Sunday, May 3, 2009


When I hear the word plunderphonics, I think of John Oswald wearing a horned Viking helmet, pillaging and plundering small villages. To many people, this is what he is doing musically. Oswald takes existing songs, many times from popular music, and rearranges snippets of them into his own works. The result is a jumble of sounds, though as opposed to much early tape music where the sound sources are rarely discernable, Oswald’s sources are very often obvious and unified in the theme of the work. This compositional technique is interesting in that it allows the composer to make statements about the original song or artist, from which he has gotten into some trouble, but it also makes a very strong statement about what music is today and its relationship to changing technology.

In her entry, Kristina makes some very interesting observations about Oswald’s plunderphonics, including possible hidden meanings behind them. In one example, she cites Oswald’s work “Pretender,” the song originally recorded by The Platters and subsequently recorded by countless others, including Dolly Parton. In listening, to the work, I certainly felt the same strangeness Kristina describes. To hear the voice of a woman with “an extremely exaggerated hourglass figure” transform into that of a man felt just plain wrong. It is hard to say what Oswald meant by this work, and although it may be a little far-fetched, I couldn’t help but become a little bit of a hopeful conspiracy theorist when Kristina tells us that maybe Dolly Parton “is actually a he who has conned the world into believing he is a buxom woman with a chipmunked version of his original voice”. Hey it worked for the guys who did The Chipmunks, why not for Dolly (or maybe Donny?) Parton. I think it was possibly just this sense of uneasiness with the industry that Oswald may have been trying to instill.

While composition is the arrangement of sounds, it was Oswald’s choice of sounds to arrange that got him into hot water with the record industry. Oswald’s place in time is the root of his style and in the problems he faced. He began creating his style in the 1960s, aided by the new mass-marketing of popular music. The 1970s however, birthed opposition to his style with laws put in place to more strongly protect copyrights of recorded music. Kristina mentions that one of the most infamous cases of opposition to plunderphonics was the threat of lawsuit from a record company over Oswald’s use of the Michael Jackson song “Bad” (which Oswald titled “Dab”). While the argument that someone profiting from the reworking of another’s song may hold some water, I found it very interesting, through further investigation, to find that Oswald had released the recording on a cassette tape that was distributed for free. Oswald did comply with the record company and destroyed the remaining copies, but I don’t see how any harm could be done if he was not making any money. It is unfortunate that financial and legal issues can choke musical creativity in this way.

Kristina makes the argument in her conclusion that Plunderphonics should not be included in the canon, mainly due to the difficulty involved in recreating the music. She says, “There is little that translates to live performance, leaving a performer to essentially push the play button on the CD.” I disagree, as I do not feel that the ease with which a piece can be performed in a traditionalistic manner should contribute to the piece’s quality or importance in the development of music. In his presentation to the Wired Society Electro-Acoustic Conference in 1985, Oswald stated that “Musical instruments produce sounds. Composers produce music. Musical instruments reproduce music. Tape recorders, radios, disc players, etc., reproduce sound. A device such as a wind-up music box produces sound and reproduces music. A phonograph in the hands of a hip hop/scratch artist who plays a record like an electronic washboard with a phonographic needle as a plectrum, produces sounds which are unique and not reproduced - the record player becomes a musical instrument. A sampler, in essence a recording, transforming instrument, is simultaneously a documenting device and a creative device, in effect reducing a distinction manifested by copyright,” and goes on to say that “The distinction between sound producers and sound reproducers is easily blurred, and has been a conceivable area of musical pursuit at least since John Cage's use of radios in the Forties.” I agree with Oswald in these regards. There is simply too much gray area to decide whether a CD player is any less of an instrument than a piano, and whether John Oswald is any less of a musician than Michael Jackson- certainly too much gray area for copyright law to get involved. I don’t believe Plunderphonics should be included in the canon as I do not believe it directly influenced later styles, as I see hip-hop and other sample-based music forms to be influenced by earlier electronic and tape music composers. However, it is certainly a style worth studying for enjoyment and for its statement against established music industry norms.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Survivor from Warsaw

