Experiencing Music quiz 2- Listening part. 1

Tailleferre: Concertino for Harp and Orchestra Finale
This worked was composed by Germaine Tailleferre in 1927 and premiered at the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The song is written in the style of Neoclassicism which was part of Modernism. The work draws on older conventions of melody built on periodic phrase structure, tonal harmony and audible conventional form and even has a fugue (light-hearted not heavy or serious).
The melody has clear antecedent and consequent phrases and a clear tonal center. The second melody (B) is less symmetrical in structure but we can hear how it divides into distinct phrases. The third melody does not divide into distinct subunits, subject of a fugue, a traditional way of writing. Even if the piece was written in the 20th century, Haydn and Mozart would have felt quite at home with the shape of all these themes even if the notes sounded slightly “off” to them. The dissonance, compared to modernist works of early 20th century is minimal. What stands out is structural clarity and goal-oriented sense of direction towards a tonal center which are basic to Neoclassical melodies.
This piece is a 20th century piece based on its chromatic inflections. The ending of the main melody flows into a wind fanfare that sounds tonal but is slightly “off”. The dissonant harmonies in turn sound decidedly “modern”, even while remaining in the bounds of tonality. In both instances we hear the tonic, but the tonic in inflected. This kind of subtle harmonic inflection help give the piece a 20th century sound, while keeping it grounded in tradition
The timbre of the music is very light with a lot of clarity. The harp is an unusually bright instruments that grabs our attention from the start with a long upward glissando (a scale that goes by so fast we can’t hear the individual notes- a blur). The opening melody has minimal accompaniment in the strings; when the strings take over the melody, the harp begins to strum rapid accompanimental figure. When the orchestra steps in front, the harp recedes to the backgrounds. The two instruments share sonic space and do not compete. Tailleferre creates a sense of transparency by giving prominent roles to the trumpet and flute, two instruments that cut through sound of orchestra as a whole. She, the composer, lets wind instruments play individually rather than a block. The snare drum, only percussion instrument in the orchestra appears only occasionally. All of this creates a bright, transparent timbre typical of Neoclassicism.
The opening theme returns at regular intervals through the composition seperated by contrasting musical ideas otherwise known as a rondo form. The rondo is easy to hear and evokes a type of finale common to concertos of the late eighteenth century. The two contrasting sections are different from on another and from the principal opening idea, making the rondo structure transparent
Ives: Unanswered Question
Charles ives composed this piece in 1908 as he both absorbed and rebelled against every musical tradition of his time.
The timbre of the piece consists of three contrasting groups of instruments: Strings, a solo trumpet, and a wind quartet. The strings: violins, violas, cellos and double bass play throughout the entire work from beginning to end without a pause. The solo trumpet interjects which is known as “The Unanswered Question” at five different points over the course of the piece. The wind quartet an ensemble of four wind instruments (two flutes and two clarinets) responds to the trumpet’s “question” each time with a different “answer”.
The idea of having two groups of instruments in dialogue with one another was not new but the manner in which the strings are completely obilivious to the dialogue taking place between the two groups of wind instruments (the solo trumpet and flute quartet) was new. The result is a layered texture in which three blocks of sound- strings, solo trumpet, and winds- are moving completely independently of one another.
Ives used these contrasting timbres and textures to highlight the tonal and atonal harmonies. In the composition, the strings play in a tonal fashion moving in a slow, measure pace as if playing a slow hymn. The little dissonance is carefully resolved afterward with nothing left open-ended or unresolved. The solo trumpet poses a five-note figure that has no harmonic center at all. The wind quartet are more tonally diffuse and grow rhythmically more independent as the work progresses. The music of all these instruments is atonal. Ives says that the soft ppp strings represent “The Silence of the Druids- Who Know, See and Hear Nothing.” The trumpet is the “Perennial Question of Existence,” and states in the same tone of voice each time. But the hunt for “The Invisible Answer” undertaken by the flute and other human beings, becomes gradually more active, faster and louder through animando [animatedly] to con fuco [with fire]. The part is not played in exact time position but somewhat of an impromptu way. If no conductor, one of the flute players direct their playing. “The Fighting Answerers” begin to mock “Question” and the strife is over for the moment. After they disappear, “The Question” is asked for the last time, and “The Silences” are heard beyond in “Undisturbed Solitude”. Ives was trying to shock listeners out of what he percieved to be their all-too-comfortable habit of listening to “beautiful” music.
