Music for the Holidays Homework

Writing about music is an important tool for understanding it. MusicAtOurHouse solidifies class content with a short writing assignment following each session. Homework for the live class is posted on the discussion forum. For anyone participating in recordings-only, please feel free to post on the forum on an ongoing basis.

There's a famous quote attributed sometimes to Blaise Pascal, sometimes to Winston Churchill, sometimes to Abraham Lincoln, and sometimes to George Bernard Shaw (!): "I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I wanted to write a short one but I didn't have time." In other words, being concise takes a lot of work! Please say your full thoughts about the topic you choose, but condense them to the most economical form, the smallest number of words needed. The most important thing to cover are literal sound descriptions and emotional identifications.

Homework 1

Choose from the following two options:

1) Compare the Dreidl Song to the other Jewish music examples we have heard: Kol Nidre for the day of atonement, and Klezmer music for dancing at celebrations.

      Klezmer Example


2) Compare this Medeival Gregorian Chant for Christmas to "Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming" from the High Renaissance. What is the difference in the emotion?


Homework 2

What is common to the emotion and the musical sound of the three major Baroque-period pieces relating to Christmas? In what way is the Baroque type of Christmas emotion and musical sound different from the prior, Medieval sound of Gregorian Chant--and even different from the vocal Christmas carols? What kind of emotion is the primary focus of the Baroque Christmas?

Handel's Messiah -- focus on "The Trumpet Shall Sound", a song for Bass voice
"Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep; but we shall all be changed.
In a moment, in a twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet;
The trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality."
(From 1Corinthians in the Bible)
Vivaldi -- Christmas Concerto for Two Trumpets
Bach -- Christmas Oratorio -- The opening text sung by the chorus is "Rejoice, Exalt, Praise the Days!" (Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage")

Homework 3

Briefly summarize the nature of the Christmas feeling in the following periods to give the historical overview:

The Dark Ages (see Gregorian example above)
The Renaissance (see Christmas Carols such as "Lo, How a Rose Ere Blooming")
The Baroque Period (see the above Baroque Christmas pieces)
The Classical Period -- There is virtually no Christmas music from this period, but there is this little carol, "Heiligste Nacht" by Michael Haydn.
The Romantic Period -- Lots of music; here are some examples:

The Motet "Frohlocket ihr Volker auf Erden" - Felix Mendelssohn
Tchaikovsky's Dance of the Thumblers from the incidental music for "The Snowmaiden"
Ottorino Respighi's song "Lauda per la Natività del Signore"
The most important Romantic-Era Christmas piece is Mendelssohn's cantata "Vom Himmel Hoch"
You might also be interested in Gustav Holst's Christmas Carol, "In the Bleak Midwinter"