Class 13 - Romantic Era I

Class 14 - Romantic Era II

Class 15 - Romantic Era III

Class 16 - Romantic Era IV

Class 17 - Early 20th Century I

Class 18 - Early 20th Century II

Class 19 - High Modernism

Class 20 - Electronic Music

Class 21 - American Experimentalism

Class 22 - Microtonality

Class 23 - 21st Century

Class 13 - Romantic Era I

Schubert, Winterreise (1828), selected songs

Die Winterreise is a cycle of twenty-four songs for voice and piano in the form of a two-part collection of twelve songs each, all setting poems by Wilhelm Müller. The Winterreise is an unusually somber and dark song cycle, contrasting Schubert's other song cycles and the majority of contemporaneous works. This depressive mood may relate to the season mentioned in the title; Schubert is portraying Winter. The dark tone may also relate in an autobiographical sense: these songs were Schubert's last composition and he completed the set while dying of syphilis.

As you listen consider the role of the piano versus the role of the singer. Is one part more important than the other or are they of equal focus? Pay attention to the poetry and consider how the meaning of the text is influencing the musical setting.

Fremd bin ich eingezogen,
Fremd zieh' ich wieder aus.
Der Mai war mir gewogen
Mit manchem Blumenstrauß.
Das Mädchen sprach von Liebe,
Die Mutter gar von Eh', -
Nun ist die Welt so trübe,
Der Weg gehüllt in Schnee.

Ich kann zu meiner Reisen
Nicht wählen mit der Zeit,
Muß selbst den Weg mir weisen
In dieser Dunkelheit.
Es zieht ein Mondenschatten
Als mein Gefährte mit,
Und auf den weißen Matten
Such' ich des Wildes Tritt.

Was soll ich länger weilen,
Daß man mich trieb hinaus?
Laß irre Hunde heulen
Vor ihres Herren Haus;
Die Liebe liebt das Wandern -
Gott hat sie so gemacht -
Von einem zu dem andern.
Fein Liebchen, gute Nacht!

Will dich im Traum nicht stören,
Wär schad' um deine Ruh',
Sollst meinen Tritt nicht hören -
Sacht, sacht die Türe zu!
[Ich schreibe nur im Gehen
An's Tor noch gute Nacht]1,
Damit du mögest sehen,
An dich hab' ich gedacht.

As a stranger I arrived,
As a stranger again I leave.
May was kind to me
With many bunches of flowers.
The girl spoke of love,
Her mother even of marriage, -
Now the world is bleak,
The path covered by snow.

I cannot choose the time
Of my departure;
I must find my own way
In this darkness.
With a shadow cast by the moonlight
As my traveling companion
I'll search for animal tracks
On the white fields.

Why should I linger, waiting
Until I am driven out?
Let stray dogs howl
Outside their master's house;
Love loves to wander
God has made her so
From one to the other.
Dear love, good night!

I will not disturb you in your dreaming,
It would be a pity to disturb your rest;
You shall not hear my footsteps
Softly, softly shut the door!
On my way out I'll write
"Good Night" on the gate,
So that you may see
That I have thought of you.

The wind plays with the weathervane
On my lovely darling's house.
And I thought in my delusion,
That it mocked the poor fugitive.
He should have noticed sooner
The symbol displayed on the house,
So he wouldn't ever have expected
To find a faithful woman within.
The wind plays with the hearts inside
As it does on the roof, only not so loudly.
Why should they care about my grief ?
Their child is a rich bride.

Der Wind spielt mit der Wetterfahne
Auf meines schönen Liebchens Haus.
Da dacht' ich schon in meinem Wahne,
Sie pfiff den armen Flüchtling aus.
Er hätt' es eher bemerken sollen,
Des Hauses aufgestecktes Schild,
So hätt' er nimmer suchen wollen
Im Haus ein treues Frauenbild.
Der Wind spielt drinnen mit den Herzen
Wie auf dem Dach, nur nicht so laut.
Was fragen sie nach meinen Schmerzen ?
Ihr Kind ist eine reiche Braut.

