When I was thinking about what form to use for my first percussion duet example, I remembered Bach’s unique two-part inventions that always interested me. This was a great opportunity to learn more about them, but more than that, it turned out to be an even better chance to take a closer look at baroque music theory as well.
The early version of Bach’s two-part inventions appeared in his collection Clavierbüchlein, a musical notebook for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (Fig. 1), compiled “on 22 January Anno 1720.” The instruction is organized systematically and thoughtfully: the first half consists of pieces focused on finger exercises with simple chorale preludes, suites, and 11 preludes that were later expanded and integrated into the Well-Tempered Clavier; The second half focuses on counterpoint and consists of the suites by Telemann and partita by Stölzel, but most importantly, this is where the fifteen two-part praeambulae and three-part fantasias first appear, which will be retitled and revised into Inventions and Sinfonias. (Tomita, 1999)
Fig. 1. J. S. Bach (left) and his son Wilhelm (right) Continue reading “Example 1 Research: Musical Rhetoric and Bach’s Two-Part Inventions”
While searching for musical forms to use for quintuple time signature, I came upon a traditional dance-song rhythm of the Basque, called zortziko. (Fig. 1)
Fig. 1. Zortziko rhythm
Jean Bergara, the famous Basque flutist said “I don’t know why, but I feel we [Basque people] are born with this rhythm.” (2008: 479) Although the above 5/8 measure with a dotted pattern on the second and fourth beats is the most often encountered type of zortziko today, that largely represents the Basque culture, there are many controversies surrounding the subject.
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the publications like Revista Musical de Bilbao and Euskalerriare Alde gave rise to the discussion. Some music critics began to assign to the zortziko an exotic origin, like Gascue, who regarded it as of Celtic origin, writing that it was neither as old nor as frequent in Basque music as was claimed. Aztue, investigating the subject, saw that the presence of zortziko in old songbooks was scarce, and geographically only appeared in Cantabrian area. These sung zortzikos he found (Fig. 2a) didn’t have dots and showed similarities to some of the Gavaert’s examples of classical Greek tunes, like the First Delphic Hymn to Apollo written in 5/8. (Fig. 2b) Although, unlike Gascue, he didn’t directly propose the Greek origin. Either way, there is no substantial proof to either theories. Continue reading “Example 3 Research: Zortziko”
The two instruments I chose for my second percussion duet are triangle and tambourine. Triangle I already wrote about in the research for my first percussion duet example, so here I will only look at tambourine. Nevertheless, it’s interesting to first mention that both triangle and tambourine are two of the most ignored instruments in the percussion family. Grover and Waley (2000) write:
“While most serious percussion students spend time practicing snare drum, timpani and keyboard percussion, few spend time practicing accessory instruments like tambourine and triangle … This is unfortunate since both student and professional percussionists spend much of their performance time playing on accessory instruments.”
The tambourine is the descendant of one of the oldest percussion instruments – the ancient frame drum, as its variant with jingles. Frame drum remained practically unchanged, today it is exactly as pictured on ancient monuments. (Blades:385 ) It is found in most cultures and its invention, as is pointed out in Encyclopedia Americana (1832: 113), “would seem naturally to have taken place very early, as it is very simple…” and are “generally found, even among the rudest tribes.”
Frame drums are often used in shamanistic ritual, where it is played with a bone, horn or stick. One example is the Siberian shamanic frame drum (Fig. 1a) which has cross-bars inside the frame. Sometimes numerous rattles of pieces of iron and other material can be added hanging to the bars (Fig. 1b), in order to make the instrument jingle and jangle.
Fig. 1a. Siberian frame drum Continue reading “Еxample 2 Research, Part 1: Tambourine and Frame Drum”
Scherzo in Italian means a joke. (Taylor, 1989: p. xx) One of the earliest use of the word in a title of a musical piece was in light-hearted madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi – his Scherzi musicali with two sets of pieces. (Gordon, 2002: 38) Then we have Antonio Brunelli, in his pieces for voices and instruments titled Scherzi, Arie, Canzonette e Madrigale. (Hammond: 164) Johann Baptist Schenk also wrote Scherzi musicali, however it is only a title for fourteen suites for gamba and cotinuo.
Later, the term scherzo was used to denote lively instrumental works in fast tempos in duple time signature, commonly in 2/4. Such is the case with the scherzo in Bach’s Keyboard Partita no. 3 (Dzapo, 59) and later, in Haydn’s Sonatina in F major.
Continue reading “Example 2 Research, Part 2: Scherzo and Scherzino”
As I was reading about the interesting structure of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, I started to think about a possible theme that could respond well to this type of format, and unite it with the combined sounds of a woodblock and a taiko drum. This is when I decided to use one of my favorite holidays from my childhood – “the most colorful, sensational and joyous of all Chinese festivals” (Stepanchuk and Wong: 1) – the Lunar New Year.
The New Year of Chinese lunar calendar, usually falls between 20th January and 20th February, depending on what date new moon appears. A constant accompaniment to this fifteen-day celebration is the sound of firecrackers (Fig. 1)– an icon of this holiday, which livens the festive atmosphere.
