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Characteristics of Classical Music

Indian classical music is based on melody. It can be described as contemplative and introspective. There is no intentional harmonic structure beneath the melodic lines.
Aug 7, 2012 12:36 IST
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Characteristics of Classical Music
Indian classical music is based on melody. It can be described as contemplative and introspective. There is no intentional harmonic structure beneath the melodic lines. Such freedom permits almost unlimited melodic possibilities. Another attribute of Indian music is improvisation. Most of the classical music performed is extemporaneous. Even while playing the compositions, the performer attempts variations and embellishments that bring out a unique interpretation of the composition and the artist's individuality. This makes the ensuing music spontaneous, never ceasing to amaze the listener. 
CONTRAST OF MOOD
A Classical composition will fluctuate in mood. Not only there are contrasting themes within a movement, but there also may be striking contrasts even within a single theme. Mood in classical music may change gradually or suddenly, expressing conflicting surges of elation and depression. But such conflict and contrast are under the firm control of the classical composer. Masters like Haydn and Beethoven were able to impart unity and logic to music of wide emotional range.
Rhythm
Flexibility of rhythm adds variety to classical music.  A classical composition has a wealth of rhythmic patterns, whereas a baroque piece contains a few patterns that are reiterated throughout.  Baroque works convey a sense of continuity and perpetual motion, so that after the first few bars one can predict pretty well the rhythmic character of an entire movement.  The Classical style also included unexpected pauses, syncopations, and frequent changes from long notes to shorter notes.  And the change from one pattern of note lengths to another may be either sudden or gradual.
MELODY:
Classical melody are among the most tuneful and easy to remember. The themes of even highly sophisticated compositions may have a folk or popular flavor. Occasionally, composer simply borrowed popular tunes, but more often, they wrote original themes with a popular character. Classical melodies often sound balanced and symmetrical because they are frequently made up of two phrases of the same length. The second phrase, in such melodies, may begin like the first, but it will end more conclusively and it will be easier to sing.
TEXTURE:
Classical music is basically homophonic. However, texture is treated as flexibly as rhythm. Pieces shift smoothly or suddenly from one texture to another. A work may begin homophonically with a melody and simple accompaniment but then change to a more complex polyphonic texture that features two simultaneous melodies or melodic fragments imitated among the various instruments.
DYNAMICS AND THE PIANO:
The Classical composers' interest in expressing shades of emotion led to the widespread use of gradual dynamic change - crescendo (gradually getting louder) and diminuendo ( gradually getting softer). They did not restrict themselves to the terraced dynamics characteristic of Baroque music. During the period, the desire for gradual dynamic change led to the replacement of the harpsichord by the piano. By specifying the accompaniment rather than trust the judgment of improvisers. Varying the finger pressure on the keys, a pianist can play more loudly or softly. Although the piano was invented around 1700, it began to replace the harpsichord only around 1775.
End of the Basso Continuo
The basso continuo was gradually abandoned during the classical period. In the classical composer’s works, a harpsichordist did not need to improvise an accompaniment.  One reason why the basso continuo became obsolete was the more and more music was written for amateurs, who could not master the difficult art of improvising.  Also, classical composers wanted more control over their works by specifying the accompaniment rather than trust the judgment of improvisers.

Characteristics of Classical Music

Indian classical music is based on melody. It can be described as contemplative and introspective. There is no intentional harmonic structure beneath the melodic lines. Such freedom permits almost unlimited melodic possibilities. Another attribute of Indian music is improvisation. Most of the classical music performed is extemporaneous. Even while playing the compositions, the performer attempts variations and embellishments that bring out a unique interpretation of the composition and the artist's individuality. This makes the ensuing music spontaneous, never ceasing to amaze the listener. 

Contrast of Mood

A Classical composition will fluctuate in mood. Not only there are contrasting themes within a movement, but there also may be striking contrasts even within a single theme. Mood in classical music may change gradually or suddenly, expressing conflicting surges of elation and depression. But such conflict and contrast are under the firm control of the classical composer. Masters like Haydn and Beethoven were able to impart unity and logic to music of wide emotional range.

Rhythm

Flexibility of rhythm adds variety to classical music.  A classical composition has a wealth of rhythmic patterns, whereas a baroque piece contains a few patterns that are reiterated throughout.  Baroque works convey a sense of continuity and perpetual motion, so that after the first few bars one can predict pretty well the rhythmic character of an entire movement.  The Classical style also included unexpected pauses, syncopations, and frequent changes from long notes to shorter notes.  And the change from one pattern of note lengths to another may be either sudden or gradual.

Melody

Classical melody are among the most tuneful and easy to remember. The themes of even highly sophisticated compositions may have a folk or popular flavor. Occasionally, composer simply borrowed popular tunes, but more often, they wrote original themes with a popular character. Classical melodies often sound balanced and symmetrical because they are frequently made up of two phrases of the same length. The second phrase, in such melodies, may begin like the first, but it will end more conclusively and it will be easier to sing.

Texture

Classical music is basically homophonic. However, texture is treated as flexibly as rhythm. Pieces shift smoothly or suddenly from one texture to another. A work may begin homophonically with a melody and simple accompaniment but then change to a more complex polyphonic texture that features two simultaneous melodies or melodic fragments imitated among the various instruments.

Dynamics and the Piano

The Classical composers' interest in expressing shades of emotion led to the widespread use of gradual dynamic change - crescendo (gradually getting louder) and diminuendo ( gradually getting softer). They did not restrict themselves to the terraced dynamics characteristic of Baroque music. During the period, the desire for gradual dynamic change led to the replacement of the harpsichord by the piano. By specifying the accompaniment rather than trust the judgment of improvisers. Varying the finger pressure on the keys, a pianist can play more loudly or softly. Although the piano was invented around 1700, it began to replace the harpsichord only around 1775.

End of the Basso Continuo

The basso continuo was gradually abandoned during the classical period. In the classical composer’s works, a harpsichordist did not need to improvise an accompaniment.  One reason why the basso continuo became obsolete was the more and more music was written for amateurs, who could not master the difficult art of improvising.  Also, classical composers wanted more control over their works by specifying the accompaniment rather than trust the judgment of improvisers.