Project 1 : Gesualdo and Madrigals
For this very first project of the course, I was asked to listen to the madrigal Beltà poi che t’assenti, by Carlo Gesualdo. My comments on the piece itself can be found in my listening log here.
In the following paragraphs I will answer the 5 questions about the piece, which were given with the exercise.
- With reference to a score, identify the chords in the first four bars.
I found a score in the Petrucci music library under the following link : https://imslp.org/wiki/Belt%C3%A0_poi_che_t’assenti_(Gesualdo%2C_Carlo)
The first four bars involve the following chords: G, E, D, G, D, F# (all major)
- Does this chord progression call to mind any music you know from later areas?
I couldn’t think of anything those chords would remind me off from any later epochs. Nonetheless, initially I had to think of the piece “Qui tollis, pecata mundi”, in Antonio Vivaldi’s “Gloria”. A few years ago I had the opportunity to sing the alto voice of this piece with a choir. Even though Vivaldi was born about 100 years later than Gesualdo, they are part of the same epoch.
- How would you describe the music from bars 9-20 and the texture from bars 40-42?
The mood of the music from bars 9-20 can be best described as slightly threatening, nervous and pressurising, this may be due to the polyphonic structure. From bars 40-42 the music starts to become faster and all voices have the same text at the same time, in contrast to most of the rest of the piece is this part therefore homophonic.
- What does the word ‘dolore’ mean at bar 55?
I was able to find a full translation of the score
Beltà poi che t’assenti, come ne porti il cor
Porta i tormenti. Ché tormentato cor
può ben sentire, La doglia del morire,
E un alma senza core, Non può sentir dolore.
Beauty, since you depart, as you take my heart,
take also my torments. For a tormented heart
can surely feel, the pain of death,
but a soul without a heart, can feel no sorrow. (1)
To come back to the question above the word “dolore” here stands for sorrow, or pain.
- In your own words, describe the kind of harmony, melody and texture that Gesualdo as employed to carry its meaning.
One already notices on thing within the first two syllables : The upwards moving G to G-sharp in the Soprano voice gives the whole chord E a hopeful, lovely character, which underlines the word “Beauty” being sung, not referring to any following text.
Also, as already explained under the first point, the first six chords are all major-chords. The text until the end of this phrase is “Beltà poi che t’assenti” (Beauty, since you depart) , the last chord (F#), creates an open sound, that gives the feeling as if it needed to be answered, or suitable to the text, as if a story were about to follow.
The beginning of the next four bars involve the first minor chord (b-minor), and is followed by only major-chords, again. Similar to the first phrase the last chord seems to need an answer to it. The text for this phrase is “ come ne porti il cor” (as you take my heart). Up until this point the voices are homophonic.
The next part is polyphonic, with a nervous, pressurising character. The words “Porta i tormenti” (take also my torments), are being sung several times, due to the colour of sound it gets the the words get a reproachful meaning.
From bar 20 the phrase “Ché tormentato cor” (For a tormented heart…), actually sounds more positive than negative, but also expectant, which may be due to him being about to explain the following phrase “può ben sentire, La doglia del morire,” (…can surely feel, the pain of death,). The music coming along with those words suitably becomes incredibly dramatic and sad.
The short phrase “E un alma senza core” (but a soul without a heart), starts in a faster pace and again and sounds more cheerful than sad. Gesualdo also used a homophonic rhythm for this part, which may again underline the last phrase “Non può sentir dolore” (can feel no sorrow). Despite the last few bars being in minor, the very last chord is dissolved in to a major one, which may indicate, the man in the story is hoping to not having to think about his broken heart anymore.
(1) Gibb, J. (2019) Beltà poi che t’assenti (Carlo Gesualdo) [online]. Available at : http://www2.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Belt%C3%A0_poi_che_t%27assenti_(Carlo_Gesualdo) [Accessed 01 Mai. 2019]
Project 2 : Palestrina and the Mass
For the second project I was asked to listen „Kyrie“from Giovanni Pierluigi Palestrina’s „Missa Brevis“, and refer to a score when one of the points further down occurs. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get as PDF of the score as a download, but it can be viewed on the Petrucci Music Library under the following link: https://imslp.org/wiki/Missa_brevis_(Palestrina,_Giovanni_Pierluigi_da).
