Cerebral Shangrila

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Western Classical music - Dummies guide

After years of listening to Western classical music without understanding the head or tail, I decided to get myself educated. I borrowed the book "The NPR guide to building a classical CD Collection" from the Library which has definitely given me a much better understanding of this art form and the "best collection & composers" that I should look out for.

I am humbly presenting a few things that I have learnt in the past few weeks. My understanding is still very rudimentary but I hope it throws some light into this complex art form.

What are the broad different types music forms in Western Classical music ?

Orchestral Works : Orchestra is a large body of diverse instruments that sound together. The Orchestra , in general, is dominated by the string instruments which can be divided into four groups - First Violins, Second Violins, Violas, Basses ( Cellos & string basses). Commonly used wind instruments include flutes, oboes, scores and occasionally horns & trumpets.

The Symphony ( meaning " sounding together") emerged in the 18th century and typically consists of four movements - Opening movement in lively tempo, lyrical slow movement, a minuet and a brisk finale. The Symphony still remains the pinnacle of Orchestral works.

Concertos : Solo concerto are musical forms dedicated to unique instruments ( such as Piano concerto or Violin concerto) and consists of three movements - Sonata, Aria ( slow temp) and Rondo. In concertos the main focus is on virtuosity, with the soloist often being treated as the hero.

Chamber Music : Is meant to be played in a room ( rather than a large public space) and could consist of either solo instruments or multi-movement compositions. Some popular forms of Chamber music are the string quartets ( usually two violins, viola and a cello) and quintet.

Solo Keyboard Works : Popular forms are either Organ or Harpischord based. The Piano later emerged as the most popular form of Solo works.

Sacred & Choral music : The Choral music consists of skilled choirs singing music dedicated to the God. Choral compositions consists of genres such as cantata & oratorio and involves solo singers, chorus and orchestra.

Opera : A theatrical style dramatic singing where the music is part of human drama that people enact on the screen.

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  • A relative has recently published a new book on Western Classical Music titled 'Beethoven and Friends' (by Kishore Chatterjee), with the sole aim of introducing WCM to the current generation. Might be a worthwhile read as well.

    By Blogger Abhishek Chatterjee, at 10:30 AM  

  • Wow, that is cool. I will try to get a copy of that or if you have one, may be I will borrow from u.

    By Blogger Cogito, at 10:23 PM  

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