Monday, February 28, 2011

20th Century Music

Why do musical styles change? The evolution of musical styles is certainly somewhat a result of the influence individual composers have on one another. Unfortunately, this influence isn't always positive. Sometimes, the work of a composer is a reaction against the style practiced by his predecessors, even when theyadmire the music they produced. An example of this could be drawn from the relationship of the Classical era to the Baroque era which it followed, personified by the relationship of the music of J.S. Bach and his sons. 
The late Romantic era had its extremes: it seems that it used the greatest possible extent of harmonies and melodies and that the progression of the art had reached the limits of possibility. It's certainly possible to see the music of the 20th century as a continuation of the Romantic style, but it can also be interpreted as a reaction against Romanticism. 
The music of the 20th century is a series of 'isms' and 'neo-isms'. The rough energy of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring was labelled neoprimitivism; the extreme emotional tones of early Schönberg were given the label expressionism; the return to cleanly structured forms and textrues was called neoclassicism. All of these labels came (and are coming) as an attempt at orientation in the heterorogenous world of music in the 20th century. 
During the first half of the 20th century, nationalism continued to have a large influence, the study of folk songs enriched the nusic of many composers, such as that of Ralph Vaughan Williams (England), Bela Bartok (Hungary), Heitor Villa Lobos (Brazil) and Aaron Copland (USA). Jazz and popular music also had a strong influence on many "serious" composers, whether in America or Europe. 
The advance of technology has also had an enormous impact on the evolution of music in this century, with some composers using, for instance, the cassette player as a compositional tool (ie. Violin Phase by Steve Reich), or electronically generated sounds alongside classical instruments, the use of computers to compose music, and so on. 

Romantic Music

Just as the word "Classic" brings to mind certain concepts, the word "romantic" is even more evocative. Such examples as Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" and the paintings of Delacroix - Romaticism implies fantasy, spontaneity and sensitivity. 
The Classical period was oriented towards structural clarity and emotional restraint. Classical music was expressive, but not so passionate that it became unbalanced. Beethoven, who was actually responsible for "lighting the flame of Romanticism" and is considered a bridge between the eras, always fought (not always successfully) for maintaining the equilibrium of a piece. Most composers of the Romantic period followed this model of Beethoven's and looked for their own balance between emotional intensity and classical form. "Musical story-telling" also started to play a not negligible role, with pieces having to express some factual content, not only in opera but in purely instrumental compositions. The genre of the symphonic poem was brought to the fore during the Romantic era. In its performance, a conposition had to set a scene, and then tell a story from that scene. 
The color of sound is a characteristic, expressive device of Romantic music. New instruments, never before featured there, found their way into orchestras and composers experimented with new ways of wresting new sounds out of old instruments. A large pallet of the colors of sound, necessary for expressing exotic scenes, was an element no composer's technique could be without. Exoticness was an obsession of the 19th century. Russian composers wrote music describing the Spanish countryside (ie. Capriccio Espagnol by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakoff) and German composers about Scotland (ie. Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony). The stories in opera were also mostly set in exotic localities, such as Verdi's "Aida" in Ancient Egypt. 
Another new element brought to music by the Romantic period was the appropriation of folk music for Classical music. Nationalism became a driving force in the later Romantic period, with composers trying to express their cultural identity through their music. These trends were mostly apparent in Russia and the countries of Eastern Europe, where elements of folk songs even became parts of symphonies, symphonic poems and other forms.
The Romantic era was a paradise of virtuosos. Exceptional talents of interpretation were extremely popular. Franz Liszt, a Hungarian pianist and composer, played the piano with such vigour and passion that women fainted. Because so many of the authors of this period were such virtuosos, the music that they wrote is also very demanding in its technical execution.

Classical Music

The dates of the Classical Period in Western music are generally accepted as being between about 1750 and 1830. However, the term classical music is used colloquially to describe a variety of Western musical styles from the ninth century to the present, and especially from the sixteenth or seventeenth to the nineteenth. This article is about the specific period from 1750 to 1830.
The Classical period falls between the Baroque and the Romantic periods. The best known composers from this period are Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert; other notable names include Luigi Boccherini, Muzio Clementi, Antonio Soler, Antonio Salieri, François Joseph Gossec, Johann Stamitz, Carl Friedrich Abel, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, Johann Christian, and Christoph Willibald Gluck. It's a bit of an irony that two of J.S. Bach's children, Carl Philipp Emanuel (C.P.E.) a Johann Christian (J.C.), belonged among the leaders of the new Classical movement. Their father was the greatest figure in the Baroque style and thanks to the new era of his children, he became old-fashioned. 

