Tag Archives: music

Main Periods

‘Beethoven’ music is generally divided into three main creative periods. The first, or early, period extends to about (1802), when the composer made reference to a “new manner” or “new way” in connection with his art. The second, or middle, period extends to about (1812), after the completion of his ‘Seventh’ and ‘Eighth’ symphonies. The third, or late, period emerged gradually; ‘Beethoven’ composed its pivotal work, the ‘Hammerklavier Sonata’, in (1818). ‘Beethoven’ late style is especially innovative, and his last five quartets, written between (1824) and (1826), can be regarded as marking the onset of a fourth creative period.

Although ‘Beethoven’ music of the early period is sometimes described as imitative of ‘Mozart’ and ‘Haydn’, much of it is startlingly original, especially the works for piano. His early piano sonatas often have a forceful, bold quality, which is set into relief by the searching inwardness of the slow movements. The ‘Sonata’ in C minor op. 13 (Pathétique, 1798), the most famous of these sonatas, transfers Haydn practice of employing slow introductions to his symphonies to the genre of the sonata. The title refers to a quality of pathos or suffering, which is felt especially in the brooding slow introduction and is twice recalled in later stages of the first movement. The main body of this swift, brilliant movement seems to convey willful resistance to the sense of suffering that dominates the slow introduction. At the threshold of his middle period Beethoven sought a variety of new approaches to musical form. In the ‘Sonata’ in C-sharp minor (Moonlight, 1801), he begins with a slow movement, while typical sonatas of that time began with a fast movement. The movement placid motif (repeated phrase) of broken chords is reinterpreted in the final movement as forceful figuration reaching across the entire keyboard. The sonatas of op. 31, from 1802, each open in an original fashion. The G major, op. 31 no. 1, begins with striking shifts in key, in contrast to the usual practice of remaining in the same key to “ground” the listener. The D minor, op. 31 no. 2 (Tempest), on the other hand, breaks up the opening theme into contrasting segments in different tempi, whereas customary practice called for stating the theme in its entirety at the beginning of a movement.

In the first movement of the ‘Eroica Symphony’, one of the major works from ‘Beethoven’ middle period, he again sought ways to expand upon the prevailing musical forms. At that time, composers usually organized movements in three major parts. First, the exposition introduces the musical themes of the piece. Next, the development takes these themes into other keys, often modifying or fragmenting them. Finally, the recapitulation restates the themes, grounded in the original key. Prefaced by two massive, emphatic chords, the opening theme of the ‘Eroica’ lingers on a mysterious dark moment of harmony—a gesture that is not reinterpreted until much later, at the outset of the recapitulation. After the rhythmic climax of the enormous development section—it is twice as long as the development section in any other symphony of the time—Beethoven reshapes classical norms by introducing extensive new material, which is resolved in a sort of recapitulation in the coda (concluding passage), which follows the movement’s recapitulation. The four movements of the Eroica bear the following expressive associations: struggle, death (a funeral march), rebirth (a scherzo, or rapid dancelike movement, that begins quietly), and glorification. In its narrative design, the ‘Eroica’ is connected to the ballet music of ‘Beethoven’ ‘Prometheus’, op. 43 (1801), from which he borrowed the theme for the symphony finale. This movement of the symphony expresses the exaltation of the ‘Greek’ mythological figure Prometheus in a series of variations on the ballet theme.

‘Beethoven’ had originally intended to dedicate the work to ‘French’ general ‘Napoleon Bonaparte’, whom he idolized, but he angrily withdrew the dedication after learning that ‘Napoleon’ had taken the title of emperor. Beethoven other instrumental works from the period of the ‘Eroica’ also tend to expand the formal framework that he inherited from ‘Haydn’ and ‘Mozart’. The ‘Piano Sonata’ in C major op. 53 (Waldstein) and the ‘Piano Sonata’ in F minor op. 57 (Appassionata), completed in (1804) and (1805) respectively, each employ bold contrasts in harmony, and they use a broadened formal plan, in which the meditative slow movements flow directly into the final movements. The symbolism of the keys used for these sonatas shares in the expressive world of Beethoven’s opera, entitled Leonore in its original version from (1805). The grim F-minor character of the Appassionata recalls the dungeon scenes in this key from the opera, whereas the jubilant close of the ‘Waldstein’ in C major recalls the stirring C-major conclusion of the opera to the words “Hail to the day! Hail to the hour!”. The celebrated Symphony No. 5 in C minor op. 67 from (1808) is the most thematically concentrated of ‘Beethoven’ works. Variants of the four-note motif that begins this symphony drive all four movements. The dramatic turning point in the symphony—where a sense of foreboding, struggle, or mystery yields to a triumphant breakthrough—comes at the transition to the final movement, where the music is reinforced by the entrance of the trombones.

