Research Points

Research point 5.0 – The classical period

The classical era, which is more often referred to as “Weimar Classic” in literature and  ”Viennese classic” in music,  is used to describe the time between the end of the 18 to the beginning of the 19th century. Through the ideas of a new enlightenment the anthropology changed. The new image of humanity was characterized by dignity, personal luck and aspiration of individual as well as social freedom. The epoch reached its climax with the French Revolution in 1798.

There weren’t only developments in different art forms but also in sciences. Some great inventions, such as the steam engine or the hot-air-balloon were made, which played an important role for social development. Psychology also made a great step forward with the beginnings of oneiromancy. This epoch was also characterized by a new scientific philosophy, and the related mathematical methods (analytical geometry, calculus) One political aspect, which especially came to life in literature was the French Revolution. The ideals of the Revolution, that everyone should have equal rights, ended when Napoleon became emperor in 1804. His reign ended after the loss of the battle of Waterloo. In the same year the new regulation of Europe was created, trying to recreate the older regulations, before Napoleon’s reign.

Science and art weren’t seen as opposites but as supplements to one another. One of the most important ideals were harmony, self-determination, humanness, tolerance and integrity. The most used literature genre was the drama, which orientates itself on an antique structure (Aristotelian concepts, Aristotelian unit of space, time and logic of the plot. The language is arranged consistently. The most important representative is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832). His journey to Italy was seen as the beginning of the epoch.

Similar to the poets, painter orientated themselves on the style of the Antique and Renaissance period. Classical pieces of art were formed by a simple, clear and strict form. Artists aimed towards a harmonic, well-structured picture, which should represent the ideals of the epoch.

As mentioned at the beginning, “Viennese Classic” refers to a style of the music which was created at the same time. The most well-known composers from this time were Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. The centre of the epoch was Vienna, were Mozart lived, the city was also seen as an aspiration for other composers wo work in. Just like in poetry and art, classical music exceeded in aesthetic and formal quality. The pieces of this era are seen as perfected and unite the mastery, perfection and sublimation of diverse musical styles.

(1), (2), (3),(4), (5), (6)

1 Simonton,M. (2018) The burial of Brasidas and the politics of commemoration in the Classical Period. Journal of Philology. [online] Vol. 139, Iss 1. Available at: [Accessed: 07.01.2020]

2 Studienkreis – Die Nachhilfe. Die Epoche der Weimarer Klassik. Available at: [Accessed: 07.01.2020]

3 Thompson, W. (2002) The Great Composers – An illustrated guide to lives, key works and influences of over 100 renowned composers. London: Annes Publishing limited, pp. 70-71.

4 Carrie, J. (2007). Waiting for the Viennese Classic. The Musical Quarterly. [online]. Vol.90, No.1. pp. 123-130. Available at: [Accessed: 07.01.2020]

5 Van Boer. (2012) Historical Dictionary of Music of the Classical Period. [online] Toronto, Lanham, Plymouth; The Scarecrow Press, pp. 21-24. Available at: [Accessed: 07.01.2020]

6 Pohl, W. (2017). Weimarer Klassik Epoche; Merkmale, Literatur, Autoren und Werke [online] Pohlw – Deutsche Literatrgeschichten & Literaturepochen. Available at: [Accessed: 07.01.2020]


Research point 5.1. Bartok’s String Quartet No.4

Bela Bartok (1881 – 1945) was a Hungarian composer. His mother taught piano at a very young age and he started to compose when he was nine years old. From the beginning he focussed on Hungarian folk music. His first folk song collection was published in 1906, shortly before he became a piano professor at the Budapest Academy. In 1909 he Bartok married his pupil Marta Ziegler, they had a son the year after. In the post-war-years, he toured as a pianist. 1923 he divorced Martha and married another young pupil, Ditta Pasztory, who had his second son. He continued his career as pianist and composer. In the thirties he started focusing on musical structure, especially arch forms and constructions based on mathematical rules. Especially known from this time are his 5th and 6th string quartets. In the 1940s he and his family left for America. Three years after he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and also completed one of his most famous works “Concerto for Orchestra”. One of his last works were the Third Piano concerto, which was written for his wife. He died in September 1945. 1

The first movement of his fourth string quartet has a sonata form structure. Having listened to the movement before and after focussing on themes, I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it has a sonata form. Nevertheless, I noticed that Bartok worked with two very contrasting themes.

