Monday, November 29, 2010

Igor Stravinsky - 20th Century ballet Etc... In Three Acts-

Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky (17 June 1882 – 6 April 1971) was a Russian composer, pianist, and conductor.

He is widely acknowledged as one of the most important and influential composers of 20th century music. He was a quintessentially cosmopolitan Russian who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of the century. He became a naturalised French citizen in 1934 and a naturalized US citizen in 1945. In addition to the recognition he received for his compositions, he also achieved fame as a pianist and a conductor, often at the premieres of his works.

Stravinsky's compositional career was notable for its stylistic diversity. He first achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev and performed by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes (Russian Ballets): The Firebird (1910), Petrushka (1911/1947), and The Rite of Spring (1913). The Rite, whose premiere provoked a riot, transformed the way in which subsequent composers thought about rhythmic structure, and was largely responsible for Stravinsky's enduring reputation as a musical revolutionary, pushing the boundaries of musical design.

Act I - L'histoire du soldat Or The Soldier's Tale

Histoire du soldat (sometimes written L'histoire du soldat; translated as The Soldier's Tale) is a 1918 theatrical work "to be read, played, and danced" ("lue, jouée et dansée") set to music by Igor Stravinsky. The libretto, which is based on a Russian folk tale, was written in French by the Swiss universalist writer C.F. Ramuz. It is a parable about a soldier who trades his fiddle to the devil for a book that predicts the future of the economy. The music is scored for a septet of violin, double bass, clarinet, bassoon, cornet (often played on trumpet), trombone, and percussion, and the story is told by three actors: the soldier, the devil, and a narrator, who also takes on the roles of minor characters. A dancer plays the non-speaking role of the princess, and there may also be additional ensemble dancers. The piece was written for small ensemble to compensate for the lack of players due to World War I (since so many were enlisted in the armed services).

Act II - Petrouchka

The libretto was written by Alexandre Benois and Igor Stravinsky. According to Leonard Bernstein on his Young People's Concerts, one of the hallmarks of this ballet and Stravinsky's The Firebird is that there are no divertissements in them; every single dance is firmly integrated into the plotline.

The ballet opens on St. Petersburg's Admiralty Square. In progress is the Shrovetide fair known as Maslenitsa, a Russian carnival before Lent, analogous to Mardi Gras. The people rejoice before the privations of the long fast.

Stravinsky's orchestration and rapidly changing rhythms depict the hustle and bustle of the fair. An organ grinder and two dancing girls entertain the crowd to the popular French song Une Jambe de Bois. Drummers announce the appearance of the Charlatan, who charms the captivated audience. Suddenly, the curtain rises on a tiny theater, as the Charlatan introduces the inert, lifeless puppet figures of Petrushka, a Ballerina and a Moor.

The Charlatan casts a magic spell with his flute. The puppets come to life, leap from their little stage and perform a vigorous Russian Dance among the astounded carnival-goers.

The second scene, after the performance, is set in Petrushka's Cell 'inside' the little theatre. The walls are painted in dark colors and decorated with stars, a half-moon and jagged icebergs or snow-capped mountains. With a resounding crash, the Charlatan kicks Petrushka into this barren cell. We see that Petrushka leads a dismal "life" behind the show curtains. Although Petrushka is a puppet he feels human emotions which include bitterness toward the Charlatan for his imprisonment as well as love for the beautiful Ballerina. All of this is sensitively described by Stravinsky's Expressionist piano breaks. A frowning portrait of his jailer hangs above him as if to remind Petrushka that he is a mere puppet. The infuriated clown-puppet shakes his fists at the Charlatan's stern glare and tries to escape from his cell but fails.

The Ballerina then enters the room. Petrushka ineptly attempts to express his love for her but she rejects his pathetic, self-conscious advances and hastily departs. Petrushka collapses in a melancholic reverie.

In the third scene the audience learns that the Moor leads a much more comfortable "life" than Petrushka. The Moor's room is spacious and lavishly decorated and is painted in bright reds, greens and blues. Rabbits, palm trees and exotic flowers decorate the walls and floor. The Moor reclines on a divan and plays with a coconut, attempting to cut it with his scimitar. When he fails he believes that the coconut must be a god and proceeds to pray to it.