Fig. 1. Traditional chinese firecrackers
Continue reading “Example 4 Research, Part 6: Chinese New Year”
My quest for more musical structures and forms carried me yet to another voyage. This time it lead me to the 19th century “New Russian School” and introduced me to one among its five composers of “The Mighty Handful”, and what is perhaps his most famous, slightly unpianistic (Russ:1), piano composition.
On 4th August, in 1873, Modest Mussorgsky lost his close friend, the architect, painter and designer, Victor Hartmann (Fig. 1), who died very suddenly of an aneurysm at the age of 39.
Fig. 1. Hartman and Mussorgsky
It was a terrible loss for him. He wrote in a letter to Stasov, a respected Russian critic:
“This is how the wise usually console us blockheads, in such cases: ‘He is no more, but what he has done lives and will live.’ True … but how many men have the luck to be remembered?” (Nagachavskaya, )
Continue reading “Example 4 Reseach, Part 5: Inspiration behind Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition”
In this post I will look at minzoku geino – the Japanese folk and ritual music. As we move away from the realm of court music and classical theater towards the field of folk and religious performing arts, the prominence of drums and drumming increases. However, we also get to the place where the division between folk performing arts and religiously inspired festival music becomes very ambiguous.
Most of what is called folk music, with exception of some folk songs or work songs, is derived from religious festivals or worship and in turn, folk music also influenced the religious practice, as we’ve seen with sarugaku and dengaku monks. Whether or not folk is considered as a separate form, or a part of religious music, remains unclear, but folk performing arts are distinctly separated from the classical theater, despite Noh and kabuki having roots in folk entertainments.
The music of Japanese ritual and festivity derives primarily from a collection of religious practices and worship of Shinto religion, dedicated to ancestors and supernatural spirits kami. (Fig. 1) Formal rituals evolved into the sacred music and dance called kagura – god music. It is typically divided into two types – mi-kagura, which generally speaking, includes performances inside the precincts of the Imperial palace by court musicians of the Imperial household, and sato-kagura that accompanies festivals, usually at important seasonal moments in agriculture. (Ortolani, 16) The form today associated with contemporary Japanese festivals, descends from the latter.
Fig. 1. Woodblock print of kami – Amaterasu
Continue reading “Example 4 Reseach, Part 4: Taiko drums in Japanese folk and ritual music”
In this post I will take a look at koten geino, the classical performing arts of Japan and then see the way taiko drums were used. The first of Japan’s two classical theatres is Noh (Fig. 1a and Fig. 1b) – Japanese musical dance-drama with masks. Despite a lot of research, its origin isn’t very clear. Zeami, founder of Noh writes in his treatise Fushikaden, about two versions of its origin – one Shinto, one Buddhist and states that:
“Time has passed, and with the interposition of the ages it no longer lies within our abilities to learn how it first appeared.” (2013:11/30)
Fig. 1a. Painting from National Noh Theatre Continue reading “Example 4 Research, Part 3: Taiko Drums in the Japanese Classical Theater Forms”
It was interesting to find out that to Japanese people, taiko simply means drum, which translates to it being a broad category with a wide range of instruments. In the West, the word is used to refer to the more specific category of traditional Japanese drums – wadaiko (wa prefix means Japanese) and the ensamble taiko drumming.
Japanese drums are differentiated based on their size, shape and material of composition. However, I will describe these types through the three main genres of Japanese performance: music for imperial court – gagaku, music accompanying the classical stage performing arts – koten geino, and music used in religious ritual or folk performing arts – minzoku geino.
Gagaku (Fig. 1) originated from the older court music of China and Korea. The arrival of Korean music in Japan was as early as 453 A.D. The music was introduced under the names of the Three Korean kingdoms, collectively known as sankangaku: from Baekje, pronounced Kudara in Japanese – kudaragaku, from Goguryeo pronounced Koma, called komagaku, Silla pronounced Shiragi – shiragigaku and other.
Fig. 1. Gagaku ensemble
Continue reading “Example 4 research, part 2: Taiko drums of imperial court music of Japan”
Like temple blocks, in form, a woodblock (Fig. 1) is a diminutive slit drum, and as Kalani mentions, being essentially a found instrument (meaning in nature), it is perhaps one of the oldest instruments and a staple instrument in many cultures around the world.
Fig. 1. Woodblock
The basic sound of woodblock hasn’t changed over the years: they have a short decay of sound, which produces a dry, brittle and penetrating tone, but much sharper than that of a temple block. Blades traces the origin of the woodblock used in Western orchestras to the Chinese high-pitched slit drum – Bangzi (Fig. 2) and the descriptions and illustration by Yung () also confirms this. However, none of the sources explain how the cultural leap of this instrument, from its Chinese context to its Western one, was made. (Grinnelli College Musical Instrument Collection: 2016) Continue reading “Example 4 Research, Part 1: Woodblocks”