In 1947, Corinne Chochem, a Russian dancer well-known for her promotion of Jewish music, dance, and art in New York, approached Arnold Schoenberg with her idea of a musical work to honor the Jewish victims of Nazi rule during WWII. Schoenberg, born a Jew, had converted to Protestantism in 1898, but returned to his Jewish faith in 1933, moved by “the hideous persecution of Jews at the hands of the Nazis.” (Slonimsky and Kuhn 2001) Schoenberg proposed the piece be between 6 to 9 minutes, the subject would be how Jewish victims sang before they were killed, and the price would be $1,000. Unfortunately for Chochem, $1,000 was a lot of money in 1947, and so she was forced to abandon the project. Fortunately for the world of music, Schoenberg could not part with this picture of the singing Jews.

Soon after his correspondence with Chochem, Schoenberg received word from the Koussevitzky Foundation, informing him they were interested in commissioning an orchestral work. Schoenberg replied, saying he had just the piece, and that although he originally intended it for orchestra with narrator and men’s chorus, he now envisioned it as a symphonic poem. However, Serge Koussevitzky encouraged Schoenberg to use his original orchestration. When finally finished, A Survivor from Warsaw was premiered on November 4, 1948 by the Albuquerque Civic Orchestra, an orchestra of “lawyers, doctors, secretaries, high school and university students, railroad engineers, etc.” (Strasser 1995, 56) It was by no means a major American orchestra, but a work of this magnitude spoke for itself. Since its brilliant premiere, it has remained a musical monument. As historian Michael Strasser describes,
“The emotional impact that A Survivor from Warsaw had on the performers and audience at the Albuquerque premiere has not dimmed with time… for the event to which it bears witness… is a crime unparalleled in the annals of human history… Schoenberg’s composition continues to serve as an eloquent reminder of the enormity of the crime that took place half a century ago.” (Strasser 1995, 57)

The piece, which is divided into two sections, begins with a quirky trumpet reveille building to loud, dissonant chords in the strings and brass. After the introduction, the narrator enters and begins telling the speaker’s story. It is the story of a concentration camp prisoner awakening to the daily horrors of the camp. Nazi guards beat the prisoners after they have emerged from their cells, before the prisoners are sent to the gas chambers. The painfully detailed narration is accompanied by dissonant and mostly athematic elements in the orchestra. The only thematic material presented in this section is in a trumpet reveille and in a snare drum march beat. The athematic music seems almost deconstructed- unorganized musical fragments depict the Jewish prisoners, beaten down under the cruelty, oppression and regimentation of the prison guards.

The turning point in the piece comes, however, with the beginning of the second section. Although it lasts only 19 measures (compared to the 80 measures in the first section), the second section is even more emotionally stirring. The frenzied music and shouting of the narrator builds until the narrator cries “they began singing, ‘Shema Yisroel’!” At this point the men’s chorus begins singing “Shema Yisroel”, a Jewish prayer which, translated from Hebrew says
“Hear Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord, And you shall love the Lord, your God, With all your heart and with all your soul And with all your might. And these words, which I command you today, Shall be in all your heart; And you shall teach them diligently to your children and talk of them When you sit in your house And when you walk along your way, When you lie down and when you rise.” (Auner 2003, 319)
In this glorious section we finally hear thematic material, in the form of this Jewish hymn. The voices of the doomed Jews break free of and rise above the cacophonous violence of their oppressors, even as they are taken to their deaths. Schoenberg shows the spirit of the Jewish people triumphing over their hardships through the emergence of their song and its triumph over the fragmented style of the first section.

I have to wonder how effective this piece would have been as a symphonic poem. Certainly Schoenberg could have still employed the effect of the contrast between sections to show the oppression and ultimate triumph of the spirits of the Jewish people. However, I find the narration in the first section to be indispensable to depicting the horrors of the story and the sounds and words of the men’s voices to be an emotional climax that would otherwise be unattainable.

