Why We Analyse Music | Julian Horton

_______ is the composer who, in 1829, sparked a revival of interest in bach’s music.
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hello my name is Julian Horton Im president of the Society for music analysis and also professor of music at Durham University the subject of my talk is music analysis and various techniques of music analysis but it specifically concerns how the discipline of analysis relates to music history and music ecology the disciplines of analysis and musicology have sometimes been seen to be in conflict in tension somehow or at least opposed or complimentary maybe because music analysis very often looks at music out of its historical context it looks at the score as we have it now whereas musicology looks at music in its historical context in its cultural context and takes account of the context of the piece but what I want to do today is look at ways in which analysis and history can work together because I think sometimes its the case that analysis needs history self-evidently any piece of music that the analyst looks at is a historical artifact as well but also I think history needs analysis because a lot of the evidence that history requires in order to make assertions about music in context is analytical and needs to engage with the material needs to engage with the score in a variety of ways so Im going to look at a case study of how analysis and history can converse or work in partnership the way Im going to do this is by focusing on one piece of music one example which I think is particularly clear and which relates its historical and analytical features very clearly and this piece is Brahms First Symphony and specifically the first movement which is very very rich in the analytical detail that you can extract from it but also it has a very complex and also tangible historical context to draw on and these two things relate very nicely together I think Im going to go about this by looking at for moment in this movement Ill play each of those moments and draw out analytical evidence as I go along when Ive done that Im going to start then linking the analytical evidence to a broader historical context before turning to the first instance I want to say just a little bit about the context of the piece this piece was composed between 1862 and 1876 1877 so it has a very very long genesis it caused Brahms a great deal of trouble compositionally and other works are written around the process so between 1862 and 1876 other major works come into being primarily the German Requiem the upper 51 string quartets and to an extent they all feed into the process that eventually produces the first symphony at the same time there is a heated political context for this piece because the politics of the symphony in Vienna at the time of composition are closely bound up with not only political but aesthetic arguments about what a symphony should be and this connects to the arguments between the so called progressive new German school on the one hand as signified by Liszt vogner and in some estimations Bruckner and on the other hand what is seen as a more conservative alternative which is the so-called romantic classicists for which Brahms becomes a major figure but which might be said to track back through Schumann and Mendelssohn so here then is the main theme the first subject group in the first movement of Brahms first symphony is the introduction and the first presentation of the material we can Caden then the second presentation which means cadence so lets dissect what youve just heard a little bit so the opening material the the introduction consists of two elements the first element is the little ascending chromatic figure like that which is partnered with a turn figure in response like so and then thats answered by another version of that in the violins like so and the whole thing together sounds like this so that then provides all the material from what comes next the chromatic figure is then transferred into the cellos into the the bass voice and that becomes this theme and against that brand sets a new idea which is in counterpoint with that which sounds like this so we can split that up we can talk about the cello voice as comprising the two elements and so lets call them C and D and above them the two elements to call that a and and what brands then does is he takes these little elements he spins them out and varies them so that new versions of them are constantly being created but he also uses them in counterpoint and various combinations as we go along sometimes its clear what the identity of the motive is and sometimes bronze conceals the identity or he strips away elements of it so for example my motive bei was talking about a moment ago then subsequently

becomes this which is essentially the intervallic frame of that motive with the interior taken out burr arms also does all sorts of contrapuntal things to the motives so for example in the second presentation within the main theme the first thing he does is he takes the chromatic figure which I called C and he turns it upside down so instead of we have this and then repeated and then he takes the response to that which I call D and he turns that upside down and repeats it like that and he follows that up with our motive see the right way around like so and above that there are extended variants of a and B as well so here is a then repeat it and then repeat it again like so followed by B and then repeat it like that so all of this music is being spun out of these two tiny ideas and actually that holds for the whole of the exposition of this movement the so Im going to turn to my second example which is the second subject group which is now in the relative major of a flat major ostensibly this is very very different it sounds much more lyrical and expressive but the lyricism and the change of character conceals the fact that actually weve still got the same music so here then is example 2 this is the end of the transition and heres the start of the second subject so this sounds expressively very different to the first subject group its much more lyrical its in the relative major theres a change of expressive context but this conceals the fact that again all of this material is spun out of this very very small fund of motives so for example the cellos have the melody here which it transpires is just another version of our motive a which sounds like this like that and then that motive is picked up by the first violins and they then carry forwards and partner it with be going into a cadence when they do that the bass takes up motive see our little chromatic figure thats happening down here like that but this time in vs. so the two together sound like this like so and in fact the start of the second subject is also a counterpoint of motive a emotive see because when the cellos have this idea the oboz have this which is our motive see again so the two together and that carries on the oboz then have see in sequence and when we get to our cadence and the violins have motive be be the basis partner it with yet another variant of motive see so the two together like so so this is really just another complex of contrapuntal relationships spun out of our basic fund of four motives now treated in inversion and with the texture inverted as well because at the start of the second subject the cellos have motive a the winds have motive see at the end of the second subject it turns upside down the violins have motive a the basses have motive see and this technique of generating what sounds like new material expressively and in terms of its character from this small fund of common motives is continued into the closing section of the exposition which again sounds expressively very different from what youve just heard its in E flat minor its returned to the pathos of the first subject but what were going to see is yet another process of generating new character from the same fund of four motives so here now is the closing section of the exposition going up to its final closing cadence is the statement is the response and finally an expanded cadence so again this has a very different character from the second group its reverted back to the pathos of the first subject and the material seems distinct but once we look under its surface were going to see that again its all derived from this fund of for small motives from the first subject we have what seems like a new idea in the violins like so but really that is just an elaboration of our motive see the chromatic ascent like that with this new quaver prefix like that set against that is again what seems like new material in the base but its just an inversion of our motive a so here is a from the first subject and here is what happens in the base here in the closing section like that and it continues with an inversion of motive be like so and those two things together make up the presentation of this material and then in the response Brahms uses a technique called invertible counterpoint he takes what was in the violins in the statement and puts it in the bass and he takes what was

