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Thread: Program music without program

  1. #1
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    Default Program music without program

    Thread inspired by my latest experience. I've stumbled across Britten's Four Sea Interludes, and was dissapointed. The Storm wasn't stormy at all. Discouraged from listening to something new I decided to listen to good, old Brahms, Symphony No. 4. Thoughts of seas and storms didn't left my mind completely, and I imagined those stuff while listening. And I have found the storm. Not in the music ment to describe storm, but in symphony written far, far away from the sea. The dynamic parts in the first movement seemd just like raging waves and rampant wind. Again, I have been reassured that the best program music is music which has no program until we, as listeners, will create it for ourselves.

    So, this is the thread to write about your "programs", the things you imagine while listening to your favourite pieces of music.


    For me, the music is sometimes like a movie. The sounds make me think about particular things and in time I have the whole story. For example, first movement of Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is about young, handsome insurgent, which survived November Uprising, but along with others has been exiled for penal labor in Siberia. At the beginning of the movement, he arrives to the prison farm and decides to escape. He succeeds, but after a long time. The time of his sufferings in cold mine are not described in the piece for too long. I would say that he escapes about third minute or so. He's tired, whiskery and hungry and there are no settlements nearby. So he walks, walks and walks though the plains of snow and cold forests, half-dead and freezing, wondering if he have any chances to return to his home. At the beginning of fifth minute he reaches the borders of Russia and gets close to his home village. After about 20 second enters fast, uneasy bunch of frazes on violin. Before he can see his home he must climp up to the hill, so he runs towards it almost breathless, hes getting closer anc closer, the famous orchestra theme is about to begin, and when it does, at the same moment he reaches the peak of the hill and see the green fields and feels the smells of summer, he looks into the blue sky, and runs down the hill during the repeating theme. After this the solo violin enters again, and he's running around, chasing the flowers wallowing in the grass and so on. When the theme is about to begin again, he sees his lover and they are falling into their arms and dance around. THE END.

    Yes, I know you are moved! So am I! <weeps>

    I wonder if anyone else have such fancies?

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    Senior Member Fsharpmajor's Avatar
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    I think your imagination must be more vivid than mine!

    When I listen to Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony I imagine seeing Soviet cities
    from the air in the dead of winter. Factories and tenements with smoke from the
    chimneys, and that sort of thing, all dreary, gray and cold.

    This might make you think I dislike the symphony, but it's actually one of my
    favourites.

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    Senior Member nickgray's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fsharpmajor View Post
    When I listen to Shostakovich's Fourth Symphony I imagine seeing Soviet cities from the air in the dead of winter. Factories and tenements with smoke from the
    chimneys, and that sort of thing, all dreary, gray and cold.
    Yeah, his symphonies can do that. Despair, bitterness, gray and black colors, war, smoke, ruins...

    I do have those "programs" for lots of pieces, though mostly they're very, very abstract and I don't think it's possible to describe them in words.
    Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    I agree mine are mostly very abstract as well.

    The closest I have to a self imposed program is in a very small part Beethoven's 9th symphony, movement 4. After the second time we hear a descending "Alle Menschen, Alle Menschen, Alle Menschen --" the four soloist's voices ring out above the choir and the orchestra on a sustained chord. I imagine Beethoven is saying here that even though all mankind should embrace in kinship and joy, it's still the individual spirit that triumphs. It's not too far fetched an idea if you consider Beethoven as the first artist /hero as he did himself.

    Also I have a private program for Vaughan-Williams Tallis Fantasia that is a cliched romantic daydream involving two people gingerly in the first stages of realizing they're falling in love and being a little scared of it, finally embracing it with all their passion. The piece is full of an edge of bittersweet sorrow as is the experience of love also I think. Having found this wonderful thing, you know it must pass some day. Should I feel awful that such a magnificent piece be used for such a trite musing? No - love is very spiritual, and the work has layers of other meanings for me too.

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    I admire your imaginations. From reading you posts, I can see that it plays a valuable role in you appreciation of music. I can't say the same of myself, however. It is very rare for me to see a picture while listening to music, unless it is something clear and obvious like the thunderstorm in Beethoven's pastoral Symphony or Saint Saens' Carnival of the animals. Obviously everyone listens to music differently. I seem to respond much more abstractly to feelings, emotions. I sense with music that there is a story being told, a drama being played out, but I can't relate this directly to a picture or a scene.

    So I have a question for you. Do you think it would help me to develop the ability to do this, or is it more like an optional extra?

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    Senior Member SalieriIsInnocent's Avatar
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    I made a compilation of my favorite music. I am writing a book based off of the imagery and feelings I get from these pieces. It goes from Mozart to Grieg to Wagner to Mahler. Just very diverse music, but it is coming quite nicely. So I basically had a soundtrack before I started writing.

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    I have in the past had extended visual imaginings listening to music. The 1st movement of Shostakovich's 5th used to have this effect on me. One way for me to describe it would be to say it seemed to me sort of like an abbreviated aural version of Lord of the Rings, the whole story distilled down to a 20 minute drama.

    I can't say I get this, or even try, anymore and I don't feel I've lost something. It's simply not what I listen to music for.

    I must say I don't like to listen to the Sea Interludes either. They're extracted rather unmercifully from the opera Peter Grimes which is, taken as a whole, one of THE great opera's, interludes included. They aren't all that much by themselves though, but of course Britten knew this.

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