I do believe this piece should be included in the canon. It is very well orchestrated, has a stirring narration, and expertly makes use of a Jewish hymn using Schoenberg’s 12 tone system. For these reasons I believe this piece is not only a musical masterpiece, but also a fitting honor to those who perished in the genocide.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Response to Hannah's Bachianas Brasileiras

In her journal response to Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras, Hannah makes certain the reader/listener understands the context in which the piece is a masterpiece. Likening it to a pasta salad, and prompting me to reach for a late-night snack, she tells us that the magic of the piece lies not in the individual ingredients, but in the “synthesis of those individual components.” From looking at the two-faced title of the piece, to the titles of the movements, which take one name from Baroque terminology and another from Brazilian folk terminology, to the makeup of the music itself, which draws on Bachian forms and Brazilian sonorities, it is easy to divide the piece into Baroque noodles and Brazilian salad dressing, rather than seeing it as a delicious pasta salad, as Hannah describes it.

Nevertheless, it is nearly impossible to listen to the piece without picking the elements of the music apart and assigning them to either of Villa-Lobos’ foundations for the piece, as Hannah goes on to do in her reactions to the movements. Similar to what Hannah describes, I had difficulty hearing Bachian influences in the first two movements of No. 1. Aside from being in ABA form, I could not look past the singing melodies, pulsating syncopations, and modal sonorities that placed them clearly in the “Brazilian salad dressing” category. This is especially true of the rhythmic complexity of the first movement and the beautiful songlike melodies of the second- which Hannah aptly described as giving the “impression of evening serenades, balcony scenes, and street bands.” Parts of the latter movement certainly sounded to me like they could be underscoring a hopelessly cheesy love scene in an old movie- an emotion I wouldn’t often think of while listening to Bach. The third movement, however finally gives the feeling of Baroque melody and imitative forms, while retaining the syncopations of Brazilian rhythms.

No. 6 is sonically very different, in that the two voices, flute and bassoon, are much farther apart, as opposed to the similar voices of the cellos in No. 1. The first movement moves between sections that sound very much Brazilian in melody and very much Baroque in counterpoint. In the second movement, the movement of the bass, as heard in the bassoon, part is clearly Baroque and evokes the sounds of Bachian walking bass. Meanwhile, the flute is given virtuosic melody in constant motion.

While not always equal in representation in each movement, Villa-Lobos’ successfully melds Bach’s Baroque styles with those of his own native Brazilian folk music. However, I would like to hear more from Hannah as to why this dichotomy needed to exist in the first place. When Villa-Lobos composed these pieces between 1930 and 1945 he was actually taking part in a revolution. Getulio Vargas overtook the Old Republic regime in Brazil and sought to unite his people under his own authoritarian rule. Of course, as in similar situations around the world, a fledgling government in a fledgling country looked to music as a way to establish an individual identity in the world. Heitor Villa-Lobos was handed control of the music education system in the country, and became the musical emblem of Brazil through his compositions. But it seems strange that he would use European elements to create a nationalistic style. Why not create a style uniquely Brazilian, as did Ives in the United States? Shouldn’t he have taken his music away from reliance on Europe? In Hannah’s response, she mentions that Villa-Lobos saw Bach as a “universal folkloric source” however, when asked “what is folklore?” Villa-Lobos is known to have exclaimed “I am folklore!” This is, in essence, the conflict I see in this piece. Although Villa-Lobos is trying to create something entirely his own, he is still reliant on his idol, Bach.

Despite the problems I see in this piece from a political perspective, I do still agree with Hannah in that it should be included in the canon. Even if it doesn’t create something wholly Brazilian, it is a masterpiece in the realm of neoclassicism of the twentieth century.

