Posted in Project 2: String Quartets, Uncategorized

Exercise 5.5

This exercise is about making a piano arrangement of the first 30 bars of Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 18 No. 1. The brief specified to include some basic background information regarding the piece, which I will commence this post with.

Beethoven’s Op. 18 is consisted of six string quartets, commissioned for Prince Joseph Lobkowitz and published in 1801. In composing the quartets, Beethoven drew from the legacy of Haydn and Mozart, even copying Haydn’s Op. 20 and Mozart’s 1785 quartets, in order to understand how to write for the medium (11). I found this especially interesting – although he had studied violin in his apprentice years and had played viola in the Bonn orchestra, Beethoven was primarily a pianist who improvised and composed at the keyboard (10), and as such he had to study the genre. Along these lines, it is not surprising that he had heavily revised quartet No. 1, writing to his friend Karl Amenda: “I have greatly changed it, having just learned how to write quartets properly.” In this sense, the quartet is an important evidence of Beethoven’s growth as a musician and composer, showing his mastery over the quartet texture he had recently started exploring.

The first movement, Allegro con brio is in F major in 3/4 follows, opening with a two-bar motif that is boldy stated in unison. The motif permeates the whole movement, overlaid into Beethoven’s rather complex contrapuntal writing. The motif also introduces the organization of two-bar segments in terms of the metrical beat, with the first being strong and the second weak.

My arrangement of the first 30 bars for piano is below:

In my opinion, the first half of this segment was quite easy to arrange. I didn’t have to alter anything in terms of pitches. The articulation also remained mostly the same, except for two instances of dynamic reconsideration at bar 14 and 16 in which I could only retain diminuendo, but not the initial crescendo due to the differing nature of the instruments. While the violin could easily achieve the rising and falling dynamics of a long note in a single sustained bow by altering pressure, this is impossible on the piano due to the percussive nature of keys.

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Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form, Uncategorized

Exercise 5.0

This exercise is about the Classical sonata form. The task is to refer to the outline in the brief and make notes regarding the main sections found within its structure. Since I have already researched the sonata form in my previous studies, I did already write extensively about it early on in the Composing 1 unit here. As such, I decided to include some snippets from that post, which illustrate the main points.

To begin, I’ve delineated some historical background on how the form was developed in the post, which I have compiled into a slideshow below:

I have then described each section, which I’ve also grouped into another slideshow:

To conclude, I think the whole post was very detailed and that there isn’t much to add. All the notes it provides have a great level of information for the following exercises for this project, so it was good to read through everything again and remind myself of certain things.

Posted in Project 1: Sonata Form, Uncategorized

Research Point 5.0: Classicism in the 18th Century

The task of this research point is to write 400 words about Classicism of the 18th Century and how it related to science, philosophy, politics and other fields, with the focus on the way it impacted the arts and music.

To begin, it is worth mentioning that the term Classicism itself refers to a network of ideas and attitudes, as well as different artistic traditions in the West through history. But perhaps the most important is its ethos “to construct an ideal vision and version of human experience that should inspire and instruct by its nobility, authority, rationality, and truth … and to provide convincing models for imitation.” (Greenhalgh, 2016)

This ideal was first taken by the ancient Greek and Roman artists, and in the subsequent generations, the term classicism came to signify those who admired, imitated or reused their antique artworks and literature, rediscovering the systems of measurement and proportion that have been used to achieve the main characteristics of beauty, including “harmony, clarity, restraint, universality and idealism”. (Britannica, 2018)

However, classicism doesn’t necessarily denote direct influences by the antiquity and can broadly represent ‘distant responses’ of the past in one’s contemporary culture: “Each generation’s classicism is cumulative – a data bank of ideas, forms, and motifs based on contributions made by previous centuries.” (Greenhalgh, 2016) Interestingly, although Western music was still theoretically somewhat influenced by the antiquity, in practice, however, it stood as an art form that has mainly accumulated the post-antique customs and techniques. As such, the 18th century music was marked as ‘classical’ not in terms of its relationship with the antiquity, but in terms of reaching a high ‘standard of excellence’ (Greenhalgh, 2016) that contrasted the preceding ‘baroque’ phase. In this sense, it was established by the German-speaking composers of Europe, including Haydn, Mozart, Gluck and the young Beethoven, as a new caliber of polished and refined music, allowing for the standardization of certain genres and musical forms, as wells as the structure of symphony orchestras and chamber ensembles. (Britannica, 2018)

