Music Cultures


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Music Cultures Essay, Research Paper

Early music is based mainly on the music of the Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque eras. Many

people like to define Early Music as ending in 1750, with the death of J.S. Bach. This is a handy

date, but it misses the various stylistic changes taking place around that time, i.e. the emergence of

the gallant and pre-classical idioms in close proximity to the final flowering of the baroque proper.

To add even more confusion, this is also not clear-cut. As with everything else, Baroque music

ended gradually and sporadically, if we are to say that it ended all. Perhaps the significant factor

defining these eras as ?early music? is that they do not have a continuous performance tradition. In

other words, this music ceased to be performed after its time had passed and needed to be revived

in our own era. This is not true of the ?classical? music of Mozart, Beethoven, et al. Which

possesses a continuous performance tradition. This means that, to some degree, it is this revival

which dominates EM (that is, early music as a movement), at least in spirit. Of course, things are not

clear-cut here either. For instance, late Baroque composers like Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and etc.

Were revived relatively early and therefore have a fairly long performance tradition which is not

dependent on the present early music movement. Now we are seeing an increasingly large number

of performances of Mozart, Beethoven, and others in the content of early music; this further

muddies the waters. There is the question of pre-Medieval music. While early musicians would

undoubtedly be happy to claim it as their own, unfortunately there is very little surviving evidence

about music from earlier times. Indeed, there are no music manuscripts from Western Europe at all.

However, that doesn?t stop some people from trying to recreate what might have been heard. Since

music has also been a performance tradition, classical concerts represent divergences from that

tradition, based upon a new look at the original context of a composition. New composers

sometimes talk about capturing the ?original intentions? of an early composer. Although like any

essentially psychological object, these intentions can never be thoroughly concrete. As such, that

decision rests largely with the artistic intuition of the modern performer, and should be judged on

their own musical merits. Occurring mainly because society today likes the different sound. In the

case of pre-Baroque music, there are really little choices but to attempt to recreate the sound world

of the era, in order to even approach the surviving compositions. Of course, that?s what many ?early

music? performers are doing, and they are consequently reviving a vast body of superlative music,

which had previously been effectively last to us. This is, probably, the core of ?early music.? Music

today has been influenced much by early music. From a broader perspective, it is also a thoroughly

modern idea that the ?composer?s intentions? should matter more than what a performer chooses to

do with the music in front of the composer. In fact, it has been somewhat facetiously suggested that

such an approach is not the composer?s intention at all. Music is played very different, because

people interpret things differently, which is why music has changed so much over time. Early music

was the start of a great change in sounds. In the beginning, with early music we can tell that the ideas

were mainly from the composer. Over time, people realized that they can interpret music in many

different ways also. This was the first movement into new music, and I believe that early music will

be played for well past my lifetime. ?We live in a time of great changes, a time of transformation

between major eras. Looking into the unsettling, the unfamiliar, the senselessness of a world taking a

dramatic turn towards the unknown, people get lost and confused. Their fear, their need for survival

even, urges them to look inside for something big, something dramatic, something inspiring,

something that gives them courage to face the unknown and the strength to shape it.? (Ewen, David,

pg.40) Along with a great change, there was Jazz. The start of the first real American music. With

the culture change from Early, classical music. Many things changed during this time, but mainly was

do to the changing in culture that influenced jazz. Some of the most accomplished musicians of our

time have devoted themselves to a lifelong study of Jazz or classical music, and few exceptional

musicians have actually mastered both. A comparison of classical Jazz music will yield some

interesting results and could also lead to an appreciation of the abilities needed to perform or

compose there kinds of music. The music called classical, found in stores and performed regularly

by symphonies around the world, spans a length of time from 1600 up to the present. This time

frame includes the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and contemporary periods. The

classical period of music actually spans a time from of 1750 to 1800; thus, the term Classical is a

misnomer and could more correctly be changed to Early Music or European Art Music. European

because most of the major composers up till the 20th century were European. Vivaldi was Italian,

