Music Composition Assignments for 11.3.2017

Music Composition Assignments for 11.3.2017

We discussed the Baroque Period (160-1750) in class today. The Baroque Period followed many of the philosophical ideals of the Renaissance Period, in that individuals tended to be lauded over groups/community. It is one of the few periods in history that, rather than reacting against the period that came before it and throwing out the old ideas, takes the old ideas to the extreme. This shows itself practically in that we know most of the names of the composers (still mostly men) that wrote the pieces that have survived.

The Baroque Period, in general, was very ostentatious. Everything that could be covered in gold was plastered with the stuff. An example of Baroque art and construction is the canopy over the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. You can find an article about it here. Constructed in 1637, it is made of expensive bronze and has a great deal of “movement.” The columns are somewhat wavy in their spiraling shape, are not symmetrical, and have no space that is not covered with something. The top of the canopy has figures and designs all over it. Much like the musical principle of fortespinnung that we discussed, there is not a visual place of rest or stopping anywhere on this canopy.

An example in painting is The Triumph of the Immaculate (1710/1715) by Pietro de Matteis. In this painting, everything seems to be in motion, as if a photograph was taken and captured people as they were doing their own thing. Fabric seems to be flowing as if it were in the wind. Gestures and positioning of characters tends to draw the eye upward and to the center where Jesus is, and then secondarily to the throne above Him. It’s a dynamic piece with many colors and characters.

As previously mentioned, the idea of fortespinnung is very important in the overall construction of works. Music tends to have an internal motor that rarely comes to rest. Often the “motor” is in the continuo, often played by cello or harpsichord, that provides the harmonic structure of the ensemble. Continuo players were expected to improvise their parts and fill out the missing notes not written in the score. For example, the bottom line shows an outline of the part. The numbers above indicate notes that should be filled in. To be a player in the Baroque period meant you had to know your theory!

Technology in instrument-building advanced in such a way that more precise tunings was possible, and more durable building techniques made more complex instruments, like pianos, possible. Tonalities moved out of church modes and into major and minor keys.
We listened to a few musical examples. You can find those listed below.
J.S. Bach “Prelude and Fugue in c minor”
J.S. Bach “Brandenburg Concerto No. 3”
Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah an example of both homophony and polyphony (note the key: it’s D major!)
J.S. Bach “Air on the G String” notice the bass part, which is the motor in this slower piece
Handel’s “Giulio Cesare” sung by Beverly Sills a vocal clip that will knock your socks off

The last thing I mentioned in class was the philosophical idea known as affekt. This was the idea that certain keys could invoke certain moods in listeners. It was a way to manipulate an audience into feeling or thinking certain things. For instance, music written in D major had the connotation of heaven, so pieces written in this key should make listeners more heavenly minded.

Assignment: Your assignment this week is to write any composition in any genre. The only stipulation is that you must use the principle of affekt when choosing the key.

My musical happy moment this week is an acapella movie medley by Voctave: