethoven's own Heiligenstadt Testament where the composer spills his feelings of woe for his seemingly cursed circumstances grossly prohibiting his artistic motive. E.T.A. Hoffman played quite a role in perpetuating this myth by portraying Beethoven as a tragic victim of worldly oppression that produced intense, and almost violent music that were in direct relation to his life. Beethoven's 5th symphony serves as the most obvious piece of evidence to support this Myth where a seemingly harsh, timeless motive is contrasted and eventually triumphed over. Although there are no doubt parallel characteristics between the piece and Beethoven's life NOT all of Beethoven's music portrayed this such his symphony No. 6 which carried a pastoral theme.
*Romantic Symphony
Differs from classical symphony in that there is no structure and a much larger orchestration with a large variety of instruments. Much more expressive in terms of harmonization, rhyme patterns, and dynamics. They became so large in fact that the symphonies now needed a conductor to operate the symphonies that would be twice as long as a 20 minute Mozart piece. Orchestration became an art in itself. Composers now had a palette as broad as those of painters, and they used it to create mood and atmosphere and to evoke profound emotional responses. In addition, the Romantic symphony changed form slightly different from the classical symphonies. The Romantic symphony was characterized by lyrical themes, colorful harmonies, and expanded proportions. A typical Romantic symphony can be seen through Brahms' symphony No. 3 that took on the new form of Romantic Symphonies and lasted about 40 minutes which was a new concept at the time.
Richard Wagner
Born in Leipz, Germany of a father who was a policeman that died while Wagner was still in infancy. Wagner's education was primarily self-taught and he took great pride in his country. As mentioned in the course packet, Wagner was a revolutionary in the opera genre for is coining of the style known as “music drama” where the libretto, the music, and atmosphere fused together to overwhelm the audience with a large sound. This idea, also known as Gesamtkunstwerk was common to Wagner and represented a darker side of nationalism at the time because of Wagner's blatant anti Semitic views mentioned by him directly in the course packet. In terms of music, however, Wagner was a visionary who incorporated the idea of 'Leitmotifs' which were reoccuring themes throughout the piece meant to represent an idea, object, or person. For example, in his widely known opera the Ring of Nibelung, Wagner utilizes a variety of different sounds to represent the different pieces, characters, and ideas that compromise the opera. Probably his most famous leitmotif lies in Act III where its quite obvious the timbre is supposed to represent the Valkyries riding in and snatching soldiers from battle.
Guiseppe Verdi
Loved by his country, Guiseppe Verdi represented a very successful composer of only operas during the Romantic era. Because of his lack of “suffering” or entrepreneurial status Verdi was never immortalized in such a way as a Beethoven because people did not see him as an 'ideal' Romantic composer. Despite this common view, Verdi's music is still considered Romantic for his expressive melodies and complex harmonies utilized in such a way that had never been seen before. Like Wagner, most of his musical creations carried nationalistic themes and are considered the epitome of Romantic drama and passion. In his famous piece Rigoletto utilizes the timbre of each singer to represent a certain feeling the character is experiencing and he even has these different emotions play out simultaneously, something new to the genre of opera.
Artist vs. Public
A struggle characterized in the Romantic era as a clash of interest between the emotions and feelings a composer wanted to convey in their piece and what the public wanted to hear. With the rise of concert attendance in the Romantic era people who paid money to attend were now expecting to be entertained and this is 'artist vs public' struggle emerges in Romantic composers battle to remain true to their artistic vision while entertaining the paying audience. A prime example of this struggle lies with Franz Schubert and his struggles as a man and musician. Although Schubert's Erlking was vastly popular Schubert struggled greatly to find his place in the world and this master of the lied ended up poor, sick, and selling his works for much less than what they were worth. In a sense, this struggle goes beyond providing the audience with that they want and carries over into the musicians position in society. In addition, Schumann serves as another prime example of the struggle of artist vs. public as a critic and in his writings its obvious that he uses his characters Eusiubius and Florestan to convey his opinions about life and music in a manner removed from his identity.
