Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pauline Oliveros-Sound Patterns

“In Pauline Oliveros’ Jet propelled Sound Patterns, the conductor deals with precise, difficult rhythmic structures that have many changes of tempo. The singers improvise pitches with in broad areas of high, middle and low and are asked to produce a varied assortment of sounds, including whispers, tongue-clicks, lip-pops, and finger-snaps. The vocal noises, along with tone clusters produced by the pitch improvisations, create a humorous, electronic effect.”
Pauline Oliveros’ “Sound Patterns”, was written in an electronic musical form. I personally am not a fan of this type of music but I do respect someone who is. I know that in order for me to better understand this art form; I have to listen to it as a sound sculpture, or like someone creating a clay pot. With this state of mind, I can better understand what the composer is going for. For example, Sound Patterns is made up of sounds created by human voices. At first, I wanted to laugh because the sounds that are made seem like those of a six year old child. Were the art comes in is when the composer uses those sounds and creates a sound that only can be made through electronics. Its like taking one of those machines you see at a mall, were you put a penny in the machine and it flattens the penny and creates a new design. A good representation of this is when the voices are bended and create tone clusters. Another good representation is when the composer takes the click sound, with the tongue, and adds reverb to enhance the wet sound of the tongue hitting the roof of the mouth. It kind of saying you know if this person’s voice had more highs or lows in it, their voice would be perfect to my ear. That is what is happening with the sounds in this piece. The patterns of sound are apparent throughout this work.
Throughout the piece a repetition of different sounds, like those with the tongue, are played. My guess is that the composer was showing us these sounds over and over because of two reasons. First, I believe Oliveros did this because like when learning any new language, repetition is needed. Last, I believe it was used to give the listener an overall effect of what the bigger picture is of the piece. Which are different sounds played over and over again with electronic effects to create an new image or different color of sound. Personally, I do not believe that this piece should be in the canon. I do not believe for electronic music work that it is as good as some others. Also, in my opinion, no matter how many times I have listened to an electronic music I still get the same feeling that it is made up by a bunch of people who sit around all day and play on the computer and say look how smart I can be. Where is the soul in the music? Where is the heart of someone who has worked so hard on a craft or voice that they have that heart every time they play? It just seems that sounds coming at of a computer just do not give me the same effect as some creating a sound out of their human spirit. Maybe electronic music is something I have to listen too more of, but why listen to something that does not move me the first ten times?
In conclusion, Pauline Oliveros’ “Sound Patterns” was respected, but not for this listener. I do not believe it should be considered part of the canon and I would not recommend it for others to listen to. I think it is for those who are computer genius. Music to me is good if it somehow betters one’s life. That is why there are so many different types of music. I think that electronic music only betters those who make it. I could be wrong, but I have never heard anyone say I am playing Sound Patterns at my wedding. Or I want Sound Patterns played at my funeral. Either way, I hope it does better someone’s life because this type of art is not for me.
Ben Johnston: String Quartet no.4, “Amazing Grace”

