Music 120 notes

Table of Contents

These are Mark Polyakov's notes from taking Music 120, Survey of Music, during Autumn 2020 at the University of Washington.

1 What is classical music?

My first attempt: "Classical music is music played on an acoustic instrument that follows relatively one of several relatively strict set of musical rules."

There's no really good definition; there are distinct categories of classical music, and "classical music" is the union of them, though there are not many common threads between them.

Working definition: "A group of musics coming out of Europe that have been formed into a culture involving large musical institutions"

Certain classical music may have been just as good as the "classics", but were forgotten/ignored.

2 Parameters

Pulse, Tempo, Rhythm, Meter, Harmony, Texture (mono/homo/poly-phony), Dynamics

Pulse = Beat

Homophony: Melody & Harmony/accompaniment

Polyphony: Multiple melodies

3 Plainchant

Composed in middle ages (~700s onwards) Europe for religion. The church was one of the only large organizations throughout Europe.

Different chants every day during mass. Monks were expected to memorize all of them

Chants were thought to have been given by God to Pope Gregory, hence "Gregorian Chants". They were holy! In truth, they were collected over many many years. People were just "vessels" for music to pass through.

There were thousands of Gregorian chants. Gregorian chants have a single melody line (monophonic).

Hildegaard van Bingen: Had visions all her life. Entered a monastery at a very young age. At 40, a vision commanded her to establish her own. She had musical and atistic visions, which she recorded. She did not attribute her compositions to herself.

Hildegaard was the first "named European composer".

During the era of plainchant was when musical notation began to be developed. Not sufficient to learn the music from scratch, but a great aid to those who vaguely understood it. By the time of Hildegaard, the notation was robust enough to recreate the music today.

4 Troubadours

Troubadours are high-class musicians – some nobles were even troubadours! They would frequently play in the court of a ruler.

Courtly Love: "Semi-Platonic". Lancelot falls in love with Guinevere, and they love each other, but they don't actually do anything together. Courtly love is between a higher class woman and a lower class man. They both pledge themselves to the woman's actual husband.

Bernart de Ventadorn: The most famous troubadour. His "vita" (a musical biography, written several decades after death) said that he experienced something like courtly love; a viscount he worked for discovered the love between his wife and Bernart, and proceeded to stow his wife away in a castle like the dragon from Shrek. Part of Bernart's vita is known to be true, and part is known to be false; it's not known if the love story is true.

Audiences expected the troubadours to be singing about things they actually experienced, sorta like we do today with love songs (Taylor Swift, anyone?). This authorship, in contrast to chant, was very personal.

5 The Reformation

The Catholic church was able to change a bit, but no serious splinter groups appeared until the early 1500s. Martin Luther wanted to move away from Latin so everybody could understand services. His big idea was that services should be more tailored for everyday people, and be more "personal". He was excommunicated.

Martin Luther wanted everybody to be able to sing in church, while polyphonies of the time required well-trained musicians. Chorales/Hymns were sung by the whole church, and were more musically simple: Almost always syllabic, and either monophonic/homorhythmic. (Personal: I think most of the RBCCUCC hymns are still like this!). Lutherans still kept some polyphony during some parts of the service. Calvinists believed music was sinful, though, and restricted themselves to simple monophonic chants.

"Council of Trent": A group that met to address Luther's reforms, until 1563. They didn't change the Catholic beliefs, but they did change some aspects of services, including their music. They wanted words to be more intelligible, but didn't want to simplify their music. Palestrina was in charge of this musical counter-reformation. There are no super-slow Gregorian chants in the background, and homorhythm is common, because it's hard to pay attention to things happening simultaneously in different rhythms (Gentle Giant?). Still in Latin, though, and still not for the average person to sing along with.

England was controlled by protestants. William Byrd, though a catholic, even composed music for protestants. When Queen Elizabeth started executing high-profile catholics, he went into the country to make music, some of which was about his dissatisfaction with brutality towards catholics. It was illegal to carry out Catholic services or even own catholic music.

Byrd didn't "rebel" so much by saying bad things about England's leaders literally as he did by writing pieces with the trademark styles of a catholic song (latin, complex polyphony) and even daring to write Catholic music in a country where it was illegal.

