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HMU 126 Listening Journal

Entry 1, January 13th

Domenico Scarlettis Sonata in D Major (K.119)


This particular piece I found to be particularly interesting in its


compositional form. Besides being just a typical sonata form the first version I heard
was on harpsichord, the instrument it was initially written for. The hammering
fourths in the low end of the beginning give it a heavy and grounded sound while
the relentless arpeggios begin to take over the flow and contour of the piece. My
favorite part of is perhaps the lush modulation between major and minor. Rather
than moving to the relative minor or even to the V chord like most sonata bridges
do, Scarletti modulates a tritone away from D major to Ab minor. I never felt like we
departed too far from the initial idea even though it was such an odd transition for a
classical piece to take. The shifts were smooth and developmental all within the
context and growth of the main theme. Reading about Scarletti and his life also
proved quite fruitful and interesting, as he was a very influential and creative Italian
composer from Naples. He grew up in the baroque era and learned much of what he
did from his father growing up, as music was not really institutionalized in his time.
Domenico Scarletti was a master of the harpsichord and writing for this particular
style, as he was known for composing many sonatas. Scarletti was also known for
his love of opera and had composed several in his time. Today only a small fraction
of his works remains, as many have been lost over the course of time. Scarletti was a
fairly modern composer for his time, which made him, stand out to me among the
others.

Entry 2, January 20th


Die Zauberflte: overture, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Mozart is one of the most influential and renown composers of all time, and
this piece is a perfect example of what made him so popular and renowned. Mozart
manages to create memorable and creative melodic material in this particular
composition. The intro reminds me of Tchaikovskys 1812 Overture, which is a great
way to begin this composition as well to show how Mozarts voice has inspired so
many composers after him. A very innovative and creative composer as his
harmonic language was slightly chromatic for the time, creating more motion and
contrast than what was heard before him. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a very
skilled composer, often writing his works in under a week. I find Mozarts works to
be a bit peppy for lack of a better term. He is very on the beat and staccato, lacking
rhythmically, which can get boring after a while. There is no doubt that Mozart was
a skilled composer and revolutionary for his time, but he can be a tough guy to listen
to for a long period of time. Perhaps his music is best studied as integral language
and for its significance in the world of western music than listened to for pleasure.
Understanding and respecting tradition does not always mean liking every single
piece of music and/or every composer in existence, but the knowledge and
understanding of the music can be an asset to any composer, performer or music
connoisseur.
Entry 3, January 27th


Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. 13: First Movement, Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven is a composer I have always appreciated; his compositions feel
like they are taking me somewhere and the theme is always interrupted in an
elegant way where I welcome the shift of temporary dissonance. Pathetique is no
different as the piece twists and turns as it evolves taking me to different places that
I never expected to be during the opening phase of the composition. His dense
chords always help create a more rich texture. Most classical music can be described
as harmonically simple or basic but when I listen to Beethoven I feel like the heavier
voicings make up for the simplicity of triads. Beethoven was the pinnacle for some
(the conservatives) and just the beginning for others (the progressives) but
regardless he was celebrated for his unique voice in music. This particular piece has
a beginning that suggests that of sorrow or grief but is later answered with a more
major and consonant theme, suggesting that the grief was overcome. This was also
uncommon in piano sonatas, as they didnt typically start off slow. It was common
for symphonies to have this characteristic but Beethoven created some contrast and
tweaked the sonata in a small but effective way, which separates it from the rest.
Pathetique is derived from the Greek word pathos, which means emotions. This
reminds me of a term I heard in a lecture, Empfindsam. This was described to me as
an emo phase in the period where melancholy was a popular theme or mood in
the music. I find this much more interesting as minor songs in the classical world
have a stronger character and a much more memorable theme since most classical
compositions are not very rhythmic in nature, the major aspect can be tough to
listen to because harmonically simple music with no rhythmic sense of exploration
can start to blend together.
Entry 4, February 3rd

Im wunderschnen Monat Mai, Robert Schumann



Robert Schumanns Im Wunderschonen Monat Mai can be roughly
translated into the English language as In the Wonderful Month of May. This was
written in 1840, as part of a 16 song cycle from the Lyrisches Intermezzo of Heinrich
Heine. This is a shorter piece compared to the rest of the listenings I have done but
it does have a special quality to it. The beginning of the piece is a wonderful and
bleak intro where the piano slowly develops a slower and more reflective intro
before the melody comes in. The singer is tasked with the job of unfolding a delicate
and fragile melody that creates a harmonic shift into major. While Im not a fan of
opera or operatic vocals due to the overuse of vibrato and dynamically excessive
nature at most times, I can honestly say that this particular singer does a great job
and I can enjoy the composition as it was intended without wanting a change in
technique and/or style to help me appreciate or even tolerate the composition.
Robert was married to Clara Schumann, another wonderful composer that I very
much appreciate; her piano trio was wonderful to listen to but was unfortunately
overshadowed by Beethoven in the previous journal. Even though this was a part of
an intermezzo, this is a beautiful piece that can stand on its own.

