I took some placement exams for the SDSU Master of Music program in February: music history, music theory, and aural skills. I did okay on the aural skills, but the first two were massive failures. I know plenty about jazz history and theory, but these covered everything before that. Dead Europeans, mostly. So before I could be officially classified as a Master of Music candidate, I had to remove these "deficiencies." (They chose not to call them "massive failures.") They signed me up for a remedial course in theory and aural skills (I've posted some assignments from that class: a motet and a fugal exposition), and they gave me a giant assignment of history topics to research. I had all semester to work on it, and in proper form for a student of higher education, I saved it for the last minute.
I just received word that I passed and I'm officially classified, so I thought I'd post it. I had a good time learning about this stuff, so just in case someone's really interested or really bored, here it is.
1. How did chant evolve into the motet? Be sure to include and define the following terms in your discussion: organum, tenor, rhythmic modes, clausula, duplum.
The anonymous musical treatises, Musica enchiriadis and Scolica enchiriadis, written in the ninth century, described the practice of expanding monophonic chant with parallel consonant intervals in other parts. Organum refers to the initial developments of polyphony in the ninth through thirteenth centuries. Parallel organum is strict parallel motion in the new part, usually a perfect fifth below the original chant. Mixed parallel and oblique organum results from altering the parallel practice to avoid tritones; the embellishing part will often drone on a single note if the tritone would be the next diatonic interval. Free organum developed as musicians sought more ways to decorate chants, and gives greater independence and prominence to the embellishing voice. Contrary and similar motion are allowed along with the inherited oblique and parallel. Consonant intervals are unison, fourth, fifth, and octave. Aquitanian polyphony developed in France in the twelfth century with two new styles: discant, in which the upper and lower parts move at about the same rate, and florid organum, in which the lower part holds long notes supporting elaborate melodies in the upper part. In both styles, the lower part is the main melody and is called the tenor. Such styles were most often improvised, but the widening range of choices for embellishment encouraged written composition. During the century-long construction of Notre Dame, composers associated with it developed a notation for showing note durations, not by individual note, but grouped into short rhythms called rhythmic modes. Further developments led to clausulae, small compositions within an organum based on a single word or syllable. Composers eventually started writing organa for three and four parts, naming the parts duplum, triplum, and quadruplum, in ascending order above the tenor. In the thirteenth century, composers created the motet genre by assigning new lyrics to the upper voices of discant clausulae.
2. Who was Guido d'Arezzo, and what did he contribute to music history?
Guido of Arezzo was a Benedictine monk at the turn of the second century. He is credited with the invention of modern music notation and the first known use of solfeggio. He wrote several treatises on music theory. His best known was the Micrologus, written in approximately 1026, which outlined singing and teaching practices for Gregorian chant, as well as a variety of options for embellishing chant with organum, mixing parallel and oblique motion. He also introduced a mnemonic device for sight singing by mapping notes to different parts of the hand. This became known as the Guidonian hand.
3. Describe the structural features of an isorhythmic motet, and identify two Ars Nova composers who wrote in that genre.
The device of isorhythm is credited to Philippe de Vitry (1291-1361), a French composer, music theorist, and poet. Isorhythm is the practice of arranging the tenor part of a motet in a fixed sequence of pitches with a repeating rhythmic motive. The repeating melody is called the color, and the repeating rhythm is called the talea. Each may be comprised of a different number of notes. This technique was frequently applied to the upper voices as well. In addition to Vitry, Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300 - 1377) composed many isorhythmic motets in the Ars Nova period. Machaut was the most important composer and poet in fourteenth-century France. He displayed an intricate knowledge of Vitry's previous motets and strove to expand upon the established structural complexity.
4. Identify the primary similarities and differences (in terms of both the music and the text) of the following secular repertoires: goliard, troubadour, Meistersinger.
Goliard songs were a medieval Latin secular genre associated with traveling clergy, often clerical students with universities throughout Europe. The students wrote satirical poetry, protesting the contradictions within the Catholic Church. Much of the music was taken directly from sacred sources like the Roman Catholic Mass and Latin hymns, while the words were warped or replaced to fit secular satirical purposes. Songs targeted an educated, intellectual audience.
Songs of the troubadours were focused on chivalry and courtly love, but also included political, moral and literary subjects. The music was strophic, setting each stanza of written poetry to the same melody. Most melodies fit within the church modes, but some do not, as the secular musicians didn't write from that perspective.
Meistersingers aimed to preserve the traditions of the German Minnesingers, which were modeled after the troubadours, singing unaccompanied solo songs of love, duty, and loyalty. Meistersingers refined the craft and formed guilds for teaching and composing according to strict rules. Poems were written to fit an existing metric and rhyme scheme with its own melody.
