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Several Terms To Describe The Musical World

1158 words - 5 pages

There are several terms to describe the musical world throughout the years. Some of these terms are Sonata Form, Polyphony, and word painting. The terms from the twentieth century seem to be the most frequently used because they are more modern than the previously mentioned terms. These terms are Impressionism, Expressionism, and Minimalism. There are various composers that have implemented these terms into their music. Claude Debussy used Impressionism, Arnold Schoenberg used Expressionism, and Steve Reich used Minimalism. These “isms” may all sound the same but they vary in many ways.
Impressionism is a French artistic movement of the late 19th and early 20th century . It is also a tool that the orchestra uses to tell the audience what is going on. Claude Debussy’s Three Nocturnes is a prime example of Impressionism. “Debussy prefers textural rather than motivic development (a very significant marker of the Russian style)” (DailyKos). Three Nocturnes has three different sections. The first one is Clouds which is a pure nature scene that is the least nocturnal of them all which is why we’re only going to look at it. Next the second one is Festivals which is about mysterious night time fairs, and then the third one is Sirens which is about women’s voices singing to evoke legendary sea maidens who tempt sailors and pull them into the ocean. In the beginning of Clouds one can hear a series of chords played by the clarinets and bassoons. These chords advocate clouds moving silently in the sky. These chords as a theme do not function unoriginally. They make no strong statements and lead nowhere conclusively. It is the same with the next motive which is lead in by an English horn which then leads to a haunting motive that is built on an octontic scale. This makes the listener feel exhausted but yet haunted. Then the motive ends with a drumroll followed by the “cloud” music which was previously mentioned and is accompanied by whispering chords in the string section. These chords all share the same rich, complex, structure. Their pitches move downward moving parallel to one another. This sequence repeats itself and then ends with a drumroll that is leading into the next section which is Festivals. This leaves the audience with the impression of a cloudy day.
Expressionism is an early 20th century movement in art, music, and literature that is used in Germany and Austria. Expressionism is also a way of the orchestra expressing feeling and emotion through music. An important composer that used expressionism in his pieces is Arnold Schoenberg. One of Schoenberg’s pieces that displays expressionism is Pierrot Lunaire (Moonstruck Pierrot; 1912). “Schoenberg responded to the musical crisis brought on by his realization that tonality was no longer an adequate means of expression by writing pieces with passages that relied on ambiguous harmonies lacking tonal implications. The intense expression heard in dense chromatic counterpoint (and sometimes at...

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