Posted in Listening for Part 4: Moving towards 20th century, Uncategorized

Impressionist compositions

In this post I will list the impressionist compositions I have listened to.

Maurice Ravel

  • Jeux d’eau, Bolero, La valse

I have listened to these three pieces prior to the unit, as they were also included in some posts for Composing 1. Personally, Ravel is my favorite composer in his unique treatment of the themes, but also the way he would bring the musical genres to the extreme, with Bolero and La valse ultimately leading to the destruction of their ostinato rhythms, having been previously subjected to the intoxication of the dance elements. Unlike the two, jeux d’eau is very liberating in its flourishes of passages that seems to freely emanate from the piano without any musical constraint.

  • Le Tombeau de Couperin

This is actually my first encounter with the piece. I always thought of Ravel as an impressionist musician and as such I was somewhat surprised by his neoclassic endeavor to structure the piece as a traditional Baroque suite. To me this shows how the general, theoretical labels of style that are given to composers don’t necessarily fully reflect their practice. In fact, like Debussy, Ravel rejected the impressionist tag. In any case, the intention with which Ravel created the piece is more impactful. The title of tombeau refers to an earlier musical tradition in France, in which a piece or a collection of pieces were written as a memorial to honor a departed colleague or master. Although he initially planned to honor Couperin Le Grand, one of the founders of the French school of keyboard music, it was emotional to read that Ravel changed his plan with the World War I having taken lives of many people he had known. Making it a more personal gesture, Ravel dedicated each movement to a departed friend. In this sense, I wasn’t expecting that the music itself would be light-hearted.

While I knew many dance forms, the piece introduced me to a new one – forlane of the Venetian origin, popular with gondoliers. Coincidentally, this movement was the most dissonant and yet, in the sudden moments when it would reach more tonal resolutions, I found it to be my favorite in the whole composition. In fact, I find this mix of dissonance/atonality and consonance/tonality within the same movement quite interesting – something I would rarely dare to approach myself in composition, unless there was a programmatic motive. But this piece might have persuaded me to give it a go.

Posted in Listening for Part 4: Moving towards 20th century

Serialism

In this blog post I will list the serialist compositions I’ve listened to. Although in my listening log for Composing 1 I have included a few pieces in this style, I wasn’t really aware of the techniques and background that the music covered, and as such, approaching the style this time felt very different and anew.

Anton Webern – String Trio

It is quite incredible that Webern managed to incorporate forty-four out of forty-eight row transformations of the basic primary row in both movements of the trio. However, I personally feel like I am unable to fully appreciate this musical achievement, since at the moment I find that unlike Schoenberg’s twelve-tone music, I could barely designate any expressive thematic components and developments. Although I could distinguish clearly in the notation the tripartite ABA’ structure in the first movement and a somewhat sonata form in the second, most of the time I felt like I was listening to a mosaic structure I am unable to understand – though non-thematic approach to music was indeed one of Webern’s goals.