MUSIC 110 - Music in Cultural Contexts

Maisie Sum, Kate Steiner

Estimated reading time: 66 minutes

Table of contents

Lec 1 - Jan 7th



  • IC: in class
  • AC: after class

Concert review

The concert program must be handed with the assignment

Timeline project


Group activity

Lec 2 - Jan 9th

Gamelan Workshop.


Lec 3 - Jan 14th

Develop tools

Is Music a Universal Language?

A Distorition of the World

Let’s look at the world map. We can even flip the map. What’s in the center? Europe.

There are so many ways to categorize music: General, use or function, culture, genre and style.

and Musical Features: Acoustic vs Electonic. Less cultural bound.

music and Music

music: the music you enjoy, seek out, identify with …

Music: the entire phenomenon of human intentional sound production, the whole humanizing complex…

To love music is to affirm your place in the world, to feel confident and connected within it. To love Music is to try to experience this through others, and thus get perspective on both ourselves and our fellow humans.

A Triparitite Model for Musical Study

Venn diagram:

  • Concept: how people think about music
  • Behaviour and Context: tangible activities associated with a performance
  • Sound: the music “itself”
    • Musical instruments
    • Musical aspects: rhythm, melody, dynamics
    • Different kinds of compositions or structures for music

Musical Aspects


Dynamics: loudness or softness of sound

Tempo: the speed at which music is (or should be) played

Rhythm: the orgnization of sounds in time

Timbre: The distinctive sound of an instrument or voice

Texture: sonic layers; the way in which musical sounds are combined

Melody: the “tune” in music; comprises a sequence of notes muving in a particular shape

Musical Form: the structural orgnization of a piece of music; involves repetition, variation, and contrast

See listening response worksheet, which requires to be filled when listening the music. So we are required to memorize, understand and apply.

Lec 4 - Jan 16th

HW - Listening: twinkle twinkle little star

truncate the phrase and find the beat.


How can we know about time? That’s how it’s different from other arts.

defn: change in time that we measure.

  • Unmeasured rhythm: approximately mearsure, change the sound without beat, according the the breath of the performer. Rely on the rest/feeling of the person. Up to musician to feel that piece. Not too surprisingly, if we listen to them several times, we might feel it is measured since our body have the tendency to feel the beat of it and measure it.
  • Measured rhythm: we can measure changing sounds more precisely when we entrain them. In entrainment we synchronize with puslations.

Instrument Classification

if we classify them based on the primary sound-producing medium:

  • Chordophone: like guitar. Sound produced by bowing or plucking. Involving chords, strings.
  • Aerophone: like flute, harmonica. Sounds produced by blowing.
  • Membranophone: like drum. Sound produced by striking a stretched material over a hollow object.
  • Idiophone: Sound produced by striking, shaking, waving a solid object. An idiophone is any musical instrument that creates sound primarily by the instrument as a whole vibrating—without the use of strings or membranes.
  • Electrophone: sound involving electricity.

We start from Bali in essence.

Aural Analysis - Balinese Gamelan

Idiophone, Membranophone, Aerophone. Makes the sound more dense, thick textures.

shimmering effect. The entire gamelan is tuned to the same beating. If not, then they need to be tuned.

Key Aesthetic: Ombak (wave)

  • paired-tuning
  • gong

Five-Tone Selisir Tuning

  • nIng 1
  • nOng 2
  • nEng 3
  • nUng 5
  • nAng 6

Gong marks the essential structural of the piece.

Key Features

  1. Gong cycle/pattern: use gong to mark the beginning and important points. Bring the music together.
  2. Stratification: layering of instrumental parts in increasing density. Usually in ratio, 2:1, 4:1.
  3. Interlocking: Rhythmically complementary parts played by pairs of musicians that combine to form a single pattern. One melody line shared by two people.
    • like one in upbeat, one in downbeat (onbeat).
    • sometimes it’s hard for one person to play due to its complex patterns.

Lec 5 - Jan 21st

Review: Instrument Classification

Leon Theremin: invented Theremin in 1920

The dancing cockatoo is demonstrating an example of measured rhythm since the music is measured and it is trying to keep the beat… This has some relation with neuroscience…

We ended talking about stratification: idea of layering.

Interlocking - Kotekan (continued)

Gangsa: polos, sangsih: basic, main one, the key (onbeat); the one that follows (upbeat). (note here the beat pattern here is not always the case.)

Reyong: plays on upbeat, downbeat.

The texture is polyphony or herophony (different ways, but we don’t need to go into details, lots of debate on this).

Concept - how people think about music

Uses are practical and experimental: to put a baby to sleep, to teach children the alphabet and … slowly engrained in our bodies. Use the music for particular reason.

Red Ant Medicineway Ceremony: use music for healing.

There’s a time and a place for each use… For most uses music seems to be a force for good but it has a darker side, too. (to torture (one course here PAC, music and torture, in wars.))

Merriam’s ten functions of music

Memorize them ..

  1. Emotional Expression (can convey feelings or ideas - for example in a horror movie the music will follow certain characteristics to intensify the “fear”)
  2. Communication (music has specific rules like language that follow things like syntax. in our theory class when constructing phrases we referred to them as questions and answers)
  3. Symbolic Representation
  4. Enforcing Conformity to Social Norms
  5. Validation of Social Institutions and Religious Rituals (many cultures of institutions have a song that embodies part of their individaul culture -fight song)
  6. Contributes to the continuity and stability of culture
  7. contribution to the integration of society
  8. aesthetic enjoyment
  9. entertainment
  10. physical response (listening to fast-paced, upbeat music helps runners to run at a quicker pace)

Src: quizlet the order is slightly different from the one in the lecture.

To consider the use and what is trying to fulfil. Functions are symbolic by nature.

  • Indonesia is the largest Islamic nation in the world, both geographically and in terms of population
  • Bali is the only province in which Hinduism is the major region (85% - 90%)

Some regions are not tight with rituals.

Balinese Hindu cosmology conceives of the universe as having three worlds:

  • Upper World: gods and ancestors
  • Middle World: humans and earthly creature
  • Lower World: malevolent spirits

Calendar is also fancy. each month 35 days, different cycles. Sometimes, certain days are aligned with these type of worlds above. Complex tradition. The music is also categorized in this way.

Typical Village Temple

Every village has a temple. Each temple has an anniversary date which needs celebrating, honoring. Also, human activities can take place here.

Kaja - north. Kelod - south.

Foot of sacred mountain has a big tempo.

Also, family temple. A piece of land, outer gate. E

Some examples:

  • Constructing a taring (a make-shift shelter)
  • making satay sticks under the taring
  • women making offerings

People do these things in groups, typically not alone.

suka duka: happy together, sad together

gotong royong: the pratice of mutual help

Last month is the most intensive, lots of work. Family temple anniversary. When you have a group of people coming to help, you provide food and materials (like bamboos).

Overlapping sonorities at Temple Anniversary: short video. Quite interesting for tourists.

Use of Music

During a Balinese Hindu Ceremony

  • to generate energy and strength for activities
  • to set and adjust the mood and energy flow
  • to contribute to the overall sense of rame
  • to signify the progression of events -> specific music heard at each stage
  • as an offering to the gods and spirits (i.e., music mediates between the three worlds)

Art for Art’s Sake

President opens a Bali arts festival

Gong Kebyar Competition

Each group represents a particular region. Clap for sth good, boo (or throw tomatoes) for sth bad. You need to have strong performance. They practice about 3-4 months…

The spirit of community and interction are highly valued in Bali. Ritual and musical activities are symbols of communal interdependence.

Lec 6 - Jan 23rd

Gamelan Performaces

  • Time: don’t last all 7 days. last for an hour - 2 (tour performance). Live performance is changing now due to TV and social media.
  • Setting: always outdours. Dressed nicely, dressed in the same way.
  • Sponsors. Hotel, village.
  • Program: depend on context, like tour performance, more exciting, fast tempo. E.g. welcome dance. Typical opening pieces. Also sending off piece. Usually, gong cycle. Sometimes, it’s improvised to some circumstances.
  • Participants: women, men, children. Separated by ages, gender.
  • Audiences: like villagers.

Still thriving. Women are also participating.

Transmission Process


  • No private study: watch learn, imitate, memorize, assimilate.
  • Anyone may study if they have access to instruments (e.g. village gamelan). Not all have access. In fact, they are kept in community hall: open, one wall, pillars. There’s stage.
  • Some competition to join village ensemble; to join collectives; all members have access to teachers/composers.
  • Intensive collective practice; rote imitation, vaisual or aural (mallet as teacher). You watch, learn, then correct themselves.
  • Learn by doing: procedural, passive knowledge -> no formal school and minimal theory.
  • Benifits: Artistic standard. cultural refinement, socialization, achivement, religious and civic pride.


  • Private study from young age
  • Anyone with means may study; those with talent succeed
  • Competition for limite places in teachers’ studios
  • Intensive practise regimen
  • Formalized system of declarative knowledge; teacher encourages student’s individuality
  • Benifits; Artistic standard, cultural refinement, personal achivement. Similar to Bali.

Musical Roles

Lead drummer. Lots of communication happening between instruments.

Goal: to contribute a sense of oneness. Sounds like one instrument.

unified musical expression.

unison (not pitches): “The music and musicians must breathe together; they must menjiwai gending: feel the soul of the music as one” (Tenzer).

Lec 7 - Jan 28th

Now let’s take a look at an example.

Ndraje Balendro, Initiation Song. Horn Ensemble

  • Antelope horn and tree-trunk orchestra of the Banda-Linda people
  • Central African Republic
  • Recorded by ethnomusicologist Simha Arom, ca. 1970

What can we say about it? multiple parts

  • polyphonic
  • polyrhymic

sounds irregular. In fact, it’s very systematic. Every person knows what they need to play.

Overall, they are improvised. They learn from childhood. They are learning stock patterns in their childhood but they are not memorizing it. Deeply engrained, learn from this gradual process. Sth not declared, but pick these things up learning from the people.

Encultruration: is the process by which people learn the dynamics of their surrounding culture and acquire values and norms appropriate or necessary in that culture and worldviews. (from wiki)

Improvised: as mentioned above

Measured: details below

12 pulses or beats: always grouped into 3 or 4. Since you have polyrhymic, you can easily group them by 3 or 4.

Multi-track recordings: He recorded whole thing. Then ask one person to sing his part. Now one melody line. Then ask another person sing based on previous melodic lines. By doing this, music is not chaotic. Though sounds irregular. This is actually a fascinating project.

This is kinda intro to everything.

CASE STUDY I - Music of the BaAka People

“Makala” BaAka People, Central African Republic

Forest people. Pygmy. Sounds of nature, crickets, washing their clothes, echoes. Uniting these sounds. Hunt together as part of their culture. African music, you can see lots of drums, since these materials are all available to them.

An album: CAMEROON - Baka Pygmy Music (Field Recordings by Siha Arom and Patrick Renaud)

uses and functions: What’s the use, how to fulfil the function? Uses here are pratical reasons, purposes. However, functions are very symbolic.

Concept and Social Context for BaAka Music

  1. Pleasure. E.g. “The Humming of Bees”. Water drum is also an example.
  2. Moral and spiritual education, guidance. Learn through education, guidance through life. E.g. “Orycterope and Pangolin”
  3. Ritual contexts. Someone is ill, then there’s ceremony for that.

Behaviour and Context for “Makala”

  • Who? Everyone has access to making music. All BaAka people. Drums often for men.
  • Where? Villages, outdoors. refer to the readings Locke, “The BaAka People Singing ‘Makala’,” 134–144.
  • How? sit around, and particular procedure.
  • When? Evening time.

Learning Makala (with Michele Kisliuk)

Seize the Dance

Lec 8 - Jan 30th


  1. The BaAka people consitute one of many groups of:
    • Hunter and gatherers of the equatorial African forest
  2. Which statement is true about music among the Forest people in Central Africa like BaAka?
    • Being a musician is open to all
  3. What aspects of BaAka people singing make it challenging to study?
    • There are multiple parts, interwoven rhythms, continuous improvised variation
  4. What concepts are associated with BaAka music, in particular singing? Name three social contexts discussed in class.
    • Music is made for pleasure and leisure, to teach moral and spiritual education and provide guidance, for specific ritual occasions.

CASE STUDY II - Brazilian Capoeira

Martial arts. Musician standing around the circle. Participants: mostly male. There are different schools there. The uniforms (t-shirts) are identity of who they are, where they belong to. They are loyal to their masters.

History: where the music comes from: people from Africa. group of people who are not treated as humans, colonizers want to get powers/lands. European powers split into different parts in world. They came to this land, they learnt land is good for agriculture. Initially, it was indigenous people. However, people die from some diseases. So they need some people from Africa. So they bring different music tradition. These Brazil colonizers are Portugueses. Runaway slaves. People come from different African culture.

Example: Capoeira (clip from slave to the Rhythm). martial arts is used to defend themselves. The tempo increases slightly. Intensify with the dancing. The moves become more dramatic. Interactions between music and dance. There’s leader who control/maintain the intensity of the music.

What do they do before going to the circle? They bow. Formality before combat. You recognized each other. Also, there are different phases.


berimbau: 1 string. You can change the sound by hitting/striking.

Three berimbau in an ensemble

  • low: basic pattern
  • middle: complementary pattern
  • high: ornamentation, improv


  • 1–&3-4- (low- -low low- slap)

Other instruments - steady groove

Voice - primary melody (Portugueses)

Key features

  • call-and-response
  • polyrhymic texture
  • dynamic level typically constant
  • gradual increase in tempo
  • rhythmic complexity and density increase with increasing intensity

Be familiar with the listening guide.

Performance Process

  • space: Context in gym. Can be in school. You can find Capoeira competition everywhere.
  • participants: Men and women can both participate. Things changed in last decade.
  • formality: bow before
  • 3 section
  • music-dance interaction

    refer to the readings…

Example: Ginga - Capoeira. Move you leg back, move arm and … don’t cover eyes, remain eye contacts, look at each other.

People/music/tradition is not frozen. In this class, we are going to think question in different ways. As a musician, you might carry these ideas from you.

katajja & Tanya Tagaq

The sounds are artefact of culture. The concepts behind that is not changed.

Concept and Context for katajja

men hunt. women stay at home. They play this together: throat singing. People also do this as lullaby. There could also be some meaning tied to that. Also, sounds of snow blowing.

  • Traditional performance
  • new performance: modernized. Politically motivated.

Lec 9 - Feb 4th

continue from last class… Tanya Tagaq, her music is not traditional. Her music is open possiblities to ask about: where does the sound come from? So, she says that this is the way that people can learn more. Let’s listen to Demo by Inuit sisters Karin and Kathy Kettler (Northern Quebec, Canada).

From They are Inuit throat singner and drum dancer. Competition between girls while men in hunting. Half second off each other. Comes from voices, throats, breathing. Part of culture they from, very unique. Oral tradition, cannot learn from written down notes.

Another video: The sounds of Throat Singing (Tangya Tagaq).

small examples. Deep part from exhalation. Difficult, you need to learn how to displace the notes from high to low. Make deep sounds going in. Hard to teach yourself, you need to learn for a while.

Another video: Polaris Prize 2014. Canadian prize, best album. She won this prize by this album: Animism. You can get a sense of her performance style.

Comparison between katajja and Tanya



  • dynamic range narrow
    • steady
  • low range
    • voice
      • deep/high
      • raspy (harsh, grating)
      • guttural (喉音)
      • growl
      • sighs
      • breathing
  • rhythm
    • controal by breath
    • inhale/exhale + lips
  • interaction: call-and-response


  • pitch ranger - wider
  • dynamic range - wider
  • voices + strings
    • choir support
    • drums

Other uses for katajja

except for games (base on rules) …

  • used it as a way for women to pass time: men went hunting. To provide entertainment, for enjoyment
  • tell stories.
  • as a lullaby. sing babies to sleep.

Social Context


  • concerns with loss
  • desire to preserve traditional elements

    not surprising from a group of people who are still struggling against assimilation.

fear, people not understand this music. They ban lots of things that they don’t understand.


  • embodiment of cultural empowerment. Attract people to dig further in this culture.
  • an evolving art
  • way (for youth) to connect with roots.

Hey, this is a set of review questions.

  1. Which culture is katajja from? Inuit.
  2. The sounds of katajja imitate every below except
    • icy sleds on snow
    • the wind
    • the forest
    • animals
  3. The traditional style of katajja is based on rules. TRUE. (should be in the previous notes… I’ll add them later.) So this is similar to staring contest: both should stare each other’s eye for a long time, the person who blink first fails. The rules here is one starts first, and the other one comes later, holding one note. One who gets his breath broken fails.

Extra Src Reading: Inuit Folk Music Traditions in Greenland

Several Inuit traditional games revolve around song as well, including hide-and-seek, string game, juggling and rhymes and riddles. The katajjaq tradition is also popular; this is a vocal competition between two women, standing facing each other. They sing song, using throat-singing and reproducing animal cries or other sounds. Katajja is a game, but is often banned because both women begin laughing.

In addition to the drum dance and game song, Greenlandic Inuit have a tradition of piseq (piserk, personal song) songs. These are expressive, superstitious, spiritual or narrative and may be composed for drum dances. Piseq and other vocal traditions aside from songs games include a series of patterns and tones, which vary depending on the social setting of the performance. For instance, a soft vocal tone is used both for character demonstration in a narrative song and for personal songs in private settings. Many songs use only a few real words, scattered among series vocals, or non-lexical syllables like ai-ya-yainga. Inuit songs are strophic and mostly use six distinct pitches; written and melodic themes are common. A song’s word length and prominence determines the rhythm, giving the songs a recitative-like pattern.

  1. katajja was preserved early European priests who settled in Northern Canada. FALSE. (since it is banned)

and for Capoeira…

  1. which is the primary instrument of Capoeira? - berimbau
  2. Name three parts of the instrument.
    • shape like music bows
    • string, coin, gourd, stick, rattle

Pictures from Emily Gao

  1. According to your text, what is the origin of Capoeira?
    • A dance form that enslaved Africans brought with tme to Brazil. (They evolved to a martial arts, want to disguise the martial art for European. So it’s not true.)
    • A martial arts form created by enslaved Africans for protection. Initial origin.

Music in Everyday life

new topic.


  • night sounds (Bali)
  • Pounding rice - Manobo Women, Phillippines
  • Muezzin call, Marrakesh

Music associated with “life’s periodicities”

  • hours of the day: work song, reveille, lullabies
  • seasons: from rain dances to surfing and sledding songs
  • religious calendars: rits, holidays and festivals
  • stages of growth/life cycle: childhood, becoming an adult (initiation), marriage, death

Music in life cycle

  • Birth or early life
  • Initiation
  • Marriage music
  • Death Rites

CASE STUDY I: Early life & Childhood - Lullabies

What are soem cross-cultural features of lullabies?

  • slow, calm, repetitive

Lec 10 - Feb 6th

CASE STUDY I: Early life & Childhood - Lullabies

What are soem cross-cultural features of lullabies? (recall from last class)

  • slow, calming, repetitive

Example: “Arao Ariraro” south Indian lullaby

We can think of how melody descend. How do we use lullabies? form of communication, sth specific: stop crying… It might have specific meaning to words. Does the lyrics mean anything? No, they are vocables. Often, physical motion is associated to that.

From slides:

  • higher range than other songs
  • greater internal repetition
  • incorporate vocables within texts
  • slow tempo
  • sung in combination with rocking motion
  • lullabies and rocking provide a good example of musical entrainment (i.e., alignment of body motion during musical experience)
  • Entrainment can help regularize motion and modify a person’s physical state

Everyone has sth to contribute to the music or dance. Social binding.

Another ex: “Amba Nilambari” (19th C). This piece is composed using same scales.


  • tambura
  • then flute comes in.
  • often accompanied with mridangam always has a melodic line instrument.

Behaviour & Context: On what occasions or situations and in what spaces is Arao Ariraro or Raga Nilambari sung or played?

Melody that is capable to put children to sleep. In that sense, if you hear that, you will associate it with that particular culture. Another piece has similar correlation: put gods to sleep.

This is another instrument: nagasvaram: played in temple.

Concept: What are some uses of Araro Ariraro? What functions do the uses fulfill?

  • if you look at the translation of the text (in the listening guide), there are some connections/communications happening.

Sound: Key Elements - Raga and Tala


  • collection of pitches or notes (like a melodic scale) and more (i.e. contour, mood, associations with situations, ornamentation, phrase: certain pitches are played together, in a group).

Sargam notation: sa ri ga ma pa dha ni sa

Raga Nilambari: ascending/descending patterns (details omitted)

There are some rules associated to ascending/descending patterns when ornamentating, or improvising, like skipping some pitches.


  • rhythms and time cycle used in South Indian music

Adi tala (8-beat cycle subdivided into: 4+2+2)

1   2       3       4       5   6   7   8
C   pinky   ring    middle  C   W   C   W

See video on learn how people keep timing: Amba Nilambari. Keeping Tala.

Music in Daily Life - the Workday

Case Study II: Postal Workers Cancelling Stamps

Ghana: Map indicates distinct cultural groups

They have categorized into 6 different groups or six musical clusters.


  • created from work sounds: cancelling
  • sounds not related to the work (done for rhthymic interest)
    • several slaps
    • repeated thuds
    • multiple cancellations

Example: Postal Workers Canceling Stamps

some backgrounds:

  • they have interaction with European people…

Behaviour and Context


  • maintain a workflow, keeps going, make things enjoyable.


Musical analysis.

What’s the point?

toward participation and understanding. Sometimes it sounds chaotic, since we don’t know where it begins. If we slow down, we the know the structure of it. But the people from the culture know these. Participate into music making, then you understand the structure it.

According to Locke, the significance of musical analysis

  • effective path toward active involvement for an outsider
  • bridge into the musical style of another culture

Caveat: use analytical tools with caution, music not a lifeless object - for many Africans music is (Amoaku 1985:37)

a living thing ensouled by the spiritual energy that travels through it

Summary: Generalizations of African Music Culture

How do the postal workers’ music exemplify widely shared characteristics of African music culture?

  1. Beliefs and Values
  2. Music-making events
  3. Expression in many media
  4. History
  5. Musical Style (e.g., “cencelling stamps”)
  6. Participation
  7. Training
  8. Intercultural Misunderstanding

Lec 11 - Feb 11st

Review, part 2

Mystery excerpts (not on Playlist) will be played.

It’s clearly gamelan.

  • distinct timbre of bronze instruments.
  • stratification: layer of instruments in increasing density. (lower pitch instrument has less dense rate, say 2 beat, higher pitch plays 4 times every beat)
  • gong cycle: recurring deep low pitched sound, and it’s very round sound.
  • interlocking - we hear higher pitched instruments play at high tempo.

Review, part 1

  • Title: Amba Nilambari
  • Country/Region/Culture of origin: India (South)
  • Makers/creators/composer: Pillai
  • Context in which it was written/performed/use: lullaby. raga (required more details here instead of just saying ‘scale’).
  • function + explanation: memorize the 10. Then apply those to these uses.
  • identifying musical feature + instrument:
    • starts with tambura, the drone layer
    • then flute comes in, which is the soloist.
    • typical of south Indian music (three layers):
      • soloist, melodic layer.
      • drone layer
      • drum, rhthymic layer
      • They don’t come in the same order.


  1. The melodic layer. This layer is comprised of a melodic soloist, and melodic accompanist. Although the voice is often used for the melody, other melodic instruments frequently used include the violin, vina (a large plucked lute), bansuri (a bamboo flute), nagasvaram (an oboe), and saxophone.
  2. A percussion layer. The most frequently used percussion instrument is a double-headed drum called the mridangam. Other percussion instruments include the tavil (a drum), a tambourine (kanjira), mouth harp (morsang) and a clay pot (the ghatam).
  3. The drone or sruti layer. The sruti layer is often played by a specialized instrument such as the tambura, a four-stringed plucked instrument with a buzzing timbre.
  • Title: Uja
  • Country/Region/Culture of origin: Inuit, Canada
  • Makers/creators/composer: Tanya Tagaq
  • Context in which it was written/performed/use: concert, creativity
  • function + explanation: political statement, contribute to the culture
  • identifying musical feature + instrument: throat singing (exhaling and inhaling)

  • Title: Postal Workers Cancelling Stamps
  • Country/Region/Culture of origin: Ghana, West Africa
  • Makers/creators/composer: Postal Workers at the University of Ghana
  • Context in which it was written/performed/use:
    • passing the time
    • help with the workflow
  • function + explanation:
    • entertainment
  • identifying musical feature + instrument:
    • whistle
    • stamping sound (work sounds)
    • polyrhythm

Lec 12 - Feb 13rd

Test 1. Check my review notes.

Lec 13 - Feb 25th

Classical music is dead. ? The limit.


  • usually defined in opposition to sth else
  • classical era refers to a specific Western music era 1730-1800
  • “Classic” connotes trend setting, universal appeal.

Think about classic literature. It must have some foundation aspect to some extent.

Pop Music or Classical Music?

  • Radiohead: Everything in its right place
  • Beethoven: Eroica

Western European Music

Pythagorean theory

Ancient mathematician (c. 570 - c. 495 BC)

pythagoras exploring harmony and ratio with various musical instrument

  • discover the ratios that govern harmony
  • creates the system of scale in the West
  • But the ratios don’t add up, requiring “equal-tempered” instrument

Metrical Rhythm

  • Based on the concept of the meter
    • A repeating pattern of equal length beats, usually with the emphasis on the first beat
  • Developed from the division of a single long note into two or three shorter notes of equal length


  • Determines pitches and harmonies
  • Allows for complex combo of different instrument
  • Transmits across generations
  • Developed as a memory aid for chant

Return back to question: What is at stake with the terms “pop” and “classical”?

Some inclass discussions…

Christoph Willibald Gluck, Orfeo ed Euridice 1774

Then fill the listening response sheet according to this recording.

Is Music a Universal Language?

Look up in these two articles on Learn: Is Music a Universal Language?

A classical kid learns to love pop-and wonders why he has to make a choice by Alex Ross.

  • Linda Shaver-Gleason says no
    • On two fronts: universal and language
  • language
    • language has specific semantic content: words have fixed meanings
  • universal
    • melody: Pythagorean theorem doesn’t solve
    • harmony: major and minor not straightforward

Geeting behind the claim: universal

  • common humanity
  • Innate Value to certain music
  • one system by which to evaluate music

Universals in Music

  • human body is musically inclined
  • All music utterances share basic traits
    • beginning and end, repetition and so on
  • Found in all societies

“Classical” Music has context

  • If music is not, then all music needs a text

Ross, “A classical kid…”: If you don’t know the ritual, then even paying the ticket, still not belong to here.

Concert Hall Ritual

  • Knowledge of the ritial allows you to belong to art society
  • Personal expression is avoided to allow the music to speak for itself
  • Formal attire gives respect to the event
  • Money is exchanged, but never seen

“Stab of intrusive otherness”: Eroica

Ross, “A classical kid…”

  • Classical music is dead, but music is alive to those who would listen
  • Classical music is created in a particular cultural context, but a little knowledge of the context can open the classical music world
  • Classical music maintains a distinct conversation that spans across generations and places
  • The invention of notation allows for the creation and transmission of long and complex music across centuries and continents

Lec 14 - Feb 27th

  • Dead white male composers
  • Music notation
  • String instruments
  • Ancient history

Methods of Defining Classical Music Cultrually

  • Recording industry marketing
  • Ritual of performance
  • Historical Era
  • Social Function
  • Means of Transmission
  • The Canon


  • Audience actions
    • Sitting
    • Clapping (but not whooping) for musicians as they enter
    • Silence before and during the music
    • Silence between movements or sets
    • Clapping afterwards
  • Space
    • Physical divider between listener and performer
    • All visual focus on performer
  • All wear formal attire

Classical Era Style (1730 - 1800)

played by instrument, you don’t view it as a song, but piece.

dance music.

shift dramatically: interllectural developments.


Rousseau: Universalism. Understand the orgin. If universal language, it should be universally understandable to everyone.


  • monophony: all singing same melody
  • homophony: memory with very basic accompany underneath
  • polyphony

  • Accessible, easy listening highly valued
    • Accessible: balanced, symmetrical phrases
    • Simply harmonies with clear dominant-tonic progressions
    • Simpler, primarily homophonic texture
  • Light, optimistic about the future, blurring of class distinctions
  • Focus on instrumental genres
    • Four movement symphony with clear forms
    • Four movement string quartet

Is Tonal Harmony a Language?

  • Each harmony has a function V->I. I is your home: begin and end at home in Classical era.
  • The changes are regular and predictable.
  • The beginning and ending is the same

Subversion of Functional Harmony

  • Lizzo, “Good as Hell”
  • I-V-vi

Haydn, String Quartet Op. 33 No. 2, finale (The “Joke”)

Listen to this piece and analyze the music elements: timbre, dynamics and so on. (in class discussions)

Side note: Opus, number is a way to number the piece. Look it up.

The reason why other people named it “Joke” is because its cadence: Make people feel it’s the end but it continues playing and so on so forth…

  • Rondo Form (ABACA form)
  • Harmonic language is tonal
    • Slow and clear harmonic changes
    • Dominant-tonic move is most important
  • Melody in the top part (violin)
    • Homophony: other strings accompany
  • Metre is very clear and regular
    • Rhythms clearly articulate the metre
  • Regular, predictable phrase lengths

Now let’s consider Merriam’s ten functions of music. We kinda could not get a clear distincition between aesthetic enjoyment and entertainment, they might happen at the same time.

How is Classical Music Learned? Notation, Formal training. Private instruction

Other Terms for “Classical Music”

  • Western Art Music
  • Notated Music
  • Music of the Western European Tradition
  • Conservatory Music
  • Concert Hall Music
  • ?

Lec 15 - Mar 3rd


Methods of Defining Classical Music Culturally

  • Recording industry marketing
  • Ritual of performance
  • Historical Era
  • Social Function
  • Means of Transmission
  • The Canon

The “Classical Music” Canon

A set of musical works commonly accepted as authoritative and definitive of “Classical” music

Comes from group of writing that is sacred.

Where is the Classical Music Canon reinforced?

Competition. Banff International String Quartet Competition, where each group had to play a Beethoven Quartet. They need to play some contemporary works.

KW symphony “Signature Series”.

and Music Textbooks.

Problems with the “Classical Canon”

  • Performance Score. Notation indicates the musical work.
    • Composers who published their works
    • Musicologist
      • publish editions for performance
  • Music as an Academic Study
    • Guido Adler (a German musicologist of the early 20th centry).
    • In Vienna (itself an architectural monument to music). Look at the gold inside…
    • Concerned about the developments leading up to Great Composers
      • German composers focused on instrumental music, as opposed to Italian.
      • In a time, when instrumental music was thought to be the highest achivement.

Musicology Methods

  • Develop out of the interests of early musicologist
  • According to Haefeli, three assumptions shape all musicological studies
    • Study from Notation: looking at the notes on the score
      • Primary record of the music: what that score is.
    • The Musical Work.
      • One stable, identifiable work that is perfectly repeatable
    • Harmonic Language: How harmony works together? How does it unfold in a piece?
      • Tools of study privilege tonal language as the most important feature
        • It is what is ascertainable through notation
      • What about timbre? Pitch inflection?

It shapes the way we think about classical music canon.

Music that gets played

  • Article by Midgette claims that professional orchestras have bit a crisis moment
    • What is the crisis?
      • Like “museum”, put into a music gallery.
      • not able to expand it, missing diversity.
      • no dynamic, missing music production
  • What is the answer?
    • “You can’t change the canon”
    • “We need to ask ourselves if artistic excellence is the ultimate goal. Other things may be more important”
  • How are orchestras attempting to address the crisis?
    • playing local/contemporary musics, tho lose some patrons.
    • come out of the community, try to give private lessons for those who cannot afford it.

Why do we study “Classical Music” anyway?

  • All music study is a histroical endeavor.
  • We use and develop tools that have been refined over centuries.
  • Gives us perspective on our own assumptions and expectations
    • Alex Ross writes with a conviction that the music of the past has sth to say to him today
  • Notation affords deep, prolonged engagement and reinterpretation because of its complexity

Methods of Studying of Histrocial Music

The score

What genre is Antioch?

  • classical? indentity fixed in notation
  • pop? sung by pop music performers
  • folk? communally sung

Compare your stemma

  • Did you find a credible original text?
  • Where were the significant variations?
  • What info was included on the page to give context about the music?

In class discussions, compare your assignments with others…

Who is the Composer of Antioch?

  • Georg Friderick Handel
  • Thomas Hawkes
  • William Holford
  • Lowel Mason

Where does Handel Come in?

  • The Antioch Tune preexists Holford’s version attributed to Handel
  • Similarities with “Lift up your head” from Handel’s Messiah
  • Handel’s Messiah was “Holy Writ to Dissenting musicians”
  • Handel carries English authority and justifies antiquated harmonies, rhythm, and structure

Handel, The Messiah Example of Late Baroque Style (1685-1730)

  • Chorus expresses collective response to predictions of Christ’s birth
  • Halleluyah chorus
    • Contrasting sections of homophony, polyphony, and monophony!
    • Imitation still used for word painting and contrast
    • Late Baroque contrasting keys
  • Regular phrase lengths
  • Tonic chord emphasized constantly
    • Major and minor scales over musical modes
    • Ends with ‘Amen’ chord: I-IV-I

Western Art Music: Postive Defn

  • Tends to emphasize melody and complex, large-scale form over rhythm and dynamics
  • Typically uses the instruments developed for the symphony in the 19th century
  • Functions primarily to provide aesthetic enjoyment
  • Transmitted primarily through notation and private instruction
  • Relies on a fixed concept of the musical work
    • Developed through linear production
  • Rooted in works of composers from 1750-1920

Assumed Means of Production of “The Musical Work”

Composer's idea --> Notated Score --> Edited Score for Publishing --> Performer's Interpretation --> Performance

The Musical Work

  • The idea of ”The Musical Work” arose because of the possibility of mass producing scores
    • For performance but also for study
  • “Classical music” was mummified by a print culture
  • Editors are involved in the process from score the performance
    • Small changes can have significant impact
  • Performers are not only interpreters of the work but consumers of the edition

Authority of the Printed Musical Work

  • Handel’s Name (a canonical composer) gives authority
  • The early versions of Antioch is more fluid
  • The “musical work” of Antioch is set by the 1850s
  • Textual details trace the innovations of editors and their chosen authorities

What makes it Joyful?

Melody, Harmony, Rhythm, Form

What Function does Antioch Perform in Society?

Depends on the context

  • In a Hymnal
    • To facilitate communication
    • To facilitate social integration
    • To validate social institutions and religious ritual
  • A Christmas Carol
    • To facilitate social integration
    • Symbolic function
  • Christmas at Rockefeller Center
    • To validate social institutions and religious rituals

Lec 16 - Mar 5th

What does the music mean? Methods of studying

Methods of Histrocial Music Study

  • Search for “the Musical Work”: Tuesday (last lec)
  • Eyewitness accounts: today
  • Formal Analysis: Next Tuesday

Abstract Idea: particular meaning, composer’s idea -> notated score -> score: reproduce for multiple times -> Performer’s interpretation, practice several times -> performance

This the idea behind the final actual music that we hear. This linear process is a bit complicated for that.

In Antioch Stemma: there is no straight linear process here. … Antioch rev. by Lowel Mason. But he also says “this reminds me of Handel”, then Handel’s “Lift up ye gates”. Also Baroque Style. Various Antioch styles spread out here. And final version “Joy to the World”. Also in some work today, we have some contemporary language associated to it.

In other words, these methods help us understand the printed work.

Authority of the Printed Musical Work

  • Handel’s Name (canonical composer) gives authority
  • early versions of Antioch is more fluid
  • The “musical work” of Antioch is set by the 1850s
  • Textual details trace the innovations of editors and their chosen authorities

Antioch originally is not associated to the “joy to the world”.

What makes it Joyful? Melody, Harmony, Rhythm, Form

Let’s examine the melody of it. Descending in the first phrase, and go all the way down, pretty outgoing move. Mostly move by step except one leap here. And there is one big leap. Lots of energy behind it.

Harmony: stuck in major. What about Rhythm? Slow or fast? A little faster than median. And dotted rhythm which makes it a little bit faster in some notes. Form? Two parts section with repeated melodies in some places.

Now let’s go further with the worksheet.

What Function does Antioch Perform in Society?

Depends on the context

  • In a Hymnal
    • To facilitate communication
    • To facilitate social integration. In Handel’s time, a group of people, bring them together.
    • To validate social institutions and religious ritual
  • A Christmas Carol. You can see this in Disney’s movie…
    • To facilitate social integration. Like folk…
    • Symbolic function. Symbol of joy, Xmas season
  • Christmas at Rockefeller Center
    • To validate social institutions and religious rituals

From wiki,

Rockefeller Center is a large complex consisting of 19 commercial buildings covering 22 acres (89,000 m2) between 48th Street and 51st Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The 14 original Art Deco buildings, commissioned by the Rockefeller family, span the area between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, split by a large sunken square and a private street called Rockefeller Plaza. Later additions include 75 Rockefeller Plaza across 51st Street at the north end of Rockefeller Plaza, and four International Style buildings located on the west side of Sixth Avenue.

Now let’s go to Eyewitness accounts.

Igor Stavinsky


  • Russian composer who moved to Paris early in his career
  • The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps) was his first major success
    • Commissioned for the Ballet Russe
  • Reflected fascination with “Primitive” cultures
  • The Rite of Spring is a series of episodic “ritual dances”
    • Final dance is that of sacrifice of a chosen young woman who dances to death
  • Incited a riot?!

The End of Classical Ballet

  • Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring rejects the vision of humanity portrayed in “Classical” Ballet (for example, Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake)
  • The “Primitivist” style of dance emphasizes
    • Group dance and the erasure of the individual for the sake of the community
    • Ritual rather than emotion
    • Animal instincts rather than romance or transcendence
  • Music is not an escape from reality, it is a revelation of its mundanity (the fact of being very ordinary and therefore not interesting)

Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring (1913)

  • Begins with straining sound of the bassoon, beyond highest range
  • Sudden shifts mid-phrase. Unlike classical era, like symmetrical phrase.
  • Metrical displacement (try tapping along to the beat)
  • Ostinato: repeated rhythm

What does it mean?

Life, death, rather long prologue.

According to Stravinsky: “express the sublime uprising of Nature renewing herself—the whole pantheistic uprising of the universal harvest”

  • Does this capture the significance of a work that caused a near riot?

According to Richard Taruskin

  • Stravinsky’s “music waged unending war on the assumption that art was a medium of self-revelation”
  • Why say so many words about the music when he resisted the idea of self revelation in music?

We can’t rely on what composer says: they are trying to confuse us more than illuminate.

