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Schoenberg Peripetie Essay Examples

Now before we get into analysing Peripetie, we should get a bit of background onto the Five Orchestral Pieces. The Five Orchestral Pieces by Arnold Schoenberg is a set of atonal pieces for the full orchestra. They all last between one and five minutes and are not connected to each other by the use of any thematic ideas. Peripetie is in the style of expressionism. If you want to know more about expressionism, click here.

Peripetie is an expressionism piece of music which is why it has no key or ‘atonal’. This makes the piece sound random, unpredictable and surreal: there is no main key to centre the piece around. Here are some more key facts to the piece:

  • It is dissonant music – this means the music is not nice to the ears and doesn’t sound nice.
  • Made by a German composer Arnold Schoenberg in 1909.
  • Uses 12 chromatic music notes.
  • It is in the structure of rondo being ABACA.
  • Extremes of dynamics taking instruments to the extreme. This makes the piece hard to perform as to play Peripetie needs highly skilled musicians. Also it was hard to gather a whole orchestra together.
  • There is a overly large woodwind section.

Now, if you ever listen to this piece, you will hear it sounds very complicated to play. Therefore it is very difficult to analyse as there is so much going on in the piece in such as short time. However, I will pick out the main focus points throughout the piece:

  • It seems to start in the key of C but this, as we find out, is wrong.
  • In the first seconds, there is the use of triplets in woodwind and glissando by brass while there is pizzicato (plucking) in the strings. Again, this highlights the extremes Arnold Schoenberg is putting the instruments under.
  • There are extremely loud dynamic from fff to ppp.
  • Use of rit. to slow down in the sections where texture is at it’s thinnest.
  • Demi-semi quavers are used which means only the best musicians can play this.
  • Extreme contrasts in dynamics – some notes are sf then straight away pp meaning suddenly loud then immediately very quiet.
  • Throughout the piece, there are extremely complex rhythms which adds to the dissonant sounds it produces.
  • There is no real sense of a beat which means this piece is syncopated.
  • At the end, it ends again with extreme dynamics with the majority of the whole orchestra playing in the dynamic fff.
  • The texture has bursts of homophonic but the majority of the time it is polyphonic as there are different melodies overlapping each other.

Related

Area of Study 2 covers C20th classical music, starting with a short, but challenging piece by Arnold Schoenberg, composed in 1909, which you can listen to below:

4. Peripetie – Schoenberg (GCSE Music Edexcel)

Very basic facts on… ‘Peripetie’ – by Arnold Schoenberg From ‘Five Orchestral Pieces’ Set Work 4 for GCSE Music Edexcel From Area Of Study 2 – Music in the 20th Century Genre: Expressionism Composed: 1909 Convert this video to mp3 at: http://www.youtube-mp3.org/ Listen to this video on repeat by typing “repeat” between “www.”

Context

Before you start to dismiss the whole pieces as a noisy, disorganised row, you need to understand the concept and direction music took from 1850 onwards, particularly in terms of harmony.

Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan und Isolde
IMPORTANT – remember – that tonality means the key that you are in (major/minor), and how chromatic the music is. Harmony means types of chords

NEW CONCEPT – think about the function of harmony. Chords have jobs, and fit well in certain orders. Cadences are a good example of this. They ‘sound right’ because one Roman Numeral sounds good when it is followed by another – V-I for example.

Richard Wagner (1813-1883), was a German composer who wrote long and complicated operas. The orchestral prelude to Tristan und Isolde is a really important piece of music, because of the chromatic harmony that is used. The piece is so chromatic, that it is very difficult to tell what key it’s in at times. The opening is supposed to be in A minor, but it’s several bars in before you hear a tonic chord, and the use of silence confuses the tonality even more.

Just listen to the first couple of minutes, to get an impression of it.

Richard Wagner – “Tristan und Isolde”, Prelude

Prelude to the first act from Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde”, german opera in three acts. Author: Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Conductor: Wilhelm Furtwangler & Philharmonia Orchestra Picture: Caspar Friedrich’s “Meeresufer im Mondschein” (Seashore by Moonlight).

