The concept of Music as a Mirror of its Time is the thread that connects the musical eras discussed in this course and effective way to follow musical development by studying it in relation to the events and influences that shaped he history of the times. It is clear that music was used as a tool ranging from religious ceremony to self-expression. This paper will walk thought history, musical development and composers that represented the major eras in European concert music.
We begin with the Middle Ages, the period of time between DADA and ADDED, which is rather divided by the Dark Ages, roughly between DADA and ADDED and the High Middle Ages between ADDED and 1400 AD. The Dark Ages was a time when all progress and technology developed during the classical Greek and Roman periods was lost. Europe was isolated from the outside world. The Church was all-powerful and the role of music was centered it. The music during the Dark Ages was monophonic in texture consisting of a single melody without any accompanying harmony. Music was simply used as a tool religious ceremony and not a form of expression.
The most common music of the age was plainsong or plainchant, which insisted of a single unaccompanied vocal melody. Plainchant was usually composed anonymously and for the Church. The High Middle Ages was marked by the re-introduction of techniques and technologies included improvements in farming and agriculture and well as a marked improvement in public safety. The result was increased trade and the establishment and growth of cities. The music of this period while still influenced by the Church, developed and evolved into Polyphonic texture consisting of two or more principle melodies heard simultaneously.
As this music grew in complexity, it had to be written and thus darted the development of musical notation and the concept of the composer. An example of an early polyphonic work is the Alleluia Paschal Nostrum by Leonine, composed around ADDED. The work is considered in the style of Florid Organ. An Organ combined plainchant with the voices of man. This music was a mirror of its time marking the importance and the influence of the Church in everyday life as well as celebrating the rediscovery of knowledge that was lost during the dark ages. The Renaissance saw a reemergence of European culture during the period from ADDED to ADDED.
Inspired by the classical ages of Greece and Rome, the period as marked by world exploration and conquests, new technologies such as the printing press as well the decline of the absolute power of the Church. The music stressed clear articulation of the words by using Word Painting to intensify the meaning of the words. The musical texture was homophobic and included a melody, bass line and inner voices. While this period saw the emergence of secular music as well as a decline in the influence of the Church, religion was still a major inspiration for music.
Religious works of the Renaissance period included Giovanni Palestinians Music as a Mirror of its Time By ceaselessness Thomas Wilkes madrigal, As Vests was from Lattes Hill Descending from 1601. Music of the renaissance reflected the times by balancing secular and religious importance while celebrating the reawakening of the arts and discovery of the larger world. The Baroque Era, spanning the years from ADDED to ADDED was marked by great discoveries in science, architecture, literature and philosophy as well as further decreases in the power of the church and increased acculturation.
Baroque music brought forth a duality of elements that stood in tension, that is, the music was highly utilized and extravagant while based in carefully controlled and tempered rhythms. The music mirrored the times, as this duality theme was evident throughout all art and design of the period, ornate and detailed yet rational and orderly. The quintessential composer of Baroque music Johann Sebastian Bach with compositions representing both secular and religious themes such as the Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F Major of 1721 and Mass in B Minor, Sanctum “Hosanna 1745.
These works conveyed energetic rhythms with a dance like qualities with a melody full of embellishment and detail. The Classical Era, spanned the dates from 1750 to 1827, and was a musical style that was born out of The Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, (173()-1780) was a period in history when the aristocracy and clergy’s influences in society diminish as the new middle class grew from the emergence of the Industrial Revolution. The emergence of the middle class into a position of power had a profound influence on the times as they sought to be educated and wanted an end to social injustice.
Musically the Classical Era began a shift from complex polyphonic melodies of the Baroque too more natural musical expression. This is illustrated by Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in C Minor of 1799 a homophobic work which focuses on the principal voice. Other differences between Baroque and Classical music include Classical linear nature and the use of graded dynamics (volume) to achieve a voice like quality while Baroque cyclical mature and the relatively fixed dynamics. In addition, music of the Classical Era tended to use musical punctuation points or cadence signifying pauses or endings to a section or piece of music.
Cadences focus listener’s attention to musical phrase endings and beginnings in an entirely new way. The classical style, where national influences were blended, was perfect for the tastes of this middle class and a mirror of the times. The middle class became the conspicuous consumers of music and their tastes demanded music that was accessible, entertaining and tuneful. The middle class considered the music of the High Baroque as overly complicated and unapproachable and the Opera as being snobbish. The Symphony was a major medium for classical music.
A symphony is a multi-movement instrumental musical work composed for orchestra and designed to express and explore a range of moods. The Symphony ability to give the listener a total mind and body experience suited the middle class perfectly and arguably created the most enduring musical form to date. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809. ) was an Austrian composer and one of the most prolific and representative figures in the Classical Era. He is often called the “Father of the Symphony’ for his contributions to the musical forms of the Viennese Classical Style as well as for composing 104 Symphonies.