Robert Schuman
Romantic composer who personified the rise of miniature genres during the era who is known for his lyrical gift in composing Lieder's. Although he longed to be a musician and practiced twice as hard to make up for his late start complications with his hand forbade his dreams of becoming a pianist. Schuman married piano prodigy, Clara Wieck, the daughter of his teacher who would become the interpreter of his musical works as a composer. Created what were known as character pieces in which he devised characters who represented different sides of his own personality that carried into his work as a music critic. As seen in his writings in the course packet Schumann liked to use Eusebius and Florestan to convey his opinions and rarely utilized direct statements. Ironically enough, he only expressed some of his views through aphorisms that he published occasionally. His composition Carnaval is representitive of his split personalities where the Eusebius piece is tender, dreamy, and free flowing and the Florestan piece is frantic, impulsive, and unpredictable.
Clara Schuman
Clara Schumann is one of the most renowned pianists, and intrepreters of Brahms, or her husband Robert Schumann, Chopin music during the 19th century. Her skills on the piano from an early age had her labeled a prodigy and she had her first concert at the age of 9. Most of Clara's works were highly technical and virtuoso, which were a profound reflection of her unmatched skills on a piano. Her famous character piece Nocturne, from a Music for an Evening Entertainment is reflective not only a variety of romantic characteristics like chromaticism and rubato, but a demonstration of her complete mastery of the piano. Schumann represents a different side of the artist vs. public struggle occurring during this time in the Romantic era. Because she was a woman society deemed her unworthy of composition because it just wasn't her place in society. People (including Robert) saw no need for her to compose because of the many demands of being a mother. In addition, Clara never saw herself as an oppressed female composer but rather agreed with society's conventions.
Experimenting with basic assumptions of the art form; perpetual interest in the now reflective of the new outlook on humanity characterized by a loss of faith and skepticism common in early 20th century especially after WWI. In music the tenents of modernism push composers to challenge ideas of melody, rhythm, and tone. A rise in experimentation with technique rather than using music as an expressive medium occurs. In general, modernism in music tried to expand the sounds and realm of music. As mentioned in the Art of Noises by Luigi Russolo, modernist ideas believed that musical sound was too limited in qualitative variety of timbre. In addition, most orchestras limited themselves to a minute amount of instruments that provide a narrow circle of musical sounds. Although this idea evolves into Futurism, it is parallel to the modernist experimentation of musical traditions. In my opinion, no piece represents the arrival of modernism better than Stravinsky's Rite of Spring because of its revolutionized usage of rhythm, tone, and tempo, in compliment to its initial chaotic receiving by the public. Modernism in music was a large jump that the music public was not ready for.
*Claude Debussy
The most important French composer of the early 20th century who is revered by his countrymen for his dedication to France during WWI. As a composer, Debussy represented the transition from the Romantic era into the world of modernism. Although some consider him an impressionist, Debussy vehemently disagreed with that label and sought only to provide “pleasure” in his music. Debussy's Prelude to “The Afternoon of a Faun” provides insight into some of the developing techniques in the early stages of modernism. With a long flowing melody, and lack of clear tempo or key Debussy was setting the stage for what would be a “death of tonality” in the modernist era.
*Ballet Russes
The history of early 20th century ballet is closely identified with the career of Serge Diaghilev, and impresario whose genius lay in his ability to recognize the genius of others. Diaghilev's dance company, the Ballets Russes, which he brought to Paris in the years before the First World War, opened up a new chapter in the cultural life of Europe. He surrounded his dancers—the greatest were Vaslav Nijinksky and Tamara Karsavina—with productions worthy of their talents. He invited artists such as Picasso and Braque to paint the scenery, and commissioned the three ballets—The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring—that catapulted the composer Igor Stravinsky to fame. Diaghilev's ballets have served as models for the composers and choreographers who followed. TALK ABOUT RITE OF SPRING AGAIN.