Main Characteristics
*      Classical music has a lighter, clearer texture than Baroque music and is less complex. It is mainly homophonic  music where the melody and accompaniment are clearly distinct - was the main style during the classical era; new genres were discovered that completed the transformation from the Baroque era to the Classical (but counterpoint is by no means forgotten, especially later in the period).
*      Variety and contrast within a piece became more pronounced than before. Variety of keys, melodies, rhythms and dynamics (using crescendo, diminuendo and sforzando), along with frequent changes of mood and timbre were more commonplace in the Classical period than they had been in the Baroque. Melodies tended to be shorter than those of Baroque music, with clear-cut phrases and clearly marked cadences.
*      The Orchestra increased in size and range; the harpsichord continuo fell out of use, and the woodwind became a self-contained section. As a solo instrument, the harpsichord was replaced by the piano (or fortepiano). Early piano music was light in texture, often with Alberti bass accompaniment, but it later became richer, more sonorous and more powerful.
*      Importance was given to instrumental music — the main kinds were sonata, trio, string quartet, symphony, concerto, serenade 
and divertimento. Sonata form developed and became the most important form. It was used to build up the first movement of the most large-scale works, but also other movements and single pieces (such as overtures).

One of the most important "evolutionary steps" made in the Classical period was the development of public concerts. Although the aristocracy would still play a significant sponsoring role in musical life, it was now possible for composers to survive without being the permanent employee of some noble or his family. It also meant that concerts weren't limited to the salons and celebrations of aristocratic palaces. The increasing popularity of public concerts led to a growth in the popularity of the orchestra as well, to the enlargement in the number of musicians and the number of orchestras overall. Although chamber music was still performed, the expansion of orchestral concerts necessitated large public spaces. As a result of all these processes, symphonic music (including opera and oratoria) became more extroverted in character.

Baroque Music

If the eras of musical evolution were to be compared to the eras of evolution in architecture, then the Middle Ages would be symbolized by the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, the Renaissance by a Florentine building, and the Baroque by Louis XIV's palace at Versailles. Baroque music is very rich and textured, especially in comparison with the music that came before it.
Baroque music describes a style of European classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1750. This era is said to begin in music after the Renaissance and was followed by the Classical era. The word "baroque" came from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning "misshapen pearl", a strikingly fitting characterization of the architecture of this period; later, the name came to be applied also to its music. Baroque music forms a major portion of the classical music canon, being widely studied, performed, and listened to. Composers of the baroque era include Johann Sebastian Bach, George Frideric Handel, Alessandro Scarlatti, Antonio Vivaldi, Jean-Baptiste Lully, Arcangelo Corelli, Claudio Monteverdi, Jean-Philippe Rameau and Henry Purcell. The baroque period saw the development offunctional tonality. During the period, composers and performers used more elaborate musical ornamentation, made changes in musical notation, and developed new instrumental playing techniques. Baroque music expanded the size, range, and complexity of instrumental performance, and also established opera as a musical genre. Many musical terms and concepts from this era are still in use today.

Difference between Baroque and Renaissance
A general differences between Baroque and Renaissance style. Baroque music was more often written for virtuoso singers and instrumentalists and is characteristically harder to perform than Renaissance music, although idiomatic instrumental writing was one of the most important innovations of the period. Baroque music employs a great deal of ornamentation, which was often improvised by the performer. Instruments came to play a greater part in Baroque music, and a cappella (in church style) vocal music receeded in importance.

Renaissance Music

Renaissance music is European music written during the Renaissance. Defining the beginning of the musical era is difficult, given the gradually adopted "Renaissance" characteristics: musicologists have placed its beginnings from as early as 1300 to as late as the 1470s.
The growing emphasis on individualism during the Renaissance began a change of status for composers of music in society. Unlike their medieval predecessors, Renaissance composers were recognized more often during their lifetimes. The technology of printing permitted a much wider distribution of their works and enabled a larger public into the study of music. 
Even when spiritual music was still in a dominant position, secular music was becoming more common and its forms more cultivated than in the previous era. The repertoire of instrumental music became more varied, along with the invention of new instruments - such as the clavichord and the virginal (a keyed instrument resembling the harpsichord) - and many of the instruments of the period were improved. 
Masses and motels were the main forms of the spiritual vocal polyphony. Secular vocal forms included motets, madrigals, and songs (mostly accompanied by the lute or a small orchetra). Instrumental works were largely short polyphonies, or dancing music.


