Listening Log

An Outdoor Ouvrture

  • Composer: Aaron Copland
  • Year of composition: 1938
  • Performed by: High School of music and art
  • Listened to: 16.03.2021

The piece initially sounds as if it were written in the Classical Epoch. A heroic theme, consisting of only 5 notes is presented by the woodwinds and repeated by single instruments or instrument sections. The xylophone in addition to the brass section adds something playful to the dark atmosphere. As the music gets more hectic, some more instruments get involved and it rapidly changes between several side themes without transitions. Within the centre of the piece, a lighter middle section is played as a flute solo. In comparison to the brass section before, this part sounds much calmer. Overall, Copland seems to always focus on either one instrument section or a single instrument to present to the audience. Furthermore, the pace is kept rather slow and harmonies mainly stay within the same range.

Re – Greening

  • Composer: Tansy Davies
  • Year of composition: 2015
  • Performed by: National youth orchestra
  • Listened to: 16.03.2021

Interestingly, this piece is meant to be performed without a conductor, which leaves more free space for individual expression. The piece starts with clusters of interwoven chords and arpeggios played by different instrument sections. The combination of glockenspiel and xylophone alongside the other dark, disharmonic sounds creates the impression of a magical forest. The performers start singing a monotonous round, partly whispered, reminding of an incantation. On top of the “choir”, the loudness of the instruments fluctuates, sometimes even bursting out to a ff after a really quiet section.

It personally took me a while to get used to the contemporary classical style. Nonetheless, it seemed, that Davies used the instruments well, often disharmonic to create a sense of something growing and blooming. This effect is mostly achieved with cluster chords played by the strings.

Five Klee Pictures, Op. 12

  • Composer: Peter Maxwell Davies
  • Year of composition: 1959 (rev. 1976)
  • Performed by: the Young Musicians’ Symphony Orchestra,
  • Listened to: 16.03.20201

The first of the five pieces “A Crusader” starts with an atonal yet rhythmical alteration of the whole orchestra conversing with the percussion section. The volume increases every time a new repetition of the section starts. The second piece “Oriental garden” is lead by the oboe and is generally much calmer. The main melodic line moves up and down in small steps with a lower accompaniment also coming from woodwind instruments. Number 3 “The twittering machine” has a more rhythmical feeling to it, due to the swung percussion section. It also includes a piano which’s metallic sound represents machinery. The next piece “stained glass saint”, focuses more on the string section and seems to be bound more to a key than the previous pieces. “Ad Parnassum” is the last one, being more disharmonic again. Several dark notes, initially only played by brass instruments are layered on top of one another. Gradually the tension increases with the layers of instrument, but instead of solving it,the music comes to an abrupt halt.

Clockwork Orange: Main Theme/ Music for the funeral of queen Mary

  • Composer: Wendy Carlos/ Henry Purcell
  • Year of composition: 1962/ 1695
  • Performed by: APM Music/ Monteverdi Choir and Orchestra, Equale Brass Ensemble
  • Listened to: 18.03.2021

The melancholic melody of the piece is played by a particularly airy sounding midi – flute. The accompaniment is created with synthesizers. The combination creates an overall calming effect, although the sometimes jumpy melody line keeps the piece entertaining and adds something joyful to it. Even though it’s just this one theme being repeated several times, with each new repetition another layer is added, making tit really interesting to listen to.

Due to the drums and plucked basses in addition to the brass instruments, I had the impression that Purcell’s original version was slightly more successful in creating a dramatic effect Nonetheless, the synthesized sounds of Carlos creates a calmer, yet more insecure atmosphere, fitting well to the scenery of the film.

March from “A Clockwork Orange”/ Choral Movement of Beethoven’s ninth

  • Composer: Wendy Carlos/ L.v.Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1962/ 1822 – 1824
  • Performed by: APM Music/ Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Listened to: 18.03.2021

This was probably the most unusual version of Beethoven’s “Freude schöner Götterfunken” I’ve hear so far. Even the voices were altered to sound more “Electronic”. Furthermore one could only hear a few people singing instead of a whole choir, which made it less dramatic. The impact and power a whole choir can hold is obviously completely different than a few synthesized voices. Nonetheless, the accompaniment of Carlos’ version made the piece generally sound more cheerful and lighter than Beethoven’s original version. Interestingly the voices and accompaniment in Carlos’ version sound slightly distorted, which again represented the brutal and somewhat disturbing nature of the film very well.

