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Listening Gallery: Overall Destiny

Module by: Anthony Brandt. E-mail the author

Note:

Please note that you must have the most recent copy of Macromedia's Flash plugin installed to play the musical examples.

Listen to the following examples. How would you describe the overall destiny? Choose "strong round-trip" if the work ends with an unequivocal return to its starting point. Choose "weak round-trip" if the end is an incomplete, insecure or more tenuous return. Choose "one-way progression" if the music ends in a significantly different way than it began.

Among the examples are several ambiguous ones. The distinction between a strong round-trip and a one-way progression is an emphatic one. However, the "weak round-trip" is a greyer category, midway between the two extremes: ambivalent about its return, but not decisive enough to have moved completely away. The distinction between this middle category and the extreme ones is not always clear-cut. Consider each example carefully and be sure to come to your own conclusions: Wrestling with ambiguity is an important feature of analysis and interpretation. When it is appropriate, the answer key carefully explores competing points-of-views. One of the telling features of the ambiguous examples is that, in order to argue a position, a deeper knowledge and more thoughtful hearing of the whole score is required. Thus, using the overall destiny as a starting point gradually draws you into the content of the music.

Problem 1

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 2

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 3

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 4

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 5

Musical Example: Varese, Octandre, I

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 6

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong roundtrip
Weak roundtrip
One-way progression

Problem 7

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 8

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

Problem 9

Musical Example: Gyorgy Ligeti, Desordre

How would you describe the overall destiny?

Strong Round-trip
Weak Round-trip
One-Way Progression

FURTHER LISTENING: Schubert's song "Der Doppelganger" and Hugo Wolf's song "Verlasse Magdlein" are 19th-century examples of weak roundtrips. In each case, the music's overall destiny potently reflects the text. Mel Powell's "String Quartet" is a modern example of a one-way progression. The composer described the piece as a "ball of yarn gradually unfurling." The single movement quartet begins with dense, turbulent activity in which the four players play independently. It gradually works itself towards a single line melody--which the composer playfully called "Jewish boogie-woogie"--played in unison by the quartet.

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Musical Examples
  1. Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe
  2. Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe, original melody
  3. Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe, culmination
  4. Olivier Messian, Quartet for the End of Time, Intermede
  5. Arnold Schoenberg, Six Little Piano Pieces, opus 19, II
  6. Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38
  7. Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38, main theme
  8. Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38, final statement of theme
  9. Varese, Octandre, I
  10. Varese, Octandre, I, Opening solo
  11. Varese, Octandre, I, Concluding solo
  12. Paul Hindemith, Das Marienleben, Argwohn Josephs
  13. Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire, Nacht
  14. Alban Berg, 4 Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, I
  15. Gyorgy Ligeti, Desordre
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe
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Newport Classic 85619 — Boston Cecilia, Donald Teeters
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe, original melody
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe, original melody
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Newport Classic 85619 — Boston Cecilia, Donald Teeters
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe, culmination
Britten, A Ceremony of Carols, This Little Babe, culmination
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Newport Classic 85619 — Boston Cecilia, Donald Teeters
Olivier Messian, Quartet for the End of Time, Intermede
Olivier Messian, Quartet for the End of Time, Intermede
x

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Naxos 8554824 — Amici Ensemble
Arnold Schoenberg, Six Little Piano Pieces, opus 19, II
Arnold Schoenberg, Six Little Piano Pieces, opus 19, II
x

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SM2K 52 664 — Glenn Gould, piano
Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38
Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38
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RCA 63045 — Artur Rubinstein, piano
Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38, main theme (0:40)
Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38, main theme (0:40)
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RCA 63045 — Artur Rubinstein, piano
Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38, final statement of theme (0:40)
Chopin, Ballade no. 2 in F-Major, opus 38, final statement of theme (0:40)
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RCA 63045 — Artur Rubinstein, piano
Varese, Octandre, I
Varese, Octandre, I
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Sony 45844 — Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain
Varese, Octandre, I, Opening solo (0:23)
Varese, Octandre, I, Opening solo (0:23)
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Sony 45844 — Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain
Varese, Octandre, I, Concluding solo (0:16)
Varese, Octandre, I, Concluding solo (0:16)
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Sony 45844 — Pierre Boulez, Ensemble Intercontemporain
Paul Hindemith, Das Marienleben, Argwohn Josephs
Paul Hindemith, Das Marienleben, Argwohn Josephs
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Live Performance — Karol Bennett, John McDonald
Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire, Nacht
Arnold Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunaire, Nacht
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Live performance — Karol Bennett, Ensemble Luna Nova
Alban Berg, 4 Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, I
Alban Berg, 4 Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, I
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DG 447 112-2 — Sabine Meyer, Oleg Maisenberg
Gyorgy Ligeti, Desordre
Gyorgy Ligeti, Desordre
x

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Sony Classical 62308 — Pierre-Laurent Aimard