MUSI 112: Listening to Music
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MUSI 112 - Lecture 23 - Review of Musical Style
Chapter 1. Introduction [00:00:00]
Professor Craig Wright: All right. Let’s proceed with our discussion of musical style. And this is going to be mostly a comparison of musical style in different style periods. And we’ve put the titles of those style periods up on the board there. Once again, this is a typically Western exercise that we are dealing with here. We love to organize material so that we can simplify it and we can deal with it — whether it’s attributing to an individual, things that a large number of people do, whether it’s grouping random units of pulses into meter, or whether it’s taking a highly complex group of phenomena and putting them particular style periods, we like to do that because it allows us to deal with the material in some kind of organized fashion. So we’ve got our various periods up here. As mentioned though, we won’t going into the post-modernist in any significant way here.
Now what you’ll be asked to do is identify the period in which a particular piece is written, and if it turns out that on our final test, we happen to play for you a piece that’s on the list of pieces that we give you, then you’re responsible for identifying the name of the composer and the name of the piece. If the piece we play is not on your list, then all you would be asked to do is identify the style period. However, you’re asked to do something even more important than that and that’s to tell us why it’s in this particular style period. It does no good — I don’t think — just to say “Romantic” and then going to walk away from it. What I would ask you to do is give us three or four specific points that you hear in the music that corroborate your decision with regard to the style period.
Now, you may wish to take a look at your textbook there, around page sixty-seven, sixty-eight, sixty-nine, where there’s an introduction to musical style and a checklist, as I call it — checklist of musical style by period. And that’ll kind of get you thinking in these sorts of ways. The Baroque music, for example, tends to have rather long, asymmetrical themes but very driving sorts of rhythm. So you could learn that checklist for each of these periods, but the important thing is that when we play the music you have got to hear in that music that particular phenomenon or characteristic that you list on your group of three or four factors that lead you to your conclusion. For example, you may recognize the piece of be — as being of the Romantic period and say that it has lots of low brass in it. It may not have any low brass in the music we’re playing at all, so that wouldn’t be doing very much for us there. So we want to hear the music and we want to take things out of the music that we’re actually hearing.
So maybe we’ll start with a piece here. Now what we’ve got is a series of six, seven — depends on how many you want this morning — particular pieces chosen to exemplify these various style periods.
Chapter 2. Identifying Different Musical Styles [00:03:48]
Now, what are you going to be listening for here? I was thinking about that this morning. What’s the most important thing when trying to identify style? What will allow you to get to the answer quickest? What do you think it is? What are you going to be listening for? Let’s go back to the radio in the car business — or you suddenly turn on some sort of streaming FM, middle of the piece. What is it that’s going to give you the most information? Roger.
Professor Craig Wright: Instruments, right, absolutely. Okay. It’s the instruments, because if you hear lots of percussion and xylophones and things such as that banging away in a dissonant fashion, those instruments just weren’t there in time of Mozart, for example, so you know it’s got to be probably late nineteenth-century and on.
So instrumentation is the single most important factor, but some instruments are common to many different periods. The piano operated roughly from when to when? If you hear a piano, what does that tell you about the time period of the music that you’re — classical music that you’re listening to? It’s got to be roughly after what? After — or after who? When did the piano really become the principal keyboard instrument in Western culture? Roughly 1770 or so, 1760, 1770. As I’ve said, Mozart was the first to really use the piano exclusively, so if you hear a piano, it can’t be Renaissance or medieval; it can’t be Baroque. It could be Classical, Romantic, Impressionist, or Modern, and then on the basis of other things you would come to a conclusion about the style period.
What might something else be? Roger, with the help of Caroline there, was able to tell us that instrumentation was very important here. After instrumentation, what is it that we might be listening for? Marcus.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Yeah, the volume, the size of it. That in some way — Yeah. So, specifically speaking, it’s not just the instruments. It could be volume as well and the later — what’s the pinnacle in terms of volume? What would you say? Is it all just a straight-line ascent to present day in terms of volume? When’s the biggest orchestra around? We talked about that. Marcus.
Student: It was Romantic.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Romantic. Can you refine it any further than that?
Student: Late Romantic.
