Posted in Project 1: Orchestras and Virtuosos, Uncategorized

Research point 2.1: Harold en Italie, Part 1 – Impression

The main task of this research point is to write around 400 words about my impression on listening to Berlioz’s Harold en Italie with the score, considering several points outlined in the course-book. I haven’t addressed each of these separately, since I believe the points overlap quite a bit in relation to the things I found specifically engaging in the music. Also, despite trying to limit myself to the suggested word count, the composition was so thrilling to me that the shortest I could confine myself to write was almost twice more, around 800 words. In any case, here is my impression on the piece:

Impression on Harold en Italie by Hector Berlioz

Reading the short background information on the history of Harold en Italie provided by the brief, my curiosity was sparked by its unique and puzzling origin, and with some further research, I was even more enticed by the complexities surrounding its genre classification, the enigmatic relationship with its literary inspiration, and its intriguing musical roots among other things. While I might lightly touch upon some of these contextual circumstances, what seized my attention the most were the two elements that can be heard and discovered within the music itself, which will be the main focus of this short article.

Firstly, in illustrating its programme, what I found utmost striking is how the narrative of the piece is musically sketched through the orchestration and instrumental positioning that form a distinct physical spacing for the story. In terms of the orchestration, it was very interesting for me to see how in the first movement, the scenery of the mountains is formed by the orchestral echoes of Harold’s idée fixe theme (Fig. 1), and culminates in the rhythmical displacement when the theme is played tutti (Fig. 2), and other similar points in the movement, representing the delay and reverberation of sounds that is characteristic in such an environment. In combination to this effect, Berlioz also utilizes the different dynamics, registers, timber and other qualities of the orchestra to further show the scale of the landscape.

berlioz 1.PNG

berlioz 2.PNG

Fig. 1. Example of the orchestral echoes of idée fixe theme (bars 42-49)

berlioz 3berlioz 4

Fig. 2. Rhythmical displacement of the idée fixe theme (bars 73-76)

What I thought was even more exciting is the second movement, and the way the ascending keys in the repetition of the themes and the shifting dynamics of the orchestra, manifest in the characterization of the pilgrims in a religious procession that are moving through space – pianissimo to forte and fading back to pianissimo, as if the pilgrims march pass us in their ascent up the mountain. In addition, together with the rhythm, melodic and harmonic manipulation, Berlioz also utilizes the different properties of specific orchestral members to create extra-musical associations such as the bells (Fig. 3) and the murmuring of the crowd or prayer (Fig. 4).

berlioz 4.png

Fig. 3. Orchestral illustration of the bells, bars 1-15

berlioz 6

Fig. 4. Orchestral illustration of the murmuring of the crowd or prayer, bars 33-36

In terms of placing the instruments in the performance venue, Berlioz gave specific instructions for the solo viola to be at the front and separated from the orchestra, with the harp close to it. While the justification of the intended genre or the better projection of the solo instrument could have influenced this decision, I would propose that the main intention was to physically create the acoustic environment of Harold’s isolation, where the melancholic observer in a contemplative state, personified as the viola accompanied by the harp, is surrounded by the unknown foreign land, depicted by the orchestra. In the final movement, Berlioz further widens the dramatic space of the musical narrative by utilizing off-stage acoustical space, with the appearance of the concealed string trio, situated behind the scenes. (In the video below, the off-stage trio appears around 45:13-45:39, however not too concealed, but behind the orchestra, as can be seen at 45:20)

While the on-stage music depicts the orgy of the brigands, the off-stage trio creates a spatial conflict by recounting the earlier march of the pilgrims, physically dramatizing Harold’s spiritual divide. To me, the silence of the viola at this point of conclusion is completely absorbing, in fact, as gripping as a film with open-ending, since the listener is removed from the chance to learn the outcome of Harold’s crucial moral decision about his life. This proves how, contrary to what one might assume, the silence, even of the soloist itself, can provide extremely powerful moments to the musical dramatization. While I hoped to find the recorded video of the performances to depict this more clearly, I find the staging not as satisfactory as I imagined when I only listened to the audio recording with the score.