In comparison with medieval music, Renaissance harmony was more unrestrained and more expressive - the period between Josquin Deprez and Palestrina is known as "the golden age of polyphony." Imitation - where one musical line shares or imitates the same musical theme of the preceeding line - became an important polyphonic technique. Imitation was used to introduce complexitities by simpler means and at the same time give listeners the ability to perceive the structureof the composition. Polyphonic imitation can be heard in the masses and motets of practically all the composers beginning with Desprez, and in the instrumantal music of William Byrd, Orlando Gibbons, and Andrea and Giovanni Gabrielli.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Medieval Music

Medieval music is European music written during the Middle Ages. This era begins with the fall of the Roman Empire, roughly AD 476 to 1473. It is in the Middle Ages that the spread of Christianity and the rise of the Catholic Church occurred. Music was primarily written for the church. The cathedrals were the center of the musical life, and composers proliferated as employees of the church authorities.

Plainsong and the Birth of Church Music
The first church music was called "plainsong" which was a single line of notes that was chanted without any instruments. As music developed, it gradually became complicated. As in any enhancement or progression, other lines were added to the original one-line of notes. The resulting composition was called "organum." Generally, an organum is a plainsong melody with at least one voice added to enhance the harmony. If effect, organum was the first music that exhibited harmony.
An interesting piece of music from the Medieval Period which lasted from around AD 400-1300 is widely known as the "Song of the Ass" since it was used in the play showing the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, riding into the Cathedral on an ass (donkey). A related account goes that during this period an annual holiday was celebrated to represent the Virgin Mary's flight to Egypt. 

Marking the End of Medieval Period
As often seen at the end of any musical era, the end of the medieval era is marked by a highly manneristic style known as Ars subtilior. In some ways, this was an attempt to meld the French and Italian styles. This music was highly stylized, with a rhythmic complexity that was not matched until the 20th century. In fact, not only was the rhythmic complexity of this repertoire largely unmatched for five and a half centuries, with extreme syncopations, mensural trickery, and even examples of augenmusik (such as a chanson by Baude Cordier written out in manuscript in the shape of a heart), but also its melodic material was quite complex as well, particularly in its interaction with the rhythmic structures.
The chanson Belle, bonne, sage by Baude Cordier, an Ars subtilior piece included in the Chantilly Codex

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Introduction about Classical Music

The term classical music originates from the Latin term classicus, meaning taxpayer of the higher class. Slowly, after making its way through the French, German, and English languages, one of the earliest definitions of the word meant "classical, formal, in due or fit rank; also approved, authentical, principal". Today, classical music is defined as "of, relating to, or being music in the educated European tradition that includes such forms as art song, chamber music, opera, and symphony as distinguished from folk or popular music or jazz."

In classical music, there is 6 periods which is divided by stylistic differences:
  1. Before 1400 - Medieval - characterized by Gregorian chant, mostly religious
  2. 1400-1600 - Renaissance - increase of secular music, madrigals, and art song
  3. 1600-1760 - Baroque - known for its intricate
  4. 1750-1830 - Classical - balance and structure
  5. 1815-1910 - Romantic - emotional, large, programmatic
  6. Beyond 1900 - 20th Century - limitless
The dates are generalizations, since the periods overlapped and the categories are somewhat arbitrary. For example, the use of counterpoint and fugue, which is considered characteristics of the Baroque era, was continued by Hadyn, who is classified as typical of the Classical period. Beethoven, who is often described as a founder of the Romantic period, and Brahms, who is classifies as Romantic, also used counterpoint and fugue, but other characteristics of their music define their period.
The prefix neo is used to describe a 20th century or contemporary composition written in the style of an earlier period, such as Classical or Romantic. Stravinsky's Pulcinella, for example, is a neoclassical composition because it is stylistically similar to works of the Classical period.