Adrian Lopez Deutsches Fantasie: Interrelations Between German Music and Philosophy
My latest work is a single movement fantasy for solo piano entitled Deutsches Fantasie In the piece I revisit the music of Austria and Germany and compose music that displays distinct facets of German music from the baroque period to late romanticism, incorporating techniques that were not commonplace in previous centuries but that are not stylistically at odds with the practices of the past. To place myself in the state of mind of a German composer I had to critically analyze several issues: the notion of what musical "form" can become, how a particular structure can lose its identity without losing its recognizability, and the Schopenhaurian concept on the weighty implications of the very act of musical composition. These two inquiries on form, together with Schopenhauer's philosophical theory on the full magnitude of the act of writing music, were going to aid me to understand what it was about the organization and character of Austro-Germanic music that made it so profound and timeless. Origins Of Form and Motivic Material Utilized. When writing Deutsches Fantasie I had to revert back to the music of Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schumann, and Wagner. These composers had dealt with the three musical quandaries that I've stated, the first one dealing with the different guises of a particular form. Even in Bach we see that no two pieces (in the same musical genre) have the exact same structure as one another and the older the composer gets the forms become more elaborate including expanded sections, tempo changes and unexpected recapitulations.
When searching for a structural model for the movement I gravitated towards the very end of Beethoven's musical career where he seemed to be drastically modifying structures (Sonata, Fugue,etc.) without obscuring the ability for an audience to recognize that they were hearing a particular musical form. After analyzing Beethoven's middle and later work I have come to the conclusion that Beethoven's intent, as the years went by was to expose his audience to what his personal abstract imaginative and fantastic conception of what a sonata should be, rather than simply showing them the result of Beethoven writing a sonata which he had already done so many times. As he aged Beethoven did not want to follow even his own formal archetypes so he created pieces which were increasingly unique with fewer references to the construction of his previous works. The Hammerklavier Sonata is a fine example of Beethoven at his most abstract and disjointed. Some sections are comprised of motivic vignettes that appear and are interjected or interrupted and return with a new face when you least expect it. There is no evidence of a single narrative but rather we are shown phrases motives and progressions that create ambiences, expectations, but little if any cohesive discourse. The almost senile nature of these musical vignettes of contrasting dynamics and character can be seen throughout all four movements of the Hammerklavier. Its nonrecurring motives and passages together with bold modulations and grandiose piano voicings are what make this piece unique within the Beethoven catalogue. I immediately wanted to utilize the freeform, constantly changing tempos and keys aspects of the Hammerklavier as a model for my Deutsches Fantasie This Fantasy was my chance to write music using vignettes, abrupt changes, contrasting sonorities, and adventurous key modulations.
After researching numerous pieces I settled upon using Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata (especially the Largo mvt.) as a loose structural mold for my own piece. Now that I had settled upon a structural model I could continue to research other German composers whose diverse characteristics could aid me in making the piece substantially more Germanic. Beethoven had seldom spoken well of his contemporaries but he had praised the old masters greatly, and from the handful of old masters hed lauded Handel as the greatest composer the world had ever known. When you compare Handel and Beethoven's scores side by side there is a definite almost eerie similarity in how they wrote music. A parallelism can be drawn between the way they wrote voicings and cadential placements as well as an overwhelming similitude in the overall organization of the musical materials. Handel's very personal way of organizing music may be the most favorable attribute that Beethoven saw in his music. It wasn't so much about how it sounded but the architecture and density of it. Handel's almost obscene use of octaves whether they be melodic or harmonic is probably the single most tangible correlation one can identify between his and Beethoven's writing so my piece was going to have octaves as a stylistic element throughout. Even though I may be using five or six main motives in the piece they would all incorporate octaves in one way or another.
