MUSI 112: Listening to Music
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MUSI 112 - Lecture 4 - Rhythm: Jazz, Pop and Classical
Chapter 1. Introduction to Multiple Partials [00:00:00]
Professor Craig Wright: Now what I’d like to do is something that you’ll probably cut out because of copyright issues but it’s a kind of fun warm-up anyway, so we’re going to go ahead and do this and then we’ll actually start. I got about a one-minute warm-up here, ladies and gentlemen, and we’ve got Lynda Paul who’s like a Vegas show act. Okay? She’s going to warm us up and we’re going to get up and we’re going to get into it here right off the bat in our exploration of duple and triple meter so here we go, Lynda Paul.
Lynda Paul: All right. Those of you in my section will already be familiar with this. Don’t give the game away. Everybody stand up. Sorry.
Professor Craig Wright: It’ll be worth it.
Lynda Paul: It’s worth it. All right. You have two moves. For the duple meter, you have the march. You may have to turn to the side.
Professor Craig Wright: It’s okay. They can march.
Lynda Paul: And it just goes like this, Feel the duple.
Professor Craig Wright: Which foot gets the down beat, right or left?
Lynda Paul: Left. Always left.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Sorry. Didn’t know.
Lynda Paul: And if you hear a triple, your step is this: down-up-up, down-up-up, down- up-up, down-up-up. This is to get the feel of the duple and the triple. So see what you can do.
Professor Craig Wright: You can do this on your test too. [music playing]
They’ve got it. [music playing]
Okay. We got that. [music playing]
Okay. So that’s our warm-up for today. Now from the ridiculous to the sublime, we’re going to go to our first slide. And that takes us to the question of sound. We have never really nailed this down, I don’t think. When an instrument — any instrument — the piano, plays a note [plays note] what you hear is one fundamental pitch. You are also hearing very small amounts of other pitches. Usually, these get charted out into the so-called overtones, thirty-two partials or overtones, and you can see them playing out here [see screen]. The amount of force in each of those partials — we’ll call it the amplitude — of each of the partials, varies according to the acoustical properties of a particular instrument, so that each of these peaks here represents a particular partial, but you can see that they do not decline in any kind of straight decline. Some of them bump up from time to time — more push there, more volume there. So when we hear any particular sound, again, we’re hearing an amalgam of many sounds, and the importance of each of these partials in the aggregate of sound is what gives it its particular color.
If you’ve ever worked with a synthesizer: I think, in very simple terms here, what an electronic synthesizer does is play with these. They can push down the seventh partial. They can bring up the ninth partial. They can push down thethirteenth partial and bring up the fifteenth and thereby change the sound of a clarinet into a French horn. They play with these partials on each of these notes, but this is just [plays note] one sound with all of these other things mixed in to the medley that produces the quality or timbre of a particular instrument. Okay. That’s that point.
Chapter 2. Syncopation and Triplets [00:04:30]
Now we’re going to go on and review a few things that we talked about last lecture. Remember we were talking about beat, which is the regular pulse, the pulse of life, the pulse of music, that comes at regular intervals. We were talking about the subdivision of that pulse, the organizing of that pulse into meters, and that we had this capacity to indicate what the meter was by these numbers: two-four, and three-four for duple and triple meter. Remember we were just demonstrating, listening to the Ravel Bolero.
Then we had rhythms superimposed. We had two prominent rhythms up above. Rhythm is simply these patterns, usually repeating patterns, of longs and short that get superimposed as they set up above the basic beat underneath. We also learned from Ravel’s Bolero that nobody actually plays the beat — that’s too basic — but our mind, hearing all of these complex rhythms, extrapolates the beat from this complexity. Okay, that by way of a quick review. Now two other terms that we have touched on. What’s tempo in music? Yes, gentleman?
Student: The pace or the speed of the piece?
Professor Craig Wright: It’s the pace or speed of the —
Professor Craig Wright: — of the piece, particularly the beat. The beat will do — control — that, so it’s the pace or speed of the beat. Thanks very much. We can take a particular — Here I’m conducting in three: one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, and obviously I’m accelerating there. We use the fancy Italian term “accelerando” for that. We could be going with a very fast tempo, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, one, two, three, and slow it down. Obviously, we would be retarding the music, ritardando or a retard at that particular point. All right.
