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MUSIC - Accurate Essays



The Classical Period occurred between 1750 and 1820. At this time, there were several changes in the world. Europe was in the middle of industrialization; therefore, mechanization had made life easier. People had more time to enjoy themselves and engage in leisure activities. Classical music was played at public concerts where people paid to go. Before this, Baroque music was played for nobles in their palaces and during celebrations, hence by going public, Classical music developed a fulsome character in comparison to Baroque music. Yet, it was still simple, balanced and non-emotional. Classical music of this era was meant for listening and not for dancing. Some of the most famous composers of this time were Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Mozart and Franz Joseph Haydn.

The music also had simple titles such as ‘Symphony No. 1’ instead of elaborate colorful titles. The Classical era introduced the sonata form of instrumental composition. At the core of the sonata was conflict between two contrasting subjects that would heighten during the performance until it was finally solved. This gave the music a dramatic and distinct structure. Classical music is also characterized by structural clarity and symmetry concerning melodic expression and instrumental color. Classical music is so named because it reflects the art and philosophy of the Classical period in Greek and Rome (White, 1966). Works of art and philosophy of this period emphasized the principles of balance, symmetry and well-ordered expression.

20th century classical music did not follow any particular style and thus was very diverse, it has no unifying themes or patterns. However, one prominent characteristic of this era’s Classical music is the use of dissonance as opposed to the Classical music’s use of consonance. Dissonance is whereby the music has an unstable tonal variation that educes a feeling of disharmony and tension. Consonant tones on the other hand are pleasant and create a feeling of harmony. The diversity of 20th century classical music may also be attributed to the fact that the world was in conflict during this period, which is evidenced by the occurrence of World War I and II. Each composer had a strong sense of nationalism towards his country, and this led to the creation of diverse classical music. 20th century classical music was also influenced by the advent of technology such as the radio and other electronic instruments that were used to record and capture music. Because of the developments in technology, this music had a wider audience, thus 20th century classical music acquired a more extroverted tone.

The advent of technology allowed composers to integrate electronic instruments in their compositions, the incorporation of these instruments led to a more varied sound. It is more colorful and expressive than the earlier form of Classical music. This period was also characterized by less restriction and more experimentation. This is reflected in the 20th century classical music, which is versatile and does not follow a defined method. The advent of modernism resulted in the diversification of Classical music in the 20th century, each artiste wanted to incorporate his own style and techniques into his composition, hence diverting from conventionalism to a modern form where the artists experimented with bitonality, dissonance and serialism.

20th century classical music was heavily influenced by cultural developments at different stages of the century. This includes impressionism, modernism, romanticism, neoclassical period and postmodernism. Each of these trends had a significant impact on the music composed by the artists as the artist usually draws inspiration from his environment. Some artists explored political themes such as war and conflict such as Benjamin Britten who composed ‘War Requiem’ during World War I. Social themes such as communism were also exploited, while other artists chose to use their music to express the cultures of their countries. This led to the composition of classical music that was informed by other genres of music such as jazz and folk.

An analysis of Classical music and 20th century classical music reveals that the most influential figures to these genres were Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Igor Stravinsky respectively. Their music was influenced by different elements in their social, political, economic and cultural backgrounds. Mozart composed and performed his music in the late 18th century while Stravinsky was a 20th century Classical music composer and artist.

Igor Stravinsky was a renowned classical music composer of the 20th century. Some of his works were influenced by his Russian cultural background. An example of this is his symphony, No. 1 in E Flat, which embodied Russia’s Romantic musical style. Even when he progressed towards greater and more diversified compositions, his music still had a Russian touch. This shows that he was proud of his Russian culture and was patriotic to his country, as were many composers during this period. After moving to Paris, France, Stravinsky followed Claude Debussy’s music, which was mostly impressionistic music (Hill, 2000). Claude Debussy was at the time one of France’s most prominent classical musicians, whose works was influenced by the activities and turbulences in his personal life.

Stravinsky therefore also wrote pieces that were influenced by the events in his life and by his environment. This is evidenced by the fact that his music had a stringer Russian influence while he was still in Russia, but after moving to France, his style began to change. Some of the works that evidenced this phase are Fireworks, Firebird, the Faun and the Shepherdess. This works are characterized by an irregular beat and light texture. Stravinsky was versatile and often varied his music composition style. This phase was followed by the composition of the temperamental opera Le Rossignol and Symphonies for Wind Instruments. His next style was less emotional and was composed after World War I. The music he composed at this time was referred to as Neo-Classical, a recreation of Classical music with the incorporation of some modern aspects. It however encompassed diatonic rhythms, which made it more similar to Classic music.

Stravinsky is also accredited with recreating the famous works of art of Oedipus Rex and Pulcinella. The Neo-Classicism phase of Stravinsky led to the composition of works such as Symphony in C, Symphony in Three Movements, Symphony of Psalms, Apollo ballet, Jeu de Cartes ballet and The Rake’s Progress, an opera that won him heavy acclaim. After the Rake’s Progress, Stravinsky experimented with serialism, which became a distinguishing characteristic of his compositions during this period. Serialism involved the manipulation of pitch collections through procedures such as Transposition, Inversion, Retrograde and Retrograde Inversion. Here, he composed Three Shakespeare Songs, Introit, The Dove Descending Breaks the Air for Chorus, Requiem Canticles, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, In Memoriam Dylan Thomas and Cantata. It is therefore evident that Stravinsky was a multi-talented composer who was adaptable and passionate about experimenting with various styles of music. Through all this phases, the salient features of Stravinsky’s music are the use of dissonance, layered ostinati, polyrhythm, polytonality and primitivism (Stravinsky, Lesure & Craft, 1969).

