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Thread: Unity of movements?

  1. #16
    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andante View Post
    a 2nd [slow] mov heard as a stand alone work is never "IMO" as impressive as when heard after the 1st mov that it was meant to follow, particularly with Shostakovich where you can get a loud, dissonant raucous 1st then a sublime 2nd "as if to make up for the 1st" if you can follow me
    Yes. There's a similar effect in architecture. If you look down the line of a gothic building, for instance, at certain points there's an awareness of stress - that is, effectively a call for support - and then an architectural answer to that, as we realise the support is provided (often ingeniously and elegantly). All those awarenesses occur almost simultaneously in this case, of course, whereas in music it's sequential in time, but in each case an awareness of need is generated, which is then satisfied. That's occurring all the time on a small scale within a movement, but on a larger scale it will occur too - very much as you say, Andante, with one thing being provided 'as if to make up for' another - so that separately they don't make a coherent whole, but together they do.

    A culinary example: roast beef is good on its own; so is Yorkshire pudding; horseradish sauce, however, is a bit hard to cope with on its own. But roast beef AND Yorkshire pudding AND horseradish sauce is a whole new experience.

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    Senior Member Weston's Avatar
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    Or as the punchline of a joke is not as funny without the build up leading to it, and is even funnier with the masterful timing and delivery of a comedian. So it could be all about context and timing - and with music there are even more elements to be in context than with a joke.

    The thing about the painting gestalt - paintings are generally composed as a whole, then the details built up over the rough whole. Are entire multi movement music compositions composed this way too - as a general outline with details slowly emerging? Or are they composed movement by movement?

    I'll bet the answer is yes to both or it varies from one composer to another.

  3. #18
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    Very interesting forum. I'd just like to add how its interesting that there are famous pieces of music that are excerpts from longer works which are not as well known. Examples include Bach's Air on the G string from Suite No. 3; Khatchaturian's Adagio from Spartacus; Offenbach's Barcarolle from the Tales of Hoffmann. There are many other such examples. I myself have been listening to classical music for the past two decades but I do not know the pieces that these works are part of. I may have heard them on the radio but I am not very familiar with them. So a piece can be famous (and I suppose have some meaning to people) even though it may be 'orphaned' from the piece which it is a part of.

    The reverse is that there are pieces that can't be separated, not matter what becuase they are so integrated and complete only in themselves. This is especially the case if movements are linked, like in Vaughan Williams' Symphony No. 4 or Sibelius' Symphony No. 7. Years ago CBS put out a series of records/tapes and later CDs called the composer's greatest hits series. On one recording you had excerpts from works of one composer. Sometimes it would spread across two volumes. But the point is that some composers were omitted from this series because their works simply should not be divided (among other reasons like thier popularity, I guess). This is particularly applicable to composers of long works like Mahler, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. I mean, what is the value of an excerpt of a work like The Rite of Spring if you haven't heard the whole? You have to appreciate the whole work of art, like the painting and literature analogy above.

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Hi, Andre, welcome to TC.

    Quote Originally Posted by Andre View Post
    Years ago CBS put out a series of records/tapes and later CDs called the composer's greatest hits series. On one recording you had excerpts from works of one composer. Sometimes it would spread across two volumes. But the point is that some composers were omitted from this series because their works simply should not be divided (among other reasons like thier popularity, I guess). This is particularly applicable to composers of long works like Mahler, Stravinsky and Shostakovich. I mean, what is the value of an excerpt of a work like The Rite of Spring if you haven't heard the whole? You have to appreciate the whole work of art, like the painting and literature analogy above.

    I think the names you mentioned were left out because their compositions were (and still are) not popular for easy listening like Beethoven, Mozart and Vivaldi were/are. Every musical work, right from the earliest one up to the most recent and revolutionary, is best savoured as a whole rather than in pieces.
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    What is the logic that unifies a work - concerto or symphony or string quartet or whatever - from movement to movement?

    A question which i assume vexed Brahms for many years prior to publishing his first symphony.

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    This is a big and complex subject. Let's just take the symphony. In it's early years, as developed by the likes of Haydn and Mozart, the only "logic" was one of key relationships. Thematic relationships were essentially nonexistent. There were no "program symphonies" to add any unification.