William Tell Ouverture

  • Composer: Wendy Carlos/ Rossini
  • Year of composition: 1962/ 1829
  • Performed by: APM Music/ London Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Listened to: 18.03.2021

Carlos’ version is a rapid, instrumentally changed version of the original “William Tell Overture”, written by Rossini. Even though the original version sounds really hectic already, this one seems to spread even more stress which is not only caused by the fast tempo, but also by the distorted, unnatural sounding synthesizers. This is the first of the three pieces, were I son’t see a huge difference in the effect is has compared to the original one, apart from the pace. Again, it fitted very well to Alex’ (The films protagonist) mental state, but I personally think the original would have been just as effective.

Beethoven – Symphony no. 5, 1st movement

  • Composer: L.v.Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1804 – 1808
  • Performed by: West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
  • Listened to: 21.03.2021

Even though the movement in Sonata form, it mainly consists of the exposition and reprise. Instead of using a longer, two parted theme, Beethoven used a well – known short 4 – motif on which he based the entire movement. Due to the use of the full string section at the beginning, the first few notes of the piece seem really strong and powerful. After the intro, only a few instruments continue with a continuation of the first four notes of the piece. Even though this part is much lighter, the music still seems to contain a huge amount of energy waiting to burst. This is probably caused by the crescendos in the brass accompaniment. The music swells, bursts and falls down several times causing an overall really successful, strong first movement of Beethoven’s 5th.

Being a “Rock – cover”, I initially thought, that they would only use instruments which one normally sees in a band. Yet in addition to an e-guitar, drums and a piano, there was a whole string orchestra supporting both melody and accompaniment. Instead of directly moving to the development, they moved the whole piece up by one key and repeated the first few phrases of the piece and changed a few minor to major chords.I find it difficult to see a reason behind these chord changes, but I assume that the arranger chose it to make the piece sound cheerier. Overall, the piece didn’t seem as heavy as the original but was fun and entertaining to listen to.

Patrzalenk manages to capture the emotion and strength of a full orchestra on just one guitar. With a mixture of playing percussion, accompaniment and melody on the instrument at the same time, I was really impressed with the result. The slightly sharp and metallic sound of the guitar, interestingly added a “Spanish” touch to it. I was not only impressed with the depth and accuracy, but also with the devotion of emotion Patrzalenk put into this piece.

This funky version of the piece seemed to have lost all it’s original drama and was incredibly joyful and cheery. Whilst some of the “highlights, such as the 4 – motif – theme are still played strings, the accompaniment and sequences in between are filled with synthesizers. In addition to some percussion of all the versions I’ve listened to, this version was probably the furthest away from Beethoven’s original, yet great fun to listen to.

As this piece was written for a flute choir, it sounded more open and airy than the original version. I personally think that the dynamics could have been stronger. As the performer mainly seemed to float around one dynamical range the piece automatically had a lighter impact. Nonetheless, I think that the fast passages, developing the theme were well developed and represented by the alto – flute playing the melody. Interestingly, some side melodies, which are more hidden in the original can be heard better.

I think that the higher trumpets in this ensemble probably played the most important role, as the melody line sounded stylistically very similar to the first violin of Beethoven’s version. Considering the notes there were no alterations made and even though it’s not a whole orchestra playing, I had the impression it had overall the same impact, especially as the dynamical range was much wider than in the previous piece.

Being a pianist myself I really enjoyed this version of Beethoven’s fifth. Morton interestingly alternated the tempo slightly, often making it slower at the quieter parts of the piece, probably to be able to enhance the music more by not only using dynamical but also rhythmical changes. I personally sometimes thought sometimes he used too many “hammer” notes in the bass, making the piece sound more cramped instead of dramatic. Nonetheless, a well – written and performed rearrangement.

This arrangement was made with hollow plastic sticks which create a defined note depending on their length when being hit. Even though the notes sounded hollower, and quite similar to one another, one was able to recognise the different main themes, which made it completely different to the versions before but highly enjoyable. Within this cover, the rearranger/performers focused more on the more dominant parts, such as the beginning and the always reappearing rhythm of the first 4 notes. This is probably due to the fact, that the ensemble was bound to a limited amount of notes within only one or two octaves.