5. Name three Renaissance composers who wrote polyphonic settings of the Ordinary of the Mass, and describe three compositional techniques they used to unify the different movements.
English composers John Dunstaple and Leonel Power, as well as Franco-Flemish composer Guillaume Dufay wrote polyphonic settings of the Ordinary of the Mass. Techniques used to unify the mass movements included stylistic coherence, plainsong mass, and motto mass. Stylistic coherence resulted from composing all five parts of the Ordinary in the same general style, often using the same chant or melody as a cantus firmus in the tenor. Plainsong masses based each movement on existing chants associated with that text. These weren't necessarily musically related, but lent some coherence to the piece through familiarity in each section. A motto mass uses the same melodic motive at the beginning of each movement.
6. Who were Ottaviano Petrucci and Pierre Attaingnant, and how were their contributions to music history different from one another?
Ottaviano Petrucci (1466 - 1539) was an Italian printer. In 1501, he published the first book of sheet music printed from movable type. Up to 1520, he produced 61 known publications, including many works of the highly regarded composers of the Renaissance. While not the first to print music, he was the first to use movable type, the first to produce mass quantities, and the first to print polyphonic music. His method required three impressions: once for staves, once for notes, and once for words.
Pierre Attaingnant (c. 1494 - c. 1552) was a French music printer. He surpassed Petrucci's innovations in printing by developing a single-impression method, which afforded him a much faster rate of production. The details of Attaingnant's printed music were less impeccable than Petrucci's, but the new single-impression techniques spread throughout Europe in the 16th and 17th centuries.
7. What did Claudio Monteverdi mean by the term seconda pratica?
When Giovanni Artusi attacked the new developments in music in 1605, Claudio Monteverdi replied with a proposal to separate music into two streams of practice: prima pratica and seconda pratica, or stile antico and stile moderno, respectively. Prima pratica referred to the more rigid limitations on dissonances and counterpoint typical of early Baroque music, particularly Palestrina and Zarlino. Monteverdi defended his own seconda pratica music as a return to ancient Greek musical practice, in which the words dictated the music rather than vice versa. The musical composition used much freer counterpoint and a wider range of voices, emphasizing soprano and bass.
8. How did the Reformation and Counter Reformation impact musical trends? Identify one composer associated with each movement.
During the Protestant Reformation, leaders encouraged church services in the languages of the people rather than in Latin. This included congregational singing in order to give the people a larger role in worship. This led to new musical styles in several areas of Protestantism: the chorale in the Lutheran Church, the metrical psalm in the Calvinist Church, and the anthem and Service in the Anglican Church.
Music played a central role in the Lutheran Church, as Martin Luther, himself a musician, believed strongly in its educational and ethical power. Luther wanted the entire congregation to sing in the services. During each service, the congregation sang several hymns together, known as chorales. These were originally rhymed poems to a monophonic melody sung in unison, but the form inevitably expanded through counterpoint and harmony. Luther wrote many of the original poems and melodies himself.
William Byrd, although himself a Catholic, served the Church of England as an important composer in the Reformation era.
The decisions made in the Counter-Reformation at the Council of Trent had little to do with music. In the interest of unifying regional liturgy, local practices like tropes and most sequences were eliminated. Some reformers wanted to restrict or eliminate polyphonic music due to a difficulty in understanding the sacred words, but no statement was made on the issue.
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina was a composer associated with the Counter-Reformation movement.
9. What was the Florentine Camerata? What musical style did they advocate, and why? Identify one composer associated with the Camerata.
The Florentine Camerata was a group of intellectuals and artists in Florence in the 16th century who met to discuss trends in the arts, particularly music and drama. They sought to restore the aesthetic of ancient Greek music to contemporary practice. Their host, patron, and inspiration was Giovanni de' Bardi, Count of Vernio and Italian literary critic. The group included Vincenzo Galilei, lutenist, composer, music theorist, and father of Galileo (cool!). Their influence peaked between 1577 and 1582.
The source of the Camerata's advocacy was Girolamo Mei, a Florentine scholar who extensively studied Greek music and its role in the theater. He found beauty in the traditional Greek performance of music as a single melody, sung by a soloist or group. He wrote many letters to Bardi and other colleagues in Florence. These letters were often the subject of the Camerata meetings and were integral to the group's advocacy.
10. Describe the primary differences (in terms of music, subject matter, and function) of Florentine and Venetian opera in the seventeenth century. Identify one composer associated with each operatic style.
Opera originated in Florence around 1600. It was generally performed for royalty and aristocracy. The singing was not quite melodic, but more of a dramatized recitative speech. Instrumental interludes were soon developed between vocal parts, and choruses summarized the end of each scene, following customs of Greek tragedy. Francesca Caccini composed opera in Florence, but it was billed as ballet, as opera had not yet gained popularity.
In Venice, the first public opera house opened in 1637. This initiated a transition to a more commercial function of opera, catering to a wider audience than just the wealthy aristocrats. Private boxes could be leased for higher prices, but ground-level seating was accessible to everyone. By 1678, nine such stages existed in Venice. Composers like Francesco Cavalli drew inspiration for their subject matter from Roman history and the epics of Homer and Virgil.
11. Compare the musical forms used by Corelli and Torelli in the seventeenth-century concerto, and identify two later composers who adapted each form.
Arcangelo Corelli favored the concerto grosso, a form in which musical passages are passed between a small group of soloists (the concertino) and the full orchestra (the tutti or ripieno). The larger group essentially provides support for the smaller, echoing and doubling lines and strengthening cadences.
Composers in northern Italy, such as Giuseppe Torelli, focused first on the orchestral concerto, then on the solo concerto and concerto grosso. Most of his concertos followed a three-movement plan, usually fast-slow-fast, influenced from Italian opera overture. This became standard practice in concertos. Torelli's fast passages were framed by ritornellos, recurring at the beginning and end of each movement. This approach was later developed by Vivaldi into ritornello form.
12. How did J.S. Bach's professional duties in Weimar, Cöthen, and Leipzig affect his compositional output? Provide examples of specific works he wrote in each city.
During Bach's time in Weimar, from 1708 to 1717, he composed keyboard and orchestral works, honing his technical proficiency and confidence in extending established structures and synthesizing a variety of influences. He was particularly attracted to the Italian solo-tutti structure. It was in Weimar that he began his steady output of fugues as well as work on the Orgelbüchlein, a collection of Lutheran chorales arranged to instruct organists in training.
Bach served as director of music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen from 1717 to 1723. He was paid well and given much freedom to compose. Prince Leopold was a Calvinist and did not use elaborate music in church services, so most of Bach's output during this period was secular, such as the Bradenburg concertos.
Bach moved to Leipzig in 1723, and was appointed Cantor of Thomasschule, a public boarding school, as well as Director of Music for various churches around town. He held this position until 1750. The government council employing him forced him to make compromises in his music, but he still managed prolific output. He wrote up to five annual cantata cycles in his first six years. In 1729, he took over directorship of the Collegium Musicum, a secular ensemble, and wrote much of his music for the next several years in that context. Before his death in 1750, he composed the pieces comprising The Art of Fugue.
13. What did Gluck criticize about early eighteenth-century opera, and how did he reform that genre?
Christoph Willibald Gluck was involved in the opera reform movement in the 1750s. He sought to remove undesirable elements from Italian opera and confine the music to the service of the poetry and the advancement of the plot. These were the two proper functions of opera music in the reformers' eyes. He aimed to increase the importance of the overture, adapt the orchestra to more dramatic requirements in the music, and to reduce the contrast between aria and recitative. He blended recitatives, arias, and choruses into complete scenes, and kept the music closely associated with all the action. He displayed mastery of these goals in the operas Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) and Alceste (1767). In 1774, with the production of his Iphigenie en Aulide, Gluck sought to transcend boundaries of national styles by showing that a good opera could be written with French words. The opera was a success, and he followed up with revised editions of Orfeo and Alceste in French. Gluck's influence was widespread and evident in the works of Niccolo Piccinni, Luigi Cherubini, Gasparo Spontini, and Hector Berlioz.
14. Briefly describe Haydn's development of the string quartet. Refer to specific works where appropriate.
Haydn has been called the father of the string quartet, and he was the first great master of the genre. He focused on the performers in his compositions rather than the audience. His first quartets, starting in 1764, showcased his early mastery. He laid a foundation of the same four-movement pattern as in the symphony, but with some individual modifications. In 1781, he composed the six quartets of Op. 33, in which he broke from normal metrical patterns, playing tricks on the courtly dance. He titled these scherzo, Italian for "joke" or "trick," and this became the term for a lighthearted, witty, or comically fast movement in minuet or trio form. Op. 33 also contains playful dialogue between the players for great entertainment in amateur performances. In his later quartets, particularly the six in Op. 76 in 1796, Haydn introduced chromatic progressions, chromatic chords, enharmonic changes, and elaborate tonal shifts, foreshadowing Romantic harmony.
15. Why did Mozart leave Salzburg in 1781, and how did his first compositions in Vienna reflect his new professional life?
