MUSIC COMPOSITIONS  By Composer MARILYNN STARK

 

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GLOSSARY                                                        

FOREWORD :                 

     The process of developing an ear for classical music is a perhaps subtle learning process at times.   Therefore, it is prudent to become aware of some technical terms and their accompanying concepts which will form a certain theoretical understanding of the music as one progresses on the path of learning.  The goal of this composer to date has been to introduce this extended style of music in as neutral a way as possible as concerns the terminology, which can become weighty, even if useful and necessary to a full understanding of the music.  Classical music might be seen as filled with conceit, meaning an extended expression which may have an elevated basis.  Accordingly, if this basis is then perceived vaguely as developed  through an exaggeration of the same airy constitution unto pretension, by those who have not given the music a thorough review only because they lack a fundamental aesthetic appreciation for its overall power of statement, then a critical error has occurred; for the entire premise of a classical work relies upon the place of the  ongoing statement to validate its worth with precise qualification and a textured, substantial development.  Such development of the statement will culminate in an overall, broader message.   If the early articles at Starkmusic.org have introduced the classical music style to any newcomers to this music through the more subjective premise of its inspirational worth, as found in the music and as propounded through the  poetic, metaphysical prose offered therein, then an important leap in understanding for the new student has been accomplished.  However, in order to continue in the study of classical music, a more in-depth analysis becomes inevitable, and also more enlightening.  The other component for increasing an ever-growing knowledge of this music is to hear the actual writing of this composer, and which facility constitutes part of the plans in developing this Web site.  In the meantime, as I write these articles, I am hopeful that the readers will avail themselves of the fine array of classical music Web sites on the Internet as an immediate and most useful resource, and of course also the simple acquisition of music tapes and CDs at the music store; or, they can be borrowed from the local library as your collection might build.  The radio stations are also a highly recommended tool for learning to listen to and appreciate classical music, and these classical music stations can easily be researched right here on the Internet.  This nation had been for decades blessed to receive classical music instruction from the award-winning radio broadcaster, Karl Haas, who passed away in 2005.  He hosted a radio program, Adventures in Good Music, and was indescribably brilliant.  Karl Haas, an American institution in his own right, is my first teacher of classical music topics; this teacher constantly comes to my mind and gives me inspiration as I create these Web pages for you, and as I have composed over the years.  If I have learned and progressed in classical music, I am deeply indebted to the instruction and increased awareness I received from listening to Karl Haas.  Information on Karl Haas can be found at WCLV classical FM

This Glossary is herein provided at this Web site to assist in the instruction of classical music and in the concise definition of terms describing  topics, concepts and theories in classical music.              Marilynn Stark           January 18, 2003

   

GLOSSARY

 

classical music- according to Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, the adjective 'classical' means, "conforming to a pattern of usage sanctioned by a body of literature rather than by everyday speech."  Music as a language is therefore well served also by this definition, since classical music most fundamentally is considered to be music which is at least distinct from popular, folk or jazz; and popular and folk music come from the everyday lives of people who express musically in song and ballad, for instance, not necessarily taking any special, formal instruction for such purpose.  Classical music finds its origins historically in the educated people of Europe.  Specific works and certain composers, therefore, comprise the actual body of classical music, much as a body of knowledge as expressed in the classical languages of Greek, Latin or Sanskrit.  Indeed,  one of the implications in the concept of classical music is its sanction by  homage to certain theory and form.  Thus, the language of music is utilized in the classical tradition in a precise and scientific way, according to given principles of form, balance and even moderation.  

  There  are many ways in which the word classical is understood when applied adjectivally to music.  Before delineating them, the etymological root of the word 'classical' might be of value in understanding how music arrived at this descriptive terminology.  This type of review once again will attempt to find in words what the ethereal language of classical music actually says, but this time in the indirect sense essential to understanding how in its birth and evolution the word classical became attached to it.  This might help clarify the meaning and substance of classical music in its historical context, and most hopefully, help those who feel that classical music is outside the realm of egalitarian partisanship, as its name would to them  imply.  Might classical music not be known as 'classed' music, since its roots are in the few and not in the many, whereupon it even came out of music supported, developed and heard by the aristocrats of Europe.  