Gian Francesco Malipiero "Vivaldiana"

Gian Francesco Malipiero, born in 1882, made the goal of his compositional career to end the reign of opera, in the vein of Rossini and even his own grandfather Francesco Malipiero, as the dominant Italian musical style. With this in mind, Malipiero’s musical education and upbringing put him on just such a path. As a child, his father Luigi, a pianist and composer, took Gian to Vienna where he attended the conservatory before returning to Venice to study with Marco Enrico Bossi at the Liceo Musicale. However, Malipiero’s greatest discovery and compositional advancement came during his own personal study. In 1902, he frequented the Biblioteca Marciana and began transcribing the work of the early Italian composers such as Monteverdi and Frescobaldi. Soon after, he got a job writing down music, and thus learning about orchestration, from Antonio Smareglia, a follower of Wagner. Also around this time, he was a student of Max Bruch, became friends with Alfredo Casella, and became infatuated with the music of Debussy, Strauss, and Stravinsky, of whom he attended the premieres of Elektra and The Rite of Spring. In later years, as head of the Istituto Italiano Antonio Vivaldi, he edited much of a collection of Vivaldi’s works. With such a cosmopolitan and era-spanning education, with in-depth study ranging from Monteverdi and Vivaldi to Wagner, Debussy, and Stravinsky, Malipiero exemplifies the idea of the neoclassical composer.
Such should be the case in listening to his Vivaldiana. Before listening to this piece I had ideas of what it might sound like - thinking along the lines of Stravinsky’s modern re-workings of classical style in Pulcinella Suite and Symphony of Psalms – I thought I might hear twelve-tone compositions based on Vivaldi themes or even simply Vivaldi pieces with newly-composed atonal harmonies. However, I was surprised by what I heard. The piece is clearly not composed serially, nor are the harmonic elements remotely atonal, but completely the opposite – it sounds exactly like Vivaldi. The first movement, labeled Adagio-Allegro begins with a steadily moving ground bass with the melody soaring slowly overhead in the violins and upper winds before moving abruptly to the Allegro section, marked by a sixteenth-note figure that is passed through each string section in canonic fashion. The second movement is labeled Andante piu lento un poco, and demonstrates Vivaldi’s ability to take a small amount of material and stretch it over a number of bars in a slow piece. At the beginning we hear the lower strings echoing the violin melody, which seems to be drawn out throughout the movement in some voice, whether it is violins, lower strings, or winds. Finally, the third movement, labeled Allegro-Allegro molto, is bright and upbeat and kept my attention much better, probably due to the contrasting use of woodwinds (which seem to finally have their own parts in this movement, rather than doubling the strings), broader dynamic range, and gradual tempo change, in contrast to the abrupt break to accommodate the sections of different tempi in the first movement. Malipiero sets up this work as a pseudo- Vivaldi sinfonia, with three movements in the fast-slow-fast order, and it truly does work fine as just that. But Malipiero “wrote” the piece in 1952, after over 200 years of musical progress since the Baroque days of Vivaldi and early Classicism. It would have benefited Malipiero to include some of this progress into a re-working of Vivaldi’s music for the neo-classical era, rather than re-presenting the seemingly unchanged work of one of his idols. For this reason I think it is very obvious why this piece is not included in the canon- it is simply not a representation of the neoclassical style of composition, but rather musical plagiarism, note-for-note. Had Malipiero looked to the example of Stravinsky for ways to re-work the classics, he may have been more successful.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Louis Spohr Symphony No. 6 Response

Louis Spohr lies in an interesting place in music history in that his early symphonies fall in the Classical period, while the later symphonies fall in the Romantic period. Of course this is not a unique trait of Spohr’s- Beethoven immediately comes to mind as being in the same musical position. I believe what makes Spohr lesser known, for the most part, is that while Beethoven, as well as other Romantic composers, were pressing forward, Spohr was stuck in the past.