The Middle and Late Romantics: Schumann, Brahms, and Wagner The three composers that kept German music moving forward in the romantic era, but at the same time always had a Janus-like spirit permeating their music were Schumann, Brahms, and Wagner. They acquired the monumentality of Beethoven but also revered the counterpoint of Bach and the humor/creativity of Mozart. These composers had an erudite knowledge of the inner workings of musical practices of centuries past. Wagner for instance, is known to have been an admirer of Fifteenth century composer Carlo Gesualdo who's chromatic harmonizations were a heavy influence on the later composer's style. Schumann's music is undoubtedly that of a pianist that was very original when it came to voicings and harmonic progressions. After attentively analyzing Schumann I thought to myself "passages of rapid harmonic succession must be included in my piece." In other words the harmonic rhythm (rate of harmonic changes) in Schumann's music really impressed me because in some passages he would change harmony on every eighth note, this was similar to a Bach chorale where every beat the harmony would change, this element of constant harmonic change was one of the reasons why German music was considered to be so much more elaborate than the Italian or French music from the same time. I had always been a profound admirer of Wagner's innovative voice leading and chromatic modulatory techniques, so when writing the Schumannesque passages of rapid harmonic change I wanted to create harmonic progressions that were much more dissonant and tense than those you'd hear in a Schumann piece, these modulations would be more in the
style of Grosse Fugue or a fast Wagner passage. Small motives would appear within the constant harmonic modulatory progression and fade out into the harmony much like in the style of Wagner's denser passages. Brahms is probably the quintessential Janus-like figure within the romantic German composers so I immersed myself head first into his vast catalogue. Brahms is the kind of composer whose music always has a raison d'etre and every single note is an integral part of a musical whole. Brahms' ingenious variations and unpredictable (in the best sense of the word) developmental sections are to me what make him a master composer. He had such a firm and asserted sense of what a musical motif was, and how to create an entire piece around it, he viewed motives as rhythmo-melodic cells from which all the musical ideas of a musical movement shall spring forth. This was extremely Bachian of Brahms and what gave Brahms' music a similar quality of unstoppable drive that we can easily observe in J.S. Bach's music. Brahms also had a brilliant sense of rhythm and counterpoint he is arguably the most rhythmically diverse and vivacious of all of the German composers. For my piece I wanted to have several passages as homages to his rhythmic intricacy, motivic development, and his overall use of musical elements as an underlying propelling force that could exalt any audience.
Schopenhauer Attempts To Define Music And Its Significance, In The 19th Century Of all the German philosophers none viewed the arts as having so many profound and quantifiable impacts on the human psyche/spirit as did Arthur Schopenhauer, and certainly none saw musical composition as such a powerful human imprint, displaying their capacity as galactic beings that are in essence a manifestation of the very will that guides them. Schopenhauer exalted music as being a different practice than all other arts because in music we did not see tangible evidence of the repetition or mimesis of anything from the inner nature of the world. Roughly In his own words "Music, since it passes over the Ideas (the form of knowledge to the individual as such), is also quite independent of the phenomenal world, positively ignores it, and, to a certain extent, could still exist even if there were no world at all, which cannot be said of the other arts." Here Schopenhauer markedly categorizes music as something not inherently terrestrial in any capacity, quite the contrary he hints in his writings that music is something bound to the organizational patterns of the cosmos and since we are in one way or another galactic beings we have internalized some of its deepest mechanizations and exposed them through music. After showing us where the nature of musical organization comes from (in agreement with his philosophy), he then shows us what were the analogies underlying the organization of tones. "The ground-bass is in harmony what inorganic nature, the crudest mass on which everything rests, and from which everything originates and develops, is in the world... between the bass and the leading voice singing the melody, I recognize the whole gradation of ideas in which the will objectifies itself. Those nearer to
the bass are the lower of those grades, namely the still inorganic bodies. Those that are higher represent to me the plant and animal worlds... the bass-notes and ripienos that constitute harmony, lack that sequence and continuity of progress which belong only to the upper voice that sings the melody. This melodic voice moves rapidly and lightly in modulations and runs, while all the other voices have only a slower movement without a connection existing in each by itself." Arthur Schopenhauer has defined the musical practices of the western world as a structural/formal analogy to the earth's living organisms, from microscopic inorganic nature (lowest registers) to more advanced simians and plant life (low and high middle range) to finally man and whatever creature that develops in the future past our current predicament (high melodic register) through his explanation of the nature of music he has appointed the honor of highest and most significant art to the category of music. After reading Schopenhauer on music, and having delved profoundly in the music of Handel, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Schumann, and Wagner I knew I had everything I needed to compose Deutsches Fantasie Because of Schopenhauer's musical philosophy I made the piece expansive in terms of register and timbrical combinations an element that gave the piece an almost epic quality that without having read Schopenhauer I can surely say it would have lacked.
