The Old King
|Roualt shows us more than just a portrait of a king; it is easy to imagine something dark and disturbing going on in his mind.||1916|
EXPRESSIONISM, also known as non-serial atonality, is the historical continuation of the Common Practice Period. Unlike Neo-classicism, which was a return to the past, Expressionism followed a virtually unbroken line. Arnold Schönberg, the Expressionist champion, began composing in the 19th century in the Romantic tradition. He soon expanded and developed his musical materials, particularly in the areas of dissonance and chromaticism. He avoids a sense of a single tonal center, he delays the resolution of dissonance until there was no resolution, and frees chromatic pitches of their need to resolve. His melodies shrink to simple motives, then ultimately to just intervals. His textures change suddenly and often.
Expressionism is most frequently associated with the word ATONAL (which means "without a tonal center"). Strictly speaking, this is inaccurate, since ALL pitches in Expressionism are considered to be equal in importance. Schönberg preferred the word PANTONAL (meaning "all pitches equally tonal").
One of the most curious changes that occurs is that melodies and harmonies tend to be constructed alike. There is little, if any, distinction between vertical and horizontal structures; in the Common Practice Period, melodies had a predominance of stepwise motions but harmonies were constructed in 3rds. Expressionism tends to use the same principles in structuring both.
Expressionism developed in the 1920's into Serialism, and many Expressionistic elements continue to be used today.
44.2 COMPOSERS ASSOCIATED WITH EXPRESSIONISM
44.3 MUSICAL ELEMENTS
In the Common Practice Period: The essential organization is around a single pitch, the tonic, which provides a home base to the ear. All other pitches work to establish the pre-eminence of tonic. Furthermore, an organization of phrases (generally made up of 4, 8, or 16 measures) expand the establishment of tonic; all phrases end with a cadence which confirms this sense of tonic.
In the Common Practice Period: The essential vocabulary is a diatonic pattern of seven stepwise pitches called major and minor scales. Chromatic pitches, the remaining five, can be used, but only to enhance the diatonic ones.
|B - G#= m3|
G#- G = m2
B - G = M3
|Gb- B = P4|
Gb- F = m2
Gb- G = m2
B - F = A4
B - G = M3
F - G = M2
|E - C = M3|
E - Bb= A4
E - B = P4
E - G = m3
C - Bb= M2
|C - B = m2|
C - G = P4
Bb- B = m2
Bb- G = m3
B - G = M3
In the Common Practice Period: The essential texture is created with counterpoint, which is two or more simultaneous individual and independent lines, each of which confirms the pre-eminence of tonic and utilizes the vocabulary of a major or minor scale.
There is an interesting example of klangfarben in One Note Band. While not Expressionistic music, the flow of the piece is governed by the changing timbres as much (if not more) than the pitches.
Another interesting example of both klangfarben and pointillism can be observed in this recent ad for National Park Service, using a familiar tune.
A more characteristic example of klangfarben in Expressionistic music is the third movement, Farben, from Five Pieces for Orchestra by Arnold Schönberg. The piece is essentially a single harmony throughout, but the instrumental timbres and over-laying embellishments are in constant flux.
In the Common Practice Period: The essential sonority (chord) is consonant and is a group of three notes (a triad) arranged in thirds (tertian). Dissonance is used, which could be a group of four notes arranged in thirds (a tertian tetrad) or non-chordal embellishments (passing and neighboring tones, suspensions, and pedals, among others). All dissonances are required to resolve.
In the Common Practice Period: The essential time organization is based on a consistent and unchanging beat. These beats organize into 2, 3, or 4 essential pulses per measure, with the first beat always the strongest. Each beat can sub-divide into two parts (simple meters) or three parts (compound meters).
Learn more about beaming to show beats
Isolate the interval vectors and locate all the musical elements that are typical, characteristic, or unique to Expressionism in the following pieces in Music for Analysis:
Write an Expressionistic piece for piano, one page or less, which is a complete musical thought. Consider the musicality of your work. Play back your work on the computer through MIDI (or better yet, have someone perform it for you on the piano) to guide you. The final result must be playable.
To prepare this writing assignment properly, use the notation guidelines appendix, located at Basic Principles of Music Notation, Semester IV.
Submit a MIDI file via email in addition to a print-out of the project.
The grading for this project:
GO TO TOP OF PAGE
Copyright © 2008-2009 by Phillip Magnuson.
Content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.