The Charlatan places the Ballerina in the Moor's room. The Ballerina is attracted to the Moor's handsome appearance. She plays a saucy tune on a toy trumpet (represented by a cornet in the original 1911 orchestration) and dances with the Moor.

Petrushka finally breaks free from his cell, and he interrupts the seduction of the Ballerina. Petrushka attacks the Moor but soon realizes he is too small and weak. The Moor beats Petrushka. The clown-puppet flees for his life, with the Moor chasing him, and escapes from the room.

The fourth and final scene returns to the carnival. Some time has passed; it is now early evening. The orchestra introduces a chain of colourful dances as a series of apparently unrelated characters come and go about the stage as snow begins to fall. The first and most prominent is the Wet-Nurses’ Dance, performed to the tune of the folk song "Down the Petersky Road". Then comes a peasant with his dancing bear, followed in turn by a group of a gypsies, coachmen and grooms and masqueraders.

As the merrymaking reaches its peak, a cry is heard from the puppet-theater. Petrushka suddenly runs across the scene, followed by the Moor in hot pursuit brandishing his sword. The crowd is horrified when the Moor catches up with Petrushka and slays him with a single stroke of his blade.

The police question the Charlatan. The Charlatan seeks to restore calm by holding the "corpse" above his head and shaking it to remind everyone that Petrushka is but a puppet.

As night falls and the crowd disperses, the Charlatan leaves, carrying Petrushka's limp body. All of a sudden, Petrushka's ghost appears on the roof of the little theatre, his cry now in the form of angry defiance. Petrushka's spirit thumbs its nose at his tormentor from beyond the wood and straw of his carcass.

Now completely alone, the Charlatan is terrified to see the leering ghost of Petrushka. He runs away whilst allowing himself a single frightened glance over his shoulder. The scene is hushed, leaving the audience to wonder who is "real" and who is not.

Act III - The Rite of Spring

The painter Nicholas Roerich shared his idea with Stravinsky in 1910, his fleeting vision of a pagan ritual in which a young girl dances herself to death. Stravinsky's earliest conception of The Rite of Spring was in the spring of 1910. Stravinsky writes, "... there arose a picture of a sacred pagan ritual: the wise elders are seated in a circle and are observing the dance before death of the girl whom they are offering as a sacrifice to the god of Spring in order to gain his benevolence. This became the subject of The Rite of Spring."

Act III B - The Rite of Spring Disney?

The Rite of Spring from Disney's Fantasia. Stravinsky's ominous score was supposed to be about primitive human rituals, but Disney's animators took a completely different inspiration from it and decided to tell the history of Earth up to the extinction of the dinosaurs. The combination of music and animation is perfect. This first part shows the evolution of Earth before the appearance of life.

For an excellent audio commentary about the impact of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring click Here (Click the Listen Now Tab) 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Wozzek - A. Berg's Expressionist's Opera


....Wozzeck takes Marie into the woods where he kisses her and then kills her with his knife.

Scene 3. A Low Tavern -
He gets drunk in the tavern and flirts with Margret, who sees the blood on his hand.

Scene 4. Forest Path by a Pool-
Wozzeck returns to the murder scene to collect the knife and plans to throw it in the lake. Afraid that he has not hidden it well enough, he wades to the lake and drowns. Hearing him drowning, the doctor and captain come to the scene, and hurry away without lifting a finger.

Scene 5. Street before Marie's Door-
A group of children go off to see Marie's corpse. Her son, who has been riding his hobby horse, rides off after them, too young to understand the implication of his mother's death.