Detailed Analysis of Deutsches Fantasie And Its Connection to The German Tradition In the opening of the Hammerklavier's Largo movement opening Beethoven writes this simple figure where single note Fs are played in four registers of the piano as a sort of gesture to show a tonal center. In the opening measures of Deutsches Fantasie I decided to have a simple eighth-note motive that would constantly alternate between higher and lower registers (as an homage to the Hammerklavier's Largo movement and Schopenhauer's writings on musical aesthetics), in my passage rather than affirming a tonal center the key is obscured through use of augmented chords. In the fifth measure we begin to see a delicate major key progression in B major that is reminiscent of Bach's chorale writing but with the use of extreme registers and a few dissonances. In measure eleven the counterpoint ceases and both hands begging playing together, here I introduce what I refer to as the "Handel" motif, it consists simply of descending sostenuto major sixths on the right hand with the left hand doubling the same notes in different registers. After the cadence and the dramatic segment with the overlapping trills in several registers (m.13-14) we are somewhat abruptly thrown into a section consisting of threes against twos or triplets on one hand and eight notes on the other, this entire section is an homage to Brahms' rhythmic development and novel approach to counterpoint, harmonic progression, and voicing, the section lasts from half of measure fourteen to measure twenty-two before the ritenuto Halfway through measure twentythree "alternating octaves" theme from the beginning returns, this time it is played in a
pesante almost solemn manner, this all builds up to the V-I cadence on measure twentysix that encapsulates the first section of the piece. The upcoming section of the piece is exceedingly Beethovenian commencing with the lento assai leggiero section (m.27-29). This slow three measure section is played pianissimo and features the use of the Handel motif in a different context, one that's much more romantic and dream-like. Measures thirty to thirty-five serve the purpose of building up tension dramatically, prior to the agitato passage which begins in measure thirty-six and ends with the descending chromatic line leading to a cadence in fourtythree. The agitato passage is where I wanted to begin to use the Schumanesque technique of rapid harmonic change to give a sense of acceleration in the piece. The agitato is naturally quite tense despite using major sonorities extensively. In measure fourty the left hand plays a difficult contrapuntal accompaniment reminiscent of the Brahmsian triplet section (m.15-22) the polyrhythms give a climactic air to this tense passage and finally in measure fourty-three we get a cadence. After the cadence comes a reprise of the lento assai leggiero section (m.27-29). The music gently arises from silence but this time it's in G major, the lento section results in a cadence going into measure fourty-six where theres a long held trill on the left hand and triplets that outline a reinvented guise of the Handel motif this time featuring fifths rather than sixths, this all leads to measure fifty where the development section begins. The development prominently features octaves and eighth notes because it is mainly a development of the very first straight forward eighth note theme but this time the harmonic rhythm is fast as it was in the agitato In the development we get a sense of constant fugato motion and incessant modulations, in this section the Wagnerian and Grosse Fugue influences are fully and flaringly exhibited.
In measure eighty-seven after all the intensity has organically come to a gradual standstill we get a gloriously dramatic recapitulation of the original simple eighth-note theme (in its original key). The recapitulation in the original key is probably the most Germanic of all structural musical traits, Beethoven always did it as did almost every German composer (with the exceptions of Late Wagner, Mahler, and Strauss). The recapitulation of the original material is so strongly bound to the German classical tradition that no matter what form you are writing in there will be some material of music that must be repeated at some point so I had to incorporate it to my Fantasy and since the first section has such a strong sense of cohesion it works very well when it is played the second time around. Conclusive Notes Working on this project allowed me to immerse myself into a musical and philosophical tradition that is very profound and appealing. I think the task of creating an original work in the style of the German master composers turned out to be a satisfactory success and is one of the highlights of the whole of my university experience. Being exposed to the works of those brilliant minds from centuries past has made of me a more skilled composer and a more capable thinker.
Bibliography Cooper, E. David, Peter Lamarque, and Crispin Sartwell. Aesthetics: The Classic Readings. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishers Ltd, 1997.
Tracing how I constructed my main motif out of Beethovens first measure in the Largo from his Hammerklavier piano Sonata. And also the use of tempo changes Is identified in both pieces.
Schumanns use of rapid harmonic change compared to my development section featuring similar writing.
comparing Brahms use of eighth notes against triplets to a passage of mine where I begin using the same rhythm but later change it by subdividing the triplet itself.
Beethoven and Handels use of octaves on the left and right hand.
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