Describe what you hear and your impressions of the music

The Assignments list contains the details of the course listening assignments. There are four separate listening assignments of equal value (10%) and each assignment contains five compositions, some of which have more than one movement. You are required to listen to the recordings and write approximately one paragraph on each composition (but not each movement). Therefore, you should submit a five-paragraph document for each assignment through the Canvas assignment page.

Many assignment dropboxes will remain available after their posted due dates. Previously, some dropboxes would disappear after a deadline had passed, but now most will be accessible through the end of the term. All student submissions will continue to be date-stamped. Therefore, if you submit an assignment after its published deadline, the tutor-marker will decide whether late penalties will be assessed, based on the grading policies established in your course or by the course supervisor.

In composing your paragraphs, please make sure you:

Describe what you hear and your impressions of the music.

Use the terminology that you have learned in class.

The wrong way:

“It sounds weird.”

The right way:

“It sounds weird because the melody, when there is one, uses very large leaps with short phrases. There is no constant pulse, and the rhythm is hard to perceive. Each …”

I am not interested in background information that you might find via Google. Do not include filler information, such as the composer’s birth and death dates, his/her teachers, etc. However, please do include some historical perspective from your notes that are relevant to the work, specifically how this work may reflect the composer’s style (or the general style represented by the composer).

Please, avoid comparisons to subjective experiences (“It sounds like a chase scene in a movie,” or “It makes me feel like I’m lying in a boat, watching the stars….”). Your descriptions should be based upon what you hear, not how it makes you feel!

Also, avoid a blow-by-blow description of the music, such as, “It starts with a solo flute, and then the harp comes in with an arpeggio, then the rest of the orchestra comes in. It gets loud, and then quieter, and then the flute plays another solo….” Instead, try to sum up what you hear. For example:

“There are solo passages, often in the flute, which alternate with full orchestra. Sometimes the orchestra echoes the solo, other times it seems to answer it with different material….”

Again, try to generalize about what you hear, and about the composer’s style. Below are some general descriptions you should consider (don’t try to describe all of them!):

Texture

Monophonic? Polyphonic? Homophonic? Is the texture consistent, or does it change often?

Timbre

Which instruments are playing? Are they playing in unusual ways? Is the combination of instruments unusual?

Melody

Length of phrases, type of motion, step vs. leaps, etc.

Form

Can you hear what it is? Is there repetition?

Harmony

Functional? Atonal? Is there a sense of consonance or dissonance?

Rhythm, Meter, Tempo

Is it constant or changing?

I am interested in your subjective personal impressions of the music—whether you like it or not is important in your descriptions. (However, please don’t tell me if you think the music is relaxing or not.) If you think the piece sucks, say so, but try to figure out why you don’t like it in musical terms: lack of melody, dissonant harmony, etc.

Finally, try to present your thoughts so that I, as the reader, could easily figure out which piece you are describing even if I didn’t know the title (but include the title, please). The better the (unique) description, the better the mark.

Example

The following is an example from a student which quite impressed me:

Charles Ives, Three Places in New England

Charles Ives was an avant-garde Experimentalist, trying to create something new out of the European tradition. Three Places in New England is an orchestral set, textured and layered with orchestral sound. There are a lot of different things going on at the same time, almost like two simultaneous tunes in different tempos. The textures are dense and heterogeneous, and there is a lot going on within the piece. It feels very layered and thick, almost atmospheric, but the melodies are quite recognizable, so it doesn’t sound like a mess. You can hear the melodies through the atmospheric layer. The harmonies are quite dissonant sounding, and there doesn’t seem to be a tonal center. He has experimented quite well with rhythm; there is a constant pulse, which continues to shift. There are tempo changes and dynamic shifts, and at points the whole intensity level of the piece lifts to an extreme range, creating a dramatic feel. Three Places in New England is quite a flowing, layered, melodic piece.

2-1. Arnold Schoenberg (1885-1951): Op. 25, Suite für Klavier (1923).

Mvt. 1: Präludium-Rasch.

Mvt. 2: Gavotte-Etwas langsam, nicht hastig/Musette-Rascher/Gavotte da capo.

Mvt. 3: Intermezzo.

Mvt. 4: Menuett-Moderato/Trio/Menuett da capo.

Mvt. 5: Gigue-Rasch.

        Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Classical Music Library database.

2-2. Béla Bartók (1883-1945): String Quartet No. 4 (1928).

Mvt. 1: Allegro.

Mvt. 3: Non troppo lento.

        Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Classical Music Library database.

2-3. Aaron Copland (1900-1990): Billy the Kid Suite (1938).

Mvt. 1: Introduction: The Open Prairie.

Mvt. 2: Street in a Frontier Town.

Mvt. 3: Mexican Dance and Finale.

        Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Classical Music Library database.

2-4. Anton Webern (1883-1945): Variations Op.27 (1936).

Mvt. 1: Sehr mässig.

Mvt. 2: Sehr schnell.

Mvt. 3: Ruhig fliessend.

        Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Classical Music Library database.

2-5. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971): Symphony in C (1940).

Mvt. 1: Moderato.

Mvt. 2: Larghetto concertante.

Mvt. 3: Allegretto.

Mvt. 4: Largo-Tempo giusto.

        Retrieved January 13, 2016, from Classical Music Library database.

 

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