In terms of the wider culture, while the Renaissance regarded the binaries of feeling/reason, humanity/nature, social/personal, generic/individual, church/state etc., as one harmonious whole, Classicism began polarizing and distancing them, evidenced in the rise of Enlightenment. This current of philosophical thought had its primary origin in the scientific revolution of the 16th and 17th centuries, with rationalism becoming its main doctrine, and it is often associated with the liberal political and revolutionary ideas, especially being linked to the French Revolution of 1789. (Bristow, 2017) The ideas of the structural clarity and objectivity from the philosophy particularly influenced the musical style as it switched to homophony and crafted the main sonata-form.


Greenhalgh, M. (2016) ‘Classicism.’ In: Grove Art Online. At: https://www.oxfordartonline.com/groveart/view/10.1093/gao/9781884446054.001.0001/oao-9781884446054-e-7000017983 (Accessed 20th Oct 2019)

Britannica (2018) Classicism and Neoclassicism. At: https://www.britannica.com/art/Neoclassicism (Accessed 20th Oct 2019)

Bristow, W. (2017) Enlightenment. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy  At: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/enlightenment/ (Accessed 20th Oct 2019)

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 Project 2: String Quartets, Uncategorized

Exercise 5.4

The task of this exercise is to analyse the different textures in the second movement of Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76 No. 3, known as the ‘Emperor’.

To begin, the movement is structured as theme with four variations. The theme is Haydn’s own hymn God Save Emperor Franz, harmonized in four parts of the string quartet. The texture here is homophonic, with the hymn being played in the first violin.

In the first variation, the theme is situated in the second violin, accompanied by fast arpeggiated first violin with semiquaver notes that contrast the slow notes of the hymn. Personally, the texture here reminds me of the floral organum – the hymn notes are like cantus firmus on top of which the other part provides elaborate floral passages.

Next, the theme is played by the cello in the second variation, on top of which the other three parts add free contrapuntal layers in long notes. This texture is very Renaissance-like, reminding of motets of Palestrina and other composers we looked at in the first part of the unit.

In the third variation, viola plays the hymn, with the other parts entering separately, creating moments of two-part, three-part and finally, four-part contrapuntal texture that often contains canonic echoes. The treatment is again in free counterpoint.

In the final variation, all the voices start at the same time, with the theme brought back to the first violin, this time in the higher register. There is an interesting blend between homophonic and contrapuntal textures, with the distinction almost blurred. What I find especially exhilarating is how approaching the end, the whole melodic structure becomes increasingly chromatic, introducing a new tension before softly resolving into the final cadence.

Overall, I really enjoyed listening to this movement of Haydn’s quartet, which was like a journey to me. I think it’s really special in its construction of textures that honor the previous polyphonic traditions – such as the organum-like first variation and the free Renaissance-like counterpoint found in the other variations. Approaching the final notes, these are blurred into the modern homophony and the chromaticism by which Haydn brings his hymn back into the musical reality of his contemporary era of classicism.

Posted in Project 3: Serialism, Uncategorized

Exercise 4.1

This exercise is about the theme (bars 34-57) from Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra, Op. 31 given in the course material. The brief offers several questions which I will answer below, keeping with the given word-count of 350 words. I have listened to the example provided in the audio resources for the course.

  • How are the individual phrases shaped?

The individual phrases of the theme all derive from the primary twelve-tone row (bars 34-39) in retrograde, inversion and retrograde inversion with different transpositions. In terms of the form, it might be noticed that the rhythmic material is the same between the Haupstimme in the cello and violin, and it might be argued that the structure is the ternary aba, if the section starting from bar 46 until 50 could be considered b. I found that Schoenberg (cited in Zovko, 2007: 41) himself named the sections a (bars 34-45) as Vordersatz (antecedent) and section b Nachsatz (consequent).

  • How are motifs developed to create a sense of progression?

Although the motifs are all related, the melodic variation created by the retrograde, inversion, retrograde inversion, as well as transpositions, all provide enough variety in pitch, intervals, and direction of the melody, which produces a sense of development. At the same time, the expression markings, tempo and the varying rhythm all contribute to the progression and increase in the interest of specific tones.

  • How do these attributes, among others, create the emotional journey of the theme?

