Listening Log

Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, March

  • Composer: Henry Purcell
  • Year of composition: 1695
  • Instruments: brass, bass drum
  • Performed by: Baroque Brass of London
  • Listened to: 09.05.2021

The piece is started with a drum solo, probably played by a bass drum. A longer, seemingly irregular pattern is introduced, sounding similar to  old, tribal music used for a ritual. Only after a few bars, the brass section starts to play a fanfare like theme. With the introduction of the brass section, the piece suddenly seems much more heroic, as a simple forward moving melody is being played. The underlying drum pattern repeats itself continuously, being a – rhythmical to the brass section. Starting out really quietly, the brass section always seems to adapt to the dynamical strength of the drums. 

Symphony no.8, 1st Movement

  • Composer: L.v.Beethoven
  • Year of composition: 1812
  • Performed by: London Symphony Orchestra
  • Listened to: 09.05.2021

The piece starts with a strong introducing theme, lead by the strings. The percussion was marely used to underline accented chords and notes, blending well with the rest of the orchestra. If I hadn’t been ask to directly listen to it, I probably would have barely noticed it at all. The strong intro is countered by a quieter side theme. During the development, the theme reappears several times in different ways, often using echoing motifs. Towards the end, during the recapitulation, the themes seem to flow together, creating new colours. 

Symphonie Fantastique, 5th Movement

  • Composer: H. Berloiz
  • Year of composition: 1812
  • Performed by: Lonon Symphony Orchestra
  • Listened to: 09.05.2021

The piece starts with the string section creating a dark and stormy atmosphere. Some high, sustained flute notes are added, seemingly imitating a wind. A initially barely noticeable tremolo crescendo, played by the timpani seems to be the first percussion part of the piece. With the crescendo, it leads the other instruments to a peak point, after which a slightly calmer, but still somewhat “mocking” character can be heard. This image is mostly created by the up – and down jumping high pitched woodwinds. The character of the piece changes rapidly. Within the middle section the music produces a slow march, which sometimes seems to “explode”. Similar to Beethoven’s 8th movement, some percussion is used to underline these exploding parts among the calm, but dramatic sounding march. Towards the end of the piece, where the music reaches several peak – points, the timpani is used in a similar way again, underlining accented notes.

Couleurs de la cité céleste

  • Composer: Messiaen
  • Year of composition: 1963
  • Performed by: Orchestra de la Cité Céleste
  • Listened to: 09.05.2021

This piece is started with fragments of disharmonic music played by several instrumental groups, followed by general rests, creating an image of the piece “breathing”. These rests seem to become shorter as the piece continues, but the groups of instruments continue with their alteration. The xylophone is probably one of the most dominant part of the piece, not only because it’s sound sticks out over the rest of the orchestra, but also because it plays a repeating pattern within the otherwise changing parts of the piece.

Grabstein für Stephan

  • Composer: György Kurtág
  • Year of composition: 1978 – 1989
  • Instruments: Guitar, orchestra, percussion
  • Performed by: Asko Schönberg, Netherlands Radio Choir, Reinbert de Leeuw
  • Listened to: 09.05.2021

I was surprised to hear a guitar within this composition, as I expected another orchestral sounding piece. It is started with some calm and slowly played arpeggios, each of them being underlined differently with another percussion instrument. Only after a while some more instruments, woodwinds and strings start to join in, creating a darker, more mysterious atmosphere by playing disharmonic chords. The arpeggios, which are still played by the guitar become less frequent, but manage to create a calm anchor within the otherwise increasingly stormier becoming atmosphere. Kurtàg uses several percussion instruments, which seem to adapt to the current character of the piece. During the solo – guitar parts, they are more in the background and difficult to notice, whilst being louder and more “agressive” within the stormier parts of the piece.

Chamber Symphony

  • Composer: Thomas Adès
  • Year of composition: 1990
  • Performed by: Unknown
  • Listened to: 09.05.2021

This symphony is started with a rhythmical percussion solo, probably played on a drum set creating a slightly jazzy character. The rhythmical pattern is continued whilst more and more orchestral instruments join in with seemingly irregular patterns. Within the first movement the percussion stays very soft, mostly using lighter sounding instruments, a snare for example. The second movement is introduced by some rapid, deep notes played on the piano, here, Adès used some heavier, darker percussion instruments, creating a more dramatic atmosphere which stays in contrast to the previous movement. Overall, the percussion seems to be the main focus of the piece, as the other instruments are adapting to the characteristics of it. This is probably a rather unusual approach, even for a modern symphony, but was still very interesting to listen to.