Bach was German, Mozart and Beethoven were Austrian; they are some of the more prominent

composers. Until the twentieth century with Gershwin and a few others did we find American

composers writing this kind of art music. For the sake of convention, we can refer to Early Music as

Classical music. Jazz is a distinctively American form of music, and its history occupies a much

smaller span of time. Its origins are found in the early 1900s as some dance band leaders in the

southern U.S. began playing music that combined ragtime and blues. Early exponents of this dance

music were Jelly Roll Martin (a blues player) and Scott Joplin (ragtime). The terms of ?jazz? and

?jazz band? first surfaced in the year 1900. Some say this occurred in New Orleans, although similar

music was played at the same time in other places. The most prominent exponents of this early

music, called Dixieland Jazz, included Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet. After World War I,

Jazz music had evolved and was aided by the development of the recording industry. The small

dance band ensemble grew into the larger orchestra known as the ?Big Band.? The music of the Big

Bands became known as ?Swing.? Two of the more famous Swing band leaders were Tommy

Dorsey and Harry James. In the late 40s and through the 50s, a different kind of Jazz became

popular. This music, played by a very small ensemble, was much more sophisticated and complex .

Its rich harmonic changes and melodic counterpoint were not conducive to dance. It became known

as “Bop,” with Charlie Parker and Dizzie Gillespie being the early proponents. In the last twenty

years there has been a combination of Jazz with popular music of the US and Latin America. This

modern Jazz music has been called “Fusion.” Present day exponents include Pat Metheny and Chic

Corea. There has also been a return to the sound of Bop in the last ten years by such musicians as

trumpeter Winton Marsalis and his brother Branford, a saxophonist. Let’s focus on the

instrumentation of the two kinds of music. In Classical music, both large orchestras and small

ensembles are used. Generally, the greatest and most prominent compositions are for the larger

symphony orchestra. The largest part of the orchestra is the string section consisting of violins,

violas, cellos and string basses. These instruments were invented very early in medieval times but

really matured into their present form during the late 18th century. The wind instruments, comprised

of brass and woodwinds, took longer to mature. The brass section in particular did not posses the

ability to play chromatically (in all keys) until the advent of valves which allowed the length of the

instrument to be changed while playing. This occurred around the middle to late 19th century.

Consequently, the brass instruments are less prominent in the music of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven

along with their contemporaries. Late 19th and early 20th century composers make use of a very

large orchestra with all the fully developed wind instruments. Some of the master composers of this

time were: Wagner, Rimskey-Korsakov, Ravel and Stravinsky. Currently, composers also make

use of the full orchestra but with the addition of increasingly larger percussion sections that add

many unique and unheard of sounds than in earlier music. While all these changes were happening,

many other situations changed the aspect of music to the tragedy around them. World War II also

influenced song, about Love and happiness, which was a major start in rock music, which will be

brought up later. Early Jazz music was played in small ensembles making use of clarinet, tuba,

cornet, baritone, drums, and piano. Dixieland groups of New Orleans had similar instrumentation.

During the Swing era, larger groups were employed to achieve more of an orchestral sound. The

Big Bands of the this era were predominantly wind orchestras containing alto and tenor sax sections,

trumpet and trombone sections, along with piano and drums. When Bop music arrived, the alto

saxophone and trumpet were the preferred instruments of the major soloists who were backed up

by piano, string bass and drums. With the advent of Fusion, electric instruments such as the electric

guitar and keyboard synthesizer became prominent. How has each of these kinds of music been

transmitted to later generations of musicians? Early in the evolution of classical music, a system of

notation was gradually developed which for the most part remained stable from the Renaissance on.

