P&B Jams – Episode 5 (Finale): The Place of Classical Music in Teenage Life

Patrick and Ben take on the larger than life task of attempting to nail down centuries of classical music to one genre and relate it to the teenage demographic.

This episode is longer than the previous four combined due to the size of this topic, bringing on two guests, a quote from a music teacher, and a lengthy discussion about Patrick and Ben’s experience with classical music. Join Patrick and Ben in a journey of nailing the crux of classical music in modern times.

Chopin Pieces mentioned: Nocturne in E-Flat Major Op. 9 No. 2, Nocturne in C-Sharp Minor Op. Posth, Waltz in C-Sharp Minor Op 64 No. 2, and Etude Op. 10 No. 4 in C-Sharp Minor.

Click here to listen to Rach. Etude Tableau.

The video Lucy mentioned can be accessed here.

Some Background:

The umbrella term of “Classical Music” normally encompasses the three large eras of Baroque (1600-1750), Classical (1730-1820), and Romantic (1800-1890). This umbrella is used by people to refer to the essential roots of contemporary music and music theory and makes it easier for somebody who doesn’t know much about classical music to just dump all these periods under the same umbrella.

The baroque period is divided into three phases. The early phase began in approximately 1580, and spanned until 1650. It was defined by the figured bass, which was a way of writing music to define the harmony. The harmony was a result of counterpoint, which is a complex style of writing in broken fragments that repeat and often times contrast the treble, alto and bass components. The early baroque period led to discoveries such as harmonic progressions and tritones (unstable intervals used to create tension). Though it focused more on tonality (the home key of a piece) and once modularity was implemented that would often mark the beginning of the middle baroque era.

The middle baroque period was defined as an era of opera and court music. Incorporating choral music, horns, violin and bass violin. There was a stagnation in progression at this point in baroque music, and it plunged baroque into a plateau.

Enter J.S. Bach, often referred to as one of the greatest composers of all time, accompanied by G.F. Handel, Antonio Vivaldi and a few others to propel baroque music forward. The period of high baroque is frequently referred to by music scholars as one of the greatest periods of all time, results in some of the most intricate and well fleshed out pieces in music history. Combining counterpoint, AB structure, polyphony and many other staples, the music that came out in the late or high baroque era is simply the best culmination of the era.

The classical period started around 1750, defined by lighter textures, an emphasis on the melody and less complex compositions. It was mainly homophonic music, but counterpoint was not completely thrown out yet, especially later in the classical period.

While baroque music was often played on harpsichord, lute, early iterations of the violin and the upright bass, classical music allowed for far more dynamic playing. The piano was heavily utilized in classical compositions, which unlike the harpsichord allowed for a dynamic range and better shaping of character, as well as new forms of music such as string quartet, orchestral, trio and solo concerto. The composers L.V. Beethoven, W.A. Mozart and J. Hayden were best known for their masterful works.

Finally, the last era most would consider classical would be the Romantic Period. This was a very emotional and nationalistic time for music. One of the best examples of a Romantic composer would be the Polish F. Chopin. During this period there was plenty of use of legato and sustain features on instruments, which provided a resonant and silky sound that defined the period.

Often times Romantic music is the most appealing to the casual listener, providing a sense of nostalgia and longing, and utilizing the minor key signatures in a way to give off more spooky and mysterious atmospheres. There was a far more abstract sense to the writing of Romantic music, such as the Nocturne (known as a ‘nighttime’ piece), or the Fantasie. There were plenty of Romantic Waltzes written as well, in addition to Polonaises, Mazurkas and other dances.

Although teenagers may see this brief history of classical music to be pointless and drawn out, its purpose is to highlight where some of the contemporary music they are fans of comes from.

Stay tuned for Patrick and Ben’s upcoming podcast series on film.