    Then along comes Beethoven and his Fifth Symphony. What was so revolutionary: here was a full four movement symphony where the initial thematic motiv, that dit-dit-dit-dah (three shorts followed by a long) permeates not just the first movement, but is encountered throughout the entire rest of the symphony. Unified to the hilt! Berlioz took the hint - and the idee fixe was born into the Symphonie Fantastique.

    Schumann explored thematic unification, especially in his Fourth. Brahms clearly understood the power of thematic unification, but sometimes it takes real digging and analysis to see it, much less hear it. The Third is a well-known example where he ties the work up by bringing back the opening theme to close the finale. Much less obvious is the Second: those first few notes in the basses that open the symphony reappear, often quite subtle, throughout. Just listen to the opening notes of the finale - same notes, different tempo and rhythm.

    Dvorak also mastered the idea. It's easy to hear in the Ninth, but it turns out the Eighth is much more rich in detail: the whole symphony is based on a simple idea of a G major triad. The work's obvious appeal has made it a favorite of audiences and players, but for musicologists and hopefully some conductors, it's this underlying logic and connections that are so appealing.

    Tchaikovsky was not subtle at all and quite brazen in his cross-referencing in the Fourth and Fifth.

    Then of course comes Sibelius - the Second is a stunning tour de force of symphonic unification through thematic development.

    Why bother? Somehow this unity creates a very satisfying, emotionally complete musical experience. Consciously or not, the brain gets those connections, I don't think you need a PhD in music theory to understand what just happened. So I guess that's the logic behind it - to make a long, complex work unified, rounded and satisfying.

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    Generally speaking it's the transition between ideas in a movement that helps it go from one place to the next. The better this is stated by the composer, the easier it is for the listener to follow.

    A symphony in three or four movement is usually written in sonata format meaning each section has a beginning (exposition), a middle (development) and an end (recapitulation). There may be more than one theme or idea stated in the development before a main idea returns in the recap.

    Perhaps the greatest symphony of all, Beethoven's 5th. shows you how this works in the third movement labeled scherzo but to me more of an andante.

    It starts slowly, perhaps at a walking speed, with an ominous-sounding idea (exposition) in the lower strings that is soon joined by woodwinds. Then the brass takes over in a march, soon joined by strings. Then it goes back to the lower strings (development) and a flute takes over with a solo soon joined by cellos and basses that echo the earlier refrain and sounds creep forward until the ominous beginning is back ... then timpani slowly beat out a cadence (recap) leading to the finale when all hell breaks loose.

    What happens in the third movement is speeds are almost uniform throughout and not all the instruments have starring roles. the ideas are all related; they don't jump around either in speed or instrumental use. This sets a pace to move on from the quieter second movement, bridging over to the furious finale.

    The Beethoven 5th symphony, one of the greatest works of any art form in history, is one of the easiest symphonies to track this way because it is written so compactly and perfectly. But it also sets a pattern that any symphony can logically follow throughout its movements.

    If only everything could be as good as Beethoven's 5th!
    Last edited by larold; Apr-08-2020 at 23:33.

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  10. #23
    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    This is a big and complex subject. Let's just take the symphony. In it's early years, as developed by the likes of Haydn and Mozart, the only "logic" was one of key relationships. Thematic relationships were essentially nonexistent. There were no "program symphonies" to add any unification.
    Then along comes Beethoven and his Fifth Symphony. What was so revolutionary: here was a full four movement symphony where the initial thematic motiv, that dit-dit-dit-dah (three shorts followed by a long) permeates not just the first movement, but is encountered throughout the entire rest of the symphony.
    But as I pointed out in Cyclic form in classical works, that dit-dit-dit-dah in the Beethoven 5th isn't even a "thematic" motif, it's only a "rhythmic" motif, as far as 'motivic relation of the 1st movement with the 3rd movement' is concerned. When the rhythmic motif is reused in the third movement, it's not even used the same way tonally (ie. The "thematic material", "G-G-G-Eb - F-F-F-D" is NOT shared. Only the rhythmic tendencies are shared.)
    By the same logic Beethoven's 5th is "unified", there are lots of works (preceding the symphony) that must be considered as being "unified".

