Choosing from the marvelous diversity the top stone of the world art is a rather difficult task. As far as music is concerned, it is the most mysterious form of art. Pitch, timbre, the strength of tone and quantity are the peculiar features of tone and powerful expressive music means as well. According to London, “There is a growing body of work in the philosophy of music and musical aesthetics that has considered the various ways that music can be meaningful: music as representational (that is, musical depictions of persons, places, processes, or events); musical as quasi-linguistic reference (as when a musical figure underscores the presence of a character in a film or opera), and most especially, music as emotionally expressive” (London).
Music has no strict stratification rules. History of music represents itself as something isolated. Though, as any result of the creative activity of a man it is reasonable, especially in terms of its socio-historical background. It is on the one hand. On the other hand, music is phenomenal with respect to the ability of art form to abstract away from diseases of society and from all spheres of life without being aloof from them and the essence of life, though. There were few watershed moments, connected with the names of the music luminaries. Generally, Johan Sebastian Bach is considered to be the person who led musical art to the whole new level. Thanks to him, lots of new musical genres appeared. The reason was the transition from church music to secular one.
Music varies in form but has very little difference in its content. The point of our interest is historical periodization and its illustration in art, as well as the way epochs, manifested themselves in peculiar areas of art. While speaking about Romanticism, it is important to admit that music has expressed the ideals of the epoch most vividly. “Classical composers had tried to create a balance between expression and formal structure; Romantic composers altered this balance by applying more freedom to the form and structure of their music, and using deeper, more intense expressions of moods, feelings and emotions” (“Romanticism (Music)”). This meant deviation from traditional canons of classical music. “With the emphasis on imagination and vision, the formal structure was stretched to accommodate a wider range of keys and sudden changes between them, and dynamic and instrumental timbers were also used.” (“Romanticism (Music)”).
Harmony, freely dissonance and modulation were of great importance. Synthesis of immense knowledge and impressive intellect were distinctive features of people of art at that time. “Composers were often widely read and were inspired by poems, novels, plays and paintings”. Goethe’s masterpiece “Der Erlkönig” and Schubert’s eponymous oeuvre, as well as the tragedy by Goethe “Egmont” and drama music by Beethoven are bright examples.
It is necessary to admit that band and choral music were developing rapidly at that time. Orchestras replenished with new instruments. Vocal abilities were the powerful ally in creating special effects upon the listener. So, in both cases music developed rapidly and the sound was deep and lush. Gorgeous scale deprived the general image of any penumbra, while the switch between shadow and light was rather contrasting. Having though much in common, behind the music there were strong persons of its creators.
Something different happened to impressionistic music and music full of symbolism. While speaking about impressionism in music, one should keep in mind the representatives of the style – Erik Satie, Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. “The Impressionist composers had two favorite mediums: the orchestra (because of its variety of color) and the piano (because its damper pedal permitted vibrating harmonies to “suspend in mid-air”)” (“Music History – The Impressionistic Period (1870-1920)”).
Get a price quote:
By all means, impressionism is a vague art. Impressionism in music was a sort of reaction against maximalism – dichotomous thinking of Romanticism. On the other hand, music at that time became more autonomous, sustainable, all-sufficient, so to say, in order to remove oneself from the visual arts. “There was little room in Impressionism for the “heaven-storming” climaxes of Romanticism. Instead, there is a veiling of sonority and delicate texture.” (“Music History – The Impressionistic Period (1870-1920)”). It featured modal influences, i.e. using the primary intervals (fourths, fifths and octaves) in parallel motion, whole-tone and pentatonic scale, harmony, and escaped chords, i.e. the effect of transition of the melody to another tonality through the chords without no preparation and solving (“Music History – The Impressionistic Period (1870-1920)”).
Claude Debussy’s La mere, Trois Esquisses Symphoniques (The Sea, Three Symphonic Scetches for Orchestra) is something like a bright and fascinating watercolor, depicting snowmelt and ice drift on a windy partly cloudy day. String and brass sections sound in the upper case with few modulations. Though cold colors prevail, peeks of sunshine appear suddenly, one can almost fill the wind blowing around. That is the magic of an orchestra.
So began the twentieth century with its Modern and Post-Modern. “The transition from nineteenth-century Romanticism to twentieth-century “Modernism” is, perhaps, as violent an upheaval as was the transition from the Renaissance to the Baroque” (“The Modern or Twentieth Century (1900 – )”). Drastic political and economic changes, the arms race, conflicts, and frenzied rhythm made art completely different. Counterpoint, chord patterns, poly- and atonality, tone-row technique, polyrhythms, dissonance, humor, variation principle, short themes, sound clusters, humor and satire – all these and many others formed the basic set of features of the music of the 20th century (“The Modern or Twentieth Century (1900 – )”).
George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue appeared, which was the first and the only phenomenon of its kind with its classical form and jazz sound. Remarkable exposition, development and reprise are characteristic of the piece. Other features include the nameable melody of the motive; bright, dense colors, as well as impetuosity of the theme, and vivid development of the theme in each instrument. Initially, Gershwin had created experimental rhapsody for the piano and a jazz-band, though in years that followed several orchestral versions of his work were made. In 1935, Porgy and Bess – an “American folk opera” – was performed (composed by George Gershwin, libretto by DuBose Heyward, lyrics by Heyward and Ira Gershwin), the masterpiece is known for its song Summertime. What is peculiar about this music is that, actually, almost each creation by Gershwin brothers is narrative. Actually, that is peculiar about the whole world of art in XX century. But this is already a key-note of philosophy of art.
Any expressive mean, being it either a word or a special habit, is an expressive tool “in the hands” of creator. Tough the less is being made to prevent art from becoming a tool. Any art is the action of human mind and soul, expressed by the variety of means. The world is changing and life is going faster and faster. Today it is impossible to escape from noise and airwaves, so people spend less time on perceiving beauty. No time to stop, no time to calm down and listen. Hardly anyone cares that few honorable masters of music create nowadays, while men of genius in music have almost gone. Hardly anyone cares about chef-d’oeuvres. “Beauty is in the eye of beholder” – an ancient saying goes. Although people got used to express themselves with its help nowadays, art is neither a weapon nor a fake, but the primordial beauty and clarity. Still people do need to remember the good and the beauty and find a song of their own.