After this piece, other composers started to stretch tonality further and further. Try listening to some Debussy or Faure on YouTube to hear other example of more modern tonal language.

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)

It would be no exaggeration to say that Schoenberg is one of the most controversial composers ever. He changed the direction of music in the C20th. To read a biography and listen to other pieces by him, click here, on the BBC Radio website.

What did he do that was so radical?
He got rid of the key, and scale, creating atonality (no fixed key). This means there is no tonic (key note) in his music, so there is no note or key chord to build a composition around. This genre is called expressionism, and is the genre of Peripetie, the fourth Set Work.

Features of Expressionism

There are several key features of this style, which are explained here. Further down the page, you will be asked to find specific examples of them in the Set Work.

As mentioned above, this music is atonal.

  • Pieces try and convey one intense, specific emotion.
  • Instrumental sound, in the form of pitch range and timbre are considered as important as more traditional musical elements such as pitch and rhythm.
  • Unusual combinations of instruments are used, or when an orchestra is used, it is often supplemented by non-standard instruments, such as contra-bassoon, cor anglais, etc.
  • The range of dynamics and articulations in expressionist pieces is wide and often changes suddenly.
  • Pieces are short, and use traditional structures, such as sonata form and rondo form.

During the 1910s, Schoenberg developed further a system to replace the key and scale, called serialism, which uses all twelve chromatic notes in a grid, and allows composers to pick particular rows and columns of the grid to create chords and melody.

Peripetie from Five Orchestral Pieces (1909)

To understand the unusual and challenging sound of this piece, we need to consider the following ideas, all of which were important in his compositions:

  • Haupestimme (Principal melody) – obviously, this is an important melody in his composition. They are labelled in the score with an H and a bracket to show when they start and end.
  • Nebenstimme (Secondary melody) – obviously, secondary melody, labelled N with a bracket.
  • Hexachord – a group of six pitches, all different, which don’t move necessarily by step, but act a bit like a scale in terms of importance. There can be several different hexachords in one piece.
  • Complement – a group of six pitches, left over once the hexachord has been formed.
  • Melody lines with lots of angular leaps (because the hexachord and compliment don’t use steps).
  • Extreme changes in dynamics, which happen very frequently.
  • Frequent changes of tempo (which are mainly in German in the score – click here for help to translate them).
  • The texture of the piece is very varied, because Schoenberg mixes the combination of instruments that he uses. There are only a few occasions when the whole orchestra plays, and there are many times when there are only a handful playing. The main texture of the piece is polyphonic.
  • A large orchestra, with several additional instruments to bolster the sound and allow Schoenberg to create a wide range of orchestral sounds – a technique called klangfarbenmelodie.
  • This piece is in rondo form – ABA’CA”.

Task
Go through your score and find examples of each of the techniques listed above. The listening questions about Schoenberg frequently test knowledge of all of these aspects of the piece.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with the process.

Our second piece in AoS 2 is taken from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein:

Who was Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)?

He is one of the most significant C20th composers, working in a wide variety of different genres. However, he is best known for his film and musical works.

Task 1
Try and find out a bit more about him by reading this basic biography. There are also some clips of his works to listen to here as well. If you need or want more detail about him, and his career, then click here to read his official website.

Task 2
Listen to/watch the following clips of other works by him.

His Chichester Psalms is a brilliant choral work, which manages to be dissonant, yet tuneful in equal measure. The influence of jazz rhythms can be felt through much of the piece.

Bernstein: Chichester Psalms – LEONARD BERNSTEIN (Complete)

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) CHICHESTER PSALMS (1965) 00:06 I. Psalm 108 (verse 2); Psalm 100 03:43 II. Psalm 23; Psalm 2 (verses 1-4) 09:24 III. Psalm 131; Psalm 133 (verse 1) Soloist from the Vienna Boys’ Choir Wiener Jeunesse-Chor Israel Philarmonic Orchestra Leonard Bernstein Live, 1978

This extract from On the Waterfront is a bleak-sounding piece, reflecting the difficult social and political issues raised in the film, from 1959.