Meaning Culture vs. Presence culture

  • Meaning culture emphasizes the abstraction of the musical event to assess its significance
  • Presence culture emphasizes that the experience of musical event is the thing that is significant

Analyzing Music

  • Putting into words what happens in the music in order to better understand its function and effect
  • Begin with music with text
    • Use letters to identify both poetry and form
    • Focus on the “song” portion first
    • Then think about how the backup singers and instruments interact

Analysis Method

  • Discover the structure of the lyrics
    • Label each line with an end rhyme with the same letter
    • Count the syllables of each line
  • Identify the repeated phrases in the music
    • Usually popular music has a verse and chorus
      • Verse: music that repeats with different lyrics
      • Chorus: Same music and same lyrics sung at the end of each verse of group of verses
    • Label each repeated phrase with a letter
  • Compare musical and lyrical structure
  • Consider how the musical elements highlight the words

Lec 17 - Mar 10th

Methods of Historical Music Studies

  • Search for “The Musical Work” in the notational record
    • Traces the music in material form
    • Identifies the composer and editor in the creation of “The Musical Work”
  • Eyewitness accounts
    • Give insight into what was significant to the experience
    • May contribute to the interpretation of the work
  • Analysis
    • Helps us determine how the musical elements contribute to our experience of the music
    • Communicates the shared experience of music

I Say a Little Prayer

  • Break into groups of 3
  • Come to a consensus about the form of the music and text
  • Discuss important features of your assigned element
  • What is this song about?

In class discussions… Notes, credit to Natasha Kuepfer.

What does it mean?

  • Woman’s obesseion is raised to the level of religion
  • Woman’s full devotion is supported by society
  • entirely one-sided

What’s missing in our analysis?

  • Does this analysis help us understand how the music functions socially?
  • What more might be needed?
    • recording process. Transmission process
    • historical info about 1968.
  • Means of transmission

Phil Ford’s “Style of Analysis”

  • 3 concepts
    • the map and the territory
    • Magic: turn the music into the music notation, or actual words, makes it real
    • Meaning culture vs. presence culture. Dig down
  • Ultimately wants make distinction between “classical” and “popular” music, but between music operating in “meaning culture” or “presence culture”
    • Any music operates in “meaning culture” once you analyze it

Creating the Map

Map: To create a map, you have to survey the territory.

  • Describe musical elements is surveying
    • account for major details
    • but certain details will be privileged
  • creating map means choosing the most significant moments to describe
    • map don’t include every detail
    • but they do have to include landmarks

The map becomes the territory…

once you have a map, it changes the way you think about the territory.

When you have learned to listen for elements of music, it changes the way you perceive the music.

“Presence culture” is hard to maintain once you have learned “meaning culture”. Once you start to dig in, you can’t help analyzing the music.

The Magic of analysis

Good analysis turns experience into words:

“Coleman Hawkin’s heavy vibrato suggested the wingbeats of a big bird and his tone halls hung with dark velvet and lit by huge fires” (William Youngren)
“in such moments, you feel less alone” (p. 24)

Phil Ford:

“The form the notation takes, and the meaning we assign to it, is relative only to its purpose, whether that is to tell student jazz musicians how to play a famous solo or to give readers a point of reference in a scholarly analysis. The notation isn’t the primary reality, unless the composer decides that it is.”
“writing can set up moments of empathy that annul the distances between us”

The Value of Music Analysis

  • Raises the personal music experience to a universal
    • Relies on a “pure” experience of the music
  • Helps us discover larger structural elements that might elude hearing (or at least take many more hearings)
  • Still conceived of through notation, but gets beyond notation to experience

How do we interpret the meaning of art music?

We spent the first couple classes breaking down the idea of “classical Music”

  • It is not meaningful simply because it is old
    • Alex Ross argues that it still speaks today
  • It is not meaningful because it is a universal language
    • It’s not, but there are universals in music
  • It is not meaningful because it has been deemed a masterwork and is played in the concert hall
    • The victors tend to determine the masterworks

Finding the Meaning in Art Music

How do we understand how it is meaningful in a particular time and place?

  • Look carefully at the material
  • Read carefully what people said about their experience and context
    • History, society, politics, etc
  • Find the common experience in it through turning it into notation/words

Eras of Western Music History

  • Romanticism (1800-1900)
  • Modernism (1900-1960)
  • Postmodernism (1960-Today)

Romantic Music

Stylistic features

  • Long, drawn out melodies
  • Lost of Chromatic movement in melodies and harmonies
  • Unexpected and unpredictable harmonic movement
  • Extreme expressions of individual psychology
    • Chromaticism, rubato, prolonged melodies
  • Meter often unclear in order to highlight melody and harmony
    • Rubato expresses changes in mood
    • Syncopation also blurs rhythm
  • Bright timbres contrasted with dark
  • Textures are thick

Romantic Era Concepts

  • Music is expression of individual sentiment
  • Music has some story to tell
  • The individual who creates music must go through some struggle to have something worth saying

Structural Listening in Modern/Postmodern Music

If we listening for a story in the music, are we missing something?

If there are no words, or even a melody, what do we listen for?

Lec 18 - Mar 12th

Pre-reading: Structural Listening

Soundwalk. Listen to the sound in our surroundings.

Mediation of Sound in Art Music

  • Recordings reproduce sound
  • Art Music represents experience of sound

Antonio Vivaldi’s La Primavera (1723)

  • Represents the sounds of spring
    • Bird calls
    • Thunder
  • Baroque era style (1600-1730)
    • Features string instruments and harpsichord with solo vs. orchestra
    • Overlapping melodies/polyphonic texture
    • Instrumental music imitates nature, vocal music, or dance


Olivier Messiaen, Le Traquet Stapazin (Catalogue d’Oiseaux n. 4), 1958

Black-eared Wheatear

Creating bird sounds for piano, through some form of structure into art music

Music and Gender

What music tells us about …

Music and culture

  • music is defined culturally
  • reflects culture
  • shapes culture

Also it reflects and shapes gender

  • Gender is (at least partly) Culturally/Socially Defined
    • Culture determines gender roles and behaviors
  • Music performance reflects the gendered expectations of the culture
  • Music performance reinforces gender constructions

Composers in Classical music canon

  • Dead white male composers
  • Not always appreciated in their own time
  • Complexity of music combined with circumstances raised popularity

Why primarily composed by man?

Fanny Hensel, not allowed to publish her work, perform in public. But she invited people inside her room to perform.

Where are the Women in Historical Art Music?

  • Idolization of the composer erases other aspects of music. Highest is the compose art.
    • Women had a harder time accessing composition training and publishing, becoming composer is limited
  • Class associations of the performer made professional women less laudible
    • Professional performer associated with lower class
  • Sexualization of the women performer led to avoid public performance
    • To perform was to subject yourself to the male gaze

Art Music: Transgressing the Production Line

      Creator ___  ___ Performer
                ↓  ↓
listener --> Music event <-- Space

Pauline Oliveros (1932-2016)

questioned idolization, and break down the boundaries between performer, creator and listener.

The listener is ultimately the performer.

  • Pioneered electronic art music
  • Promoted active listening for “humanitarian purposes”
  • Actively transgressed the boundaries between performer and listener
  • Focused on music as meditative practice

Women making contemporary art music

  • Composer Oliveros achieved a new form of listening because she was able to transgress the social boundary for women in contemporary art music
    • Broke down the barrier between composer, performance, and audience
    • Minimal structures are created by the composer
  • The performer is not an object to observe but a person to creatively engage in interactive listening

Representations of Gender in Medieval Europe

  • Christian Religion formed the worldview
  • Jesus Christ, the ruler of the world
    • Mother Mary, Queen of Heaven
  • Christian ritual central to establishment, and maintenance of the entire social order

Medieval Motet

  • Polyphonic two to four part work for voices
  • Built on top of a small section of plainchant
    • Plainchant was the musical “Bible” for ritual
  • Upper voices of the motet have different texts for each
  • Use conventional phrases to describe a Lady
  • Anonymous, but likely composed by male clerics

One week suspension…

Penultimate Lecture - Mar 24th

Today we will be looking at women in the Medieval World.

Historical Western Art Music Eras

  • Medieval 600-1400
  • Renaissance 1400-1600
  • Baroque 1600-1730
  • Classical 1730-1800
  • Romantic 1800-1900
  • Modern 1900-1960
  • Postmodern 1960-now

Today we go back to Medieval period, especially love songs. This period is still influential on our western culture today.

