Analysis for Composers #2

Analysis for Composers #2

as I explained in introduction to this series I'm going to focus here on aspects of the music that are not usually dealt with in standard analysis courses this doesn't mean that those courses are useless or irrelevant just that sometimes a composer needs to think deeply about other dimensions of the music above and beyond motives harmony infraestructure further all these things need to come together since the listener doesn't have separate brains for harmony orchestration etc the first movement of Brahms beautiful clarinet trio is 114 will give us a useful starting point let's look at the relationships between the three instruments clarinet cello and piano these relationships commonly fall under the heading of texture which often concerns rhythm as well hence the title of this lesson clarinet and cello are normally melodic instruments often imitating the human voice they have singing lines well they can do things that a human voice can't for example much faster passage work a much greater variety of articulation their best thought of here is distinctive voices and I mean voices both in the sense of the singing human voice and also the sense of parts as in harmony encounter points the piano is another matter while the piano often has singing lines its major handicap is that sustained notes can't be modified once they're played they just die away but the piano makes up for this deficiency with its enormous range and with his much greater variety of possible textures while clarinet and cello are usually monophonic the piano normally plays more than one note at a time indeed a piano can even play more than one plaintive tone at a time for example one hand playing staccato chords while the other has a leg out of line now let's look at a few examples from the Brahms with the Knights and relationships between the instruments to start with here's the opening for a measure 1 to 12 let's listen the cello begins alone singing in its middle register then the clarinet answers with the same theme an octave higher these two melodic voices are in effect conversing with each other referring to a common theme as the cello ends its melodic presentation in metaphor the piano enter is underneath in a clearly subsidiary all providing a rather austere bass line below the melodic line which is now in the clarinet meanwhile the cello is also retreated into the background just filling in the harmony with long sustained notes note the difference between its voice and the pianos the cello even in the background still sings to some extent now the clarinet rises higher than the cellos previous phrase and tops its phrase with the new rhythm triplet quarter notes adding a bit of momentum at the peak already by this point the cello has emerged in two different roles as soloist and has a background filler the piano for its part has so far only been a supporting character after measure 12 the cello is silent and the clarinet fades into one long low held note becoming background in terms of the piano which is now center stage the piano has a quicker new motive adding more variety of articulation now let's listen to a recomposed version of this opening I've kept the phrase structure and harmony the same but I've simplified the texture in this new Vernon I've altered only the texture the register and very slightly the rhythm why is it less convincing first I introduced the clarinet and the strong beat of measure five is that among the last beat of measure four red created a gentle syncopation my version is a bit square notice also that the flower that enters in the same register is the cello this reduces the freshness of his entrance sounding less like a new voice in the conversation between instruments this also leaves the cornet phrase with the same high a as a peak in measure seven the cello in measure one thus taking away a very significant sense of progression and register showing the clarinets phrase another weakness occurs in measure seven where instead of Brahms triplet quarter notes I simply maintain the straight forward corner rhythm already in place so instead of the rhythm is slightly intensifying there's nothing new the overall effect is much more static when the piano arrives in measure for the fact that includes no octaves makes its arrival not as fresh register is a very salient aspect of orchestration often just transposing a passage up or down an octave can make the difference between something ordinary and something wonderful notice also that in this version either the cello or the clarinet continues to play after its first melodic phrase in other words they have no role in the texture other than foreground in well-written chamber music instruments see this part back to each other without simply disappearing this enriches the listener sense of the music as a conversation between friends with subtle shading and depth finally notice that the new theme in the piano starting in measure 13 has lost his triplet rhythm and it's more nervous punctuation I make me legato with no rests and all in quarter notes the overall rhythm once again fails to progress instead of providing some much-needed variety what was the point of my rather insipid version my version of this opening can almost have been a first sketch the wonderful details in Brahms own version represent decisions by a very sensitive and experienced composer and everyone of them makes the result richer in character and that is the ultimate goal if the listener are rich involving musical experience gradually developing in intensity here are a few more moments in this movement where texture makes a huge difference murder 28 to 32 here all three instruments are doing the same dotted note motive but there are subtle differences in rhythm between the clarinet and the cello the cello has up beats in their 28th measure 29 meanwhile the piano also plays the common motive but intersperses it with surging crip –let eighth note arpeggios imitating those heard in the other instruments in the preceding bars also and perhaps more most importantly the piano is very fully scored here rather like an orchestral hoody this considerably intensifies de musical character emphasizing the qualities that the piano has and then the others do not create a variety of texts refer and register another passage measure 43 to 46 here the clarity of silent and the piano imitates the cellos theme in diminution the cello scored rather high and the pianos texture is lighter so here two of the three members of the ensemble are quietly discussed in the material or the third member wrists now a measure 67 to 71 here are the claret and the cello working together accompanying the piano which carries both the thematic material and the harmony in addition to providing more active movement in eighth notes to make the accompanying parts more interesting Brahms makes them syncopated so although there are three instruments playing here there are actually four planes of tone the melody in the piano is right hand the pedal base that is to say the bottom notes of the piano arpeggios the pianos movement in eighth notes and finally the syncopated middle parts in the cello bow clarinet this kind of Richter richness of texture is what good chiming music is all about overall the players all take part more or less equally but their roles in relation to each other are constantly changing now a measure 125 to 128 here the theme we first heard in measure 13 to 15 returns but in a very different texture the cello double stops contain the main notes of the theme rather like in my weaker version presented previously the clarinet supports the cello underneath and that's the momentum with its sixteenth note run at the end of measure 126 but the piano moves through several octaves in effect acting like several different orchestral families replying to each other in measure 128 the continuation is also much more thickly scored than it was in its first presentation in measure 15 finally measure 177 to 183 this passage is especially interesting for the details of the piano accompaniment answering the cello the clarinet here eloquently sings out the theme we heard previously starting in measure 67 now in its upper register first the piano was in the pedal bass line and some arpeggio complement but towards the cadence of the phrase measure 182 piano and Thorin had merged into one rhythmic plane for added emphasis in other words the texture once again contributes greatly to the emotional evolution of the phrase notice of the piano arpeggios are not just totally predictable formulas but contains some CAHSEE contrapuntal interest these examples all concern details of rhythm and texture that if altered drastically weaken the music again these are all important decisions by the composer the view toward making the desired musical character more vivid and more convincing Brahms has clearly thought deeply about the nature of the instruments about the potential and texture and also but there are many possible interactions not surprisingly these things contribute enormously to the overall effect of course harmony motives and phrase structure are very important also without also considering texture and rhythm were ignoring too many significant decisions made by the composer well written share music typically changes texture very often and that makes up a good deal of its richness student composers continue examining these things in the rest of this piece and indeed in general music in general there is much to learn