Finally, beside the physical spacing, there was another element that caught my attention, and that is how the portrait of the Italian countryside has been largely musically exoticized. As van Rij (2015: 102) points out, influenced by the French attitude towards Italy as the subject of Napoloenic military conquest, Berlioz didn’t enter the creative dialogue with the techniques and styles from the modern Italian musical tradition he encountered at the Academy in Rome, which he perceived as uninspiring and constraining. As such, the gloomy double fugue that opens the composition, might be a representation of his perception of the Academy from which Berlioz sought the escape in the countryside. Indeed, the only instance where he interacts with the Italian musical tradition is through folk music in the third Serenade movement, where the ritornello imitates the pifferari tradition of the wondering Italian musicians. (Monelle: 2006: 230) However, what dominates the piece is the Italian landscape as showcased through the lens of musical exoticism – Italian country as Berlioz has conquered it with his own artistic visions and impressions, in other words, as he had experienced and wants the listeners to experience it. Lastly, many of the sections, including Harold’s idée fixe theme, are rather Scottish in tone, with quite a few parts borrowed from his Rob Roy overture, and the piece was even initially conceptualized as the Mary Stuart piece (van Rij, 2015: 100), all of which brings further considerations surrounding this peculiar symphony.

Continue reading “Research point 2.1: Harold en Italie, Part 1 – Impression”

Posted in Project 1: Orchestras and Virtuosos, Uncategorized

Research point 2.0: The orchestral score

This research point is about the layout of the orchestral scores, by taking a closer look at the first page of Don Juan by Richard Strauss, written in 1888. Below is the score:IMSLP18774-PMLP12183-Strauss_-_Don_Juan_(orch._score)-01.jpg

The task is to find out the instruments within each section of a standard symphony orchestra in their order. I find the advice of the brief about noting all the instrument names in the original language – French, Italian or other, and thus building my own multi-lingual glossary, very useful and productive. Below is the list with the order of instruments from each section with the names in English and German, latter being the language Strauss notated Don Juan. I decided not to include the number of instruments, mostly because I believe the terms are the main focus of this exercise, and not how many of each he used here, although I did keep the singular/plural forms of the nouns.

  • Wind section:

grosse Flötenflutes

  grosse Flöten (auch Piccolo)flutes (also piccolo)


Englisch Horncor anglais (UK and France) or English horn (in North America)

Clarinetten in Aclarinets in A

Fagottebassons (interestingly, we also call bassoon fagot in Serbia)

Contrafagottcontrabassoon or double bassoon

  • Horns:

 Hörner in Ehorns in E (compare this with the cor anglais above – in the singular form for horn in German, there is no ö, but only o)

  •  Brass section:

Trompeten in Etrumpets in E 


Tuba tuba

  • Percussion:

Pauken E. H. C.timpani in E, B and C


Becken  – cymbals

Glockenspiel glockenspiel


  • Strings:




Bassodouble bass

In conclusion, while this hasn’t been my first encounter with the orchestral score, I never paid attention before to the order of the instruments in the layout of the scores I’ve seen. As such, although the exercise wasn’t at all difficult, it was still very useful. With the exception of 3 German terms – Posaune, Pauken, Becken, that I had to search, all the others were very intuitive, so that I was confident in which instruments these were. Overall, I really enjoyed this research point.

Posted in Part 1 - Listening ST, Uncategorized

Mass Music, Part 2

In this post I will list the Renaissance and post-Renaissance mass compositions I’ve listened to, which include some 20th century neo-Renaissance pieces. All the compositions I’ve listened to are linked to my post for Research Point 1.1 here.

