Thursday, November 20, 2008
Nov 20 2008
Journal Response to Victoria: Vivaldi, Four Seasons
Music is often inspired by emotion, feeling, and aspects of life, the changing seasons of the year motivated Vivaldi to write one of the most renowned pieces of music the world has known. Vivaldi captures the essence of spring, summer, fall, and winter through sounds of the Baroque string quartet. He uses the ornamentations and timbre colors of the ensemble to portray what one might feel toward a certain season. There are moments of light dancing through spring; lush vast sounds within summer, beautiful color changes of fall, and icy briskness in winter.
After reading Victoria’s blog I wanted very badly to listen to this work in its entirety. It is something that I must admit I have not done before. Her response was very enlightening and informative. She gave a great overview of the work Vivaldi was doing in the girls’ orphanage and how proficient those students became at performing. One thing I would have liked to read more about, since she decided to go into the history of Vivaldi himself a little bit, is the kind of music he was writing to be played. She mentions briefly that his Concertos are in slow fast slow form, but never says much about the other works he was writing. She also mentions a couple other places Vivaldi was composing music for, but does not talk about those places as she does the orphanage, but I am unsure of why? Are they less important? What kinds of works was he writing for those places? Those are just a few questions that came to my mind.
I appreciated that fact that Victoria put in her journal that the original season Concerti were written for a string quartet, after looking up different recordings of this collaborative work it proved difficult to find an example that was not played by a full orchestra. If I did nothing but look up the pieces, I would most likely assume that the piece was always written for several strings instruments verses four.
Victoria also spoke about the use of ritornello in these Concertos. She explained what ritornello is and gave an example in the music of where it was used and what the listener should hear. I would have liked to read about more stylistic features of these works, each season Concerto used the fast slow fast form that she mentioned, but it would have been great to read about the different characteristics of these tempo variations for each Concerto and how they added to the season they were portraying. Other things such as ornamentation, imitation, harmonic progressions, and the way the music interacted would have been wonderful to read about.
One last thing I would like to comment on Victoria’s blog about is her personal response to the music. It is obvious to me as a reader that she appreciates this piece a lot. She mentions early on that she too plays violin and the Four Seasons is a piece that she has been exposed to all throughout her life. She includes a short paragraph at the end of her journal entry stating that Vivaldi serves as a direct inspiration to her, but she says nothing more than that. I am interested to know in what ways Vivaldi has inspired her. Are there certain things he has done, written, or said, or is it just an overall general feeling that his existence and everything he did combined inspires her.
Over all I thoroughly enjoyed reading Victoria’s journal. Her style of writing is easy to follow and understand. The things she had to say about the piece inspired some thought of my own as well as motivated me to look up more information about the Vivaldi piece. Victoria has a great written voice, I think if she uses her own questions and answers to provoke more thoughts in herself she will be able to expand on her writing even more and provide a very personal read.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Nov 13 2008
Journal Entry #3 Buxtehude: Organ Music
As the Renaissance unfolds into the Baroque era, an abundance of instrumental music becomes available. The haunting character of the organ began to fill halls more and more often with the sounds of preludes and chorales. As the popularity of the organ increased, the demand for proficient organists developed. One of the most prominent organists of the seventeenth century was Dieterich Buxtehude, his contribution of organ and vocal works helped to shape the development of music in its time, especially German organ preludes. Buxtehude’s music was played often in church and on concerts exposing his toccatas and preludes to numerous ears. His organ music was favored so much that JS Bach would frequently come listen to the music, thus inspiring the development of late Baroque music even more. Bine Bryndorf brings back to life some of Buxtehude’s organ music. The first volume exemplifies some of Buxtehude’s preludes at their best.
Bryndorf’s recording is a compilation of preludes, chorales, and ciaconas. The tracks varied in content making it interesting to listen to. It seemed that each piece alternated between fast and slow tempos and altered the amount of ornamentation included. The entire recording was solo organ, but the instrument has so many different register and timbre capabilities that it held my attention the whole way through. Some of the pieces would have the organ playing in a very low register and others in a very high register, one can also hear definite changes in the color of the sound; at times the instrument has a very airy and bright sound while others it is thick and broad in tone. The preludes had several characteristics of a toccata; they included a large amount of imitation and counterpoint while using several notes to show off proficiency of the performer. Another type of work on the recording was chorale hymns that were often slow in tempo and fairly simple in melodic content. A few of these chorale hymns had some slight ornamentation and did every now and then reach a moderately fast tempo. The other type of piece found on this recording was a ciacona, these pieces were more harmonically involved by using more notes in chords and incorporating the use of passing tones. Also, the use of chromatic movement was more common during these pieces and also used a significant amount of rhythmic and melodic imitation.
