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A Journey into Sound, Part X: Classical vs Romantic

by rg Wed May 21st, 2008 at 08:07:38 PM EST


Okay, first the story.  Many years ago I was in a bar in northern Italy, drinking whisky and grapefruit juice while the boss of the school I was working at drank grappa.

"Are you romantic or classical?" he said.

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Classical

Sex Pistols - Pretty Vacant (3:32)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ci5SZx3VI_U

This is how my boss described it to me:

Classical means you work within the form.  It comes from the seventeenth century--and has become the term we associate with....

Scarlatti Sonata in E & G (6:22)

Sonata - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sonata (From Latin and Italian sonare, "to sound"), in music, literally means a piece played as opposed to a cantata (Latin and Italian cantare, "to sing"), a piece sung. The term, being vague, naturally evolved through the history of music, designating a variety of forms prior to the Classical era. The term took on increasing importance in the Classical period, and by the early 19th century the word came to represent a principle of composing large scale works. It was applied to most instrumental genres and regarded alongside the fugue as one of two fundamental methods of organizing, interpreting and analyzing concert music. Though the sound of sonatas have changed since the Classical Era, 20th century sonatas still maintain the same structure and build.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUunFr7vQks

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Romantic

Public Image Limited

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfVTqqBpbyg

Romantic means the break with the rigidities of the existing forms.

It's the inside outside and the outside inside--on the outside: romantic; on the inside: classical.

And on the outside classical, but on the inside romantic.

So: romantic music.

Lou Reed - Walk on the Wild Side (4:17)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJV0MljEcTk

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Classical, you follow the rules, you make up new patterns within the rules, it's entertaining, sometimes, because....there's plenty to discover inside the rules: rule number one, there are no rules.  Rule number two: everything has rules.

Ach!  WOOF!  Purr squeak!

Heh...the thing is, it's always going to be difficult discerning classical from romantic because they're two aspects of the same concept: limits.  One is beyond the limits, and one is within the limits.  

As I understand it, the limits were fine; they were technical limits, wide-ranging possibilities appeared with better instruments, more time and money, bigger orchestras--and then, with Mozart (as the figurehead) splashing out into pure expression!

We can listen to this piece again, it's only two minutes long--

Mozart - Requiem - Dies irae (1:57)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_YSEbAWA0Y

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So, pure expression, ever more purely an expression, so self expression, expression of fields, flowers, storms, battles, victories and defeats, and sunsets and sunrises, and rainstorms:

Symphony No. 6 (Beethoven) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The fourth movement, in F minor, depicts a violent thunderstorm with painstaking realism, starting with just a few drops of rain and building to a great climax. There is, of course, thunder, as well as lightning, high winds, and sheets of rain. From Beethoven's injunction that the symphony is meant to be "a matter more of feeling than of painting in sounds," one might guess that the movement depicts not just the storm itself but the feelings of awe and fear experienced by a witness to the storm.

The storm eventually spends itself, with an occasional peal of thunder still heard in the distance. There is a seamless transition into the final movement, including a theme that could be interpreted as depicting a rainbow.

Since the fourth movement does not resolve in a final cadence, and by the pattern of Classical symphonies would count as the "extra" movement among the five, critics have described it structurally as an extended introduction to the final movement, rather than an independent movement in itself. A precedent for Beethoven's procedure is found in an earlier work (1787), Mozart's String Quintet in G minor K. 516, which likewise prefaces a serene final movement with a long, emotionally stormy introduction.

I started hearing thunder at around 4:00

Beethoven - Symphonie Nr. 6 (Pastoral) IV (8:09)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ir9797qNVk0

Well, I hope that's the right piece!

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Modern Times

As always, romantics and classicists poking each other with sticks, and everyone romantic and classical, always a mix, unhealthy or healthy, with enlightenment a thought away, the next thing, the next big wave that's fresh and clean and not loaded with bacteria and shreds of plastic....that'd be us, viewed at a certain distance, through the lens of a very accurately focused microscope, there we are, under the light, being stared at and prodded with pointy sticks.  Do this, do that!  Go here, go there!  Goddamn it you stupid rats, no more hash cakes for you for...a week!  If you don't stop tapping that fucken buzzer!  It's irritating!

....heh....the rats wave their paws and head home to dinner of tasty food including hash cakes--the rats are enjoying their hash cakes and we are measuring their longevity: no stress, all the creature comforts, as much help with developing skills--

aye, a happy rat: could we make some?  

Happy rats?  Gah!  Bitten by a bloody romantic--rats!  I've got loads of rats, you want some?