Polyphonic Renaissance Mass Pieces

Josquin des PrezMissa Pange Lingua (c. 1515)

Josquin wrote around 20 cyclic masses, making a compendium of all techniques of mass composition from his time, while introducing several new ones. As listening to all of them would take up too much time, I decided to focus on one of them. While I wanted to take a look at the new technique of solmization syllables, such as in his famous Missa Hercules Dux Ferrariae, where the cantus firmus is based on the syllables of the Duke’s name, in the end, I decided to take a look at Missa Pange lingua. Beside the use of imitation, what I found the most interesting is the way the Gregorian hymn Pange lingua has been transformed under the paraphrasing hand of Josquin, with the work completely organized around its melodic material, each movement with the motto beginning, being a type of variation and fantasy on the hymn. I was really absorbed to comparing the original hymn to its modified treatment, especially in Agnus Dei – the movement I enjoyed the most. I believe Josquin really put the Gregorian melody into the contemporary context of his time. In this sense, this Ordinary mass cycle shows how polyphonic techniques at the time weren’t used just as showcases of preferred musical taste with a set of compositional rules, but also a tool by which musicians could engage with the now detached old gems of music, under the new consideration that is supplied with novel techniques. I truly enjoy this type of historical interactions when studying the stylistic approach to music.

Orlando di LassoMissa super ‘Osculetur me’ (1582)

Although Palestrina is known as the hallmark of the Renaissance polyphonic mass compositions, I decided to also check out Lasso’s output of mass music, especially since he wrote around 60 of them. What I found very interesting about this mass is its use of the double-choir antiphonal music, reminiscent of the Venetian style of polychoral techniques, perhaps even being its precursor. I really tried to have my ears spot the differences in sonority between passages for one choir and those with both. However, I found this very difficult to accomplish, probably because my ears, used to the modern music, aren’t sensitive enough to spot these as contrasts, but only as barely-noticeable dissimilarities.

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Missa Papae Marcelli (c. 1562)

Palestrina, of course, made the biggest achievements in the field of mass composition, writing for all types of masses, influencing many future generations with his technical accomplishments. I have heard several of his mass pieces, and here decided to finally to listen to Missa Papae Marcelli, as it was historically significant when the Council of Trent raised the concerns over polyphonic music. The mass is based on the freely composed new material. What enjoyed the most was the contrast between the Credo and Gloria movements in the homophonic and declamatory style with block chords, and Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei in the florid, imitative style. Used here for the first time, this is a feature that will appear in all Palestrina’s subsequent masses.

Post-Renaissance Mass

Claudio MonteverdiMissa in illo tempore (1610) and Gloria a 7 voci (1640/1641)

I chose these two mass compositions by Monterverdi to compare the two styles of music that have appeared in Baroque music – stile antico and stile moderno. Indeed, the difference is gigantic. Missa in illo tempore is truly reminiscent of Palestrina’s style, with much everything the same, only organs added and clearer cadences, while Gloria a 7 voci, sounds very baroque, with many instrumental flourishes and continuo. It is interesting how one genre of music, in this case, the mass, can survive both as the practice that is preserving the old traditions, and as the practice that looks into the future. Continue reading “Mass Music, Part 2”

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint, Uncategorized

Exercises 1.2: First species

The task of this exercise is to compose a voice part to go with the pre-composed cantus firmus given in the course-book, based on the rules of first species of counterpoint by Fux.

Here is the finished exercise with the intervals marked (cantus is in the lower voice), while the analysis is below, in which I try to go over my process and the choices I made:

exercise 1.2

Following the rules and advices from page 21, I open and end on the octave (I could have opened on the 5th, but I chose to use the octave instead), while using the 3rds (10ths) and 6ths from bar 2 until the penultimate bar, thus no consecutive or exposed 5ths or octaves. I tried to make the melody of the upper line as smooth as possible in a wave-like motion, moving mostly in step-wise movement. The motion between the parts is mostly contrary, except the consecutive 3rds and 6ths. For example, I could have avoided the thirds by having the melody climb in bar 4 to F, instead of descending to C, but I feel like the melody wouldn’t be as smooth with the jump back and forth from D to F, so I decided that to conserve the flowy, step-wise movement instead as the final version of the melody instead of similar jumps. I don’t really like that the climax of the upper melody is in the penultimate bar – in my previous studies, my teachers advised the climax to be somewhere towards the middle, but I don’t think that is too big of a problem, since this is only a brief exercise. However, if I was creating a full piece, I would definitely watch out for the positioning of the climax of the melody.

Overall, I found the exercise quite engaging, although I did study Fux’s counterpoint before. Also, I quite liked the idea of working backwards from the final note, for the last two or three bars – I don’t think I have ever consciously done that before. Off to the second species.

Posted in Project 3: Introduction to Species Counterpoint, Uncategorized

First species: Analysis of Sample Solutions

Before Exercise 1.2, the course book asks for the analysis of the cantus firmus and its given solutions for the first species counterpoint, which I will tackle here.

This is the given cantus firmus:

cantus 1

The melody is formed of 8 whole notes, each lasting a bar, and starts and ends on the tonic – F. The range of the melody is only up to the 4th – the note Bb, which is also the climax of the melody. It is mostly calm and wave-like, in a way circling and revolving around the same notes that move in step-wise motion, except the one small jump to the 3rd – the climax note, which is then ‘filled’, with the melody coming back the opposite direction.

Next task is analyzing the solutions, while following the first species points given on page 21. In solution 1, the cantus firmus is places in the lower voice-part:

solution 1

As advised, the interval beginning and ending the counterpoint exercise is the octave, while the thirds and sixths fill out the rest, from the 2nd until the penultimate bar. The dominating motion between the parts is the contrary motion, which as the points indicate, represents a good way of asserting the independence of each melodic line. The only consecutive intervals are the 6ths near the end,  with no prohibited consecutive or exposed fifths or octaves. Like the cantus firmus, the upper melody is also flowy and wave-like, revolving around the same pitches, with two small jumps of 3rds that aren’t in a row. Similarly, the range of the upper part is also the 4th.

Finally, here is the cantus firmus in the upper voice, while the added voice of solution 2 is in the lower part:

solution 2

The aim here is to answer why I think the whole setting and sound is different when cantus firmus is in the lower part, while also going through the bullet points. First of all, when cantus firmus is in the upper voice, in order not to blur the modality, the lower part must start on the same degree, an octave lower. In order to achieve the contrary motion and the more calm, step-wise flow of melody, as the one in the solution, this means the intervals will be larger (I have marked them with their real gap, while in parentheses put the intervals they would be if they were without the octave distance, but unison as the beginning). All these could influence the sound, but there may also be another thing in question. For me personally, as I was trained to listened to both melodic lines, but for those that weren’t, the cantus melody in solution 2 could seem more recognizable in a sense, because of its placement in the higher voice, which tends to be more noticeable for people. I should also mention that there is one fifth (or 12th actually) in the 3rd bar, which is not as sonorous as the third or sixth that are usually preferred at a place like this (between 2nd and penultimate bars), however, it does provide the continuation of the contrary movement between the voices.

Overall, it was nice analyzing the given solutions before attempting the exercise, as this presented me with a kind of critical tool to evaluate my own future solutions. I think this is a very important aspect to keep in mind when practicing counterpoint.

Posted in Project 2: Palestrina and the Mass, Uncategorized

Research Point 1.1, Part B: Music and Religion

The second part of this research point is to write a brief article of around 500 words (although I went a bit above this threshold, almost 800 words), regarding the connection between music and religion, interlacing my personal position with the material I’ve discovered. Below is my short essay on the topic.

Music and Religion: The Layered Entanglement

From the historical perspective, although far from the contemporary understanding, in a loose manner, the interplays between music and religion may be traced all the way back to the prehistory, when, as Boivin (2004: 48) points out, ‘percussion and/or other sounds contributed to the creation of an appropriate spiritual or emotional state for viewing or creation of rock art in ritual context.’ In a peculiar way, despite the scarce information that is available regarding the music from this period, the rock art might represent the first musical artefacts that visually depict how early the humanity recognized the value of acoustics and sound-production for the mystical act of worship. Along these lines, the primitive societies today retained the force of music as a type of tone-magic in their percussive shamanistic rituals, often accompanied by trance.