As a listener, I found this music to be very relaxing and intriguing. Almost all of these organ pieces moved in thirds or stepwise, many of the ornamentations and runs were based off of a scale. However, the complexity of the instrument allows these scale patterns to be dressed up with all the other chord possibilities of hands and feet playing together. The overall feel of the music switched between uplifting and pensive quite often. It gave a nice contrast of mood and feeling. These pieces would most likely have been found on the Abendmusik concerts on Sundays. This concert series was an open concert on Sunday evenings to the public, mainly performed for entertainment value. The concerts took place on the five Sundays before Christmas; which explains why the text that accompanies the hymn chorales was extremely sacred in meaning and dealt largely with Christmas time events. Reading the texts while listening to the recording made the experience more enjoyable to me, music is powerful as it is, but when you combine the emotional strength of text and sound, the impact is heightened even more.
It is also interesting to listen to the difference in each piece in how much ornamentation is used and in what way. As I listened, I tried to imagine sitting in an old church in Europe and listening to the new compositional technique that was being used. The colors of these works are beautiful, and I can see how Buxtehude was praised for his works. When I was looking up the texts the titles also brought up works by Bach, I believe that his music has been taken and revised several times. I am interested to look up these songs under Bach’s composition and see what kind of differences there are between the two composers and the time period they were written during.
Monday, October 27, 2008
28 Oct 2008
Response to Lassus: Missa Pro Defuncti/Prophetiae Sibyllarum (Victoria Brown)
When one thinks of church and its music, often lively hymns of rejoicing come to mind. However, after listening to the recording of Orlando di Lasso’s Missa Pro Defuncti and Prophetiae Sibyllarum I am reminded that the music found in church today and church then is incredibly different. Today you can hear “rock bands” and many short uplifting hymns are sung. Centuries ago, the mass settings written for church and sacred music were so deep and nearly haunting. As the layers of music began to unfold to composers and listeners alike in the 1500’s they started to explore the intensity of chromatics.
I was pleased to read about the fact that all of the songs on this recording are four voice parts and written for the mass. I would have liked to have read about the texts used in these songs. They are set for the mass and by reading the translations the material is easily recognized as strongly sacred which coincides with the melodic parts and the interaction of the voices. The use of chromatics in the music is engaging and draws me in as a listener. Upon reading the texts while listening to the music I can distinguish that there is some definite word painting throughout the songs. The rapid changes in tonality and the way individual lines intertwine with each other are extremely impressive. Another thing I took note of after reading the insert provided is that Lassus came up with these Latin verses for his music by taking and interest in specifically the paintings of Sibyls in the late fifteenth century. The prophecies accompanying the paintings played a large role in the texts Lassus used.
One last thing I think would have been inviting to read about is a more in depth look at Lassus’ use of chromatics.
Overall, I enjoyed
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
13 Oct 2008
Cons 351 WI
Journal Entry #2 Binchois: Chansons
Walking through the streets of French towns in the Renaissance era one would most likely hear the sweet sounds of the chanson songs. These songs told tales of love, desire, and hope. Today you can hear a compilation of these chansons by Gilles Binchois on the recording Mon Souverain Desir. Chansons grew out of the formes fixe often used by the Troubadours and Trouveres during the transition into the Renaissance era. The chanson song during the 15th century is set to French text, they were popular secular songs sung by nearly everyone. The chanson that Binchois produced was written mostly while he was spending time in the Burgundy Court. Due to this, he was unable to travel and incorporate different ideas from multiple locations into his music thus limiting the style he wrote with and making the structure of his chanson songs simple in melodic and harmonic structure. This particular recording of chansons was done by a group devoted to the performance of early music; Ensemble Gilles Binchois, but anyone could sing them.
There are seventeen tracks of music on this recording, but not all are sung. Some of the tracks are solely instrumental; these songs are usually very short and more upbeat in nature. The songs that are not instrumental are almost always in a continuous ABaBA chanson form. One can hear both men and women singing together or solo accompanied largely by string instruments that are either being plucked, bowed, or both. There are four blocks of text, the second combining new words and a refrain while the text is set syllabically. Each song is constructed through polyphony and is extraordinarily strophic making each song fairly predictable.