Futurism represents a more extreme side of modernist interpretation in music and was based mostly in Italy. It represented a total break with the past and embraced the new age of speed, technology, and violence as a medium for new musical potential. Most important for futurists was their challenging of contemporary ideas of timbre. According to Luigi Russolo's writings in The Art of Noises every manifestation of life is accompanied by noise and therefore reminds people of life itself. As Russolo also notes in his writing, futurists believed that musical sound was extraneous to life and completely independent of human life. Futurist musicians sought to broaden the field of sounds and expand the timbres of a traditional orchestra with a seemingly infinite number of noises that surround our lives. NEED MUSICAL EXAMPLE
Expressionism was the German answer to French Impressionism. While the French explored radiant impressions of the outer world, the Germanic temperament preferred digging down to the depths of the soul. As with Impressionism, the impulse for the Expressionist movement came from painting. Expressionism in music reached its full tide in the dramatic works of the Second Viennese School (referring to Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern). The musical language of Expressionism favored a hyper expressive harmonic language marked by extraordinarily wide leaps in the melody and by the use of instruments in their extreme registers. Expressionism is usually associated with Arnold Schoenberg who took a bold stand in music with this rejection of tonality which he believed was crucial in creating works of expressionism. Even though expressionism wasn't very popular Schoenberg did not care and even embraced it. According to his writings in the course packet “The only success that an artist can have here is that (which should be most important to him) of having made the work, and therewith its composer, intelligible. Schoenberg's Pierrot lunaire is a prime example of expressionism where there is no clear structure, direction, or tonality. The listener is trapped in this vortex of frustration put forth by the timbre which is exactly the expressionism was all about.
The serialist movement was a branch off of expressionism that developed as a unique compositional technique that centered around the concept of twelve tone music developed by Arnold Schoenberg. Instead of giving one pitch dominance over the rest of the notes, serialism was a more egalitarian method of using a row of twleve tones that could repeat itself only after each note in the group of 12 had been played. Through the practice of different means of altering (i.e. retrograde, reflection, and reflected retrograde) composers had a vast amount of ways to compose and were able to compose lengthier pieces without the constraints of tonality or even expressionism. As noted by Anton Webern in the course packet “adherence to the row is strict, often burdensome—but it is salvation” In my opinion the emergence of serialism highlights the evolution of modernism as experimentation of techniques which is a stark contrast to the previous expression oriented romantic era.
Charles Ives
considered the first American modernist composer who didn't really become discovered until 1925. Ives is known for his impolemention of a collage style of music in which he spliced different genres together. He provides an example of this in his piece “The rock strewn hills join in the Peoples outdoor meeting where he incorporates everything from ragtime to marching band music with hymn music in between. This was truly an American style and is relation to modernism lies in his embracing of dissonacne and his usage of quarter tones.
Socialist Realism
With the rise of Joseph Stalin in Soviet Russia, came a movement by Russian government to unite everybody under one belief system. With regard music came the doctrine of “Socialist Realism” which was a doctrine that stated that music must be heroic, inspirational, educational, and related to social issues. The doctrine was intentionally vague so the government could interpret as they pleased. Many composers struggled with the unclear guidelines of socialist realism, including the beloved Dmitri Shostakovitch. Eventually Russian officials had to modify the doctrine to not include modernist characteristics and to avoid “music for music's sake.” Shostakovitch was one of the few composers who could get interpret the doctrine in a manner favorable to Soviet Russia and his Symphony No. 5 is a prime example of how the doctrine was intended to be interpreted.
Bela Bartok
Hungarian composer who believed that the true Hungarian idiom was found only among the peasants. Bartok was known as an ethnomusicologist who based much of his compositions on recordings that he gathered out in the field. Although polytonality describes much his work he never wholly abandoned the principle of key which makes him alternative to the modernist works of the time. Bartok is considered one of the greatest rhymthic innovators of his time. Bartok took great pride in his country and conveyed that feeling his music. In Interrupted Intermezzo, Bartok utilizes hungarian folk song to tell a bitter story of the Nazi's movement into Hungary. With a variety of movements that signify hungarian culture being invaded by a boisterous Nazi Germany theme Bartok ises Interrupted Intermezzo as a medium for a biological statement.
the sound developed by American composer Aaron Copland characterized by open intervals, sparse orchestration, and ambiguous modes (major & minor). The sound of Americana was a overexxagerated romanticized view of America and in particular, the frontier. With pieces like Fanfare for the Common Man, and Billy the Kid, Copland was able to establish a purely “American” sound through his interpretation of American ideals. The irony of the Americana is its role in American culture and its founders backgrounds. Americana music is commonly utilized as propaganda for stimulating feelings of patriotism especially by the military. However, Copland was far from what most people would deem a “typical American.” with his differing religious views and his sexual orientation as a homesexual.
