Humanities 2 3 2 Transcription_of_Beethovens_Fifth_Symphony.docx

Humanities 2 3 2 Transcription_of_Beethovens_Fifth_Symphony.docx

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Transcription of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, Movement 1 Instrumentation : This work was written for a typical early 19th-century orchestra, with a full string section, bassoon, clarinets, flutes, a contrabassoon (which is a lower- sounding version of a typical bassoon), horns, trombones, trumpets, and timpani. Mode: This movement is written in the minor mode, which contributes to the stormy and fiery mood of this work. Section 1: Exposition 0:00 The piece opens with a very loud statement of the main theme, the famous short- short-short-long motif (a short musical idea) which is played dramatically by the strings and various other members of the orchestra. The first three “short” notes repeat the same pitch (the highness or lowness of a sound) and the “long” note is held on a slightly lower pitch (high to low). All instruments are playing in unison , which means they are playing the same thing at the same time. This is called monophonic texture (mono means “one,” referring to the fact that there is one melody layer and nothing else). 0:03 The S-S-S-L high-low motif is repeated, this time on a lower set of pitches. The stark monophony makes for a very dramatic and commanding opening sequence. 0:06 The unison is broken as different instruments play a much softer and faster version of the high-low S-S-S-L motif in an overlapping pattern and at different pitch levels. First the violins play it, then the woodwinds play it on higher notes, and then the violins again, even higher. Meanwhile, the cellos hold out sustained pitches in the background, providing a harmony layer. 0:09 A repeat of the overlapping motif, but on different pitches. 0:11 The violins play a high-low version of the S-S-S-L motif, which is answered by a more insistent ascending low-high version from the violas. This exchange repeats. 0:13 The members of the orchestra, including the timpani (kettle drums), come together to play the S-S-S-L motif at a very loud ( fortissimo ) dynamic level. The effect is startling and aggressive. 0:16 All instruments cut off abruptly except the violins, which play a single note in unison for a few seconds. 0:19 The violins cut off just before another aggressive high-low S-S-S-L, this one prominently featuring the brass instruments. 0:23 Suddenly, the dynamic level drops from forte (loud) to piano (soft) as the first violins whisper the S-S-S-L in a high-low pitch pattern. They are echoed by the second violins, then the violas, and then the cellos, who flip the sequence upside down, making it
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a repeated low note followed by a single high note. Each instrument group plays the S-S- S-L pattern in a lower pitch range than the previous group. The effect is like a short-short- short-long waterfall. This sequence repeats. 0:27 The violins reverse direction and lead an ascending phrase based on the S-S-S-L motif that crescendos (grows louder) as more instruments join in.
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  • Winter '18
  • Beethoven, S-S-S

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