  • David Hernández Rivero says:

    What program use for sound as good as you?

  • Mozessi Wang says:

    brilliant analysis! thanks for your video, Mr. Belkin!

  • Franco Bonanni says:

    This lesson is wonderful. It gives us more insight how a composer becomes an architect of sound. Your videos are inestimable source of learning…thank you Prof. Belkin. Please make more of these type of videos.

  • Amir Razmara says:

    Would you at some point consider teaching how to compose for a solo instrument, preferably piano since it is the composers tool, something simple that would encourage those composers who are not at advanced levels? for someone like myself who has a degree in music and has been writing, but would prefer to write for their own instrument because it's more accessible to them.

  • Jonny Davidson says:

    This channel is pretty amazing. Thanks, Alan. I’ve learned a lot from all of the videos i’ve watched!

  • Emanuel Magalhães Fróes says:

    For beginners you mean ?

  • The Community Fusion Network says:

    Hello, Alan Belkin! Would you be interested in analyzing works by living composers? We need a sister network which analyzes compositions. We'd love to work with you!

  • Sam Watts says:

    I'm a big fan of your videos, really useful! I would make one small suggestion (Just personal preference) it would be great to hear your explanation of each passage and THEN the audio accompanying it, to listen out for what you have just said. But either way, I am really enjoying following them and look forward to the next episode

  • daerp says:

    Very well done. Excellent explanations and clarity of thought.

  • Horacio Fernández says:

    Wonderfully useful!

  • Tunes Music says:

    Outstanding !!!!

  • Edward Cox says:

    Hmmmmm……. Interesting term 'plane of tone' – I wonder what that means?
    There certainly is much to learn. Thank you so much for your enlightened view of some important aspects of the compositional process. I had better pull my finger out and start working on similar.

  • Wing Flanagan says:

    This is exactly the sort of thing that is often missing from the other texts on composition that I have read. Less of a "how to" and more of a "discover why". I look forward to more!

  • Andrew DuFresne says:

    This is fantastic material, Alan. I like to think of it as the craftsmanship of composition; as you point out, a subject that is missing from most (if not all) of the standard literature. Thank you, and I look forward to the rest of this series.

  • Stephen A. Sheehan says:

    I've been dipping in to various lessons and find them all excellent. Your concept of "grayness" has helped my ear. 🙂 Thanks for sharing these on youtube. Very generous of you.

  • mobius drummer says:

    Really interesting lesson thanks Alan

  • FocusMrbjarke says:


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