At the well by the gate
There stands a linden tree;
I dreamed in its shadow
Many a sweet dream.
I carved in its bark
Many a word of love;
In joy and in sorrow
I was always drawn to it.
Again today I had to travel
Past it in the depths of night.
There even in the darkness
I closed my eyes.
And its branches rustled,
As if they called to me:
Come here to me, friend,
Here you'll find peace !
The cold winds blew
Right into my face;
The hat flew off my head,
I didn't turn around.
Now I am many hours
Distant from that place,
And I still hear it whispering:
You'd find peace here !

Am Brunnen vor dem Tore
Da steht ein Lindenbaum;
Ich träumt' in seinem Schatten
So manchen süßen Traum.
Ich schnitt in seine Rinde
So manches liebe Wort;
Es zog in Freud' und Leide
Zu ihm mich immer fort.
Ich mußt' auch heute wandern
Vorbei in tiefer Nacht,
Da hab' ich noch im Dunkeln
Die Augen zugemacht.
Und seine Zweige rauschten,
Als riefen sie mir zu:
Komm her zu mir, Geselle,
Hier find'st du deine Ruh' !
Die kalten Winde bliesen
Mir grad' ins Angesicht;
Der Hut flog mir vom Kopfe,
Ich wendete mich nicht.
Nun bin ich manche Stunde
Entfernt von jenem Ort,
Und immer hör' ich's rauschen:
Du fändest Ruhe dort !

Over there beyond the village
Stands an organ-grinder,
And with numb fingers
He plays as best he can.
Barefoot on the ice,
He totters here and there,
And his little plate
Is always empty.
No one listens to him,
No one notices him,
And the dogs growl
Around the old man.
And he just lets it happen,
As it will,
Plays, and his hurdy-gurdy
Is never still.
Strange old man,
Shall I go with you ?
Will you play your organ
To my songs

Drüben hinterm Dorfe
Steht ein Leiermann
Und mit starren Fingern
Dreht er was er kann.
Barfuß auf dem Eise
Wankt er hin und her
Und sein kleiner Teller
Bleibt ihm immer leer.
Keiner mag ihn hören,
Keiner sieht ihn an,
Und die Hunde knurren
Um den alten Mann.
Und er läßt es gehen,
Alles wie es will,
Dreht, und seine Leier
Steht ihm nimmer still.
Wunderlicher Alter !
Soll ich mit dir geh'n ?
Willst zu meinen Liedern
Deine Leier dreh'n ?


A complete recording of all twenty-four song may be found here (optional).

Robert Schumann, Dichterliebe (1840): I - Im Wunderschönen Monat Mai

The title, Dichterliebe, literally translates to "poet's love," and this song cycle sets a series of love songs by Heinriche Heine from 1822. Robert Schumann wrote these poems while seperated from his beloved, Clara Schumann, a talented pianist and composer. This set is known for its sensitivity and affectation, expressing a dreamlike quality. Listen especially closely to how the songs begin and end - do they feel complete? Why might the composer have left things unresolved? Consider what you know about romanticism in general and the themes that are often explored.

In the glorious month of May,
As all the buds were breaking,
Then in my heart
Love bloomed.
In the glorious month of May,
As all the birds were singing,
Then I revealed to her
My longing and desire.

Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,
Als alle Knospen sprangen,
Da ist in meinem Herzen
Die Liebe aufgegangen.
Im wunderschönen Monat Mai,
Als alle Vögel sangen,
Da hab’ ich ihr gestanden
Mein Sehnen und Verlangen.

Robert Schumann, Dichterliebe (1840): VII - Ich Grolle Nichte

I bear no grudge, even as my heart is breaking,
eternally lost love!  I bear no grudge.
Even though you shine in diamond splendor,
there falls no light into your heart's night,

that I've known for a long time.
I bear no grudge, even as my heart is breaking.
                    I saw you, truly, in my dreams,
and saw the night in your heart's cavity,
and saw the serpent that feeds on your heart,
I saw, my love, how very miserable you are.
I bear no grudge.

Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht,
ewig verlor'nes Lieb!  Ich grolle nicht.
Wie du auch strahlst in Diamantenpracht,
es fällt kein Strahl in deines Herzens Nacht,
das weiß ich längst.
Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht.
Ich sah dich ja im Traume,
und sah die Nacht in deines Herzens Raume,
und sah die Schlang', die dir am Herzen frißt,
ich sah, mein Lieb, wie sehr du elend bist.
Ich grolle nicht.

Robert Schumann, Dichterliebe (1840): XVI - Die alten, bösen Lieder:

The final song of the cycle changes tone and directly addresses the listener.

The nasty old songs,
The black, bitter dreams,
Let’s bury them now,
Fetch an enormous casket.
I’ll lay some things to rest there,
But I won’t say what just yet;
The coffin will have to be bigger
Than the Heidelberger cask.
And fetch me a catafalque,
And thick solid planks;
They need to be longer
Than the bridge at Mainz.
And fetch twelve giants, too,
They have to be stronger
Than Saint Christopher in the
Cathedral in Cologne on the Rhine.
They must carry the casket away,
And sink it down into the sea;
Because such an immense casket
Requires an immense grave.
Do you know why the coffin
Needs to be so big and heavy?
I laid away my love in it
And my pain as well.

Die alten, bösen Lieder,
Die Träume bös’ und arg,
Die laßt uns jetzt begraben,
Holt einen großen Sarg.
Hinein leg’ ich gar manches,
Doch sag’ ich noch nicht, was;
Der Sarg muß sein noch größer,
Wie’s Heidelberger Faß.
Und holt eine Totenbahre,
Und Bretter fest und dick;
Auch muß sie sein noch länger,
Als wie zu Mainz die Brück’.
Und holt mir auch zwölf Riesen,
Die müssen noch stärker sein
Als wie der heil’ge Christoph
Im Dom zu Köln am Rhein.
Die sollen den Sarg forttragen,
Und senken ins Meer hinab;
Denn solchem großen Sarge
Gebührt ein großes Grab.
Wißt ihr, warum der Sarg wohl
So groß und schwer mag sein?
Ich senkt’ auch meine Liebe
Und meinen Schmerz hinein.


Clara Schumann (1819-1896) was among the most distinguished pianists of the romantic era. Although she pursued composition as a secondary activity to performing, she is known for a small body of exceptional songs and piano music.

Clara Schumann's three songs (opus 12) were originally included in her husband, Robert Schumann's, Liebesfrühling from 1841. The first song, Er Ist Gekommen In Sturm Und Regen (He cam in the storm and rain), is a great example of the Romantic theme of passionate love (leidenschaftlich ). 

Listen to how the piano part accomplishes word painting and comments on the text as it is sung. The form of the songs is AAB, although the same text begins each verse. How does the setting and mood change in the third and final verse?

Clara Schumann, Three Songs (1841): I - Er Ist Gekommen In Sturm Und Regen

He came
in storm and rain,
my anxious heart
beat against his.
how could I have known, 
that his path
should unite itself with mine?

He came
in storm and rain,
he boldly
stole my heart.
Did he steal mine? 
Did I steal his?
Both came together.

He came
in storm and rain,
Now has come
the blessing of spring.
My love travels abroad, 
I watch with cheer,
for he remains mine, on any road.

Er ist gekommen
In Sturm und Regen,
Ihm schlug beklommen
Mein Herz entgegen.
Wie konnt' ich ahnen, 
Daß seine Bahnen
Sich einen sollten meinen Wegen?

Er ist gekommen
In Sturm und Regen,
Er hat genommen
Mein Herz verwegen.
Nahm er das meine? 
Nahm ich das seine?
Die beiden kamen sich entgegen.

Er ist gekommen
In Sturm und Regen.
Nun ist [entglommen]1
Des Frühlings Segen.
Der Freund zieht weiter, 
Ich seh' es heiter,
Denn er bleibt mein auf allen Wegen.

