Essay, Research Paper: Composers Of 19th And 20th


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This essay will consist of information about nine composers and one piece of
work that they are known for dating from 1862 to 1990. The names of these
composers are: Aaron Copeland, Claude Debussy, Charles Ives, Scott Joplin,
Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Leonard Berstein, Igor Stravinsky, and Arnold
Schoenberg. The first composer I will discuss will be Aaron Copeland (1900 –
1990). Mr. Copeland was born in Brooklyn, New York USA to Russian American
immigrant parents. His style is strongly tonal with polychords, polyrhythm,
changing meters and percussive orchestration. His influences include his teacher
Nadia Boulanger, Picasso, Stravinsky and Ernest Hemmingway. Some notable history
about Mr. Copeland is that he created Appalachian Spring for Martha Graham and
he used American folklore as the subject with many of his works. The piece I
will be discussing will be Appalachian Spring Section VII Theme and Variations
on Simple Gifts I (1943-1944). The media of this piece is the orchestra and the
texture is definitely homophonic. The melody is songlike, lyrical, and
danceable, with conjunct motion. The harmony is tonal because the tune is easily
recognizable. This piece is in duple meter with a moderate tempo. The form is
theme and variations because the theme is recognizable throughout the entire
piece. One of the programmatic ideas is that this piece is to be performed as a
ballet. The ballet is a story of a pioneer celebration in spring around a newly
built farmhouse in the Pennsylvania hills in the 1800’s. The second composer
is Claude Debussy (1862 –1918). My Debussy was born in St. Germain–en-laye,
Paris France. His style is typically impressionistic, he used unprecedented tone
color with subtle changes in timbre. He used frequent instrument solos and the
woodwinds were used in unusual registers. Mr. Debussy also used catatonic scales
and whole tone scales. Some of his influences were Richard Wagner, Asian music,
literary and pictorial ideas and Russian model music. The music of The Prelude
to the Afternoon Faun (1894) is a piece of work that Mr. Debussy wrote after
reading the poem by Stephane Mallarme. “This poem evokes the dreams and erotic
fantasies of a pagan forest creature who is half man, half goat”. The media of
this piece is orchestra with shifting textures. The melody is based on the E
Major scale, and the harmony is tonal. The meter is very vague with a moderate
tempo, and the form is definitely ABA with a vagueness of rhythm and distinct
cadences. Charles Ives is the third composer I will discuss (1874 – 1954). Mr.
Ives was born in Danburry Connecticut, USA. His style is eclectic with his
influences being his father who was a bandmaster, the war, personal experiences,
and Horetio Parker. His music also has features of American tradition. Mr. Ives
is also known as a transcendentalist. A transcendentalist is someone that lives
on intuition. Some notable history about Mr. Debussy is that he made his
“living” selling insurance so he could spend time composing his music. He
also won a Pulitzer Prize. The representative work I will discuss is Three
Places in New England Putman’s Camp, Redding, Connecticut (1912). The media is
orchestra, with the texture having a distorted polyphony. The melody has super
imposed familiar melodies against a chromatic background. The harmony is tonal
with a complex rhythm and a fast tempo. The form is a one movement orchestral
work, most commonly known as ABA form. Three Places in New England is a set of
three pieces for an orchestra to excite memories of American history and
landscapes. Putman’s Camp is a child’s impression of a Fourth of July picnic
with fireworks and carnival rides. The fourth composer I will be discussing is
Scott Joplin (1868 – 1917). Scott Joplin, the "King of Ragtime"
music, was born near Linden, Texas on November 24, 1868. He moved with his
family to Texarkana at the age of about seven. Mr. Joplin’s style of music is
ragtime yet he was trained in “classical” music and wrote a ballet and two
operas along with many piano rags. His influences were his parents, and Julius
Weiss, who became his teacher when he was eleven. His music is a unique blend of
European classical styles combined with African American harmony and rhythm.
True-life events and real places inspired many of Mr. Joplin’s songs. One of
his first compositions was The Great Crush Collision, which was inspired by a
great locomotive crash near Waco Texas. The piece I will be discussing in this
essay is Maple Leaf Rag (1899) which is a classical example of ragtime. The
media for Maple Leaf Rag is the piano with a homophonic texture. The melody has
conjunct motion with tonal harmony. The meter is in duple with a steady rhythm
and a moderate march tempo. The form is standard ragtime form, which is AA BB A
CC DD. Standard ragtime form has exactly sixteen bars in each section. Maple
Leaf Rag was named after a saloon in Missouri, where he worked as a pianist. The
success of this song helped Mr. Joplin to quit his job and move to St. Louis,
where he taught piano and composed. The only female composer I will be
discussing will be the great Bessie Smith who is also known as “the empress of
blues” (1894 – 1937). Mrs. Smith was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee USA.
Some of her influences include her brothers Clarence and Andrew, and Ma Rainey
who was known as “the mother of blues”. Mrs. Smith recorded as many as 160
songs from 1923 to 1933. Some notable history concerning Mrs. Smith is that she
was introduced into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. The piece I will be discussing will be Lost Your Head
Blues (1926). The media for this song is the cornet, piano and voice with a
homophonic texture. The melody is structurally shaped with a tonal harmony. The
meter is in 4/4 with a flexible and syncopated rhythm. The form is the typical
twelve bar blues. The song is heartfelt and very personal. The song is about a
woman who plans to leave her man because she has “been treated wrong.” The
sixth composer I will be discussing in this essay will be the great Louis
“Satchmo” Armstrong (1901 – 1971). Louis Daniel Armstrong was born in the
Storyville District of New Orleans, Louisiana, on August 4, 1901, he always
celebrated his birth as July 4, 1900 because that is what he was told and that
is what he believed. His real date of birth was not known until after his death
July 6, 1971. Mr. Armstrong’s style of music was New Orleans Style Jazz. Some
of his influences include his family, Peter Davis, and Joe “King” Oliver.
