Key Points from My Lecture on Baroque, Classical and Romantic Music

Here are some of the key points to my recent UCSD lecture on music of the Baroque, Classical and Romantic periods.

Dates

Baroque 1600-1750 The end of the Baroque period corresponds with arguably the greatest composer of the era, J.S. Bach’s death in 1750.

Classical 1750-1820 There is much debate regarding the transition date between Classical and Romantic periods largely focused on Beethoven and which period he belonged.

Romantic 1820-1910 The Romantic period ended early in the 20th Century as an artistic movement. However, in music it is still largely utilized in popular media most noticeably in the film scores of John Williams.(Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter)

Definitions

Baroque -Originally a derogative term to describe a mis-shapen pearl due to the music’s ornateness stemming out of the more ‘refined’ renaissance period.

Classical -Highly formulaic and stylistic. The term ‘Classical’ is often employed when discussing all ART music from Middle Ages through Modern styles.

Romantic -In reaction to classic ideals. Romantics strove to push the envelope and express nature and the human spirit.

Style/Texture

BaroquePolyphonic, Multiple simultaneous melodies creating harmonies(chords)

ClassicalHomophonic, One main melody over chords(most pop music is homophonic)

RomanticChromatic, All twelve notes of the octave became important during this period vs. the propensity to concentrate on the seven belonging to each key.

Composers

Baroque -Handel, Vivaldi, J.S. Bach

Classical -Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven

Romantic -Schubert, Chopin, Brahms, Liszt, Wagner, Mahler

Society

How musicians were chiefly employed

BaroqueChurch, sacred music

ClassicalCourt, employed by the monarchy

RomanticRise of the virtuoso/self promotion, Much in the way bands today distribute fliers for their shows musicians had to pave their way and make a name for themselves.

Global

BaroqueNationalistic, There were several ‘schools’ of composition in Europe. Italian, French, German, English…

ClassicalInternational, Throughout Europe,  Western classical music could be heard with similar styles and tastes.

RomanticNationalistic, Once again styles were locally influenced. In the Romantic period composers actually incorporated local folk music into their works. This created more of an ethnic diversity than the individual stylistic schools of the Baroque.

Examples

Baroque, This is a great illustration of the multiple voices that are integral to Baroque style

Classical, The following clip displays the grace and highly stylistic nature of the era.

Romantic, Compare the grandiose individualistic nature of the following Mahler excerpt to the stylistic Mozart piece above.

RIP Ravi Shankar Renown Virtuoso Sitarist

Not the post I was planning on writing this evening.

2012 has been a brutally tough year with the deaths of many legendary musicians.  Just last week we lost jazz pianist/composer Dave Brubeck and today(Dec. 11) the sad news of Ravi Shankar’s passing.

Ravi Shankar is an amazing musician known for many things, however, there are two highlights on his resume. First, he was a pioneer in introducing Indian sitar music to the Western world. Second, not totally detached from the first was his influence on the Beatles especially guitarist George Harrison. Trained in the Northern Indian tradition of Hindustani music the sitarist was a crossover  in the 1960’s Western pop culture. As mentioned he was an influence on the Beatles and also played the legendary Woodstock Festival. With his amazing talent and global appeal Shankar became an icon of Indian culture. The Indian Prime Minister said of Shankar on his passing, “National treasure and global ambassador of India’s cultural heritage”.

Shankar has two daughters who are also renown musicians. In the tradition of her father, Anoushka, concertizes throughout the world on the sitar and has pushed the sitar further into the Western realm with her collaborations. I was lucky enough to see the two play together at a San Diego concert near the turn of the millennium. Norah Jones, pop vocalist with a smooth voice inherited her fathers musical genes if not his cultural side.

Shankar died right here in San Diego. For those of you curious who are not from here, he actually passed in La Jolla which translates to the jewel. An amazingly beautiful city on the Pacific Ocean fitting of such an ambassadors final breaths.