By 1780, Mozart had been living with his parents and composing church music in Salzburg for eight years. When he then received a commission to write an opera seria for Munich, he gained a sense of independence while away. Upon his return, he was still treated like a servant, as before. During a visit to Vienna with his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, Mozart attempted to resign over an argument. He was initially refused resignation, and his intentions were opposed by his father, but within a month, he was officially kicked out of service in Salzberg.
He worked for the next ten years as a freelance musician in Vienna. He performed all over the city, became a well-known piano virtuoso, taught private lessons, put on his own concerts, and composed for a variety of purposes. His opera, Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail was a great success and established his reputation as a composer. He developed a strong relationship with Joseph Haydn and dedicated six quartets to him from 1782 to 1785. During the same time, Mozart presented several concerts per year with himself as soloist. He frequently composed new piano concertos for these concerts, and booked himself in unconventional venues like apartment buildings and restaurants. Many of these concertos are still prevalent in today's repertoire.
16. What does Beethoven express in the Heiligenstadt Testament, and how are "heroic" values implied in his Third Symphony?
In 1802, four years after Beethoven had started to lose his hearing, he wrote a letter, now known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, about his hearing affliction. It was intended to be read by his brothers after his death. In it, he expressed despair that he felt compelled to withdraw from society. His hearing was once of the highest perfection, an essential attribute in his profession, but as it faded he could not bear to confess his disability in daily situations. Beethoven felt that he could only interact with society when absolutely necessary. Situations in which he could not hear what his fellow men could nearly drove him to suicide. He indicated that it was only for his art that he kept living. He had no desire to leave the world until he had fully expressed all he had felt.
In his Third Symphony, Sinfonia Eroica, Beethoven expressed in music his own experience of overcoming his crippling affliction and regaining the will to compose. Analyses of the work indicate that the first movement showcases his story of struggle and victory, with the main motive serving as the protagonist, undergoing transformations, sinking to weakness, and rising to triumph.
17. Briefly describe the important role of literature in music during the nineteenth century, and give examples of how such composers as Berlioz, Schumann, and Liszt incorporated literary elements into their compositions.
Instrumental music was held in high esteem in the nineteenth century, but literature was still critical to the work of most composers. The era saw a huge outpouring of literary works from Russians like Tolstoy, English like Dickens, Americans like Poe, and French like Hugo. Many composers had writers as friends, and/or were writers themselves. Berlioz and Schumann were professional music critics, and Liszt wrote essays on music. Many genres required the marriage of text and music, so composers sought to convey the meaning of existing poetry within their music. This led to innovations in harmony and melody and unusual musical effects to color certain pieces of text.
In his opera, Les Troyens, Berlioz drew from Virgil's The Aeneid. Schumann was influenced by literature from a young age, as his father was a bookseller. This influence blossomed in his vastly productive year of Lieder compositions in 1840. Liszt created a style of symphonic poems, which embraced allusions to literature, history, and fantasy in instrumental music.
18. Discuss the development of Lieder from Schubert to Schumann to Wolf.
Prior to Schubert, Lieder resembled folksong qualities, with strophic, syllabic treatment of text. In addition to his nine symphonies, church music, and operas, Schubert wrote around 600 Lieder, paving the way for Romantic composers to embrace the writing of short piano pieces. He brought to the genre an advanced sense of harmony and symbolic representation of the content in the music.
In 1840, Schumann's lengthy courting of his former piano instructor's daughter came to fruition. During this year, he produced over 120 Lieder, reflecting all the emotions he felt in his relationship. He strove to place the voice and piano on equal ground and gave the piano many preludes and interludes to show that it was more than just accompaniment.
Much later, Hugo Wolf composed most of his 250 Lieder between 1887 and 1897. He published five collections, each devoted to a single poet or region. He applied Wagner's notion of collective artwork to Lieder, seeking to fuse poetry and music into a single piece of art.
19. What are important differences (in terms of both music and subject matter) between Italian and German Romantic opera? Cite specific examples of each.
In the early 1800s, Rossini, Donizetti, and Bellini composed some of today's most famous opera works, creating a new tradition in Italian opera. Rossini established a style known as bel canto, characterized by beautiful melodies and virtuosic singing. In this style, the voice is the most important element of the opera, beyond the story, orchestra, and visuals. Rossini also developed an elaborate scene structure, evident within his operas such as The Barber of Seville. Subject matter frequently involves city life of realistic people in dramatic situations.
