Well…after you read this, and after getting to know Beethoven’s music, you will se how INSANELY funny this parody of a Beethoven Sonata is…
A little dictionary of some terms used you can find below. We’ll start with the names of the “building parts” in music, and it’s kind of tricky: there is no consistency in applying these terms, sometimes it’s not very clear. However, i will try to explain it as well as I can. Let’s start with the smallest part and go bigger, ok?
Oh, but first, of course:
Sonata: the term sonata comes from Latin and Italian: sonare, meaning “to sound”. It was a term that started to be used for a piece played as opposed to a Cantata (“to sing”), which was a piece that was, of course, sung
Out of this came a blueprint on how Sonatas were structured, which is the Sonata form, but we’ll get to that in a separate post.
Rondo: A Rondo is a movement which is built in a certain way. Usually, it’s the last movement of a sonata. It derives from the Ritornello form in Baroque music, ritornello coming from the Italian word ritornare, meaning to return. And that is the main ingredient of a Rondo, a main theme that will return…
This form is the one that rock- and popmusic has adopted. The main theme that returns is what we call the refrain.
A Rondo often has a middle section, contrasting in mood. This also exists in popmusic, where it is called a bridge.
The “scheme” for a Rondo in a sonata movement would most likely be this:
A-B-A-C-A-B-A…with variations like coda and other things.
A = main theme
B = the second theme
C = contrasting section
Figure: A sequence of notes or chords that is very short, but still gets the attention as a unity.
Motive, or Motif: The reason the composer wrote the piece. No, just kidding. It’s actually not that easy to describe exactly what it is. A motive is a “building part” of a piece. A sequence that has enough character so that it is heard “above” the figures, or riffs, if there are any. The most famous example of a motive:
Arpeggio: The word arpeggio comes from the Italian word “arpeggiare” , which means “to play on a harp”: it means you play (or sing) the notes in a chord not together, but one after each other. Jump down to the Philip Glass video at the end of this post and you will here a form of arpeggios right away in the beginning.
Theme: normally a melody that brings a certain attention on its own, and is more comprehensive and independent than a motive.
Let’s take Beethoven’s 5th to hear the difference between a motive and a theme. The first two pampampamPAAA are motives, and then…comes a theme, which is completely built on that motive. If it’s confusing, don’t worry. It won’t be a in few blogged about sonatas time, I promise.
Phrase: Kind of like in the spoken language, it’s a part that has it’s own musical sense, that can “stand on it’s own legs” so to speak. If we feel that the melody has come to a certain close, so that we need a little “restart”, that’s usually the end of a phrase. Still, people can discuss “phrasing” forever and ever, not agreeing on where a phrase starts and ends…
Here is a phrase from An Arkeology (Calleth You, Cometh I):
And talking about motive, listen to this little part from another song by the same group, listen to the guitar…
Do you hear the motive from Calleth You, Cometh I? That would actually be called a quote. Just like with words.
Ostinato (if you are around pop music guys, they call it a riff): A motive or phrase which is persistently repeated.
Basso Ostinato: A short phrase—either an accompanimental figure or an actual melody—is repeated over and over again in the bass part, while the upper parts continue their ways.
Here is a very clear Basso Ostinato, a bass-riff if you want, repeated in the left hand in the beginning. There are eight notes in each figure:
one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two
one-two-three, one-two-three, one-two
It has, as always in Philip Glass’ music, a very strong character (it’s kind of hypnotic!), but once the theme (the melody) enters, it goes into the background. So, it’s a basso ostinato made out of a figure, not a theme or a motive…
Accompaniment: well, maybe most people know what accompaniment is, but I would just like to touch on the purpose of accompaniment in a piece of music. Most often, it’s a kind of “motor”, which gives the music drive and energy, like here:
Music: The Ark: The Worrying Kind