Essay: Music Appreciation

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Music Appreciation

Describe the characteristics of the twentieth-century concept of melody. Refer to at least one listening example in your response. (Textbook p.301-302, 309-310)

Melody only seems to have taken a back seat in contemporary music when compared to old times. Melodies of innovative new composers are often hard to read as they turn to scales which are not the minor and major, seeking to find inspiration from the medieval, whole-tone, pentatonic and other diverse fold scales. In addition the angular contour of the contemporary melodies renders it difficult for both the listener and performer. Melodies with distant notes have been referred to as, "Instrumentals" because they are easier to play than to sing. Octave displacement is a new technique used by the composers when they select notes from different octaves of a Melody and require the performance to "leap" wide distances, rendering the new mix melody to be more difficult to recognize and sing. However, tuneful melodies are being churned out by the French with their intrinsic love of exhilarating music. The Italians continue to compose lyrical melodies to support their love of song. Several contemporary Americans too are following suit with songs like melodies. The rising popularity of timber in western circles prompted a group of Americans called, "Experimentalists" to change the very basis of music, to bring out their own revolutionary brand. In all this context Webern's 5 pieces for Orchestra is indeed a piece of art with its melodious concept shrouded in varied timbers challenging the listener's senses and creating a wonderful mood, with unparalleled clarity of texture of each instrument used.

2) Discuss what you hear in Listening example #47 (Five Pieces of Orchestra by Webern). Include specific information on the musical elements and how the piece makes you feel. State the title of the piece and the name of the composer. (Textbook p.310)

Listening to Webern's "The Five Pieces for Orchestra" belonging to the orchestral genre evokes your senses to all that is beautiful in music. The "modernist" composers' works, though small, are meant for larger ensembles. Though, bereft of any notable harmonic progressions, the work is still melodious in concept, though detached from traditional overtones. However, their diverse timbres and textures of the music enhance the listeners' music experience by savoring the clarity of progression from instrument to instrument. The effect of dissonance is somewhat dulled by a series of similar sounding pitches. Each of his compositions seems to breathe a character of its own, each so high, and concentrated, so that the smallest murmurs are as articulate as the loud notes in other pieces of work.

This is a Chamber orchestra using diverse musical instruments like violin, chimes, harmonium, guitar, mandolin, clarinet, celesta, muted trombone, sheep bells, muted viola, muted cello, snare drum, muted horn, bass drum, and harp. As the orchestra progresses you will hear the changing rhythm and meter, diverse timbers and, and atonality.

Starting with a solo clarinet and flutter tonguing flute, the delicately adjusted second movement comes to a loud halt, and starts again with a bell like instrument playing with solo violin, muted horn, clarinet, solo viola, and muted trombone in the background. This is followed by a solo mandolin and ending with solo violin. The final moments build up to a crescendo and finally return to soft dynamics.

3) Define tone clusters and explain how they are produced. (Textbook p.313)

In music, adjacent notes are played by pressing a whole set of adjacent keys simultaneously on a piano or in the orchestral score. This is referred to as tone clusters. In other words, these are notes found more tightly grouped than in chords. In conclusion clusters are in fact notes grouped in seconds with sonorities 1 and 2, in both open and close positions.

"The Tides of Mananaun" is a piano piece about the famous Irsh tide maker, was composed revolutionary composer Henry Cowell (1897-1965). Here Cowell introduced the tone clusters to be played on the flat piano keyboard, using clusters from the lowest notes on the piano, which gave the effect of the role and role of the ocean tides. Soon the utilization of cluster tones soared and its matter of fact effect was fully recognized mainly as chords built upon seconds instead of conventional thirds. Though, the parallel system was under development with Charles Ives, it could be reliably understood that Cowell was the first to discover it, and the sense called the father of tone clusters. Cowell went further and developed a system of harmony based on this principle.

It sad indeed, that Cowell was always restricted in furthering his theories as only the piano was available to him at that time. One could consider the wide ranging possibilities of what more he could have discovered, he had access to the present day digital music applications. Despite this he utilized his brilliance to stroke, pluck, and strike and strum the strings of a piano to see how far it could take him in pursuit of the magic of the strings.

4) From the three Listening Examples #47(Five Pieces of Orchestra by Webern), #48 (General Putnam's Camp from Three Places in New England by Ives) and #50 (Excerpt from Ensembles for Synthesizer) from chapter 27:

a) write a short essay on your impressions of them,

b) include any interpretations you may have,

c) your opinions on them from an artistic point-of-view,

d) comment on the instrumentation, timbre, dynamics, and tempo for each of the three pieces, and e) any other additional interesting information about the pieces. Be sure to list the title and composer of each work in your answer. (Textbook p. 309-310, 311-316)

Listening to Webern's "The Five Pieces for Orchestra" evokes your senses to all that is beautiful in music. The "modernist" composers' works, though small, are meant for larger ensembles. This is primarily a chamber orchestra supported by several instruments like violin, chimes, harmonium, guitar, mandolin, clarinet, celesta, muted trombone, sheep bells, muted viola, muted cello, snare drum, muted horn, bass drum, and harp. The orchestra has several flashes of solos including that of the clarinet, flute, violin, mandolin, muted horn and trombone.

"General Putnam's Camp" by composer Charles Ives is modernist with sentimentalism rooted in the past, based on the visualizations of a 4-year-old boy who dreams the scene of a glorious battle when his compatriots are singing patriotic songs. The music has patriotism subtly ingratiated into it, and none of the melodies are allowed to go to completion, suggesting that you could enjoy this music best by dreaming up the past. The net result is an orchestra spangled with American patriotism, several instruments, changing rhythms and meters.

Milton Babbit was a teacher, theorist and a prominent composer, whose compositions were extremely rational, but highly perplexing to the listeners. He referred to himself as a maximalist to highlight the wide gap between his style and those of the newer composers. Apart from composing for Chamber ensembles and solo instrumentalists, he also composed a series of work for synthesizer. In 1950 he became involved as a consultant with the development of the mark to synthesizer and later on became a director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. Babbit's "Ensembles for Synthesizer" 1964, was deeply rooted to his instrumental music and in his mind the synthesizer, which had no cap on the kind of timbre, dynamics or tempo of a composition, and generated tones electronically, was a take off from the restrictions that live performers had to work under.

5) Discuss the relationship aleatory has with both free jazz and abstract expressionism.

(Textbook p.319-321)

Over the years, a new concept, more technically referred to as aleatory music has brought its influence to bear on both free jazz and abstract expressionism. This has roots "indeterminacy" which is a term used to allow the performers themselves to determine a significant portion of the composition. In this context the famous composer Baroque suggested harmonies to be filled in for bass, concerto soloists creating cadenzas and interpreters to suggest improvisations to jazz composers. However, going further, indeterminacy, in the twentieth century provided complete freedom for the composers to choose their own melody, rhythm and harmony and aleatory music was like a throw of dice, or by random operations on computers. In this system, geometric figures often replace musical notes an verbal instructions will provide the score. Further in aleatory music each performance of the same compositions may sound totally different. Indeterminacy has two extreme concepts; one is leaving the choice of instruments and entrance time to the prudence of the performers and the other being random music as in John Cage's Imaginary Landscape no. 1"

Ornette Coleman's and John Coltrane's free jazz are pure examples of the application of random techniques and these contrast strongly with the abstract expressionists, or action painters like the American Jackson Pollock, who randomly threw color onto a canvas and developed designs from it. An important aspect of difference was that these artists considered the pleasure of making art as superior… [END OF PREVIEW]

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