College Underground Magazine Issue 2 - Page 9

Page 9 SMART LISTENER By: Saul Crespo Have you ever watched a movie or read a novel? Do you like music? Then I have some old news for you! In western classical music, we also have our own musical novel, with main charac- ters that develop throughout the work. A story with all the elements and structure of novel or films: introduction, exposition and denouement. It is music which tells you a story without using a word; I am talking about the sonata form. The term “sonata” refers to a piece that must be “played” (it comes from Latin and Italian sonare, to sound). It means that the piece must be sounded, in opposition to “cantatas” (cantare, to sing), in which case must be sung. “Sonata” was a vague term, until the 18th century when it started to get a new meaning, the meaning it has today. It becomes three or four movements, in which the first one is usually written in “allegro-sonata form”, also called sonata form. So let’s start with the music. Today I chose the first movement of Beethoven’s third piano sonata. The introduction of a sonata is the part where the main characters are introduced. The first character (usually called A theme), is normally rhythmic and vigorous, while the second one (B theme) is softer and more lyrical. Do not worry; they used to be easily recognizable. Beethoven presents the A theme, which develops throughout some measures until it gets to acadence, a clear stop where you can breathe. Then B theme starts, melodic, in minor mode, so it stops being happy to became a sad and worried melody. It evolves until he comes back to the major mode, and the intro- duction usually ends with a tremendous ending and an apparently concluding phrase, that actually gives music a chance to continue. Usually, the introduction is repeated, in order to make the two characters (themes) easier to recognize. And then, the exposition section begins. Music is starting to change. You will start to hear the two themes varying; the char- acters face their conflicts and challenges; the tension increases: What will happen with our heroes!? After music gets to the climax, then goes down step by step, until, suddenly… A theme appears just like in the beginning! This is the beginning of the recapitulation. This section is very similar to the introduction: the two main themes are presented again. But now, after all the conflicts, battles and challenges happened in exposition; our two heroes are not the same people as they were at the beginning. They have learned, evolved, so recapitulation is not going to be exactly as introduction, although they both keep the same structure. After recapitulation, when it looks like it is going to end, suddenly tension increases. The “coda” appears: it is like an epilog, a conclusion, which carries us to the very end of the movement, where all the conflicts are resolved and you can almost see the words “The End” displayed on the screen. But do not worry: after that, you also have three more musical movements to enjoy! In the case of that sonata, you have a slow and beautiful movement, a scherzo (if you have read Smart Listener from the beginning you will recog- nize it), and a last exciting movement, so that all together bring us half an hour of wonderful music. If you have understood sonata form, congratulations! Now you have access to thousands of sonatas, which were written since the end of 18th century. There are a great variety of sonatas, written for a lot of ensembles, from solo instruments, such as piano, violin or cello for small chamber ensembles (violin and piano, clarinet and piano, violin, cello and piano, string trio, wind ensemble, etc), to the full orchestra (the sonatas for orchestra are usually called symphonies). In fact, I once listened to a power metal song (“The Mighty Ride of the Firehold” by Rhapsody) which was in sonata form. You will find a lot of different sonatas: some have an introduction; others have more than two main characters, etc. There are sonatas for all tastes, so I assure you that there is an incredible variety of them waiting for you!