Scheherazade, Op. 35, 1st movement

  • Composer: Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov
  • Year of composition: 1888
  • Performed by: New York Philharmonic
  • Listened to: 23.05.2021

The first movement introduces several musical colours. The composer starts with a strong fanfare like theme in forte played unison by the lower brass section and strings. Without any transition, two more themes are introduced, not only played quieter but also with the use of different instruments. A song l, longing solo lead by a single violin and a harp can be heard. Over the course of the whole orchestral work, he seemed to have used almost every possible combination of instrumental groups, creating a high variety of warm, soft or darker, moodier themes. I personally couldn’t make out any consisting themes within the piece, it mostly consisted of different parts contrasting one another in musical colour and dynamics.Interestingly even if there are barely any transitioning parts between these themes, none of them come unexpectedly nor have a surprising effect.

The Rite of Spring, Second Part

  • Composer: Igor Stravinsky
  • Year of composition: 1913
  • Performed by: Berliner Philharmoniker
  • Listened to: 23.05.2021

At the beginning, a hectic, mysterious scene is created. Some low pitched, almost scratching sounding strings create the hectic atmosphere. The lower woodwinds adapting to the style of the strings lift some of the tension with their nasal, slightly humorous sound. Shortly after more and more woodwinds join in playing fast arpeggios, reminding me of a windy landscape. Some muted brass instruments join in, which lead the rest of the orchestra over a long crescendo to a peak – point. Towards the end of the piece, a more joyful, meditative sounding part starts, created by a repeating bass line. The percussion, especially the low timpani and bells, fulfill the initially introduced humorous sounding atmosphere.

Five Pieces for Orchestra

  • Composer: Anton Webern
  • Year of composition: 1913
  • Performed by: Nürnberg Symphony Orchestra
  • Listened to: 23.05.2021

Within the first piece, the background is created with a sustained 3- note motif, mostly played by the clarinet. With only 58 seconds, this movement is really short. On top of the motif, some instruments or instrumental groups enter the piece, often creating long crescendo notes, which suddenly disappear at their highest point. The instruments used, often sound scratchy and unfocused. The second movement is introduced with a single pizzicato note followed by a clear sounding motif. This part seems to always involve a clear sounding melodic line, alongside short fragments played by different instrumental groups.

The third movement is probably the most interesting one; A chord consisting of five notes (D – G# – B – E and A), is repeated several times throughout the piece, each time with a different instrumentation, creating several different musical colours. The fourth piece seemed to be the expressionistic version of a scherzo, as it has the form and structure of a trio. For the last piece, Webern used a waltz – like sounding theme as a base, with a later clearly defined melodic line which is presented by several different instruments.

Four Sea Interludes

  • Composer: Benjamin Britten
  • Year of composition: 1945
  • Performed by: London Symphony Orchstra
  • Listened to: 23.05.2021

The first movement, is introduced, by a clear sounding descending melodic line played by the flutes and strings, the sound is hardly distinctive, yet bright and clear. Upon reaching the lowest point of the melody, some darker notes can be heard by the rest of the orchestra, seemingly answering the high pitched melody. During the course of the piece, these two voices continue to communicate, but appear to get closer to one another with every repetition played. The second movement introduces with a fanfare like theme played by the brass section, some arpeggios are added leading the brass section into a climax point. A soft, dance – like theme is started, with an a – rhythmical flute – theme on top, reminding of birds singing.

The third movement starts with low, soft sounds played only by the string section. Through the rapid alteration of crescendos and decrescendos, the music seemed to breathe. Within a repetition, a high flute is added, playing short fragmented descending motifs. The music becomes louder and more tensionous, more and more instruments are added, adapting the string section, before it finally bursts in a short climax. The theme from the beginning can be heard again, this time played by much more instruments, with a tremolo played by the timpani, accompanying it, creating a much more heroic effect than during the first repetition. The last movement is much stormier than the previous one. It is mainly lead by disharmonic notes, played by the brass and string section. In comparison to the previous parts, the percussion, in this case a solo – like part from the timpani, plays a very dominant role.