“On the Waterfront” – Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein conducts the New York Philharmonic Orchestra … the music is the score he wrote for the magnificent movie, “On the Waterfront”, starring Marlon Brando


What are the components of a stage musical?

There are usually several integral elements:

  • A script (usually called the ‘book’)
  • A musical score
  • Choreography
  • A set, costumes, props
  • Named roles
  • A chorus
  • An orchestra (or group of instrumentalists)

Within the musical score, there are usually the following components:

  • Overture/prelude/Ent’racte (Orchestral piece, which outlines themes from some of the songs)
  • Solo songs
  • Duets/trios
  • Choruses
  • Dance numbers

West Side Story

Undoubtedly, this is Bernstein’s greatest triumph. The stage musical, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (who also wrote many famous musicals himself, including Sweeney Todd), was first performed in 1957, and then adapted into a film in 1961, which, at the time, won a then-record 10 Oscars.

Below is the extract from the film of Something’s Coming. Please note, this is a slightly different version of the piece, and that in the exam, you’ll be expected to know about the version at the top of the page, and not this one. However, it is good to see the film version too, as it puts it into a context for you, hopefully.

West Side Story – Something’s Coming (1961) HD

Could be! Who knows? There’s something due any day; I will know right away, Soon as it shows. It may come cannonballing down through the sky, Gleam in its eye, Bright as a rose! Who knows? It’s only just out of reach, Down the block, on a beach, Under a tree.


Task
Find out a bit more about the background of the musical, by answering the following questions:

  1. What play is the story based on?
  2. Where about in the show does Something Coming appear?
  3. Apart from Tony, who sings this song, who are the other three main characters, and how are they ‘related’ to Tony?
  4. How does the ending of this musical differ from the ending of the original play?
  5. What role did Jerome Robbins play in the development of the show?
  6. Name three other songs from the show – listen to them, and note who the singer(s) is/are.

For help, try this website. There’s an interesting timeline on the left of the screen to look at too.

Musical Content of Something’s Coming

There are some straightforward recognisable features of this song which are typical of Bernstein’s musical style. You need to be able to hear them in the music to be able to answer a listening question successfully. This means first studying the score, then learning how to spot them by listening lots of times to the recordings.

Influence of Jazz
This can be seen in a variety of different ways:

  1. Use of jazz harmonies – chords with added 7ths and raised 4ths
  2. Syncopated rhythms, particularly use of a push rhythm
  3. Melodic motifs, particularly that of a tri-tone (an interval of three tones)
  4. Melodic phrases which have short note values throughout, apart from a long final note
  5. Short riffs – repetitive pattern
  6. Stab chords – off-beat/syncopated single, short chords in the accompaniment
  7. Cross-rhythms – the feeling of two different time signatures being used over the top of each other

Look at the extract of music below for examples of each of these features.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this image is a bit too big or small on your screen, why not download it by clicking here?

Task
You need to go through the score and find further examples of each of the above. Try if you can, to find the same technique used in a different context – for example, the jazz harmony, using a raised 4th in the second time bars at the end of A is new and different harmony from the opening, whereas the jazz harmony used in bar 140 at the start of A1 is just an exact copy of the example above, and therefore not as interesting.

Other Important Musical Features of Note
There are several other features that you need to remember. These are not specifically jazz influenced, but you need to be aware of them:

Instrumentation: The song is sung by Tony, who is a tenor voice. The orchestra that accompanies him includes full strings, flute, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpets (sometimes muted), French horns, plus piano and drum kit. This is quite a large pit orchestra.

Structure: The song has an ABB1A1 structure. The changes of key and time signature, mentioned below, help to define the changes in sections.

Tonality: The song begins in D, modulates to the unrelated key of C, and then modulates back to D.

Rhythm/Tempo/Time Signature: The music begins in 3/4 and changes to 2/4, then back to 3/4, then 2/4 then 3/4. The tempo is a very rapid presto, at about 170 bpm.

Texture: Basically homophonic, with the melody in the vocal line, and the orchestra providing harmonic support.

Dynamics and Word Painting: The dynamics are used as an extension of the expressiveness of the character. This is further extended by word painting – where the specific meaning of a word is conveyed by a musical idea, usually in the melody.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with the process.

