Music 100 Students:

This is a very good example of a two-page performance critique. He might have discussed specifics of one more piece (three instead of two), but note the introductory paragraphs, discussions of sounds and music heard in different pieces, and final concluding paragraph. Further, David Picanco "peppered" his paper with frequent descriptions of how the music affected him and expressions of his own taste, that is, of how he liked what he heard.

Double-spaced, it's exactly two pages. Read on!

Geoffrey Friedley

David Picanco

Music 100
Tues/Thurs 11-12:15

Music Critique #1 (revised )

The concert I attended was at the Colonial Center in Idaho Falls. It was the concert performed by the Snake River Chamber Series. They performed music from several different composers, including W.A. Mozart, Walter Piston, Darius Milhaud, and Aaron Copland.

There were many parts of the music that struck me as being beautiful, one being that the musicians looked like they understood the importance of each piece of music and that they appeared to be so intensely involved with the power of the music. The music was also beautiful in more than one way. We normally associate beauty with music that is very happy and lively sounding. There were parts of the performance that were dark and at times it sounded mournful to some extent, and that is another type of beauty. I really enjoyed the variety of music that was played at the concert. It was music that you could listen to for a long time and just sit back and meditate and think. It brought joy to the heart and also made the point that when you hear music that is more dark and mournful like it can still be enjoyable.

There were many different parts of the concert which I enjoyed. The dynamics were truly amazing there were parts with dynamics that changed very slowly or that would gradually decrescendo till the sounds dissipated. There were also other instances with quick rises or crescendos of volume that added to the texture of the music. At times dynamics were used to set or to change the mood. In the music of Darius Milhaud, for example, the musicians started out with a very powerful and dramatic beginning to gain your attention. Then with the constant change of dynamics, it would gain your attention again at the ending of the more dark and mournful parts with an explosion of a higher dynamic level.

Another thing that added to the impact of the concert was the adding and removing the instruments throughout the pieces of music. In the music of Mozart, the Menuetto in canone presented this idea very well. An oboe started with such a joyous and bouncy sound. After the first oboe came a second, and then a bassoon, and a second bassoon, and then all together they continued with this lively tune. I think that it seemed so lively, in part, because the music was often performed staccato, and many quick runs of notes were slurred together to make it singing-like. This piece of Mozartís music also contained lots of trills that made it more energetic.

I must comment on the performance of the guest drummer from ISU. I think he did such a great job. There were so many things going on at one time that in the audience you couldnít even tell what all he was playing. He had to have been playing ten different instruments throughout the piece. Also without the drums, the music seemed more dark and slow, but the mood changed with the addition of the percussion instruments.

Another thing that I thought added a lot to the performance was parts in the music of Walter Piston where many of the strings were plucking. Iíve seen a stand-up bass plucked many times in jazz music and in other types of concerts. The idea of having the violins plucked was a new thing for me. I thought that the sound was very interesting and the actual view of the plucking even improved the show.

The audience reacted in amazement just like I did having listened to such beautiful music. The skill of the musicians was so great that the audience gave them a standing ovation. I also enjoyed the concert very much. It helped me to feel a little bit more multicultural, and it gave me an even greater desire to pursue more concerts of the same type.

Music 100 Students:

This critique is a bit longer than the first, but displays again exemplary structure and attention to musical detail. Please read on!

Geoffrey Friedley

David Picanco

Music 100, Section 05
Music Critique #2 (revised)

I went to the Nutcracker Ballet at the Civic Auditorium on December 2. This concert and ballet was one that I will remember for a long time. It was a great chance for me to expand on different unexplored paths.

For a long time I have heard people say how boring the ballet is, but after having attended one I have changed my mind. The Nutcracker music also has an exceptional meaning when the ballet accompanies it. I had no idea how well a story can coincide with the music of a composer. The music paints a perfect picture of the storyís details. The ballet has always been something that most people avoid because they really havenít experienced the beauty of it for themselves. It was an enlightening experience for me to see it and experience it. Not only does the ballet depict the picture story but it also makes you think twice about what maybe could have been going through the composerís thoughts while writing such a great piece of music as The Nutcracker.