  • Composer: Iannis Xenakis
  • Year of composition: 1956
  • Performed by: Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra
  • Listened to: 23.05.2021

During the first part of the piece, one can only hear percussion instruments playing soft, wooden sounds. These sounds slowly increase in number until an arhythmical cluster – like mix of these instruments is created, sounding similar to rain bouncing off a rooftop. After a while some single, disharmonic notes can be heard played by the string sections. Moving similar to the percussion, the number of the sounds increase until a cluster – like mix seems to take over the whole passage. In the meantime, the percussion section slowly fades out. Even though it started with a rather calming character, the string section added something unsettling to the piece, by alternating with short fragments and high pitched pizzicato or legato notes.


  • Composer: Unsuk Chin
  • Year of composition: 1998
  • Performed by: Universal Music Group
  • Listened to: 31.05.2021

The first part of the piece sounds as if a huge creature was breathing. The deep noise/sound is created with some synths and low scratchy strings. Overall, it is difficult to find a structure within the piece by just listening to it. It was nonetheless noticeable, that the music continuously seemed to become stronger and fade again, all sounding similar to a “breathing” movement described at the beginning. Initially, I found it slightly unsettling listening to the piece, due to the non-harmonic , often scratchy and therefore unpleasant sounds. Nonetheless, after having worked through this course and the previous ones, I learned, that the ear can adapt to almost anything if given enough time: Towards the centre of the piece I started to become more interested in the quality and diversity of the different sounds produced instead of the harmonic or structural construction. The mix of the more “natural” sounding orchestral instruments with the electric synths has succeeded very well, especially as they are often melt into one another, which makes it sometimes difficult to tell them apart.

The man I love

  • Composer: George Gershwin
  • Year of composition: 1927
  • Performed by: Classic Mood Experience
  • Listened to: 05.06.2021

The piece is in G-major and has an AA’BA’ form. Considering it as a pop song, it would fall under the blues genre. At the beginning, the trumpet presents an alternative version of the melody, which is shortly after sung by a female voice. The combination of the trumpet and the jazzy, seemingly improvising piano reminded me of an smoky bar from an old movie. Even though there are no percussion instruments used at all, within the B – part there is a strong sense of rhythm mainly produced by the pizzicato of the double bass and the movement of the chords played on the piano.


  • Composer: Unknown
  • Year of composition: Unknown
  • Performed by: Surkarta Sekaten Gamelan
  • Listened to: 22.06.2021

The metal sounding tuned percussion had something very meditative. Even though there were a few instruments which are more noticeable than others, the overall sound seems to be more of a polyphonic mix of different arpeggios. Interestingly, the played notes seem to come from the same family of instruments, even though the single notes sound slightly distorted, mostly due to the unusually dominant overtones of the instruments. The “theme” played seems to be moving in circles, continuously increasing and decreasing in volume and always repeating the same melodic pattern, which seems to be moving in fifths.


  • Composer: Unknown
  • Year of composition: Unknown
  • Performed by: Surkarta Sekaten Gamelan
  • Listened to: 220.06.2021

In comparison to the previous piece, this one made a slightly more distressing effect on me. Some other instruments, at least two forms of drums have been added, and the metal sounding ones were not in the foreground anymore. The combination of the low drums and shakers, which seemed to imitate chirps from crickets only had this disorientating effect due to the (at least for me) unusual sounding intonation. On top of all that, there was a female voice singing, mostly singing melismatic. Whilst the instrumental repeated the same pattern over the whole piece, the voice changed it’s melody continuously.

Bells from the Temple

  • Composer: Unknown
  • Year of composition: Unkown
  • Instruments: Erhu, Pipa, Zheng, Xiao
  • Performed by: Loo Kah Chi, Lam Fung, So Chun Bo, Wong Kuen
  • Listened to: 22.06.2021

The combination of the instruments and pentatonic scale made the piece sound foreign, probably mostly due to a similar usage in films, I automatically associated it with Asian culture. I find it interesting how many differences there are to the western orchestra. The music is overall really enjoyable, even though it sounds very unfamiliar. Interestingly, there isn’t a instrument that has been chosen to play the melody; instead most of the time, all instruments play an alternating melodic line in parallel moving octaves or fifths.

Beyond the Frontier

  • Composer: Unknown
  • Year of composition: Unkown
  • Instruments: Erhu, Pipa, Zheng, Xiao
  • Performed by: Loo Kah Chi, Lam Fung, So Chun Bo, Wong Kuen
  • Listened to: 22.06.2021

For this piece the instruments moved more independently. Thrills and tremolos were often used as a reappearing effect. Due to the lower pitched notes and the slower tempo, it had a slightly more calming effect than the previous one. Furthermore, the melody, seemed to be moving forward instead of just repeating itself. Here again, the performers used the effect of doubling the melody in octaves or fifths. For me the most fascinating aspect was, that no or only a small amount of background music was used (similar to Bells from the Temple) and the piece nevertheless didn’t sound empty.