  The adjective classicus in Latin means  'belonging to the classes,' which were the divisions of the Roman people, or 'relating to the military.'  Now this word classicus and also the noun of feminine gender, classis, meaning 'a summoning,' 'a division, group or class,' both derive further from the verb caloCalo (calare) means to 'summon forth,' to 'call,' and thus that which is summoned forth as a group came to be known as a class.  Now consider this concept of the formation of divisions even more deeply, and understand that the term in Latin for the signal on the behalf of battle was musical, and was given by a trumpet. This signal for battle was known as the classicum, another noun arising from calo. The trumpet itself was also termed classicum.  The Roman military was  implemental in establishing the social governing of the people, which governing set up certain divisions of the people, classes, so that the terms used in the military would take the fore in the vernacular of the times.   Conceptually, there is no more vital and moving moment for an army or a fleet than that moment when battle is struck, and the signal-giving for battle is all-commanding, it is mentally gripping.  Then, such battles which are waged sum up as conquering, as they will duly progress, while the socio-political governing will find its sanction as according to those military empowerments of battle.  Accordingly, terming the divisions of the people as classes traces its own justification from the military basis, the actual way history is written.  Just as the militia calls men to battle, so does the regime the military supports call the people to a given order of groups termed classes.  The military basis in the etymological sense of the word classis meaning 'a summoning,' straight from the Roman times, has come down to us as a more generalized term with several definitional uses in the sense of classical, including as a direct reference to the ancients, as Greeks or as Romans.  Yet, imagine that the signal in battle for the summoning of troops to mobilization was that of a musical instrument.  This musical image may help in the process of conceptually accepting the formation of the actual term 'classical' from its very historical, social moorings, rather than to place a value judgment upon the entire art form of classical music, as if it were outside the realm contemporaneously of the wider people, since it arose from a privileged few.   

In summary, then, from these etymological origins came the English word 'classical,' wherein the root concept of summoning, of a call, implicates a calling forth in the manner of grouping.  Many fields of endeavor in the arts and sciences begin with such a formation, wherein many are moved by the success of one, as they are called forth accordingly.  An example of this would be the classical mechanics of Newton in Physics, where his three laws of motion brought to bear upon all of the science of Physics a change in the conceptual basis of thinking of marked universality.  Newton's universal truth in the objective realm then became the seed for the greater  development of the science of Physics.  When a growing body of knowledge is guided by a breakthrough into a greater level of truth, many like thinkers are likely to gather upon the topic, since a more useful general level of truth cannot help but summon others to the topic due to its more inclusive attributes.  When applied to music, it so happens that historically, such careful art form in music as classical music, was developed through the educated class of Europe; classical music was also supported and nurtured by the church, where it must be assumed that all church-goers would worship in the beautiful fugues, masses, oratorios and hymns which were being developed and composed under the aegis of the church.  For example, Johann Sebastian Bach was supported by the church largely, and many other religious composers contributed greatly to the direction in the non-folk music of their time before the strict Classical period arrived with the death of Bach in 1750.  Bach is known for his great church cantatas, and if you had been a member of a congregation in his time and thereafter, you might have joined with the congregation in the rendition vocally of the last stanza of such as his inspiring religious writing.

  The various meanings of the term classical music can be delineated by origin, by era, by structural definition or more carefully by characteristic instrumentation.  The origin of classical music is non-popular, it is not folk music, and classical music comes out of studious and theoretically known creative effort.  If by era one defines classical music, then in the broadest sense of the word classical, it is non-modern in its origins, at least by style, since there are contemporary composers who compose in the classical style.  There exists also a given period of time called the Classical period in musical circles, from 1750-1820,  and in that period the three most prominent composers were Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.  As we speak of Baroque music from the Baroque era, we can similarly refer to Classical music from the Classical era according to this categorization. Then also, classical music can be discerned for its native structure, and various forms of classical music result from an actual evolution of such forms as they progress from one structure to a greater elaboration of that structure; in such instances the earlier structure will retain its place, yet having contributed to what becomes a growing body of carefully written music.  Thus, many will categorize improvisational music according to this sense as non-classical by definition, yet, those who lived in the time of Bach lived to hear him enter a performance hall and render his musical soul in improvisational ardor.  It was said that there was nothing even close to hearing Bach improvise in possible existence in the world of music at that time.  The fourth way of defining music as classical might be by the utility of instrumentation: as classical music has evolved, it has been written for certain prevailing instruments to match a musical form according to certain specifications.  For example, a popular form of chamber music in the Baroque era, which is considered as from 1600-1750, is the trio sonata.  The trio sonata is so named, since it has two high-pitched instruments, such as violins, playing in melody with a basso continuo part, usually rendered by a cello.  There might be a harpsichord which plays in concert with the cello, so that the basic triad must rely upon the power of the two high melody-producing violins for yet a dualistic import all the same.  Generally, if one thinks of classical music, one will often associate an orchestra as the instrument comprise at hand.  This is true, and reflects the popularity of the symphony in today's vernacular, since one speaks of a symphony which is played by an orchestra.  Yet, the symphony is a classical form of music which has grown with the advent of new instruments through time, and it has drawn from a certain structure of earlier music, called the sonata form, incorporating this sonata form into larger movements which comprise the entire symphonic work.  One of the hallmarks of classical music is the definitional assignation of certain instruments in a given musical form.  The very texture and dynamics of classical music are studied for the place of those instruments to interact as according to configurations of the instruments, whereby sections, soli and tutti are the leading voices of expressive presence.  Then further, within the variability of numbers of instruments actually sounding at a given time within a piece, greater musical expression occurs when the collectives of the tutti (the entire orchestra) or a section (possibly the strings, for instance) will work in contrast with a lone voice, a solo instrument.  This points up the importance of instruments in the consideration of classical works, since the founding theory of statement comprise is exacting according to given instrumentation in any given classical piece by definition of its own particular form.