Aaron Copland: “Hoe-Down” from Rodeo
This piece was composed in 1942. This piece is from a scence in a ballet called Rodeo by the request of the dancer Agnes de Mille. Rodeo was about the American West and a cow girl who is determined to win the heart of the Head Wrangler. The Head Wrangler is unimpressed with the Cowgirl’s prowess with ropes and horses. Not until the end with the Big Saturday night dance scene does the head wrangler notice the cowgirl in a dress. After finishing the ballet, Copland took four scenes to be played in concert settings, of which “Hoe-Down” is the last. Copland creates this American sound in this movement by using actual folk tunes that are rhythmically vigorous and cover a wide range. He also orchestrates his music in an extremely open fashion- that is, he uses the full range of registers from highest to lowest and leaves as much space as possible between groups of instruments. This “open scoring” creates a sonic counterpart to the open spaces of the American West.
The opening melody- and the one that keeps returning- is a traditional fiddle tune called, “Bonaparte’s Retreat”. Copland found this melody orchestrated it, and incorporated it into a larger movement called the “Hoe-Down”. He introduces the theme gradually by first presenting only a small portion of it at the beginning, followed by sounds of a square-dance band tuning up only later do we hear the melody in full form. The Music stays squarely in the tonic in the opening section keeping the mood of a folk dance. The Disjunct melody in the middle of the movement is based on a traditional fiddling tune called “Mcleod’s reel”.
Copland varies the orchestration throughout. At times we hear the full ensemble and at other times we hear a reduced ensemble of only a few instruments. The piano was a newcomer to the orchestra and Copland used it sparingly but to good effect by imitating the sound of a piano like one would hear in a Western Dance Hall. The Timbres are bright and transparent. Copland allows individual instruments or groups of instruments to come through clearly because he writes in what might be called sonic layers, with each instrumental grouping projecting its own identity. Strings in opening divided from low and high that are distinct from each other and distinct from brass instruments which are divided into high and low. This kind of writing reinforces the contrast of sound between layers. Copland also gives unusual prominence to percission instruments. The notion of giving a fiddle tune to a xylophone creates a particulary penetrating sound
A hoe down is an energetic, duple meter dance that has been associated with western square dancing. Most of the composition is in duple meter but in order to create some variation, its in a clear duple meter with a high degree of syncopation in other sections. Copland accents the highest notes of the tune whenever it leaps upward. When the Brass comes in on the main melody its consistently off the beat thus creating forward momentum
The piece follows a rondo form. The opening starts with the orchestra “tune up” and presents accompanimental patterns but no real melodies until about a half a minute into the piece. Only with the return of the A section does not hear the main theme in its entirety.
Crawford: Piano Study in Mixed Accents
She tried to avoid using some of the most basic elements of music in any conventional sort of way by using a new modern idiom in music freed from constraints of conventional harmony, melody and rhythm. Crawford, unlike other modernist composers did not study Arnold Schoenberg but instead forgered her own brand of modernism by working under a series of self-imposed limitations that helped her avoid such basic elements such as meter, tonality and patterned rhythms. The forward drive is relentless and the absence of a tonal center has the effect of liberating the entire spectrum of notes. All the notes are of equal value but its very hard to tell since the notes go very fast. Their is no sense of meter or fixed pattern of rhythms. Instead, we hear a series of small units and the music is organized into groupings of anywhere between two and eight notes, with the first note of each unit accented. The very opening of the work consists of a series of units made of 6,5,5,3,6, and 4 notes. These irregular groupings creates a series what Crawford calls “mixed accents”. By listening you can never know how many notes are in a given unit, The unpredictability of rhythmic organization helps distance this work from the fixed metrical and rhythmic patterns that characterize more conventional music.
The composition only has one melodic line. Much monophonic music has not been heard since the middle ages and monophony help seperate from conventional approach to music. The pianist plays the same melodic line smulataneously in the right and left hand with only the register differing. The first three notes of the work D-F-E as well as the left hand in the same rhythm at the exact time but different registers. There is no homophony or polyphony in this piece.
There is no harmony in this composition. There is no tonal center in the melodic line known as atonal. Not one note returns more often than any other. No notes are repeated until 9,10, or 11 other differnt notes have been sounded which was a very modern sound.
