Timothy's Blog

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

Classical music VII a: The early Romantic period

Pretty soon after the West’s acceptance of the Enlightenment ideals, a new wave of philosophy came sweeping onto the scene, destined to overwhelm the rationality of Classicism and to last much longer in its expression in the arts: Romanticism.

Haydn and Mozart really began to weave the emotional and spiritual sense of Romanticism into the orderly beauty of the Classical period --- they certainly brought a new yearning and pathos and ‘Sturm und Drang’ (storm and stress) into some of their music.

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Classical music VI: The Classical Period

Speaking as a lifelong aficionado of Classical music --- but not as a scholar per se --- I offer the following simplistic ideas about the so-called Classical period of Classical music.

I like to think that Bach and Handel brought the Baroque concepts and structures into the modern era (following the strong previous moves forward of the Italians such as Vivaldi) by expanding and lyricizing melody beyond anything before, and by developing harmonies and counterpoint about as far as one could imagine. The complexities, especially in Bach, were overwhelmingly powerful and magnificent.

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Hammered dulcimer hovering

There are a lot of stances for playing the hammered dulcimer: Some folks prefer to sit down behind a very vertical instrument (easy to reach all the strings); some like to stand and reach down to a level dulcimer (great efficiency because of gravity’s help); some stand and use the typical moderately slanted setup (a compromise between the two above), reaching from a stationary position to use mostly shoulders and elbows for aiming the hammers.

I am, though, a hoverer. I prefer to stand for that reason, though it’s possible to hover while sitting. (When seated, however, my way of playing requires some strenuous action at the small of my back.) Rather than stand upright and let my hands and arms do all the work, I love to use my whole body, transferring energy from even as far as my calves and thighs to swing force into the hammers, sort of dancing the vector forces at all sorts of angles into the vibration of the strings. For my temperament, at least, this seems to create the greatest possibility of expressive range and emotional coloring.

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Classical music V b: Handel and Bach!

I don’t think it can get better than this.

The apex of the Baroque period expressed itself in two German composers who are rightly wildly popular to this day, George Frederick Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach.

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Classical music V a: Early Baroque and the Italians

As the Renaissance progressed, there was a trend in music to make it less 'absolute' --- structured less on a basis of carefully defined forms and developments regardless of a text's message, and more on a basis of bringing out that message through the music.  Music was becoming more experiential: the player and listener could directly feel what was meant as it was being sung or played about.

This opened the door for experimentation with more expressive forms; the Italians such as Monteverdi were the most influential in this historic shift, and according to some scholars all 'serious' music since that time has been an outgrowth of the Italians' ideas of that period.

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