The expansion of the universe is one of the greatest discoveries of all time. How did this discovery come about? Hubble usually gets all the credit, but as is always the case, the real story is more complex than the version usually presented by the media. Just who was this man whom the famous space telescope was named after and what did he do? Read more »
This is in response to a comment and request from Jackiejo who asked me to discuss Mozart’s 25th, Beethoven’s 5th, and Schubert’s 9th symphonies.
Mozart’s symphony 25 in G-minor is one of the few minor-key symphonies of the 18th century. It was composed in the autumn of 1773 when Mozart was just 17 years old. It is in the sturm and drang style, stormy and passionate. It is scored for strings, two oboes, and four horns. Read more »
Physicists describe our universe as being made up of particles and fields. Even the fields are said to be composed of particles. For instance, electromagnetic fields are composed of photons; gravitational fields are composed of gravitons. When most people think of subatomic particles they picture them as little balls or dots. Oh if it were only that simple! In quantum theory, particles have properties that seem truly bizarre in comparison to our everyday world. Read more »
I read an interesting article about a few years ago, the main thrust of which was that certain quantum physicists are trying to find out if space itself is quantized. Quantum theory has been the most the successful scientific theory ever, being subjected to many ingenious, rigorous experiments. Since light, or rather all electromagnetic radiation Read more »
Franz Josef Haydn
Franz Josef Haydn was certainly one of the greatest creative geniuses who ever lived. Born March 31, 1732, in Rohrau, Austria, into a musical family, Haydn received musical training at a very young age. When he was eight years old he was sent to Vienna to sing in the Vienna Boys Choir. When he left the boys choir he became a freelance musician, giving piano lessons, playing organ and violin in church serves, and sometimes playing in the court in Vienna. He tried his hand at composing during those years as a freelance musician and he realized that his counterpoint was weak, so he studied the famous instruction book on counterpoint by Johan Fux. During this time he also made a serious study of the music of other composers, mostly CPE Bach (the eldest son of JS Bach), whose music became a strong influence in his early works.
Throughout the eighteenth century the public concert was gradually becoming more frequent. London was way ahead of any city in continental Europe in this endeavor. Public concerts were usually either sacred music or opera, but instrumental music was gaining in popularity, the popular forms being the orchestral suite and the concerto. As time went by the old concerto grosso, which contrasted a small group of soloists with the orchestra, was losing popularity, and the concerto for solo instrument was gaining by leaps and bounds. Basso continuo or figured bass, was becoming obsolete as a method of composing music, but still was used in opera and church music. It became obsolete in opera by the end of the eighteenth century but was still the main method of composition in church music until the first decade or so of the nineteenth century.
The piano was gaining in popularity, but harpsichords and clavichords could still be found in many households. The first sonatas of Haydn and Mozart were sold as “sonatas for piano or harpsichord” and even their early piano concertos were sometimes performed with harpsichord. Haydn’s early piano trios were marketed as being for piano or harpsichord. Music for solo keyboard (except for the organ) continued to be conceived as easy music for amateurs until Beethoven began composing his piano sonatas in the 90s.
The period in music, known as the baroque period spans from 1600 to 1750. Though it seems somewhat arbitrary to divide music history into certain periods and it is impossible to say that a particular style was suddenly created during a certain year, there is much justification for these divisions which at first glance seem so arbitrary. Just as the replacement of the ars antiqua by the ars nova was a radical and revolutionary development that took place in a relatively short time, the delineation between Renaissance music and Baroque music marks a very profound revolution in the way music was composed and performed. Both the invention of accompanied melody and the invention of basso continuo occurred right around the year 1600 and mark the beginning of a drastic stylistic change.
The baroque period is usually broken down into early baroque (1600-1650), mid-baroque (1650-1700), and late baroque, (AKA high baroque) (1700-1750). A useful way of defining the baroque period is to say that it is the period in history during which basso continuo was the main compositional device by composers of both sacred and secular music.
In my opinion basso continuo (also called figured bass) is one of the most ingenious and artistically valuable inventions in history. It was invented in the church, but soon spread to secular music and dominated all music composition. Basso continuo was invented in Italy in the 1590s in response to the problem of having an organist or harpsichordist keep a group of singers together and on key. Providing the entire vocal score for the keyboard player was expensive and time consuming. Considering that new music was being composed all the time and the repertoire was huge, this was a real problem. With the deeper understanding of harmony that came about in the late 16th century, and with the desire to solve the above-mentioned problem, some Italian genius whose name is lost to history invented the idea of writing only the bass line, and putting numbers and symbols under the notes to denote such things that we now call inverted chords, 7th chords, chromatically altered chords, 6th chords, suspensions etc. The modern day analog of basso continuo is perhaps the lead sheet which serves as a skeleton for improvisation by a jazz musician.
Music began when a caveman named Grok was sitting around a campfire and discovered that he could make pleasing sounds. Okay, I won’t go that far back. I should start in medieval times because that is when musical notation was invented, thus it is the earliest time period from which we have any idea of what the music sounded like. Music notation was very crude at first, just a dot over each word or syllable, the dot going higher or lower to indicate if the melody goes higher or lower on that word or syllable. There was no indication of rhythm or time duration for each note. It was really just an aide-memoire. You had to already know the melody. Eventually someone hit upon the idea of using lines to indicate the pitch. The duration of each note was indicated as early as the 9th century, and eventually evolved into the method we still use today. By the end of the 13th century music notation was basically the same as what we have today, but was refined quite a bit over the next few centuries. Read more »