Musical Artists Essay

As the human civilization evolved, the language they used to communicate also evolved. Language is the formal system of signs and symbols that are embodied in words and their usage as understood by a community (www.m-w.com/dictionary/language). But even before spoken language, another type of language was “discovered” by man, music. Music, or the creation of music, began even before man started recording history. It began as an imitation of man to the sounds of their environment, thus, they mimicked the sound produced by birds, wolves, the wind, and as they discovered the use of tools, they began mimicking the sound of volcanoes and thunder (through the use of drums and other percussion instruments) (“History_of_music”, 2007).

Throughout the history of man, their music evolved, became more complex. As new technology was discovered, alternative styles also were developed. Thus, genres were born.

Some of the genres that were developed throughout the known history of man are: a) Classical Music; b) Jazz music, and; c) Contemporary Music.

Classical Music

Classical music is an imprecise term used to refer to music produced in tradition of Western art, ecclesiastical and concert music, developed in the period between 1550 and 1900 (“Classical_music”, 2007). The style is formal and evokes classical traditions, is written down trough a music notation which defines the work more than a particular performance of it. Modifications in the way a piece is performed are allowed and the interpreter is given discretion unto how they would direct their performance. Only the technical instructions for the

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performance of the work are contained in the original notation. Although modifications are allowed, improvisation plays a minor role in Classical music, thus, even if musicians are given the privilege to change how a classical piece is performed, it is still not accepted as common practice.

The musical instruments used in the performance of classical music are the instruments commonly found in an orchestra. Classical musicians from recent decades have started to experiment with electric instruments such as the electric guitar.

Early classical musicians were influenced by folk music, some by nationalistic ideologies. The growth of Classical music can be credited to the fact that this musical style was very much appreciated by monarchs of the European countries.

Jazz Music

Jazz music is a musical style originating in Western Africa, brought by black Americans who were victims of the slave trade. It is the combination of African music and western music as traditionally sung in religious hymns, hillbilly music, and military band music, developed until it became part of the popular music at the beginning of the 20th century (“Jazz”, 2007).

The basic instruments used in Jazz are the instruments used in marching bands and dance bands during the early 20th century, such as the brass, reeds, and drums (“Jazz”, 2007).

Unlike in Classical music where improvisation plays a minor role, improvisation is a central tradition in jazz (“Classical_music”, 2007). Unlike in Classical music where the

 

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composer takes center stage, Jazz performers also enjoy credit in the way they improvise their work.

African-Americans take pride in what they have accomplished through Jazz. As Wynton Marsalis proudly said that, “Jazz is something Negroes invented and it said the most profound things not only about us and the way we look at things, but about what modern democratic life is really about. It is the nobility of the race put into sound; it is the sensuousness of romance in our dialect; it is the picture of the people in all their glory… Jazz has all of the elements, from the spare and penetrating to the complex and enveloping” (Marsalis, 1990).

He says that Jazz is all about being better, being ones self and working hard. It is their voice, their battle against people who keeps putting African-American people down. He also quoted Stanley Crouch who once said that “jazz is about improving things and that to jazz something up really doesn’t mean to mess it up; it means to make it better.” Marsalis boldly added that, “Negroes didn’t accept what was handed down to them, they put those things together in the symbolic form of art and proved that you can use those same principles of respect for the individual and collective expression in artistic performance.”

 

Contemporary Music

Contemporary music is the style of performing arts from the 20th century onwards (http://www.zeroland.co.nz/contemporary_music.html), it is the use of classical instruments and classical music styles by modern composers. Thus, new compositions are arranged in a genre similar to the classical style of Europe in the late 18th century (http://www.acmusic.org/mission.html).

 

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Musical Artists

Composers, singers, musical artists alike have played or created different musical works according to how they felt, their reactions to their environment, the emotion portrayed by their piece, and most of all by the different influences brought about by past and present experiences that left their mark on ones personality.

Other than the personality of a musician, the predominant genre in the musician’s environment, the musical style that is instilled in his or her mind, that becomes his or her nature. Take Ludwig van Beethoven for instance, he was a man born in the 18th century when the predominant musical art form is the Classical style, he was regarded as one of the greatest composers in the history of music and an inspiration to many future composers (“Ludwig_van_Beethoven”, 2007), Ludwig van Beethoven was a celebrated pianist as well as a composer. Many unfortunate instances in his life influenced the changes in style of his compositions, the onset of his deftness, affecting his social life more than his music, the lost of a relationship with an unknown lady known only as the “Immortal Beloved,” he became almost suicidal because of his deftness, also due to this he longed for a domestic life that eluded him, and saw his chance when his brother Caspar Carl died in 1815 leaving behind his 9 year old son, Karl, but his possessiveness pushed Karl to attempt suicide (http://www.island-of-freedom.com/BEETHOV.HTM).