As Hannah states toward the end of her entry, I felt that Mendelssohn must have been a major influence on Louis Spohr. Like Mendelssohn, Spohr started his composition career by defying his parents’ wishes and attending music school, and also had great interest in looking back at the composers of the past. It is this interest in looking studying past musical styles that led Spohr to compose his “Symphony No. 6 Historische im Stil und Geschmack vier verschiedener Zeitabschnitte,” also known as the “Historical Symphony.”

Spohr’s symphony is divided into four movements, each one written in homage to a different musical period. The first movement, titled “Bach- Handel’sche Periode,” is a reference to the Baroque style. The second movement, “Haydn- Mozart’sche Periode,” depicts the Classical style. The third movement, “Beethoven’sche Periode,” is a portrayal of the Romantic period. Finally, the fourth movement, “Allerneueste Periode,” is Spohr’s view of the “new music” at the time the piece was written in 1839.

The first movement is clearly written in the Bach fugal style. String sections and winds continuously follow each other through the fugal themes. While the winds do sound in accordance with Bach-Handel style, with flute, oboe, and bassoon, it is easy to hear that the strings are too heavily scored. This allows for what I feel is too much dynamic contrast for a Baroque piece, from soft solo oboe statements, to exclamatory tutti orchestra sections. In addition, I felt several times that I heard harmonies that were too chromatic to be put in the Baroque style.

The second movement contrasted with the first in many of the ways one would expect a Classical piece to contrast with a Baroque piece. Rather than continuous, steadily-moving fugal themes shared by the whole orchestra, this movement in the style of Haydn and Mozart incorporated much more tuneful melodies and rhythmic diversity that helped to keep the listener’s attention. Although, I do agree with Hannah in that the movement was still scored to heavily in the strings. Again, as with the first movement, I felt that there was some underlying harmonic chromaticism which felt out of place. I would be interested to know if these may have been the same instances Hannah heard as Spohr’s “use of experimental harmonies.”

The symphony’s third movement was definitely the most exciting. Spohr’s use of dynamic contrast is most effective in this movement, gaining the listener’s ear with a soft, driving beat in the timpani, and building to a melodic climax with the tutti orchestra. Spohr effectively captures the Romantic spirit of Beethoven. This movement ultimately sounds the most natural of the four in this work, leading me to believe Louis Spohr truly was a Romantic composer at heart.

As for the fourth movement, I share in Hannah’s confusion. It is hard to tell whether it was meant as a joke on the increasing discord of the musical sonorities of the time (think Berlioz), or if it was simply a very poor finale. Either way, I, like Hannah, felt very disappointed. If it was meant to be a satire, I felt it was understated enough to not have such an effect, as it was not tonally or rhythmically outrageous, but more just annoying. The constantly returning theme of broken triplet patterns shared by the winds and strings, building to a crescendo, and then dropping down again, was painfully unnatural feeling in its hindrance to the flow of the music and mind-numbingly repetitive.

After my listening experience with the piece I was excited, but not surprised, that I came to the same conclusion as Hannah (and apparently the same as Prokofiev, as well). This piece needed to either have been composed with each movement in strict accordance with the rules and styles of each period, or with each movement written as if the subject composers (Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn) had been composing in the Romantic period. The piece is in no-man’s land, with the first two movements having too many small traces of Romanticism for them to be authentically Baroque or Classical, but not Romantic enough to be a true stylistic hybrid.

With the exception of the excellent third movement, I have to agree with Hannah in saying that it is no surprise this piece is not in the canon. Spohr does not come close to the retrospect composers such as Mendelssohn were able to work with, and overall does not create a very memorable piece. What it does, however, is inspire me to listen to more of Spohr’s later symphonies, which I can only hope demonstrate his command of the Romantic style as exhibited in the third movement of this work.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Isaac Albeniz Suite espanola

Isaac Albeniz ran away from home and toured the U.S. at the age of 12, studied piano in Leipzig, Brussels, and with Liszt in Budapest, and polished his composition skills in Paris, yet he is best known for his works which depict his home country of Spain [iii]. Though Albeniz learned and performed a great deal elsewhere in the world, his dedication to more widely distributing the exotic folk music of Spain established him as a leader in Spanish nationalistic music in the Romantic period. The Romantic era was a time known for radical change, socially and politically, and Spain was not immune to its ravages. Spain in the nineteenth century was ripe with turmoil, and the lack of stability greatly suppressed many forms of art, as there were few to no major, internationally-known painters or composers in Spain from the beginning of the century until nearly the end [iii].

