Timothy's Blog

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

Sample the musical instruments of the Renaissance Period!

Sample the musical instruments of the Renaissance Period!

During the Renaissance and Elizabethan Periods in Europe, certain musical instruments were popular and widely used. Here is a sampling of a variety of them! These are grouped by their instrument family types.

I’ve found a Youtube video of each, so here you can click on the instrument’s name and watch and listen to it being played:

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Classical Music History VIII f, the Modern Era: Some nice miscellaneous recent works

Since 1928 one of the opportunities for great composers is to write soundtracks for movies, and another is new music to be sung in churches. We’ve already covered some of these with Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Arvo Part, and Philip Glass --- but there are many others as well. Here are a few of the more famous and notable works in this category since 1960. It’s such a nice way to finish out our series of Classical music posts, don’t you think!

Ernest Gold (1921-1999): Main theme from the film Exodus, 1960, play by Ernest Gold and orchestra

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Classical Music History VIII e, the Modern Period's Minimalists

During the past several decades a new movement of the Modern Period has taken shape: Minimalism. Rather than search for deeper and deeper complexity and more and more unnatural feeling, the Minimalists have striven in an opposite direction to find peace, restful joy, creatively new applications of older sonorities. Development of a theme is seldom in a form such as the fugue or sonata, but there is indeed a definite and meaningful development through slowly morphing arpeggio patterns of chords, shifts into unusual but intriguing chord worlds and then back again, and various other gently journeying techniques.

Minimalism at times has extraordinary beauty, its own special kind of thrilling glow. (Can you tell that I like this movement?) In his watershed work ‘Credo’ (1969), the Estonian Arvo Part uses this beauty in shocking contrast to terrifying serialist passages in order to express his Christian conversion --- a kind of defining moment for the whole Minimalist movement’s concept. Since that time Part has consistently produced pieces that are profoundly devotional and greatly evocative of the human heart’s yearnings. One unique technique Part has developed is building chord structures out of the overtone series of bells, which he calls ‘tintinnabuli’.

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Classical Music History VIII d The Modern Era: Experimental Music and the Avant-Garde

Early in the Twentieth Century, Charles Ives came up with the idea of actually experimenting with truly unorthodox musical sounds; in the 1950s and 1960s the experimental and other avant-garde became more common and more acceptable to the Classical public.

The Dadaist art groups in the 1920s expressed chaos and absurdity as part of the expression of the ‘Lost Generation’ after World War I, doing such public things as reading a new poem to an audience from inside a closed garbage can; and in the 1950s the ‘Beat Generation’ picked up the philosophical and artistic baton of intentional nonsense and the absurd. (I’m speaking in very general and simple terms, but at least this addresses the trends that interjected themselves into ‘serious’ music, particularly that of Existentialist Angst.)

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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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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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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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