Music is powerful because sounds create involuntary reactions. There is also a difference between hearing and listening: hearers do not attempt to perceive accurately the structure and details of form, only the melody is heard. Listeners concentrate their attention upon the form deals and structure. They listen for content.

The elements of music are beat and meter, dynamics, key, harmony, melody, instruments and voice, and notation. Beats are essentially the rhythm, the temporal relationship of sounds with perception controlled by the accent or stress on given notes and duration. Meter refers to how the beats are grouped together into patterns. This creates tempo, the speed at which a composition is played. Presto is very fast; allegro is fast; andante is at a walking pace; moderato is at a moderate pace; and lento or largo is slow. Dynamics are the marks that tell the musician loudness and softness of the music. (piano=soft, forte=loud; pianissimo or fortissimo) Crescendo is the gradual building to loudness. Decrescendo is the building down.  Contrast allows the listener to explore the ranges and sounds. Harmony is the sounding of tones simultaneously. A chord is a group of notes sounded together that has a specific relationship to a given key. It is useful for establishing cadences, which are progressions to resting points that release tensions.  Melody comes in when a group of notes are played 1 after another, having a perceptible shape with a beginning, middle, and end. A theme is a melody that undergoes significant modifications. A motive is the briefest intelligible and self-contained fragment or unit of a theme. Counterpoint refers to the playing of 1 or more motives, themes, or melodies against each other. It implies the independence of simultaneous melodic lines. Key or tone refers to a sound that has 1 definite frequency or is dominated by 1 definite frequency. Most music is composed of a succession of tones, and patterns are heard because of the ability to hear tones and remember them as they are played in succession. There are also subordinated or related tones. Consonance is when 2 or more tones sounded simultaneously with a pleasing result, which can develop with familiarity. Dissonance is an unpleasant sound caused when 2 or more tones sounded; the most powerful are achieved with notes close to one another in a pitch sounded simultaneously. The instruments or the voice are what is playing the music. We may not think of it as such, but our voice is an instrument. The categories of instruments are percussions, strings, woodwinds, brass, and keyboards. Notation refers to the system of recording the notes, rhythm, meter, etc of a piece of music.

Music creates feelings, which are composed of sensations, emotions, passions, and moods. Any internal or external awareness of a sense organ being stimulated is a sensation. Emotions are strong sensations felt as related to a specific or apparent stimulus. Passions are emotions elevated to great intensity. Moods are sensations that arise from no specific or apparent stimulus. The power of sound to evoke feelings has been recognized by the philosophers of art. Feelings are heightened when a tendency to respond is arrested or inhibited. It may be that musical structures possess more than a general resemblance to the structures possess more than a general resemblance to the structures of feelings. Music has the capacity to clarify nuances of a feeling. Music evokes feelings and reveals their structure.

There are 2 theories of music: Formalism and Expressionism. Formalists (Eduard Hanslick and Edmund Gurney) deny the connection between music and nonmusical situations. The apprehension of the tonal structures of music are made possible by a unique musical faculty that produces a unique and wondrous effect, different form feelings. The grasp of the form of music is intrinsically valuable, and they deny music has subject matter, which means music has no content and its form has no revelatory meaning. The simpler theory is the Expressionist theory, which says that music evokes feelings and we should experience the same emotions as the composer.

Sound might also be though of as the subject matter of music. The form gives insight into sounds and the tonal relationships. A composition written mainly in 1 scale is said to be in the key that bears the name of the tonic/tonal center of the piece. The most familiar musical structures are based on repetition, which is important because of the serial nature of the medium. Especially since the 17th century, music was usually presented with a clear statement of the theme to be varied. This is sometimes varied so that we have a full understanding, and then modifications follow. If the theme is not carefully perceived when stated, the listener will have little chance of hearing how variations that relate to the theme.

In a rondo, the first section or refrain will include the melody and the development of that melody. Then, after a contrasting section or episode with a different melody, the refrain is repeated. Some early episodes occasionally are repeated as well. A fugue is a specialized structure of counterpoint that developed in the 17th and 18th centuries. It is closely connected with Bach’s Art of Fugue, and most feature a melody or statement, set forth clearly at the beginning of the composition, usually with the first note of the tonic of its key, then again with the 5th note of that key. They emerge and recede as episodes of contrasting material intervene, and form a repetitive structure. The sonata form was fully developed in the 18th century. The overall structure is A-B-A, where the letters symbolize the main parts of the composition. The 1st A is the exposition with a statement of the main theme of the tonic keys of the composition and a secondary theme or themes in the dominant key. The melody not repeated but developed. Full development happens in the B section. The themes are played in closely related keys. The 2nd A recapitulates the basic material and reveals the resources of melodic material.

A symphony is usually a 4 movement structure often employing the sonata form for the opening and closing movements.  A Fantasia was a favorite of romantic composers, especially in the period of 1830-1900, when they began working with structures looser than in earlier periods. It is impressionistic, vague, and the word “fantasia” is helpful as a descriptor. It implies fancy or imagination, and not a stable structure. It offers stability in terms of a recognizable melody of a singable quality, but then often shifts to material that is less identifiable and tonally certain and harmonically secure. There is a succession of motives, or brief musical units, presented without regard for predetermined order or controls of some sort.

A symphony is considered to be one of the highest developments in the history of instrumental music. It is flexible in its structure, with the “sounding together,” or development of harmonious structures important. It changes from the Baroque through the Romantic (16th-early 20th centuries), and usually depends on the thematic development. It is a large structure with 3-4 movements with flexible relationships, and was the preferred method until the 20th century of following conventional patterns of tempo throughout. There are contrasts of tempos, dynamics and variations in length.

Music today is filled with various genres and sub-genres, but all follow the basic forms and ideas laid out here, whether it’s rap, country, heavy metal, or pop (or something else).




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