Ben Johnston’s main goal was to speak clearly and intelligently to a wide audience
using avant-garde music. One of his most compelling instances of this is with his work String Quartet no. 4 “Amazing Grace.” The quartet uses three different tunings in its eleven-minute span, all of them forms of just intonation. The first form is known as Pythagorean tuning ( based on chains of pure fifths), the next is triadic just intonation ( based on pure fifths and pure major thirds), and last is known as the experimental form of extended just intonation using, in addition to pure fifths and thirds, intervals derived from the seventh partial of the overtone series ( a narrow minor 7th quite different from its equal-tempered equivalent). Using this pitch world and varies complex rhythms, the fourth string quartet is known to be one of Johnston’s greatest works.
I really enjoyed Johnston’s arrangement of “Amazing Grace.” I thought the opening was gorgeous. He uses right away the intervals of open fifths. Also, I love how he had the melody and a counter melody underneath it. I think this was a smart move on Johnston’s part because a everyday person who may not know anything about music knows the words and melody to “Amazing Grace.” Also, I like the fact he has the melody being played then takes it up an octave after the first time through the first phrase. This helped create a singing like quality to it. That is when the open fifths, Pythagorean tuning, really got to shine. The effect an interval of an open fifth gives you is a open sound. It also allows space to be filled by the other voices. The second part of this work shows off his knowledge of rhythm.
This rhythmic section still has the melody being played, but it is like the melody went into hover mode. What I mean it is like the melody is floating in the sky looking down at a city with cars, planes, and trains going on. That is the image that is created in my head when listening to this section. Later on in this piece Johnston starts to create dissidents by using minor seconds in the strings. This section is very quit. This quit section then flows into what I think might be an interlude into the next section. This section was my favorite because it starts off with three of the string players playing complex rhythms with unique harmonies. Then out of nowhere, the lead string player comes in and plays the melody on top of the three string players. This was an effective idea because while listening to the three strings, with the melody being played over the top, it created an different mood towards the melody.
At the end of all of this section the melody is played again only this time it will land on a flat nine of a dominant chord. Or, the melody will be played and the harmony will suddenly change on you. For example, on the part of the song were it goes, “How sweet the sound,” on the word sound the strings change to a darker color. Instead of a major chord they might play a dominant chord with a flat 13 or flat or sharp nine.
Overall, I really enjoyed Johnston’s “Amazing Grace.” I believe it should be recognized as part of the canon. I thought it was well thought out and organized. One way Johnston took Amazing Grace and organized it was by playing it in the variation that everyone knows it as. Then, he took it and used his own ideas and creativity and played it in ways he heard it. In return, your audience listens, with the response, “I know that song!” Then when they feel comfortable with the song, it goes in a different direction. This forces the average listener to think what just happened to my song, and that is when they really start to listen. I liked that he had the tune played normal and the way everyone knew it first. I believe this shows respect for the song and the composer who wrote it. Then I like how he kept stretching it and stretching it as if he was thinking let me see how far I can take my listeners. Then he comes back with the melody but this time with more advanced harmonies. Because of these reasons and the Johnston’s rhythmic concept, I believe this work should be considered part of the canon.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Gian Francesco Malipiero

Gian Francesco Malipiero, 1882-1973, was an Italian composer. Malipiero studied in Vience and in Bologne, and taught at the conservatory in Panama. He did studied Italian music and did important work on composers such as Montrverdi and Vivailda. Vivailda was an ordained priest and was famous for his concerto form. No piece is a better representation of that influence than the piece I decided to listen to, Gian Francesco’s “Vivaldiana.” This work is played by the Vento Philharmonic Orchestra with Peter Maag as the conductor. This piece consists of three movements, the first movement is entitled Adagio-Allegro.
The first movement starts off slow, with the cellos and basses playing the down beats in 4/4 time. I thought that this part of the song was very boring. The adagio sets up the allegro section nicely. One effective way this work does that is by having the adagio section not very long, and by having the adagio section ending cadence be a V to I. This makes you believe the tune has ended. After the cadence the Allegro section takes off with a simple theme. This theme is echoed and passed throughout each section of the orchestra. In fact, in some sections of they would play a round. This is a unique effect used throughout the first movement. Also the dynamics in the Allegro section are apparent. There is a good shift from metsso forta to fortissimo.
The second movement of the piece is entitled “Andante piu lento un poco.” This movement I thought was musical and sensitive. The strings enter at a soft dynamic while an oboe solo occurs. The entire movement never gets above a metsso piano. The piece comes off sensitive by creating space in a soft dynamic. For example, the strings hold notes for up to three to four counts. This allows space to occur was a soloist or another string player can play. The strings at a soft dynamic allow the space to be more of a listen to the space and the attack of the notes, and allow the tone of the individual instruments to fill in the space. This is opposite from the hold note with a crescendo that gives me the feeling of whets going to happen next. Another characteristic of the second movement is the use of an echo. Throughout the piece the one instrument would play a melodic line for a bar while another instrument played that same melodic line the following measure. I thought this characteristic help move the movement along.
The third and final movement of the work is entitled “Allegro, Allegro molto”. One characteristic that caught my attention was the use of the woodwinds. In this movement, Malipiero use the woodwinds to outline the chords and harmony. This was done by giving the woodwinds continuous eight note runs. In the middle of this of the movement the strings and woodwinds switch roles. The woodwinds have the melody while your strings outline the harmony. Also the use of an echo is apparent in this movement as well. Towards the end of the piece Malipiero has the strings playing while the woodwinds sit out and woodwinds play while the strings sit out. So he gives both groups roles, then they switch roles, after that they play separately, and finally at the end they play together. This movement is well organized.
Overall, I found this work to be average. I thought that everything I heard had been done before. Also the music seemed to up and down. It did not really have a taste to it. I mean it seemed by the book. I would not consider this for the canon because of these reasons. Also, He uses a lot of the same elements in all three movements. It was hard to even write about it because of this aspect and because each movement seemed short in length.