His works are commonly classified into three periods, the early, middle, and late periods. His earlier works manifested his mastery of the “high classical style” inspired by Haydn and Mozart. He improved his handling of both form and texture in his pieces through his formal training and private studies at the time. During this time, he produced pieces mainly for the piano

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and for chamber ensembles. The middle period was marked by highly dramatic compositions, such as the opera Fidelio (1803-05) and Appassionata (1804). This is his response to the incipient fear evoked by his deafness. But after 1812, his works became less dramatic and became more introspective, as shown in his An die ferne Geliebte, op. 98 (“To the Distant Beloved”, 1816). As he became more isolated, from both his physical surroundings and the popular musical style of his day, his music became more expressive about his personal struggles (http://www.island-of-freedom.com/BEETHOV.HTM).

Another celebrated musical artist was the American jazz musician Louis Armstrong. In 1971, Dizzie Gillespie said that, “Louis Armstrong’s station in the history of jazz is unimpeachable.” He also added that, “If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be any of us” (http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/armstrong/index.htm).

Though he became famous playing the trumpet he was originally a ‘comet’ player, a harmonica with 2 rows of holes tuned one octave apart. But due to her second wife’s urge for him to seek a better career path. He transferred to New York and joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. And to blend in with the band he switched to trumpet, leading the way to many recordings on the side and series of accompaniments for blues singers (“Louis Armstrong,” 2007).

He first became famous as a trumpeter, but as he grew old he had had troubles with his fingers and lips, which was made more serious by his unorthodox style. As a result he started to change his style into singing. Changes in the modern pop scene and public tastes led to reduction of the audience for band music in the 1940’s. This changes aggravated by the television and other types of music pushed Armstrong to join in a small-group called the “All Stars.”

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His various innovations as a trumpet soloist and his scat singing style made him a major influence in the western pop culture.

Another composer who made changes in the musical styles of his day was Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951). He was an Austrian and later American composer. Many of his compositions were affiliated with the expressionist movements and he was one of the first composers to adopt the atonal motivic development.

He wrote compositions for different instruments of the orchestra mostly for the piano. He was greatly influenced by Mozart and Shubert as well as his religion. Being a Jew, he was very enthusiastic to the concept of unshaken fidelity to an “idea” and the pursuance of Truth. He disliked the style of Wagner, Strauss and Mahler. He believed that if music was to regain a simplistic expression, the language or style should be renewed (“Arnold Schoenberg,” 2007). During that time, many intellectuals felt that it was no longer feasible for man to repeat what was done before. At first his music changed more rapidly than ever. But after only a few symphonies he felt that his compositions are saturated with added notes up to the point where he can no longer differentiate consonance from dissonance. The First World War disrupted his growth as an artist. Serving in the military, he left many compositions unfinished. But this repose from creating compositions was not at all disagreeable, because after the war, he was able to develop a “method of composition with twelve tones,” in this method twelve pitches of the octave are regarded as equal. He showed how to use this method in his symphonies in the coming years. His output decreased when he began teaching at UCLA, but after a heart attack, he quit teaching and returned to expressionism (“Arnold Schönberg,” 1996).

 

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A musician’s society greatly affects the work he produces, thus, the dramatic theme of Beethoven’s symphonies, he was greatly affected by the idea that people would dislike him because of his situation. African-American musical style in general is a revolt against the norms of the society, a revolt against the injustices and against other people who holds them down. Louis Armstrong personifies this struggle, he fought the norms, his style and talent as a musician encompassed even the normal Jazz artists. He uplifted the social position of black Americans in their society. He gave them something to be proud of, and became a major influence even to white Americans. And because slavery is discontinued this gave them more opportunities to improve their genre because they were able to express it to more people through other media. Schoenberg’s reaction to the modern tradition in music contributed to his development of his expressionist style. The war gave him an opportunity to create a better method of expressing his music without saturating his compositions.

 

 

 

REFERENCES

Marsalis, W. (1990). Why we must preserve our jazz heritage. Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1077/is_n1_v46/ai_9019534

 

“Arnold Schoenberg” (1996). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/schonberg.html

 

“Arnold Schoenberg” (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold_Schoenberg

 

“Contemporary Music index.” Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://www.zeroland.co.nz/contemporary_music.html

 

“European Classical Music” (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_classical_music

 

“History of Music” (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_music

 

“Jazz” (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jazz#Debates_over_definition_of_.22jazz.22

 

“Louis Armstrong” (2007). Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Armstrong

 

“Louis Armstrong: A Cultural Legacy.” Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://www.npg.si.edu/exh/armstrong/index.htm

 

“Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827.” Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://www.island-of-freedom.com/BEETHOV.HTM

 

“Ludwig van Beethoven.” Retrieved June 27, 2007, from

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ludwig_van_Beethoven