A-Level CPD GCSE Key Stage 3 Revision

Manwaring Musical Moment

Every day of Lockdown I am posting a Manwaring Musical Moment video. These short videos will give students, staff and anybody else watching a little bit of info on the following:

  1. A key musical term including definteiton, understanding and application
  2. A Composer including key dates, short biography and famous works
  3. Famous piece of music with a different piece every day.

The idea behind these short videos is to give GCSE & A-Level music students something to watch that will get them thinking. I will be aiming to link pieces to the GCSE & A-Level courses and give some pointers about the listening exam.

If you aren’t a GCSE or A-Level student then hopefully you mind find these videos useful, interesting or informative!

I will update this blog every day with information about what is included in my Manwaring Musical Moment

Manwaring Musical Moment 1

In the first episdoe I looked at:

  • Melody – The horizontal organisation of Pitch
  • Mahler (1860 – 1911). Austro-Bohemian composer but also one of the leading conductors of his generation. Breifly director of MET Opera in the later years of his life. 
  • Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven – composed in 1801 and a great piece to link to Edexcel GCSE Music where students study Pathetique Sonata by Beethoven.

Here is a link to the video if you didn’t catch it live.

Manwaring Musical Moment 2

Episode 2 was all about – Harmony, Haydn & Hebrides Overture!

Harmony

is the Vertical organisation of pitch and is basically all about Chords, Cadences and Harmonic Devices. When discussing Harmony you might be describing a chord – Major, Minor, Diminished. Or maybe you will discuss a more specific chord like the Tristan chord seen in Wagner’s opera “Tristan Und Isolde”. And don’t forget the Hitchcock chord used in the Edexcel Psycho set work.
You might also touch on Harmonic Devices such as Pedal Notes or Cycle of Fifths progression. Harmony is also all about cadences – Perfect, Imperfect, Plagul and Interrupted.

Haydn

One of the great masters of the Classical period Haydn was born in 1732 and died in 1809. An Austrian composer of the Classica Period who spent most of his life as a court musician for the wealthy Esterhazy family. Friend to Mozart, tutor to Beethoven and composer of 104 symphonies (although some say 108). Haydn also composed Operas, String Quartets, Concertos, Masses and Piano Trios. I can recommend his symphonies as a masterclass in Classical Symphonic composition. I would start with No 1, stop off at No. 45 and then jump to 104. Although maybe you might have time to just listen to all of them!

I particularly love Symphony 45 composed in around 1772. It is also known as the “Farewell Symphony”. The tale goes that Esterhazy had his musicians at his summer palace for longer than expected. And so the symphony ended with them blowing out their candles and all gradually leaving to make a point. This scoring by Haydn where instruments gradually leave is wonderful and the ending with just 2 muted violins is really lovely music. Have a listen to some Haydn today!

Hebrides Overture 

Composed by Mendelssohn in 1830, this is a great example of very early programmatic music, but could also be described as an early Tone Poem. So this isn’t an overture to an Opera nor is it a Symphony. It is a piece of orchestral music that was inspired by a trip to the British isles. This is a standalone piece, which was a common for the Romantic period. Whilst I have said programmatic, it doesn’t actually tell a story as such. But that is one way of thinking about this piece.

I also use that term because this piece could link to “Symphonie Fantastique” by Berlioz as an example of Wider Listening. Symphonie Fantastiquwis a programmatic piece also composed in 1830! Great to know about pieces composed in the same year! “Hebrides Overture” or “Fingals Cave” is 11 minutes of fantastic music that I hope you will go away and listen to!

Here is a link to the video if you didn’t catch it live.

