Music Appreciation - Theme from Jaws by John Williams

This music is from the terrifying film Jaws. It is about a giant and ferocious shark. Each time the shark attacks its victims, low notes are heard which is enough to send shivers down our spines. This is because the composer has chosen the sound qualities cleverly.

Silence also contributes to the frightening mood in this piece. The silences or rests build tension and makes one expect a disaster to happen. This music is sounds organized with silence.

When listening to this piece, you can hear the lurking presence of the shark suggested by two low short “growly” notes of different pitch followed by silence.

The mood is uneasy and threatening which grows in tension as more and more notes are added. After the last silence, the two notes are played repeatedly one after the other which raises the tension as the shark gets closer and closer.

You know the worst has happened when we hear the loud, sharp and biting sound of the tuba. The music builds up dramatically to create the feeling of sudden panic. The volume increases, the pitch rises;, the timbre becomes brighter and more and more instruments are added.

Soon after the short notes change to sustained low notes over a very high melody. The brass notes add to the dramatic mood and one can feel the emotional distress of the victim.

The short, repeated notes return but with the woodwinds playing the melody. The music builds up again for another attack. This is followed by a tuba melody and eventually the volume fades away as the shark swims away.

(Click on the title to hear the music. Page will re-direct to YouTube).

Music Appreciation - Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams

Each country of the world has many traditional songs and dances that have been handed down from generation to generation. This type of music is called folk music.

One thing most common with most folk music is that we don’t know who wrote them and they were passed down to us by word of mouth.

Folk music has the following characteristics:
1. They are simple to sing and easy to remember.
2. Most folk songs evolve and change over time.
3. Folk songs were often used for important functions such as ceremonies.
4. Folk songs are simple to perform.
5. Folk songs tell stories, describe events, celebrate different times of the year etc…

Folk songs are grouped according to subject matter or location:
1. Rural folk songs – songs about country life
2. Urban folk songs – songs about city life
3. Regional folk songs – songs about a particular part of a country
4. Sea Shanties – songs of sailors and the sea
5. Carols – Christmas songs
6. Spirituals – religious songs

See if you can think of folk songs according to the following subject matter:

1. Rural
2. Sea Shanties
3. Carols

MUSIC APPRECIATION – Fantasia on Greensleeves by Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams was born in 1872 and died in 1958. He was an English composer who had great interest in English folk music.

Fantasia on Greensleeves was written I 1929. Fantasia is a piece of music which appeals to the imagination, making us think of other worlds and other times.

In this piece the composer means to take us back to the peaceful English countryside of centuries past.

The old-English atmosphere of the music is achieved not only by the use of ancient folk melodies, but also by the particular instruments used. The composer does not use brass and percussion instruments as this would spoil the peaceful mood.

The flutes give a dreamy “rustic” effect like shepherds piping in the fields and the harp gives a light, floating feeling.

(Click on the title to hear the music)

Music Appreciation - In the Hall of the Mountain King by Greig

In the Hall of the Mountain King

This piece of music is from the Peer Gynt Suite written by the Norwegian composer Edvard Greig. He was born in 1843 and died in 1907.

A suite is a large instrumental work made up of several pieces of music grouped together.

The play tells the story of a vain and rather untruthful young man, Peer Gynt, who lives life for fun. He goes in search of his fortune and in doing so enjoys many wild adventures involving him in several lucky escapes. In this section of the suite, Peer wanders high into the mountains of Norway. There he discovers the cave that is home of the Mountain King, the king of the trolls.

Trolls are ugly creatures in Scandinavian folklore who live in mountain caves.

Peer pretends to be a prince, and the king’s daughter, who is very ugly, falls in love with him. She dances for him, and when he laughs at her dance and refuses to marry her, the trolls become angry. Peer has to run for his life, perused by the trolls who yell, “Slay him! Slay him!” He escapes from the cave just as it collapses on the pursuing trolls.

Listen to the music and listen to how the composer depicts the following ideas:
1. The chase
2. An ever increasing number of trolls
3. The collapse of the cave.

The opening melody in this piece is repeated all the way through the music. Notice that this repetition is not boring because the composer varies certain aspects of the music including pitch,
volume, timbre, texture and tempo.

(Click on the title to hear the music)