With that by the way of background, let’s go on to two — what we might call rhythmic devices here — two rhythmic devices. The first is syncopation. We worked a little bit with this last time. For syncopation, let’s go to the board over here. If we have a particular rhythm, and this is a rhythm, and here are the beats and the meter underneath, we would be coming along one, two-and, one, two,[sings]. Okay. Obviously, this is the bar of syncopation — we did this in section last week — but you can see [sings] this note is the syncopated note. It’s jumping in too early. We expect it to sound there. So what syncopation is is simply the insertion of an impulse, a “hit” if you will, at a metrical place that we do not expect it to be. Usually, the metrical impulse is on the beat. With syncopation the impulse can come suddenly off the beat, and it gives it a little snap or jazzy aspect to the music. We talked about that in the Cole Porter last time.
Here is one I remember. A couple of years ago there was a clothing store called TJ Maxx. They had this little jingle out there, [sings], just a little bit of this, and then you were supposed to say, “TJ Maxx.” I’ll remember TJ Maxx forever because of this guy’s little syncopation. It’s in there. We really remember these musical [jinges]. Think about back in your childhood, your nursery rhymes, the capacity of aural material to be retained. Okay. [sings] Here’s beat two. It jumps in too early. This actually I think derives from a Greek word, “synkope,” s-y-n-k-o-p-e, synkope. Is that how you pronounce it? But it means to cut short, to cut short and therefore get in a little bit earlier.
Now the master of syncopation, of course, in music was Scott Joplin, African American composer writing a lot around the area of St. Louis in the turn of the twentieth century. You know his music from pieces such as “The Entertainer,” so let’s play just a little bit of “The Entertainer” very slowly, and my question to you is: where is the syncopation? Is it in the left hand of the piano or in the right hand of the piano? Is it in the bass or the melody? [music playing] Where’s the syncopation? Left hand? Right hand? Right hand. Bass is just going — Well, what is the bass going? [plays piano] In that fashion, one — It’s playing eighth notes, one-and, two-and; it’s subdividing the beat whereas the syncopation [plays piano] — it’s there, [sings] and so on. So you’re tapping your foot. You’re tapping the beat and a lot of the music is coming off the beat.
Let’s see if we can do that. Let’s see if we can create our own syncopated orchestra in here. We’ve got an example up here. This is the conception of it. Let’s see if we can actually execute it. What I’d like you to do: Everybody tap your foot. We’re going to do this in four, just for — just because I think it works out better so everybody tap your foot with a four beat. Here we go. One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, nice and loud. Come on. I want to hear it. Okay. Now take your hand on a chair or your notebook, your computer or whatever, and do syncopation off of that according to this pattern. One, two, ready, go. [sings] Okay. Good. I see Daniel down here has got this nailed. Okay. So that’s what syncopation is and it isn’t much more difficult than that.
The second rhythmic device that we have to be aware of in music we frequently encounter is this concept of the triplet. Now most music that we listen to — and here’s a good example because it plays it out so clearly in the melody — most music that we listen to takes the beat — one, two, one, two — and subdivides it into two: one-and, two-and — musicians like this “and” business — one-and, two-and, one-and, two-and — So each quarter note has two eighth notes. We could also take the two eighth notes and divide them into two sixteenth notes and then we get a-one-a-and, a-two-a-and, a-one-a-and, a-two-a-and something like that. [plays piano] [sings] But of course most music — although it operates that way — not all music continues in that fashion. Oftentimes — occasionally — occasionally, oftentimes, somewhere between the two — the beat is divided into three.
So what I’ve got here is an example of that. It’s actually what we call “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” I think, [sings], so that’s it. I think it’s been set by a number of composers over the years. Beethoven set it under the heading of “God Save the King,” George the Third or somebody. No, George the Third was probably dead by then. Who was the king of England, let’s say, in 1810? Who knows that answer? I don’t know it. George the Third would have been dead. Okay. In any event, we’re coming along toward the end of it. [plays piano] So you can hear [sings], the triplet being inserted, so a triplet is simply insertion of three notes in the place of two, not more complicated than that. Here is what we would expect, [sings], but we got [sings].
