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How Sources Inform People’s Understanding of Music Coursework

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Updated: Nov 7th, 2021


Not so long ago, there was an internet hype about a Wikipedia contributor who claimed to have posted a made-up quote of a recently dead personality. It was quoted in major news networks even after it was detected and deleted by Wikipedia editors. In an age when there is information overload where individual publishers who might as well have been known as “zinesters” or independent publishers in the past become “authorities” in their blogging right today, source of information could either cause havoc or nothing. It is not authorities of information that are highly followed today if popular networking site such as Twitter is considered.

Interestingly, the dead man caught unquoted was involved in the music industry. Welcome to the world of pop culture and information overload. Music un-spared.

Music is a major part of history that need not be required in any field for individuals to learn and be exposed to it. Together with film and many forms of literature, it is sought, bought, and consumed for it is like some form of basic commodity. Learning about it takes a deeper interest and in the field of musicology, itself, it is usually defined by if not heavily influenced by popular culture.

As mentioned above, documentary and visual sources inform the general understanding of music. Documentation usually takes the form of what has been heard about, published, and widely circulated. In light of pop culture, this paper will try to provide an insight on how documentary and visual sources inform our understanding of music; the strengths and weaknesses of certain types of sources, and; the main debates about how sources are used for understanding history, specifically: music.

Case Study 1

Brown, Clive. 1996. A new appraisal of the sources of Beethoven’s fifth symphony, Wiesbaden; Breitkopf and Hartel.

Ludwig van Beethoven is considered one of the most influential musician-composer and probably one of the most acclaimed. By the age of 12, his teacher Gottlob Neefe commented that “If he continues like this he will be, without doubt, the new Mozart” in the Magazine of Music (quoted by Prevot, 2001, ¶ 7). Some 138 pieces were credited as his compositions and these are called Opus numbers, about 205 are pieces without opus numbers published after Beethoven died.

Symphony No. 5 is one of the most popular European classical music not only used and played in symphonies but with its opening often revived in contemporary popular music. It is often used in movie and television openings. It was written by Beethoven from 1804 to 1808 during the time his deafness is becoming a problem. The Symphony had a lot of interruptions as it was also the time when Beethoven was also working on other compositions: the first version of Fidelio, the Fourth Piano Concerto, the Fourth Symphony, and the Sixth Symphony. It was first performed together with the Sixth Symphony in Theater an der Wien in Vienna on n December 22, 1808, in a well-attended concert directed by Beethoven himself. It was also considered one of the most important works of the time.

Symphony No. 5 begins with a very distinct four-note “short-short-short-long” and is comprised of four movements: opening sonata-allegro, an andante, a fast scherzo, and attacca finale. It was performed for more than four hours but during its premiere, the Symphony is in a reversed order with the Sixth Symphony as known today. The symphony was dedicated to two of Beethoven’s patrons: Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz and Count Rasumovsky (Schauffer, 1933).

Is Brown’s hypothesis convincing? (If not this would have to be because you think that there might be some other, more likely interpretation of the details that are found in the sources)

Clive Birown is a Professor of Applied Musicology at the University of Leeds School of Music. He took part in part 2 of the Music Tripos and taught music, performed as a violinist, and became a researcher. He published on 18th and 19th-century performing practices and an active violinist focused on Classical and romantic music. He had about four books and contributed to more than a dozen books and conference proceedings (University of Leeds, 2009).

It has been proposed that Beethoven took a lot of influence from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Joseph Haydn, the latter being one of his teachers in Vienna (Kinderman, 1995). Author Clive Brown, however, noted certain influences on Beethoven’s work by Beethoven’s long-time friend Franz Joseph Clement.

Previous published reviews and accounts of Clement and Beethoven indicated a close link and working relations between the two. Clement is an Austrian violinist, pianist, composer, and conductor at the Theater an der Wien. He was acquainted with Beethoven starting in 1794. Clement was seen as a prodigy with the ability to play complex pieces after a very short exposure, taking into example was an account of him and Haydn. Clement provided a violin composition for Haydn’s Creation and Clement brought it to the maestro. Haydn became alarmed thinking his piece had been pirated but soon learn that it was Cement’s violin version of the Creation.

There are six violin concertos credited to Clement. One is the violin concerto in D major which premiered during the first public performance of Beethoven’s Eroica symphony in Vienna. As a conductor at the theater where Beethoven frequented, the two developed close working relations. It has also been suggested that Clement commissioned Violin Concerto in D major from Beethoven for the next benefit concert. Beethoven worked on it and it was also suggested that Clement played without any rehearsal (Brown, 2009).

