If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.

The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Classical Music Outline & Vocabulary

1.     Classical music is a western/European tradition, ranging from around 1000 AD to the present. There is also a classical period of classical music from roughly 1750-1830. The two terms can be confusing.

2.     Other periods include:

Medieval (500-1400)
Renaissance (1400-1600)
Baroque (1600-1750)
Classical (1750-1830)
Romantic (1804-1949)
Modern (20th century)
Post-Modern (after 1950).

(Note how this matches with painting, literature,architecture and philosophy.)

3.     Classical music has fallen out of fashion today, with most people preferring pop music. However, classical music is still written, and is commonly made for films and television.

4.     Classical music includes religious and secular (nonreligious) works.

5.     It has a system of written notation, using a staff (notová osnova) and clefs (kľúče) to dictate notes, tempo, meter, and rhythms, leaving little room for improvisation or ornamentation (ozdobovanie).
     Notes are written on groups lines called bars (), which are divided into measures (takty),
     and the number of notes in each measure depends on the time signature (čísla taktov).
     Most instruments don't need staves, because they have one voice, and only need one bar:

 Piano music usually consists of staves with two bars, one for each hand (a piano is really like playing two instruments at once):

 Choral music usually has four bars per staff, for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices:

 Orchestral music (called a score) can have many bars on one giant staff, for the conductor to follow - each bar represents a different instrument:

6.     Because of this notation, classical music can be quite long and complex, with many different voices, or instruments, playing together. It’s mostly instrumental, without singing. Classical music with singing consists of operas and religious cantatas.

7.     Classical music consists of orchestral and chamber music. Chamber is another word for room, so this is music you can play at home. Classical instruments are grouped in families: string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments, as well as solo instruments, such as piano, harpsichord, harp, and organ.

8.     Orchestral music consists of symphonies and concertos, the difference being that concertos have a soloist. There are concertos for almost every instrument, but the most common are for piano or violin. Some composers write double concertos, with two soloists. The word orchestra refers to a large group of musicians, and a symphony is music written for orchestra.

9.     Chamber music consists of duets, trios, quartets, quintets, sextets, septets, octets, etc. This simply refers to the number of musicians playing. It also includes sonatas, which are like concertos, only with a piano instead of an orchestra to support the soloist. Some chamber music includes songs, which require a singer, and have lyrics. If there’s no singer, it’s not a song, it’s a piece of music.

10.  All of these musical works have movements, usually three or four. Each movement is an individual piece of music with its own melody. So one sonata or symphony might have three to five different movements. The idea is the composer is writing not just one piece, but a complete concert that will last a long time. You don’t clap until all the movements are played. Wait till the end, or you look foolish. All the movements in a musical work should be related to each other and fit well together. They’re usually in the same key (stupnice).

11.  Movements may be fast or slow. Fast movements are typically labeled presto, allegro, or finale. Slower movements are labeled andante, minuet, or scherzo (a little joke). The slowest are called largo, or adagio. As you can see, Italian is the language of music. That’s because some of the best early composers were Italian. It’s different from pop music, where each song has a special title, similar to poetry. In classical music the title simply tells the musician how fast to play.

12.  Medieval music (500-1100) was dominated with Gregorian chant, which mostly consisted of one voice. After 1100 AD these songs developed and added voices.

13.  Renaissance music (1400-1600) introduced many new instruments and the idea of a bass line accompaniment. Most music was written for dancing. It was also printed using presses, preserving it for history. Typical instruments included the lute (lutna), bagpipe (gajdy), harpsichord (čembalo), and viol – an older version of violin that came in different sizes, including the viola da gamba, which was played like a cello.


the treble clef – husľový kľúč
the bass clef – basový kľúč
a measure – takt
a scale – stupnica
a major scale – durová stupnica
a minor scale – molová stupnica
a chromatic scale – chromatická stupnica
a flat () – béčko
a natural () – odrážka
a sharp (#) – križik

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