1618-1648: The Thirty Years War, more or less the end of the reformation.

Heinrich Schutz: Saul Saul, was Verfolst du Mich. This music was emotional and personal, with a clear connection between the emotions expressed in the words and the emotions expressed through the music. He used dissonance between different choirs (not just different people in the same choir; literally multiple choir simultaneously!) to create tension and cause an uncomfortable feeling. Saul was persecuting Christians in the old testament, so Schutz used this piece to compare Saul to Catholics attacking protestants. Schutz was a protestant. The dissonance of the piece might be what Saul is feeling as he's being converted to Christianity after seeing the true God, or it might be how his victims felt. The song is comparing a Protestant victory in the war to God's victory over Saul. The dissonance in the song intensifies at specific words, which are repeated throughout the song, such as "persecute". Multiple choirs surrounding the listener simulate God surrounding Saul.

6 Early Baroque

Rather than polyphony, some artists started working on singing, by a highly skilled solo singer. "Basso Continuo", a musical notation, only contained the bassline and some chords, without melody or accompaniment.

Barbara Strozzi was a major artist of this new style of solo singing. She was involved in a Venetian "Academy", an upper class/aristocratic artsy fartsy place, but more fun than academic at times. Debates were common. Mostly male, so Barbara was an exception. Her father was a major academic at the time. She was very prolific. More of a composer than a singer?

"Amor do miglione": Like many of Barbara's songs, lots of double entendres. The musical qualities closely reflected the lyrical content.

7 Opera

7.1 1600s and overview

Like a musical, but with even less non-singing. First in the early 1600s, sprouted from academies and similar institutions.

Venice, 1630s were when Operas went big. Venice was a center of culture at the time, and was a city-state. Also the main exchange point for trade with the East, which brought in money. "Carnival" were the few months between Christmas and the start of Lent, which involved lots of parties.

First dedicated Opera theater built in 1637. By the end of the century, there were nine in Venice. The author of a "libretto", the book of text/lyrics for an opera, was given much more credit than the musical composers. But singers, esp. sopranos, and pastranis, were adored the most, got the most money, etc. Just like today! Women were finally able to have big public roles in music.

It was a bit scandalous for women to have such a big pulbic role, and the content of most Operas was a bit scandalous too, often involving crime, partying, etc.

Giasone, by Francesco Cavalli: King Jason cheating on his wife, both his lovers have his twins, he tries to murder people and people threaten about murdering and stuff, etc.

Operas usually focused on a single voice, with occasional duets. "Recitative" parts of an opera were not as interesting musically and were more speech-like and undertandable. "Arias" were more emotional and songlike (aria means song in Italian). Most of the music was dramatic and very much based on the emotions of characters or events in the story.

Carnival, between christmas and lent (I think), is when christians partied hard. No operas allowed in many places during lent immediately afterwards.

8 Ballet & Louis XIV

Louis was made King at age four. There was some sort of rebellion (Fronde), but as he got a bit older he regained his power then had a ballet written about it: Ballet de la Nuit (ballet of the night). It was a 13-hour (!!) ballet performed at night to symbolize chaos without royal authority, then at sunrise Louis came onstage dressed as the sun.

Louis organized the first orchestra! Entirely strings, the "King's 24 violins", though violas and cellos were also present. Jean-Baptiste Lully composed much of their music. He did operas and ballets too. Died from infection/gangrene after he stabbed himself in the foot with his conductors' baton (which sounds more like a stick).

Louis himself was quite the dancer. Royals usually did some dancing along with a ballet.

A "minuet" was where royals of successively lower status danced together for a bit. Eg, first king + queen, then queen + next man down, then that man + next woman down, etc.

Ballets were extremely packed, despite usually taking place outdoors in large public areas.

Louis consolidated his power by demoting many nobles, and giving important positions instead of people without noble blood, who could be replaced and would be held accountable for their effectiveness.

Feuillet came up with a diagrammatic notation for dance moves, much like already existed for music (musical notation at the time was approaching what we have today).