    ex. Mozart divertimento K334: "the first three movements are all based on inspiring upwardly striving themes, whilst for the last two the melodic ideas start at a high point and move downwards." (Duncan Druce, 2003)

    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Yes. Again, take a look at:
    [ 2:36 ]
    2m36s
    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    Also the descending chromatic passages in the second themes of the outer movements of the 40th symphony exhibit cyclic tendencies.
    [ 0:54 ]
    [ 19:30 ]
    54s
    19m30s
    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    I. Allegro has "Rhythm 1" as its principal rhythmic motif: [ dotted 1/4 note - 1/8 note - 1/8 note - 1/8 note ]
    Attachment 131092

    II. Menuetto has "Rhythm 2" as its principal rhythmic motif: [ 1/2 note - 1/4 note - 1/4 note - 1/4 note ]
    Attachment 131079

    IV. Allegro ma non troppo has both.
    Attachment 131080


    Mozart - Quartet in C major, K465 (Dissonance)
    Professor Roger Parker

    "... The second moment is an Andante cantabile in F major, and starts in much simpler vein: with a clear melody in the first violin. But almost immediately, in the second phrase, you'll hear again that winding chromaticism in the inner parts, and also those tell-tale repeated notes in the cello. Soon after that, the moment become obsessively concerned with a small motive that is first passed from violin to cello, and then to the inner parts; and then, again, you will hear the characteristic build up of instruments, starting (as the slow introduction did) with the cello and moving upwards. In other words, it soon becomes clear that the slow introduction to this 'dissonance' quartet has actually been a kind a mine from which material for the rest of the movements are to be taken. ..."
    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    + certain motivic similarities in these passages:

    II. Menuetto
    Attachment 131131

    IV. Allegro ma non troppo
    Attachment 131132
    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    F-A-C-C-C-C

    Attachment 130906
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Apr-08-2020 at 19:46.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hammeredklavier View Post
    By the same logic Beethoven's 5th is "unified", there are lots of works (preceding the symphony) that must be considered as being "unified".
    That's quite true - using the same rhythmic framework but changing notes is certainly a way to unify a work. The question is, how deliberate is it? Beethoven used it, so did Bruckner. My knowledge - and interest - in pre-Beethoven music is quite minimal and limited.

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    This also changed a lot over time. In the classical period, many symphonic movements seem very interchangeable; certainly symphonies can still have different "feels" to them, but on the whole if you switched around different opening movements in Haydn symphonies you can probably get convincing "new" Haydn symphonies. However, as time went on more composers sought to give more "unity" to their works in more overt ways. Beethoven's fifth to Berlioz's idea fixae to Wagner's leitmotif are all examples of this.

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    It's certainly not something I (or many others) haven't thought of from time to time. Whether certain movements really "go together" or we're just used to hearing them together is not an idle question. Aside from mood, contrast, key relationships (which many composers plan out ahead of time), thematic or rhythmic relationships, I think the fact the composer wrote them to go together indicates some plan, even if it's not immediately apprehensible. Although there are some forms (suites, serenades, divertimenti) that seem just an agglomeration of movements that lack the "structure" we tend to hear in more "serious" forms. I've often thought that Brahms' D major Serenade is like that -- a collection of movements that more than anything else show us Brahms learning to be Brahms.

    On the other hand there's Mahler's Fourth, whose last movement was written as an independent song something like ten years before the rest of the symphony, whose first three movement had to be written as if meant to lead logically and inexorably to a pre-existing finale. And he pulled it off, maybe as only Mahler could have done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by msegers View Post
    With my literary background, I try to "read" a piece of music as I would read a novel, even a sentence.
    If the analogy is with a novel, perhaps it should be with one divided into three or four very distinctive sections. Or, perhaps more aptly, with a volume of novellas subtly linked by theme, time, place or character. In the latter case, the reader may or may not consider the linkage to be of any great importance. Certainly it is commonplace (and accepted practice) to judge individual pieces on their own merits with little regard to the whole: "No 2 works brilliantly, 1 & 4 don't do much for me, and 3 is just weak." If that's the general view, we needn't be surprised to find No 2 preserved in later collections and compilations, and the others quietly buried along with the linkage. Probably we treat composers (at least later composers) with more respect and consideration than we do authors, but I'm not convinced there's any good reason why this should be.