Our final Area of Study 2 piece is by Steve Reich, taken from Electric Counterpoint, written in 1987, for guitar:

6. Electric Counterpoint (Third Movement – Fast) – Reich (GCSE Music Edexcel)

Very basic facts on… ‘Electric Counterpoint (Third Movement – Fast)’ – by Steve Reich Set Work 6 for GCSE Music Edexcel From Area Of Study 2 – Music in the 20th Century Genre: Minimalism Composed: 1987 Convert this video to mp3 at: http://www.youtube-mp3.org/ Listen to this video on repeat by typing “repeat” between “www.”

Steve Reich is an American composer born in New York. Much of his work was created in a minimalist style drawing on artistic influences of the time including the work of Mark Rothko. Much of Reich’s music is rhythmically complex and makes extensive use of repetition. Reich’s music is also influenced by the sounds of Africa where he spent time studying African drumming and this led him to write pieces such as ‘Drumming‘ and ‘Clapping Music‘.

An example of Mark Rothko’s work.

Task 1
Try to find out more about him by reading this basic biography. You should also try to find other examples of Steve Reich’s music, you might like to try listening to the other pieces in the ‘Counterpoint’ series. What are instruments are they written for? Why do you think they all have the word ‘Counterpoint’ in the title?

Electric Counterpoint (3rd movement- Fast)

Written in 1987, Electric Counterpoint is the third piece of a series of works for soloists performing with pre-recorded tapes. You should have listened to these pieces to complete task 1 but there are links to both pieces here, Vermont Counterpoint and New York Counterpoint (N.B this was originally for soloist and pre-recorded tape). You will see how all of the examples make use of many common techniques associated with minimalism.

Task 2
Find out the meaning of the following terms and add them to your score. They are all words that will feature in our analysis of ‘Electric Counterpoint’

  • Looping
  • Layering
  • Note Addition
  • Note Subtraction
  • Resultant Melody

Analysis of ‘Electric Counterpoint’

The instrumentation for ‘Electric Counterpoint’ for fairly simple, it was written only for guitars. However,as mentioned earlier, many of the parts are pre-recorded with a live soloist playing the remaining part. The line up for this piece is

1 live guitar

7 Pre-recorded electric guitar parts

2 Pre-recorded bass guitars.

This extensive line up of instruments allows Reich to manipulate the texture throughout the piece. It does present difficulties for the performer, have you ever tried playing along with a pre-recorded backing track; the lack of flexibility in tempo really create challenges. The original performer of the piece, Pat Methany, admitted this himself after he had recorded all of the parts with Steve Reich.

The structure of ‘Electric Counterpoint’ breaks into 9 sections. They are unequal in length but at each point something significant happens to the texture. Use the tables below to help you identify where each section begins, the times are there as well to help develop your listening skills.

A1-2324-3536-6667-73
0:00-0:420:43-1:051:05-2:052:06-2:16

 

B74-8182-8990-9798-113
2:16-2:312:32-2:462:47-3:013:02-3:32

 

Task 3
Copy each of the section marks onto your score (use the labels A1, A2, A3 etc). Look at the score, can you identify what is happening at each point to explain why there is a change in section? Then listen through the piece and identify where each of the sections changes. You should be able to identify the ideas that are below for each section change.

Ostinato

An ostinato is a short repeated musical idea. The image above shows ostinato 1. This pattern is used by the first four recorded electric guitar parts. They all enter at different times and never on the first beat of the bar. These entries create what Reich calls a ‘Four part guitar canon’. As you look through the score you will notice that guitar 3 makes use of note addition before eventually playing the whole ostinato at bar 14.

The tonality of ‘Electric Counterpoint’ is ambiguous at the start and it takes a while for it to settle. At bar 33 the piece seems to be in E minor which ties in to the key signature. In E minor however we would expect to see an accidental, D#, look through the whole piece, you won’t find one!

This is because the piece is actually modal, aeolian mode to be precise (transposed to E).

Task 4
What notes are there in an Aeolian scale? What are they if you transpose it to start on E?

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with the process.

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