Tchaikovsky has such a unique way of using the music to start the mindís thinking processes. His music is easy to listen to because of its soothing sound, but yet very complicated and precise for different compositional reasons. For example, the runs, dynamics, crescendos, and decrescendos, just to list a few. I think that out of the music of the Nutcracker my favorite parts were the "Waltz of the Flowers" and "The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy." For this critique Iím going to really examine these two parts or sections in the Nutcracker Suite.

"The Waltz of the Flowers" is an amazing song. It contains many little parts and characteristics that contain so much detail. I hope to cover a few of the most profound details that I have extracted from the music. To start, the harps at the beginning are so amazing and have such a majestic sound to them. Itís almost like in the fairy tales when the good fairy casts a good fortune. Then the horns have a very memorable dance-like quality that almost makes you want to dance. The runs of the clarinets are a memorable part to me because of the years of experience Iíve had playing the clarinet. So when I listen to a piece of music, if there is a clarinet in the music I almost always pick it out first. In the "Waltz of the Flowers" the clarinets play many runs, going from low to high and then back to low. And after the runs, they transition into the next phrase of the music. In other parts of the music there are trills that end phrases of the melody and start others. The flutes and clarinets trill at different times throughout this musical section. Then you have the strings playing their dance-like melody, the flutes trill to end the phrase, and then the strings come back in. This song has such a soothing feeling that there are times when one could fall asleep to its relaxing feel. But there are also times that, if you are dozing off, the trumpets, horns, and strings return to wake you up with sudden and drastic dynamic changes. One thing that I noticed after the performance was listening to the music again when I heard small little runs in the background behind the trumpets and horns when they do a line that sounds kind of like this: daÖ daÖ daÖ daaa dada. I hope you know what I mean. Itís the major theme the trumpets and horns play about half way through the piece. The ending is great because you are led to it with such anticipation until all the instruments come together, and then every instrument finishes with an abrupt ending. I think it was the tympani that helped solidify the ending also.

"The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" is another part of the music which I would like to examine. [Mr. Picanco is actually describing one of the other movements of The Nutcracker. Even though he refers to the wrong title, his description of what he heard is nonetheless apt and valid.] This section of The Nutcracker has considerably more energy then the "Waltz of the Flowers." The song starts out with the trumpets playing a very memorable melody, after which the strings come in. This reminded me a lot of music that should be played when a king enters into his palace or is about to give a speech. The trumpets notes are staccato with very sharp tight sounds. Then the horns and clarinet give background parts to the trumpets royal-like theme. One thing that I felt was impressive were the fast runs by the strings. They were smooth and swooping sounds. The swooping part led the strings into a bold part of the music, in which simultaneously the trumpets and the strings have runs that seem to be implying the need to salute someone or something. I think that the crescendos and decrescendos are one of the most intriguing parts of the song, especially towards the end when they crescendo until at the very end they finish with a sudden yet finished stop. I really liked it.

This concert was one of the best concerts I have ever attended. It really made a change in my mind about ballet, but more important it helped me think about the beauty of each piece of music, its different characteristics, and the uniqueness that each work possesses. I also feel that through the course of this class, Iíve learned a lot of new things, and I have actually changed the car radio to the so called "classical station" and have enjoyed SMURGing it. I have always enjoyed this type of music, but never before have I ever wanted to just listen to it so frequently.

Music 100 Students:

This critique is longer than you need to write, but again, its structure and content may prove good models for your own writing. Notice how the writer in some cases "invents" her own language to describe the sounds she hears. Such writing is "creative," in the most literal sense of that word, and is sometimes the only way to give names to sounds that are new, unfamiliar, and as yet unnamed. Please read on!

Geoffrey Friedley

Laura J. Silvey

Introduction to Music
Performance Critique 1 (revised)
October 21, 2003

No Ordinary Night

It has been many years since I have attended a symphony performance. I looked forward to the event as a change of pace and a chance to dress up. After a hectic day of domestic duties (various household chores), public negotiations (dealing with my son and neighborhood children wanting to build NASA in my sonís bedroom) and doing my share of helping the marketsí "invisible hand" (grocery shopping), I was ready for this night out. So, with my husband out of town on business and my son tucked away at a friendsí house, I was on my way to Idaho Falls for the evening. I was not disappointed. From the slow-and-low opening pieces by Mozart, carried to the chaotic-yet-fanciful middle pieces by Piston and Milhaud, and the final piece of music by Copland for a ballet about a newly-wed Shaker couple, I was pulled into the music.