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    Senior Member pianozach's Avatar
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    This discussion reminds me of a notable example.

    Beethoven's Große Fuge, Op. 133 was originally written as the final movement of his six movement Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major, Op. 130, written in 1825. When the publisher told him his 4th movement sucked, so Beethoven wrote a new last movement and simply swapped it in. Barely an inconvenience. Interchangeable. And the orphaned movement was simply published separately.

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    Senior Member SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by msegers View Post
    When I listen to a piece of music in several movements, I have trouble understanding what holds the movements together. … and I would appreciate any insight from the many insightful people on this forum.
    I know I've pondered this very issue on occasion -- like every time I listen to a multi-movement sonata, symphony, or concerto. As you've already been told, there is no one easy answer. Yet, I wonder what Forum members might make of analyzing one of the works of your choice which you find seemingly disparate in movement integration. (Does that make sense?) In other words, can you select one work with several movements where you do not hear (or see) any obvious connective threads -- key, theme, rhythm, orchestration, style, tone-row use...? Perhaps there will be insights available from readers.

    But this is a great issue to pursue when listening. I tend to suspect that most great music is rather integrated from movement to movement and that movements from separate works are not willy-nilly interchangeable. Such is perhaps more evident, as was suggested already, in post Classical-era works, and that one might more easily fool the ear by interchanging Haydn movements than, say, Beethoven or Brahms or Tchaikovsky movements.

    I would suggest that the greatest elemental tie is motif or theme, and that a theme can bear a disguise that may need a bit of decoding before one recognizes it as related to the "theme" of one movement vs. another. All that retrograde and inversion stuff comes into play. I even suspect that the two themes of classical sonata form often tend to have a close relation, if we tear them apart closely enough. Great compositional minds tend not to think in random terms (except for maybe John Cage) when assigning thematic subjects to a work. Integration proves a valuable asset of form.

    Speaking in literary terms, one can look at a Shakespeare play, say, Macbeth, and see that images repeat. You have items such as "blood" and "darkness", clothing and birds and supernatural elements repeating in all manner of ways throughout the script. This gives the Macbeth play a certain texture lacking in other Shakespeare plays where the texture differs due to the change of imagery elements. (And in Shakespeare, the chosen images always link closely to the plot line of the story. -- For example, the clothing images in Macbeth often relate to stolen robes and ill-fitting garments, in a play about a man who steals the robes of the King through murder, in a play written for a new English King, James, who had come from Scotland and taken over the English throne of Elizabeth, literally "stealing" the robes of the King. Macbeth is a commentary against the Scottish King James, and so many of the images in the play refer to James and his nature and habits.) Within this "texture" the story-line can still develop, even in a total opposite shifting (as it does in Macbeth), from a man of goodness becoming a man of evil. In fact, imagery of opposites is powerful in the play, too. So, this keeps the fabric of the play unified even though one may be in Act One or Act Three or Act Five, where the plot is greatly different. Characters such as Macbeth can be dynamic (changing) even while maintaining a unity by design.

    Such happens in music, too. There are images of color (orchestral tones, instrumental sounds and effects) that lead to unity. Motifs and themes (linear note combinations) and their various transmogrifications that tie things together. Harmonies (the specific manner in which chords are built differ greatly from one composer to another) also add unities.

    Good question, much to think about here.

    And now I have an urge to re-read Macbeth on top of everything else. Who'd have thought?

    What familiar work of some renowned composer features multiple movements in which you fail to see relationships from one to another? Perhaps someone here could help enlighten us to what the unity might be? I would be interested in that.
    Last edited by SONNET CLV; Apr-10-2020 at 06:54.

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  18. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by pianozach View Post
    This discussion reminds me of a notable example.

    Beethoven's Große Fuge, Op. 133 was originally written as the final movement of his six movement Quartet No. 13 in B♭ major, Op. 130, written in 1825. When the publisher told him his 4th movement sucked, so Beethoven wrote a new last movement and simply swapped it in. Barely an inconvenience. Interchangeable. And the orphaned movement was simply published separately.
    Dickens rewrote the ending of Great Expectations. Surely this doesn't mean chapters in Dickens' novels are interchangeable.

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