As for the theory about the influence of Clement on Beethoven’s work, this is very plausible. Influence is easily acquired by artists from fellow artists, either as inspiration or as a piece to build up a new piece either resembling a little or evident material of the original. However, resemblances in many works of art, literature, and music are always evident in many works, even from differing genres. Cross-influence is openly accepted considered complimentary to artists from their fellow artists. Influence may bridge thousands of years’ gaps as well as distances in location, art, or literary genre.

One can also be said about recent improvisation of popular music as recent and old, timeless, and even forgotten musical pieces are either sampled or mixed with new ones or revived in a version more acceptable for the period. These are called revival music.

Brown and other music researchers before him may have perceived the musical similarities of Beethoven and Clement’s works. It is, however a little bit moot and academic to debate about it at the moment.

Music is an integral part of history, as much as visual arts during the Renaissance. Music has been with man even during prehistoric times as civilized and “un-civilised” societies have been known and proven to have their own musical or oral traditions (Huttenen, 2008). Musical pieces, musicians and composers, are considered historical as they form the core of music history as well as the everyday experience and consumption of music. “History […] is also a way of justifying the music we consider important,” (p 4).

Brown has suggested that Clement influenced Symphony No. 5 of Beethoven, and one could either agree or disagree. For the sake of the above positions I have mentioned, I fully agree with Brown’s theory. Cive Brown is himself a musician, an educator, an author, a researcher, and a violinist. He posses the credibility and credential to provide a new understanding of music which has become iconic, by an iconic figure. Brown (2009) wrote that “The rediscovery of Franz Clement’s Violin Concerto in D major of 1805 … provides a previously unsuspected context for Beethoven’s masterpiece,” (¶ 2).

Likewise, “Clement also showed his appreciation in his compositions: his D major Violin Concerto owes much to the example of Beethoven’s piano concertos in its musical language and structure. Clement’s concerto may be seen, therefore, as a testimony to his admiration for Beethoven, and Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, written just over a year later, as an affectionate and respectful acknowledgement of Clement’s skills both as executant and composer,” (Brown, 2009, ¶ 5).

Based on your study of this problem, how do you think the movement should be performed, and how would you make out a case to support your opinion?

The revised version of the D major violin concerto is said to have very little resemblance with the piano solo created by Clement. The numerous alternate versions of the solo part had extensive revisions although literature provides a basis of the innocence of Clement on Beethoven’s alternations. Viennese violinist Jacob Don’t have claimed that his father, “heard and accompanied the Violin Concerto, written for the then violin virtuoso Fr. Clement, from the first performance on, very often in Beethoven’s presence,” (quoted by Brown, 2009) ¶ 8).

Brown suggested that Beethoven and Clement could have collaborated on the final published version of the violin concerto. Its influence on the Symphony’s movement, minimal or substantial, could only add life to a previously unknown debate. While credit may be added posthumously to Clement, very little is its significance on the Symphony as well as the established position of Beethoven in the music world. Performing a new version for a previous original work is acceptable but the impact may be varied. It will depend much on the reception of listeners, the timeliness of its hype as Western music and culture is prone to its influence due to the now easy rotation of global trade.

My advice would be to respect that which has been accepted as fact and as honorable such as the case of Beethoven as a master or a virtuoso. Additional merit may be provided to the influencer and aspiring musicians such as Rachel Pine may benefit from study and close learning on what may still be emulated from Clement as growth is often attributed this way.

Case Study 2

Chopins nocturne, op.9 No 2.

Look at all variants, as with Beethoven, consider how would you advise a performer about a music text that could be used for performance, and explain the grounds for your decision.

Frederic Chopin wrote 21 short pieces of solo piano nocturnes. They are highly acclaimed as one of the finest short solo piano works popularising nocturne which was a musical form developed by Irish composer John Field. The nocturnes are set in the ternary form of A-B-A. It featured a sad, melancholic melody as if to float over the left-hand accompaniment of arpeggios. Arperggios are broken chords. The nocturne features a repetitive main theme, embellished, and highlighted in Opus 9 No 2.

While the nocturnes 7th and 8th were published in contrasting pairs, the All Music Guide (2009) suggests that the nocturnes can stand alone. Chopin’s works are considered highly influenced by Field but these have been described as “melancholy-tinged chromaticism and sinewy melodies […] in stark contrast to the Irish composer’s far simpler pieces,” (All Music Guide, 2009 ¶ 1). Its elegiac B flat minor showed the maturity of Chopin’s adaptation of Field’s ternary ABA.

