final pape music.wps - Garkay Wong SID 18616594 Music 27...

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-1 Garkay Wong SID: 18616594 Music 27 GSI: Emily Richmond Absolute vs. Program Music In the middle of the nineteenth century, a major aesthetic debate arose between two conflicting groups of composers and critics who differed in their vision of how music should be heard and composed. At the heart of the controversy was whether or not music should be representational--whether music should incorporate non-musical material to include poetry, images, and “programs”. Composers and critics on the side of program music believed that in order to grow and flourish as an art form, music needed to be fused with other arts and that this fusion could only make music richer. Programmaticists like Richard Wagner argued that music could aspire to something higher, which he called Gesamtkunstwerk ” or “total artwork” in which all forms of art were unified into one epic art form, and each element (poetry, music, theater, and image) was integral in the total artwork and could not be removed or considered by itself. On the other side of the debate were the Absolutists, who believed music could not authentically refer to anything but itself, and that attempts to attach extra-musical meaning to masterpieces were bastardizations of the original piece. Some critics argue that there is no such thing as absolute music. Music in itself already has meaning beyond its combination of notes and sounds. Even without explicit program, music intuitively refers to the most basic of human emotions. Music with or without programmatic intent still reflects the society of the time, and in some cases allow for composers to create and imagine a more ideal social order. It is very difficult to hear any music absolutely without referencing ideas outside the music itself because making sense of the irrational is second nature. Words and
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images help organize what the rational mind cannot grasp from music. Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Sixth Symphony comes complete with a plot, storyline, and programmatic titles, “Awakening of Happy Feelings on getting out into the Country,” “By the Brookside” and so on. The fourth movement is a piece that is supposed to depict a violent thunderstorm. The movement starts quietly with strings alternating play between short strokes and an uneasy sounding melody that seem convey the first drops of rain.
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