Crawford creates interest and variety to the melody by giving unusual prominence to the melodic element of register. The melodic lines never makes very large leaps, but it does move gradually from its opening low range to a very high register in the middle of the work and then back down again at the end, finishing very close to where it had begun. By paying attention to register, it help gives the work a strong sense of shape with a beginning, middle and end. It also draws attention to the low middle and high ranges of thhe piano. The growling rumble of the low bass give way to more delicate sounds of the upper range in the middle of the work but the journey ends where it begins in the bass.
The music is puncuated by musical rests that help divide the work into five large-scale sections. The proportion of these sections combine with rise and fall of melodic register create a strong sense of symmetry. The work begins by setting out two relateively short sections of eight and nine seconds each, then expands into a large section in the middle (almost as long as other four combined) then shrinks back down into two very brief sections (nine and six seconds) on the other side. There is a rough formal symmetry.
Stravinsky: The Rite of Spring
Stravinsky ballet The Rite of Spring was so new and different that the audience at its premiere in Paris in 1913 rioted. Many found the harmonies, melodies and rhythms to be beyond the limits of the acceptable, yet within a few years it became an audience favorite around the world and is still a favorite today.
Stravinsky ballet was an independent genre with the focus of an evening’s entertainment in the 19th century. Stravinsky Rite was commissioned by Sergei Diaghilev for his Ballet Russes (the Russian Ballet) a company of largely Russian dancers whose home base was in paris. The scenario of the ballet is about sage elders sitting in a circle and watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitate the God of Spring. In the end, the scenario was drawn up by Stravinsky and Nikolai Roerich, a leading expert in Russian folklore and ancient ritual. Originally called The Great Sacrifice the ballet was divided into two parts: the Adoration of the Earth and The Sacrifice. The words of the scenario are not sung, but they shape the form of the music directly. The rite of spring represents pagan Russia and is unified by a single idea; the mystery and surge of creative power of Spring. The piece has no plot, but the choreographic sequence is as follows.
Part One: The Adoration of the Earth is about the spring celebration where the pipers pipe and young men tell fortunes. The old women enters and she knows the mystery of nature and how to predict the future. Then young girls with painted faces come in from the river in a single file. They dance the spring dances, games start. The people are divided into two opposed groups. The holy procession of the wise old men. The oldest and wisest interrupts the spring games, which come to a stop. The people pause trembling before the Great Action. The old men bless the earth. The Kiss of the Earth. The people dance passionately on the earth, sanctifying it and becoming one with it.
Part two is the great sacrifice where at night the virgins hold mysterious games, walking in circles. One of the virgins is consecrated as the victim and is twice pointed to by fate. The virgins honor her, the chosen one, with a marital chance. They invoke the ancestors and entrust the CHosen One to the old wise men. She sacrifices himself in the presence of the old men in the Great Sacred Dance, THE GREAT SACRIFICE.
Tonality of the composition there is often more than one tone. The repetitive chords at 3:36 sec juxtapose two conventional harmonies in a way that creates a new dissonance of its own. Each of the chords is tonal in its own right, but when combinded they clash forming a harmony known as polytonal.
Many of the melodies in Rite of Spring are built on the pentatonic scale. An example of a melody of a pentatonic scale can be found at the beginning of the “Spring Round Dance”. Stravinsky was trying to cature a folk-like sound. The pentatonic melodies give the work an exotic, even modern sound, very different from that of the musical traditions of Western Europe. The melodies tend to be brief and full or repetitions- small fragments repeated and varied many times in sucession- and they always seem to arrive and depart without warning.
The piece uses irregular rhythms at times. The beginning of the “Spring Round Dance” changes meter three times within three measures: the first measure has five beats, the second measure seven and the third six. This kind of rhythmic irregularity is offset by the frequent use of ostinato figures.
Stravinsky orchestra is a mega orchestra with 1 piccolo, 3 flutes, 1 alto flute, 1 english horn, 4 oboes, 1 Eb, clarinet, 3 clarinets, 1 bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, 1 contrabassoons. The bras has 8 french horns, 1 high trumpet (d), 4 trumpets, 1 bass trumpet, 3 trombones, two tubas. Percussion has timpani, bass drum, cymbals, gong, guero (“scraper”) tambourine, and triangle. The strings has violins 1&2, violas, cellos, and double basses. The form of Rite of Spring is through-composed where each scene is given its own distincitve music. There is very little repetition of music between individual sections.