Chopin’s is a musical piece in four distinct groups: opens with a restrained melancholy then passes through to a longer melodic sultry middle, then returns to departure that shows lengthening of the coda. While it is seen as a mere musical appendage, it is also perceived as a full-fledged musical drama on its own (All Music Guide, 2009). Its ending is an abyss of sadness so expressive. The Nocturne in E flat major Op 9 No 2 is considered the most popular work of Chopin. It has been rendered in a much less appealing and irreverent manner but it has maintained its lasting appeal and charm. Its simple atmosphere has been directly linked as influenced by Field, one of the briefest of the nocturnes.

The Nocturne in B flat major, Op 9 No 3 is considered, however as the finest of the group. It shows Chopin’s affinity for the human voice in the melodic sweep, gentle and subtle (All Music Guide, 2009).

Considering all variants as in Beethoven and Clement’s case on Chopin and Field, I would advise a performer about a musical text that could be used for performance to proceed as he or she may want to explore, experiment, or interpret a musical score. Artists have their way of interpreting various musical pieces in a way that could not have been imagined by the original musician.

Contemporary music is ripe with this certain kinds of cases. Classical music may be less known for its variations, re-presentations, or interpretations but it does not mean that this is discouraged. While originality is always successful in the world of music, creativity and success have become alien to one another. Many artists today are popular and acclaimed through questionable manners such as some Western musicians who became acceptable and popular due to access to global media, corporate funding, and marketing machinery while some have gone the difficult way to achieve success and popularity despite their deserving credit.

As Huttunen (2008) proposed, “Influential writers and thinkers have often defended certain types of music in the light of history […] Textbooks of music history oten defend certain composers and styles rather that attempting to depict the history of music impartially,” (p 4-5). With this insight, it is easily convincing to deny what is previously unknown despite the authority of a claimant may have such as Brown. Huttunen (2008), however, also noted a general occurrence that historical justifications of music appear in “our everyday thinking and discussion,” (p 5). He added the importance of oral tradition, mass media, concert programs, recordings, amongst others. He has declined to deal with historical truth as some musical pieces are justified in the light of history yet, “it is far more important to look at the values that influence how we stress different things in history,” (p 5). As such, there is one account of a part of history, a version, but there is “no single true history” and this is applicable in the music itself.


Music information takes secondary importance as to its source of authority. Acceptance and popularity are the norms as music together with other forms of art such as film, and paperback publications take audiences and consumers by their impact and presentation.

The impact is an individual acceptance of a musical piece or even just a portion of a piece. A portion of Beethoven music used in any other musical piece may or may not be known to listeners although familiarity may add to its acceptance. In addition, negative reception to its use basically from musical “experts” may add to its hype, therefore, a plus to publicity and popularity, lessening its piracy impact-if it is lifted without authorization, or even in an authorized manner.

In the case of Chopin having known to be influenced by Fields and of Beethoven taking from Clement, these are important information that music education and history need to consider. It will take a long debate as for the recent Beethoven case if it will progress to such a debate to be decided if worthy by the academe. As for the music, the listeners who are majority plain consumers, may not care at all.

A majority of them will not know a Madonna from a Cindy Lauper although much would actually not care. Music is a personal matter to most listeners: and it is not the messenger that matters but the message. As for Brown, the message is of historical importance, but the informed will remain amongst academics and musicians who are serious about history. With the popular trend, even notable musicians today deny the blatant lifting of musical pieces from their sources. Sometimes, things just happen, like a dream.


All Music Guide (2008). Frederic Francois Chopin: 3 Nocturnes, Op. 9).” Classical Archives, All Media Guide. Web.

Huttunen , Matti. 2008. “The Historical Justification of Music.” Philosophy of Music Education Review, Volume 16, Number 1, pp. 3-19.

Seaton, Douglass. 2006. “The Oxford History of Western Music: A Review Essay.” Notes, Volume 62, Number 3, pp. 685-699.

Stroh, Patricia. 2007. “Beethoven in the Auction Market: A Twenty-Year Review.” Notes, Volume 63, Number 3, pp. 533-564.

Kinderman, William. 1995. Beethoven. University of California Press. Berkeley, Los Angeles.

New Found Glory. 2009. “Crazy for You.” YouTube. Web.

Prevot, Dominique. 2009. “Ludwig van Beethoven Biography.” Ludwig van Beethoven. Web.

Schauffler, Robert Haven. 1933. Beethoven: The Man Who Freed Music. Doubleday, Doran, & Company. Garden City, New York.


University of Leeds. 2009. “Clive Brown.” Web.

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