Baroque and Classical Periods in Music

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“Music” as defined by the Oxford Dictionary, is “vocal or instrumental sounds combined in such a way as to produce the beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion.” Emotion, and the treatment of emotion, is indubitably an important aspect of music from all eras, but the manner in which emotion is expressed, has changed over time. Throughout the Baroque period (c. 1600 – 1750) musicians attempted to cause a specific extreme emotion in the listener, while during the Classical period (c. 1750-1825) composers sought to produce a balance of emotions. Due to philosophical and artistic movements that occurred, emotion, a critical element of music, was conveyed differently between the Baroque and Classical periods. Baroque music is characterized by its development of tonality, elaborate use of ornamentation, application of figured bass, and the expression of single affections. A considerable philosophical current that shaped baroque music is the interest in Renaissance ideas that spawn from ancient Greece and Rome. Ancient Greeks and Romans considered music to be an instrument of communication that could easily stimulate any emotion in its listeners. Therefore, musicians became progressively knowledgeable of the power one’s composition could have on its audiences’ emotions. Because of this, one of the primary goals of baroque art and music was to provoke emotion in the listener, which is closely connected to the “doctrine of affections”. This doctrine, derived from ancient theories of rhetoric and oratory, was the theory that a single piece of art or a single movement of music should express one single emotion. Intrinsically, instead of music reflecting the emotions, composers aspired to cause emotions in the listener. Ma... ... middle of paper ... ... Beethoven, a German composer and pianist, also utilized Empfindsamer Stil in Sonate Pathétique. This was Beethoven’s eighth piano sonata, Op. 13 in C minor, and the title, given by the publisher, literally translates to “with pathos or emotion”. C minor emphasized the expressed emotions because it was assumed to be a dark and gloomy key signature. In this composition there are contrasts between perseverance and agony, which embodies the idea of articulating the depths of emotion. Throughout the Baroque and Classical periods, composers developed specific designs with the intent of displaying emotions. Philosophical and artistic movements that occurred heavily influenced these methods of approach. It goes without saying that emotion, a highly revered attribution to music, has been shifted over time, and continues to adjust as the world and society transform.
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