Music 1 students:
We use our final exam session — check the calendar for the exact day and time for your class — primarily for test #3. This is not a comprehensive exam — in other words, it does not retest you on all subject from the entire term. Instead it only focuses on material covered in class, your study, and your listening since test #2.
As we have discussed in class, the third test poses a challenge, namely that there are a lot of composers and a lot of new ideas to know about from the Romantic Era through the current time. I hope that you have taken to heart the strategy I have suggested and that we have worked on just a bit in class — namely a combination of association and practice.
Association — We remember things best when we associate them with other things. It is very hard to remember an isolated fact all by itself, but when we recall a connection between that fact and other things we can often build on that association. Think about how your recall things in your day-to-day life. When you think of a person you probably recall the person’s visual appearance, the sound of his or her voice, a shared experience — and once your do this, you start to fill in the story with other things you recall.
The same technique can help you with learning all of these composers and pieces and musical ideas — and spending time with these associations and facts can “burn them into your brain.” You may well not recall everything about every composer or subject, but you will likely recall a lot more.
Building a web of connections — Build a basic set of connections around each composer and any one of them may trigger recall of others. For each composer, you might try coming up with the following as a starting point.
- The composer’s name
- The composer’s era — Romantic or 20th-Century
- A keyword or concept — Some are obvious, such as “piano” for Chopin or “impressionism” for Debussy, but you can make up your own.
- A representative musical example — When you hear a piece of popular music you likely can name the artist without much effort, because you have a strong ability to associate music with such things. Use this skill in this class, too. As you study a composer, always play the key musical example of the composer’s work.
- Especially in the 20th century, associate composers with ideas, techniques, or movements. For example, connect Debussy to impressionism and connect that to “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” — not just the name of the piece (though that is important) but to the sound of this music, at least the beginning portion.
- Was there a quiz question on the subject? What was it?
Make lists — Practice summing up your knowledge by doing things like constructing lists. Some excellent list subjects include:
- Composers of the Romantic era
- Composers of the 20th Century era
- Musical forms on the Romantic era
- Examples of program music
- Examples of absolute music
- 20th Century musical ideas and techniques (Impressionism, Expressionism, 12-tone system, atonality, minimalism, neo-classicism, chance music, etc.)
Tell stories related to composers, pieces, forms
- With operas this is easy — you should know the title of the opera and what it means or suggests. (Who or what is “Rigoletto?” What is the “ring” in Wagner’s Ring Cycle? In a sentence or two, what is “La Boheme” about? And, of course, what happened in the sections of these operas that were described in the text as you listened to them while studying and completing listening assignments?)
- With program music pieces this should also be somewhat easy. What happened in Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique?” How did Tchaikovsky represent the “Romeo and Juliet” story in his concert-overture? What was that Liszt tone poem “Les Preludes” about? Look for it at the resources and examples pages at this website. How about the”Survivor from Warsaw” by Schoenberg, Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring,” and so on?
- It can also be easier with songs and other vocal works, since the words often describe something or narrate a series of events. What happens in Schubert’s “Erlkönig,” and how does the music suggest that?
- With absolute music pieces your “story” might be something about its performance, when it was created, and so forth.
Name and describe musical forms — this may be another task that will benefit from list-making or possibly the use of tools such as flash cards. Consult your text for a full list, but the following is a start. Be able to name them and offer at least the most basic description of main features, and have at least one example piece in mind.
- Tone poem
- Art song or lied
- Program symphony
- Concert overture
- Tone poem (or symphonic poem)
- Opera (several types)
- Character piece
- Tape music
Finally, two important reminders…
- You are getting tired of hearing it and I’m getting tired of saying it, but make a schedule for doing this work and start now — it will be tremendously difficult and not wholly successful if you wait any longer at all.
- As questions come up, contact me as soon as possible — in person or via email are your best bets.