Here we have two pictures: sleep beauty, and Rapunzel from Tangled (魔发奇缘). These images portray the love in that period, what is called courtly love often.

Courtly love: 宫廷爱情是中世纪欧洲高贵的骑士向贵族女士表达爱与钦佩的概念。一般来说,宫廷爱情是秘密的,发生在贵族成员之间。它一般没有夫妻关系老练。11世纪末期,宫廷爱情发生于阿基坦、普罗旺斯、香槟、勃艮第公国等地。

Troubadour Song

These courtly love was best portrayed in the Troubadour Song.

  • Aristocratic singer-songwriters. People in courts, with most money, royalty and their leisures, entertain each other.
  • Unrequited love(暗恋): love for woman could never be returned back to the men. Expressed from a famous line: “I can’t keep myself from love her who will give me nothing in return”.
  • The other style of poetry: “Manly escapades”, story of man going out to find woman find that he can take advantage of. Lower class, like shepherdess. Class relationship.
    • The other day I found a half-breed shepherdess
  • Recorded in books of poetry. Still survive in this day, but not all of them. So we don’t have a vast sense of song writer of the music.

This is the music of the courts. But in another form of the music form that developed in notation, especially sacred chant. Recall back in our music texture, it is monophonic melody with no regular rhythm or meter. Some notes might be a bit longer than others, so there is no regular sense of beat or clear measure between notes. This notation developed, because we desire to record and transmit these sacred chants. Sometimes they are called Gregorian chant or just plain chant. Texts were from Christian Bible or related text, set to these monophonic melody.

“To You, Lord, I lift up my soul” youtube link

Both these Troubadour songs and chants together reflect the Medieval Worldview.

  • In this period, Christian Religion shapes the interpretation of all things, including and especially courtly love and unrequited love. This concept is totally foreign to western culture.
  • Love, especially chivalric love (骑士精神), is an experience of divine (神圣的) love
  • “Sacred” and “secular” in contemporary culture easily sit side-by-side
    • They believe this concept: music comes from God, and all music expresses something about God

Contemporary parallel

This idea that you could have expressions of sexual love, unrequited love, along with the sacred concept of music is totally foreign to western culture. Although we occasionally see the uncomfortable mix of sacred and secular music show up. Here is an example of Chance the Rapper, “Sunday Candy”.

  • In the begining, he talks about the special devotion he has rather than his grandma has towards him.
    • “the only ones she loves as much as me is Jesus Christ and Taylor”. Family love relationship
  • Erotic setting of Chorus
    • “take and eay my body like its holy”, sung by female vocalist. Suggesive language, bit slippery, but tone being romantic someway.
  • Gospel music brings in religious experience

This mixing of religious music, Gospel music and with pure family devotion, erotic expression. These three mixture is exactly what we find in the Medieval Motet that we will look at today.

The Motet

First we need to know where it is recorded: it explains its mode of transmission. It is transmitted primarily in the way of notation. The particualr music we are looking at today was notated in a large collection of music in manuscript. This is before the printing process was invented or even before paper was widely available. So this particualr collection of music was handcopied on sheep’s skin.

The book we are looking at comes from the full of old French songs. But also Latin songs (for educated and religious). As we can see from the manuscript, it is beautifully illustrated.

The motet is polyphonic. Remember it means combining of many lines of music together. It combined different texts against slower moving low part. Johannes de Grocheio said that:

“This kind of song ought not to be propagated among the vulgar, since they do not understand its subtlety nor do they delight in hearing it, but it should be performed for the learned and those who seek after the subtleties of the arts. And it is normally performed at their feasts for their edification, just as the song they call rondeau is performed at the feasts of the vulgar.”

What he is telling us here is essentially the motet is meant to entertain and preserve the culture of literate. So these motets are for elite society, possibly performed by themselves. Contexts seems to be in between sacred and secular. Somtimes mixing.

This is still western art music.

  • because it is notated, but not as specified as later notation (Classical era and after). Underdeveloped.
  • Carefully and finely wrought texts and music transmitted through literacy
  • Composed and performed by amateurs. So not for living like in Romantic era.
  • But not for “aesthetic contemplation”
  • Emphasis on Symbolic representation, validation of religious and social rituals, and entertainment

There is really two strength of influence on the motets we are looking at today.

  • One comes from text from Troubadour songs. True love as understood in chivalric love, must be painful in some way.
  • Secrecy is part of the allure of the love. Love and beloved have to meet together in secret.
  • Woman is object to be conquered through persuation

But in another texture src for expressing love came from the Christian Bible in the book called “Song of Songs”.

  • A Book of the Hebrew Bible (aka the Old Testament in the Christian Biblical tradition)
  • A wedding poem.
  • Three voices: bride, bridegroom, and chorus back supports bride.
  • Lots of descriptive nature imagery, often used as metaphor for sexual intimacy
    • Just look of “Rose of Sharon” to see how many songs the image still inspires
  • Bridge and bridegroom both express erotic desire through poetry.

Having this text in sacred text in Medieval world gave them language to talk about the sexual love and love of god. And most importantly, it gave a modern text for the most important relationship: between Jesus, the son of god and the savior of the world; and his mother, Mary. Because of this devotion, Mary was believed to be pulled up into the heaven and crowned Queen right next to her son. That’s the image from here.

In the Medieval world, you might have earthly king on earth. But ultimately your real sovier, real king or queen was god and Mary. You can see how Jesus and his mother sit equally here.

Stirps Jesse: Plainchant Responsory

  • R. The stalk of Jesse produced a branch and the branch a flower, and upon this flower rested the nourishing spirit.
  • v. The Virgin mother of God is the branch, the flower her son.

The song you listened to today was built on a sacred chant. Sung by clerical choir in an evening prayer service. It is to celebrate and remember this even Mary’s assumption that being pulled into the heavon and crowned, making her queen of heavon. The chant that forms the basis of this song is long monophonic chant but having many more melismas: long melody on a single syllable.

youtube link

If you look at the last few lines, the last two lines only contain three words: and the flower her son, doesn’t seem to mean anything on its own. But the melody associated with it became a kind of symbol of Mary’s devine importance. So even just quoting that melody, not the text, could immediately symbolize on its own. Mary as queen of heaven.

On top of this chant, this religious symbol, there are three more layers. Immediately above the bottom layer of the chant was text from Pastourelle tradition.

  • Imitation of popular song
  • Knight goes off into the country to find a shepherdess to take advantage of. (common way to begin this kinda narrative song)
  • Dialogue ensues in which the knight attempts to woo the shepherdess and the she (hopefully) outwits him. That’s the joke of the whole tradition.

Here I gave you the text of second layer within the Motet. Pastourelle: L’autrier joer m’en alai

Mo: “The other day I was wandering in a lonely place, and into an orchard I went to pick a flower. There I found a pleasing lady, prettily dressed; her body was frail, and she was singing in great distress: I am in love. What shall I do? It is the end, the end, whatever anyone says, I will love!”

Marcabru, c. 1130

  • Troubadour
  • “L’autrier jost una sebissa”
  • full text

Plus bele que flor/Quant revient/L’autrier joer/Flos filius eius (Tr. by David Rothenberg)

On top of the Pastourelle text, there are two more texts. Here Tr: third part. Qu: fourth part.

Qu: More beautiful than a flower, in my opinion, is she to whom I belong. For as long as I live, no one will have joy or pleasure of my love except the flower that is of Paradise: she is the mother of the Lord, who placed us here and wants us to return to him forever.

Tr: When both leaf and flower return towards the summer season, Lord! Then I remember Love, who has always been courtly and gentle with me. I am so grateful for his help, because he lightens my pain when I desire it. One gains much good and much honour from being his friend.

Mo: The other day I was wandering in a lonely place, and into an orchard I went to pick a flower. There I found a pleasing lady, prettily dressed; her body was frail, and she was singing in great distress: I am in love. What shall I do? It is the end, the end, whatever anyone says, I will love!