‘Beethoven’ uses here a large-scale polarity between the darker sound of C minor and the brighter, more radiant effect of C major, which is held largely in reserve until the finale. The series of gigantic masterpieces of Beethoven’s third period include the technically demanding Hammerklavier Sonata, completed in (1818), about which he correctly predicted on account of its challenges that “it will be played fifty years hence,” and the ‘Diabelli Variations’. The latter work for piano transforms a trivial waltz by ‘Viennese’ publisher ‘Anton Diabelli’ into an astonishing, seemingly endless series of pieces, each with a unique character; some are humorous or even parodies. These and other late works incorporate fugues—melodies played in succession and interwoven—that reflect ‘Beethoven’ lifelong interest in the music of ‘J. S. Bach’ (known for his keyboard work Art of the Fugue). ‘Beethoven’ second mass, the ‘Missa Solemnis’ in D major op. 123 (1823), also poses formidable technical challenges, as do his fascinating and sometimes enigmatic last quartets and the Ninth ‘Symphony’, whose most readily accessible movement is the choral finale.

God Bless the USA

‘American’ patriotic song written and recorded by country music artist ‘Lee Greenwood’, and is considered to be his signature song. The first album it appears on is (1984) “You’ve Got a Good Love Comin'”. It reached No. 7 on the ‘Billboard’ magazine ‘Hot Country Singles’ chart when originally released in the spring of (1984), and was played at the (1984) ‘Republican National Convention’ with President ‘Ronald Reagan’ and first lady ‘Nancy Reagan’ in attendance, but the song gained greater prominence during the ‘Gulf War’ in (1990) and (1991), as a way of boosting morale.

The popularity of the song rose sharply after the ‘September 11’ attacks and during the (2003) invasion of ‘Iraq’, and the song was re-released as a single, re-entering the country music charts at No. 16 and peaking at No. 16 on the ‘Billboard Hot 100’ pop chart in (2001). ‘Greenwood’ said that he “wanted to write it my whole life. When I got to that point, we were doing 300 days a year on the road, and we were on our fourth or fifth album on MCA. I called my producer, and I said I have a need to do this. I’ve always wanted to write a song about America, and I said we just need to be more united.” The reason behind the cities chosen in the song ‘Greenwood’ says, “I’m from California, and I don’t know anybody from Virginia or New York, so when I wrote it—and my producer and I had talked about it—[we] talked about the four cities I wanted to mention, the four corners of the United States. It could have been Seattle or Miami but we chose New York City and Los Angeles, and he suggested Detroit and Houston because they both were economically part of the basis of our economy—Motortown and the oil industry, so I just poetically wrote that in the bridge.”

A music video was released for this song in (1984), depicting ‘Greenwood’ as a farmer who loses the family farm. The video was produced and edited by ‘L.A. Johnson’ and directed by ‘Gary Burden’. A second video was released in (1991), also on ‘VHS’, and was directed by ‘Edd Griles’. A third music video was also released after the ‘September 11’ (2001) attacks.

“God Bless the USA” debuted on the ‘Hot Country Singles & Tracks’ chart for the week of May 26, (1984).

The Boss

‘Bruce Springsteen’ born in ‘Long Branch, New Jersey’ (1949) is a singer-songwriter widely known for his brand of poetic lyrics, ‘Americana’ working class, sometimes political sentiments centered on his native ‘New Jersey’ and his lengthy and energetic stage performances.

‘Springsteen’ had been inspired to take up music at the age of seven after seeing ‘Elvis Presley’ on The ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ in (1956). ‘Springsteen’ signed a record deal with ‘Columbia Records’ in (1972) with the help of ‘John Hammond’, who had signed ‘Bob Dylan’ to the same label a decade earlier.

‘Springsteen’ is probably best known for his album ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ (1984), which sold 15 million copies in the United States, 30 million worldwide, and became one of the best-selling albums of all time with seven singles hitting the ‘Top 10’.

Breaking Barriers

‘Michael Jackson’ was born in (1958), a singer-songwriter and actor, his contributions to music, dance, and fashion, along with his publicized personal life, made him a global figure in popular culture for over four decades.

He debuted on the professional music scene along with his brothers as a member of ‘The Jackson 5’ in (1968), and began his solo career in (1971). In the early (1980), ‘Jackson’ became a dominant figure in popular music.

The music videos for his songs, including those of “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Thriller” (1982), were credited with breaking down racial barriers and with transforming the medium into an art form and promotional tool.

The popularity of these videos helped to bring the then relatively new television channel ‘Music Television’ to fame.