Marion Bauer
Symphonic Suite and American Youth Concerto

Marion Bauer’s composition, “Symphonic Suite and American Youth Concerto”, consists of three movements, “Andante Maestoso-Allegretto-Vivo”, “Andante ma non troppo”, and “Allegretto”. The first movement energetic, march like, and has romantic tendencies.
For example, the opening statement is a four bar phrase ending on a major chord were a piano fills in the chord with a melodic run. This creates a strong opening statement. After the fermata the strings enter repeating the first two bars of the opening statement and then playing a ii, V, I. Right when the strings land on beat one, clarinets come in with a march like style. To me, I believe Bauer was influenced by John Phillip Sousa march like style. Also the dramatic change in dynamics kept my attention throughout this movement. Running the changes on the piano created a beautiful color while the strings were playing. Another effective musical idea in this theme was the theme aimed and stretch-out beat three of the second bar. The melody is always aiming for this beat which happens to be a diminished chord. The sound is very dramatic and dark. This is where I think the romantic qualities can be heard in the first movement. Overall, I really enjoyed this first movement. I thought it was one of the better pieces of music I’ve listen to in a long time. It could be because I am an American I am listening to something that sounds familiar. Either way, I enjoyed this movement.
The second movement entitled “Andante ma no troppo,” had romantic like qualities as well. Also it made me think of a happy but yet troubled youth. The reason is, it starts off very beautiful with lush harmonies and when you think it going to land on a particular major chord the composer throws you off by landing on a dissonant chord tone. Also, out of nowhere Bauer throws in chords where your bass line moves up chromatically. This creates suspicion and anticipation. Chromatic movement was a common tool used during the romantic period. Also after the chromatics, the symphony would land on a dissonant chord than finally resolve it, and it was in ¾ time. These two effects were popular during the romantic era. Something I really enjoyed the most was how Bauer would create the feeling of hope in her music. She does this with repetition and dynamics. By having a melodic sequence played over and over again, with a crescendo. When the climax of the piece is at its peak he hits you with some surprising chord. This movement I felt was more like a nocturne mainly because I felt the “American Youth”. I really felt like that was what Bauer was aiming for.
The final movement starts off with a drum roll and beats one through four are emphasized. This immediately gave me the impression of a march. Something that really stuck out was the use of the saxophone used with strings. Also being a saxophone player, I noticed American like tendencies in his solo. For example, if this were not meant to be an American piece, you would not hear any scoops in his phrasing. That is an American “jazz” tendency. Also his vibrato is not in the French or German styles. His vibrato is fast but under the pitch which is known to be more of a jazz vibrato. Nothing could represent youthful Americans at the time than jazz. This movement has every type of American moves that you can find from marches to jazz. I really enjoyed this movement mainly because it was nice to hear a saxophone.
Overall, all three movements were fantastic to listen to. I thought it used a good mixture of European and American styles. It had some romanticism, marches, and jazz. All three pieces represented America well, especially the last movement with the saxophone. I believe that Marion Bauer’s Symphonic Suite and American Youth Concerto, is a great representation of American music. I could see this in the canon because of this reason. I know it may not come off as sophisticated as some of the earlier European composers, but considering how new of a country America is, the piece upholds the given title well. Also, another point I like to make is that America is still even to this day a fairly new country, and at the time of the piece we as a country were still in a growing up phase. Which to me means America was kind of a teenager at that time. Teenagers have a lot of cocky confidence and a lot of energy. That’s kind of how America is. That leads me to the thought that the American Youth was representing all of America and were we where as a country. For these reasons I believe this piece should be considered part of the canon.