Class 14 - Romantic Era II

Beethoven, String Quartet No.15 (1825)

Beethoven's music is traditionally organized as three stylistic periods. The first, dating until about 1800, is Beethoven's early style, building on the work of Mozart and Haydn in the Classical idiom. The second, or middle, period goes until about 1918 and covers the characteristically "heroic" works like the Eroica Symphony. The third, mature period becomes more introspective in nature and the tone of heroism recedes. This introspective character is best understood through chamber music, music played in an intimate setting rather than the public spectacle of the symphony. 

Beethoven's late string quartets went largely ignored at the time of their composition, the exploration of form and harmony was extremely experimental for the time and was simply too much for many listeners and critics. However, two centuries later these are among Beethoven's most celebrated works. These late quartets are also largely responsible for the enduring importance of the string quartet and for centuries the string quartet became the space for composers to "prove" themselves and measure up against other great composers.

Listen through to the exciting end of the first movement (9:20). This opening movement is in sonata form with a slow introduction. However, Beethoven transforms sonata form to the extent where it is sometimes difficult to know where sections and themes begin and end, resulting in a more fluid form. 

Compare this work to the Haydn string quartet we heard before the midterm - is anything strikingly different? Beethoven is renowned for his economical use of musical material - in other words, a short fragment of a melody might be used over and over again at different transpositions or in different contexts. Try to listen for these recurring musical motives and the musical economy that Beethoven is known for.

Liszt, Grandes études de Paganini (1851)

Born in Hungary, Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was renowned as both pianist and composer. As a pianist, his virtuosity was widely celebrated and performances were in great demand. Liszt was also famously handsome, and combined with his talented playing could be seen as a kind of "rockstar" of the Romantic era.


Liszt, Grandes études de Paganin (1851)

These six études are based upon the violin etudes by Niccolò Paganini, an Italian virtuoso violinist and composer.  As a interesting aside, these etudes are dedicated to Clara Schumann. 

Puccini: La Boheme (1895)

Class 15 - Romantic Era III

Read this excerpt from Listen about Wagner

Wagner: Tristan und Isolde (1865)


End of Act III

Brahms, Symphony No.4 (1885)

Class 16 - Romantic Era IV

Mahler, Symphony No.2 (1895)

Strauss, Metamorphosen (1945)


Class 17 - Early 20th Century I

Debussy, Prelude d'apres midi d'un faun (1894)

Schoenberg, Pierrot Lunair, Op.1 (1912)


Class 18 - Early 20th Century II

Ives, The Unanswered Question (1908/1935)

Stravinsky, Le Sacre du Printemps (1913)

Listen to the first twenty minutes and then from 35:00 to the end at a minimum. The first 10 minutes is a short documentary on the work, which has interviews with two of the dancers from Ballet Russes.

Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953)


Seeger was an American modernist composer and the first woman to receive a Guggenheim. She was also a specialist in American Folk music, which may have influenced her famous folk-singer stepson, Pete Seeger.

Ruth Crawford Seeger, home Thoughts (1929)

On poems by Carl Sandberg

THE SEA rocks have a green moss.
The pine rocks have red berries.
I have memories of you.
Speak to me of how you miss me.
Tell me the hours go long and slow.
Speak to me of the drag on your heart,
The iron drag of the long days.
I know hours empty as a beggar’s tin cup on a rainy day, empty as a
soldier’s sleeve with an arm lost.
Speak to me …

Ruth Crawford Seeger, white Moon (1929)

WHITE MOON comes in on a baby face.
The shafts across her bed are flimmering.
Out on the land White Moon shines,
Shines and glimmers against gnarled shadows,
All silver to slow twisted shadows
Falling across the long road that runs from the house.
Keep a little of your beauty
And some of your flimmering silver
For her by the window to-night
Where you come in, White Moon.