Professor Craig Wright: Late Romantic, Mahler, Strauss, that kind of thing. Mahler wrote a “Symphony of a Thousand,” he called it. He had almost a thousand performers in it. So it’s late nineteenth, early twentieth century, and then it sort of, in an odd way, declines thereafter. So volume is important.
Just to move things along here, I think the harmony is important too, and you can pick out, sometimes, chords, not necessarily the specific chords, but does it kind of sound plain vanilla harmony or does it sound a little bit surprising, or — not shocking, but bracing, unexpected? Well, the more unexpected it becomes probably the later you are, the more into the Romantic period you are.
And most importantly I think, maybe even more important than that, is the element of consonance versus dissonance. When do we begin to get a heavy component of dissonance in high art music in the West? Classical period? Romantic period? Impressionist period? A little bit. Yeah, I see Kristin. Well, maybe. Okay? Yeah. So a little bit in the Impressionist period and then heavy in the Modernist period, and then it actually backs down in the Post-modern period, but we’re not going there. Roger.
Professor Craig Wright: Good point. It can be present in Medieval music, so in an odd way, yeah. The notion of consonant harmonies really didn’t get formed until the fifteenth century so if you’re listening to things before the fifteenth century, sometimes you can find rather bracing and biting dissonance in Medieval music, and then it sort of smoothed itself out for five hundred years.
Okay. So I think we have our first selection queued now so let’s just listen to this, and these are going to be rather long as they will be in the test. [music playing]
So we’ve heard that much. Right off the bat, some things should be ruled out. So what do we want to rule out here? Douglas in the back. Pick — and I’m going to cold call people today. Yes, Doug. What would we rule out there?
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Classical. Mozart, Haydn, even Beethoven. We would rule out classical, and in ruling out classical, that sort of wipes out what? Basically everything else before. So it can’t be anything after — excuse me — before — well, it can’t be anything really before 1800, so we’ll start with Romantic. So, still in the game here: Romantic, Impressionist and Modernist. Any thoughts about that: Romantic, Impressionist, Modern? Caroline. I don’t — just tell me — don’t tell me the — what you think the answer is. Just tell me what you heard there.
Professor Craig Wright: Louder, please.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. So may — possibly some strange-sounding scales and some bells you said? What were — did you hear — what else did you — a big orchestra, a little orchestra?
Professor Craig Wright: I beg your pardon. Huge orchestra? Huge orchestra and huge sound. Okay? So where does that put us in the spectrum here, 1800-2000? Well, we talked about that. Probably around 1900 or so, with an orchestra that big, and you heard voices in it, which is interesting to comment on also. So then you might ask yourself, “Well, is this Beethoven?” Well, it’s too big for Beethoven. It’s too — there’s too much of it. It’s too rich for Beethoven. Is it Wagner? It’s probably even too rich for Wagner; it’s just bigger. So we’re pushing on here after 1850. Let’s listen to a bit more and — because the excerpts that we will have on next Wednesday will be longer. Let’s listen to a bit more and see if we can gather some information here. [music playing] What are we hearing there? A very important piece of information there. What was that? What instrument was playing? Oboe was playing. Daniel.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. They had the melody, and what about that melody? How did it go? [plays piano] What’s that? Yes, Kristin’s got it out there. Nice and loud, please.
Professor Craig Wright: It’s an ostinato. So what does that tell us if we’re trying — which one of the three of these style periods does that knock out of the box: Romantic, Impressionist or Modern? We talked about that in a lecture on Impressionism, but by the same token, your Listening Exercise forty-two on Stravinsky foregrounded precisely this phenomenon of ostinato. So there we have Romantic being taken out of the mix here and this idea of stasis is not part of the aesthetic of Romanticism. Romantic flows, it grows, it expands, it contracts, but it doesn’t constantly reiterate one phenomenon. So we — we’re down to Impressionist or Modern here. Let’s go on and listen to just a little bit more. [music playing] So what did we hear there? Anything more that we could add to our list of identifiers? Oscar.
Professor Craig Wright: Good. Parallel motion, [sings]. Those woodwinds were all going up and down in the same direction, parallel motion. Excellent. There’s one other thing here. At the very end we heard what played by a harp? Caroline.