One of these emerging artists towards the end of the century was Isaac Albeniz. Though he studied all over the western world, his compositional style was most notably influenced by his association with Felipe Pedrell, known as “the greatest of nineteenth-century Spanish musical scholars” [iii] and as a teacher who pushed his pupils to compose using the folk music of Spain [ii]. As a result, Albeniz would write many Spanish nationalistic works, most notably for piano, including Iberia and Suite espanola.

Each work in Albeniz’s Suite espanola, a collection composed between 1886 and 1889, depicts a region of Spain and that region’s corresponding dance style. There are two suites, the first containing the titles and tone paintings of “Granada,” “Catalina,” “Sevilla,” “Cadiz,” “Asturias,” “Aragon,” “Castilla,” and “Cuba,” and the second featuring “Zaragoza” and “Sevilla.”

Many elements unify the movements. Harmonic movement is simple, often alternating between I and V. Melodies are also simple, but tuneful and lyrical. The form of the suites is essentially ternary, and the styles of the sections seem to be consistent. There is stark contrast between the A and B sections, of which Walter Clark says that Albeniz “employs the spirited rhythms… in the A section as well as stirringly lyrical and animated copla in the B section” [i]. For the most part, A sections tend to move at a more constant speed, using dancing motor rhythms in the left hand while the right hand carries lyrical melodies in short phrases. B sections contrast greatly, however, and are usually announced by abrupt breaks after the A section. These middle sections tend to be in a more rubato style. They maintain great lyricism but seem more emotional, as they are often in minor keys. While these sections do not paint a picture of Spain through dance rhythms, we do get the essence of Spain’s Moorish culture through Albeniz’s use of the Phrygian mode. Through these forms, Albeniz first catches our attention with intricate dance rhythms, gives us a glimpse of the soul of the region through its melodies, and then leaves us again with the more memorable rhythmic dance.

Aside from harmonic and melodic simplicity and abruptly contrasting sections, Albeniz is firmly in the late Romantic period through his use of chromaticism. In the “Catalina” movement the return of the theme in the second A section is accompanied by descending chromatic chords in the left hand. Chromaticism is also clearly stated in the transition between themes in the A section of “Sevilla,” in the harmonic and melodic movement of “Zaragoza,” and in the theme of “Cuba.”

As can be expected with dance-based music, rhythms also establish this work in Romantic nationalism. The meter stays pretty much rooted in 6/8. Dotted rhythms exist throughout nearly the entire “Cataluna” movement, “Castilla” features a rapid-fire rhythmic gallop in the left hand, “Zaragoza” makes use of triplets, and “Asturias,” which was my favorite movement, begins with fast ostinati in the left hand, then adds an offbeat tonic note floating above in the right hand, and finally incorporates very striking, accented chords on the downbeats in the right hand. This movement stood out to me in that the A section was almost entirely rhythmically based and portrayed the sheer intensity of the “Leyenda” dance. One thing I found interesting, though, was that there was an obvious pause or hesitation before each of these strikes. I am not sure if this was notated by Albeniz to adhere to the nature of the dance, or if it was done by choice of the performer, but I thought it was strange that a section with so much rhythmic intensity would be broken up in such a way.

