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Romantic Music Essay

From the turn of the 20th century, western classical music changed hugely,
with Romantic music leading into new innovations through the development and
evolved traditional characteristics that the romantic period set.
Romanticism brought new ideas to the western classical scene, with the
breaking of rules and structures within music. A key idea that was developing
and was used more was Chromaticism. This included the use of notes that were
not in the scale, often used to shift keys. However romantic composers started
using this technique with increasing frequency. It peaked with Wagner, who
would constantly shift keys, but this idea was taken and developed extremely
with Impressionist and atonal composers. An example of this was Arnold
Schoenberg, who explored unusual and unorthodox harmonies and tonal scales.
Almost all of his music doesnt have any sort of key, being the ultimate example
of the development of chromaticism.
In the late 19th century, composers started to look for different outlets in
which to express their musical passion and composing power. Some composers
turned to nationalism in order to represent the musical soul of their country.
Others developed highly personal harmonic language and melodic style which
distinguishes their music from the current German traditions of great composers
such as Wagner. The continuous change led to the modification and
enhancement of existing instruments, plus the addition of new instruments. This
led to the further expansion of the symphony orchestra throughout the century,
especially towards the end. Another very important developing genre outlet was
This is the whole flaw of Emotional Music. It is like a drug: you must have
more drug, and more noise each time, or this effect, this impression which works
from the outside, in from the nerves and sensorium upon the shelf is no use, its
effect is constantly weaker and weaker

Ezra Pound

These impressionists led to the earliest modernist period, a time of enormously

accelerated stylistic innovation, accompanied by an enormous expansion of
technical resources.
Impressionism was a key genre that developed from the Romantic era.
Taking the idea of composing with your own feelings, and instead composing the
surrounding moods, emotions and subjects. The name originated from artists, as
French impressionist artists were labeled as being painters who use sparkly
contrasting colors, effect of light on an object blurry foreground and background,
flattening perspective to make us focus on the overall impression. This led to the
name of impressionism in music, as composers tried to create the same effect.
With the large amount of Jews in Germany, with their intellectual elite, and
identifying themselves consciously as modernists, the development of music
came. Some wanted to keep the tradition and defended it, and even Mahler and
Schoenberg showed signs of questioning their modernism in the beginning.
However, they saw themselves as musics heirs, and rightful continuers, and
therefore developed music and took it to new limits.

To maintain the unsureness of their modernism, they started detaching

musical tradition from social and ethnic tradition, and started to treat music as a
matter of style, technique and emotion. This started to bring about the basis of
the new genres of music coming about.

Late romantic composers, and new composers were taking advantage of

this change and created richer and ever larger symphonies, ballets and
concertos. Extremely famous composers were Brahms and Tchaikovsky, Mahler
and Schoenberg. As the symphony was ever expanding, and music started to
leave its tradition,
In the beginning of modernism, it was about the new fast developing styles,
and leaving the old tradition behind, which is why in the early 20 th century it was
characterized as maxmilism. The quote of Erza already showed the emotional
expression, one of the base fundamentals of romantic music. Mahlers 2 nd
symphony - Todtenfeier started to show maxamlism, as it was over 20 minutes
long, it surpassed most 18th century symphonies, and was only beaten by Adagio
from Bruckners Eighth Symphony. Maher made up for this by making his 3 rd
symphony by making the first and last movement last over 30minutes. Back to
Todtenfeier, the sheer dimensions started to express the insane intent of Mahler,
and how incompressible the orchestras size was. It showed how the large
orchestras of the romantic period were being and taken to a new level. It was the
largest orchestra ever specifically demanded by any composer to date:
It was made up of-

4 Flutes, alternating on 4 piccolos

4 oboes, two alternating on English horns
3 clarinets, one alternating on bass clarinet
2 Eb clarinets, one alternating on Bb clarinet, both to be doubled in
3 bassoons
10 horns
8-10 trumpets
4 trombones
contrabass tuba

7 percussionists playing

7 timpanis
2 pairs of cymbals
2 triangles
snare drum
3 tublar bells
2 bass drums
2 tam tams
2 harps
largest possible contingent of all strings

Through both chromaticism and the new array of forces at the disposal of the
modernists within the turn of the century, lead to a new wave of musical
genres and composers came about from romanticism. Although only touched
on, Ive shown how the orchestra developed as well as key examples of how
features were developed to the extreme.