Term 1 Perspective Lessons & Assignments
Term 1 Perspective Lessons & Assignments
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Table of contents
1 The Elements of Music
Before you begin
Listening to music for a music class is different than listening to your favourite song on the radio. You are expected to listen for specific things in the music and analyse it. These are the elements of music. These elements are explained in the following presentation.
Save this presentation on your computer because you will need to refer back to it later when you are listening to music for this class. Please review it and make sure you are familiar with all the musical terminology before you move on.
Click the image to download the presentation (PowerPoint format)
2 Assignment 1.1 - Before Baroque
What is Western music?
"Western music" refers to the music of Europe. Italy is considered to be the centre of Western music. As people travelled around, they brought this music with them to other countries, and eventually to the rest of Europe.
The study of Western music is the study of what many people call "classical music." It is the music that we hear in concert halls being performed by orchestras and soloists. However, this general term is actually WRONG!
In music terminology, "Classical" music refers only to music written between 1730 and 1820. Anything written before or after this time should technically be a different type, like Renaissance or Romantic or Impressionist. Johann Sebastian Bach was a Baroque composer, not a "Classical" composer.
Musical Periods (Eras)
Western music history is divided into different sections based on when it was written. Most of the music written within each time period shares the same style and characteristics. Music historians have created these periods based on musical styles and important historical events that affected society and music.
You may find slightly different dates listed in other places, but these are the dates we will be using for this course:
Medieval/Middle Ages: 500-1400
Modern/20th Century: 1900-present day
Medieval Period: 500-1400
In Medieval times, people were divided into strict classes. The clergy were members of the Catholic Church, which was the only church in Europe at the time. Most of what we know about music at this time was written down by monks for their church services. Members of the clergy were educated and were among the few in society that could read and write, so they controlled the spread of knowledge. The nobility were the rich ruling class. They were educated and had free time to study music. Music of the nobility was for special ceremonies, or for court festivals and dances. Finally we have the peasants, which was basically everyone else. Even though they outnumbered the other two classes, they did not have much power. Peasants were not educated and had very little control over their lives. They played folk music which was not written down, since the majority of people were illiterate. They learned music by ear by listening and watching other musicians.
Medieval music took some of the ideas that the ancient Greeks had regarding the science of sound. Philosophers like Plato and Aristotle developed ideas about the science of harmonics and mathematical relationships of sound. Plainchant was created as a sacred music for prayer in church. The music was simple and reflective. Choir singing was often in unison with everyone singing the same melodic line, or was harmonized with intervals of a fourth or fifth. For centuries, the Catholic Church maintained a very narrow definition of what types of music were acceptable. They discouraged change and new ideas, so this musical era lasted a long time - almost 1000 years.
This is an example of plainchant music. Notice that they use different notes and musical clefs than we use today. Also, the staff has 4 lines instead of the 5 lined staff we now use. Plainchant has a very distinct sound as well.
Click to listen
"Victimae paschali laudes" from Norton Anthology of Western Music
Renaissance Period: 1600-1760
The Renaissance period is a time of rebirth. During the Renaissance, people became more educated. New developments in science and math made travel possible and explorers began to spread out across Europe and beyond. They learned new things and brought their ideas back with them. Secular music not associated with the church became popular. It was written down, studied, and taught wherever people travelled. There was an emphasis on a humanistic style rather than writing music only for worship. It was music about the people, for the people, and by the people!
The style of music in the Renaissance was more complex than medieval music. Instead of writing single lines of simple melody, more parts were added. Part writing gave different melodic lines to different voices in the choir, like soprano, alto, tenor and bass.
Portrait of Palestrina
Giovanni de Palestrina is a representative composer of this time. Although he mainly wrote sacred music, he did not follow the strict rules of the Medieval Church. He incorporated secular elements and new ideas about harmony to create works that were modern and beautiful.
Click to listen
"Pope Marcellus Mass - Credo" by Giovanni de Palestrina (from Norton Anthology of Western Music)
Assignment 1.1 - Before Baroque
3 Assignment 1.2 - Baroque Era
What is Baroque?
The word "baroque" comes from the Portuguese word "borocco" which means irregular or unique. Music in this era changed to be more elaborate and ornamented. People travelled across Europe more regularly and, by the 1600's, Western music was being composed and performed all over Europe. New centres of music developed in France, Germany, England, and in Italy. The Catholic Church had less control over society and new churches emerged that had different ideas and different styles of music.
Renaissance instruments like the lute, recorder, and viol de gamba continued to be used in the Baroque period.
As the Baroque period went on, the recorder was eventually replaced by the flute. The baroque flute was a simple instrument made of wood. Another new instrument was the trumpet. Baroque trumpets were also simple and did not have valves like modern trumpets. The design of the violin was also established during this time. It was the melodic instrument of choice in the Baroque era.
The harpsichord, the grandfather of the modern piano, was a very popular instrument and many Baroque composers wrote music for it. The strings of a harpsichord are plucked, rather than hit with a felt hammer like on a piano, and that gave the instrument a unique sound.
The Baroque Orchestra
Before 1600, large groups of musicians were not favoured. Instead, smaller chamber groups of 4-8 musicians were the standard. The formal setting of the orchestra emerged in the Baroque era. It consisted of:
- A harpsichord in the centre, who doubled as the conductor
- Multiple strings (violin, viola, cello, bass)
- Few woodwinds (flute, oboe, bassoon)
- Very few brass (horn, trumpet)
- Occasionally, lute and timpani drums were added
Assignment 1.2 - Baroque Era
Look at the pictures of the Baroque orchestra and the Modern orchestra. List the similarities and differences between the two. You can use a Venn Diagram or T-Chart, if you like.
Click on the image to submit your assignment
4 Assignment 1.3 - Baroque Characteristics
Scales and Modes
Throughout the Medieval and Renaissance periods, many different musical scales were used. These were based on ancient Greek scales. Eventually these modes became less popular until only 2 remained. The major scale that we know today (do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do) was was also known as the Ionian mode. The minor scale is based on the Aeolian mode. We still use these two modes for almost all Western music, classical or pop, that is written today.
Baroque music was often polyphonic and included many musical lines playing at once. Some of these textures were:
- Basso continuo - a bass line played on harpsichord, cello, bass, or bassoon
- Melody - the main musical line in a piece
- Countermelody - a complimentary melody that goes along with the main melody
A musical form can also create many musical lines. A canon is a form of music where the main melody is repeated and performed together, but at different times. (i.e. Row, Row, Row Your Boat) A fugue is a more complicated form where the main melody is repeated and changed throughout the piece. These are called imitative forms because the main melody is repeated and "imitated" as the piece goes along.
Watch this video to see an example of imitative polyphony
"Little Fugue in G Minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Baroque art was highly ornamental. Music, architecture, dress, and dance were very decorative and elaborate. The French Noble Style brought dance forms like the minuet, gavotte, gigue, allemande, and boureé. Baroque composers wrote music for dancing. This music included a lot of repetition within the musical sections. This made it easy to create dance steps. The Baroque Suite was a collection of popular dance pieces that contained about five movements. One of the most famous Baroque composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote several suites for different instruments. The sonata and concerto were introduced in the Baroque period and eventually replaced the suite as a major type of music for instrumentalists.
Dynamics and Ornamentation
Baroque musicians had to "step up" their technique to meet the demands of the musical style. Although there was still music written for amateur musicians and students, a new style of virtuoso playing came into fashion. These professional musicians pushed the limits of difficulty and skill.
Musicians were given the opportunity to bring their own style to the music, rather than simply playing the notes that the composer wrote on the page. Composers often left out the markings to give the performer a choice on:
- Ornaments (trill, mordent, turn, etc.)
- Improvision on cadenza (free section where a performer can show-off their technique with a solo)
There was some freedom for musicians, but their choices weren't entirely random. There were still some expectations about which type of ornamentation or musical decorations a musician should use. This performance practice is studied by musicians today who want to try and perform pieces from the Baroque era just like they would have been heard in Bach's day.
Assignment 1.3 - Baroque Characteristics
The violin has been one of the most popular instruments of Western music since the Baroque period.
Based on what you have learned about the Baroque era, why do you think this instrument was well-suited to the demands of the music? Think about its size, pitch capabilities, technical advantages, and tone. Explain your reasoning in a well-developed paragraph.
Click on the image to submit your assignment
5 Assignment 1.4 - Listening to Baroque Music
The last assignment for Term 1 Perspective is a listening assignment.
Your task is to listen to a piece of Baroque music and answer questions about its musical style.
Refer back to the reading materials in this lesson book if you need a review. You can do outside research if you want to know even more. If you use other resources, like a website or book, please include the information in a bibliography.
Make sure you download the Elements of Music presentation. This explains the specific musical things you should be listening for.
Click here to access your assignment
The following is a list of sources used in the making of this online resource. They are listed in the order that they appear.
Before Baroque - Images
Map of Europe - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Europe,_1700_-_1714.png
Plainchant Music - http://www.christusrex.org/www2/cantgreg/partituras/seq_victimae_paschali_laudes.gif
Palestrina Portrait - http://www.thefamouspeople.com/profiles/giovanni-pierluigi-da-palestrina-451.php
Baroque Era - Images
Lute - http://www.music.iastate.edu/antiqua/lute.htm
Recorder - http://www.music.iastate.edu/antiqua/r_record.htm
Viol de Gamba - http://www.music.iastate.edu/antiqua/gamba_b.htm
Flute - http://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/arts/opus/opus330e.shtml
Trumpet - http://www.aswltd.com/egger.htm
Violin - http://www.cardiffviolins.co.uk/baroque/
Harpsichord - http://www.baroquemusic.org/bargerhpschd.html
Baroque Orchestra - http://dandanmusic.weebly.com/the-baroque-and-classical-period-orchestras.html
Modern Orchestra - http://chinafestivalblog.carnegiehall.org/2009/11/117-atlanta-symphony-orchestra_08.htmly Orchestra
"Victimae paschali laudes" - Norton Anthology of Western Music CD
"Pope Marcellus Mass - Credo" by Palestrina - Norton Anthology of Western Music CD
"BWV 578, Little Fugue in G minor" by J.S. Bach - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bbox4oi6HjA
"Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D (Mvt 2: Gavotte)" by J.S. Bach - Norton Anthology of Western Music CD