Listening Examples – Western Art Music


Certain characteristics in a piece of music allow it to be classified within a genre. Very often, a piece will fit into several categories or genres and it is important to remember that there are always exceptions and pieces/composers that push the boundaries.

Art music is most easily categorised by period, based on its date of composition. Over time, there have been significant shifts in the characteristics of music and it is generally accepted that most Western Art music fits into the following periods…


Genre

Description

Piece

Composer

Listen Now

Medieval 1000-1450

– Dance music had a strong pulse, while in Gregorian chant, it was less defined

– Use of modes

– usually stepwise movement in melody and small range

– parallel harmonies used

– little dynamic variation

– strophic form was common (using the same music for each verse)

– voice, percussion, strings, brass and reed instruments were used

Dame mon cuer en vous remaint

Guillaume de Machaut

YouTube

O frondens virga

Hildegard von Bingen

YouTube

Messe du Jour de Noël

Léonin

YouTube

Pascha nostrum immolatus

Perotin

YouTube

O virtus Sapientiae

Hildegard von Bingen

YouTube

Renaissance 1450-1600

– rhythm was generally free from metrical accents with long, flowing phrases

– Use of modes but a big shift towards use of 3rds and 6ths as consonant harmony

– use of imitation in melody

– little dynamic variation

– instruments include lutes, recorder, brass, viols and voice

– use of repeated bass lines

– polyphonic texture, use of 4 or more parts or voices

As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending

Thomas Weelkes

YouTube

Missa Pangue Lingua “Gloria”

Josquin

YouTube

Solo e peusoso

Marenzio

YouTube

Magnificat Tertii Toni “Gloria”

G. P. Palestrina

YouTube

April is in my Mistress’ Face

Thomas Morley

YouTube

Baroque 1600-1750

– strong pulse and unity in rhythm of different parts

– Major and minor keys emerge

– Use of modulation

– Use of imitation and motifs in melody

– Clear sense of key, based on triads. Strong cadence points outline structures

– Terraced dynamics (no gradual changes like crescendo/diminuendo)

– Both homophonic and polyphonic texture are common

– String orchestras with soloists are common, as is basso continuo

Concerto No.1 in C Major, “La Cetra”

Antonio Vivaldi

YouTube

L’Orfeo – Toccata & Prologue

Claudio Monteverdi

YouTube

Canon in D

Johann Pachelbel

YouTube

Dido & Aeneas – When I am Laid in Earth (Dido’s Lament)

Henry Purcell

YouTube

Brandenburg Concerto No.4 in G Major (Allegro)

Johann Sebastian Bach

YouTube

Classical 1750-1820

– use of major and minor keys, as well as modulation

– symmetrical phrasing was a feature

– homophonic texture was most common

– less rhythmic unity of parts but still a strong sense of pulse

– clear sense of key, based on triads. Strong cadence points outline structures

– dynamic change was important. Crescendo/diminuendo was used

– the modern orchestra began – piano and clarinet emerged.

– exploration of various tone colours of the orchestra

– sonata form emerged but the solo concerto was also common.

Eine Kleine Nacht Music

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

YouTube

Trumpet Concerto in Eb (3rd Movt)

Joseph Haydn

YouTube

Piano Trio No.1 in Eb Major (Allegro)

Ludwig van Beethoven

YouTube

Symphony No.94 in G Major (Surprise Symphony)

Joseph Haydn

YouTube

Piano Sonata in A

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

YouTube

Romantic 1820-1900

– use of rubato, triplets and complex rhythms

– chromaticism is common and remote modulation appears (modulating to a key with no common chords)

– irregular phrase lengths in melodies

– homophonic texture most common with thicker textures and more doubling of parts

– more instruments added to the orchestra i.e harp, contra-bassoon, cor anglais

– extreme dynamic changes

– focus on tone colour to create atmosphere

Symphony No.9

Gustav Mahler

YouTube

Hungarian Rhapsody No.2

Franz Liszt

YouTube

Dies Irae

Giuseppe Verdi

YouTube

La Cathedral Engloutie (The Sunken Cathedral)

Claude Debussy

YouTube

Symphony No.2 in D Major

Johannes Brahms

YouTube

Modern 1900-today

– Complex, repetitive or absence of rhythm

– modal, atonal, bitonal, microtonal

– asymmetric in phrasing

– use of ‘sound clusters’, dissonant harmonies and sparse textures

– exploration of extreme dynamic changes and tone colours

– exploration of instrumental capabilities

Variations for Orchestra (1928)

Arnold Schoenberg

YouTube

4’33” (1952)

John Cage

YouTube

Poeme Electronique (1957)

Edward Varese

YouTube

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (1960)

Krzysztof Penderecki

YouTube

Prelude & Dragonfly Dance (1992)

Ross Edwards

YouTube

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