Monday, March 17, 2008

John Field

Mike Herrera
Prof. Granade

John Field:
Sonatas and Nocturnes

Today, John Field is known as the inventor of short lyric piano pieces titled “nocturnes,”
a term stilled used by composers today. In his own time, he was known for his artistry on piano
and for his large body of compositions. Most of his works were written for his own recitals, concerts, and chamber performances. Like Chopin, Field included a piano in every single one of his compositions; in fact, most of them were for solo piano. Field composed his pieces according to his style of playing, which was known to be calm and have brilliant smooth singing style. All of his sonatas have only two movements and none of them have a slow movement; In fact owing to, the way pianos played at that particular time. Pianos of that day could not sustain a tone very long, and that made it very hard to write slow works. By far, Field was known for is “nocturne,” the works that virtually created the genre of the small piano pieces. All of his nocturnes offered a single mood, emphasizing a melodic line in the style of bel canto. Field’s romantic side is truly brought out in his nocturnes.
Field’s “Nocturnes,” each have their own characteristics. The first “Nocturne” on the cd, “Sonatas of John Field Nocturnes No.3, No.7, and No.17” are Field’s Sonatas, Op.1 No. 1-4. is entitled “Nocturne no.3”. This is in a three four time and uses a lot of rebate. This one almost gave me the felling of a waltz. I not sure I could dance to it, but that feel was heard. The second nocturne was Moderato number seven. It starts off with two notes being played at an interval of a fourth, using an echo (were one sequence is played and then immediately repeated but at a softer dynamic). I could hear the colors Field was going for in this nocturne. I tried to paint an image of this work and pictured a sunset. This piece, to me, came off more visual and romantic than the first nocturne. The last nocturne, number seventeen, seemed more virtuosic than the other two. Not loud, but more notes. He uses more running lines and more of the right hand. All off it seemed to be all at the same dynamic.
Field’s four Sonatas are different from his nocturnes. The first sonata has two movements: “Allegro moderato” and “Rondo Allegretto”. The “Allegro” movement did not grab my attention; it is too repeative. However, Field’s smooth melodic writing is shown throughout this movement. Field’s second movement, “Rondo” was the opposite and- quickly caught my attention. It starts off happy and almost like a laugh. The bass notes outlining a major chord, with the articulation of a staccato, helps create this childlike laughter. This is the common theme throughout this movement.
Field’s second sonata, first movement, starts off with brilliance. At first, the movement never seems to get to loud. In fact it comes off very child like. I am not a piano player but it seems like this would show off a sensitive touch on the piano. Towards the end of the movement the music comes to a crescendo and right at the climax, there is a sudden break or silence. This created a nice dramatic pause. Field then comes in very soft with recurring theme. I enjoyed this part of the movement. His third sonata and his fourth sonata sounded to me a lot like the first two sonatas. Mid way through the third sonata I wanted to skip ahead to the nocturnes. All four are great to listen to, just not one right after another.
Overall, I liked Field’s sonatas and nocturnes. To me his works are like a fine wine –they. Takes an acquired taste. It is not in your face type playing, it is more based on how sensitive the musician can be at the piano. All of Field’s works seem to be this way. It takes great timing and sensitivity to the keys. Sometimes, Field would decrescendo into a particular note he is aiming for, and when that note is about to be played, a chord is played with it. That chord and the touch will make or break that line. I personally enjoyed Field’s nocturnes more than his sonatas. Each one has a character and is unique. His sonatas are great, but sound too much alike. Also everything seemed too happy. Do not get me wrong, I enjoy happy music. I am just wondering does this guy ever get mad or sad? I would recommend these works to anybody, but to be opened minded and to really listen to what Field is going for.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Prof. Grande
21, February 2008
Suite Espanola, no.1 and no.2
Isaac Albeniz

Isaac Manuel Francisco Albeniz y Pascual was born on May 29, 1860, in the town of Camprodon in the Catalonian province of Girona. In 1869, Albeniz composed his first piece entitled Marcha Military for piano. He quickly appointed a position in the city of Caceres by Excelentisimo Senor Vizconde del Bruch, a general’s twelve- year- old son. In July of 1879, Albeniz tied for first place in a piano competition in Brussels. In the summer of 1880, Albeniz set out to realize his dream of studying with Franz Liszt. He made his way to Budapest via Prague and Vienna, but Liszt was not in Budapest at that time. Albeniz wrote in his diary that he played for him on August 18, 1880, but this was pure fabrication. Why he fabricated this is uncertain, but some believe he wanted to justify his talent to his family. Overall, his lack of artistic success on his trip came to him as a great disappointment. He even contemplated taking his own life. In 1883, Albeniz moved back to Barcelona where he met and married Rosina Jordana Lagarriga – one of his students. By 1887, Albeniz was known for his compositions all over the world, the most popular being his Spanish style pieces including Suite Espanola.
Albeniz freely adopted the musical feel from Spanish folk music. He used its rhythmic and melodic elements in his compositions. He felt a special attraction towards flamenco, and exotic folk music of Andalusia. This was certainly an inspiration for the first movement ofSuite Espanola no.1no.2. No.1 has a total of eight movements all together. The first movement is titled “Granada, (Serenata)”, which means “feminine”, and was composed in1886. Albeniz does a fantastic job creating the image of a woman and her romantic qualities. One way he paints an of image a woman is by having the right hand repeat a sequence in the upper reaches of the piano that out lines the chords. While this sequence is occurring, he has the melody in the left hand of the piano. Another way he helps himself create this image is by having it in a 3/8 meter. This, in turn, with the chords being outlined in the right hand, gives us the painted image of a young woman dancing. The second section of the “Granada”, or the bridge, changes to a minor key with the melody moved up to the right hand. Later in the movement, Albeniz refers back to his opening theme, ending the piece in a circular fashion.
The second movement of no.1 is entitled “Cataluña”, is in a 6/8 meter, and is written in the key of G minor. This piece is also a dance and has more of a dramatic sound. The triplet is used very often throughout the entire piece as well as sixteenths. This definitely is a good representation of how he was influenced by Andalusia and Spanish folk music. The piece uses rhythmic style of Spanish folk music. Overall, the movement is very well written and stays at a fortissimo level. The third movement is entitled “Sevilla” (Sivillians). This movement was written for the purpose to describe the people of the city “Sevilla”. This movement comes off happy and proud, and at times, almost circus like. Towards the middle of the piece it has a romantic feel to it. I got the impression that the people of “Sevilla” are, fun, romantic, and a proud people. This movement was fun.
Movement six, entitled “Aragon” (Fantasia), was one of the better movements out of the eight. This movement is heroic and in a 3/4 meter. Albeniz creates excitement with his dynamic contrast throughout the piece. This movement requires a lot of energy throughout the entire piece. Also beat one is emphasized the most. Every thing seems to be aimed at this beat. The movement is in two bar phrases that ends with a recurring melody on beat one of the next measure. This movement was my favorite.
The first movement of No.2 is entitled “Zaragoza”, a city of northeast Spain on the Ebro River northeast of Madrid. This movement is a good representation of traditional Spanish folk music in the fact that it shows, not just the rhythmic qualities, but also the melodic features of Spanish folk music. I enjoyed this movement. The second and last movement of no.2, is virtuosic. The name of the movement is entitled “Sevilla”. Sevilla a city is Spain that is know for its bullfighting. Albeniz starts off this movement loud with heavy accents. I believe he is trying to capture the masculine qualities of bullfighting throughout the city.