Seeger's best known, and perhaps most experimental work is her String Quartet from 1931 (optional listening)

Class 19 - High Modernism

Boulez, piano Sonata No. 3 (1957)

Lachenmann, Pression (1969)

John Cage, Sonatas and Interludes (1948)

Joh Cage, 4'33" (1952)

John Cage, Water Walk (1960)

John Cage, Roaratorio on an Irish Circus (1979)

A "radio drama" from Cage's mature period. Listen to the first five or so minutes of the recording.

Class 20 - Electronic Music

Stockhausen, Kontakte (1960)

Davis, Bitches Brew (1969)

Lucier, I am Sitting in a Room (1969)

This work explores the resonance of a closed space. The music is process-based, where a person speaks the words "I am sitting in a room," which is then played back and re-recording in a feedback loop so that over time one only hears the resonant frequencies of the space itself.

Class 21 - American Experimentalism

This class will be less about particular pieces of music and more abut ideas and movements in American art music.

Feldman, Patterns in a Chromatic Field (1981) (excerpt)

The music of Morton Feldman (1926-1987) is often expansive in its use of time, strangely repetitive and hypnotic. His late works from about 1980 on are particularly long and sparse. The pacing of the music suggests breath and the heartbeat, a slow pacing of time. Feldman often used rug weaving as a metaphor for musical compositions, thinking about what the warp and weft of the music might be.

Feldman was a close friend of John Cage and the two composers, though very different are often associated with one another. 

Reich, Music for 18 Musicians (1976) (excerpt)

This piece is an example of American Minimalism, a movement pioneered by Philip Glass and Steve Reich. Minimalism is a returned yearning for simplicity in music and constitutes and interestingn analog with the visual art of Andy Warhol and the repettion in daily life as a result of mass production.

Consider this statement by the composer about the rhythm of this music: "Rhythmically, there are two basically different kinds of time occurring simultaneously in Music for 18 Musicians. The first is that of a regular rhythmic pulse in the pianos and mallet instruments that continues throughout the piece. The second is the rhythm of the human breath in the voices and wind instruments. The entire opening and closing sections plus part of all sections in between contain pulses by the voice and winds. They take a full breath and sing or play pulses of particular notes for as long as their breath will comfortably sustain them. The breath is the measure of the duration of their pulsing. This combination of one breath after another gradually washing up like waves against the constant rhythm of the pianos and mallet instruments is something I have not heard before and would like to investigate further. "

Can you hear these two rhythmic planes as described by Reich?

Roscoe Mitchell, The Maze (1978)

Roscoe Mitchell is a composer coming from the AACM, a group of experimental musicians that blur the line between experimental jazz and contemporary classical music. The Maze uses percussion instruments extensively, and the title may even refer to the maze-like percussion setup required to perform the work. The score for this work is notated with a level of flexibilty so that the improvisational expertise of the performers still shine through.


Various Recordings of My Favorite Things by John and Alice Coltrane.

Listen to the first few minutes of each of these recordings, placed in chronological order. Listen to the catchy melody from the first recording from 1961 and consider how it changes through the years towards the final recording from 1967. Are you able to recognize the song in the later recordings? Can you hear any transformation of Coltrane's approach to the song? How does Alice Cotranes version of the song compare to John Coltranes?

John Coltrane, Favorite Things (1961)

John Coltrane, Favorite Things (1963)

John Coltrane, Favorite Things (1966)

John Coltrane, Favorite Things (1966)

Alice Coltrane, Favorite Things (World Galaxy, 1972)

Class 22 - Microtonality

Microtonality is a general term that describes music that does not contain only the twelve-tones per octave on the piano. In this sense, most of the music we've looked at in class is microtonal, since the standard tuning of the piano wasn't fully place until the Romantic era although the roots of this tuning date back to the Baroque period in the West. Throughout the twentieth century there have been several group of composers interested in microtonal music and we will look at two of these movements today: French Spectralism and American Just Intonation. 

Please readsection 1 of this page for a general introduction to Just Intonation.