Professor Craig Wright: A glissando, that kind of wash. So based on that, obviously we are dealing with a piece of Impressionist music. This is Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe, ballet music for one of those Diaghilev ballets that we were talking about in section last time.
So what would we say here? Well, we would say large, colorful orchestra. Actually, there was also the use of the human voice here which we heard in Debussy as well. We would say also that it’s essentially a consonant and not a dissonant — essentially a consonant environment. We would say that we have parallel motion, as Oscar pointed out. We would say that we have, possibly — if you wanted to throw this in — scales that are not traditional — although that’s a little bit hard to hear — but certainly we had the glissando. So if you’re looking for four sound bites here or four bullet points to put on your paper: large, colorful orchestra, consonant backdrop, parallelism, and — what did we say? The glissando at the very end. And you’re finished, you’re out, you get a hundred percent. Okay. So that’s piece number one and that’s sort of the thought process that I hope you would use while working through this particular exercise.
Chapter 3. Review of Gregorian Chants [00:17:37]
Ok, let’s stop there. That’s a good example of what? Chant, just Gregorian chant, [sings] chant incipit there. [music playing] [sings] That’s really beautiful. It’s weird, but it’s beautiful. That’s a setting of — well, you tell me what period it comes from. I’m going to move — skip around a little bit. Let me go to Emily, please, behind.
Student: Medieval and Renaissance.
Professor Craig Wright: Medieval and Renaissance. We had chant there and on the same CD we have an example of — this is actually sort of right between the two. It’s written by Thomas Tallis in England, but England was sort of slow to catch up to the Renaissance, so it’s late Medieval, early Renaissance. What specifically did we hear here that leads you to that conclusion? Jennifer? Jessica. Sorry. What?
Professor Craig Wright: Angela. Sorry. Okay.
Student: We heard multiple [inaudible]
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. We heard multiple unaccompanied voices. What kind of texture was being employed there?
Student: Mostly polyphonic.
Professor Craig Wright: Mostly polyphonic, and we said within the textures we had imitative and non-imitative polyphonic textures. Was this imitative or non-imitative?
Professor Craig Wright: Everybody agree with that? Anyone disagree with it? Some people are shaking their head. It was non-imitative — or no — excuse me — it was imitative. If I had time to play it again, you could hear one voice would come in, [sings] and then somebody else would come in, [sings] and then the third voice and the fourth voice, but you’re right to say multiple voices unaccompanied. So you sort of get two points for that, and what do we call that unaccompanied style?
Professor Craig Wright: Yeah. So — but we don’t get a separate point for a cappella. Unaccompanied a cappella style would be one marker there. The idea of imitative voices would be another. You might even pick up on the text, I suppose — that it’s in what language? Latin, yeah. What else there? That it’s not particularly rhythmic. No strong rhythms or meters. It flows gently like Gregorian chant, and, as mentioned, we have this texture that’s not only polyphonic but highly imitative, and those are all hallmarks of late Medieval, Renaissance music. That particular piece was written by an English composer, Thomas Tallis, but more interesting, in a way, it’s a setting of the old “Lamentations of Jeremiah” out of the Old Testament that laments the fall of Jerusalem. So it’s a particularly dark, heartfelt text and exquisitely set there in that Renaissance vocal style.
Chapter 4. Listening Exercises for Modernist and Classical Music [00:22:56]
Let’s go on to another one now. [music playing] Sometimes you can figure this out in about three seconds. It doesn’t take much more than that. So with just that, and we’ll be playing a lot more than three seconds — many minutes and, depending upon the particular piece, probably more than once. So what did you hear there? And we may go back and hear just that much. What did you hear there? Let’s talk about what you heard and then we’ll conclude about the period in question. So someone get us started. Nicole.
Student: A lot of percussion.
Professor Craig Wright: A lot of percussion. Okay. Very — definitely, particularly the tympani. Marcos.
Professor Craig Wright: A lot of dissonance. That was very prominent. It started out okay. It could have been a kind of John Williams “Star Wars” type sound up until the — about the third iteration of one particular figure, but the level at — the pitches at which it was brought in produced a very dissonant moment there. So initially you say, “Oh, maybe John Williams and Romanticism knockoff kind of thing,” but when that dissonant enters, then that takes you in to a slightly different realm. Daniel.