Here we go again

  • Composer: Michael Mulshine
  • Year of composition: 2008
  • Performed by: Princeton Laptop Orchestra
  • Listened to: 2.06.2021

I really enjoyed listening to this piece. The first part was only made with “natural” instruments, and had a jazzy style. A recitative is started accompanied by the performers on the computers typing the spoken words on their computers. A mix of light, seemingly improvising jazz and a few synths from the computers combine with the a – rhythmical recitative creating a slightly chaotic seeming atmosphere. This part is also stopped abruptly and a new one, stylistically similar to the first one can be heard again, between these thematically very different parts aren’t any transitions. I had the impression of listening to a completely new type of music, which combines “classical” acoustic sounds with different types of only recently discovered ones.

Three Preludes for Piano

  • Composer: George Gershwin
  • Year of composition: 1926
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Performed by: Krystian Zimerman

The first of the three preludes is quite groovy, has a jazzy character and defines itself mostly through the maintained rhythm of the bass notes from the left hand. The main motif consists of 5 notes often repeated in varied ways throughout the piece.The following melody melody sees to be played rather freely, often playing up – and down running scales.

The second prelude has a darker and more melancholic character, created by the almost hypnotizing 4 – 2 – note -movement of the left hand. The right hand plays a thematically simple but lovely melody, repeated in octaves later within the piece. The centre part is more cheerful, the tempo gets slightly faster and the left hand takes over the melody, leaving the right hand to continue the 2 – note movement.

The third prelude has a dramatic, slightly hectic sounding introduction, after which a question – answer motif can be heard. Due to the faster tempo it creates a slightly stressed character, which really suddenly is changes to a mournful lovely and strong main theme. Unlike the previous two preludes, this one doesn’t have a jazzy, but more Eastern sounding character.


  • Composer: Maurice Ravel
  • Year of composition: 1928
  • Performed by: Pierre Boulez, SME
  • Listened to: 25.08.2021

The first few bars before the first theme starts, one can only hear the snare, playing a clearly defined rhythm. The flute starts with the main theme, playing a solo. Due to the middle register, it has a warm and smoky sound, creating a warm and soft start for the piece. Not only the snare, but also the pizzicato strings create a strong sense of a forward – marching rhythm.

Instead of leaving the next repetition of the theme completely to the clarinet, a second flute takes over a further accompaniment, by continuously playing a G, unison with the rhythm of the snare. (below)

The more nasal sound of the clarinet makes the sound of the piece more distinctive and when the oboe starts playing the first B – theme the piece suddenly gets an oriental sounding character. Ravel doesn’t always just use different instruments for each theme, but also made use of different registers of the instruments, creating a slightly different effect each time. As the piece moves on, the type of accompaniment, even though thematically staying the same, increases in volume and instruments, which all also have a different effect on the melody played on top. Initially staying very calm and relaxing, especially with the entrance of the harp playing mostly diminished chords, it increases to even have some sharp sounding brass instruments in the background, which make the music more heroic sounding.

For me the biggest step from one theme to another was when the trumpet was used within the melody for the first time. The sharp sounding tones seemed to stand out from the softer sounding instruments used before. Furthermore, as mentioned within the 6th Assignment, Ravel also made use of overtones, not only adding octaves but 5th to the themes as well, which gives the piece an Asian sounding character, due to the parallel 5ths.

Overall it seems that he composed a piece, where many instruments seemed to have a chance to present themselves in different ways and combinations. I personally think, that this is a great way to show how easily a simple theme can create very different effects to the audience, just by using different kinds of instrumentation.