This gave the composer control over how his compositions were to be played. Throughout the

history of Jazz, however, notation was more like a rough sketch. This was because the syncopated

rhythms of ragtime and the melodic riffs of the blues were not easily notated. Also, early Jazz

musicians were not formally trained; they usually learned by ear. Some songs were transcribed and

written down, but not in precise ways. Jazz music became more of a passed on tradition that a

musician learned through interaction with other players. In a similar way, the modern Jazz musician

must rely on previous recordings to get a feel for the style and technique that he desires to learn

from. But in classical music, one composer can learn from an older composer by looking at and

analyzing the music that the previous composer wrote down. Likewise, classical musicians can

master the parts they must play by practicing the music that has been written or published

beforehand. These two approaches to passing on tradition are both valid. However, without the

recording medium Jazz music might have developed much differently than it has. The major element

that keeps a musical group together is also an interesting contrast. In Classical music, the conductor

uses a baton and plays the orchestra as if it were his instrument; he looks at a complete score of all

the events happening in the composition and interprets these events based on his knowledge and

intuition of what the composer intended. Jazz groups rarely utilize conductors. The swing era

employed them for the sake of keeping the larger sized group together but other jazz styles did not

and do not to this day. The drummer of the Jazz ensemble provides the beat that keeps the group

together but even he is interacting with the other soloists as the song is performed. Perhaps the most

interesting point of comparison between the two types of music is in improvisation. Improvisation is

the ability to play and compose spontaneously “on the spot” (Christy Max) while the music is

playing. This has been an important element of Jazz from its inception. Although improvisation was

less prominent during the swing era, it regained importance with Bop and onward. Early Jazz was

improvised, using ragtime and blues as a loose structure. In the swing era, an arranger arranged

popular songs and soloists played improvisations over the repeating sections in order to lengthen the

song for dancing. With the advent of Bop, improvisation assumed great importance. The musicians

memorized the chord changes to a song, along with the melody, but then played very loosely and in

the end substituted new chords along with greatly embellishing the original melody to the point of

being unrecognizable. These factors, along with the ability to interact with each other, became

important and remains so in the Fusion music of today. In Classical music, modern listeners are

mostly unaware of the fact that many of the great composers of the past were not only excellent

performers but also great improvisers. Starting with J.S. Bach (1685-1750), the greatest composer

of the Baroque era, he in fact made his living through his great skill as an improviser. It was common

for the Lutheran Church organist of his day be able to improvise on choral melodies and Bach was

considered one of the greatest at this. There are written accounts of other composers?

improvisational abilities including Mozart (1756-1791), Beethoven (1770-1829), and Franz Liszt

(1811-1886). Yet, as time went on, improvising gave way to the composer’s desire to exert

complete control over his music. By the late 19th century, improvising was rare and not used at all in

public performances of classical music. We can say that Jazz and Classical music represent two

approaches to Art Music. The Classical composer or performer has a long and rich body of music

in written form that he uses to learn from while the Jazz musician uses a body of recorded music to

learn. Because of it’s small size, the modern Jazz ensemble allows loose interaction while the

symphony orchestra’s large size and diversity of instruments provides many different sounds and

wide dynamic range. In classical music the composer strives for control; he uses printed music to

guide and direct the musicians through the conductor. In Jazz music, the songs are loosely

composed, thus forming a basis for individual expression within an ensemble, which is growing in

our society. When you go to hear a symphony, you hear an orchestra conducted by the conductor

playing a composition. When you go to a Jazz club you hear a small jazz ensemble interacting and

improvising a song. They take different paths to reach their final form but give a person equal

opportunities to appreciate the creative output of each. Along with new ideas and changes in music,

rock bands were the new way to protest against society. Among all of the rock groups, one will be

remembered for their voices and the songs of power that was a ?revolution? in the changing of

music. The Beatles were very in tune with the world around them and were greatly influenced by

many ideas, cultures, and religions. In turn, their innovations and music influenced the world, even

today. Early in their career, The Beatles were strongly influenced by American music. They

especially idolized artists such as Bill Haley (?Rock Around the Clock Tonite?), Buddy Holly