The interesting thing here is that the bass continues along with the duple pattern. The bass is going [plays piano] where the upper voice has [plays piano]. Beethoven could have made that bass go with triplets too. Actually, it’s all set up for it. [plays piano] Both melody and bass could have had a triplet [plays piano] but he chose to have the duple in the bass — the triple up above. [plays piano] Let’s see if we can do that, and it’s a little bit of a challenge for the performer. Let’s see if you can tap your left hand to a duple pattern, one, two, one, two, and then take your right hand and do a triplet against it in a triplet pattern, one, two, ready, go, [sings], one, two, one, two. It’s harder than you think, right, but that’s the kind of thing that musicians, particularly percussion players, have to be able to execute.
Chapter 3. Basics of Musical Texture [00:14:34]
All right. Now an insertion, sort of discursus. We’re going to talk a little bit about musical texture. This is discussed in your textbook in chapter six. Texture in music is the dispositions of the musical lines. I was trying to think this morning of an analogy and I thought I came up with a good one. It has to do with tapestries and carpets and things like that where you weave different strands in in different ways, and somewhere in my deep recesses I have these words “wep” (sic) and “warp” or something like that. Does that make any — does that have any resonance to you? No. All right. I think it’s out there in weaving. I’ve got to dig it out. I tried to find it on Google really quick and nothing came up, but I think there is this idea of how you organize a tapestry in that fashion. In any event, in music we have different strands and these strands can be organized in different ways.
We simplify it by saying this: that there are three fundamental textures: monophonic texture, homophonic texture, and polyphonic texture. And, to exemplify this, one day it occurred to me well, why not take a tune that everybody knows, “Amazing Grace,” and set it in different ways to exemplify these three textures. So that’s what we’ve got on the sheet for today. Everybody’s got the sheet there and what I would like to do is just have everyone, all of this — We’ll just sing “la” here. We won’t sing the text. We’ll just sing “Amazing Grace” and we’ll kind of start it at pitch. [sings] [plays piano] Hey, pretty good today. Okay? So we’ll start it at pitch there and I’ll give you two and then we’ll sing “la” and we will exemplify monophonic texture. Here we go, one, sing. [sings] Okay. That’s all we have to do.
You don’t have to read the notes ‘cause you’ve got the sound in your ears, part of your aural memory. So that’s monophonic texture, just one pitch. Actually, was it just one pitch? What do you think about that? How many pitches? Let’s do this again. We’ll sing it again. How many actual frequencies are we generating here? One, sing. [sings] So how many pitches are we generating? Really, two. The gentlemen are singing in one octave. We’re singing below middle C [plays piano] and the ladies are singing up an octave [plays piano] but that’s still monophonic texture — those notes have the same names. I — We were going [plays piano] [sings] so as long as the notes have the same names or it sounds the same, even though there may be octave doubling in there we still think of that as monophonic texture.
Lynda, come on up. We’re going to exemplify homophonic texture here and we want you to sing the melody and we’ll try to do the parts underneath of it. Homophonic texture is where it all lines up pretty much together; all the parts are changing together. One, sing. [sings] One more time and we need- we’re going to get our third in. Ready, sing. [sings] How sweet it is. Okay. So that’s sweet-sounding homophonic texture, mostly just chords. Thanks, Lynda.
Then we can take this and turn it into something a lot more complex with — singing a lot of lines going their own way. This we call polyphony. We also use the word “counterpoint” sort of synonymous with it. So part three down there at the bottom [see sheet] we’ve got an example of polyphony where I take in the tune and set it against itself a little bit. [plays piano] So it’s just a lot more complex, a lot of independent lines going on up above. Think of one line. Think of a group of lines. Here’s one sound. [plays piano] Here’s a group of sounds, [plays piano] different pitches and actually three different pitches in there, as opposed to just one pitch — one pitch, three pitches or three or four pitches, moving in different ways, kind of independent rhythmic chords, so that’s the difference between monophonic, homophonic and polyphonic texture.