While overall I enjoyed Albeniz’s Suites, the “Asturias” movement was the only one that stayed in my mind through the end. Many of the other movements were too similar, both in form and in content, and by the last movement, material recycled from earlier in the work appears. I think this work would have been better executed with fewer and more contrasting movements. When I think about what it would be like to tour Spain, I think there would be many memorable sights and experiences, but Isaac Albeniz makes it seem more like a drive across Kansas. I think this work is not included in the canon because there is simply not enough contrast among the movements. There are some great high points, such as the “Asturias,” but they are too few and far between for the piece to be considered one of the greatest nationalistic works of the Romantic period.


[i] Clark, Walter Aaron. Isaac Albeniz: Portrait of a Romantic. New York: Oxford University
Press, 1999.

[ii] Thompson, Wendy, Christopher Webber. “Albeniz, Isaac (Manuel Francisco).” In Oxford
Music Online, (accessed February 20, 2009).

[iii] Samson, Jim, ed. The Late Romantic Era. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1991.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Comment on Joshua Hey's Response - Mozart Concerto for Harp and Flute

Mozart was undeniably the most influential composer in Western music and also one of the most prolific. It is easy to think of some of his monumental works as Joshua Hey does in his journal response. Don Giovanni, Symphony No. 40, and Mozart’s Requiem Mass are all pieces in which we hear Mozart at his creative heights and his clever melodies are imprinted in our minds. However, these pieces make trouble for the vast works he composed which are not included in the canon, such as the Concerto for Flute and Harp, K. 299.

Not being able to recall this piece and reasoning it must be worth listening to because it is, after all, Mozart, I decided to read Joshua Hey’s response to the piece. Upon reading, I was shocked. Joshua describes the piece as predictable and unmemorable – what sacrilege! Calling Mozart unmemorable seemed like slapping God in the face. However, after listening, I changed my mind.

One of Joshua’s comments was that he could not recall a single theme from the piece after listening. I also found this to be true especially of the first movement. Even though the ensemble, minus harp and flute, hammer out the main arpeggiated theme for the first minute and a half before the concerto instruments enter and restate, I could not recall this open theme by the end. I also agree with Joshua on the initial novelty of hearing these two instruments playing a double concerto. However, the particularly thin sounds did become very tired to me, perhaps because of the similar roles they each played throughout. While the flute took long-winded solo interludes, the harp remained in an accompaniment role. I really wanted the harp to be able to share some of the spotlight. I also agree with Joshua on the lack of chordal work for the harp. I felt that in using an instrument such as harp, Mozart should have made use of the full range and technical possibilities of the harp, rather than having it double the flute lines. Working against the harp also was the fact that it was often in the same range as the upper strings and often employed a similar timbre, especially when the strings were pizzicato.

Joshua’s critique of the work’s harmonic structure was also accurate. Most progressions were from the tonic to the dominant and back again, making for very simple, predictable harmonic accompaniments. While this is fitting for a Classical piece where accompaniment is simplified and simple, catchy melody is the focal point, I did not feel the piece was balanced in that way. The melodies, for the most part, were simply not interesting or memorable enough to make up for the predictable harmonic movement.

I do, however, feel differently about the second movement. While I could not remember any themes from the first or third movements once the piece was over, I could remember the theme from the second movement. While the first and third movements had a more frantic, forced energy about them, I found the second movement to be much more organic and natural in its movement and space. The melody seemed to be derived more from emotion than from determining notes that would work. The slower andantino tempo allows more breath between the concerto instruments and the accompaniment. For these reasons, I found the second movement to stand alone as the memorable movement of the piece, and essentially the only place I differ in opinion from Joshua. I would, as a result, like to know more on Joshua’s indifference to the movement.

I very much enjoyed the closing of Joshua’s response in which he describes our how our “unfettered” view of the piece can cause our difference of opinion to how it may have once been received, and that we can “look for those few common threads that bind together all great art”. While Mozart’s Concerto for Harp and Flute fits the Classical mold, Joshua is correct in his assessment that it simply does not show us “something powerful about our very nature or existence” and therefore cannot be admitted into the canon which contains Mozart’s true masterpieces. (Joshua Hey, Cons 352WI Blog, entry posted January 25, 2009)