German composers of the time further developed the interaction between music and literature, already typical of nineteenth-century Romanticism. In opera, the Singspiel played a central role, and composers drew influence from French opera while emphasizing their own national style. Carl Maria von Weber's libretto of Der Freischutz is exemplary of German Romantic opera. Plot content is drawn from fairy tales and legends. Supernatural creatures are commonly involved against a background of medieval forests and villages. Resolution emphasizes the triumph of a good protagonist mortal character over evil. The music draws strongly from Italian and French traditions, but diverges with the introduction of German folk melodies and chromatic harmony focusing on inner voices rather than the melody.
20. To what composers does "The Mighty Handful" (or "The Five") refer? What musical goals did these composers share?
"The Mighty Handful" refers to Russian composers Mily Balakirev, Aleksander Borodin, Cesar Cui, Modest Musorgsky, and Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov. They shared a passion for self-education, forming a close-knit group for discussions and debates about the merits of every piece of Western music they could get their hands on. They shared an enthusiasm for Schumann, Chopin, Liszt, and Berlioz. All but Balakirev lacked conventional training, so they were as affected by the Russian folk music around them as by the Western classical music of their independent study. The group's goal was to create a specifically Russian kind of art music, without relying on European-style conservatory training or imitation of older European music like Mozart and Mendelssohn. They strove to incorporate in their works the music of village songs and the sounds of daily Russian life. They also embraced unconventional harmonic devices such as the whole tone scale and octatonic scale to further distinguish themselves from the more conservative, heavily schooled composers like Tchaikovsky.
21. How does Schoenberg's break from tonality relate to principles of German Expressionism?
The Expressionist movement encompassed many art forms including painting, sculpture, literature, music, dance, theater, and architecture. Expressionist painters portrayed real people or objects in distorted ways for emotional effect. They focused on introspective exploration of extreme psychological pressure and the stressful emotions of modern people: fear, anxiety, tension, helplessness, isolation.
Arnold Schoenberg and his pupil Alban Berg were the leading practitioners of Expressionism in music. Their endeavors paralleled expressionism in art by exploring dissonance, distorted melodies, cacophonous harmonies, and a chaotic and discordant atmosphere. Schoenberg's Expressionist endeavors led him to abandon any attempt at establishing a tonal center. This allowed him to focus on prolonged dissonances in his pieces, freeing them from the need to resolve to consonance.
22. Describe Bartók's interest in ethnomusicology, and explain ways in which he adopted Eastern European peasant music into his own works.
Classically trained in Budapest, Béla Bartók had already started a career as a virtuoso pianist and composer before he overheard the singing of a woman from Transylvania in 1904. This began his interest in the folk music of Hungary and Romania. He collected, edited, and wrote about thousands of traditional songs and dances. He arranged many folk tunes and wrote his own pieces based on them. In fusing the styles of peasant and classical music, he strove to emphasize the elements most strongly in common as well as most distinctive between the two traditions. He retained a strong sense of tonality and motivic melodies from both. He included elaborate counterpoint and formal fugue and sonata forms from classical music. From the regional folk music, he brought rhythmic complexity, odd meters, exotic scales, and nuances of melodic embellishment.
23. Summarize Stravinsky's musical aesthetic of the 1920s and 1930s, and identify stylistic features of neoclassicism in his works from that period.
Stravinsky was recognized as the leader of the neoclassical movement from 1919 to 1951. He turned away from Russian folk music an toward pre-Romantic Western art music as a source of inspiration. He had already established his own unique style, so this change of focus just gave him a new palette to work with. His music bore an anti-Romantic tone, sacrificing emotion for balance and objectivity. It was an application of Baroque principles to a sound rooted in Russian tradition.
24. Define total serialism and indeterminacy, and identify composers who experimented with each of these techniques.
Total serialism is the application of the principles of the twelve-tone method to musical parameters other than pitch, including duration, intensities, and timbres. Milton Babbitt's Three Compositions for Piano (1947) is credited as the first total serial piece. Composers in Europe such as Pierre Boulez explored similar ideas independent of Babbitt.
Indeterminacy is an approach to composition, pioneered by John Cage, in which the composer leaves certain aspects of the music unspecified. The Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski also made selective use of indeterminacy.
25. Identify specific ways in which minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass were influenced by non-Western music.
Steve Reich drew inspiration from his Jewish heritage. His 1981 album, Tehillim, is a setting of psalm text in their original Hebrew for four singers and orchestra. The formal structure he employed was in sharp contrast to his earlier minimalist work.
Philip Glass was deeply influenced by Indian music after working with sitarist Ravi Shankar in Paris in the 1960s. He wrote operas about Gandhi's struggle, and an Egyptian pharoah martyred for his religious beliefs.