Now we’re going to turn — focus here just a bit more on polyphonic texture because there are two types of polyphonic texture. The first we’ll call imitative polyphonic texture, and here in “Amazing Grace” we really do have imitative polyphonic texture because you — as you can see, we have in the bass — there in bar two — the bass imitating the upper part [plays piano] and then toward the end there in bar thirteen [plays piano] the bass and I’ve added an extra note. It occurred to me here I could take that theme and turn it upside down against itself and it would work. [plays piano] Yeah. So that’s called musical inversion. Bach would like that. He likes these kind of mind games with music. So it’s complex stuff, this polyphony or this counterpoint. So this is imitative counterpoint because there’s one idea that keeps coming back and back and back.
Now there’s another kind of counterpoint called “free counterpoint” where it’s highly independent lines are sounding but they’re not imitating one another. Let’s listen to just a section of this. We should have this. It’s Louis Armstrong and we’ll talk more about Louis Armstrong as we proceed here. So listen to a good example of non-imitative texture, polyphonic texture. [music playing] Pretty cool stuff, huh? Where was Louis Armstrong from?
Professor Craig Wright: Chicago? Actually, he did his recordings in Chicago, but he wasn’t from Chicago. Where’s the heart and soul of jazz in America? New Orleans. Right. Yeah. That’s why it’s so important culturally for the history of the United States.
Chapter 4. Counting Measures and Musical Dictation [00:21:57]
So what we want to do now is to begin to think about counting measures, and we’re going to do this by staying with this piece of Louis Armstrong here, and we need to be able to count measures so that we can figure out the syntax of music. Music is a language and it is made up of a syntax, and syntax, you know, consists of phrases and the order in which those phrases occur. But maybe even before we can recognize the syntax of music, we have to figure out what a phrase is.
So to do that we’ve got to be able to count measures. How do we do this? Well, musicians, again, have developed the following sort of process. Let’s say oftentimes orchestral musicians, they’re sitting there and they’re not playing so they have to be able to count for a long period of time. So they’d be going along in this fashion — let’s say it’s duple — one-two, two-two, three-two, four-two. They’re just adding integers on each down beat. It’s a very simple idea. So that’s what we’re going to do. Think of these poor French horn players in the orchestra. They play so rarely, and then it’s so important when they do play, they’ll be out there: seventy-eight-two, seventy-nine-two, eighty-two, eighty-one-two — You’ve got to count forever. We won’t have to count quite that long, but even before we count, we’ve got to figure out what the meter of the music is, so let’s start with that now. What’s the — Let’s go back or I guess we’re going to go to the beginning. What’s the meter of this piece? And then we’ll go ahead and count some measures. [music playing] So it’s duple meter. Our brain has got all that stuff coming in there and we’re probably focusing a lot on the bass and “boom, boom,” the tuba that’s playing there. So let’s go on now. We’re going to hear Louis Armstrong himself play. What instrument did Louis Armstrong play?
Professor Craig Wright: Trumpet, yeah, and he had this wonderful rich sound but boy, it was a big, huge sound, kind of the ultimate in-your-face trumpet player. So we’re going to hear a solo by Louis Armstrong now and let’s count along once the phrase begins. I’ll get you started and then you count the measures. Here we go. [music playing] Here we go. Ready. [music playing] One-two, two-two. Go ahead. And then he disappears. So how many bars did you count there? How long was the phrase that Louis Armstrong played?
Student: Eight measures.
Professor Craig Wright: Eight measures? Everybody agree with that? Anybody say seven? Better say eight in music. Asymmetry is not the norm in music [music playing] so eight’s a good bet there. Let’s go back and hear another solo. It’s a wonderful clarinet solo by someone named Johnny Dodds — long dead of course — but it’s one of the most beautiful, incredible clarinet solos you’ll ever want to hear. How long is this solo? How long is this phrase here by Johnny Dodds? [music playing] Here we go: one-two, two-two. [music playing]
Professor Craig Wright: Sixteen, so twice as long, but that’s sort of good news. A lot of music is made up of these two-four and four-four sorts of aggregates. And then we’ll just go on to listen to the end of this where everybody’s in. It’s hard to know again what the melody is or what the phrase is here. It’s just everybody playing. Remember: are they using music here? Could these gentlemen read music? It’s not clear that this particular group could. It’s — I’m sure that Louis Armstrong would read some music, but again it would just get in the way of what he’s doing. All of this was aurally transmitted and aurally taught.