9 The 1700s

Learned was a "boomer" style of music. Bach did "learned" music. Usually somewhat religious. Related to polyphony with "counterpoint" (more or less equivalent ones, any of which you could pay attention to), in the style of palestrina. But the more popular stuff happening in italy from week 4 had clearly subordinate basslines, which were mixed in a little bit. But you know fully well that Bach's music has multiple very important melodies.

Galant was maybe not as sophisticated, with only a single melody and easy to listen to harmony. Quite predictable, eg 5 always goes to 1. Lots of repetition. Simple building of tension then release. Courts of aristocrats liked galant. One big fan was Frederick the Great, a flutist as well as a king or something. His flute teacher (Joachim Quantz?) wrote a book about galant. Galant partially came from the idea that music is a way to communicate with the listener, so they should understand it and get an emotion from it, I guess. Beautiful melodies were important in Galant music.

Learned music is about following traditional rules of composition, while Galant is based on what the listener wants to hear, what the composer wants to communicate, what sounds good, etc. It's very much a product of the Enlightenment and all the Enlightenment's ideas about how to think about the world with a purpose rather than only through the lens of tradition.

Concerts became a thing for galant music in the early-mid-1700s. Before that, mainly in aristocratic courts. Was acceptable during lent, not only carnival like opera.

9.1 Joseph Bologne

Son of a French father and African mother. Trained as violinist, composer, and swordsman. Eventually led the Concert des Amateurs, an early public concert group. One of the best violinists of his time. In 1776, some people wanted him to join the Paris Opera, a very prestigious one, but some opposed him because of his mixed race. He wrote many operas afterwards anyway, and fought for abolition.

9.2 Franz Joseph Haydn & the Symphony

One of the first "celebrity" composers; usually performers were more popular. But without lyrics, who else will you celebrate? In his early years he worked for a prince but didn't have much creative freedom. But word got out!

Haydn's music is called "classical" rather than "galant" because it's more complex, eg, counterpoint, and longer tension-release cycles.

He was recruited to write some symphonies in London for public concert. His "London Symphonies" were extremely popular. Symphonies were the sort of music that might be played to an opera, but there was no theatrical component. Symphonies have four movements:

  1. Fast, Sonata
  2. Slow, Theme & Variations (Haydn's specialty)
  3. Minuet (like a dance)
  4. Fast, Rondo

Wind and percussion instruments became a thing, such as clarinets and french horns.

10 1700s Opera

Operas were quite wild and carnival-oriented in the 1600s. But it became more of an art form in the 1700s, thanks to the Enlightenment. "Opera Seria" was more serious, and "Opera Buffa" was more the old style (like "Buffoon"). Both styles were in Italian, even when played elsewhere.

10.1 Opera Seria

Opera Seria was usually set in classic times (roman, greek), with very moral heroes who ended up choosing to care about the "greater good" over their personal passions. So the plots were boring, and explained during the less-musical "recitative" (as opposed to "aria") parts of an Opera. Opera Seria was mainly about the arias, because of the boring plot.

Castrati were castrated males. Before this era, pre-pubescent boys were trained to play Sopranos then released when their voices dropped, which was high-effort for the Church. But sometimes Castrati would eventually go into the Opera at some point, and could become stars. Castrati were not forced into it; their families were paid some sum of money, and they had great job security. Their voices were often higher than women, but could hold a note for longer (than either women or children) because of their large lung capacities. Ironically, castrani played very manly characters and might be sex symbols in culture because of their celebrity status. Operas with a star castrani were like rock concerts; audiences would yell their support and applaud throughout arias.

Seria arias were often written to leave time for audience interaction. They were "virtuosic": Difficult to sing, putting tons of emphasis on the singer and dazzling the audience. Commonly they were "Da Capo Aria": A-B-A. An instrumental ritornello is repeated to indicate when the audience should do react.

10.2 Opera Buffa

Comedic. Set in the present day. Often about class conflict, eg with servants. Like Seria, plot was concentrated into recitative sections, while arias were about emotions. The arias were still a primary source of entertainment for the audience, but the words were perhaps more important than the music. Aria music was simple and pleasing.