Hoyden’s works stayed true to the musical formula developed during the classical era. While Ludwig van Beethoven (1770- 1827) lived id not consider himself relegated to the strict rules of composition particularly with his symphonic works. Beethoven came of age during a time of great social change beginning with the French Revolution, a social upheaval in the most powerful and influential country in Europe. Beethoven changed the music of the times with innovations that not only made his music very different but ushered in the Romantic Era of music.
Amount these innovations, the pursuit of originality was clearly a driving force and more than likely, the reason his symphonic works (9) were not as prolific as those of Hayden. Looking beyond the quantity, Beethoven’s works were each very original, and influenced changes in compositional style. The Opera also came of age during the Classical era. An opera is a stage play that is set to music and combines continuous music, literary drama and lavish scenery with live action. All those elements combine to create a work where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Opera used musical techniques such as Recitatives, used for narration where words carry the essential expressive messages and Aria, lengthy substantial and complex vocal music where the essential character and dramatic information is reanimated through the music itself. The popularity of the opera and the profit potential saw and explosion of opera venues but also saw quality being pushed aside in favor of quantity. During beginning of the 18th century, the Venetian opera and much of the compositions were written to the lowest common denominator.
Opera experienced several changes and refinements reflecting changes in history and philosophy including Opera Serif or Serious Opera, which presented a conflict of human passion in an action based on some story from ancient Greek or Latin author. Opera Buff, attempted to redesign opera to be more flexible and natural. The music was lively and catchy, was written with no particular formula in mind and had a small portable cast. This operatic genre portrayed real people in real life signing natural music and mirrored the times by reflecting the humanistic spirit of the Enlightenment.
In the Classical era, the operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1791) were considered the pinnacle of the art form and Mozart added innovation with the Operatic Ensemble or group singing. The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), The Magic Flute (1791), are some of Mozart classical era operatic steelworks. The Romantic Period, (1827 to 1900) marked by an intensification of musical expression and loosening of the musical rules developed during the Classical era, but was not considered a true era, as it did not represent a musical break in the form and syntax that was developed in the Classical era.
During the Romantic era, music was considered the ultimate art form because is could express emotions and concepts far deeper that and words could. Romantic era art, literature and music mirrored the times and society fascination with extreme emotional states, Folkloric Nationalism, a fascination with the wilder aspects of nature and a fascination with the macabre, gothic and the supernatural. The composers of the Romantic era, while using the classical forms, used longer melodies, complex harmonies and larger bigger orchestras and modern instruments to expand their expressive contents.
The most representative composers of the Romantic period were Frederic Chopin (1810 – 1849), Franz List (1811 – 1886) and Richard Wagner (1813 – 1883) The instrumental music of the Romantic period day included compositions with extra musical content Program music is the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony (Strum). The music explicitly evokes a musical image of a summer storm including raindrops, a deluge and the feelings of being caught in the storm. This was quite different that the music of the Classical which rather than tell a specific story, was instead composed to evoke specific feelings or moods.
In response to the times, specifically, the increase discord in Europe around 1848, spawned by citizens wanting an end to monarchies and social injustices and the installation of constitutional and representative governments, music saw the emergence of nationalism. Folkloric Nationalism was an incorporation of a country folk music into concert works and operas. Chopping incorporation of Polish nationalist folk songs and themes into his compositions is an example of Folkloric Nationalism as is Franz List’s 19 Hungarian Rhapsodies, which were Gypsy music inspired works.
Russian Nationalism grew out of the defeat of Napoleon and the Dismembers Revolution of 1825. Music of and after that period tended to be infused with Russian folk songs and stories. As the Russian musical tradition grew, the writings of Alexander Services Pushpin were popular subjects to Russian Operas and musical works. Furthering the concept of music as a mirror of its time, the twentieth century was a period of incredible intellectual, technological and scientific development.
Modern civilization’s ability to move and communicate more rapidly made the world grow smaller and compressed time itself, necessitating changes in musical phrasing and structure in order for composers to continue to strive to remain relevant and express themselves. Twentieth century modernism began with the compositions of Claude Debussy (1862 to 1918). Debussy was influenced by the French language’s blurred edges and infinite nuance. Debussy music was not about the literal recreation of a subject but instead impressions of how the he perceived the subject.
The composition Nudges from the Three Nocturnes is an example of this musical impressionism. Debussy elevated timbre, or the sound qualities of the individual instruments to a level equal to pitch, rhythm and harmony. Igor Stravinsky (1882 to 1971) created the most important works of the twentieth century. His most influential contribution was that of asymmetric meter or a grouping of beats from one unit to the next are in an irregular tatter, a quality taken from Russian folk music as well as the Russian language itself.
What Debussy contributed to music with the focus on timbre, Stravinsky did with the use of asymmetrical rhythms. The Composer that if found most intriguing and attracted to in this course is Ludwig van Beethoven. Beethoven is one of the great disruptive forces in western music and seems to defy convention and is hard to categorize. While he composed in the Classical Era, he bent and reshaped musical form to suit his expressive needs, while he was revolutionary and influential, he didn’t influence a true musical break or spawned any movement or imitators.