I unfortunately wasn’t able to find a score to relate to. Nevertheless, having listened closely to it the movement, I realized that all parts from a sonata form, and an additional introduction are involved.

The first subject is really short and staccato, whereas the second subject has longer notes and lasts for several bars more. I was able to recognise a wavy motif. The start of the development can be noticed by some short disharmonic notes. Within the development the two themes appear several times in varied ways. After a long while, the first theme comes back, in a stronger, more emphasised way. Sometimes cluster chords- which were also used at the very beginning occur. A glissando lead to the second subject. In the coda some of the previous forms, especially the ones from the development are used again. At the very end the first theme can be heard again, strongly emphasised in several octaves.

1Thomspon, W. (2001). The great composers – An illustrated guide to the lives, key works and influences of over 100 renowned composers. London: Anness Publishing Limited

Research point 5.2 The History of Sting Quartets

A string quartet can generally be described as a group of four players, which are almost always made up of 2 violins, viola and a cello; or as a composition written for a group as such. The form first developed in the 18th century, evolving from the Baroque Trio Sonata (a piece for two solo instruments and a bass), and is a type of chamber music*. The first composers to use the genre were probably Domenico Scarlatti (1685 – 1757) and Guiseppe Tartini (1692 – 1770), but it was only becoming popular a few years after.

It was probably Haydn, who made the first important steps with his 68 quartets, which Mozart and Beethoven got inspired by to develop the genre. Especially Beethoven’s late quartets made the art form to a compositional laboratory and due to the “Schuppanzigh – Quartett**” also to a public event. The classical form of a string quartet had four movements, which is similar to the form of a symphony or sonata.

Put into words by the poet Friedrich Schiller (1759 – 1805) as “Alle Menschen werden Brüder” (All people become brothers), String quartets were seen as a reflection of the human ideals from the Classical era as they create a connection of four individuals (the four instruments) to one whole, harmonic unit.

At the beginning of the Romantic era Franz Schubert’s (1797 – 1828) wrote quartets which were similar to the complexity of Beethoven’s quartets. In the following years Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy and Antonin Dvorak wrote an even bigger amount.

During the 20th century most composers focussed on the style of the Romantic or Classical era to write their string quartets. Some others, such as Arnold Schönberg and Leos Janacek were working on a consequent development of the art form.

With the forward looking music after 1945, the popularity of string quartets faded, but it nevertheless kept its importance for composers as well as its aesthetic high rank. Pierre Boulez (1925 – 1949) wrote with his “Livre pour quatour” the first example of serial composing, which, among other things, includes refusal of a harmonic sound. It therefore moves far away from the classical form.

Luigi Nono (1924 – 1990) made a big step forward with his piece “Fragmente-Stille-An Diotima”, where the composer placed “fragments” of Friedrich Hölderlins poems, which were only meant to be read quietly by the performers. A further piece from the same era, which I found particularly interesting was Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Helicopter String – Quartet”.

The best composers have managed to express emotion through the music and are capable of producing the most astounding notes in a succession that can leave one breathless. [Rogers, B. 2017]

The string quartet is probably the most popular development of chamber music. Having listened to several examples from the main representatives, I almost always felt that the pieces sounded full, complete and had a good balance within their four voices.