Grisey, Partiels (1975)

An important movement in the second half of the twentieth century in music, spectralism focuses on the nature of sound, acoustics, and sound perception as a basis for composition. This work by preeminent French spectralist Gerard Grisey (1946-1998) is among the most celebrated and approachable works to come out of Spectralism. Spectral composers would say that spectralism isn't so much a unified histrical movement as an attitude toward music that puts the timbre of the instruments as a focus.

Partiels is a piece that explores the overtones of the lowest trombone note. Any note is in fact a combination of many pitches fused together and pitched instruments usually have tones that include parts of the overtone series (AKA harmonic series). At the beginning of this music we hear the low trombone note played forcefully and then the overtones of that note being held as a chord in the rest of the ensemble. In this way, the entire form of this composition is based upon the sound of the trombone.

La Monte Young, The Well-Tuned Piano (1974)

In this piece La Monte Young retunes a piano to a microtonal scale based on Just Intonation. This music is influenced by Hindustani music, which La Monte Young studied and performed in parallel with his compositional activities. Many of the details regarding this piece are largely kept secret by composer, who will not allow others to play the work unless they come to study with him for an extended period of time. A performance of The Well-Tuned Piano will take approximately five hours. Listen to the first fifteen minutes of this work.

Harry Partch, The Delusion of the Fury (1969)

Harry Partch is a unique figure in music composition insofar as the lengths he went to reinvent music from the ground up. After renouncing Western Classical music, Partch turned to Native American Song, Chinese Opera, Gamelon, and other musical traditions for inspiration. Partch invented his own orchestra of instruments and wrote almost exclusively for his own creations. All of his instruments are designed around his 43-note-per-octave scale in just intonation. 

The Delusion of the Fury is Partch's final work, a piece of musical theater that tells two stories, a tragedy and a comedy that both speak to the futility of anger. Besides the various musical traditions mentioned above, Partch also looks back to the ancient Greeks and his musical-theater works are yet another attempt to recreate the power of the ancient Greek theater.

Class 23 - 21st Century

George Lewis, The Will to Adorn (2011)

George Lewis' recent composition was inspired by the idea of "decorating a decoration." The idea came from a essay on African American Identity from 1934 by Zora Neale Hurston and in this piece Lewis examines his own identity and heritage in musical terms. In Lewis' own words: "The piece is not meant as any kind of direct homage to Hurston, and the music doesn’t indulge in period quotes or related essentialisms. Rather, what I’m interested in is recursive adornment as a compositional attitude or method that valorizes instability and even breakdown"

Georg Haas, Limited Approximations (2010)

Limited Approximations has a particular instrumentation as it is scored for large orchestra was six solo pianos. Each of these six pianos is retuned down a sixth of a semitone down from the last. As a group these pianos not contain 72 (12*6) notes per octave instead of the usual 12 notes per octave.

How is this microtonality then used in the music? Does it sound harsh and dissonant or more unified and consonant? At various points in the piece it almost sounds like the pianos are sliding in pitch or melting - how do you think this effect is achieved?

Kate Soper, Only the Words... (2011)

In the words of the composer:

"I wrote Only the Words Themselves Mean What They Say out of a determination to test my limits as a vocalist and performer and an itch to make something out of Lydia Davis' fabulously quirky, slyly profound texts. Writing as a composer/performer opens up the pre-compositional realm to lots of useful improvisatory tangents and fresh timbral discoveries, and working closely with flutist Erin Lesser led to many happy surprises that eventually made their way into the final score. Lydia Davis' words suggested an unhinged virtuosity and idiosyncratic, multi-layered musical reading that took me from screwball comedy to paired musical gymnastics: the flute becomes a kind of Iron Man suit for the voice, amplifying it to new planes of expressivity, intensity, and insanity as the two players struggle, with a single addled brain, to navigate the treacherous labyrinth of simple logic."

Listen to the relationship between the flute and the voice - how is it that thy interact and support,  or not support, one another? How is the text set in this piece and what happens to the text as the piece goes on? Note the unusual moments of mechanical repetition that occur throughout the work - what effect do these have on you as a listener?