I was really impressed by this rearrangement. They slightly altered some melodic lines, especially runs to sound more jazzy, for example by using chromatic instead of diatonic movement. In addition to the warm sound of the lower saxophones this created a full, more welcoming version of Beethoven’s 5th. After the first part of the exposition, the music becomes increasingly jazzier. Short improvised solos which can be heard within the first repetition are added to originally diatonic chords, changed to jazz chords, for example by an added 7th, 9th. Even though the dramatic feeling of the piece somehow gets lost, these new features made the piece incredibly interesting and entertaining.

8th Symphony

  • Composer: Anton Bruckner
  • Year of composition: 1887
  • Instruments: 3 flutes 3 oboes, 3 clarinets, 3 bassoons, 8 horns, 3 trumpets, 3 trombones, bass tuba, percussion, strings
  • Performed by: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 26.03.2021

The first movement starts with a dark atmosphere, created by low playing tremolo-strings. The mainly majestic yer uncertain theme can only be heard after a while. The movement is not in a typical sonata form,but some themes are reappearing and a development exists nonetheless. The second movement, a scherzo, is structured similar to a rondo with the parts A – B – A – C – A – B – A. It is lighter than the previous movement and has a forward moving tempo and rhythm. The third movement is joyful but seems stylistically similar to the first again.

7th Symphony

  • Composer: L.v.Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1811 – 1812
  • Performed by: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 26.03.2021

The first movement is in sonata form and after a few introducing chords a majestic, joyful and strong melody can be heard. It’s mainly characterized through its march-like tempo and ascending bass line. The second movement is also characterized through its forward moving rhythm. It is much more dramatic and calmer in comparison to the previous movement. The third movement starts with an altered version of the few introducing bars from the beginning of the first movement. Really majestic again, but slightly weaker than the first movement. The last part of the piece seems similar to the previous one, although more hectic and slightly disorientated.

Symphony No. 6

  • Composer: Anton Bruckner
  • Year of composition: 1879 – 1881
  • Performed by: Münchner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 26.03.2021

The first movement starts with strongly accented notes on C-sharp, played by the violins, defining the rhythm of the piece. The abruptly starting main theme has a dark but strong character. The second movement involves three different joyful themes. The third one, a scherzo in a- minor, is slower than the previous movements. The finale is in a – minor as well, but slowly changes to a cheery sounding major key again.

Daphnis et Chloe: Lever du jour

  • Composer: Maurice Ravel
  • Year of composition: 1907-1912
  • Performed by: Bordeaux Opera chorus, Bordeaux Aquitaine National Orchestra
  • Listened to:08.04.2021

The mood of this piece is generally dark. It starts with a repeating arpeggio movement played by the flutes. The higher strings and brass section seem to focus on a slow chord progression moving in small steps. An increasing amount of instruments joins in playing the notes fitting to the cluster chord. Some tension is created by an added crescendo, provoking the “space” mentioned in my study folder. Only after about one minute, the tension is lifted when the strings seem to “find” the same 4- motif theme. Even as the arpeggio movement is continued in the background, the music seemed to now have found a melody it can follow. 

Symphony No. 1, first movement (opening passages) 

  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Year of composition: 1888
  • Performed by: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to:08.05.2021

This pice starts with a two note motif played by the flutes in Pinaissimo. It is kept incredibly quiet and only seems to gradually wake up. The theme is pojected to other instruments, which suddenly come to life as well. Partially, it seems to breathe, as the dynamics gradually move up and down. A heroic fanfare like theme follows, played by the horns, creating a suddenly very nature based picture. After that the instruments become more vivid, the melodic lines more detailed. Furthermore, more and more themes are added on top of one another until they climax in a clear, rapid theme played by several of the instruments. 