So let’s listen to the end of it. It’s called “Willie the Weeper.” You’re going to have it as one of your listening exercises. Let’s listen to the end of it here. [music playing] Now here we go with our phrase. [music playing] We used to call that in — remember when — anybody in high school band here? What do you call that “boom” at the end? Do you still call it that, “stinger” at the end, sort of a syncopated bounce at the end of the thing? How long was that particular phrase? Sixteen bars there, again, and a perfect example of free counterpoint. You’ve got the trombone, the clarinet, the trumpet. They’re all just doing their own thing in the context of the harmonies that are playing out here, and it’s just magical I think. What happy music. Right? How could you possibly be sad when listening to that kind of music? And then they play this kind of music coming back from funerals. You’re dancing in to heaven. It’s that kind of thing, yeah. I bet there’s heavenly music of that sort. Okay.
Now let’s go on to another thing that we’ll want to be doing here and that I guess is taking a little bit of rhythmic dictation, writing down some simple rhythms. How are we going to do this? Why do we want to do this? Because we want to remember things. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a very good musical memory. There are lots of stories about Mozart’s musical memory. In 1777, he was in the town of Mannheim. He heard a string quartet by a man named Cambini. It was never published. There are no recordings of it. Mozart goes to Paris. About six months later he bumps into Cambini. He says, “Oh, Cambini. I remember you. We — I heard your string quartet in Mannheim.” And he sits down at the piano and plays the thing. He didn’t have-he wasn’t studying this thing. He wasn’t trying to memorize it. He heard it just once. Six months later he could remember [nearly] the whole movement of a string quartet.
Another famous story: In 1770, he goes in to Rome, into the Sistine Chapel. It’s Holy Week. He goes to hear the well-known Miserere of Allegri, Gregorio Allegri. You’re not supposed to copy this piece because it’s supposed to be only performed in the Sistine Chapel. Mozart goes in. He hears it. He and his father walk back to the inn where they are staying. He writes down this four- to five-minute composition note for note in just one sitting. That’s pretty scary. Wouldn’t it be? I — You’re just off on a different planet in terms of your capacity to process aural material, but we — I can’t do that. I couldn’t begin to do that. How much can I hear? Two seconds, three seconds, four seconds. I could probably remember that. And he’s hearing multiple parts, not just melody.
So we have to come up — we mortals — have to come up with some other device, and our device to remember things is to try to write it down because my premise here is, if you can write music down clearly you are hearing it, clearly, and you would have a better chance of remembering it if you could write it down. So it just helps us focus on these isolated events. We’re not going to try to remember everything in music — too complex. We’re going to focus on the simple, salient things — could be an instrument, could be an important rhythm.
So let’s listen to some more music of Musorgsky here, Modest Musorgsky. We had that very interesting piece last time, “Polish Oxcart” [Chapter 29] where he used this principle of low sounds produce sound waves that stay forever and we hear those low sounds first and last. So here we’re going to hear another piece from that Pictures at an Exhibition. It’s called “Great Gate of Kiev” so let’s listen to a little of this, 1874, I believe, or 1870s surely, and let’s listen to a bit of it and then we’re going to focus just on the rhythm. [music playing] Okay. Start conducting. [music playing] All right. Good. Very interesting.
There are two possible explanations to this. Some of you are going with a very slow tempo: one-two, one-two. Others are a bit uncomfortable with that, [sings]. They’re going twice as fast. Which is correct? Well, for our purposes, both are correct and we’ll know how to figure this out on tests. If you say — you’ve got two measures here and you’re writing particular symbols, we’ll know that you heard this with the slower possibility. If you’ve got four measures and different symbols, you’re clearly subdividing the beat but hearing that as the beat. So all I’m really interested in here is the idea that we have a duple meter.
Having said that, let’s assume that we do have the slower tempo here, one — Let me play a little bit at the piano. [plays piano] So your hand should be moving rather slowly. Let’s all sing it. [sings] Okay. So that’s the music. Now having done this setup, if you think about it, and think about the fact that — what note symbol gets the beat in our course — quarter note, okay. [sings] So every gesture of the hand is going to be the equivalent of a quarter note. What’s going to be my first note symbol? [sings] The half note. Here’s one gesture; here’s another gesture. [sings] Okay? So I’ve got you going there.
