We’re in What Century? Articulation Talk

I want to share this research that I’ve been preparing for the music appreciation course with you. It is fascinating to see how we can change the whole sound of a piece by dynamic and articulation nuances, changing the character of the music so that it sounds like its fro a different century. I love how Leonard Berstein is able to describe this so beautifully! I’ve included our terms about dynamics, etc. for a deeper understanding of what he’s describing.

Class No. 4: The Composer’s Paintbox 4: Dynamics, Articulation, and Character

During the Baroque era and especially in the Classical era, composers became more and more specific in their directions to musicians in terms of expressiveness. Dynamic and articulation markings were given more gradations and many more clues for interpretation were given to performers. But much is still left up to the good taste, research, and experience of the musician. One must know not only the meaning of individual articulation, dynamic, and character markings, but also know stylistic nuances and historical performance practices in order to give a more in depth presentation of the music the composer was communicating.

Some dynamic markings:

*pp: pianissimo: very quiet
*p: piano: quiet
*mp: mezzo piano: medium quiet
*mf: mezzo forte: medium loud
*f: forte: loud
*ff: fortissimo: very loud
*crescendo: growing louder
*diminuendo: growing quieter

Some terms relating to character, often found at the beginning of pieces and movements:

*Largo: very slow
*Adagio: slow
*Andante: walking tempo
*Allegro: lively, happy
*Presto: fast

Some terms about articulation:

*accent: a loud attack of the note
*staccato: short
*spiccato: short, off the string notes for string players
*slur: two notes that are connected
*tie: a unison that is connected to make one long note
*mezza di voce: a note that swells in the middle, used a lot in
Baroque music as an ornament
*trill: alternating main note and upper note ornament

With clarity and frankness, Leonard Bernstein discusses the appropriate use of dynamics, articulation, and character in orchestral interpretations of different composers’ works, a discussion of performance practice.

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts, The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 1 of 4)

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts, The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 2 of 4)

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 3 of 4)

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 4 of 4)

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