(1); (2); (3); (4); (5); (6); (7)

1 Kennedy, M; Kennedy, J and Rutherford – Johnson, T. (2013). String Quartet. In: Oxford Dictionary of Music, 6th ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2 LernHelfer, (2010). Streichquartett in Musik. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 16.01.2020]

3 Hepner, L. (2007). First Performances. Tempo – A quarterly review of modern music. [online]. Vol. 61, pp. 66 – 67. Available at: [Accessed: 16.01.2020]

4 Heukäufer, N. (2014). Musik Abi – Kompaktwissen Oberstufe. Berlin: Cornlesen Scriptor, pp. 156 – 157.

5 Griffiths, P. (1983). String Quartet: A History. Tempo. No. 147, pp.32 – 34.

6 Thompson, W. (2002). The Great Composers: An illustrated guide to the lives, key works and influences of over 100 renowned composers. London: Anness Publishing Limited, pp. 70 – 71

7 Rogers, B. (2017). The History of String Quartets. [Blog]. Earcandy. Available at: [Accessed: 16.01.2020]

*The term “chamber music describes a form of classical music, composed for a small group of instruments

**„Schuppanzigh – Quartett“ refers to several string quartets which were directed by Ignaz Schuppanzigh in Vienna between 1794 and 1830. They play an important role in music history as they mark the first event of public chamber music concert cycles.

Research point 5.3 – Musical analysis

Having done some research about this topic, I was negatively surprised to find out, that analysing music is sometimes regarded as an exercise which only of little use to musicians. I already discovered through my previous musical education as well as through this course by the OCA, that analysing music can be not only interesting but also incredibly rewarding. Analysing music in general can help understanding the composer’s methods, or explain how a certain musical effect works. Furthermore, understanding the underlying structures of a musical piece can help performers with the phrasing of the music.

The first form of musical analysis started already in the Medieval times, but the ways of modern analysing only started in the second half of the 19th century. As attempts were made to improve analysing music and also to keep up with the forward-moving music of the last three centuries, the number of methods were hugely increased. Some of the methods were efficient enough to still be used today:

  • Schenkerian analysis: This method of analysing was developed at the beginning of the 20th century by the Austrian theorist Heinrich Schenker. (1868 – 1935). His theory is based on the assumption, that every tonal motif can be reduced to one upper voice and one tonic-voice, which Schenker called the “Ursatz” (fundamental structure). The only disadvantage of this method is that it only works on tonal music as the system refers to harmonic systems.


  • Set theory: Was developed by the theorist Allen Forte (1926 – 2014) and describes a method of using set theory as a mathematical term in music. Unlike the Schenkerian analysis this way of analysing can be used on any kind of music – even Schönberg’s serialism. Set theory mainly works with pitch classes, which refer to the “character” of a pitch. All the notes which would create a “C” for example (below) belong to the same pitch class.


The distance between two pitches is described as “pitch interval” and is counted in semitones. Thus, the distance between c and e (four semitones apart) would be described as “ip4”. The intervals are also categorised as pitch classes, whereas intervals higher than an octave are put into the same pitch classes as the ones in the same octave. “Ip4” would therefore not only describe a major third, but also a minor sixth, or a diminished fourth, etc..

Pitch class sets are used to summarise several notes, one way of creating a oitch class set is the “integer notation”, which describes every note as a whole number. The reference note (often the C, but any note can be used) has the value “0”. The values of the notes are separated by commas, therefore, (0,3,7) would describe a C-minor chord. (C + three semitones above C = Eb + 7 semitones above C = G).

Finally, having found all the right numbers to the note sets, one can derive the sets into interval class vectors to find out more about the structure in detail.


  • Semiotic analysis: Surprisingly, this form of analysis didn’t have its origins in musical theory but literature. Based on the works of the American philosopher Charles S. Peirce and the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, developed by Jean-Jaques Nattiez. (1945) The advantage of “semiotic” analysis is that signs are not defined by their function or position. Signs are simply classified as “familiar” or “unfamiliar” [Worthen, D; 2010]. There are several ways of practicing semiotic analysis. One of them would be to mark the progressions of a piece by listening to it, anything familiar is marked with “a”, anything unfamiliar marked with “b”, placed to the right side of the first letter. If a familiar part comes again, the same letter is placed below the letter referring to the same part. A variation of a theme can be described in superscript. This method is interestingly more based on listening to a piece, rather than examining the score, which means, as already mentioned at the beginning, that one doesn’t have to rely on priori assumptions. Nevertheless, the only help being used is the memory, therefore I personally think it is a fascinating, more easy, but not fully reliable method to analyse music. I assume that the outcomes of an analysis will differ from person to person.