Overall I enjoyed both movements of Suite Espanola. I personally preferred the first movement over the second movement. It had more of a romantic effect and kept my attention longer. I could defiantly hear and visualize the feminine qualities in the first movement. I thought Albeniz does a great job painting this image. Both movements are good representations of the Spanish sound. The odd meters give a dance- like quality and groove. I could see anyone slow dancing to that first movement. When I first heard it, I pictured myself at nice up- scale restaurant and a Spanish couple dancing. I enjoyed both pieces, and I would recommend them to anyone wanting to hear good Spanish music for the piano.
I believe Suite Espanola should be considered part of the canon. It is unique in the fact that it is the first of its kind to use the elements of rhythm and melody in Spanish folk music, and that each movement represents and person, place, or thing in Spanish culture. Most of all, I believe Albeniz does a magnificent job of creating what he is trying to describe in each of his movements. His personality is very much in his writing and he uses different odd meters throughout the Suite. For these reasons, Suite Espanola should be considered in the canon.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Make a Joyful Noise
Make a Joyful Noise: American Psalmody features the collective works of different American composers from the late 1760s through the late 1790s. There are seventeen different tracks on the album and they are sung by the Oregon State University Choir. One of the composers that are mentioned frequently is William Billings. William Billings started a school in New England were they wrote modern poems of music with no professional training. All of the music was written for unaccompanied chorus and for four parts. Billings strived for consonance, showing long notes with intervals of an open fifth. Billings wrote 340 tunes and in 1770 wrote the first song book. All the music was written for the glory of God, and it was not until after Americans started to move to the east coast that his music was being noticed.
After listening to the first song entitled “An Anthem of Praise”, written by Supply Belcher, I was moved by how powerful it starts off. The first words out of the chorus’s mouth are “make a joyful noise.” This is a powerful message that uses open fifths and fourths. The set up consist of the voices at a fortissimo. The whole song is based off Psalm 100 in the Bible. This piece kept my interest with the different dynamics and its modulation up a fifth. This piece was my favorite out of all the tracks. I also liked “Heroism” by Belcher. This piece was patriotic and I liked how it repeated the last line of each verse. The last lines had words such as “dreadful”, “torturing”, and “death groans”. These powerful words were often repeated to remind everyone why they wanted freedom. The word death groans really caught my attention. I paint the image of a man yelling out his last words. I think of the movie Brave heart. This piece represents the time of early America. It talks about the battle field and cannons and bombshells. “Heroism” tells us that Americans were being tortured and made to believe a certain way of life, and the people who fought for freedom and risked their lives are the heroes of this war. Religion is sung throughout this entire work.
I find religion is important to look at when thinking about these pieces. Much of America was made because people in England were not given the right to believe or worship in a manner they believed. This I think is very important because unlike most of the great Canon, these works were not written for the Catholic Church. These works were written for American Protestants. It was more than likely the first works written for Christian churches that were not catholic. They wrote music on how they believed in god. For this reason alone I believe it should be part of the Canon. This was music by untrained professionals who wrote music about what this country is really known for. Like it or not it is what defines America today.
These hymns were written at a turning point in world history. I am a right brain person, and when I listen to music what catches my attention is if the music moves me in someway? If it does what I believe music should do, better someone’s life. I do not follow the theory that the composer is amazing. Even though I do respect so that side of the music, it does not mean anything if the message is not getting across. Music does not exist on paper. So I believe if a composer can write a piece of music where musicians, singers, and performers can get the music across, I believe the composer has done his or hers job. Billings and Belcher accomplished this aspect.
Certain features that grasped my attention were the use of call and response between the male and female voices. A good example of this is in the song “Middletown” by Amos Bull. The male and female voices trade parts then come together as a whole. I thought that is was unique.