Style Features of Classical Music Two central concepts— The “natural” & “pleasing variety” They can work hand in hand; they can also pull in opposite directions The “natural” can be too simple, even boring “Pleasing variety” can be an invitation to an “unnatural” complexity These qualities appear in all elements of musical technique Result was a new expressive quality
Rhythm (1) “Pleasing variety” dominates here Decisive move away from unvarying Baroque rhythms Classical music highly flexible in rhythm Tempo & meter constant in each movement But rhythms of different themes differ in obvious & subtle ways Real contrasts become possible No longer just subtle differences New element of surprise
Rhythm (2) Possible rhythmic “feels” include— Gradual increase or decrease in energy Sudden contrasts Sudden stops Smooth continuous motion Pressing forward by fits & starts Classical rhythms differ from Baroque Less predictable, more interesting – more exciting!
Dynamics “Pleasing variety” dominates here New precision in notating dynamics Wider dynamic range—ff, f, mf, mp, p, pp New emphasis on gradations of volume No longer steady dynamics of the Baroque Development of crescendo & diminuendo Demonstrated by piano’s rising popularity At first it was called a pianoforte (soft-loud) 1st keyboard instrument to produce variety of dynamics via pressure of finger on key
Tone Color: The Orchestra (1) “Pleasing variety” dominates here Increasing attention given to tone color Seen in emergence of Classical orchestra Strings still heart of Classical orchestra Four-part harmony the norm 1st & 2nd violins, violas, cellos, basses Basses double cellos an octave below Similar to basic Baroque orchestra
Tone Color: The Orchestra (2) Woodwind & brass instruments given regular, clearly defined roles Woodwinds added in high & low ranges 2 flutes, 2 oboes, (2 clarinets), 2 bassoons Could play melodies or strengthen strings Each instrument had its own distinctive color Provided “pleasing variety” Brass added in middle range 2 French horns, (2 trumpets) Provided solid harmonic support
Tone Color: The Orchestra (3) Percussion also used 2 timpani the only regularly-used percussion Usually played along with brass for support Occasionally added bass drum, cymbal, & triangle Orchestra became the most subtle, versatile “instrument” in Classical music Enormous variety possible in tone color, rhythm, & dynamics Any effect possible from delicate to grand
Melody: Tunes (1) The “natural” dominates here Preference for simple, clear tunes Uncomplicated, singable melodies Clear, memorable phrases Simple patterns of repetition & contrast Similar to melodies of popular & folk music Many works use attractive phrases that could easily grow into tunes Others incorporate entire tunes Especially theme and variations works
Texture: Homophony (1) The “natural” dominates here A single melody dominates the texture Easy to tell which voice to follow! Supported by simple accompaniment Provides harmonic support Without counterpoint or melodic bass line Permits more flexible accompaniment Can quickly vary patterns & moods Often provides “pleasing variety”
Texture: Homophony (2) Continuo fell out of use Improvised continuo chords unpredictable; varied greatly from one performer to the next Classical composers wanted more control over specific color & spacing of chords New simplicity in melody & texture But also new subtlety in rhythm, harmony, & accompaniment
Classical Counterpoint Homophony was the dominant texture in Classical music But polyphony was not totally abandoned Complex contrapuntal textures offered expressive possibilities Ideal for creating tension & intensity Provided effective contrast with homophony Contrapuntal texture a frequent feature of sonata form development sections
Baroque vs. Classical Style (1) Repetitive, dance- influenced rhythms Only two dynamics– p and f Terraced dynamics, loud or soft only Same colors used throughout Basic or festive orchestra Flexible, constantly changing rhythms Many dynamics used–from pp to ff Dynamic gradations, e.g. crescendo Variety of colors used in same piece Larger orchestra regularly uses brass & winds
Baroque vs. Classical Style (2) Complex, ornate melodies Unequal phrase- lengths Polyphonic texture Constant continuo support Homogeneous– single “affect” expressed in each work Clearly stated, memorable tunes Regular phrase- lengths Homophonic texture Constantly varied accompaniment Heterogeneous– variety of feelings expressed in a single piece
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