Total Serialism
In the aftermath of WWII, the world of music sought to branch array from the leftist or fascist regime and incorporate new doctrine in the world of music. Total serialism called for the “serialization” of all aspects of a musical piece and not just the tones. Composers like Pierre Boulez would now implement serialism in the tempo, dynamics, and rhythms. Composers saw the movement as an ultra rational way to organize and structure and found the new procedure of music intellectually stimulating. Total serialism was not very popular for its aesthetically unpleasing sound and seemingly convoluted organization. As mentioned, Boulez's Structures piece showed a prime example of total serialism where both the pitches and rhythms were serialized.
Electronic Music
with the rise of electronic music came a revoulationized way of implementing music to the world. Recording software now became much more readily available and more importantly composers could now alter their music after or during the fact as is the case with smart machines. Electronic music represents a large majority of contemporary music today with everything being amplified, distorted, or maniupulated somehow. Tod Machover was important in this new idea where computers and other electronic equipment could be used to enhance a particular musical piece in real time. His Hyperstring Trilogy is important to note for its computer provided ancompamiment to virtuoso cellist Yo-Yo Ma where the computers adjust to Yo-Yo Ma's movements, pressure application, and tempo.
The urge toward a minimalist art first found expression in painting and sculpture and since the 1970s has been a significant force in music. The salient feature of minimalism is the repetition of melodic rhythmic, and harmonic patterns with very little variation. The music changes so slowly that it can have a hypnotic effect, and indeed the term “trance music” has attached itself to some of these works. Robert Fink's interpretation of the emergence of minimalism seems to lie in the “culture of repetition” that most post WWII Americans find themselves in. Fink seems to believe that minimalist music appeals to the culture of Eros or pleasure which is defined by the statement “do it until your satisfied”. In a sense minimalism appealed to most because the idea of repetition hit extremely close to home. Spiritual minimalism also emerged as a deeply meditative music for which Estonian composer Arvo Part composed for. As seen in his piece Canntate Domoino canticum novum Part conveys a deeply religious worship experience through a unique combination of his tintinnabulation and near plain-chant melodies.
*Stephen Foster
Foster strove to write a simpler music that could be understood by all. In this effor he was successful. Known as the first American professional songwriter and his renowned for for his composittions. Ironically, due to copy right laws, Foster does not see much profit from popularity. Foster is significant for implementing two unique styles of songs in sentimanetal and minstrelsy songs. Influenced by british ballads and german lied sentimental songs carried themes of lost love, death, and moestic life and family. The sentimal songs were directed towards middle class women engaged in formal music making in the home. Foster is directly related to a rise in “vernacular” tradition as mentioned in the course packet that appealed directly to the common people of America and was deemed “popular” music because of its mass appeal. Fosters' I dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair is a primary example of his mass appeal with its short conjunct melodies that seem to hook the listener with its repetition.
(“ragged rhythm”) was originally an African-American piano style marked by highly syncopated melodies. It was first gained public notice as a form of instrumental ensemble music when Joplin and his small orchestra perfomred at the 1893 World Exposition in Chicago. Scott Joplin was considered the “king of ragtime” and he strove to elevate ragtime from a purely improvised style to a more serious art form that could stand on a level with European art music. Joplin is best remember today for his piano rags, which reflect his preoccupation with classical forms. With pieces like the Maple Leaf Rag with this unique rhymthmic patterns helped popularize the style. (left hand steady duple rhythm with harmony...right hand – highly syncopated melody with some chromatic notes that places the accents on off-beats.)
Louis Armstrong
unquestionably the most important single force in the development of early jazz styles. He was a great improviser who used a variety of mutes to expand the capacities of his trumpet in range and tone color. To distinguish his unique melodic rhythmic style of performance, his admirers coined the term “swing,” which became a standard description of jazz. Armstrong created what was known as scat singing in which syllables without meaning are set to an improvised vocal line. As seen through the movie we watched in class Armstrong carried about him a charismatic persona and was a champion of showmanship. He know what showbusiness was and how to implement across racial lines. He music is extremely catchy and saturated with passion in a manner not seen in music before.
American musicals started in the 1920s and derive from what were known as light operas in which virtuouso singing was not required. Originally, the plots of musical were contrived and silly, functioning mainly as scaffolding for the songs and dances. The emphasis gradually changed when composers began turning to sophisticated literary sources for their plots, which demanded more convincing teatment of characters and situations. With composers like Leonard Bernstein with a background in serious and popular music this transition was popular and highly successful. Making american musicals like West Side Story by Bernstein serious beacons of American music culture and outside the frowned status of tradional american vernacular music.
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