These chansons are French songs about love; the liner notes provided gave helpful translations. Reading the translations while listening at the same time gave a much better representation of what was being sung about and why the music sounded as it did. Some of the songs were slow and dark sounding, using a solo voice and a string instrument with the use of bow. These slow songs generally had texts about being miserably and hopelessly in love with someone. These sad love tales spoke about how the person is in some sort of purgatory because they cannot have the person they want; they are slaves of love. Happier more upbeat songs were generally about how wonderful the person of desire is and their undying love. The range found within all of these songs is fairly small and polyphonic voice lines come close to each other often.
I enjoyed listening to this recording due to the nature of the text. I love music that both tells a story and matches that story with the way the music sounds. I think songs about love bring out some of the most dramatic and strong feelings people have. While I followed the text translations I found myself relating to some of the words being sung. It is a strange feeling to listen to Renaissance music, sit back, and say – I can relate to this. I think sometimes I feel as if it is just going to be historical “blast from the past” kind of stuff, and I forget that human emotions are always ongoing. As for the overall entertainment value, I do not think I would ever listen to the recording the whole way through because I love it that much. It simply is not engaging enough with differences of tempo and timbre to want to listen to it for an hour on a regular basis. As with a lot of music, I liked certain songs, but the ideas and overall timbre of the music was similar throughout the whole thing making it less enjoyable for long amount of time; especially since the style of the music is unchanging a lot of the time. I would be very excited to listen to a few songs here or there though!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Sept 16, 2008
Response to Cantigas de Santa Maria (Sarah Hardy)
Early music recordings are most likely not the first pick for most people, but I must admit that this recording is catching. Alfonso X: Cantigas de Santa Maria recorded by the Unicorn Ensemble makes use of the instruments people seldom get to hear but are still in relation to instruments that are popular today. After reading Sarah Hardy’s journal about this particular CD, I realized that she too took advantage of the insert provided within the cover. The paper insert provided gave a nice brief overview of the songs included on the recording and what they each represented. Outside of that information, Sarah opened her journal with a brief and to the point historical overview of King Alfonso X. It was helpful to me to have the definition of his Spanish name (the Wise or the Learned) as well as the brief knowledge that he was well known for his contribution to science, art, and culture.
Sarah at one point says, “the songs are sacred in subject manner, but they are not in Latin”. I would like to have read more about the subject of the songs. For example in the seventh track, Entre Av’e Eva, roughly translates to “Between Ave and Eva” this particular song is found to be strophic with a stanza ending with the text “between Ave and Eva” followed by the same repeated refrain stating, “Between Ave and Eva, there is a great difference”. The entire song is about the difference between these two religious figures and what they did for the people as far as helping or hurting them. I found that each of these songs have great meaning once translated. The text for these songs also has two different influences, some are cantigas de mirage (miracles by the Blessed Virgin) and others are cantigas de loor (poetic hymns in praise of the Virgin Mary). The song about Ave and Eva falls into the cantiga de loor category.
I enjoyed reading about the peoples’ thoughts on the difference between duple and triple meter. Both meters signified something important and it is beneficial to the understanding of a listener to read about the use of each. Sarah also speaks about the form of these cantigas. She states that most of the songs are a virelai with an ABBA format. I, however, tend to disagree and feel that a lot of the songs are in rondeau form (ABaAabAB). Also, I think for the reader it is important to state that virelai is put visually into AbbaA for content a person will hear. Along with the rondeaux and virelai, a ballade and even free form songs were exemplified on the recording. These forms are all part of the formes fixe developed in the late medieval time period (early to mid 1300’s).
One other thing Sarah comments on in her journal is that the songs “have a clear refrain or ‘A’ section which repeats after contrasting sections”. I agree with this, but think it would have been helpful to have more of an in depth look at this. Saying there are contrasting sections is very broad; are they contrasting in rhythm, voice timbre, text content, on and on. Again, I agree with this, the songs each contrast with each other in the certain formes fixe they use. Also, the instruments are often very contrasting, you hear a hurdy gurdy in one song then in the next you hear a flute. Some of the songs are sung slowly, some quickly. The list of contrast grows quickly, a big reason of why the recording is so fun to listen to. Listeners should be constantly engaged with new sounds and stories.
Sarah Hardy’s journal entry was a quick and easy read. The information was clear, precise, and for the most part accurate. The journal is constructed to be semi brief, therefore lacking explanation at a couple points, but I believe it is a great co article to the recording itself. I feel her journal has enriched my thoughts and knowledge about not only this recording, but also the medieval time period itself and the terms and history we have learned in class.