Student: There’s a lot of blaring brass, and it’s kind of in a percussive way.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. A lot of brass, and even if they were not percussion instruments, those instruments were being used in a kind of percussive, in-your-face way. Yeah. So those are three good things. Roger, you got another one?
Student: There were lots of ostinatos.
Professor Craig Wright: I beg your pardon.
Student: Lots of —
Professor Craig Wright: Yes, there were lots of ostinatos right at the beginning. I almost forgot about that, and may have only been just two notes going back and forth. So already we’ve got our four, and maybe that’s all we need. Let’s listen to just the — it’s not a long excerpt. Let’s listen to the beginning of this again. [music playing] Could be Romanticism [music playing] with that entry right there, very dissonant [music playing] and the ostinatos of course. Percussion, [music playing] dissonance, more dissonance, [music playing] brasses as percussion instruments, [music playing] more percussion, pounding dissonance. [music playing] And a lot of Modern music has a kind of intensity to it: “Stop. I give up.” Okay? “I surrender.” It’s got that element to it. There’s an intensity to it here so that could be even a fifth component in our thinking.
So all of this leads us to the conclusion that this is a piece of twentieth-century music by the woman composer Ellen Zwilich, and you have Ellen Zwilich of course as the basis of your Listening Exercise forty-five that you’ve done. This is simply another piece called “Celebration.” It’s a pretty — so far a pretty intense celebration by Ellen Zwilich written in 1984, so it’s a fairly recent piece of music in the Modernist style — not Post-modernist, but Modernist. Okay. Well, I’m going to — I think variety is always useful in life. I’m going to — and I asked Lynda yesterday, “Lynda, you prepare a piece and — but don’t tell me what it is ‘cause I want to go through the same thought processes that other people have.” So Lynda has prepared a piece, and I don’t know whether she’s going to use the piano or whether she’s going to use the audio player. [music playing]
Lynda: What are you hearing? Who has any thoughts on this?
Student: Regular meter.
Lynda: Regular meter. All right, that’s a very good, important point for this particular meter. What else? What kinds of instruments?
Student: A lot of strings in the foreground.
Lynda: Uh huh, strings in the foreground, so this means we have, probably, an orchestra of — what — well, okay. Before we get there — okay. Strings in the foreground in this particular ensemble. Can anybody tell us what the solo instrument was?
Lynda: Right, bassoon!
Professor Craig Wright: [laughs] What a coincidence. [laughs]
Lynda: So we’ve got regular meter, strings in the foreground, a solo instrument. What might you say about the relationship between the solo instrument and the bigger ensembles? I think it may be pretty obvious but —
Student: I guess [inaudible]
Lynda: That’s true. There seems to be at about a similar level. It doesn’t seem like the ensemble is very big and you have them playing one after the other, which is a characteristic of something that we learned about. Rhythmically, this goes with meter, is it regular, irregular? Pretty regular. You could tap your foot to it. You could hear a melody. I’ll just play a couple more seconds. [music playing] So the solo instrument is playing something kind of simple or something kind of virtuosic, impressive? It’s pretty impressive. You should hear lots of little trills and weeping all over the place? It’s showing off and this is a feature of something we learned about. So who would like to guess what period we’re in —
Student: Romantic [inaudible]
Lynda: Close, yeah. Yeah, I guess I can see why you might — why might you say Romantic?
Lynda: Which makes me realize that it can’t always fall inside of the orchestra. Sometimes it’s better to listen for some of the more abstract features, such as what the orchestra is doing. The harmonies, how about the harmonic language? Is it pretty surprising or a little more expected? Maybe it’s just — maybe it’s something that’s going to help you zero in a little bit more. Yeah, pretty expected, not very surprising harmonies Does anybody else have another —
Lynda: Little bows tied up at the end of a phrase. What does that suggest to you?
Student: A cadence.
Lynda: A cadence. Very good, [laughs] which is very strong in what period?
Lynda: Classical. Yeah. These things do happen in other periods, but this is sort of a quintessential classical, very particular genre. Does anybody know what genre we’re in?
Lynda: Concerto. Exactly, so this would be Mozart’s “Bassoon Concerto.” Who knew that Mozart wrote a bassoon concerto? It’s one of the bassoonist’s biggest pieces in the repertoire. He felt the bassoon was sort of amusing instrument; that’s why he wrote a lot of leaps in it. He felt it sounded like a clown. Anyway, so that’s a concerto example for you which is not piano or violin. Yeah.
Chapter 5. Distinguishing Classical and Romantic Music [00:32:25]
Student: What is the main difference between Romantic and Classical?
Lynda: That is a great question. I wonder if I ought to defer to Professor Wright.
Professor Craig Wright: Well, let’s work through this together.
One we have been all over this morning, and that is the size of the orchestra, and we talked when we had the lecture on nineteenth-century orchestral music, how all of these instruments come in. So in Romantic music the orchestra has many more and many varied instruments in it ranging from top piccolo down to middle English horn down to bottom contrabass, bassoon, tuba and things like that. So it’s the orchestra, particularly low brasses and that kind of sound, that typifies the sound generally for orchestral music in the nineteenth century.
Then, whereas Daniel was talking about bow tie, they’re tied together, you don’t — what he was intimating there perhaps was that we have this kind of paired phrasing or neat little units of phrasing that can be tied together. That’s a component of Classical music.
As you go into the Romantic period, the themes, the melodies, become much more expansive, and someone I think said earlier on here it has — maybe the first point was there’s pretty regular meter in this particular piece of Classical music by Mozart, the “Mozart Bassoon Concerto,” K. 191. Is that right? And so the regularity of the themes and the balance and symmetry is part and parcel of the Classical period.
You move into the Romantic. You have expansive themes, but by way of contradistinction there, then the rhythm becomes not necessarily more flaccid, but more loose, and we talked about this phenomenon of rubato, for example. So flexible rhythms, flexible tempos, less clear meters in the Romantic period.
And, not to overdo it, but maybe this idea of just “beautiful melody,” and it is of course in the nineteenth century that we get the whole idea of the bel canto sound. Anybody read Rothstein’s — no — Anthony Tommasini’s article that I pointed you to about bel canto? He said, “Actually, the beginning of that starts back with the composers of piano music of that same period and then the opera composers begin to go into it.”
So who wrote this? [plays piano] A lovely melody, huh? Isn’t that beautiful? Well, the whole idea of beautiful melody — yeah, Mozart wrote a lot of beautiful melodies too. So did Bach. But somehow, “beautiful melody,” this warm, rich melody, is very important in Romantic music. So this is a good example of [plays piano] kind of rich harmonies, a broader palette and — than the classical period.
I could play one other piece here just to differentiate Romantic piano music from this sound. [plays piano] So that’s a piece by Mozart. You could say that the melody is just as beautiful. That’s a gorgeous melody too. That’s lovely. You could use that as film music just as well as you could the other piece. So the first piece that I played [plays piano] [sings] is by — any takers on that, who — piano music of the nineteenth century? Anybody — if you’ve peeked through the textbook — Thaddeus.
Professor Craig Wright: Good. Yeah, Chopin — Frederic Chopin, so that’s a classic — quintessential moment of Chopin that’s become a classic. Indeed it became a kind of — Judy Garland used to sing this, “I’m Forever Chasing Rainbows.” It got turned into a pop song in the twentieth century because it’s such a drop-dead beautiful melody, but the difference here is the — in the pianos the terms of expansion. Here is the Chopin sound [plays piano]. Here is the — and the chords, sometime they go [plays piano], sort of interesting harmonic shifts, but the Mozart by comparison is very plain harmonically [plays piano] and very limited in terms of the range and limited somewhat in terms of the texture. What kind of bass is this? We’re talking about how we identify style. All you really have to do is listen to about one second of this [plays piano]. Well, I know what that is. That has to be what? Emily.