--hem...flowers, fresh streams, trout, sunlight, it's 300.15 kelvin, the trees are moving in the winds--

And then a car goes past, then another!  Hey, thanks for driving by!  Appreciate it!

("Nothing you can do about cars.")

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Here's a song that I think is both romantic (a yellow submarine!) and classical: everyone can sing the chorus because it uses a classical structure--just about all notes go well with the basic movement:

Start on the octave
Move down four tones
Move back to the octave

Moving down four tones hits the same note as moving up up five tones (the perfect fifth) only an octave lower, so it's moving down to the perfect fifth, which happens to be a perfect fourth below the key note (the octave notes)--heh!

The Beatles - Yellow Submarine (2:36)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIjZtgyPhS0

The next, for me, is classical and romantic.  Classical, because 10cc were very good technicians, in the same way that Benny and Bjorn were and I suppose still are excellent technicians.  What I like are the sparkles, some thumping drums, interesting chord changes, the guitar solo--!  And romantic because it takes me back to music that I heard when I didn't know what music really was, hadn't heard any bits I liked.

A compromise would surely help the situation
Agree to disagree, but disagree to part,
When after all it's just a compromise of the things we do for love

The things we do for love, oooh oooh!

Oooh ooh love.

The things we do for love

Pop song as story, where you forget to listen to what they're saying--like Mozart's Dies Irae--Day of Wrath!  In this case, though, more like Abba, though the Abba piece is more ambiguous about who is leaving who (they all sing the chorus together!)

ABBA | Knowing Me, Knowing You lyrics

Knowing me, knowing you (ah-haa)
There is nothing we can do
Knowing me, knowing you (ah-haa)
We just have to face it, this time were through
(this time were through, this time were through
This time were through, were really through)
Breaking up is never easy, I know but I have to go
(I have to go this time
I have to go, this time I know)
Knowing me, knowing you
Its the best I can do

10cc - The Things We Do For Love (3:30)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVzRMlvi81k

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Okay, I finish with one more, classical and romantic (for me):

Bach - The Goldberg Variations: Aria and variations 1 - 5 (3:47 7:10)

Link 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14Lq8fYGe3M&feature=related
Link 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqoacvLvltM

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Okay, A Journey into Sound...this is part ten, two more to go: next week, let's go with "Music".  Get your choices in there, A Journey into Sound--in the ET Archives!  Even if all the youtubes die, and maybe all the pictures disappear, but the names of the tracks--a bit about them, maybe, not necessary but why not?  The first rule is: there are no rules.  And who needs more rules than that?  The second rule: everything has rules.

Link 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGEubdH8m0s
Link 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gE3-q-aoFZI

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Ahhh!!! rg, you are much to prolific for me. :-) I am finally at the point of working through the first diaries - hope that some day I will be able to catch up.

But thank you, for this wonderful series!

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 22nd, 2008 at 01:09:12 AM EST
And thank you for the salon and all your other work!  



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu May 22nd, 2008 at 04:04:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for Ganesha and Kroncha, they can sure be helpful for heavy work. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Thu May 22nd, 2008 at 10:03:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've always thought of classical vs romantic as attitude towards social hierarchy.

In the classical era the patron decided what type of art would be created. Most (western European) art was created by commission from the Church or the aristocracy. Artists were regarded as paid employees. Think Mozart.

In the romantic era there was a new spirit of individualism and a turning against hierarchy. The artist was now an independent creator driven by internal compulsions. Think Beethoven.

This was supposed to be reflected in the type of art produced. Mozart was supposed to produce entertainment. Beethoven wanted to produce music that appealed to the emotions, especially those not discussed in polite company.

I think the division still exists. Musical comedies, TV shows and poster art are "classical". The creators are artisans working on a defined project.

Serious dramas, academic music and much current painting and sculpture have their subject matter and treatment set by the artist.

There are, of course, overlaps. Movies can be of either type. Big studio pictures are formulaic while small idies go where their creators want them to.

I think the situation in pop music is harder to define. Most bands tend to play in accepted styles. I think this is due to a lack of imagination and a desire to be commercially viable. This is not a criticism, the number of genius who can define a new genre at any time is always limited.

Perhaps the easy availability of production and distribution facilities for both sound and image will allow those who don't tread the well-worn path to find audiences. Text publishing has been liberated since the web became popular and there are now millions of people writing and posting.

The problem becomes one of your audience finding you. There may be a new Shakespeare out there, but how do we know? Being noticed in a mob isn't easy. This part of the picture still needs work.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Thu May 22nd, 2008 at 09:43:22 AM EST
Yay, The White Stripes!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 04:11:13 AM EST


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