Harmonium: Negative Love

  • Composer: John Adams
  • Year of composition: 1980-1981
  • Performed by: San Francisco Symphony
  • Listened to: 08.04.2021

Similar to the previous piece, this one also starts really quietly. A sense of “space” is created again by several instruments and in this particular case a choir focusing on one chord. The dynamics move in waves but also gradually become louder. Having the choir in this composition somehow gives it an extra mystical atmosphere. Interestingly, the sense of space and a certain tension that appears within the first few bars isn’t released when the choir starts with an unison melody. This may be due the the more dominant background still “Swimming” continuously within the same chords from the beginning. 

Violin Concerto, first movement

  • Composer: Unsuk Chin
  • Year of composition: 2009
  • Performed by: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to:08.04.2021

This piece starts with a few single staccato tones alternating with short legato motifs. As these motifs gradually become longer, a sense for a key is lost. The tension isn’t created through layered notes, but rather with dissonant harmonies and melodic movement. Unlike the previous pieces there isn’t one climax point, but several. Once the music swells and gets to its peak point it slowly bursts again. Nonetheless, with every new theme started the music gets louder. The sense of “space” created in this piece of music is, unlike the previous pieces, created with a disharmonic combination of tones, which nonetheless, still seems to be structured. Even though the cellos play the most dominant role within the symphony, the composer also gave the instruments in the background an opportunity to present their individual sound, which makes the piece sound wider. 

Double concerto for piano Percussion and Ensemble

  • Composer: Unsuk Chin
  • Year of composition: 2003
  • Performed by: Ensemble Intercontemporain
  • Listened to: 13.04.2021

At the beginning the petcussion instruments seem to be chosen to imitate the metallic sound of the piano. Runs and arpeggios again, create a sense of space. At the beginning most of the instruments from the ensemble can only be heard in the background, but they seem to become more dominant over the course of the piece. The alteration. Instead of playing with much alteration of dynamical or structural diversity, the Unsuk Chin created a huge amount of different textural colours by alternating the instruments. Although the piano is always the one leading the percussion and ensemble.

Music for 18 musicians

  • Composer: Steve Reich
  • Year of composition: 1976
  • Performed by: Eighth black bird
  • Listened to: 26.04.2021

Over the whole piece the music seems to wander slowly from one chord to the next one. The first movement is slightly quieter and less jumpy than the second one. I thought the female voices created and interesting impact on the overall calm sounding mood. I initially thought, that the repetitive motifs might become boring after a while, but the constant sound on similar chords produced a hypnotic circular sounding theme. The piece is parted into different sections, whereas every section seems to have another instrument in focus. Furthermore, Reich also alternated a lot with the dynamics, to keep the piece interesting.

I was surprised how much I enjoyed listening to this piece, even though it was difficult to focus on a structure. I enjoyed the calm atmosphere it created, especially by just moving slowly to different chords.

3rd Piano Concerto, first movement

  • Composer: Sergei Prokofiev
  • Year of compositon: 1917 – 1921
  • Performed by: Yuja Wang
  • Listened to: 16.04.2021

The first movement opens with a lyrical melody, played by a solo clarinet, which is shortly after taken over by the strings and finally leads to a staccato run on the piano. From there, the rhythm of every instrument section seems to become very vivid. A grotesque side – theme is introduced by the oboes, and taken over by the piano playing variations of the theme. Instead of moving back to the main theme, a short disorientated sounding passage leads to the development of the movement, which is started with a bright theme played by the whole orchestra in fortissimo. A romantic sounding progression of the introduced theme can be heard, where the piano mainly plays arpeggios fitting to the chords of the orchestra. The same staccato run from the beginning leads to the recapitulation, which slowly moves into a grotesque sounding theme again.

Quatuor pour la fin du temps: Liturgie de cristal

  • Composer: Oliver Messiaen
  • Year of composition:1940 – 1941
  • Instruments: Oboe
  • Performed by: antje Weithas, Sol Gabetta,Sabine Meyer, Betrand Chamayou
  • Listened to: 16.04.2021

The piece starts with a light theme played by the oboe. The chords for the accompaniment seem disharmonic at first and create a somewhat uneasy character. Nonetheless, after a while one can find a continuity and repetition within the single chords and high pitched notes of the other three instruments. Each instrument seems to follow its’ own rhythmical structure, which interestingly makes the piece sound very open.

Das Lied der Erde

  • Composer: Gustav Mahler
  • Year of composition: 1907 – 1908
  • Performed by: Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Listened to: 13.04.2021
  • Das Lied der Erde: I: Das Trinklied von Jammer der Erde.