La Serva Padrona: "Servant Lady". A master Uberto and two servants (Serpina and one other). Uberto wants to fire her for being stuck up, and Serpina pretends she has an awesome life set up and a suitor in the army. Serpina successfully convinces Uberto he will be sad when she leaves, so he marries her, and she got exactly what she wanted.

Servants usually "win" in opera buffa, even though audiences were usually not servants.

They sound not all that different from a modern day musical.

Buffa eventually became more popular than Seria by the end of the century.

10.3 Don Giovanni

An opera by Mozart (yes, Wolfgang Amadeus). Was it seria or buffa? Debuted is 1787. Don Giovani is a wealthy man who wants to bang lots of chicks. However, he's not a great seducer, and basically tries to rape people instead. In the beginning, he's sorta trying to rape Donna Anna, then Donna Anna's father fights Giovanni and dies. Some women unsuccessfully try to stop Don Giovanni's future attacks with limited success, until a statue of Donna Anna's father comes to life and settles the score for good by sending some undead-looking stuff to attack him and bring him to hell.

Don Giovanni has a combination of serious (the final scene) and humorous ("catalog" aria; counting how many women Giovanni has slept with) arias. It's like a Buffa in that the plot is critically important. That plot is about the present day and class relations, like Buffa, but is about a serious topic, like Seria.

It's not even clear if Giovanni was meant to be a sort of likeable, mischevious troublemaker, or a truly terrible villain.

11 CH1: melody

The overall shape of a melody, eg, upwards or downwards.
Distance between two pitches.
Notes aren't too far from each other.
Melody jumps around. Opposite of conjunct.
A small unit of melody, usually with a clear ending.
The end of a phrase, often a longer resolving note.
Usually the highest pitch in a melody.
A second melody which is clearly inferior.

12 Romanticism

Romantic era came out of the end of the Enlightenment (mainly 1800s), and was sort've a swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction of rationality. French revolutions, Haitian revolution, etc were part of it too, a shift away from Monarchy.

Beethoven exemplified the romantic era. His early music was in the style of Haydn, but that changed. His music clearly portrayed a story. Revewers might describe the music like a person. Beethoven liked Sonatas:

  1. Exposition, introduce themes.
  2. Development, decompose the themes and build on those parts.
  3. Recapitulation: Replay the original themes. Until beethoven, who wanted the recapitulation to put a new twist on the original theme. The development caused the theme to be changed, logically.

Napoleon, who came from the middle class, was quite a hero for many Europeans. Some of Beethoven's music (Heroica) was likely made with Napoleon in mind; he had to struggle to get to his place, rather than being born with a silver spoon in a special place.

Beethoven had serious tinnitus, and went almost deaf. He considered suicide, but he wanted too much to bring his music to the world.

The industrial revolution was happening around this time. The piano (which first appeared in the 1700s) became popular. Harpsicords and organs obviously existed before, but new manufacturing techniques made them much more affordable and common.

Middle class families around this time found it desirable to own a piano and to have, specifically, a daughter who could play it, to indicate that they were able to afford to have a daughter who wasn't working or similar, and to attract men. A "salon" was a fairly intellectual party, typically hosted by a woman.

"Middle Class" means higher class than the "middle class" today. You'd have to be a lawyer or a factory owner or something.

Fany Mendelsson Hensel was a middle class daughter who was a very strong musical player and composer. She wrote "Art song": Music based on an existing poem. Short, emotional, and personal. She ran many salons, so had a lot of artistic influence in Germany. Yet, she still did not publish music under her own name – she used her brother's (though her brother was a composer in his own right, too).

Franz Liszt: A showy composer and player (mainly piano). Charged extra for performances, for example. But for his last performance in a town, he would do a much larger, cheaper, performance. By simply defying the norms he built his popularity and prestige. Liszt was seen as somewhat warlike. His music was certainly "stormy". Like The Who, Liszt would frequently destroy the piano he was playing on. He kept a backup piano on stage! Although his compositions were certainly art, some critics were concerned that his showmanship diminshed that side of things.

