MUS 202 Skyline College The Firebird Summary Essay There are 4 viedos, There are some big pieces here but, I’ve only asked for you to listen to selected sections … nothing more than 10 minutes at any one time. Please listen to them and write a brief summary/commentary for EACH example about what you are hearing/seeing. How does this music make you feel? … and why? CSM week #4: Listening Examples for Music 202
The 20th Century: Stravinsky and Holst (read prelude to Part 6 and chapter 46)
1-”The Firebird-Part 2 (Finale)” (L’oiseau de Feu)-1910 by Igor Stravinsky (Russian
composer) … a concert version performed by Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor) and
The San Francisco Symphony (in 2008) … the first of 3 monumental ballet scores done
by Stravinsky for the Paris Ballet. In this piece, we hear an enormous orchestra play
very much in the Romantic style … melodic and beautiful but, with drastic contrasts in
dynamics, texture, instrumentation, tempo and a harmonic approach that is pure 20th
century … takes your breath away!
2-”The Rite of Spring” (Le Sacre du Printemps)-1913 by Igor Stravinsky, this was the
third of the ballets done for the Paris ballet and the most controversial (the second one
being, “Petrushka”-1911) … subtitled, “Scenes of Pagan Russia”, this performance
begins at 4:05 with conductor’s entrance and audience applause … then, hang on! A
full ballet production including, a large pit orchestra (shown in the introduction) and
fully staged choreography and costumes set to a type of modern music that had
never been heard before. It was so shocking that it caused a riot at it’s premiere …
even going out into the streets! The orchestra’s Introduction sets the scene of the
beginning and eventual explosion of Springtime in the harsh, Russian landscape. The
bassoon solo, beginning and ending the introduction, quotes a Russian folk song, in the
highest register and seems to strain, representing the awaking of the Earth in Spring.
Other brief melodic fragments of folk tunes come and go with solos passed around to
various instruments. Varying textures and timbres abound! … It is both beautiful yet,
sometimes unstable and dissonant sounding too. At 7:55, we come to the first of 3
scenes which I want you to watch: “Dances of Young Girls” … again, short, disjointed
musical fragments come and go with the strings juxtaposed into violent, harsh, rhythmic
dissonances. Every move is set to something in the music. At 11:02 we come to a
short, quick section titled, “Game of Abduction”. Again, quick rhythms and short,
disjointed solos mark this active section … like a chase scene. At 12:14, we come to
my favorite section, “Spring Round Dances”. It starts with trills in the strings and
woodwinds and a folk melody being played by E flat clarinet and bass clarinet (an odd
pairing considering their enormous size and pitch-range difference) … very effective and
mysterious though. Then, low pulsating strings along with low woodwinds and french
horns set the pallet for folk-like melodic fragments interjected by oboe and then violins.
As the dynamics build, the melody becomes more strident and dissonant, leading us
into the next section, “Games of Rival Tribes” at 15:19 … you may stop here (or go
on if you’re intrigued!).
3-”Symphonies of Wind Instruments”-1920 by Igor Stravinsky. Performed by The
London Symphony Orchestra (woodwinds and brass sections only), conducted by
Pierre Boulez (looks like late 1970’s or early 80’s). This piece relies on the true
meaning of the word, symphonies or “families” of instruments. Contains a full brass
section and large woodwind section with some unusual additions including, alto flute,
alto clarinet, and english horn. Short, stabbing melodic fragments are offset with brass
chorales, with those sections coming back to repeat throughout. In between are
episodes where the instruments are used in “families of like kinds” … that is, all of the
double reeds, all of the flutes, all of the clarinets, etc … even a nice, interesting duet
between the alto flute and the alto clarinet. Stravinsky was a master orchestrator and
new how to use every instrument in the orchestra to it’s full advantage. The piece finally
ends with a beautiful chorale that, again, leaves you breathless.
4-”The Planets”-1918 by Gustav Holst (English composer) performed by the Warsaw
Philharmonic Orchestra (Poland). A suite in 7 movements using an enormous
orchestra, sought to give a sense of the personality of each planet in our solar system
(except for Earth, and Pluto which had not been discovered yet!). The only
programmatic suggestions are the subtitles of each movement. I would like you to listen
to two: 1-Mars, The Bringer of War (0:35-8:00) and 4-Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity (22:3031:08). Mars is heavy, dark, in an odd meter of 5, mysterious, scary, ominous, full of
drastic dynamic changes and rich timbres. Jupiter brings a quicker, lighter mood. Very
rich in melody, a deep sense of the cosmos and the stars dancing in the heavens. The
middle section brings us a sense of hope and longing for home with a well-known
English tune set in a dramatic chorale style, only to bounce off into the heavens again to
end the movement. This music should remind you of John Williams and score for
“Star Wars”. This was probably his biggest influence. Even the second movement
Venus, The Bringer of Peace starts off with the first four notes of “Luke’s theme” (the
heroic theme, but at a slower tempo here … that cannot be a coincidence, right?
Skywalker and his pals were fighting against the “Dark side” and trying to bring “Peace”
to the galaxy). Brilliant use of borrowing a theme and “skeleton” of an idea by Williams
… it just shows the power of suggestion and emotion that music can bring, if you let it
come inside you and not push those feelings away …
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