Guide for Tape 2

Contemporary Era




1) Back to 1900, an opera by an Englishman, Frederick Delius: “A Village Romeo and Juliet.” The libretto comes from a simple German tale and is a story about the frustrated love between a boy and girl of rival farmers. This excerpt is near the end where these two protagonists choose to be happy for one fleeting moment and then die. They leave Paradise Garden on their marriage bed of hay in their barge and withdraw the plug from the bottom; he throws it away, and the barge drifts slowly down the river. Quite with the times? Delius’s dreamy music obviously draws from two sources, namely Debussy and Wagner. There is a sliding chromaticism about it, for sure.   [listen]


2) Now back up to 1905 and to Strauss where he found an excellent subject for the type of music he wrote and one has “Salome” from the play by Oscar Wilde. These were the times when the “theatre of cruelty” were seeded and the perverted eroticism of Salome gave Strauss a “succès de scandale” which he clearly foresaw and welcomed for the opportunity to feed the many jaded “fin de siècle” appetites. Excerpts from the opera begin right at the beginning and where the captain of the Royal Guard sings, “How beautiful is the Princess Salome tonight!” Then a page sings about how the moon is strange and it rises like a woman from a tomb. The Captain continues on the moon and how it is like a little princess who has little white doves for feet and how she seems to be dancing. The page sings, “She is like a woman who is dead…” Notice the symbolism and how the beginning is the ending. After an uproar and references towards the Jews the Captain comes back repeating the music and words.   [listen]

3) Several minutes later right before John the Baptist sings, “After me shall come another mightier than I” (where this ex. ends), the Captain still sings of the Princess (“Never seen her so pale… like the shadow of a white rose of silver”) but is warned that he shouldn’t look too much at her or something terrible may happen.   [listen]

4) This ex. catches the Page repeating, “Why do you look at her” and immediately Salome (who has just come on stage) sings of the moon, how she is like a “silver flower, cold and chaste, Yes I am sure she is a virgin, she has a virgin’s beauty.” You then hear the voice of John singing about how “The lord hath come, the son of man hath come.” Salome asks who he is…   [listen]

5) This catches the Captain repeating (for the nth time), “…ich kann nicht”: Salome begs and then demands to have John brought up. She then teases the Captain by saying she might smile at him… this does it and after an “ah” from Salome, there is music accompanying the entrance of John from the cistern (where he is kept prisoner); most of the music is not on the tape and it picks up John at the moment of his being seen, “Where is he whose cup of abominations is now full?” (Wo ist er…)   [listen]

6) Into the dialogue between Salome, John and the Captain: Salome sings of his terribleness, and above all, his eyes, how they are like black caverns… The Captain attempts to stop this fascination. Then Salome speaks of how wasted he is, “…like a thin ivory statue, …chaste as the moon is, his flesh must be cool like ivory; I would look closer at him.” …John asks who this woman is.   [listen]

7) Salome now begins to crave for John’s body. She describes his body through a number of images: lilies, snow, roses, the feet of dawn when they light on the leaves, breast of the moon as she lies on the breast of the sea… “There is nothing in the world so white as your body. Let me touch thy body.” John begins, “Back daughter of Babylon!… I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.” She now goes on singing how hideous his body is, like the body of a leper, like a plastered wall where vipers have crawled…   [listen]

8) She then became completely obsessed with his mouth (before this episode she had become infatuated with his hair), and compares it with at least nine different red objects, and then goes on, “There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth… Let me kiss thy mouth.” John: “Never, daughter of Babylon, daughter of Sodom… never.” “I will kiss thy mouth, Jokanaan, I will…” again and again and this causes the Captain to kill himself.   [listen]

9) She goes on and on; finally Herod and her mother (the King’s wife) arrive. Herod can’t understand why the Captain killed himself, etc.; things are even stranger (they are a little more normal, hence the contrast) and he thinks he hears:   [listen]


10) wind and it is cold. Again, symbols, etc. He thinks his wife’s daughter is ill (she is even paler than ever). (whispers)    [listen]

11) Herod is also obsessed with Salome. His desire is to seduce her. But things like, “…dip into it thy little red lips, that I may drain the cup,” or “…bite a little of this fruit and then I will eat what is left”… After a dispute breaks out between Nazarenes (about the coming of the Messiah), Herod asks Salome to dance for him. She is cold to him but after promising Salome anything she desires, she dances (rather poor music). At the end of it, the inflamed Herod asks her what she desires. She asks for the head of John the Baptist on a silver charger. (It was requested one step at a time: first the silver, flat dish, then the head.) This ex. contains the platter and the head (“Den Kopf…”). Herod is horrified, his wife is delighted. Salome doesn’t pay heed to her mother, it is only for her own pleasure.   [listen]


12) Finally the action is: Salome: “Give me the head of John”; Herod: “Let her be given what she asks! Of a truth she is her mother’s child!” (Mutters Kind).   [listen]


13) Salome has a long soliloquy and this picks it up at where she intensely listens for the head to fall. She thinks the slave is afraid to cut it off. She calls for soldiers to go get the head and here Salome makes love to it with kisses on the lips and she is overjoyed that the head belongs to her. “I can do with it what I will. I can throw it to the dogs and to the birds of the air. That which the dogs leave, the birds of the air shall devour…” Then later: “I am athirst for thy beauty; I am hungry for thy body…” “If thou hadst looked at me thou wouldst have loved me.” “…the mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death…” Herod sees how monstrous she is, but her mother approves. They run for cover thinking something terrible will befall. A great black cloud comes but Salome continues kissing the head… Herod orders her to be killed. Soldiers crush her with their shields. The opera ends. What about the relation between the words and the music; what about the music? Strauss wrote more operas. “Electra” written in 1909, was more chromatic or just plain more dissonant. Then he wrote backwards, i.e., neoclassical. Before then, he carried Tristan and Wagnerian principles to some kind of final consummation.   [listen]

14) Schoenberg in 1905: String Quartet No. 1 in D minor, op. 7, opening only.   [listen]

15) Webern in 1905: String Quartet (not performed until 1962). Opening only.   [listen]

16) Berg in 1905: 3rd song from “Sieben Frühe Lieder” (Seven Early Songs): “Die Nachtigall”: “a nightingale sings throughout the night, from a tree bearing a thousand roses, she used to be a wild young maid, now she walks in the sun and scorns the shade, is not of the wind or rain afraid; is it pain or exaltation”   [listen]

17) The year 1906: Some harmonic experiments (These new harmonic resources were mostly opened up by Debussy, but other impressionistic “devices” existed and were usually found in orchestral works: Kaleidoscopic open-work of melodic scraps and spots doubling at conventional or unconventional intervals simultaneously, varied or unvaried repetition of motives or mere figures of rhythmic patterns instead of thematic development—all tending to the disintegration of the hitherto accepted norms of texture and consequence, were adopted by composers of different personalities) Debussy and Ravel used emancipated chords (found in certain impressionistic works before this date) of superimposed fourths but Schoenberg did not use them as a reaction from hyper-chromaticism until the Chamber Symphonie, but first: listen to Beckmesser’s lute (from Die Meistersinger by Wagner); Satie in 1891 (originally for piano), Schoenberg in Pelleas & Mellisande from 1902 (where the Quartel harmony is in tonal context) before this 1906 work of Schoenberg (ex. from the opening and later on). Slight silences between each ex. except the Chamber Symphonie. Strauss (Salome) and Mahler both in 1905 used Quartel harmony.   [listen]

18) Vaughn-Williams in 1906 (Norfolk Rhapsody no. 1) using a folk song which fascinated English composers.   [listen]

19) Charles Ives in 1905 conveying what Ives “heard” outside while in his bedroom above at 65 Central Park West (people, horses at different speeds, etc.) Then the ending form “The Unanswered Question” (1906) demonstrating what is to come: superimposing (3) different musical materials at different speeds, and last, the song from 1906, “The New River” reveals Ives as a proto-environmentalist (original title: “The Ruined River”) “Gas machine kills Housatonic!” “Down the river comes a noise! It is not the voice of rolling waters. It’s only the sound of man, phonographs, and gasoline, dancing halls and tambourine, human beings gone machine… Killed is the blare of the hunting horn, the River Gods are gone.” Extraordinary music—his “experimental” ability and gift to communicate and use it!   [listen]

20) 1907, A. Skriabin’s “The Poem of Ecstasy” Ex. include the opening, a little later, still later… and last, the ending. One can find the influences rather easily. He was on the brink of atonality three years later, but he was a true man at the turn of the century.   [listen]

21) Bela Bartok in 1907. Not the great Bartok yet, but this ex. from the “lost” Violin Concerto begins to show the transition from his previous decidedly nationalistic-romantic beginning and (mostly Strauss influenced) into something more personal. The outline is formal (classical) but also shows many of the specifics of later works (shape of melody, the way different voices are brought in, contours, and even a rhythmic hint of what is to come, based on folk material).   [listen]

22) Bartok a year later writing a miniature thesaurus of the new harmonic devices (14 Bagatellen, op. 6). Ex. are from no. 1 (bitonality, actually two different modes transposed on c); number 3 (foreshadowing row music); no. 4 (counterpoint of chord blocks and non-functional slide-slipping of dissonances).   [listen]

23) Debussy in 1908 composing for the piano, the last half of the last piece from Images, Book 2.   [listen]

24) Debussy writing for his child, Chou-chou, and this ex. begins where the “African” influence is coming to a close, and to where Debussy will saucily hint at the opening of “Tristan” (“Golliwogg’s Cake Walk” from Children’s Corner, 1908).   [listen]

25) Skriabin’s “Fifth Sonata” (1908) took six days “to capture” on his “terrestrial” piano and another three days to write down. Here is the opening and the closing. Notice the harmonic floating (or suspension).   [listen]  

26) Webern in 1908. Opus 1 (“Passacaglia for Orchestra”): opening and closing is heard (the pizzicato announces the theme and this is transformed in 23 variations: influences are discernable, and Webern observes the “Key of D”.   [listen]

27) Opus 2 from Webern which is a double canon for mixed a capella choir (1908). Ex. to where it begins again. Why such length on these two early works? In order to demonstrate how far he will develop (but still be true to himself).   [listen]

28) Opening of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, op. 81a (Lebe wohl, i.e., it opens with this motif and B. marked it, farewell). Immediately are phrases based on this motif from his [Mahler’s] work, “The Song of the Earth” and they translate: “Dark is life, is death” (first ex.) and “The lovely earth everywhere blossoms in the new green of spring, all, everywhere, and ever, shines the blue horizon, ever… ever…” 1908. The last of tonality? All in C Major with that Appoggiatura…   [listen]

29) Schoenberg’s “Quartet no. 2” (1907-8): Cyclic in its themes, not decisive as yet in atonality (although some passages of the third and part of the fourth movements “depart from earth,” to paraphrase the text from this movement, i.e., goes beyond some tonal relations). First theme of movement 1 is transformed in the beginning of the third (other transformations of other themes accompany it), an old Viennese popular song is heard in the scherzo (heard here is ex. 3). Ex. is the third move. opening, and then almost the first half of the last movement plus the ending follows. The last movement text depicts the departure from earth to another planet. The visionary poet (S. George in this case) here foretold sensations, which perhaps soon will be affirmed, becoming relieved from gravity—passing through clouds into thinner air, forgetting all the troubles of life on earth—This is attempted to be illustrated in the introduction.   [listen]

30) The important conscious first step of Schoenberg to destroy tonality, the Op. 1 Piano Pieces. First and last pieces. S. attempted to write a constantly evolving form in the last piece (free recitative). 1908.   [listen]

31) The 14th song (of 15) from the “Book of the Hanging Gardens” op. 15. Actually written before the “Three Pieces,” this work is a mixture of influences (of style, not other composers). This song exhibits the piano in contrast to the vocal line. “Speak not always of the leaves, the wind’s prey, of the squashing of ripe quinces of the tread of the destroyers late in the year, of the quivering of dragonflies during storms and of the lights whose flames are inconstant.”   [listen]

32) “Erwartung”, op. 17, composed between 27 Aug. and 12 Sept. This is the source for Berg’s Wozzeck. This is expressionism, although the text is somewhat dated, the music is carried to paroxysm, constantly anxious to resolve itself but never finding solution. This was an intense improvisatory moment in Schoenberg’s life. Ex: Scene 1: the opening “Is it here? I can’t see the way” (moonlight floods the stage at the edge of a dark wood. A woman enters; she is looking for “him” and at the end, she finds the courage to rush into the woods).   [listen]

33) Opening of Sc. 2: in the forest, the woman is in shock, hears things, suffers apparitions, imagines she is being attacked. After the word “Fort” (away), she forces herself on.   [listen]


34) From near the end of Sc. 2 to the beg. of Sc. 4 (last scene). She thinks she hears crying but nothing turns out to be “real”. She runs and asks if she felt a body (it is a tree trunk), Sc. 3 brings her further and she identifies “him” as her lover. She imagines: he calls, sees his shadow, yellow eyes, asks her lover to help her as she admits great fear, Sc. 4 opens with a moonlit path leading to a house. She is exhausted, her hair disheveled—she doesn’t find him.   [listen]

35) This ex. has her finding “him” (first thing on the tape). She found a bench, rested, felt she saw something shine red, “It is he”—she swoons (music stops). She pretends she hasn’t found him, but then admits it. She is deranged now, although she does call for help. (She has called out “Don’t be dead, I love you so…”)   [listen]

36) Nearly half the opera still goes on, but this is the ending: nothing of consequence happens except that we realize that her lover is not so desirable—she says no one will notice your body as thousands pass and “I do not recognize you…It is dark, your kiss… my lips burn and glimmer towards you, Oh, are you there? I searched…” The ending is extraordinary and certainly influences Berg. In what way is the music not like Salome?  [listen]

37) “Five Pieces for Orchestra” by Schoenberg, 1909. (1st piece plus opening of 2nd.)   [listen]

38) (short break) the third one with color and timbre.   [listen]

39) (short break) 4th one—5 is lacking. Important work and very influential on his pupils, particularly the Webern op. 6. Here we have “KlangfarbenMelodie” (a constant alternation of timbre applied to the horizontal dimension) applied for the first time.   [listen]

40) 1911. These “Six Little Piano Pieces” by Schoenberg inaugurated the “small form” (also characteristic of Webern even back then). Concise, avoiding all repetition by development that puts identical musical figures into play. Expressive, not violent, reserved and concentrated, the sixth piece superimposes two chords in a funeral bell effect, and was inspired by the death of Mahler. (op. 19)   [listen]

41) Webern, 1909: 3rd & 4th Movements from the op. 5, “Five movements for String Quartet.” This is the first work where Webern’s genius truly appears. The work is radical, from the point of view of sensibility, as well as their display of conciseness and intensity. With op. 6, these are the most accessible of Webern’s compositions.   [listen]

42) Berg, 1908, opening of the “Piano Sonata”. Berg still is tonally conscious but this opening displays his temperament. Then the 1910 “String Quartet”: opening showing the same temperament. Notice the motif (of a triplet of 5 notes) coming back right at the moment of climax. Ending immediately follows opening. Remember the building up of contours of individual phrases.   [listen]

43) Discovered among some papers left by Schoenberg: “Three Pieces,” 1910. The third piece was never completed. Webern had, of course, become a master of intense “short works” and may have influenced these. In the first, only 12 measures, one finds 6 changes of tempo. The 2nd consists of 4 short phrases separated by pauses. The incomplete 3rd piece has a harmonium added to the ensemble which sustains a six-note chord. Music breaks off at measure 8. Actually these pieces were written before the Op. 19.   [listen]

44) Webern’s Op. 6 (“Six Pieces for Orchestra”) Only 2, 3, & 4 are heard. Webern’s palate can be dark. More repressed than Schoenberg?   [listen]

45) Stravinsky’s “The Firebird”, May 18, 1910. Earlier works by Stravinsky show strong Rimsky-Korsakov influence. This too, in certain respects. This is somewhat neo-impressionistic music written by a Russian. In this ex. one hears how the opening idea (down by thirds but within the tritone) is repeated a few times (many times in score) and leads to the dance-like second section (only the ending heard here). Atmosphere for this ballet that has two magic beings: the glittering Firebird who plays the part of a good fairy, and a green-taloned ogre, the embodiment of evil. The story concerns a prince wandering too deeply into a magic garden.   [listen]

46) These tiny bits from a new section (The Firebird’s entreaties) show this same melodic repetition but with constant color (timbre) change. (Rimsky again and that “eastern” flavor and all of that orchestration throughout the work).   [listen]

47) Small excerpts showing a simple melody being repeated…   [listen]

48) Now the Infernal Dance of all the subjects of that ogre. Small excerpts of the whole movement pass by until the ending. This is Stravinskyan! the rhythmic energy, the individual phrase structure, the harmonic movement, all of this and more make this easy, accessible work a favorite.   [listen]

49) 1867 “Night on Bald Mountain” by Massorgsky (Russian).   [listen]

50) Stravinsky’s “Petrushka” (1910-11). Opening scene in a square in St. Petersburg, in the 1830’s. A fair is in progress. In the background one sees a glimpse of Roundabouts, swings, and a helter-skelter. On the left, a booth with a balcony. Beneath it, a table with a large samovar. In the center, the Showman’s little theatre. On the right, sweetmeat stalls and a peepshow. Crowds are strolling—all kind of people…street musician appears with a dancer and hurdy-gurdy. Dancing… suddenly the showman comes through the curtains of the little theatre and reveals 3 puppets on their stands: Petrushka, the Ballerina, and the Moor. He charms then into life and they dance to the astonishment of the crowd. This ex. has the opening, the appearance of the Showman (where he charms the puppets and where they dance among the public). Sc. 2: Petrushka’s cell. (Black cardboard walls, stars and a crescent moon upon them; devils painted gold leading into the Ballerina’s Cell and a portrait of the Showman scowling), a bitter puppet, conscious of his ugliness, an outsider resenting his dependence on his cruel master. He tries to console himself by falling in love with the Ballerina. She visits him in his cell and is frightened by his uncouth antics, and flees. In despair, he curses the Showman, hurls himself at his portrait but only succeeds in tearing a hole in the cardboard wall of his cell. The drumrolls separate scenes 1, 2, and 3. All of scene 2 is heard on this tape. Darkness falls and the third scene is in the Moor’s room. Wallpaper has green palm trees and fantastic fruits in red; a door on the right leads to the Ballerina’s cell. The Moor is lying on a divan playing with a coconut. The Ballerina finds him attractive and they play a love scene, but it is interrupted by Petrushka, furiously jealous. He is thrown out. The taped portion is cut at the waltz (the Moor & Ballerina dance). Then it comes back where P. enters (end of waltz), and P. and the Moor quarrel. The Ballerina faints. The Moor pushes P. out. Darkness. Curtain. Sc. 4: (short break) brings back the fair and many minutes go by watching different groups dance. The opening is heard here, another cut to where the devil appears (another Massorgsky “excerpt”), then right to where the crowd disregards the cries emerging from the little theatre. The dance stops, out dashes P. pursued by the Moor, whom the Ballerina tries to restrain. The Moor strikes him with his saber. P. falls, his skull broken. Crowd surrounds P. and he dies. Police are sent to fetch the Magician. The magician arrives, picks up P’s corpse, shakes it. Crowd disperses. The Magician alone on stage, drags the corpse toward the theatre, and P’s ghost appears above, threatening and thumbing his nose at the Magician. Terrified P. is dropped and the Magician hurries away. Curtain. What about the music? Modes, diads, bitonal…   [listen]