Clara Wieck Schumann: Prodigy even in her teens. She started out playing Liszt style music in showy performances. She moved towards more artsy stuff later; when she played historical music (eg, Bach), she would try to replicate the original spirit as closely as possible. She married Robert Schumann. She was one of the first to do recitals from memory. This reverence for older music, inadvertently, has led to where we are today: No new classical music! (Personally: I don't quite buy this)

13 1800s

13.1 Common Opera trope: Suffering women

Endings were typically bad, with the main character (usually a soprano woman) frequently committing suicide, murdered, etc.

La Traviata: Violetta is dying of tuberculosis, aka consumption. Women with tb were considered very attractive, because they were pale and had flushed cheeks. Violetta first decides to just indulge herself constantly until an Alfredo who loves her oh so much convinces her that life is worth taking seriously. In the final act, she's alone in paris about to die. She's trying to let Alfredo avoid her suffering? But Alfredo comes to visit her, and she dies.

"Coloratura Soprano": Really high notes that move quickly, impressive. Contrast to "lyric" sopranos more about lyrics, and in a much lower register, and "dramatic" sopranos which are almost spoken, and are much lower.

Encouraged the stereotype of women being more emotional.

Tosca: A Mario (guy) is being tortured offstage while his girlfriend has to hear him and suffers emotionally almost as much as he does physically.

13.2 Nationalism

Working definition: The belief that nationality and nations should be based on culture, language, ethnicity, etc. They would oppose a state that contained multiple "nations", eg the USSR. Conversely, if an area that shares a culture is split up into multiple states, a nationalist would believe they should be merged.

Nationalists would sometimes sell their ideology with nostalgia; the idea that you'll go back to where you truly belong and be among your brothers if you form a nation based on culture.


  • Folk (traditional or traditional-style) tunes.
  • Simple
  • Chorus (many people singing), to indicate cultural unity
  • Strings
  • Lingua Franca

    Verdi and Richard Wagner (Opera writers) were nationalists. Wagner was in independence armies before becoming a composer. He was very anti-semitic. In some nurnburg opera, there's a singing competition in a medieval german town, and someone foreigner tries to win but botches the song.

    Wagner was the first to put the orchestra under the floor. The Opera houses where his pieces were played inspire most Opera houses today.

13.3 Exoticism

Music about other (i.e., not European) cultures. Didn't necessarily accurately represent the music from whatever region, but rather was the opposite of nationalist music: Nonstandard scales/modes, different instruments, "winding" melodies, etc.

13.4 Swan Lake

One of the most popular ballet ever. Ballets frequently switched between a "human world" and a mystical or spiritual world. The human world part might be nationalist or exoticist. The spirit world might be at night in the woods. Women would frequently wear white and play as mystical creatures like fairies. "Pointe" is standing on the toes.

Swan lake in 1876 by Tchaikovsky. Prince Siegfried has a birthday in Act 1, then goes out hunting in the night for Act 2, where he meest a swan who becomes Odette, a beautiful woman princess who was trapped in a swan by a sorcerer. To be released, a man must truly fall in love with her (like Shrek!) and be true to her. Nobody speaks in a ballet, so people would have to read the program and understand "pantomime", basic gestures from the actors (that you can probably figure out even if you don't know them, like putting hands over the heart to indicate love). Additionally, many characters had a leitmotif: a motif for a certain character.

Act 3 is back to a ball celebrating the Prince's birthday. Combination of nationalist and exoticist music. Siegfried meets someone at the ball who looks just like Odette, and right there swears to marry her. But it's a decoy Odette, and his disloyalty to Odette condemns her (and many other swans) forever to life as a swan!

Act 4 is Siegfried trying to go back to the swan lake and right things. The original plot was that both Siegfried and Odette commit suicide and meet in heaven, but the original score for that part was lost, so composers a couple decades later adapted it. Since then there have been many different versions with different endings: Odette commits suicide but frees the other swans, the sorcerer being destroyed and releasing all the swans, Odette included, and any number of other endings.

The Work Concept: The original idea the composer had, which (in one school of thought) performers should try their best to replicate.