(?Peggy Sue?), and many Rhythm and Blues artists such as Willie Dixon. It?s clear in The Beatles

evolution that these roots were a strong influence on the music that The Beatles created. With this

combination of styles and origins, the music that The Beatles played and composed was a revolution

in itself, something that hadn?t been thought of before. Some precise examples of these

earth-shattering compositions are the #1 hit ?Please, Please, Me?, and also a #1 hit ?She Loves

You?. These early Beatles tunes were instrumental in crafting their own musical style. As The

Beatles matured, they began to be more perceptive to events all throughout the world and their

tremendous popularity was growing day by day. The exponential growth rate of fans was so large

that The Beatles were the first rock group permitted to play in, not to mention sell out the London

Palladium, a grand achievement. The Palladium, until then, was a very exclusive and elegant concert

hall usually reserved for the likes of the London Symphony Orchestra. Although selling out the

Palladium was quite a feat, the 15 million viewers that watched the concert on the BBC was an even

greater one. This was the first time in England that a rock group had established so much credibility

that The Beatles were invited to play at a Royal Command Performance for the Queen. The

influences of traditional British society, although already evident in their choice of attire, began to

permeate their music. For example, ?Yesterday? began as a heavy rock tune, but the poetic

influences of Brits such as William Shakespeare turned it into the love ballad it is today. Another

good example of the London influence on The Beatles in ?Yesterday? is the string quartet from the

London Symphony Orchestra that plays the melody. This was indicative of the influence that The

Beatles had on the English music, social, and political scenes, as well as the ways in which traditional

English society influenced The Beatles. 1966 began a new Beatles trend full of psychedelic drugs.

Their recent release of Revolver marked the beginning of this new trend. Revolver was strongly

influenced by American Professor Timothy Leary. Leary was an exceptional influence on The

Beatles, especially John Lennon. Dr. Leary popularized the hallucinogen LSD, and was a major

American proponent of peace and free will. Interestingly enough, when Timothy Leary decided that

he was going to run for governor of California, in order to have the influence needed to truly make

peace in the world, John wrote ?Come Together? for Leary?s campaign. Leary also sang ?Give

Peace A Chance? with John and Yoko Ono. The strong drug influences are evident particularly in

?Strawberry Fields Forever?(written by John Lennon), in phrases such as ?Nothing is real and

nothing to get hung about? and ?Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see.?

These key phrases are obvious descriptions of their recent experimentation with LSD. Songs

describing John?s trips are great in number on the Magical Mystery Tour album that was released in

1967. Examples of these are ?Penny Lane? and ?I Am the Walrus?. ?Penny Lane? deals with John?s

interpretation of a trip while crossing Penny Lane, and while in the park on Penny Lane. ?I Am the

Walrus? is one of the first true examples of Paul?s drug use and identifies with his fantasy of being a

walrus. Drugs had a strong influence on The Beatles, and their musical interpretations caused by

drugs helped to influence drug culture in the world, not just among their fans, but among many

youths. Another Beatles innovation was the utilization of Indian instruments in their music. They

began to implement use of the sitar and tabla in many songs, especially on the White Album, which

was released in 1968, a year coinciding with a Beatles visit to India. Cultures and people influenced

these changes in music. I chose to expand on the Beatles because they are the absolute best

example of how rock music is different than Classical, but they were just due to changes in time.

Meditation and finding oneself also became an important part of Beatles life. This Hindu and

Buddhist ritual appealed to the band because it helped them to write better songs. This led to the

downfall of The Beatles as they began to argue over songs and styles; their excursions within

themselves had backfired and turned them against each other. The Beatles were the most influential

rock group in all of history, but they couldn?t have had such a great effect on the world without their

many inspirations. They seemed to take the best of different cultures and combine them in their

music to create a diverse and interesting sound. Without The Beatles, the world would be a much

different place today. Over time we can tell that music changed for many reasons. I am sure that

there are many other groups, other than the examples above that influenced the change in music.

From Early music, to Modern Rock and Jazz there is a major difference in the sound, but it is still

influenced by classical music.

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