Impressionism and Expressionism - It's not just for anymore-

The Impressionist Movement in Music was a movement in European classical music, mainly in France, that began in the late nineteenth century and continued into the middle of the twentieth century. Like its precursor in the visual arts, musical Impressionism focused on suggestion and atmosphere rather than strong emotion or the depiction of a story as in program music. Musical Impressionism occurred as a reaction to the excesses of the Romantic era. While this era was characterized by a dramatic use of the major and minor scale system, Impressionist music tends to make more use of dissonance and more uncommon scales such as the whole tone scale. Romantic composers also used long forms of music such as the symphony and concerto, while Impressionist composers favored short forms such as the nocturne, arabesque, and prelude.

Musical Impressionism was based in France, and the French composers Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel are generally considered to be the two "great" Impressionists. However, composers are generally not as accurately described by the term "Impressionism" as painters in the genre are. Debussy renounced it, saying, "I am trying to do 'something different' – in a way realities – what the imbeciles call 'impressionism' is a term which is as poorly used as possible, particularly by art critics."[1] Maurice Ravel composed many other pieces that aren't identified as Impressionist. Nonetheless, the term is widely used today to describe the music seen as a reaction to 19th century Romanticism.

Many musical instructions in impressionist pieces are written in French, as opposed to Italian.

Impressionism also gained a foothold in England, where its traits were assimilated by composers such as Ralph Vaughan Williams, Arnold Bax, and Frederick Delius. Vaughan Williams in particular exhibited music infused with Impressionistic gestures--this was not coincidence, as he was a student of Maurice Ravel. Vaughan Williams' music utilizes melodies and harmonies found in English folk music, such as the pentatonic scale and modes, making it perfectly suited to the polarity-breaking ideals of the Impressionist movement, which began moving away from the Major-minor based tonality of the Romantic composers.

The Expressionist Movement in Music is difficult to exactly define. It is, however, one of the most important movements of 20th Century music. The three central figures of musical expressionism are Arnold Schoenberg and his pupils, Anton Webern and Alban Berg, the so-called Second Viennese School.

Musical expressionism is defined in a narrow sense as embracing most of Schoenberg’s post-tonal but pre-twelve-tone music, which is to say that of his "free atonal" period, roughly from 1908 to 1921.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Chapter 18 Vocabulary Test - Monday 11/22/2010

You will have a vocabulary test on Monday 11/22/2010.  This will be a 20 point test that will include matching and some fill in the blank.  Be sure that you are able to use these terms in a sentence.  That, of course, would only make sense.  Proper definitions can be found in the book in chapter 18! This will include all highlighted words in chapter 18. 

Richard Wagner and Romantic Opera (In Three Acts)

Act One: The Ride of the Valkyries -

In the opera-house, the Ride, which takes around eight minutes, begins in the prelude to the Act, building up successive layers of accompaniment until the curtain rises to reveal a mountain peak where four of the eight Valkyrie sisters of Brünnhilde have gathered in preparation for the transportation of fallen heroes to Valhalla. As they are joined by the other four, the familiar tune is carried by the orchestra, while, above it, the Valkyries greet each other and sing their battle-cry. Apart from the song of the Rhinemaidens in Das Rheingold, it is the only ensemble piece in the first three operas of Wagner's Ring cycle. Outside the opera-house, it is usually heard in a purely instrumental version, which may be as short as three minutes.

Act Two: The Leitmotif-

A modern take on the German leitmotif

A leitmotif (sometimes written leit-motif) (from the German Leitmotiv, lit. "leading motif", or perhaps more accurately "guiding motif") is a musical term (though occasionally used in theatre or literature), referring to a recurring theme, associated with a particular person, place, or idea.[1] It is closely related to the musical idea of idée fixe. [2]

In particular such a theme should be 'clearly identified so as to retain its identity if modified on subsequent appearances' whether such modification be in terms of rhythm, harmony, orchestration or accompaniment. It may also be 'combined with other leitmotifs to suggest a new dramatic condition' or development.[3] The term is notably associated with the operas of Richard Wagner, although he was not the originator of the concept.[4]

Although usually a short melody, it can also be a chord progression or even a simple rhythm. Leitmotifs can help to bind a work together into a coherent whole, and also enable the composer to relate a story without the use of words, or to add an extra level to an already present story.

