Music basics


In the first lecture, we discussed the following quote by John Blacking:

Even if a person describes musical experiences in the technical language of music, he is in fact
describing emotional experiences which he has learned to associate with particular musical

In the sixth lecture, we approached two pieces of music by first listening to them and describing
their musical features and our emotional response to them. We then discussed the context of
these two pieces and how this affected and changed our reaction to these pieces.

You r assignment is to choose one musical composition that is not on the course listening list
and to approach your investigation of this piece in the same manner as we did in Lecture 6 . The
composition must come from a Western music tradition and can be in any genre (Classical, folk,
rock, jazz , pop, etc.). You will want to describe what you hear using the technical language that
you have learned in this course. How do the technical features of your chosen piece become an
emotional experience for you as a listener? You will the n research the composition and
discov er whatever you can about the context in which t he piece was composed. What
compositional techniques were used to create this piece of music and what might the
composer have been wanting to communicate ? How does the context in which the piece was
written give meaning to the music and affect or change your reaction t o that piece of music?

Range: 1100 to 1200 words

As a starting point, be sure to familiarize yourself with the composition by listening to it . You
will need to introduce the piece that you have selected using the technical language that you
have acquired from class and provide your initial reaction to it ; you will then provide an
explanation of how your knowledge of the historical and cultural context affects your reaction
to the composition. Your paper must be in proper essay format.

An essay of this length must include a bibliography of at least four secondary sources to
demonstrate that your argument is supported by balanced research. Once you have chosen
your composition, a good place to begin your research is with Oxford Music Online, which may
be accessed through the UTSC library: 753b- 4791- 9c03 -190a730ec5c8 (you will need to

provide your library card number or UTOR login if you are
accessing the dictionary from home). The bibliography at the end of each article will provide
you with further resources.

Many scholarly journals may be found on- line through the UTSC library. A good way to begin is
by searching the JSTOR database: – 0238-4d86- 8d6a-8de08cb9f9dc . You may then type in

the name of the journal or perform a subject search – try
“music,” “musicol ogy,” “opera” or any other term that relates to your topic.

Using internet resources: please take care when researching your topic to use only those
internet resources that are of reliable quality (such as scholarly journals found on – line or other
resources connected with universities or other reputable institution s). While you may decide to
use Wikipedia as a place to start your search, it is not acceptable to use as the basis of your
research because it is known to be wrought with inaccuracies and incorrect information. Peer
reviewed scholarly sources have editorial boards that ensure all information is correct , so
please consult such resources instead.

Remember that you must cite any thoughts that are not your own through a footnote, endnote,
or some other type of reference (this includes both direct quotations a nd ideas that are
borrowed and put into your own words). It is not enough to merely list your references in your
bibliography; you must refer to them when they are used directly in the body of your essay.

The grade that your paper receives will take into consideration such features as:

Handling of the topic (thesis)
Analysis of the music
Quality of research and citations
Format and organization
Expression of ideas

Writing Support:
Students who are unaccustomed to writing essays or who have difficulties with communication
in English are strongly advised to take advantage of the services offered at t he UTSC Writing
Centre: (room 210 in the Academic Resources Centre). You may
contact the Writing Centre for help at any stage of the writing process, from developing a thesis
to editing the final draft of your paper.

You will also find some U of T websites that offer advice on academic writing: – and -online – resources – writing – citing- sources-0

Academic Integrity:
Academic Integrity is essential to the pursuit of learning and scholarship, and breaches in the
form of plagiarism and cheating are taken very seriously. All violations of the standards of
integrity found in the university’s Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters will be reported.
Please familiarize yourself with aspects of academic integrity and methods of proper citation.
How not to plagiarize: – sources/how-not- to -plagiarize
How to cite sources: and – citing- sources- 0
Information regarding academic integrity: http://www.u -integrity

VPMA93 Lecture 6 – Music and Meaning

madrigal – the main secular vocal genre of the 16th century

word-painting – the musical illustration of the meaning of a word or a short phrase of text

Thomas Weelkes, As Vesta was from Latmos Hill Descending
from The Triumphs of Oriana (1601)

Oriana – a legendary British princess; used as a poetic designation for Queen Elizabeth I

As Vesta was from Latmos hill descending,
she spied a maiden Queen the same ascending,
Attended on by all the shepherds’ swain,
to whom Diana’s darlings came running down amain,
First two by two, then three by three together,
Leaving their goddess all alone hasted thither;
And mingling with the shepherds of her train,
with mirthful tunes her presence entertain.
Then sang the shepherds and nymphs of Diana,
Long live fair Oriana!

Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody: To the Victims of Hiroshima

Sound effects:
• quarter-tone interval (half the size of a half step)
• tone clusters
• playing the highest note possible on the instrument
• playing with the bow on the bridge of the violin
• playing with the bow above the fingerboard of the violin
• playing with the wood of the bow
• playing on the tailpiece of the instrument
• striking the string with the wood of the bow
• striking the upper sounding board of the violin with the nut of the bow or the finger tips
• slow and fast vibrato

Section 1 (0:35) – high pitched dissonant clusters
Section 2 (1:58) – varied texture of multiple sound effects in rapid succession
Section 3 (2:51) – sustained tones and quarter-tone clusters linked with glissandos
Section 4 (7:13) – isolated pitches and various sound effects
Section 5 (8:07) – unison sound effects and clusters that lead to the final climactic chord

tone cluster – a highly dissonant, closely spaced collection of pitches sounding simultaneously

glissando – a continuous or sliding movement from one pitch to another

Listening List
Thomas Weelkes, As Vesta was from Latmos Hill Descending (1601):

Krzysztof Penderecki, Threnody: To the Victims of Hiroshima (1960):

An accompanying video describes the variety of playing techniques required to perform this piece:


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