Lecture week 2 - Music 120 Lecture Material from Days One...

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Music 120 Lecture Material  from Days One and Two In our Wednesday and Friday meetings we listened to three excerpts of recorded music. Each excerpt came from a different work of classical music, and each particular work represented a particular era of music history (Medieval, Baroque, and Modern, respectively). After playing the excerpts, I then asked you to share your impressions upon hearing these select examples. Your answers might be categorized in terms of three kinds of responses: in terms of musical characteristics per se, in terms of emotional reactions to the music, and in terms of extra- musical associations—mental imagery or responses not inherent nor explicitly expressed by the music, but associations triggered by cultural conditioning, personal experience and memory, etc. Some of your responses are reported below: 1
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Example X  (Medieval Sacred Chant, by ANON.) Musical Characteristics: A cappella : performed by a vocal ensemble excluding all instruments Long-breathed melodic ideas and phrases Singing phrases decay into reverberant “echo” (on this recording) Emotional Responses: “reverent” “somber” “dark” Extra-Musical Associations: “Robed monks” (with or without tonsures), and/or nuns singing in a cloister Impressions of “vaulted ceilings,” as one might describe or imagine the interior of a medieval chapel or cathedral (see above: “echo”), or of some other large interior space. “Fog” — a mental impression of foggy, perhaps opaque space, amorphous sound (no recognizable, conventional melodic shapes, nearly no repetitive melodic phrases)— corresponding to absence of articulated rhythm and pulse? Many musical elements might indeed evoke an impression and visual image of “fog.” 2
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Example Y  (by J.S. Bach – 18 th  century) Musical Characteristics:  Instrumental composition as represented on our recorded excerpt Strings dominated the performing ensemble that also included flutes and harpsichord – THE keyboard instrument of 18 th -century Baroque music and a stylistic marker for the period. Contrapuntal texture : i.e., counterpoint; simultaneous melodies, each melodic idea being played by an individual instrument. Also known as polyphony (or polyphonic texture /composition) Rhythm : driving rhythmic character (as per many instrumental works of the mature Baroque period); clear sense of rhythm and meter Affective or emotional responses: 1. Flat emotional expression : why? Well, we heard few soloist passages – ensembles are perhaps less expressive; the level of rhythmic activity was nearly static; the tempo , or rate of speed was nearly fixed (though we heard little of the fluctuations interpreted by the performers on the recording); dynamic levels (i.e., levels of volume) changed but in a terraced kind of approach – jumping from one level to another. Later classical music will feature: solo performances, flexible tempos and gradual and
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Lecture week 2 - Music 120 Lecture Material from Days One...

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