By extension, the word has also been used to mean any sort of recurring theme, (whether or not subject to developmental transformation) in music, literature, or (metaphorically) the life of a fictional character or a real person. It is sometimes also used in discussion of other musical genres, such as instrumental pieces, cinema, and video game music, sometimes interchangeably with the more general category of 'theme'. Such usages typically obscure the crucial aspect of a leitmotif, as opposed to the plain musical motif or theme - that it is transformable and recurs in different guises throughout the piece in which it occurs.

Act Three: Bugs Bunny -

Please Click Here:

What's Opera, Doc? is a 1957 American animated cartoon short in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Chuck Jones for Warner Bros. Cartoons. The Michael Maltese story features Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny through a 6:11 operatic parody of 19th century classical composer Richard Wagner's operas, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung) and Tannhäuser. It is sometimes characterized as a condensed version of Wagner's Ring (also known as the "Ring Cycle"), and its music borrows heavily from the second opera Die Walküre, woven around the standard Bugs-Elmer conflict.

Originally released to theaters by Warner Bros. on July 6, 1957, What's Opera, Doc? features the speaking and singing voices of Mel Blanc as Bugs and Arthur Q. Bryan as Elmer (except for one word dubbed by Blanc). The short is also sometimes informally referred to as ''Kill the Wabbit'' after the line sung by Fudd to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", the opening passage from Act Three of Die Walküre (which is also the leitmotif of the Valkyries). This short is also notable for one of the final performances of Elmer Fudd by Arthur Q. Bryan, who died in 1959.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bedrich Smetena - Ma Vlast (The Moldau)

Vltava, also known by its German name Die Moldau (or The Moldau), was composed between 20 November and 8 December 1874 and was premiered on 4 April 1875. It is about 12 minutes long, and is in the key of E minor.

In this piece, Smetana uses tone painting to evoke the sounds of one of Bohemia's great rivers. In his own words:

The composition describes the course of the Vltava, starting from the two small springs, the Cold and Warm Vltava, to the unification of both streams into a single current, the course of the Vltava through woods and meadows, through landscapes where a farmer's wedding is celebrated, the round dance of the mermaids in the night's moonshine: on the nearby rocks loom proud castles, palaces and ruins aloft. The Vltava swirls into the St John's Rapids; then it widens and flows toward Prague, past the Vyšehrad, and then majestically vanishes into the distance, ending at the Labe (or Elbe, in German.

The piece contains Smetana's most famous tune. It is an adaptation of the melody La Mantovana, attributed to the Italian renaissance tenor Giuseppe Cenci (also known as Giuseppino),[3] which, in a borrowed Moldovan form, was also the basis for the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah. The tune also appears in major in an old folk Czech song Kočka leze dírou ("The Cat Crawls Through the Hole") and Hans Eisler used it for his "Song of the Moldau".

Romantic Music and Nationalism

Excerpted from the Modern History Source Book  at

Nationalism was the most successful political force of the 19th century.  It emerged from two main sources: the Romantic exaltation of "feeling" and "identity" and the Liberal requirement that a legitimate state be based on a "people" rather than, for example, a dynasty, God, or imperial domination. Both Romantic "identity nationalism" and Liberal "civic nationalism" were essentially middle class movements. There were two main ways of exemplification: the French method of "inclusion" - essentially that anyone who accepted loyalty to the civil French state was a "citizen". In practice this meant the enforcement of a considerable degree of uniformity, for instance the destruction of regional languages.  The German method, required by political circumstances, was to define the "nation" in ethnic terms. Ethnicity in practice came down to speaking German and sometimes just having a German name. For the largely German-speaking Slavic middle classes of Prague, Agram (Zagreb) etc. who took up the nationalist ideal, the ethnic aspect became even more important than it had been for the Germans.
It was only later in the 19th century that nationalism spread to Slavic countries, some of which which had been effectively dead as political entities for centuries, and where languages survived only as peasant tongues. Among these groups nationalism tended to develop and change in similar ways among each people.
The music here illustrates one common line developments:- generally from a "cultural nationalism" to a more overtly political "liberal nationalism", and then, all to often, to an exclusivist "triumphal nationalism".  It is presented in order of stages rather than in order of date of composition. At any given moment, nationalist movements were often at different stages in different countries.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Der Erlkong-

Who rides there so late through the night dark and drear?
The father it is, with his infant so dear;
He holdeth the boy tightly clasp'd in his arm,
He holdeth him safely, he keepeth him warm.