The methods I have used so far during this course have expanded the way I analyse music, whereas I also found, that more practice on several pieces helps to get a feeling for the structure of pieces more and more easily. Over exercise 5.5 which included creating a piano arrangement for a string quartet by Beethoven, I was hugely surprised what one can discover by just copying the notes from a piece. By just looking at a score I wasn’t able to find out nearly as much as I did copying the notes. I furthermore found, that it was also helpful to listen to the piece before looking at a score, as one gets a neutral first impression of the composer’s intentions.

From the three different types of research above, I was especially fascinated by the second one “set notes”. Even though I think analysing the harmonic structure of a piece would be easier with Schenkerian analysis, set theory analysis seemed really neutral in all harmonic (and disharmonic) fields.

(1), (2), (3), (4)

Analysis, musical. 21(oxford dictionary)

1Kennedy, M; Kennedy, J and Rutherford – Johnson, T. (2013). Analysis, musical. In: Oxford Dictionary of music. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 21 – 22.

2Sutcliffe, T. Chapter 8 – Example Musical Analyses. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 23.01.2020]

3Helmberger, A. (2013). Eine Einführung in die Musical set theory.[online]. Available at: [Accessed: 23.01.2020]

4Worthen, D. (2010). Understanding Semiotics in Music. [PDF]. Southern Illinois University Carbondale: OpenSIUC: Faculty Papers, pp. 2-3. Availble at: [Accessed: 23.01.2020]

Reserach point 5.4 „Different trains“

Different Trains” is a piece for string quartet and recordings from a tape, written in 1988 by the American composer Steve Reich. Within the first pages of the score, Reich explains, where the idea for the piece came from; As his parents got divorced, when he was very young, he often had to take the train between Los Angeles and New York with his governess. Being a Jew, he only realised much later, that those could have been completely different trains if he had lived in Europe. I unfortunately wasn’t able to find a score.

The piece has three movements:

  1. America – Before the war

I initially thought, that the only sounds from the recoding tape where human voices. Nevertheless, one can also hear a steam whistle, which was very unlikely to be created by the strings. The voice recordings reminded me of a modern rap, which was emphasized by the cello playing at the same pitch of the voices and the constant repetition of short sentences. The background is filled with a high pitched short motif, which is constantly repeating itself, reflecting the turning wheels of the moving train.

  1. Europe – During the war

The transition from the previous movement to this one is fluently, I assume the composer wanted to demonstrate that the beginning of the war was a slow process one is forced into unwillingly. In addition to the steam whistle one can also hear a siren in the background. To indicate that the journey wasn’t as easy as before the “wheels” frequently changed pace. More disharmonic intervals were used and the pace as well as the volume increase towards the end. At the end of the movement, the “wheel – noise” stops abruptly for the first time and one can only hear the sirens and a crackling fire.

  1. After the war.

The transition to this movement was much more noticeable. It starts much quieter with just the cello; all the other instruments join slowly in a specific order. Here I had the impression, that the war was over rather suddenly. Slowly but steadily some nicer, warmer harmonies can be heard again. Apart from the one sentence “The war is over”, which was easy to understand; all the previous tape recordings sounded blurry and one had to listen carefully in order to understand them. From the centre of the movement on, the motifs change frequently from harmonic to disharmonic without any transitions. At some parts one can recognise the theme from the beginning again, which probably indicates, that most things have gone back to normal, but some moments from the war still stayed in his memory.

(Some further detail about my opinion on the piece can be found in my listening log)

(1), (2),

1Boosey & Hawkes. (2020). Steve Reich – Different Trains. [online]. Available at: [Accessed: 29.01.2020]

2 Stephen Frosh. (2017). Different Trains: An Essay in Memorialising. [pdf]. Birkbeck, University of London: London. Available at: [Accessed: 19.02.2020]