Listening for Part 5: Exploring Harmony

Our coursework includes listening to a wide range of compositions by different composers, composed in different styles and periods. For Part Five which is about harmony, I include cadenzas, pieces with drone, pieces with cyclic harmony and finally, the genre of Nocturnes that inspired my final assignment piece. Click the links below to access the categories.


I have grouped the cadenzas I’ve listened to depending on whether these were instrumental or vocal ones. Cadenzas used to denote the completely improvised virtuosic passages with penultimate position in the musical structure, however towards 19th Century, the practice was replaced by cadenzas that were written out – which are the ones I have listed. Also in the 20th and 21th Century, I barely found any cadenzas.

Pieces with drone

This relates to the research point for Prelude to Das Rheingold by Wagner, which inspired me to search for other examples of drones in the Western musical tradition. The ones I found are mostly pastorale, but I have included some other examples, including contemporary ones. I wrote more about this subject in my research here.

Pieces with cyclic harmony

Here I paid attention to the ‘pointers for next assignment’ my tutor gave me in the feedback for assignment 4. She suggested listening to works with Ground Bass and genres of Passacaglia and Chaconne that also use the repeating basslines. Following that, I added some other similar pieces I found.


This has always been one of my favorite genres in the Western classical music, and so I have decided to use it for inspiration for my final assignment. I have included some early instances from the 18th century, but I mostly focused on Field’s and Chopin’s nocturnes. I have also added some later nocturnes such as Debussy’s, Scriabin’s, Satie’s, Poulenc’s and Britten’s.

For all the pieces I have included some brief thoughts and analysis. All of the genres I listened to here, broadened my understanding of harmony and really influenced my harmonic thinking, which was reflected in my final assignment piece. Finishing the course now, I should mention that overall, my experience of listening itself really transformed – it became more sophisticated, analytical and observational, and my timbral awareness and understanding of instruments, form and style really improved. In more detail, I write about this in my  reflections here. Lastly, all I can say is – what a wondrous journey it has been!