14 Modernism

Begin in the early 1900s. Either the opposite or continuation of romanticism. Music that's aware of the changing and movement of the world. Modernists believed they had to make their music as new (hipster?) as necessary to keep up with that. They believed music should always be new.

14.1 Arnold Schoenberg

An "expressionist": wanted art to convey emotions as strongly as possible.

"Emancipation of Dissonance": Why should dissonance ever have to resolve? Can we not love dissonance without awaiting its end?

"Twelve-Tone System": More weird sounds?

14.2 Igor Stravinsky

Russian. Eventually moved to west Europe. Rite of Spring was a popular work, about how the industrial revolution had dulled the human spirit. It was about a return to a nationalist, almost prehistoric past. The "Rite" that's the work's namesake? Sacrificing people every spring. Frequently changed the time signature to confuse the audience. The work

"Neoclassicism": A term Stravinsky coined, weird mixing and matching of Galant stuff. Random dissonances and stuff too.

Schoenberg and Stravinsky were sorta opposites. Schoenberg was marching into the future, while Stravinsky was reexploring the past.

14.3 Machine Modernism

Modernism about machines, esp. trains and factories. This music was being made on the tail end of the industrial revolution, so it fits in with the idea of modernism music being about the new. Some music would glorify machines other music would demonize them.

Pacific 231!

Carlos Chávez: Good friend of Copland. Somewhat neoclassical. In 1932 made a ballet H.P where American workers go to Latin America to get minerals, and upon returning to their factories in the US, they rebel against their bosses. Musically, alternates between machine modernism to represent the US and mexican-ish music. Very late in the game, they changed the plot to be about a revolt against "materialism" instead of "capitalism" to avoid alienating the high-class audience Chávez expected.

14.4 Harlem Renaissance

1920s-30s. William Grant Still made an orchestral symphony "Afro-American" which took inspiration from blues, spirituals, and more.

Florence Price was from Little Rock, Arkansas. Rather than Harlem, she moved to Chicago. She also made a symphony which was played at a world fair. She used spiritual music and juba dance (a pre-civil-war style).

15 Mid 20th Century

During WWII, some composers were a bit worried that nationalist sounding music would be labeled fascist.

15.1 Aaron Copland

Started from neoclassicism and American folk. Created dissonances, but still in the scale. Often had large leaps in his music to make it seem more "spacious". Copland was politically pretty far left.

He was contracted to write the "Lincoln Portrait" after the bombing of Pearl Harbor; a propaganda piece. His knack for spacious music is a perfect fit for patriotic music imo.

Appalachian Spring was about working class people. He worked on it with someone recently released from a Japanese internment camp?

15.2 Avant-Garde

Schoenberg's kinda thinking. He thought music should be really abstract and nuts. However, some people wanted classical music to be easier for the middle class to understand.

In general, avant-garde music was less emotional and stuff.

Leonard Bernstein tried to bring classical music to the masses more, with his Young People's concerts and stuff.

15.2.1 Total Serialism

A mathematical way of composing music? Lots of charts and stuff. In "Who cares if you listen", somebody explained that the most sophisticated forms of music should be just as abstract and hard to comprehend as any field of science.

15.3 Minimalism

Minimalism often builds on a single melody or something.

Steve Reich. He liked "phasing", having two identical, periodic melodies, one playing slightly faster than the other so they went in and out of sync.

Phillip Glass. "Additive". Would start with a really simple melody, and modify or add to it a bit.

15.4 Post-

Glass started to do some theatrical "operas", added some harmony, and minimalism got popular, especially in films. Some would call the more popular minimalism "postminimalism"

While modernism was about moving forward always, postmodernism questioned that. Often were against minimalism.

16 Today

16.1 Who pays concert musicians?

Many countries have "national" orchestras – not the US! Instead, orchestras here get a lot of money from philanthropy. Two notable philanthropic organizations in the past were the Ford and Rockefeller foundations. The National Endowment for the Arts showed up in the 1960s, and is publicly funded. All of give grants to orchestras, when those orchestras give a good proposal. The institutions have "expert panels" who evaluate the grant requests in their area of expertise. These expert panels would often be biased towards the type of music the composers on the panel wrote themselves.