You take your piece of paper now. If you want to hum the piece quietly to yourself, that’s fine; that’s good. If I hear lots of buzzing out there, that means you’re into it, so hum the piece a little bit to yourself, Musorgsky’s “Great Gate of Kiev” here and Pictures at an Exhibition and see if you can write down those particular symbols. [music playing] Okay. Let’s sing it again. Here we go. Ready, go. [sings] Let’s focus [sings] just on that unit, that measure. [sings] Having trouble with this? Look at this. [sings] One gesture, two notes, two pitches. [sings] What should those — what should the rhythmic value of those two pitches be? [sings] Yeah, two within one beat would give us eighth notes. Okay. So let’s finish it off one more time. Here we go. Ready, go. [sings] So what should we write up here? I lost my black marker but that doesn’t matter. [sings] What should I write next? Well, those are the two eighth notes we were talking about. [sings] Then what? [sings] One note for each gesture and we’ve just done a rhythmic dictation of the beginning of Musorgsky’s “Great Gate of Kiev” from Pictures at an Exhibition.
So you’re not going to forget this particular melody and it’s because it sounds so grand. There’s another reason we’re not going to forget it, if you’ve focused on it in that way. So when later on we’re dealing with symphonies and things like that you may be sketching little motivic snippets, little rhythmic snippets, that you’ll file away. All right. Let’s listen a little bit more to the Musorgsky and then we’re going to go on, just a bit more to the next excerpt, and here’s my question for you. You’re going to hear the violins play a running scale, [sings]. If our beat is this, [sings] what note values are in the music of the violinists at this particular moment? You don’t even have to see the score. You can figure it out. [music playing] Okay. So what note value are they playing there?
Professor Craig Wright: Sixteenth because we’ve got four impulses [sings] for each beat. Let’s go on to the next here now — a couple of questions we could ask. The theme comes back. We’re going to listen to it again. What string technique are the violins using at this particular moment and then [music playing] what rhythmic device does the trumpet insert? So let’s focus on the strings first. We may hear this twice. [music playing] Okay. What are they doing there? What are they playing there?
Professor Craig Wright: Tremolo, just kind of filler. Right? We need a big sound here. Let’s get the violins to fill in sonic space. It’s kind of — there must be something in cooking like that — use cornstarch or something, a filler — I don’t know — just to make — give something body. So this is kind of giving the music body here. It’s not of particular interest melodically. Now when the trumpet enters something of interest happens. What rhythmic device is the trumpet inserting? So let’s go back to the same spot. We’ll hear the tremolo and then the trumpet. Here we go. Notice the tempo is slowed down a bit here also. [music playing] So what did the trumpet insert, what rhythmic device?
Professor Craig Wright: Triplets. [sings] So focusing on rhythm can tell us a lot about the detail going on in pop music or in classical music in particular.
Chapter 5. Mozart’s Requiem: Insights on Varying Textures and Pitches [00:38:15]
Now I’d like to end — I think I have a few minutes here — I’d like to end with a particular piece. We’ve talked about Mozart before and we’re going to go on now to talk about Mozart’s Requiem. It’s a Requiem mass. What’s a mass? Well, a mass is a genre of music. Obviously, it’s a religious service as well, but it’s a genre of music like the symphony or the concerto. Bach wrote a mass, Mozart wrote many masses, Beethoven wrote two important masses and so on. So it’s a genre of music. The Requiem mass is a particular kind of mass. It’s a mass, obviously, for death and burial and the commemoration of those who have died. Unlike the regular mass, the Requiem mass has a very special movement associated with it. It’s called the “Dies irae” — the “Day of Wrath.” It’s just a long, long text that’s set to music but that text is drawn from “Apocalypse,” the images of “Apocalypse.” If you ever read the Book of Apocalypse — or Revelation — you know it’s hellfire and brimstone, the day of judgment, damnation — election into the group of the blessed, and so on. So it’s a very vivid kind of text. Now I was going to put that text up on the board and, to be honest with you, I forgot to do that, so I’m going to have to see if I can remember this text:
We’re going to focus now on two sections of this work: the “Confutatis” and the “Lacrimosa dies illa.” They are both subsets of the “Dies irae.” The “Confutatis” go — The text is as follows: “Confutatis maledictis, voca — voca — me cum benedictis.” So on one side here we’ve got the “confutatis maledictis.” These are the damned. On the other side, we’ve got “voca — voca me cum benedictis.” These are the blessed. Okay? Ever been to a medieval cathedral? You walk in the front door, Christ in majesty — on the left side are the damned writhing and on the right side are the blessed looking a good deal happier.