Entry 5, February 10th


Nocturne in D-flat Major, Op. 27, No. 2, Fryderyk Chopin


This has to be my favorite piece of the entire listening selections for the
course so far. I absolutely love Chopin and his work, and he is by far my favorite of
the romantic composers. Besides being a virtuosic performer, Chopin created some
of the most beautiful pieces of music to my ears in the classical realm. This one is an
ode to that statement and it really shows off his style and harmonic/melodic
capabilities. Chopin was very much inspired by the opera and opera singers of his
time, he created melodies that were of that nature in his mind. This led to what I
believe to be the greatest part in his compositions: melodies that are lyrical and
tuneful, never overdoing it or favoring technicality to musicality. Although some of
his compositions can be more note heavy and range more in contour and density,
his music can always be broken down to a melodic approach with the appropriate
amount of motion and decorative additions to create a memorable and solid
composition, which is exactly why Chopin has stood the test of time. There is a small
fragment or cell of this melody which can be traced to a composition years later by
Bill Evans. Bill was a renowned jazz pianist and composer who studied classical
music. In his tune Waltz for Debbie, the same cellular fragment can be heard in the
bridge suggesting Chopin influence across genres. His melodic content can be a gold
mine for composers looking to increase their melodic palette and appreciation for
simplicity in this particular piece.
Entry 6, February 17th

Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98: Second movement, Johannes Brahms



Brahms is a new one for me, although Ive heard the name before I had never
actually checked his music out. I am very much pleased I finally did, his
compositions are very creative and most importantly, thematic. I have huge respect
for anyone who can piece together such a large amount of music so focused a theme
and development/variation. A composer like this, like Chopin in the previous entry,
is an absolute treasure for the growing composer because even the smallest
fragment of music can be harvested for a wealth of musical knowledge and
language. The subdominant minor motion in the melody and main theme is a
beautiful statement to me, probably because Im a sucker for the subdominant
sound, but also to its unique and fresh statement. The contrast in color makes the
redundancy of that theme fresh and rolling rather than letting repetition lead it to
become stale. This is a very well crafted motif because it engages the listener with
something they can hold onto while introducing them to new material, much
recycled from the opening theme, gradually leading you to the journey of the
composition. It is no wonder why it took Brahms so long to compose this symphony,
he was clearly very patient, methodical, and deliberate in every single conceived
note, every instrument chosen and part arranged. Next to Chopin, this is easily my
second favorite composer on this listening list thus far. I can confidently say Im glad
I was introduced to this music, its a wealth of melodic language ripe for harvesting.

Entry 7, March 3

In the Steppes of Central Asia, Aleksander Borodin

Entry 8,
The Art of Noise by Luigi Russolo

Luigi Russolos art of noise was a fantastic read. I found the idea of looking at
music in an evolutionary perspective though time as a means of justifying the
advent of art noise to be an enlightening perspective. The idea that the concept of
sound has grown through various cultures and eras has changed our perspective of
what musician be and what music is. Structures that were never thought of came
into fruition through the reflection and study of a piece after the fact, rather than in
the mind of the composer as the composition unfolded. Chords where an after
thought and a very important part of todays music because of this. Luigi discuses
how noise art is a product of the industrial times, that machinery was the next
element in the evolution of sound. Of course because we noise is much more
common due to factory labor, it is much less stimulating and fails to arouse interest.
The same can be said for the music of the past, and this is why the search for more
compelling harmonic and melodic structures is required to pave the way of the
future and to say what has not been said already. Russolos idea to achieve this is to
break away from the pure sounds and venture into the world of noise sounds.
While I dont agree with the idea that it is infinitely more pleasurable to extract art
from the sounds of everyday machinery, he does raise a point about the idea of
evolution and growth that I relate to and completely support. The last half of the
reading I start to lose sympathy and understanding as he pushes more on the idea of
noise having a greater effect and importance than traditional instruments in the
world of music. The most important idea I got out of this reading was the idea of
connecting the imagery and structure of noise to music. This can create more
structure and story in composition and stir the imagination to places its never been.

Django Reinhardt & Stephaen Grapelli, Nuages



Django Reinhardt was an amazing guitar player that has had a huge impact
on many musicians, including myself. In his tune Nuages, Django demonstrates his
virtuosic ability as a soloist and accompanist. His timing and feel are fantastic and
set the standard for a rhythm section player in the style. Reinhardts origins hail
from Romania, but he was born in Belgium and raised in France. This was integral to
his style as French was ripe with jazz during the 20s, when his hot jazz ensemble
was formed. Nuages is a beautiful composition played by Stephane Grapelli on
violin, which has never been a favorite instrument of mine for a jazz composition,
but is still integral to the sound and style of the time. The most defining
characteristic has to be Reinhardts beautifully phrased rhythmic accompaniment
and his melodic sensibility the punches through and leaves a memorable mark in
the listeners ear. Whats really remarkable about his playing is that he is able to
sound so technical and so musical with only having two functioning fingers. He lost
his ring and pinky fingers in a house fire that should have severely limited his
playing, but he still found a way to make it work, becoming a renowned guitar
player and innovator of the style known as gypsy jazz.