Professor Craig Wright: That’s an Alberti bass and Alberti bass is used only in what period of music history? Classical. Okay? So you hear that and it’s got to be in a forty-year period, roughly 1770 to 1810 or so, and then they stopped using it. How do you know that this is specifically Mozart? This is above and beyond the pale. The — if put down Beethoven for this, it’d be great. If you put down Haydn for this it would be great; Schubert for this would be great; Mozart for this it would be great. How we do know it’s Mozart? There’s one little moment here [plays piano] that when he takes that line and nobody else would have [plays piano]. He loves to do that. What did he do there? He inserted what? [plays piano] What kind of scale is that? [plays piano] Yeah. Emily says chromatic. So he inserted just a little bit of chromaticism there and that’s a fingerprint of Mozart so that — we’re parsing this out a little bit more fine than we need do, but that’s the — kind of the next step on this. Okay. Where are we?
Let’s do one more piece. Anybody want to ask a question while we’re queuing this up? Oscar.
Student: Just the idea of the use of ostinato music in Modern music. [inaudible]
Professor Craig Wright: Beethoven wouldn’t really use so much of an ostinato as he would just sit there — I see your point though — on one chord and kind of hammer you over the head with that, but I — that’s an — it’s a good point. It’s more sophisticated in a way that we need get into in here, but I wouldn’t say Beethoven uses ostinato so much as iteration. And admittedly it’s a fine line between ostinato and iteration but kind of sitting on something and just kind of repeating that — maybe that chord — over and over and over again in a way that Mozart or Schubert, being fundamentally constructors of melody, wouldn’t necessarily do.
Professor Craig Wright: Okay. Yeah, that’s true. You could look upon the — that [sings] as an ostinato, but people don’t normally do that, but that’s just fine and dandy. It may be something particular to Beethoven rather than the era generally, but yes, you’re right about that, so good for you. Oscar: one, Craig: nothing at this point. Any other question? All right. Let’s go on.
Chapter 6. Final Exercise and Conclusion [00:41:29]
We’ll hear one last piece and then I’ll let you go although it’s a fairly long one. Any other questions as we — Angela, go ahead.
Professor Craig Wright: Well, you could use him as a swing player. In other words, if you hear a piece that you think is Beethoven and you put that down as Classical that’s fine. If you put that down as Romantic, that’s fine too. [music playing]
Now there should be one thing there that’s a dead giveaway in terms of period, and what would that be? Zach.
Student: The harpsichord.
Professor Craig Wright: The harpsichord, okay, because we’ve said before that really the harpsichord doesn’t get much in the way of legs in the history of music until the Baroque period and then it disappears as it’s replaced by the piano, for the most part, in the Classical period. So the Baroque period is all — it can be readily identified here simply by the presence of the harpsichord. But what else did we hear in these admittedly very short excerpts?
Well, let’s go back to the beginning, then, and listen to the rhythm. [music playing] Could you dance or march to this? [music playing] It sounds like almost a pompous entry of some kind. You can see the king coming in to court or something [music playing]. So, highly regular rhythm here, and this rhythm and this particular sound goes on and goes unchanged for about a minute and thirty-five seconds or so, and that’s another aspect of this — not only regular rhythm but a regular ethos in the music of the Baroque period.
Now let’s listen to this last component here and then we’ll stop with this. [music playing] So what are we hearing here and why is this further evidence of music coming from the Baroque period? Mary Pat.
Student: It’s a fugue.
Professor Craig Wright: It’s a fugue, okay, and we studied the fugue and we said the fugue came into being in the Baroque period, principally under the aegis of J.S. Bach. So there we’ve got our four bullet points or four pieces of supporting evidence for the conclusion that we came to rather early on, as Zach pointed out, by the presence of the harpsichord there.
Any final questions before we stop? If not, I have a request. You may have heard that unfortunately our good friend, Richard Lalli, has had a serious medical issue that he is dealing with. And he was — he is always such a wonderful guy and this was going to be the highlight of his career. He was going to take over the mastership of Jonathan Edwards College and unfortunately this happened. So I’d be very grateful to you — and we’ve got a couple of get well cards out there and Richard is always very much interested in our Yale students, and it would be great if on the way out, you would be good enough to sign your name there on those cards and we’ll be sure that they get over to Richard. Okay. Thanks very much and I’ll see you next Wednesday, six days from now.
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