This is something I found very difficult to answer in terms of the Sibelius audio example, which sounded very mechanical and I couldn’t really identify anything ’emotional’. And so, I decided to listen to a recording of the piece in which the theme was being played by live musicians. Indeed, in this setting, the 3/4 time signature and dynamic marks really made the melody dark, suspenseful and undulating, which turned the atonality to be very expressive rather than dry and neutral. I have to mention here that this element somewhat surprised me – I assumed that dodecaphonic music is based on complete objectivity and impersonal sound, and I feel like I have underestimated its use of dissonance and the emotive response this can produce. In this regard, the way the melody rises and falls, pauses and repeats in different contexts of retrograde, inversion and retrograde-inversion and transpositions, sounds very human to me, in a kind of gloomy psychological way. Finally, it is interesting that Schoenberg himself had to argue for the musicians to perform his music in the same expressive way as they would perform Beethoven and other composers. (Huscher, n.d.)

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Posted in Project 3: A Bach Chorale, Uncategorized

Exercise 3.5: Bach’s Cantata No. 140

The task for this exercise is to listen to the whole Cantata No. 140 by Johann Sebasian Bach, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (‘Awake, calls the voice to us’), known as Sleepers Wake, first without and then with the score. The aim is to research the cantata to discover how it is structured and the way the chorale melody and words inform the composition, as well as to look at the full text. Although the brief mentions writing 300 words about the newly acquired knowledge on the piece and its impact, my research, as usual, ended being quite detailed. As such, this post is almost 1.500 words long, altogether with a short reflective conclusion.

Firstly, cantata originated in Italy as a lyrical counterpart to the dramatic and epic sister-genres of opera and oratorio. (Durr, 2005: 3) Originally, the term denoted a vocal composition with accompaniment, contrasting the purely instrumental genre of sonata. (Britannica, 2017) The typical Italian form was usually written for solo voice with continuo and later, orchestral accompaniment, consisted of succession of contrasting sections or movements, normally two arias, each of which is preceded by a recitative. (Grove, 2001) Spreading to the neighboring countries, it reached a high point in the Protestant Germany, where it was transformed from being a predominantly secular genre into a major feature of scared Lutheran music. While influenced by the Italian models, the development of the German cantata was largely independent, drawing from the local tradition and its use of chorus, and the important role of chorale – the German Protestant congregational hymns that often served as cantus firmus for new compositions. (Apel, 1969: ) Contrasting the more homogenic Italian solo cantata, the heterogeneous German choral form combined the biblical prose, chorale lines, aria stanzas, madrigalian poetry, recitative and dialogue elements, as well as concertato and contrapuntal styles, resulting in a varied multi-sectional structure. (Krummaher, 2001)

Bach’s (Fig. 1) cantatas, centered around the chorale texts and music, represent the culmination of the German choral cantata genre with several different types. Wachet auf, as a part of Leipzig chorale cantatas, belongs to the group which retains the first and last strophes of the chorale, with others replaced by aria and recitatives.

Fig. 1. A portrait of J. S. Bach (Haussmann, 1746)
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Posted in Listening for Part 3: Baroque Period, Uncategorized

Italian Sonatas and Concertos

In this post I will list the Italian baroque sonatas and concertos, which not only informed many Bach’s compositions, but also my own piece for Assignment 3.

Archangelo Corelli – Sonatas from Op. 1-5 and Twelve Concerti grossi Op. 6

Corelli was a key figure in the establishment of the standard forms for both the da camera and da chiesa sonatas, and the concerto grosso. It was interesting to read that honoring him, Telemann even composed Sonates corellisantes, explicitly showing this influence. Although there are multiple recordings for Op. 5 and Concerti grossi, the recordings of trio sonatas Op. 1-4 were a bit difficult to find.

Curiously, despite being a da chiesa set, Op. 1 is the least structured among all sonatas, since Corelli was beginning to experiment with the genre and the texture of the trio. I found this aspect very compelling to see – being able to follow this experimental aspect in the score, which is absent in the Op. 3, when the form became solidified. Generally, I enjoyed the slow, expressive movements the most in the da camera sonatas. From both cycles, Op. 1 No. 10 in G minor and Op. 3 No. 2 are among my favorite.