I will be live on my Facebook Page every day at 14:00

Manwaring Musical Moment 3

Episode 3 – Tonality, Tchaikovsky & Time (Zimmer)

Tonality

Tonality is such an important key term to understand as it will pop up all over the place in any music exam. It is all about the notes we use and the scales that we use. I guess it also brings in key signatures, but let’s just leave that for another day. Tonality can basically be explained using a number of key terms – Major, Minor, Atonal, Pentatonic, Modal. Whenever I teach tonality I always go back to Modes – so that might be a good place to start. If you don’t know what Musical Modes are then please do look them up and you will find out all about how modes are formed and how they are used. It is good to understand modes as they will crop up all over the set works and history of music.

Tonality is all about how musical compositions centre around one note. It gives music its character and mood and it will come up in your music exam.

Tchaikovsky

Born in Russia in 1840, Tchaikovsky was one of the great Russian Romantic Composers . His music helped him achieve fame across Europe and he even appeared as a guest conductor in Europe and the United States. What I have always loved about Tchaikovsky’s music is the variety and yet the familiarity. I think it is possibly his amazing melodies that stick with most people. I am convinced that most people would recognise the Swan lake music if they heard it.

Tchaikovsky also began to push boundaries with Harmony, Structure and Instrumentation and his music often relied on repetition of ideas. I would say that his orchestration is full of colour and he was master at combining different instrumental forces and colours, combing melodies and instruments in wonderful ways. He also wrote music for a range of different settings – Opera, Symphonies, Piano Concertos and of course Ballet. He is therefore well known for this wide ranging stylistic approach to composition and he gifted us with such wonderful music.

His 6 symphonies have also been a go to for me, but I also love his Opera Eugene Onegin. Students who are studying Edexcel can compare the Famous Letter Scene in Eugene Onegin with The Queen of the Night Aria from The Magic Flute – one of the set works!

I will leave you listening to his 5th Symphony composed in 1888. I chose this as it can be used as Wider Listening compared to “Pagodes” by Claude Debussy which he composed in 1889. Whilst different in style completely, I think it is good for students to know what is going on at specific periods in different countries. It is always good to listen to music that was composed at around the same time. This helps with comparing and contrasting! And it is easier to then remember when it was written. One year out, but what a great piece! The second movement is beautiful and will be a good one to sink into this afternoon. Listen to those amazing melodies!

Time by Hans Zimmer

There is so much that we can learn from the music of Hans Zimmer and it is quite simply the most stunning film music out there. When I first watched Inception I was not only struck by the wonderful film making, but also the stunning music that brought it to life. If you haven’t listened to Time then you must, but also do check out the film. What is it about this piece of music that is so enthralling? For me it is the way he is able to weave ideas together and gradually bring in new layers as the piece progresses. He has a distinct ability to let a chord really settle and take hold before moving it on. This piece has a minimalist streak to it in many ways, the guitar riff in particular has a minimalist feel to it. 

An interesting observation is that the identical chord progression is used by Zimmer in his scores for 12 Years a Salve & The Thin Red line. He certainly has a style and it might be worth comparing this to the style shown by Danny Elfman in his scores. Film Composers take us on amazing journey’s with their music. There is so much to listen to and enjoy. I would go back and listen to some of the great scores from Steiner, Hermann & Korngold before embracing all of the new music that we have on our screens now. 

Zimmer is a genius and what I love is that he has composed film music across so many genres. Film Music is a key part of both GCSE & A-Level and this piece provides a slightly different approach to cinematic writing than the Edexcel set works. This is more of an electronic score than the others studied, so it is a good bit of Wider Listening and it was composed just 2 years after the score for The Duchess by Rachel Portman. 

Here is the link to the video if you didn’t catch it live

3 comments

  1. Thank you so much. It is very helpful for us parents too. It could help us to understand these terminologies even better if you were to show some of the examples on the piano or keyboard like the difference between a chord and a cadence, or show us the Tristan chord and the Hitchcock chord. This would enable us to help with our children’s revision too.

    1. Thanks for getting in touch. That is just a logistic thing as I don’t have a piano by my computer at home! But I will see what I can do. In the meantime do look them up online or ask your son about Focus on Sound as I think he has a login and that contains loads of listening examples.

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