The above contrasts the modern frame of reference, where music is seen to interact with religion, now in the institutionalized settings, in the sense of aiding wakeful and calm meditative states of devotion. This association can be observed in many organized religions across the world, and the scholars usually focus on the sacred music from one of the traditions as the area of their investigation, for example, trying to discover how the vocal music became the dominant form in certain religious landscapes, and how some particular sounds became emblematic of a certain tradition, such as om
in Hinduism, throat-singing in Buddhism, certain vocalizations in Islam, shofar in Judaism, and church organ and bell in Christianity. (Hackett, 2012: 17) Continue reading “Research Point 1.1, Part B: Music and Religion”

Posted in Project 2: Palestrina and the Mass, Uncategorized

Research Point 1.1, Part A1: Early Monophonic Mass

The first part of this research point is learning more about the mass, its history and musical structure. It is a very exciting topic for me, since I could link in my old research posts from composing music 1 unit, which allowed me to go over this extensive subject in much detail. As such, due to the depth of my research, I will divide this point into several posts. In this section, I will talk about the early monophonic mass, with a particular focus on the Gregorian chant.

Mass is the celebration and commemoration of the Last Supper, also called Eucharist. The name is derived from the Latin words ‘Ite, missa est’, translated as ‘Depart, the congregation is dismissed’, which appears at the end of the service as the dismissal of the assembly. However, there are some debates over the semantics of this vesicle and whether it simply designates the dismissal of the congregation or indicates a deeper meaning, as Pope Benedict XVI and the catechism referred to it in connection to the word missio – the mission. (Suerte Felipe, 2010: 90-93) In this regard, the vesicle is understood as the missionary nature of Christianity, denoting that the faithful are sent to put into practice what they have learned, and use the graces they have received during the liturgy in their daily lives.

Whichever the case, the origins of the mass is in the evening ceremonial meals, called agape or love feast. (Fig. 1) I wrote about this topic in a research for composing music 1 unit here. As I have indicated there, this type of meal was usually accompanied by singing, however, not only related to the Jewish ceremonial meals, but was also prevalent in the overall cultural context of the time, in other words, present in other religious settings, such as pagan cults. Due to some abuses described by Paul at Corinth, however, the Eucharist divorced from the evening meal, becoming a Sunday morning celebration.


Fig. 1. Fresco of Agape feast (2006) Continue reading “Research Point 1.1, Part A1: Early Monophonic Mass”

Posted in Project 2: Palestrina and the Mass, Uncategorized

Exercise 1.1

This exercise is about listening to Kyrie from Palestrina’s Missa Brevis and noting different occurrences listed by the brief within the score of the piece.

Below are the photos of the score I marked.



The main thing I found problematic with this exercise is that all the brief points appear often in Kyrie, being characteristic of Palestrina’s style in general. The first point already reflects this. It is about annotating a place where the entry of each vocal part is in imitation. As can be seen from the marked score, each section of Kyrie starts with imitation – purple lines in the photos. While the first (bb. 1-19) and second (bb. 20-37) sections consist of imitation of the theme that begins with longer note values (breve and semibreve), thus making the imitative polyphony longer; in the third (bb. 38-58), the note values are slightly shorter (semibreve and minims) so that the entrance of the voices in imitation is more successive and closer. Another thing that can be noticed is that in the Continue reading “Exercise 1.1”

Posted in For Project 14, Uncategorized

Project 14 Research 1: The Musical Concept of Dominant

Project 14 is about constructing a piece based on a prolonged dominant chord, postponing the resolution to tonic until the very end of the short composition. And so, I decided to write a short post about the concept of dominant.

