Listen to these three excerpts from major works of the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Try to ascertain what the salient characteristics, the unique
qualities, of each of these movements are. Think about them in broad terms, standing back from the moment-to-moment details, as if you
were surveying a landscape. Write about them individually, and in relation to each other. And try to discuss mostly their musical qualities,
not just your emotional responses to them — or, your emotional responses to specific musical features.
In the Webern, do you hear repetition? What seem to be the musical elements or ingredients in this music, and can they be said to repeat
or assert themselves as recognizable, identifiable parts? If you were to venture a guess as to what the structural building blocks of this
music might be, would you point to pitch, intervals, instrumentation, rhythm, dynamic, extremes of tempo or loudness? do any of these
parameters figure prominently in Webern’s movement? And does this music develop or change over the six and a half minutes of its
duration? If so, how, and towards what?
In the Bartok Piano Concerto, the music seems to be laid out in a three-part structure. Try to characterize the three sections, describing
how Bartok uses the instruments of the orchestra and how he integrates the solo piano into the form. The first and third parts use some of
the same harmonic and chord progressions, while the second part uses entirely new material; what then are the differences between the
first and third parts, despite their similarities? and how does the second part stand out from the first and third?
The Berg Violin Concerto will probably be the most difficult of the three pieces to comprehend. What do you make of the constantly shifting
and evolving form of this movement? Does the music hold together as a unified artistic statement? If you think it does (and I do, though you
may disagree), how does the composer manage this despite the swirling, unpredictable dynamic? And if you think the music does not hold
together, why not? Most of the music is dissonant or harmonically complex or intricately chromatic, but can you find moments when the
music sounds more traditional and accessible? Indicate where you feel this is the case.
I think you will find that each of these pieces approaches a conception of powerful, sensuous beauty; they are intended, I think, to be
beautiful, moving, deeply personal statements. Yet each one seems to follow its own notion of beauty, and not a conventional, universallyagreed-upon
standard for what is beautiful. Perhaps reflecting upon this will help you focus your thoughts on what makes each piece
unique and distinct.

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