The 60s was sort of a heyday for funding from philanthropists; there's much less available today. Smaller ensembles have popped up that are more albe to fund themselves through ticket sales.

16.2 Central Park Five, by Anthony Davis

First did jazz on piano. Often does stuff about racial issues. Central Park Five came out just in 2019. It's about five teenagers who were arrested for the killing of someone in central park. None of them did it but were all convicted. The eldest spent 13 years in prison. Davis' opera is sort've a documentary.

16.3 Canon

Not related to the musical technique, but rather: The set of historical classical music that's considered permanently good; the "classics". If you go to the Seattle Symphony, you're most likely listening to canon.

The concept started in the 1800s when the Schumanns started revering music by dead composers.

Canon isn't just ancient music – it includes lots of 20th century stuff by people like Stravinsky.

The League of American Orchestras keeps a list of the most played composers and pieces. #1: Pictures at an Exhibition!

17 CH2: Rhythm & Meter

First (accented) beat of a measure.
Last beat of a measure.
Duple Meter
Triple Meter
Quadruple Meter
Sextuple Meter
6/8 ?
Multiple meters simultaneously, eg in different piano hands.
Additive Meter
Eg, 2+4
Without a well defined meter

18 CH5: Texture

The number of and interaction between melodies and harmonies.
A single main melody. Any accompaniment is too insignificant to call a melody.
Multiple voices, but all focused on the same melody (common in improv).
Multiple different melodies, eg Bach. When polyphany first became popular, in medieval times, regular rhythmic meters also were introduced, because it was hard to coordinate multiple voices with highly irregular rhythms. For the same reason, polyphony demanded more precise written notation. Previously, musical notation only connected notes and words, without connecting either of those to time.
Commonly used in polyphony; one melody "set against" another
Distinct "main" melody + some harmony stuff.
Multiple voices, maybe playing different notes, but certainly in the same rhythm (Hallelujah!)
One voice that "echoes" the other.
Good example of imitation.
Simple type of canon; staggered starts.

19 Prelude 2: The Middle Ages and Renaissance

  • Beginning: The fall of the roman empire, wayyy back in 476.
  • 500-1000 ad. "Middle Ages" continued after.
  • Trade became more common.
  • Venice was a major seaport to the Near East.
  • A move toward secularism. People studied science and nature. Visual artwork became more realistic. Nude sculptures or paintings were frowned upon before the Renaissance! Sheet music became affordable towards the end of this era, and the spawned a new type of people who did music "for fun".
  • The focus on self, rationalism, etc that started mainly in the Renaissance. Inspired by similar Greek and Romans of old.

20 CH12: Middle Ages Music

The collection of music used in church services.
Gregorian Chant/Plainchant/Plainsong
Monophonic with smooth contour. Latin. Over 3000 exist. Usually acapella.
One note per spoken syllable
Several notes per spoken syllable (HAAAAA-le-lu-yah!)
Many many notes per spoken syllable
Annotations to the text of a Gregorian chant to indicate the contour of the music there, as a memorization aid.
Major, Minor, etc.
Using a mode other than the major/minor ones mainly used today.
Services carried out multiple times per day in a monastery.
Pieces of music used in Mass that vary from day to day.
Pieces played at every Mass.
Secluded religious place. Smaller than a monastery?

The first polyphonic music. Originated at Notre Dame cathedral. Organum consisted of a faster moving voice somewhere above the voice of a traditional Gregorian chant. Polyphony before organum was likely improvised, and the Gregorian chant itself was still the main melody, on top of a drone, rather than organum where chant sorta is the drone.

Some people thought that slowing the Gregorian chant down so much as to be unintelligible was disrespectful to God.

One voice moves, other stays still.
Contrary Motion
Voices move in opposite directions.
Polyphonic stuff with words?

