Final Essay Questions

question

Early Romantic composers like Schumann, Chopin, and Berlioz embodied a radical shift in aesthetics from the classical period with new styles that ranged from the quiet and intimate to the ponderously grandiose. Discuss at least 3 musical features of Romanticism that exemplify this severe departure from classical conventions. Use examples when appropriate.
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1) The German Lied- Schubert’s Erlkonig; solo voice accompanied by a piano. Tells a story. Piano an integral part of the composition (not just background noise) 2) Symphony Orchestra- Beethoven’s Symphony no. 5 in C minor; greater contrast in sound/register. Harsher dissonances. Rhythmic drive. More expressive/transcendent/psychological. Expansion of instruments (ex. addition of tuba) 3) Piano Miniature- Chopin’s Nocturne in F sharp; musical virtuosity. Increased showmanship and difficulty. Wider range of notes. Rubato (temporary disregarding of strict tempo). Chromaticism.
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Forbidden love was the main theme of most Romantic operas. Compare the Italian (Verde) and German (Wagner) ways of dramatizing forbidden love. Where does the voice prevail, and where does the orchestra? How do the composers convey their heroes’ emotions? Point out at least 2 musical features in each case that stick out as most dramatic.
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– Verdi (Rigoletto): focus is on the voice rather than the orchestra. Bel canto (beauty of the voice, embellishments of the vocalist to display virtuosity). Aria in Rigoletto (strophic form so focus is on the voice) – Wagner (The Ring Cycle): Focus is on the orchestra rather than the voice (made the vocals and orchestra equals, demanded more of the vocalist in terms of volume). Leitmotiv (recurring melody that reinforces the dramatic action; provides insight to the characters). All of the information is in the orchestra, voice makes final declamation
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National identity was an important issue throughout the nineteenth century, and music contributed to self-perception of various ethnic and cultural groups. Discuss 2 examples that address this issue. In what ways did the composers project their local distinctiveness? What sorts of music functioned as emblems of different communities? Refer to specific musical examples.
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– Charles Ives (The Rockstrewn Hills): used melodies from popular songs at the time which included American vernacular (parlor songs, band music), Protestant church hymns, European classical music (art song, symphony), and experimental music (polytonality, atonality, collage). Grew up hearing two bands playing at one time (different sounds simultaneously, replicated childhood sound memories) – Igor Stravinsky (The Rite of Spring): Abstract use of folk tunes (inspired by ancient Russian tribes and sacred rituals). Took the classically \”high level\” art form of ballet/orchestration and brought it down to its roots in folklore. Pushed instruments to their limits and put them in weird positions to replicate village sounds. Focus on simple, driving rhythms to express raw human emotions (primitism)
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What makes music sound modern? This question worried many different composers, and pushed them to look for different ways to \”modernize\” their music. Discuss 2 twentieth century resolutions to this concern. How did composers imagine the modern sound? How did they challenge the modern listener? Pay special attention to the new musical techniques and ideas that emerged after WWI.
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– Time period: post WWI; threat of total extinction due to nuclear warfare; technological innovations; individualism – Edgard Varese (Poeme Electronique): electronically produced music. 450 speakers in the auditorium provided a unique listening experience for each audience member. Multi-media display to go along with the composition. Set music free from tonality. – Boulez, Stockhausen, Babbitt: Total serialism- not only pitch, but other music parameters such as duration, dynamic, timbre, and attack (complete lack of control, mathematical composition). Challenges the modern listener in the sense that music isn’t composed to please, but to explore the boundaries of music.

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