The first movement is a song for a solo – tenor consisting of 4 stanzas. A fanfare theme played by the horns accompanies whilst switching between major and minor keys. After this strong introduction, the music becomes calmer with the violins playing a descending melody.The tenor starts to sing an initially cheery sounding tune, which is slowly lead into a minor – key chorus. The second stanza is slightly varied by augmentation of the notes. The third stanza is more focused on the accompaniment, as it starts with another instrumental section. Mahler kept the climax of the piece for the last stanza with the word “Leben” (=Life).

  • Das Lied der Erde: II: Der Einsame Herbst

This movement is much slower paced and starts with a melancholic theme played by the woodwinds, which is also used throughout the rest of the movement. Similar to the previous movement, a few descending motifs can be heard. Only within the passage between the second and third stanza, the strings take over the most dominant role. The words “Ich weine” (=I am crying) lead to the emotional peak point of the movement.

  • Das Lied der Erde: III: Von der Jugend

This short, scherzo – like theme moves from a darker theme, to a light vivid one. Two rapid major parts surround a slow trio in g – minor. Interestingly, the whole song seems to be created in a pentatonic scale and thus, almost seems to draw a picture of Asian culture.

  • Das Lied der Erde: IV: Von der Schönheit

Similar to the previous movement, this one is played in a pentatonic scale as well. A fast middle section is surrounded by two slowly played melodic themes. The main theme is in a major key, but seems to modulate between different keys. The middle section starts with instruments only with a march – like theme. Even tough it is used as an accompaniment, the brass section creates a strong character by playing fast arpeggios and runs. The second part of the movement starts instrumentally as well and introduces a dark theme with raw soundng notes, played by the brass section.

  • Das Lied der Erde: V: Der Trunkene im Frühling

This movement starts in a major key again with fanfares played by the horns. Interestingly, the melody sung by the tenor seems to be a key higher. The second stanza is similar to the previous one and didn’t seem to be altered in any way.

  • Das Lied der Erde: VI Der Abschied

Three short motifs introduced at the beginning are varied several times. A female voice can be heard as the main part of the piece. Often underlined by an oboe, a flute plays a counterpoint to the voice. The second part is in a major key. A harp, which was more in the background is now more dominant and leads the rhythmic movement of the theme. The music swells and seems to break shortly before it reaches a climax. Another sad motif can be heard using a pentatonic scale. Within the final part, the music swells again an finally reaches the climax it was meant to reach before. 

In ecclesiis

  • Composer: Giovanni Gabrieli
  • Year of composition: 1608
  • Performed by: Wise Music Group
  • Listened to: 18.04.2021

Unlike the previous pieces, this is the first one to feature more than one voice, it is also from a much earlier epoch. The music mostly alters between solo sections and sections for the whole ensemble. The instrumental sections which appear between chorus and solo sections are polyphonic and seem to echo the previous parts. Within the middle section, the music becomes more tensious, but is lifted shortly after by a quieter entry of the Soprano voice.

Obviously, for the task of this exercise (Exercise 9) , it wasn’t possible to see a life performance of the piece directly, but I watched several performances of the piece to get a sense of the physical space. Often I found versions, where the choir was placed behind the orchestra, or just on one side. The most effective version is probably the one from the St Marks basilica, where the choir is on the right alongside the trombones, the strings in the centre and the cornets are on the left. This is probably very effective, as most of these sections play in antiphonal sections. Furthermore, with most of these recordings one can hear that they were recorded in large halls, which makes them sound much wider than they would have sound in small rooms.

The score features 14 voices: 4 solo voices (SATB), 4 choir voices (SATB), 3 cornettos, a violin and 2 trombones and a continuo for the bass accompaniment. One can notice, that Gabrieli altered between different versions of accompaniment and melodic lines. Whilst he initially focuses on one solo part and a simple bass line, every voice seems to become more rhythmically independent towards the end of the piece, were it creates a polyphonic structure. I personally think that a wide sense of space is created during the solo passages, accompanied by the continuo. This initial space seems slowly to be filled by the other voices and instruments over the course of the piece, whilst still maintaining a sense of an open space.