21 CH14: Renaissance Church Music

a capella
Singing without instruments. Popular in the 1500s. Polyphony was common; some voices would follow others, eg in canon.
Cantus Firmus
A "base" or "template" from which more ornamented music was derived. Usually some sort of Gregorian Chant.
Josquin des Prez
Famous renaissance composer. Died as the reformation began. Luther was a big fan of Josquin.
Local language (i.e., not latin)
Council of Trent
A multi-year series of meetings to reform the Church. Cardinals complained about the words of Gregorian Chant being obscured by complex polyphony and the introduction of more popular music into Mass. Ultimately, no major changes were demanded by the Council, but they recommended a return to simpler music and the removal of some secular pieces.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, aka Palestrina
Considered to be at the forefront of counter-reformation music. Composed the Pope Marcellus Mass, one of the first pieces considered to meet the Council of Trent's recommendations without throwing away complex polyphonic style. Some people say Palestrina "saved" polyphonic music in this way.

22 Gustav Holst, Mercury

22.1 Holst's Life

Played a few instruments as a kid: Piano, violin, and the trombone, which he liked the most. Holst's father, Adolph von Holst, was a composer and pianist. His whole family was full of musicians and other artists.

Holst studied composition at the Royal College of Music (and Stanford?). He was a massive fan of Wagner, but also Walt Whitman and William Morris. He conducted the "Hammersmith Socialist Choir"?

He played the trombone professionally for some time in college.

Holst was the head of music at St. Paul's Girls' school from 1905 until death. He did lots of other teaching and was even a director of music at Morley college. His teaching is the main way he got by.

Composed a couple sanskrit operas just before 1910.

Holst was very much an introvert; he's the opposite of Liszt. He composed his songs despite what people wanted, not because of it.

Many of Holst's early works were for salons. Then, he made a few heavily Wagner-inspired operas.

Holst didn't like to "theorize" about music. To quote, "a composer is usually quite unconscious of what is going on".

Holst isn't so different than me: After doing a piece, he would be reluctant to make a similar piece again. He felt a compulsion to make things new and original, even to the detriment of his pieces. He never tried to emulate the style of the Planets, and accordingly never recreated its success either.

The other article indicates that Holst become very disappointed when his works weren't popular.

22.2 Musical Style

ostinato: A very short motif, whose rhythm may be more important than its notes, that's repeated way more often than a motif. Holst liked to use these in many of his compositions. At 36 seconds in the london symphony recording, the string ostinato can be heard. A different one is around 1:07 and lasts for a long time, building and switching instruments.

Bitonality and polytonality: Use of multiple keys at once. Holst was excellent at this.

22.3 Modernism

Holst can definitely be described as a modernist. Modernism was mainly popular in mainland Europe, so Holst was quite the exception.

Holst was raised under a some sort of "Theosophy", a slightly occult religion with large inspiration from Eastern religions (India and stuff). Many of Holst's friends were more involved even than he. Holst played at an "occultist" meeting. Today it might be described as supernatural. Indeed, Holst was partial to lots of weird stuff like Phrenology. Astrology came naturally to him.

An astrological book published by a friend of a friend, The Art of Synthesis, may have been Holst's inspiration to write the planets. It was published in 1912, two years before Holst got into the thick of working on Planets. Holst admitted he started thinking about Planets two years before he really started working, which lines up. Furthermore, each chapter of The Art of Synthesis was named after a planet in similar style to the names of the pieces, and one chapter was even named "Neptune: The Mystic"!

Holst is also known to have owned How to Judge a Nativity.

Planets are neither heliocentric nor geocentric. The paper's author suggests they are organized from youth to old age.

22.4 The Planets

Composed from 1913-16, with Mars completed in 1914. It was first performed in 1918, and it became famous quite immediately, despite not being played for a public audience until 1920.

22.5 Mercury

The last of the suite to be composed, in 1916.

According to How to Judge a Nativity: "The Winged Messenger" … "The silver thread of memory, upon which are strung the beads which represent the personalities of its earth lives". Mercury is also the Thinker in some other books.

6/8 time. Called a "scherzo": A lively piece usually in 3/4 or 6/8. Maybe a replacement for the minuet?

22.6 Fun Facts

He learned the trombone as a child to help cure his asthma?

After being rejected from Trinity College (of Music), he went to see a phrenologist.

23 Other Terms

Author: Mark Polyakov

Created: 2021-01-04 Mon 13:44