"My son, wherefore seek'st thou thy face thus to hide?"
"Look, father, the Erl King is close by our side!
Dost see not the Erl King, with crown and with train?"
"My son, 'tis the mist rising over the plain."

"Oh, come, thou dear infant! oh come thou with me!
For many a game I will play there with thee;
On my beach, lovely flowers their blossoms unfold,
My mother shall grace thee with garments of gold."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not hear
The words that the Erl King now breathes in mine ear?"
"Be calm, dearest child, thy fancy deceives;
the wind is sighing through withering leaves."

"Wilt go, then, dear infant, wilt go with me there?
My daughters shall tend thee with sisterly care
My daughters by night on the dance floor you lead,
They'll cradle and rock thee, and sing thee to sleep."

"My father, my father, and dost thou not see,
How the Erl King is showing his daughters to me?"
"My darling, my darling, I see it alright,
'Tis the aged grey willows deceiving thy sight."

"I love thee, I'm charm'd by thy beauty, dear boy!
And if thou aren't willing, then force I'll employ."
"My father, my father, he seizes me fast,
For sorely the Erl King has hurt me at last."

The father now gallops, with terror half wild,
He holds in his arms the shuddering child;
He reaches his farmstead with toil and dread,—
The child in his arms lies motionless, dead.

F. Schubert - The begining of the Romantic period-

Franz Peter Schubert: (January 31, 1797 – November 19, 1828) was an Austrian composer.
Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies (including the famous "Unfinished Symphony"), liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music. Appreciation of his music during his lifetime was limited, but interest in Schubert's work increased dramatically in the decades following his death at the age of 31. Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms and Felix Mendelssohn, among others, discovered and championed his works in the 19th Century. Today, Schubert is admired as one of the leading exponents of the early Romantic era in music and he remains one of the most frequently performed composers.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter 18 - Sonata Allegro Form -

Musical form is nothing new. Many modern composers, like Eric Whitacre, tend to write pieces that don't follow a set form, but that's because modern composers are pretty weird that way.

You're all already familiar with the concept.  Popular music has verses, bridges, choruses, an introduction, etc. You all instinctively know when the chorus is coming up in a song, just because you're all so familiar with pop music form. Poetry, too, has form:

My candle burns at both ends,
It will not last the night.
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends,
It gives a lovely light!

~Edna St. Vincent Milay

If you look at the poem, you'd say its rhyme scheme was ABAB, since "ends" rhymes with "friends" (lines 1 and 3, respectively) and "night" rhymes with "light" (lines 2 and 4, respectively). Likewise, when I use A and B when talking about musical form, it's the same idea.

The first form I'd like to show you is alternatively called Sonata Allegro form, Sonata form, or First Movement form, because it's the form most commonly used for the first movement of symphonies. Here's basically what Sonata Allegro form looks like:

Introduction - A - B - C - A - B - C - !!!OMG!!! - A - B - C

Don't worry, that will makes sense in just a little bit; I've got a recording here to show you what I mean.

Here's the first movement from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It's the freaky butterfly one from Fantasia 2000, although I guarantee you'll all recognize it from the first four notes:

A-B-C, A-B-C, !!!OMG!!!, A-B-C

0:06 - 0:13 -- Told you you knew this piece! This is the introduction.

0:13 - 0:28 -- This is A, the first theme, and the start of what's called the Exposition. Like you're being "exposed" to the themes.

0:28 - 0:49 -- This is, essentially, the " - " between A and B.

0:49 - 0:59 -- Here's B. B is usually very peaceful, quiet, delicate, and happy sounding.