So Mozart may have had this image in mind of the damned and the left, but he sure was able to set it — this text — through music by using a couple of devices. The first of these is rhythmic, so we’re going to turn now — I guess we’ll turn off the lights and we’re going to go to a couple of slides here. Let’s take a look at the rhythm he associates with the damned. What kind of rhythm do we get with the damned? Well, where would you expect to find the damned? In the high register or the low registers? The low registers, and they’re way down in the twenty-ninth canto of hell or somewhere. So here’s what we find, and as you can see there — is this bass rhythm moving slowly or quickly? Very quickly. It’s going like this [plays piano] and so on. It’s also doing what? Going up or down?
Professor Craig Wright: Up. It keeps rising up. This builds tension. Okay? Are these happy folks singing there? Well, they’ve got this kind of music. [plays piano] Is this conjunct music — step-wise music — or jumpy, skippy music? Pretty skippy. And is it consonant music or dissonant music? [plays piano] Very dissonant music. Is it major or minor? [plays piano] Minor.
Okay, so I’d say he’s got about four things he’s working with here. The rhythm is very important. Now eventually the elect come in. And their rhythm — what do they have? Are they high or low? Well, they’re way up high. You can see them in the sopranos and altos up there [plays piano] and they just sit there on that pitch — a long note: one, two, three, four. [plays piano] I don’t have the next page. [plays piano] That’s what they do. It’s consonant, it’s in major, it’s high and, most important, the rhythm is very uncomplicated. The notes are long and slow.
So let’s listen to Mozart’s depiction of hell and heaven here. [music playing] Heaven. [music playing] And then he goes back to hell and then back up to heaven — goes back and forth between these two rhythmically very different concepts. Now Mozart died in December, 1791. He wasn’t planning on dying. Actually, his death came rather suddenly and he was working on a requiem that someone had commissioned from him under rather mysterious circumstances and he began to think of it as his own requiem, and indeed, he didn’t actually finish it.
Here, from the Austrian National Library where I was last summer photographing and having a wonderful time, is the last page of the Mozart — that Mozart ever wrote here. This is the “Lacrimosa,” and sort of breaking off — and he doesn’t finish this particular movement. It’s the last movement that he was working on, but he has a student there, Franz Xaver Suessmayr, and Suessmayr was given instructions and probably sketched pages as well, as to how to finish this. So Mozart was able to finish it and it looks — or — excuse me. Suessmayr was able to finish it, and it looks like this.
Here we have a score of it — of the complete piece, and there are just a couple of details that I want to point out here. It begins with what I always hear as a kind of funeral cortege idea. Of course, it’s in minor [plays piano] and the voices will come in, but the bass is going,
And then in the next page he’s going to take that same rising line and assign it to the basses. Then we have a change of text here. “Huic ergo parce, Deus,” “Therefore save, God.” “Parce” — imperative — “save us.” “Pie Jesu, Jesu Domine,” and at that text what he does is shift from this dark minor [plays piano] right over the words “Jesu,” he’s already [plays piano] in a sweet major, and then he’ll work his way back to [plays piano] the minor as the funeral cortege continues, and this time the line will go down instead of rising up. So this goes on for a while.
We’re going to start — we’re going to listen to the entire movement. It runs about our minutes so bear with me here. We’ll run about thirty seconds over as we listen to the “Lacrimosa” out of the “Dies irae” out of the Requiem Mass of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart written in Vienna seventeen 1791. [music playing] Okay. Here we go. [music playing] Okay, cortege. [music playing] Now the basses. [music playing] Now the quiet prayer. [music playing] Change to major. [music playing] Now the modulation — change of key from major to — back to minor as the cortege will start up again and then we — [music playing] A nice clarinet sound there and here comes our cortege with the bass. [music playing] All right. Now just a final close, a cadence. [music playing]
So that’s the last music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his pupil, Suessmayr, and — not to leave you in a somber mood — let’s listen to Louis Armstrong as we go out. Okay? [laughs] Dancing to heaven.
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