  In concluding this entry on classical music for its various meanings in vernacular and in stricter definitions, perhaps the most unifying concept which will clarify what classical music really is, draws from the way other bodies of knowledge and literature are regarded as classical.  We saw from the etymology of the word classical that it comes from the verb calo in Latin, meaning to 'call.'  The inception of the meaning of classical as that which founds guiding principles in a growing body of knowledge, research or technology, as well as values in the literary classics, can be discerned as the power of the many to be called to the fore of that growing body, whatever it may be, but for the power of universal truth to increase the venue, the size of scope, relevant to the prevailing interests of the time.  In considering classical music according to this meaning of classical, all of the various meanings take their place as subsumed under the leading concept that classical music is formed around studied conceptual leaders in each era of its development, whose genius will collectivize the musicians and composers of their time, and foment new creative direction and development in music as drawn from the existing traditions, but not relying totally upon them.  And the lightsome entity that is classical music will therefore survive vigorously through eras together, since the ingredient of the genius or geniuses which guide each era amounts to universal truth.  The test of truth for its universality is its survival through changing time, and in art is found the soul of any culture.  Therefore, musical art which can embrace the people across centuries unfailingly, must be the expression of great truth in the language of music, and which truth was once apperceived in the culture perhaps of its origin; and this is indeed the legacy of classical music, that it will not perish to the changing times of man, of humankind.  For indeed, classical music serves to enlighten mankind, and is handed down as such in the defense and in the preservation of posterity; it calls any who might listen, all the people, through the power of its expression of truth.  Classical music will invoke the higher principles and more discerning faculties of the thinking and contemplative devotee to its beautiful sound.  

conceit- an extended musical expression whose meaning is formed by an elevated or sometimes exaggerated, more fanciful intent.  Compare  this concept to the musical imagery of a march, for instance, where the expression is immediately obvious, and for that immediacy even invites the same expression , as in the mode of a marching parade or a battalion of foot soldiers on the move.  Consider also a waltz, wherein the imagery is dominated by the graceful tempo and inviting, characteristic waltz beat.  A waltz would be described as having a metaphor of dance.  In literature a conceit is an extended metaphor.

lilt- a rhythmic character typically found in classical music, and also in other styles of music and vocal songs occasionally, which gives a buoyant effect for an uplifting and dynamic texture.  A lilt is more subtle than a driving beat, as it lends an overall presence which expresses a dignified intent and overriding gentility which pleases the musical sensitivities of listeners for its non-imposing slant.  A lilt gathers in a horizontal section regularly and rounds it and can temper any boldness in the overall statement of the piece.  The gathering effect is accomplished by a more subtle but commanding rhythmic change.  This tempering is one of the glad sounds of a classical work, as it can connote joy and softness from a more concerted conviction of mind where even a dire or imposing theme is recurrent throughout a given piece.

metaphor- a musical imagery whose input is direct and more obvious than not, such as a theme which might work as a metaphor to sadness, or an  appoggiatura, or grace note, whose meaning is transparent instantaneously.

 


Copyright 2003 All rights reserved.       
Revised: March 03, 2012 .

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Last edited: 03/03/2012 01:23 PM