Friday, September 12, 2008
4 Sept 2008
Journal Entry #1 Troubadour Songs
Upon looking through the listening list, I immediately went for the recording with troubadour music, sung tales of lust, love, and courting – quite intriguing! The particular recording I chose to listen to is entitled, Cansós de Trobairitz - translated as, Troubadour Songs. This recording was interesting as it was a compilation of songs rather than a single piece. The insert included with the recording was extremely beneficial to read while studying the music at hand. It provided short descriptions and explanations about the songs along with an insight to the idea of the recording and its creation. There were seven tracks total on the sound recording; three of them were writings of Condesa de Dia. The other songs had texts and music written by others such as the infamous anonymous, Guirot de Bornelh, Cadanet, Bernart de Ventadorn, Condesa de Provenza Garsenda, Gaulcem Faidit, and Arnaut de Maruehl.
These Troubadour songs all varied in length ranging from as little as three minutes to as long as ten minutes. Seeing that the insert provided had a caption saying “Song of the Trobairitz – About 1200” the songs can be identified as fitting into the medieval time period. The instrumentation was generally the same in each song. A couple different types of drums were easy to identify, sounding as if they were hit either by hand or soft mallet. Other instruments one could distinctively hear were those of the string and flute family. Occasionally a tambourine or small chimes could be heard. The presiding melodic line was carried by voice, sung by a man, woman, or female choir. The last track on the recording is an Alba, what we discussed as being the morning song. Some of the texts were written by Condesa de Dia, whom we know little about but have a few surviving songs from. The stanzas are strophic and set in a fixed pattern a lot of the time with syllabic rhythm or pronunciations of the French words
As a listener, I found this recording to be easy to sit through. The songs chosen for this recording were particularly diverse for the most part making the fifty minutes pass quickly. The difference in mood between each track led me to create a new grouping for the songs.
1: Happy/light (Vos que-m semblatz dels corals amadors)
2: Somber/Nearly sad (Estat ai en greu Cossirier)
3: Light/Staccato (Na carenza al bel cors avinen)
4: Dance like/Resembling track 1 (Si-us quer conslh, bel ami Alamanda)
5: Light/Slow tempo (Ab’ joi et ab joven m’apais)
6: Dark/Sad (A chantar m’er de so q’ieu no voldria
7: Medium tempo/Urgency (S’anc fui belha ni prezada)
As you can see, the tracks alternate in mood keeping the interest and attention through variety. I never tired of hearing a certain feeling that was being conveyed. Stylistically, the lighter and happier songs were very dance like and the slower more somber songs were sung in such a way that it seemed the weight of the world was pressing upon the individual singing. After looking up texts it was apparent that heartache and infatuation of love were very much the driving force of the music. In terms of form, these songs were very strophic, alternating between a man and woman or women singing. A sung stanza would be followed by a musical interlude; the cycle would then be repeated as needed for the text. The vocal part was stepwise and steered clear of dissonance most of the time.
My personal opinion of this recording is that it is nice to hear. Stories are being told of secret meetings, twisted tales of love and lust. The songs call out to one another, sung with the undying want of the love of a targeted individual. Some texts scream with heartache such as in Estat ai en greu cossirier (Of Late I Have Been in Great Distress). Condesa de Dia slowly sings, “I’d offer him my every part, my mind, my senses, and my heart” about a man she lost. The extreme drama and feeling these people claim is nearly ridiculous, but nothing short of what one would find during this day and age. The main difference I noticed was not in the meaning of the words, but the actual words being used. Humans, as far as love goes, have not changed much. It is interesting how one can feel so strongly towards another, in a good and bad way. In today’s world we do not say things such as, “when, my gallant handsome friend, when shall I have you in my power?” We use other phrases, for example, “when will be together?” I think these songs and texts, if anyone has had experience with relationships of any sort, relate to people with the mood that is conveyed through the music and although stated in a different way, the text.
In my opinion, this recording was done very well. The texts were sung beautifully and the moods of each song were presented in a recognizable fashion. This has definitely given me a new appreciation for this specific part of the medieval music era. More so than that, it has inspired me to be more engaged in the other types of music found during the medieval time period. I encourage listeners to always find the texts for each song they hear as doing so helped me to understand what I was hearing an immense amount. I feel reading the texts also enriched my vocabulary and helped motivate my mind to foster creative thoughts and phrases; the words they chose are extraordinarily clever.