- The entry of each vocal part is in imitation.
From my previous musical education, I learned, that imitation is, as the name already indicates, a form of repeating or reflecting a phrase of a piece. As the “Kyrie” is divided into three different parts, indicated by doubled bar lines, there are three different entries to consider.
Within the first seven bars every voice has its first entry. Even though they start on different notes ( Cantus on C, Altus on G, Tenor on F and Bassus on C again), the intervals in between the first eight notes sung by every individual voice, are always the same.
After the first doubled bar line, the middle part starts, which has its entries, again, within the first seven bars. The staring notes of this part are, put into order: C, F, C, F, almost the same starting notes as the first time, but without a “G”. For this part, it’s the first 5 notes which have the same intervals in between them.
For the third and last part, one can find different starting notes again, which surprisingly are the same as they were for the first entry. In order of the voices: C, G, C and F. For this part the first ten notes have the same intervals in between them. It should also be mentioned, that even the lengths of the notes are noticeably the same.
- The texture is polyphonic – consisting of several independently moving, though coordinated, vocal parts.
The entries already starting in a distance of maximum seven bars, already indicates that this piece is polyphonic. Even though the first few notes of every part are following the same progress, they all carry on to independent parts. The only noticeable phrases where they come together at the same time are at the end of every part (always the last bar before a doubled line). There are a few more passages, where only two or three voices sing at the same time, which almost gives an effect of one melody being more important than another one.
- The melody lines themselves move smoothly – mainly flowing by step with occasional leaps but then often turning back and returning to where they came from, or nearby.
Examining the three parts separately again, one can see that in the first part, not only with the first entry, but also with all the other starts of the phrase “Kyrie eleison” has a similar note progression. Most of those phrases often just go up and down single notes, which keeps the piece flowing. Within the single phrases, the notes tend to just move around in small steps. The biggest changes in pitch can be noticed, anytime a new phrase starts, for example the octave in bar 14 in the Bassus-voice. The second part of the piece seems to be slightly different. Even though the notes stay near to one another, and only make small steps, there are no major jumps from one phrase of “Christe eleison” to another one. The third part is similar to the first again.
- Each part rises and falls, helping to create a sense of direction but with no single part assuming dominance over the others.
Even though this statement is generally true, one still has the feeling at several small parts, that one voice sticks out. One good example for that would be bar twelve, with the high voice of the cantus having its first entry. The effect of this voice sticking out only lasts for one or two bars.
Furthermore, the piece keeps its fluency through the separate phrases starting and ending at different times. It has to be noted though, that at end of every part, every voice always ends with the same syllable with the same note length. Even though it’s always a chord being sung (different notes for every voice) it always has a strong contrasting effect, when all the voices sing at the same time. Due to that also creating a strong “ending” of every phrase, the voice that starts the parts after always seem to stick out slightly.
- The ranges of the individual voice parts lie mainly within an octave and there is a general sense of balance to the individual melodic lines. They rise and fall in about equal measure, exploring the full range of the voice evenly.
The range of the individual voices are D4 to F5 for the Cantus, B3 to A4 for Altus, F3 to F4 for Tenor and A2 to C4 for Bassus. The statement about “the rise and fall” is already mentioned in the previous page. As already mentioned, within a phrase, the space between the notes always changes in small steps, which gives the piece its fluency.
- The words are repeated and are clearly audible. The words overlap, each part at times following, at times leading, to create the musical texture.
Here too, the repetition from different voices and overlaps of the words, keep the piece very fluently. In addition to that, I’ve listened to several recordings, whereas all of them were completely understandable in terms of the text. As too already mentioned, towards the end of each part, the phrases come more frequently, so that all the voices can resolve at the same word, at the same time. I personally found it easier to listen to understand the separated words rather than the ones sung together by all the voices, they seemed to be a bit more distorted.
Project 3: Species Counterpoint
This project included the task for me to write three different ornamented versions of the following melody written for the piano:
The ornamented versions are the following:
I was furthermore encouraged to add four bars of my own to the piece and put ornaments in it again. The basic melody is the following, after which the ornamented version can be seen: