peter nesteruk (home page: contents and index)



Listening to Music III                                         



Following on from previous articles where I talked about the similarities in emotional response found when listening to popular and classical music, here follow some more parallels that point us towards a sense of general human listening that jumps the (anyway somewhat outdated cultural) ¡®torn halves¡¯ binary and notes further connections between form, expression and content that are equally applicable to popular as to art or classical music (in this case literally ¡®classical¡¯ music in the sense of 18th to 19th century music graduating from binary to sonata form ¨C and quickly superseded by the Romantic extension of this form; Bruckner/Mahler).


Pop Song.  Pop.  Voice.   Pleasure.    Classical.   Form.       Sonata

   (form)     (¡®type¡¯)  (¡®means¡¯)  (content/signified)  (orchestral)   (suite/symphony)   (form)


Verse      Lyric    Alone    Expression     Solo    Slow movement  2nd theme




Chorus    Anthem  Together  Assertion     ¡®tutti¡¯    First movement  1st theme


                                                 shared/ mental)


Instrumental  Dance  None   Movement     Rhythm  Last movement  Dev/Var.

(¡¯Middle 8¡¯)                               (Body/Physical)



With respect to Sonata Form, we have the two, usually contrasting, themes, respectively assertive and reflective, together with a contrast of keys (tonic /dominant) implying a contrast of flavours (¡®masculine¡¯/¡¯feminine¡¯). So again, we can see the relationship of a more ¡®outer facing¡¯ and a more ¡®inner orientated¡¯ theme or group of themes, so again reflecting the division shown above (anthem/lyric) but within a form instead of defining forms ¨C just as in the popular song (and also defined by their means of expression: ¡®Voice¡¯; single, plural, instrumental, with their apposite ¡®content of expression¡¯: expressive, assertive, ¡®movementive¡¯ ¨C in the Rondo last movement form ¨C a fast ¡®dance¡¯ form). And at the end of a sonata form movement there is the combined sense of return and progress (a spiral rather than a circle); after a process of transformations and reversals (the classical ¡®development¡¯ section) as the first theme re-appears in the dominant, and the second theme in the tonic, so providing a ¡®logical¡¯ climax and a coda.



In the Concerto type (means of expression) the solo/together (¡®tutti¡¯) ¡®Voice¡¯ modality and the expressive/assertive (recognition/identification) ¡®Pleasure¡¯ modality are combined in various, predictable ways (especially in the alternation of solo and orchestra in all movements); but always finishing with a ¡®dance¡¯ type final movement.


Romantic variation form, like all prior variation form, contains all aspects/speeds in one theme, A, A1, A2, A3¡­  (or in the accompanying episodes A, B, A1, C, A2, D¡­). A form continued first in atonal and then in 12 tone music and its aftermath in the 20th and 21st centuries. So effectively (if there are no ¡®episodes¡¯) a ¡®monothematic¡¯ music.


Looking back to the Baroque, with music as represented by the dance suite, dominated by forms and rhythms evolved from earlier forms of dance (and see too the following forms of the early quartets), we find all speeds, solo/collective within movements¡­ ¡­ Otherwise first movement, fast/binary, movements and expressive/lyric slow movements in the Concerti Grosso, etc.



Perhaps a similar difference (expressive single line and collective rhythm) can be found in the opposition of the ¡®leading voice¡¯ of the ¡®top¡¯ melody line and the collective parts beneath, contrasts managing degrees of expressiveness and assertion. As in melody/repeated chords, fast rhythms/slow top line (or reverse): found in Jazz, Rock, Beethoven Quartets, or in Shostakovich¡¯s Violin Concerto, in the famous slow movement, where expressive solo ¡®comment¡¯ floats over the repeated (¡®assertive¡¯) ¡®topic¡¯ theme (the orchestral passacaglia)¡­ with the effect (content of expression/semantic emotional equivalent) of historical mourning and introspection.


Sets of overlapping parallels¡­ carving up, representing, forming¡­ the human response to music; human emotions¡­ complex in complex music (whence music -like poetry- as an education for the emotions) but based upon simple basic differences of emotional mood or pleasure of emotional response¡­





Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2020