Exercise : Impressionism, Rhythm and Pitch
Debussy – Jeux (1912)
I enjoyed this immensely. There seemed to be an intensity from the outset with rapid changes creating interest throughout the piece.
As I listened to the piece I found that the rapid changes contributed to the piece having a somewhat playful element to it, although there were slower parts to it. The words that sprang to mind during listening were: curiosity, naughtiness, drama, mischief. I believe this to be an overall joyful piece. This rapidity suits ballet in my eyes, rapid moving sections, with grateful elements. Colour wise I felt that the whole piece had a brightness to it, so I would seek out the lighter colours on the colour wheel, conveying a sense of playfulness. This playfulness was the flutes picking out the top notes in rapid succession and also some of the strings playing the higher strings. There were some darker elements to the piece on hearing the brass there was a sense of urgency, or considering the playfulness of the piece maybe that is where the curiosity appears and we head towards a darker tone.
I am very intrigued by this piece and am going to see if I can find a piece online where the ballet is performed and see how well I have got there idea of this piece and use this part of my reflection for Assignment 2.
Stravinsky – The Rite of Spring (1913)
I was not entirely keen on this piece and it did not have the effect own me that Debussy had.
The piece was interesting stylistically and darker than the previous piece. The words that sprung to mind were – fraught, intensity, edgy, bleak. This was a slower piece than Debussy but did pick up I places. Chords built up to crescendos and usually involved some intense percussion. When hearing the percussion I heard drama and I found it so intense. Some parts I felt were echoing a chase of some sorts, so there was some tension throughout the piece. The bi tonality was interesting and I thought that it sounded like there were more strings in the piece than there actually were. The duet between the cor angles and alto flute was again a darker piece.
Overall this was an intensely dramatic piece and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought that I would.
Schoenberg -Pierrot Lunaire (1913)
This was my first ever listen of Sprechstimme and I have to admit that I loved it from the outset especially in the context of this work with the German so perfectly ennuciated. I found it engaging from the start. The sets were definitely different, with the movements completely different across the whole piece. The first set seemed to veer from light and airy to mildly dramatic with vocals gentle in places almost quite in one movement and ending dramatically. The middle set was much darker, fraught and intense, somehow questioning. With piano and cello taking a more central stage here. Set three is lighter again but not as light as the first set we heard, there is a little intensity but towards the conclusion that eases.
I really enjoyed this piece and have decided to see if I can find a translation and use this as my reflection in Assignment Two.
At the outset of this exercise, if I had not been told that these three pieces were all written within a year of one another I would never have believed you so different were they from one another. My favourite of the three is the Debussy one but I must admit I did enjoy listen to Schoenberg. Stravinsky’s piece not so much. The differences as I see them are as follows:-
- Debussy and Stravinsky used a full orchestra whereas Schoenberg used a chamber orchestra.
- Schoenberg added voice, Sprechstimmer style, whereas Debussy and Stravinsky had no voice.
- Debussy gave a light, cheerful feeling throughout the piece, whereas Stravinsky’s piece came across as dark and Schoenberg was a mixture of the both.
- Debussy more vibrant and suited to dance.
- Stravinsky had a dark intensity to it that I do not think would work with dance.
- Schoenberg – I felt that this music could probably be suited to dance with the narrator to the side of the stage where they could be seen but not be in the way of the performers.
- Debussy used the playfulness of the flute and the strings to convey the lightness of the score.
- Stravinsky used the full percussive elements available to him and went all out for the dark and dramatic using every part of the orchestra for effect
- Schoenberg used the small chamber orchestra and drew on instrument ranges to convey emotions
- Debussy had rapid changes of music, Stravinsky was more consistent and Schoenberg used a motif based piece with just indications on the score of the pitch.