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9: Unit 2- Music and Drama

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    Music and Drama.

    So far, we've looked primarily at instrumental music this unit: although we looked at some of music's relationship with stories and text, the majority of the music was purely "abstract," especially the music from the Baroque and Classical era. These abstract or "absolute" musics had no story attached to them -- the beauty was in the sound and its organization.

    And yet, we did look at some music that had a dramatic connection. Some of the music was purely instrumental, without any words attached. This is program music: purely instrumental music that depicts some non-musical narrative or element. Recall Debussy's Voiles: a short piano piece that depicts the atmosphere of floating on a boat in the middle of a breezeless ocean. Or Bartok's Out of Doors, which was purely instrumental music that depicted insect sounds, or the imagery of two animals fighting in the woods. Even Vivaldi's Spring violin concerto, which had its own poetry attached to it, was purely instrumental (recall that it was based on the text, but the text wasn't spoken or sung during the music). The only music that we really looked at that was sung was Schoenberg's "Moondrunk" from Pierrot Lunaire, and it was mostly for the purpose of the eerie timbre created through Schoenberg's sprechstimme technique (the "speech sing" sound).

    This unit will address more directly Music and its relationship to drama and narrative text. We will first look at two pieces of Romantic-style 19th century program music. These pieces very vividly tell a story with their music. After this, we will look at a substantial amount of song and other types of sung vocal music, addressing music's relationship with the voice and the text. We will then address music and staged or filmed drama: Opera, Film, and Video Games.

    Throughout this unit, make sure you're asking yourself how the music, text, and narrative interact with one another. Do they confirm each other? Do they contradict each other? Is there any element of foreshadowing? Does the music accurately reflect the text? Understanding these questions will help us understand music from the literary perspective, rather than simply its formal makeup.

    9: Unit 2- Music and Drama is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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