in the bass and puts it in the violins so now that the basses have and the violins have like so so the voices swap around and then he has another contrapuntal trick up his sleeve for the cadence as well because the bass in the cadence takes this idea and inverts its intervals it sets off like this like that in Canon that is to say being imitated half a bar later by the violas and second violins who are going like this and so on so this is a dense web of contrapuntal relations and thats true of the whole exposition which is really about spinning out motivic variation in counterpoint you can look at the whole thing as a web of contrapuntal working out of this initial fund of motives and youd expect that to continue into the development section because developments after all are traditionally contrapuntal II and thematically developmental out of the exposition but Brahms does something surprising instead of further pursuing the motivic implications of his exposition material he stalls a developmental process around the closing section and instead a chorale melody comes in which seems to be new material which sounds like this and what that in fact is is a quotation its a chorale taken from the end of the storm movement of Beethovens Pastoral Symphony which sounds like this at the same time Brahms also introduces a second quotation from Beethoven which is much more obvious and thats what happens in the winds here whos simultaneously go like this which of course is the opening motive of the fifth symphony so now Ill play you that example as example four so here is build-up into closing section material but here instead is the Beethoven chorale back to the closing section and the chorale again no modulating still the corral and can still hear the fifth symphony he breaks out of the corral so the question of why brands should quote Beethoven here brings us back to the historical issues that I raised at the start because a quotation from Beethoven is not just a purely musical reference its also aligning Brahms with a certain notion of what a symphony should be in effect the quotation says this is a legitimate post Beethovenian symphony I establish this piece sort of as an heir to the Beethoven model and that agenda brings with it a whole political argument which is current in Vienna in the late 19th century because it turns out that bronzes idea of the symphony is only one idea of the symphony and there is another one which stands on the opposite side of the political spectrum and this circulates around list and vogner and the so-called new German school whose championship of Bruckner advocated a very different kind of post Beethovenian symphony and theres a technical aspect to this as well because it turns out that this contrapuntal motivic way of writing that weve just seen in Brahms his first symphony was part of the political argument it was a way of writing that was associated very much with chamber music especially with the string quartet and Brahms of course is the great advocate of chamber music in the late 19th century and there were those on the political right and who aligned with the new German school who saw this as an inappropriate way of writing symphonies not only because they thought that a chamber musical technique was inappropriate for a public monumental genre like the symphony but also because chamber music had a political orientation associated with it it was very much associated with the bourgeois middle class with the liberal intelligentsia in Vienna with which Brahms is very closely aligned and we can see this in contemporary critical writing for example you we look at the writings of vogner in this time because vogner published an article in response to brands first and second symphonies called on the application of music to the drama in which he specifically critiques bronzes use of this chamber musical technique and he says the material is like little bits of chopped hay or dried grass that have no sort of substance and the symphony needs to have full blooded melody not chamber musical intellectual contrapuntal working so our technical analysis that weve just undertaken this looking at motives and counterpoint is not only telling us something about structure about the score about the music in the present its also and more importantly telling us something historical its telling us something about the historical context of Brahms is music about the symphony in its time and about the political arguments that surround that so this then I think is the most compelling reason why we should encourage a dialogue between analysis and history because it turns out but no analysis of the 19th century symphony can do without history but really no history of the 19th century symphony can do without analysis you

music analysis, Brahms, Symphony, Musicology, Julian Horton, Durham
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