Min-Husan.Hsieh (Max) Year 12
In the 19th and 20th centuries, the most famous program music composers included Hector Berlioz, Antonín Dvořàk, Holst and Debussy. The first piece of programmatic music was written by Franz Liszt. They all contributed to the development of Romantic music and programmatic music. The forms used for program music are similar to those used for non- program music or absolute music, programmatic music is instrumental music. Programmatic music may tell a story with explicit episodes, or be associated with a story, poem, idea, or scene. The most important ability of every piece of programmatic music is to create mood, emotion and atmosphere. Debussy’s ‘La Mer 3rd movement- Dialogue of the wind and the sea’ and ‘Holst’s The Planets- 1st Movement- Mars- the Bringer of War’ are going to be analysed and compared in this essay.
La Mer 3rd movement
‘La Mer 3rd movement – Dialogue of the wind and the sea’ was composed in 1903 by Claude Debussy and the maiden performance was in 1905 in Paris. Debussy composed La Mer 3rd in Eastbourne, the composer was fascinated with everything about the sea. When Debussy was young, his mother sent him to the navy, he spent most of his time observing the wave and the whole bodies of water, and Debussy drew inspiration from the seascapes available in painting and literature. This piece of music has sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic changes of atmosphere and lighting that accompany the progress of morning on the water which annotates or symbolises "From Dawn To Midday On The Sea" .This piece of music is performed by flutes, piccolo, oboes, cor anglais, clarinets, bassoons, contrabassoon, horns, trumpets, cornets, trombones, tuba, timpani, bass drum, cymbals, triangle, tamtam, glockenspiel, harps and strings.
(Figure 1, Symbol of La Mer 3rd movement – dialogue of the wind and the sea) (Cornish, 2009)
The melody of the music at the beginning manipulates the timbre making it sometimes strong and sometimes softer like the varying sound of waves. At 01:09 Kettle drums and bass drums starts with a metronomic beat, and cellos and basses repeat, this manipulates the mysterious atmosphere. From 01:15 the cello and bass crescendo which represents a storm that is brewing, after this a lone muted trumpet starts accompanying. At 1:36 the woodwind theme begins, it creates an atmosphere like a wave or storm is brewing again. At 02:31 suddenly, the timbre of violins mimic waves and the storm continues which creates a tense atmosphere. During 3:22 to 5:10, this part of whole pieces manipulates the gentler timbre and softer melody that contrasts to the strong beat, this part of music mimics an atmosphere like “after a storm comes a calm”. At 5:11 glockenspiel joins the piece to play a lively timbre and tempo. Cello, violins and trumpets are tutti and the melody crescendos which mimics the sea is going to simmer. At 5:26, the entire orchestra plays together which manipulates more intense timbre and emotional melody. At 5:55, the melody of the music becomes softer and quiter, this creates a picture like waves are going to brew before an intense tsunami. At 6:55 lone muted trumpets and the entire orchestra play together again, the melody crescendos with rhythmic beats. This manipulates the most emotional melody and creates the most fevered and intense atmosphere at the ending which is when a tsunami is finally formed.
(Figure 2, Music note of beginning of La Mer 3rd movement)
The piece above shows the beginning of La Mer 3rd movement and it has three beats in every bar. The note values of the first two bars are one minim and one crotchet in each bar, and the dynamics are piano before crescendoing, and bar three and bar four play softer, because the piano sign is shown after the decrescendo which means after bar two the music is becoming softer. In addition, bar three and bar four sound faster than the first two bars, because