0:59 - 1:12 -- And here's the " - " between B and C! Isn't it cool how B just blended right into " - "?

1:12 - 1:20 -- Here's C! Usually, C is the end of the Exposition (the Exposition is "A - B - C"), but Beethoven decides, for good measure, to do just a little bit more before he finishes the exposition:

1:20 - 1:28 -- Beethoven decides to wrap up the Exposition by tossing in some stuff that sounds similar to A. Now we're officially done with the Exposition! Know what that means?

It means we're going to do it all over again!

1:29 - 1:36 -- Sounds exactly like the Introduction at 0:06, doesn't it?

1:37 - 1:53 -- Here's A!

1:53 - 2:14 -- Here's the bridge to B! Sounds familiar now, hmm?

2:14 - 2:24 -- And here's B! Right up until the flute finishes his nice little solo.

2:24 - 2:37 -- Bridge to C.

2:37 - 2:46 -- Here's C!

2:46 - 2:53 -- And here's that cute little ending Beethoven added in, which means we've finished the Exposition for a second time!

Now comes the !!!OMG!!! part. This is what's called the Development. In the Development, the composer takes fragments and pieces out of the Exposition and just plays around with them. It also has a tendency to be very dark, and to feel like you're lost in the woods or something. It can also be kinda intense, edgy, or dissonant. The Development is (to give the textbook answer) "characterized by tonal instability and fragmentation".

It'll be like you're lost in the woods, hearing little bits and pieces of the Exposition being thrown at you.

2:55 - 2:59 -- See? It sounds like the Introduction... but kinda... different...

3:00 - 3:08 -- ... sounds just like A. I thought you said the Development would be different?

3:08 - 3:31 -- Right at 3:08 you should be like,  What's going on? Where are we going? Am I gonna hear B? WHERE AM I?! WHAT'S HAPPENING?!

3:31 -- Is it... B...? It sort of is...

4:04 -- That's... kinda like the beginning of B and the Introduction... What's happening?

4:17 - 4:25 -- OMG! It's the Introduction again! It's so huge and triumphant, like we've just left the forest and found civilization again!

This is what's called the Recapitulation. Basically, it's the Exposition one last time... but with a few differences.

4:25 - 4:36 -- Here's A again, just like before!

4:36 - 4:50 -- Wait... oboe solo? That wasn't in the Exposition, was it? The biggest difference between the Exposition and the Recapitulation is that the " - "s are going to be very different.

4:50 - 5:11 -- Well, here's the old " - " between A and B.

5:11 - 5:23 -- Whee! It's B, and it's virtually unchanged, except now the violins are playing it instead of the clarinet and flute.

5:23 - 5:37 -- And here's the " - " between B and C, just like we remember it!

5:37 - 5:46 -- It's C!

5:46 - 5:54-- And here's the little ending that Beethoven put at the end of the Exposition. Piece is over, time to clap and go home!

5:54 -- ... wait... he's still going? Wasn't it supposed to end right there...?

"Screw you," Beethoven is saying, musically, "I'm not done yet!"

Now, if you're interested in knowing what my absolute favorite part of this entire piece is, it's right here, from 6:09 - 6:33, specifically.

So there you go. Exposition - Exposition - Development - Recapitulation. Or, more simply, ABC - ABC - OMG - ABC.

Chapter 18 - The Classical Period - The Concerto

Mitsuko Uchida plays piano and Jeffrey Tate conducts the Mozarteum Orchestra in Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 9 "Jeunehomme", in E flat major, K. 271.
A Saltzburg Festival performance, recorded in the Mozarteum, Saltzburg, 1989.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed this concerto in Salzburg, 1777. Though only 21 years old, he displayed great maturity and originality in what is regarded by many as his first great masterpiece.

It was composed for a Mlle. Jeunehomme, of whom very little is known (such as--her first name!). But she must have been a very fine pianist to be able to perform this! The mix of dramatic and intense emotions, some seemingly mad and anguished with parts of joy and happiness suggest (one romantically feels) that Mlle. Jeunehomme must have been quite a handful for the young Mozart.