Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!
FEB
20

Classical Music History VIII c: The Modern Era, Serialism

As the Twentieth Century began, another truly Modernist idea was developing in music, originated by the Jewish Austrian Arnold Schoenberg. As he tried to blend the styles of Brahms and Mahler into a new concoction, he ran across ‘Serialism’: taking the twelve notes of the chromatic scale and treating them equally rather than as part of a predictable scale pattern (the twelve-tone technique). Schoenberg’s method used formulas to lay out the notes, and he moved away from using melodic ideas altogether; he laid out ‘developing variations’ instead. His approach is often called the Second Viennese School.

I’ll warn you up front: This is a type of music that many listeners find alien and disturbing and less memorable than typical Classical music. But it is indeed an important movement, and we’ll be spending a little time with it here!

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FEB
13

Classical Music History VIII b: The Modern Era's Mainstream

Welcome to the most noticed and in some ways most significant of the Modern Era music! At this point it’s good to mention, though, that each various period of Classical music has a vast range of differences within it --- so these groupings are not ‘boxes’ that everything fits neatly into! In fact, the primary reason the composers are in the order you find them here, is that I chose their birthdates as an arbitrary guide for chronology. At any given time, many different trends are going on simultaneously; this is particularly true in the Romantic and Modern eras.

So I’ve divided up this part of music history according to various notable large collections of special approaches; first we looked at the Impressionists, and now what I like to refer to as the ‘Mainstream’, a hodgepodge of brilliant works by brilliant composers that are sometimes delightful to listen to, like many Romantic pieces, but with unique modern voicings and themes and chord progressions and colorings; other works are more challenging to listen to because their goals don’t include delight! Overall, these linked below are among the most well-known and popular of Classical repertoire.

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FEB
05

Classical Music History VIII a, the Modern Period: Impressionism

The last part of the Nineteenth Century experienced a logical extension of the trend in composition that had been going on since the mid-Eighteenth Century: The harmonies and developmental structures became yet more increasingly complex and unpredictable, and it was on purpose. In the so-called ‘Impressionists’ (they didn’t like that term themselves) we enter a mystical, sometimes misty, world of coloring and mood unlike much that came before, and it was now becoming so chromatic that the listener can feel like he’s being pulled away from the fabric of earthly reality. During this era of about 1880 to 1940, together with such Late Romantic composers as Mahler, Schoenberg, and Scriabin, the Impressionists Debussy, Ravel, and Satie set the stage for the truly dissonant music of the Twentieth Century.

Yet let’s not just write it off as unmusical or unbeautiful, for there is a marvelous amount of accessible aesthetic value here, and much of the repertoire is still greatly enjoyed by audiences today!

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JAN
22

Classical music history VII c: The Late Romantic Period

As the Nineteenth Century continued the Romantic movement in music became continually more nationalistic, emotional, dramatic, and chromatic in its nature.  There were various streams of musical approaches: for example, Wagner and Bruckner found followers in Mahler and Strauss, while Schumann and Brahms saw their legacy continued in Dvorak and Sibelius; an increasingly colorful approach to drama, storytelling, picture painting, brilliant orchestral coloration, is found in the excitement of Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov.  And gradually the intensity of harmony was becoming complex in a way that would soon lead into modernism.

This era from about 1870 to 1910 includes a large number of greatly beloved works that are often performed today because of their deeply engaging characteristics.  Here is a long list of a few of the most notable works, notable either because of true greatness or because of long-standing crowd appeal.

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JAN
07

Classical music history VII b: The middle Romantic period

After Beethoven the shift in compositional style rapidly trended away from the orderly expectations of the Classical period, and more toward the Romantic ideals of emotion, spontaneity, nature consciousness, mystical spirituality, narrative, self-expression, and individualism.

Robert Schumann made a special point, even as a teen, of letting random musical ideas drop into his mind, and he would immediately cast the notes onto the piano; he called these ‘Papillons (Butterflies)’ because of their ephemeral and sudden nature. (He, incidentally, is credited also with establishing music criticism as a literary form, and he published a magazine to get the discussions out to the public.)

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