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Musical Compositions’ Stylistics & Social Context Essay


Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano by John Cage

Composer/Artist: John Cage.

Composition Date

The composition was created around 1946 -1948. The premier took place in Black Mountain on 6th April, 1948.

Details of stylistic characteristics

The cycle includes 16 sonatas: 13 sonatas imply the binary form, the rest – the ternary form. In this work Cage employed a more complex rhythmic proportions’ technique. Thus, the structure of each sonata is determined by the fractions and natural numbers sequencing one another.

Instrumentation

The sonatas and interludes were written for a piano. Cage noted that a complex two-hour process of the instrument’s preparation is required. The choice of the instrument coincides well with the spirit of that time – pianists were incredibly popular with the public. Cage’s sonatas were dedicated to another pianist, Maro Ajemian.

Social context

The primary concern of the composer was to express the eight feelings typical of the Indian tradition. The creation of the sonatas was closely connected with Cage’s involvement in the study of Indian philosophy and Coomaraswamy’s school of thought. According to Cage, the targeted audience was to be represented by those people who were ready to speculate while listening, as he supposed his listeners to make a choice between the emotions illustrated by his music.

Pavanne for a Dead Princess by Maurice Ravel

Composer/Artist: Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875 – 1937)

Composition Date

The solo piano was written in 1899, whereas the orchestra version came out in 1910.

Details of stylistic characteristics

The major feature of the piece is its particularly slow rhythmics. Ravel’s contemporaries complained that the composer transformed his melody into a dead pavanne for a princess rather than a pavanne for a dead princess. The piece is rather short; its performance generally takes from six to seven minutes.

Instrumentation

The orchestrated version was composed for strings, a harp, two horns, two clarinets, two flutes and an oboe. The instrumental choice reflected the best traditions of the classic Paris Conservatory. The Pavanne has numerous modern adaptations, including the bass guitar and the double bass and piano versions.

Social context

The creation of the piece was majorly inspired by the Spanish traditions and the spirit of its natural customs. The “Pavanne” is not the only work of Maurice Ravel that reflects his passion for the Spanish culture – simular implications can be found in the “Rapsodie Espagnole” and the “Boléro”. Moreover, his enthusiasm was widely shared by his contemporaries – the interest in Spanish culture was considerably high with all the social classes.

Prelude Suite Op 25 by Arnold Schoenberg

Composer/Artist: Arnold Schoenberg (1874 – 1951).

Composition Date

This piano piece was written around 1921-1923.

Details of stylistic characteristics

The suite has six movements: Präludium, Gavotte, Musette, Intermezzo, Menuett, and Gigue. This piece was the first composition where Schoenberg employed inversions and transpositions of a row, as well as a “12 tones row itself. The melodic contour is believed to possess some reflections of the classic Baroque style. The performance generally takes about sixteen minutes.

Instrumentation

This twelve-tone piece was written specifically for a piano. The instrumental selection is easily explained by the spirit of the time. The composer was interested in introducing some new techniques in the piano culture.

Social context

The work is a good reflection of the relevant time period. Some musicians state that Arnold Schoenberg imitated in this piece such great German masters as Bach, others find implications of Sigmund Freud’s philosophy in this composition. Arnold Schoenberg became particularly popular with those who searched for some innovation and novelty in the composing field.

Metamorphosis One by Phillip Glass

Composer/Artist: Philip Morris Glass ((born in 1937).

Composition Date

Metamorphosis One was written in 1988, whereas the album Solo Piano was released in 1989.

Details of stylistic characteristics

The piece is notable for diatonic harmonies, reflecting the melodic contour of the Glass’s soundtrack to “The Thin Blue Line” – it preserved both its unhurried rhythm and the minor tonality.

Instrumentation

All the pieces of the album were written for the piano specifically. The instrumental choice turned out to be actual and popular with further generations – the “Metamorphosis One” was later rerecorded by numerous artists, among which one could find the famous Bruce Brubaker. It was also employed in one of the episodes of “Battlestar Galactica”.

Social context

Philip Glass admitted that the creation of all the Metamorphosis, including “Metamorphosis One”, was inspired by Franz Kafka’s similarly-named short story. This implication was one of the factors determining the piece’s popularity with the intellectual milieu of the American society.

The Little Train of the Capira by Villa-Lobos

Composer/Artist: Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959).

Composition Date

The suite was written in 1930.

Details of stylistic characteristics

The Little Train of the Capira is a vivid reflection of the Brazilian culture, its major tonality and high rhythmics coincides well with the typical vividness and energy of the local folk music. The piece has also got a distinguishing ornamentation – one can hear the noises imitating a train’s movement through the forests of Amazon.

Instrumentation

The orchestral suite initially implied the usage of cello and piano – the instruments that were particularly popular in the relevant time period. The composer participated in the first performance, playing the cello part himself. Three years after its creation, the piece was adapted for a three-part female chorus.

Social context

Villa-Lobos was a composer that possessed a unique and highly culturally-focused manner. “The Little Train of the Capira” gained its popularity due to its authentic motives and the combination of both street and folk motives. Some specialists claim that the creation of the piece was inspired by Lobos’s admiration for the works of the German genius Bach. Lobos’s audience is represented by people of all nationalities and cultures – it is not necessarily the Brazilians who like his music, but anyone whose inner mood resonates with the lively motives of “The Little Train”.

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin

Composer/Artist: George Gershwin (1898-1937).

Composition Date

The musical composition is generally referred to 1924.

Details of stylistic characteristics

The “Rhapsody in Blue” is primarily famous for its large-scale and complex melodic structure. The composition has large contrasts in melodic tonality and rhythmics. The major part of the material is performed in the first 14 measures. The irregular form of the rhapsodies strengthens the emotional tension of the piece.

Instrumentation

The composition was initially written for solo piano and the jazz band. The number of the employed instruments was constantly altered. The full orchestra that gave performances in 1942 included strings, violas, violins, a bass drum, triangles, a gong, French horns, trombones, flutes, a saxophone, oboes and many other instruments.

Social context

“Rhapsody in Blue” became a true outbreak in the American music of the relevant period. The interest in jazz was at its peak, so the composition became incredibly popular with the representatives of all the social classes. Gershwin used to say that the creation of the Rhapsody was inspired by his trip to Boston – the sounds of the moving train prompted the melody’s appearance.

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IvyPanda. (2020, June 10). Musical Compositions' Stylistics & Social Context. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/musical-compositions-stylistics-amp-social-context/

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"Musical Compositions' Stylistics & Social Context." IvyPanda, 10 June 2020, ivypanda.com/essays/musical-compositions-stylistics-amp-social-context/.

1. IvyPanda. "Musical Compositions' Stylistics & Social Context." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/musical-compositions-stylistics-amp-social-context/.


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IvyPanda. "Musical Compositions' Stylistics & Social Context." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/musical-compositions-stylistics-amp-social-context/.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Musical Compositions' Stylistics & Social Context." June 10, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/musical-compositions-stylistics-amp-social-context/.

References

IvyPanda. (2020) 'Musical Compositions' Stylistics & Social Context'. 10 June.

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