The event was held at the Colonial Theater in Idaho Falls with George C. Adams as the conductor. Mr. Adams was gracious to his audience and provided us with information before the selections of each composer, and this consideration by Mr. Adams provided the audience with a sense of participation in the event. The first selection was Serenade No. 12 in C Minor K. 388, composed by W. A. Mozart. This was the only music presented this night composed by someone before 1900. Mr. Adams explained it was inspired by early marches and later used inside for social dinners. The four pieces consisted of Allegro, Andante, Menuetto in canone, and Allegro. My favorite of these pieces was the final Allegro. The setting was two rows of instruments: two clarinets and two oboes in the front row, with two French horns and two bassoons in the back. The two rows seemed to communicate with each other in the last piece. The front row was talking rapidly in a high yapping voice while the back row was talking back in a deep voice. In other words, the front row reminded me of a woman yapping, while the back row reminded me of a male responding in a very intense conversation. The form was ternary and the key was in minor as the title suggests. If anyone in the audience believed this forty-five minute performance was an indication for the upcoming pieces, they were in for a shocking surprise. I was!

The next selection was Concerto for Percussion and Small Orchestra by Darius Milhaud. After the stage was reorganized for more players, Mr. Adams introduced Dr. Thom Hasenpflug as the percussionist for the next presentation. This could not be any further from the earlier selection; the music was bizarre to say the least. In fascination, we watched Dr. Hasenpflug use numerous instruments in a frenzied pace. The harmony was in major and polyphonic in texture. The melody was wide-ranging and wild. I felt transported to places around the world, as if the stage were featured in a segment of "Around the world in 80 seconds" as seen on the news. The music could be used in a backdrop for a 1940ís film with its fast sounds of the Orient and then changing to some jazzy undertones. There was even a sense of fog and rain present. I couldnít see all of the additional instruments added to the stage, but my ears told me many of the key players for this performance. Along with the impressive playing by Dr. Hasenpflug, there was a flute providing a nice tingling sound and inspiring the mind, there were strings having a grand time growing and growing in pace then backing down; and the trumpet and trombone each had nice solos. After this piece, the house lights came on for an intermission. The remarks I overheard on my way to the foyer were interesting. The folks didnít know quite what to think of that last piece, and I had to agree it was overwhelming to the senses.

After a much-needed break for the players, the night progressed to a selection by Walter Piston entitled Divertimento for Nine Solo Instruments (1946). While this selection wasnít as chaotic to the senses as that by Darius Milhaud, it was adventurous. Mr. Adams explained softly beforehand that it was ripe with dissonance and consonance. This was an understatement! Of the three pieces I most clearly remember, II. Tranquillo and III. Vivo. Tranquillo provided a soft sound varied in pitches by the strings. This was in contrast to the other instruments. Hence the dissonance and consonance. The flute, oboe, and clarinet each had solos very different from each other. The piece had a quite pointed sound and would wake the most tired observer. The Vivo included a lot of plucking by the string players, and the overall effect reminded me of a Hitchcock film. It was haunting, with a strong finale, and the music abruptly ended in a stop as if the symphony was a machine and the machine suddenly "turned off" without any warning. I donít believe I have ever experienced that feeling with any other music.

The conclusion to the event was a piece composed by Aaron Copland, written specifically for the ballet. Mr. Adams introduced the piece, Appalachian Spring, as a backdrop for a newly-wed Shaker couple adjusting to married life. It is overall a tender piece and inspires the imagination with life on a farm. The opening is sweet like a morning sunrise, with a long flute solo, and the middle is jumpy with strings and the piano. The pace then gets fast before slowing down, and it appears every instrument gets to say something. There were many rests towards the end with hollow sounds. I was lost in this piece as if drawn into a heartwarming movie.

All in all, the night was a pleasant experience, and with each passing minute I was closer to understanding the different concepts I was exposed to in class. I see a new future for me with a better understanding of music.

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