This essay is a ‘compare and contrast’ of the rhythm and structure of the following three musical works:
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The use of structure in The Joke helps to bring about a comical atmosphere to the piece. Haydn uses the rondo form which consists of ABACA. The ending of the piece ends with the ‘Joke’ theme (first appeared at bars 1-2) which is repeated with general pauses in between making the audience not know if the piece has finished or not. For Haydn to use rondo form, this means the main ‘Joke’ theme will be reheard three times at the bare minimum. Therefore, by the time the piece has finished, the ‘Joke’ theme will be associated as comical for the amount of times it has been heard. This makes the ending in particularly comical.
Comparing this to Brahms’s Piano Quintet, he uses the ternary form of ABA to help progress the themes. Unlike Haydn, Brahms wants the two sections to be completely contrasting with section A being fast and lively and section B, starting at bar 194, to be the complete opposite being soft, delicate and slow. However, even though the two sections juxtapose, section B has some elements of the third main theme creating a slight link between sections. This makes clear the progression Brahms want – the piece is moving in a direction. Therefore, unlike Haydn who was trying to create a comical atmosphere, Brahms wants to progress the themes from the use of a ternary structure.
Miles Davis’s Four does not have any clear structure because it is blues: the majority of times, Miles Davis is improvising with his saxophone with a steady beat created from the drums and the piano which is comping. However, the score suggests there is a hint of a structure being the ‘Heat, ‘1st chorus’ and ‘2nd chorus’. However, to the untrained ear, the sections will not contrast like Brahms does or have any impact on the atmosphere of the music. The only reason for the structure in Four is to make clear, a bit easily, what is going on in this blues piece.
The rhythm in The Joke is based around the main theme of the piece which is heard first in Violin I at bar 1 onwards. The main ‘Joke’ theme has a dominant use of quavers making it extremely light-hearted and bouncy to hear. This is because there is the use of staccato on the quavers. However, the piece can be seen to be quaver-based (e.g. bara 128-132). Therefore, from first hearing quavers used in a way to produce a light-hearted mood, the listener will associate the rest of the quavers as the same. This puts of a mood over the whole piece of beng happy and bouncy which links into being comical.
On the other hand, Brahms’s Piano Quintet is solely dependent on the rhythms created. Each melody features a different rhythm. For example, the first melody at bars 1-12 has the use of syncopation between parts through imitating each other. Whereas, the second main theme or the ‘galloping’ theme at bars 13-21 has the use of semiquavers to quicken the tempo contrast the two melodies. This can then be supported by section B which has a smooth and calm melody (bar 194) from increasing the note values. However, there are some themes too which are ‘hybrids’ of other themes. For example, at bars 35-41, both the galloping and first theme can be heard through using quavers with a syncopated rise of metrical displacement.
In Miles Davis’s Four, the rhythm is much more random due to the improvisation of blues music. However, the piece starts of with a melody of quavers with Miles Davis plays on his sax. Therefore, in the ‘Head’ section, the rhythm is relatively straightforward. Once we get to the two choruses, the improvisation starts to happening creating huge amounts of syncopation such as at bars 2.25-3.9. The piano is the instrument which enables syncopation to happen from having a non-melodic line which is staccato and syncopated to the drum’s beat.
Ultimately, the structure and rhythm of the above pieces vary to create a different mood, atmosphere or progression in each respected piece. Brahms wants to create a structure which progresses the scattering of themes he has in the piece whereas Miles Davis’s Four has no direction: the structure and free rhythm makes it seem like the piece will go or, more like, can go in any direction the musicians want it to go. On the other hand, The Joke uses a strict structure and rhythm to entice the listener into the main theme which is centered around being comic.
A strong A-Level music essay should mainly contain the identification and analysis of some of the key musical features within the given piece, and should also provide some information about the musical period in which it was written and how the period links to those features.
A helpful way to begin finding points for a music essay is to remember the mnemonic "MRS HITT". This stands for all the important musical features that you will want to address within your essay; M- melody, R - rhythm, S - structure, H- harmony, I- instrumentation, T- texture, T- tonality. Identify features of the given piece of music using these headings to guide you; for example, in Debussy's Sarabande, this might include commenting on the fact that the texture of the piece is largely homophonic, or the harmony is non-functional. To make this a coherent and flowing piece of work, you will want to expand on these basic points and give some examples of them in the work using bar numbers.
After outlining each point, providing a comment linking to the historical and musical context will help to strengthen your answer. This will require learning about the different musical periods and being able to identify the features of each. To use Debussy's Sarabande as an example, you might choose to comment on the fact that the harmony is non-functional, and then go on to say that this is characteristic of the 20th Century/Impressionist style in which Debussy was writing, as they aimed to use chords for colour and expression, rather than having a specific harmonic function, as in the Classical period.