51) “Le Sacre du Printemps” (The Rite of Spring) Stravinsky, 1911-13. Introduction (in 4 phases with the last being a return to the first one except simplified). Try to hear the motifs superimposed when existing in that form.   [listen]

52) Small section of the “Mock Abduction” showing a simple idea: alternation and juxtaposition of two rhythmic cells that either augment or decrease in number (of eighth notes).   [listen]

53) Now a short example (in the “Sacrifice” section that begins Part II) where three ideas are presented: A is mobile (in 2 part counterpoint), B comes in before A (18 quarter notes after the beginning) finishes for the first time and is immobile and C accompanies B next time ‘round (held chords). All this on an embellished V, I, V sound.   [listen]

54) A B-minor and a B-Major section with the top melody changing meter and with a cello part that has its own pitches with ostinato (pitch derived from the melody).   [listen]

55) The whole of the “Glorification of the Chosen Victim”: A harmony that is simple but a rhythm that is complex. The eighth note is constant but the meter is uneven. The form is ternary: Exposition, Middle, Re-exposition. Exposition has 3 cells; Middle has 2 alternating ideas; Re-exposition mostly first idea.   [listen]

56) Now the big “Sacrificial Dance” (the chosen victim): in “Rondo” form. Sixteenth note value unit. Refrain comes back 3 times. Each section has alternating musical ideas. This work was conceived as a solemn pagan rite: wise elders seated in a circle watching a young girl dance herself to death. They were sacrificing her to propitiate the God of Spring. It caused a riot on May 29, 1913!   [listen]

57) The opening from Ravel’s ballet (composed for Serge Diagilev and his Ballet Russe—1909) “Daphnis et Chloe”. Water, Water (a wave with all its evocative sounds including the birds that accompany it). One can imagine at the break of day, the ocean. This wave is done with extreme precision but it gives one an image of an enormous wash, quite impressionistic.   [listen]

58) Another ballet composed for Diagilev (scenario and choreography by Nizhinsky), Debussy’s “Jeux” (1912). A very important work, quite close in technique to the painter Seurat, whose work, like Debussy’s is broken down into the smallest possible units (more cellular than thematic). The ex. is right before “triple kisses unite them in ecstasy”. The only real saturation point and at which point, a return to near the opening. The work constantly renews itself (what has been said is not said again). Only after composing “La Mer” and the “Images” pour orchestre could such a work be written.   [listen]

59) Sibelius in 1910. This “Fourth Symphony” is mostly based on the tritone and the way it resolves. Actually, a rather complex motive treatment (motives) coalesce into complete entities. The excerpts here demonstrate these intense resolutions. Samples from all four movements are heard. The triad is very strong here, but at the expense of this interval. No emancipation of dissonance here in an overall sense: only as a result of the dissonance is there an emancipation.   [listen]

60) You’ve heard this: a deceptive cadence in “Tristan”. After a brief silence you hear a “cadential” passage from Debussy’s 1911 work, “The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian” (an interesting work, consciously influenced by a few disparate and unexpected sources but reflected in this chord sampling). What differences are there between these two examples?   [listen]

61) Webern on 19 July, 1911. The fourth piece from Op.10.   [listen]   

62) About half of a setting of a poem by Maeterlinck in 1911 by Schoenberg for soprano and celesta, harmonium and harp: “Herzegewaschse” Op. 20. It describes how a lily ascends, lonely, “Rising to the Crystal blue, white and mystical, its prayer” (“like a moon, prisoned air/Fills…”)   [listen]

End of Tape Two.



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