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MUSIC 1AA3 Study Guide - Final Guide: African-American Music, Slavonic Dances, Vaslav Nijinsky

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Dave Gerry
Study Guide

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Music 1AA3 Exam Review April 26, 2015
Antonin Dvorak
- Antonin Dvorak – a Czech composer, composed one of the most famous pieces of American
classical music
- Born near Prague – accomplished violist and violinist
- Friend with Johannes Brahms
- Slavonic Dances established his fame
- Composed while he was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in NYC
- Famous as a nationalist composer (of Bohemian music)
- Believed Native/African Americans composed the most original music
- Main theme = slow movement was later transformed into the hymn “Goin’ Home”
- Travelled and spent several weeks in a Czech community in rural lowa
- Also composed chamber music, concertos, church music, operas, oratorios
- Known for orchestral music, symphonies, concertos, operas, chamber music, choral music, songs
and dances
New World Symphony
- Began the symphony in December 1892 and dated it May 24, 1893 – revisions continued until its
- While in US, Dvorak produced chamber and vocal music
- 1)Syncopation: A strong note comes on a weak beat ,Characteristic feature of later African
American music such as ragtime and jazz
- 2)Pentatonic scale: Five-note scale that omits the leading tone
- 3)Lowered seventh note: Used especially in themes in minor keys
- Shape of the Symphony
Traditional shape, with 4 movements (fast, slow, scherzo, fast)
Later movements include thematic recurrence and transformation, techniques
drawn from Beethoven or Wagner (the leitmotif)
May have learned from Beethoven or Wagner
- Themes
First theme’s syncopation was characteristic of African American music
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Third theme- tune characteristic of spiritual music
many themes are similar, built from same musical ideas
dotted rhythm (long-short-long)
simple melodic motif (rising minor third)
harmonic idea (sounds like a lowered seventh in place of a leading tone)
Sens of unity that allows the composer to bring back themes from earlier
Repetition of musical ideas allow listeners to follow Dvorak’s train of thought
- Refers to a composer’s expression of the identity of a place, people or country
Important element of romanticism
Representative figures include Edvard Grief; Jan Sibelius’ etc.
Involves the use of folk melodies, rhythms or dances
Can look at national myths and folklore
Provides an important means to experience own culture, and to enjoy characteristic of
music in cultures
- Folk themes and other nationalist elements were essential to the success of his music
- Came across an article called “Negro Music” which described black music and six notated
- Through one of his students he became acquainted with African American Spirituals
-American Music - Dvorak believed a new form of American music should be founded on Native
American and African American music; he thought these two traditions were identical
oahead of his time (20-30 years later, African American music esp. would become the
basis for jazz)
oQuestion of American musical identity became more pressing in the twentieth century
for composers
oCharacteristics are related to rhythm and melody
Life of Igor Stravinsky
- Russion (Later naturalized French and American composer, painter and conductor)
- One of the most important twentieth-century composers
- Wrote in several major styles – serialism and neoclassicism
- Maintained a distinctive style: acerbic, colorful and Russian
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- Late in life composed several serial works drawing techniques of Arnold Schoenberg
- Compositional career was notable for stylistic diversity
- Achieved international fame with three ballets commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghliev
and first performed in Paris by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes: The Firebird, Petrushka and The Rite of
- Folk and folklike melodies
Opening melody – an arrangement of a Lithuanian folk tune
Irregular phrases and unusual scales, using few notes in various arrangements
- Static Sounds
Discovered unusual chords at the piano
Repetition of chords used in block construction
- Ostinato
Repetition of chord, melody, or series of notes
Two or more ostinatos may operate at different speeds and rhythms
Complexity results from layering of simple elements in irregular alignment
- Polytonality
Combining two or more keys at once
Ostinato chord in “Girls’ Dance” superimposes chords in two different keys
Some melodies played simultaneously in two keys (bitonality), with the effect of hearing
- Block Construction
Sections built like patchwork quilts or mosaics
Small, invariable blocks are repeated and interspersed with other blocks
The Rite of Spring
- Most famous premiere in Western music history – nearly set off a riot
- Composed by Igor Stravinsky
- Originally a ballet, but is also performed in the concert hall
- Deliberately primitive and ritualistic in style
- Choreography was created by Vaslav Nijinsky, the most famous male dancer at the time
- Concerns Slavic rituals in prehistoric Russia – ritual dance of sacrifice to guarantee
- Stravinsky pounded out his music on piano usually breaking many strings
- Orchestral players astonished at the complex and complicated work
- Not conventionally beautiful or expressive – well crafted, with formal and logical clarity
- Lacks the motivic and thematic development characteristics
- Work emphasizes the ritualistic archaic and nonexpressive quality of the rituals
- Allowed Stravinsky to depart from the Russian Romantic Style of his previous works
- Includes beautiful contemplative moments
- Ballet
Scenario centers on the celebration of spring rites by prehistoric Slavonic tribes
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