In terms of the da camera trio sonatas from Op. 2 and Op. 4, I was quite taken by how kaleidoscopic these pieces are in terms of using the different dance forms, both elegant and vigorous ones. There are even some interesting timbral effects, such as the trumpet-like fanfares in Allemanda from Op. 2 No. 10, and the descending parallel fifths created by the violins and bass in the Allemanda from Op. 2 No. 3. The one I really liked is Op. 4 No. 1 in C major, especially the prelude.

I was already well acquainted with Op. 5, since I have played some excerpts myself a few years ago. Still, it was interesting to revisit these sonatas, since I feel like a lot has changed about my knowledge on the baroque period, and my position on the notation. Looking again at the score and listening to some different interpretations, I realised there was a good deal of non-notated ornamentation. It never occurred to me back in the day that I could add these little improvisatory flourishes, while now it seems very logical. In this sense, La Folia variations, one which I played the most, was perhaps the most curious to experience anew.

Unlike Op. 5, I have never encountered Op. 6. As such, I was slightly surprised that they were also structures as either concerti da chiesa or concerti da camera. What I also learned through listening and looking at the score is that there are two distinct stylistic features present in the concerti – one exemplified by the succession of homophonic chords and the other by the ecstatic imitative suspensions above the walking bass line. The most unique is the five-movement Christmas Concerto Op. 6 No 8 in G minor. Like the other concerti, the tempo is quite interestingly set, with the composition starting with a fiery vivace as an introduction to the Grave opening movement, while the third Adagio movement also contains a central episode in Allegro, but none of the others end with a Pastorale ad libitum – a true gem of music of the opus.

Vivaldi – Concertos in A minor RV356 and G major ‘alla rustica’ RV151

What really shocked me upon searching for Vivaldi’s concertos is that, beside the Four Seasons, he has composed over 500 pieces of the genre, around 230 being for violin.

As such I have decided to listen again to the familiar concerto in A minor, which I have performed in a concert more than five years ago. I think this is the first time I approached the composition in a more analytical way, having previously been focused only on the performance aspects. This time I could really delve into other structures, such as the chords being played by the basso continuo, which I haven’t really considered before this part of the course. I could also focus on the ritornello form, which I learned about in the exercise 3.5 for Bach’s Wachet auf.

For the second concerto, I chose ‘alla rustica’ in G major, since it contrasts the A minor in having no soloist and being very short, lasting around 5 minutes. There are only three movements each with interesting things to showcase. The first is a peculiar moto perpetuo in 9/8 that ventures into G minor in the final bars, which personally reminded me of the storm from The Four Seasons, the second being an emotive adagio with ornamental passages, while the third utilizes the sharpened fourth degree of the scale, C# – being in Lydian mode common to the folk music, which I learned is reminiscent of Telemann’s Polish-style sonatas – I plan to add these to the listening log at some point later in the course.

Posted in Project 1: Handel's Dixit Dominus and Figured Bass, Uncategorized

Exercise 3.1

This exercise is about creating a different spacing of chords in order to realise the given figured bass from Handel’s Dixit Dominus. Here is my version with an audio below:

I will write the reflection in exercise 3.3 here, which is dedicated to my experience on realising a figured bass.

Posted in Project 1: Handel's Dixit Dominus and Figured Bass, Uncategorized

Research Point 3.0, Part 1: Ancient Tuning systems of Near East and Greece

This research point is about different tuning systems used throughout history and in different parts of the world. The task is to write about 400 words on the topic, but as I have once again delved quite deeply into the subject, I decided to do a much longer four-part series of posts. I will talk about ancient tuning systems in the first two, while the third will cover the period between Gothic music and Romanticism in order to reach the modern systems in the final post.

Out of an infinite continuum of pitch, the idea of tuning systems developed in music as an organizational tool that serves to define particular pitches that will be used in performance in relation to one another, providing neutral models of interval size for the hierarchical distribution of tones in scales. The early tuning systems had no fixed pitch reference, and as such, represent relative-pitched quantifications or calculations of mathematic ratios. Tuning systems around the world and in different historical periods emerged for the musical needs of their culture, as well as to meet the special requirement of specific instruments, which comparing to the voice, necessitate the determination of precise pitches in order to be played. (Britanica) In this way, the earliest pitch-related concepts formed in relation to the construction of instruments and their tuning processes, preserved not only orally and in notation, but also in the traditional practice of building instruments to the certain traditional specifications. (music and memory)

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