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Adept, Not Inept
""Was that a mistake?" you wonder, sitting in the concert hall. "Could this great composer have written such a bad composition?" Of course not; it was adept, not inept, and intentionally bad music is a classical tradition! Here are ten questions about it."
15 Points Per Correct Answer - No time limit
To start off his first symphony, this composer included a sequence of dominant chords, which are played in the wrong key, and only gradually does the orchestra "figure out" which key to play in. Experimental, yes. Pleasant to listen to, perhaps not. The composer figured out a better beginning to his fifth symphony, with four notes that represent "fate knocking at the door." Who was this composer?
Ludwig van Beethoven
If you thought works like "Totem Ancestor" and "Our Spring Will Come" sounded inept, not adept, it's probably because there's something wrong with that piano it's being played on. One American composer pioneered the use of prepared pianos, in which various objects were placed between the strings of a piano, to add "texture." Who was that man, also notable for a piece consisting of four minutes, thirty-three seconds of silence?
The eleventh movement of a certain suite is entitled "Pianists" and is meant to depict just that: pianists practicing their fundamental scales, occasionally making a slip-up here or there. Other movements of that suite include "Fossils" and "Aquarium". What is this fourteen-movement suite composed by Camille Saint-Saens?
Pictures at an Exhibition
Carnival of the Animals
Work number 222 in the Kochel catalogue is usually translated into English as "A Musical Joke". The virtuoso composer used the silly piece to mock bad composers, and in it he mixed instruments playing out of tune with satirically poor composition. Which master composed that divertimento for two horns and a string quartet?
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Only an inept composer would start off a piece with the bassoon playing extremely high notes, and switching time signature every other measure. That's not all, though: the work continues on using dissonance, primitive unsophisticated rhythms, and highly irregular instrumentation. What is this "riotously" awful ballet which made the career of composer Igor Stravinsky?
The Rite of Spring
When it comes to the "extremely repetitive and boring" piece of music, you could do a lot worse than picking "Perpetuum mobile", a piece literally designed to be played over and over and over again, infinitely. It's a musical joke composed by a man better known for the operetta "Die Fledermaus" and waltzes like "The Blue Danube". Who is the composer?
Johann Strauss, Jr.
Music aficionados will likely appreciate the title of the second movement of Charles Ives' piano trio. The intentionally bad piece marked presto features everything from dissonant polytonality to heavily altered versions of Yale fraternity songs. What type of fast, playful composition, often a part of classical symphonies, did Ives humorously claim was a "joke"?
Allegedly, upon hearing this piece of music for the first time, a spectator cried to the composer, "He is mad!" The composer responded that the woman, who was angered at the piece's incessantly repetitive nature, was the only one who had understood the composition. Which piece, notable for an ostinato and large crescendo without ever changing melody, is that best-known work of Maurice Ravel?
Canon in D
The Three-Cornered Hat
Symphony No. 60 ("The Distracted") has a memorable finale, in which the ending is played by violins in a horribly discordant way. Then, on stage, the violinists "realize" that they need to retune their instruments, which they do, and continue playing! Thus, the composer inserted one of his many "jokes," another of which includes a shockingly-loud chord played during a soft section in Symphony No. 94 ("Surprise"). Who was this "Father of the Symphony" and "Father of the String Quartet"?
Beautiful music certainly wasn't intended by a certain German composer when he initiated the practice of "Sprechstimme," or speech-singing, in which the vocalist sings pitches while talking naturally. Nor was he striving for the soaring, beautiful classical melodies when he invented the twelve-tone technique, a form of serialism. Yet despite this, he's often considered one of the most important twentieth-century composers, as he was critical for the development of atonality. Who was he?
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Compiled Jul 19 12