Music Analysis

NEW Podcast: Benjamin Britten: Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Long heralded as a piece educational on many levels, Benjamin Britten’s work The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra continues to inspire and instruct people with any level of musical ability today. Orchestras frequently use the piece in concerts for youth or to make a program more accessible to everyone. While the piece is aurally pleasing to most listeners and achieves its primary goal of instructing on the names of the instruments and their sounds, subtle layers of complexity provide interest for those more advanced in musical study. More…

Analysis of Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring

Appalachian Spring, by Aaron Copland is a piece for full orchestra and is based off of the common Shaker folk tune ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple.’ Unlike many compositions, the name has little to do with the music, but was an afterthought. In other words, neither the Appalachians, nor the Spring season inspired Copland, as many people believe, but rather a simple folk song.     More…

Analysis of Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man

Copland’s Fanfare, written for brass and percussion, starts with a slow pattern in the bass drum, timpani, and gong, then the trumpets come in with the melody/ fanfare. Once through the theme, the percussion comes back with its theme. The melodic material returns, doubled in the French horns, and then varied to reach higher into the range.     More…

Analysis of Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra

Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra was originally an educational piece meant to teach children about all of the different instruments in the orchestra. Not only does it have the potential to teach people of all ages the difference between a bassoon and an oboe, but the piece is also a very complex “theme and variations. There are no less than thirteen variations of the theme…     More…

Analysis of Carl Maria von Weber’s Concerto for Bassoon, Mvt. 1 

In the key of F major, this first movement is in the classical concerto form and in the time signature 4/4. It begins with an orchestral tutti introduction, in which fragments of the first theme and most of the second theme are stated. The composer’s harmonic language is simplistic, focusing heavily on dominants and tonics. Primarily a composer of operas, Weber was rather theatrical, a trait he used to great effect in his introduction of the soloist by the orchestra.     More…

Analysis of Eugene Bozza’s Recit, Sicilienne, et Rondo

Eugene Bozza’s “Recit, Sicilienne, et Rondo” is written for bassoon with piano accompaniment. The first movement, “Recit,” is true to its name and acts as a recitative for the bassoon; the bassoonist is free to play with time and is accompanied sparsely by piano. The piano sets up the piece with a series of chords, but when the bassoon comes in, the piano moves towards an accompaniment role.     More…

Analysis of John Mackey’s Strange Humors

The piece opens with a sultry and passionate English horn solo, a line that dabbles in the Phrygian mode and resembles some African and middle Eastern melodies. The saxophone joins the English horn, adding notes that bend into and out of tune to give the line a more eerie feeling. After the melody is introduced, the most important instrument of the piece, the djembe, takes a solo that leads into the combination of this rhythm and melody.     More…

Analysis of Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz

Mark O’Connor’s Appalachia Waltz is a string trio for violin, cello, and string bass. A uniquely cohesive texture is created because all of the instruments are stringed instruments of the same family. Since each instrument is designed in a similar way and makes use of the same types of products to create sound, they all sound very similar, albeit with different ranges. This type of ensemble allows composers to easily weave voices together and transfer melodies seamlessly between instruments.     More…

Analysis of Mark O’Connor’s Vistas

This piece is based on three very distinct views (vistas) that can be seen from the home of the composer, Mark O’Connor. “One to the east where the desert begins to reveal itself; one to the north where I enjoy the distant mountains; and then a view off to the west where beautiful Pacific Ocean sparkles in the distance.” He wrote a piece for his string trio that demonstrated the combination of such differences, combining them into a “panorama” view of the scene.     More…

Analysis of Ola Gjeilo’s Meridian

Meridian is a piece written for piano, wind ensemble, and choir. Piano and winds (inc. brass and percussion) share the rhythmic and quick material, while the choir often has longer lines, either singing chords to accompany the winds, or sing a long, slow melody overtop. Specific words are hard to hear, and are in another language, but the word “Meridian” remains throughout the piece. The choir is optional, since all parts are also played in the winds, but it adds a depth not found in typical wind ensembles.     More…

Analysis of Percy Grainger’s Molly on the Shore

Molly on the Shore is based off of two contrasting Irish reels, “Temple Hill” and “Molly on the Shore.” The “Molly on the Shore” theme is used pretty exactly with only a few rhythms changing, while the “Temple Hill” theme is less recognizable, due to the wider variation in notes and rhythms.     More…

Analysis of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Sea Songs

Sea Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams is a combination of three sea shanties: “Princess Royal,” “Admiral Benbow,” and “Portsmouth.” Although it uses the tunes of these shanties, it is not entirely in a shanty style. Shanties were songs that were sung on sea vessels to keep sailors entertained while they work, so by arranging them for military band, Vaughan Williams moves away from the traditional shanty genre and combines it with classical music.     More…