In the Western tonal music, dominant is the fifth degree of a diatonic scale, the name coming from the fact that it is very powerful and ‘dominates’ the melody and harmony of a key, being second in importance, right after the tonic – the keynote to which it has a strong tendency to resolve into. Cohn (2010: 186) even parallels the dominant and tonic with the two quarrelling warriors, each trying to establish and maintain its importance over the other, calling dominant the active and tonic the passive of the two:

“And while the Dominant stands up against the Tonic, trying to steal the crown from its head, maintaining that it is the ruler that is the most important tone, the Tonic remains calm, knowing quiet well that it is the Tonic that is the beginning, and what is much more important, the end, of all the tonal compositions.”

Cohn (2010: 186) further includes other analogies for tonic and dominant, for example them being two sides of one coin, or the subject and predicate of the spoken language. Either way, you can take a look at my post here, where I discuss the perfect 5th and the tonic/dominant relationship further.

In order for other degrees to temporarily gain the role of the tonic – in a musical process called tonicization, the dominants of those degrees are used, called the secondary dominants, and their chords produce the majority of accidentals found in diatonic music. (Apel, 1958: 240) Beside the triad, most commonly used dominant chords are 7th, 9th, 11th and 13th. Finally, due to the many common pitches, the shift from tonic to dominant key is also among the most common modulations found in the tonal music.

In closing, I should also mention that before the Western tonal system, in the plainchant tradition, the tone of a mode that dominated the melodies, and used as the recitation note, was called tenor. Although it is the fifth degree of the authentic modes (except mode 3), the plagal modes have their tenors on the third degree (except mode 4 and 8). (Apel, 1958: 211) More about that and the plainchant in general, you can read my posts from Part 2 of the course here. Furthermore, outside of the Western system, the concept of the dominant also exists, however in a different way. For example, in the system of Arabic maqamat, the modes are formed from trichords, tetrachords or pentachords called jins, and depending on that, the first note of the upper jins is the dominant – which can often be the fifth, but also the fourth and the sixth degree of the mode. I also wrote about the Arabic maqamat in the second part of the course here.

To conclude, the concept of the dominant is essential to the Western tonal system, but also in other musical traditions, such as the earlier Western plainchant and the Arabic maqamat. Next, I will write about the drone in Western music and Wagner’s Prelude to Das Rheingold. Lastly, take a look at the Project 14 I wrote here.


Apel, W. (1958) Gregorian Chant. Bloomington & Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Cohn, M. S. (2010) The Mission and Message of Music: Building Blocks to the Aesthetics of Music in our Time. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Posted in On Assignment 2, Uncategorized

Overall Reflection on the Second Part of the Course

Progressing through the second part of the course, I continued my musical journey. The exploration this time led to new concepts of tone, tonality, scales and melody.

Some places I visited again. However, this time, they were a lot more colorful. The microtones I discovered in the Middle East added new flavor to my pitch perception. I also found new scale systems – Arabian maqamat and Indian raga, which showed that tonality is more than just an ascending or descending order of the pitches. All this led me to new musical forms, like the instrumental samai. However, I also began questioning the use of these systems in the Western classical music, often based on the misunderstanding of the Eastern concepts, resulting in new scales as the different forms of exoticism.

I was also shocked at how little I knew about the Greek system. The microtones, which I perceived to be only from the Middle East, ended up constituting a big part of their theory, especially in the musical practice of the Classical period, when the enharmonic genera was used. What I knew about Chinese music also changed, with pentatonic scale being utilized in more ways than I first thought it would be.

New places I visited include the ancient Christian world, where chanting became the predominant form of worship. There, I traced the origins and the development of musical notation – from neumes to the staff and the square notes, the seeds which will lead to the modern musical notation used today. Reading about the Gregorian chants, I learned about the technique of centonization. This style of chant in particular was what I perceived to be completely free – only to find out that there is indeed inner logic in its different responsorial and antiphonal genres. The different notion of rhythm and the church modes I came across, opened up a wide field for future research. But, I certainly didn’t think that there was a pentatonic framework – which I demonstrated in my chant for Project 7. Finally, although based on the nomenclature of the ancient Greek modes, the Church modes completely differ from them. Continue reading “Overall Reflection on the Second Part of the Course”