Some notable history pertaining to Mr. Armstrong is that he came from a
crime-ridden community. He was arrested at thirteen for firing a gun in the air
at a New Years Celebration, and then was virtually saved by the system because
he was sent to a reform school where he met his mentor, Joe Oliver. He served as
Goodwill Ambassador in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Mr. Armstrong was able to
invent extraordinary solo’s that transformed any melody into a jazz melody. He
revealed new dimensions of the trumpet, showing that it could be played in a
higher register. The piece I will discuss will be Hotter Than Hot that was sung
by Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five. The media is cornet, piano, trombone,
guitar, and voice. The texture is very varied with the melody being disjunct and
moving around. The harmony is tonal while it is in quadruple meter with a rapid
tempo. The form is New Orleans Style Jazz, which is characterized by scat
singing. Scat singing is a combination of singing, talking and vocalizing a
melodic line with nonsense syllables. The next composer I will be discussing
will be Leonard Berstein (1918 – 1990). Mr. Berstein was born in Lawrence,
Massachusetts USA. His style of music was very versatile. He wrote musicals,
operas, and ballets and theater pieces, choral works and three programmatic
symphonies. The piece I will be discussing is Tonight from the musical West Side
Story. The media of this song is orchestra and voice and the texture is
homophonic. The melody is syncopated and it has disjunct motion. The harmony is
tonal with a 2/4 meter and it is fast and very rhythmic. The form is American
Theater, or commonly known as a musical. West Side Story was a 1949 version of
Romeo and Juliet written by Jerome Robbins, Leonard Bernstein and Arthur
Laurents. This musical was about rival gangs and two young lovers entwined in it
all. “West Side Story remains true to its Shakespearean model. Things look
good for the young lovers in the beginning, but when Tony--much like
Romeo--accidentally kills his lover's brother while trying to break up a rumble,
violence erupts. The musical received rave reviews for its unflinching portrayal
of gang life.” The eighth composer I will be discussing is Igor Stravinsky
(1828 – 1971). Born in St. Petersburg, Russia. Mr. Stravinsky’s style is
mainly primitivism. “Stravinsky's forms are additive rather than symphonic,
created from placing blocks of material together without disguising the
joins”. His influences include Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov who he studied with,
Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, and his father. Mr.Strainsky directed the Russian
Ballet at the request of Segei Diaghilev in 1909. The piece I will be discussing
is The Rite of Spring Omens of Spring-Dances of the Youths and Maidens (1913).
The media for this piece is orchestra with no textures, very disjointed and
irregular. The harmony is very fragmented and disjunct. This song is in duple
meter with a pounding rhythm and a fast tempo. The form is ballet. This ballet
about pagan Russia caused quite a fuss in the Theatre des Champs-Elysees at its
premiere in 1913. It was definitely one of the most famous riots in the history
of music. The structure of the work is interesting. 1. “The Adoration of the
Earth  Introduction  The Adoration of the Earth 
Harbingers of Spring  Dances of the Adolescent Boys and Girls 
Mock Abduction  Spring Rounds  Games of the Rival Tribes
 Procession of the Tribal Sages  Adoration of the Earth 
Song of the Earth 2. The Sacrifice  Introduction  The Sacrifice
 Mysterious Circles of the Adolescents  Glorification of the
Chosen One  Evocation and Ritual of the Ancestors  The Chosen
One's Dance of Death” The ninth and final composer I will be discussing is
Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951) born in Vienna Austria. His style was
definitely full of expressionism with Brahms and Wagner being his influences. In
1908, Mr. Schoenberg abandoned the tonal system. Yet he felt himself forced to
move on from the principles which had underlain all their music, above all the
principle of tonality. For all of them, as for many other composers, music had
to be written in a key, though it might frequently move from one key to another.
The point about using the key system is that some notes are stronger than
others, the strongest being the tonic (typically indicated by the title of a
work; e.g. "Symphony in C minor"), the next the dominant (five notes
above the tonic), and so on. This "tonal system" functions, both
melodically and harmonically, as a set of tensions and relaxation’s; the
further a piece is from the tonic, the more a need for resolution is felt, and
the greater the sense of homecoming when the tonic is reasserted. As Eric
Salzman writes, they are "large-scale, thematic, wholly 12-tone structures
in which the technique becomes fluent and pliable, focused in a way that
parallels the role played by tonality in similar Classical forms.” The piece I
will be discussing is Vulgarity (1912) also known as No.1 Gemeinhet, which is
from an opera, by the name of Pierrot Lunaire. The media for this piece is
orchestra, voice, and a homophonic texture. The melody is very disjunct, with a
definite atonal harmony with no meter. This is from an opera with bizarre ideas.
The song is about an evil clown drilling a hole in a skull and smoking tobacco
out of it. This is also a form of sprechtimme which in German means
speech-singing. This is the end of my essay and I must admit that I learned more
about these composers than I expected.
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