  • Composer: Maurice Ravel
  • Instruments: Piano
  • Date of composition: 1904-1905
  • Date of first performance: 1906
  • Performed by: Alexander Krichel
  • Listened to: 09.11.2019
  • Noctuelles: Despite a rather chaotic start a disharmonic melody can be distinguished from all the other played notes. The mood switches from this fast part in the beginning to a lighter a calmer character. After a part, which gradually puts the two themes together, the high pitched theme from the beginning can be heard again. Even though I personally wasn’t too keen on the sound of “Noctuelles” I was positively surprised by the smooth, barely noticeable transitions between the two themes.
  • Oiseaux tristes: I really enjoyed the beginning of this piece. Unlike, but similar to the first piece it started with a deep warm theme and then moved onto a high pitched, dissonant theme. The second half of the piece involves a short repetitive motive in the right hand accompanying the beginning theme played by the left hand. I especially enjoyed the warm beginning.
  • Une barque sur l’ocean: Has a tender start with a repetitive phrase. Due to the fact, that there are always several notes played either at the same time, in rapid arpeggios or both, one can’t really define a main voice. The piece has overall a very dream-like character.
  • Alborada del gracioso: I was rather surprised by this piece due to it having a completely different character than the previous ones. It had a jumpier, slightly quirky theme. It was fun listening to it, especially the first phrases. The left hand mostly had staccato notes to play. Towards the middle, it sounded as if it were about to end. After a general rest a quiet solo voice can be heard, much lighter than the beginning. The new theme is processed in several ways before the melody slowly comes back to an altered version of the initial jumpy theme.
  • La Vallee des cloches: This piece is similar to the first three pieces of “Miroirs” again; It starts very slowly with a short theme repeating itself played in octave before a second voice starts, always playing the same two notes. A third low voice starts in the bass. This piece mainly consists of chords woven into one another, played in different ways. Therefore, it is again the case, that a melody voice can hardly be found at the beginning. Nevertheless, towards the middle of the piece, I was surprised a pentatonic melody with a longing character. The piece ends “mirrored”, as the second theme is played again, but with switched voices and the first theme can be heard at the end again.

Piece: Daphnis et Chloe Suite No.2

  • Composer: Maurice Ravel
  • Instruments: mixed chorus (SATB), Orchestra: piccolo, 2 flutes, alto flute, 2 oboes, English horn, Clarinet in Eb, 2 clarinets, bass clarinet, 3 bassoons, contrabassoon, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, 3 trombones, tuba, timpani, triangle bass drum, cymbals, snare drum, field drum, castanets, glockenspiel, celesta, 2 harps, strings
  • Date of composition: 1913
  • Date of first performance: 1913
  • Performed by: Boston Symphony orchestra
  • Listened to: 13.11.2019

The ballet is based on an ancient Greek novel from the author Longos. The plot is about two children; whose parents gave them away when they were very young. They grow up among shepherds on the isle Lesbos. After being parted for a while they find one another again as well as their parents. Compared to other pieces by Ravel, this one is with a duration of about one hour one of his longest ones. I found that the style overall sounded really impressionistic; the music is very passionate. Knowing the plot, it was easy to follow and understand the music, I especially enjoyed the sound of the chorus.


  • Composer: Maurie Ravel, Arrangement by Johannes Kreidler
  • Date of composition: 2010 – 2014
  • Performed by: Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart
  • Listened to: 21.10.2021

Initially, the piece sounded slightly empty, as it features all instruments and characteristics of Ravel’s Bolero, with the difference, that the melody ha been taken away. As the piece proceeds, I was able to focus better on the instruments which are normally used in the background, noticing, that they too had an important impact on the tone colour. The snare drum seems to be the only continuous part, as more and more instruments are added, their sound seems to melt and disappear under the other instruments. I was especially surprised, how well the harp, could be heard among the other instruments. It added a warm, dreamy character to the piece by using low notes at the beginning. The trumpets towards the end made it much cooler, and some staccato sounds from a horn, (something I haven’t noticed within the original version) adds a somewhat quirky character.

Even though I found it quite fun listening to this piece, I constantly had the feeling as if it was working towards a peak point, which unfortunately wasn’t reached at the end of this version of the Bolero, even after the change of key.

Bolero (Swing Version)

  • Composer Maurice Ravel, Arrangement by Benny Goodman
  • Date of composition: 1939
  • Performed by: Benny Goodman & His Orchestra
  • Listened to: 21.10.2021

After the introducing bars, I wasn’t quite sure whether I chose the right piece, but could make out the melody of the Bolero shortly after; much faster and with swung notes. Unlike the previous entry, the only continuous part here seems to lie in the melody. The main instrument is a clarinet, accompanied by a drum set and a bass line in the background. Goodman used question – answer motifs between the clarinet and other jazz – wind instruments. As the piece proceeds, the melody moves out of Ravel’s given boundaries and eventually comes to a seemingly improvised finale. Using mostly the melody as a changing aspect, the length of the piece has been shortened down to only 2,5 minutes. It was really enjoyable listening to it.