Learning Log

Project 13: Arranging for dance band

The task for this project was to write a short piece for a dance band, in the style of a fox-trot, charleston, tango or waltz often used in the 1920’s and 1930’s. I listened to several pieces (at least one per genre) in order to prepare for this task. The entries can be found in my Listening Log.

Reflection: Overall I really enjoyed writing this short piece, I was slightly surprised how effective the sound colour of the banjo was, as I initially didn’t think it would fit so well.

Project 14: Expanded Harmony

Research Point: I was asked to do some research about polytonality, and listen to some pieces – they can also be found in my listening log. I generally like the concept of polytonality, but can’t always enjoy listening to it. This becomes even more difficult, when the piece is mostly disharmonic, like some of the examples below. I nevertheless always find it interesting to learn more about different musical structures, and by the end of listening to those pieces, I even found myself enjoying it.

Copacabana

  • Composer: Draius Milhaud
  • Year of composition: 1920
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Wolfgang Weller
  • Listened to: 30.08.2022

Even though two different keys were used for this piece (Bmajor in the right hand and G major in the left), it didn’t sound too disharmonic. Through the steady rhythm of a starting left hand motif, the melody seems to be floating. Interestingly, the right hand seems rhythmically mainly bound to the rhythmic pattern of the left hand. Some contrast is created by two types of melodies; a calmer one where the right hand only plays a single line, accompanied by the rhythmic pattern of the left hand and a more colourful one, where the right hand plays the rhythmic pattern in octaves and the left one the melody.

String Quartet No.5

  • Composer: Darius Milhaus
  • Year of composition: 1920
  • Instrument: 2 Violins, Cello, Double Bass
  • Performed by: Quatuor Parisii
  • Listened to: 30.08.2022

This piece seems like an interesting approach to polytonality, and even though I found it difficult to listen to it initially, I found it really interesting. All four instruments are equally important, combined with the poly-tonality one can get the impression of being drawn from one key to another. When looking at all the melodic lines individually, they actually seem quite bright and colourful, nonetheless, the harmonic interaction with the other instruments create disharmonic interactions. It can also be noticed, that Milhaud often used the same rhythmical patterns for all instruments but time-delayed.

Sarcasms

  • Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
  • Year of composition: 1912 – 1914
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Daniil Trifonov
  • Listened to: 09.09.2022

The piece switches between a very fierce temper in the lower register and a lighter theme, played in the upper register. A melodic line, which stays similar in both parts can always be recognized over the accompaniment. In terms of the notation it is incredibly interesting that each hand uses a different key. Surprisingly, I didn’t have the impression that the piece was becoming too disharmonic and really enjoyed listening to it.

Symphony of Psalms -Third Movement

  • Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  • Year of composition: 1930
  • Performed by: Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Listened to: 09.09.2022

In terms of orchestration, it can be noticed that Stravinsky only used low registered strings, such as the cello and bass, alongside a huge wind instrument repertoire, percussion, and to create an even more unique sound, also two pianos. Thus, the sound colour is incredibly mysterious and dark sounding. I was slightly surprised by the use of the choir, but found it added another level to the dark themed music.

Exercise: Harmonizing

Here I was asked to harmonize two short chorale melodies, trying to avoid “normal” harmonies, except for the final cadence. Overall I found it really difficult, but having listened to the pieces above, I was able to create and develop some more independent harmonic ideas.

Research Point

Arnold Schönberg is probably known as one of the most influencal composers of the 20th century. Two of his students, Alban Berg and Anton Webern are often mentioned alongside Schönberg, as they continued with his musical ideas and developed them even further.

Schönbergs first composition “Verklärte Nacht” already showed some outlines of the musical style he used later for most of his works. 1

Generally Schönbergs works, as well as the compositions from his students and other musicians he influenced are known as the Second Viennese School. The pieces are generally characterized by atonality and Schönberg’s 12 tone music. Furthermore, Schönberg didn’t see 12 tone – music as an avoidance of harmonical structures, but more as a development of the known tonal language. With the usage of this technique all notes and intervals are equally important. 2

1 Berliner Festspiele (2015) Arnold Schönberg. [online]. Available at: https://www.berlinerfestspiele.de/de/berliner-festspiele/programm/bfs-kuenstler/bfs_kuenstler_detail_49252.html#:~:text=Arnold%20Sch%C3%B6nberg%20wurde%20am%2013,und%20aus%20dem%20Violinunterricht%20bezog. [Accessed: 26.09.2022]

2 Reul, H. (2020). Klassikzeit: Die Zweite Wiener Schule. [online]. BRF. Available at: https://1.brf.be/sendungen/klassikzeit/1065189/ [Accessed: 26.09.2022]