T: Flos filius eius: the flower, her son

Put that all together, we have four different parts sung at the same time. Here is the modern version of this piece.

  • Plainchant in the bottom part. moves slightly slower.
  • Pastourelle in the part above (motetus)
  • Lady’s voice in the third part (triplum)
  • Personal devotion in the top part (quadruplum)
  • youtube link

Ritual music

  • Ritual: “a symbolic-expressive aspect of behavior that communicates something about social relations, often in a relatively dramatic or formal manner. This definition incorporates the idea that ritual must not be seen as a discrete category of behavior but as an analytic dimension that may be present to some degree in all behavior.” Wuthnow, Meaning and Moral Order p. 109.
  • Social relations expressed through the symbolic language of the divine model

Now return to how womanhood was expressed, represented in the music. Mary is an ultimate and complex model.

  • She is virgin: hasn’t have sextual intercourse with any men in order to conceive Jesus.
  • Mother of god.
  • Queen of heaven, all of creation.


  • Celebrating the Assumption of Mary meant that womanhood was also raised into Divinity
  • But the image of Womanhood represented was impossible
  • A mother, but also chaste (贞操) in every way
    • Her desire is spiritual longing that cannot and should not be fulfilled in her body

Musical representation of Womanhood

  • The Perfect Woman is Divine
    • symbolized by the sacred chant that underlay the construction of the motet
  • The Perfect Woman is a Lady
    • symbolized by the middle voices
      • The description of a knight
      • Her own words of love and appreciation
  • The perfect woman is the origin and goal of love songs

FINAL Lecture - Mar 26th

Romantic Music and Aesthetic Pleasure

Objectives, two fold

  • Romantic Era music in its Sound. related to listening response worksheet
  • Romantic Era music in its Concept
    • In the 19th century (1800-1900)
    • Today, especially for African American musicians

Important Genres in Romantic Music

  • Instrumental (the pinnacle of music composition)
    • Symphony. The most important genre of the music. Pinnacle.
    • Symphonic poem
      • Program introduced into symphonic works
    • Piano preludes and other free forms
  • Vocal
    • Songs (lieder)
    • Opera

Form in Romantic Music

  • Standard forms developed in Classical era, but slightly different ways
    • A way of giving a story to instrumental music
  • Romantic era forms play with the standards for dramatic effect
    • Beethoven (early Romantic Era) most important developer of Symphony
  • Romantic era symphony and sonatas are longer
    • Composers develop unifying techniques
      • Recurring melodies
      • Keys have meaning

Forms of the Symphony

Stylistic Features of Romantic Music

  • Long, drawn out melodies
  • Lots of movement by half step (not by major or minor scale)
  • Unexpected and unpredictable harmonic changes
  • Extreme expressions of individual psychology
    • Chromaticism, rubato, prolonged melodies
  • Meter often unclear in order to highlight melody and harmony
    • Rubato expresses changes in mood
    • Syncopation also blurs rhythm
  • Bright timbres contrasted with dark
  • Textures are thick

The definition of rubato is a flexibility/freedom in the performance of a rhythm. Basically, rubato is when a performer doesn’t stick to the strict rhythms written by the composer, but alters them to give more expression to the performance.

Cultural Developments in the Romantic Era

  • Fascination with fantasy, death, and the spiritual realm
  • Development of the idea of the individual
  • Genius
    • Art created by an inspired individual
    • Expresses universal truths
  • Music functions
    • Aesthetic enjoyment
    • Emotional expression
    • Realisation of the individual

Creating Space to Enjoy Music Abstractly

Recall back to Alex Ross’ “A Classical Kid…” Relates the concert hall experience

  • No personality
  • Standard Formal attire
  • Lights dimmed
  • No other noise (don’t cough!)

Concert hall developed in the late 1800s to emphasize abstracted nature of music, like a movie theater: designed to absorb you in the movie

Richard Wagner created the ideal concert hall for his music. youtube link

Is Classical Music a Universal Language?

  • Why Classical music is sometimes thought to be universal?
    • Based on a natural phenomenon
      • But Pythagorean tuning doesn’t work out
    • Expresses clear emotions
      • But Major/minor harmonies can deceive
    • Time is structured
      • But hierarchical concepts of time structures are culturally bound
  • What is at stake in thinking Classical Music is universal?
    • If not universal, then there is no common measure to judge music as good or beautiful
    • If not universal, all music appreciation is subjective
    • If not universal, then music is totally designed by humans (Origins)

Whose Culture is Classical Music?

  • Classical Music Canon developed by European males
    • Consists mostly of European male composers
  • Concert Hall Ritual developed with Elite European standards
    • among educated Europeans and those educated in European tradition
  • Is listening to, performing, or composing in Classical Music style supporting this privileged, male-dominated European society?

Now take Historical Journey to 1939, Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC. Marian Anderson, prominent vocalist, denied entry into historical women’s society because of color of her skin. She was not allowed to perform in auditorium for white public school, so instead, sang a recital in front of 10,000. So she began with Donizetti and Schubert. Concluded with spiritual arranged by Florence Price.

Listen to Schubert’s Ave Maria.

  • lyrical quality. Schubert is great for long, drawn out melodies.
  • unpredictable key changes.

After you listened to this clip, she went on in her recital, to conclude with some pieces by black American composer. One spiritual arrangement by Florence Price.

Florence Price

Symphony in E Minor

  • Standard movements, form, and instruments of Romantic Symphony
  • Infused with African American melody and rhythm in the Juba dance style

Premiered by Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1933

Listen for

  • syncopation (groups of four with 2 and 4 beats emphasized in drums and melody)
  • Melody does have clear phrases with beginnings and endings, but short snippets and repeat
  • Different sections are contrasted through different keys (home notes)

youtube link

Nina Simone, “the High Priestess of Soul”

  • Studied to become classical pianist
    • Rejected from music conservatory because she was black
  • Incorporated a Bach fugue (complex form of polyphony where a melody repeats in staggered entrances)
  • youtube link

Ethnicity in Classical Music

Look at your two album covers

  • How are the performers represented?
  • Does their ethnicity feature in the marketing?

Thurman: People of colour are often presented ethnically, as though they are outsiders to the world of classical music

Two mind-sets that plague People of Colour

Classical music will save you

  • The idea that classical music is refining
  • The practice it requires to listen or perform makes you morally superior

Classical music will kill you

  • Playing classical music means abandoning your heritage and culture
  • Because it was made by European culture, it is a tool of the oppressor

The counteraction: musical realism to contrast

  • Music that has clear cultural referents
  • Music that addresses contemporary situations
  • Music that refers to everyday life

Musical Abstraction

Listen again to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings Op. 48 (小夜曲)

  • Serenade: a light, mini-symphony
    • Evening, informal entertainment
  • Begins with homophonic statement
    • Melody on top with general descending line
    • Melody moves to cello and bass in their high range
  • Meter is 6/8
    • Lilting, dance like
  • Faster waltz feel (2:40) in ABAB’ form
    • Lots of offset beats in melody gives sense of disorientation
    • Contrasting polyphony at (4:20)
    • youtube link

So what is the conccept of musical abstraction?

  • For Thurman, the abstract musical pleasure of Tchaikovsky’s Serenade moved her to tears, almost against her will
  • Because the music is removed from every day life, it gives the opportunity to be fully absorbed in the sound
  • Thurman’s appreciation of the abstract nature of Classical music is like the concept of music in the Romantic Era
    • Music is created from supernatural genius
    • Music creates meaning from transcending everyday life

Meaning Culture

  • Meaning may not be fully apparent on first, second, or multiple hearings
    • It requires listening with the ears of the original audience
    • But the meaning lies underneath the surface to be discovered
  • Racialized depictions and ethnic negotiations of Art music and the concert hall make the cultural hegemony of White European hierarchical society clear
  • But they also show what distinguishes Art music from other forms
    • Notation provides for abstraction
    • Primary function is aesthetic pleasure

Back to top

Copyright © 2017-2024 Sibelius Peng.