One of Igor Stravinsky’s most popular works is the 1913 ballet, The Rite of Spring. Stravinsky said about it, “In my imagination, I saw a great pagan rite. The elders were seated in a circle watching the death dance of a young girl who was being sacrificed to propitiate the god of spring” (Stravinsky et al., 1969). It was a ballet composed by Stravinsky that symbolized pagan Russian rituals and due to its unconventional subject matter, it was met with public criticism. It is characterized by the use of dissonance, primitivism, sudden breaks, timbres and a rich, complex orchestral texture. For this composition, Stravinsky did not follow a specified method of composition; in contrast, he experimented with different techniques and styles. For instance, he layers melodic fragments instead of arranging them singly. This creates the thick rich texture that is evident in The Rite of Passage. He also incorporates the method of asymmetry, which makes the ballet more energetic and unique.

Mozart was also multi-faceted; this is shown by the diversity of his works and his adaptability to different forms of Classical music. His works bore typical characteristics of the 18th century Classical music; symmetry, clarity and pleasantness. He is said to have written over 600 symphonies, chamber music, piano concerti, operas, sonatas for piano, cello and violin, horn concerti, serenades, string quartets and masses, among others. He wrote all his pieces without any corrections or alterations. His music was highly influential to the Classical music era. From an early age, Mozart was tutored in music by his father who was a composer and music teacher. Thus, he was able to sharpen his skills while he was still quite young.

The European culture was highly appreciative of art music and this is shown by the fact that by the age of five, Mozart was getting invitations to concerts. By the time he was entering his teenage years, Mozart had already performed in all the major European cities. Therefore, this enhanced the development of his musical talent and as a result led to the growth of the Classical music genre. Mozart was similar to Stravinsky, in that his music was inspired by various new inventions and elements in his environment. For instance, the invention of the harmonica by Benjamin Franklin inspired him to incorporate new sounds to his music (Keefe, 2006).

Mozart’s music was also influenced by the fact that he grew up at a time where music was played to the public in concerts; therefore it enabled him to grow as a musician because his compositions had a wider listenership, this also gave the music a more exuberant and extroverted tone as opposed to the music of previous eras. This can be compared to Stravinsky’s era, where his talents as a composer developed because his music was exposed to the public, thus through their acclaim and criticism, he was able to sharpen his strengths and correct his weak areas.

Mozart was highly influenced by the Enlightenment period of the 18th century. During this period, critical and liberal thinking were encouraged as opposed to conforming to traditionalistic ways. Emphasis was laid on reasoning, science and democracy. This is one of the reasons that Mozart’s work has an element of balance and clarity. He also joined Freemasonry during the Enlightenment period. Inspired by Freemasonry, he wrote a few compositions, which are still used until today. This illustrates that the works of musicians were heavily influenced by their social practices and beliefs (Dearling, 1981).

Just like Stravinsky, Mozart’s works sometimes deviated from the norm. For instance, some of his works educed dark and mysterious tones, which was not common during the Classical period. Mozart’s music is innovative and unique; stemming from the fact that he experimented with different music genres and different musical instruments. Thus, he and Stravinsky had one thing in common, which was versatility. His musical style was also progressive as he first began by writing balanced and well-organized pieces during the Enlightenment period, but later diverted to music that expressed emotions and that related to human psychology. His musical style was simple yet extraordinary. Mozart perfected the piano concerto. He wrote 30 piano concertos, which he played in his Vienna concerts between 1784 and 1786. The first concertos were orchestral and keyboard based. Mozart infused his won personal touch in these concertos by giving them some irregular elements. For instance, in concerto no. 10, two pianos are used. The second piano serves the purpose of changing the usual organization of piano-orchestra interaction. Mozart also began a concerto for piano and violin.

Mozart was one of the prominent pioneers of Classical music, he composed music in different genres and styles; the same applies for Stravinsky who experimented with different styles and genres and therefore curved a niche for himself in 20th century classical music.

Mozart’s music was influenced by the social conditions during his time. During the late 18th century and part of the 19th century, artists and musicians were paid to entertain the upper class with their works in their palaces and celebrations. For most of his career, Mozart usually travelled to different cities in Europe performing for nobles and other upper crust of society. This, inevitably influenced his style of music because they often required the Classical musicians to perform for them specific music, since they paid them well.

The complexity and uniqueness of Mozart’s music was not understood by many during the Classical period. Thus during his life, his music was not widely appreciated or comprehended. For most people at that time, Mozart’s music was simply for entertainment. In later years however, his works rose to fame and recognition all over the world. He is deemed a musical genius of his time. Stravinsky’s music was also not understood at its time, and on certain occasions, it was viewed as vulgar and distasteful. For instance, during the first showing of the ballet The Rite of Spring, members of the audience protested because they were aggravated by the strangeness of the ballet’s theme and dissonant tone. Thus, the social conditions during these two Classical periods were sometimes not conducive for experimentation and innovation. Stravinsky was upset by this fact and said of the Rite if Spring, “May whoever listens to this music never experience the mockery to which it was subjected and of which I was the witness in the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, Paris, Spring 1913” (Stravinsky et al., 1969).




Dearling, R. (1981). The music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the symphonies. Rutherford, N.J: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Hill, P. (2000). Stravinsky: the rite of spring. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Keefe, P. S. (2006). Mozart Studies. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press

Stravinsky, I., Lesure, F., and Craft, R. (1969). The rite of spring: sketches, 1911-1913. New York, NY: Boosey & Hawkes.

White, E. W. (1966). The Composer and his Works. Los Angeles, CA: University of California.









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