What is "lyricism"

Your 'hot spot' for all classical music subjects. Non-classical music subjects are to be posted in the Corner Pub.

Moderators: Lance, Corlyss_D

Post Reply
hollowman
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:16 am
Location: So. California

What is "lyricism"

Post by hollowman » Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:26 pm

Hi, I'm new to this forum and this is my first post.

I can't seem to find a good, concrete definition for "lyricism" in non-vocal classical music. What does it mean when a non-vocal composer or composition is described as being "lyrical"?

For example, Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings" is described by some as being "highly lyrical". What specific elements and/or melodies are they referring to?

Please note: I don't have classical music training nor a related educational background. So if you're going to reply with music-theory stuff (e.g. notes, note groups, etc.), dumb it down for me (e.g., use track times as in “03:02 – 03:25”, etc.).

Thx,
-hm

Ken
Posts: 2511
Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 6:17 am
Location: Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen

Post by Ken » Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:41 pm

I always took 'lyricism' to mean the emotive quality of an artist or composer; that is, their ability to articulate their artistic creativity and sensitivity. This is why, for instance, I believe Schumann to be one of the most lyrical composers to have ever lived -- his creativity and sensitivity to emotional nuance shines through in almost every note.

A composer like Wagner, on the other hand, might be considered the antithesis of lyrical.
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

Ken
Posts: 2511
Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 6:17 am
Location: Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen

Post by Ken » Sun Mar 16, 2008 7:44 pm

Post-script:

By the way, listen to some of Edvard Grieg's Lyric Pieces to get an idea of the great range of emotions that that composer can portray using only simple miniature sketches for solo piano. What a talent!
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

Lance
Site Administrator
Posts: 16900
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2005 1:27 am
Location: Binghamton, New York
Contact:

Post by Lance » Sun Mar 16, 2008 11:21 pm

Hi, and WELCOME ABOARD hollowman! I'm glad you finally made it to our site. I look forward to seeing you here a great deal.
Lance G. Hill
Editor-in-Chief
______________________________________________________

When she started to play, Mr. Steinway came down and personally
rubbed his name off the piano. [Speaking about pianist &*$#@+#]

Image

hollowman
Posts: 36
Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:16 am
Location: So. California

Emotion = lyricism?

Post by hollowman » Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:43 am

keninottawa wrote:I always took 'lyricism' to mean the emotive quality of an artist or composer; that is, their ability to articulate their artistic creativity and sensitivity. This is why, for instance, I believe Schumann to be one of the most lyrical composers to have ever lived -- his creativity and sensitivity to emotional nuance shines through in almost every note.

A composer like Wagner, on the other hand, might be considered the antithesis of lyrical.

[...]

By the way, listen to some of Edvard Grieg's Lyric Pieces to get an idea of the great range of emotions that that composer can portray using only simple miniature sketches for solo piano.
Thx for your reply.

An Internet dictionary search defines "lyricism" (and not musical "lyricism" per se) as:
1.
a. The character or quality of subjectivity and sensuality of expression, especially in the arts.
b. The quality or state of being melodious; melodiousness.
2. An intense outpouring of exuberant emotion.

The difficulty, I think (and because I may not know better), is defining "emotion" -- which in of itself can be a highly personal/subjective concept.

I pulled out a copy of Naxos's Best of Grieg to sample a few of the Lyric Pieces, but found them dull and unemotional. Never been much of a Grieg fan, I guess. Then again, some classical buffs I know and respect find my faves -- such as the aforementioned Adagio for Strings -- not all that moving.
Lance wrote:Hi, and WELCOME ABOARD hollowman!
Thx -- I'm looking fwd to the journey!

hangos
Posts: 983
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 6:44 pm
Location: England

Re: Emotion = lyricism?

Post by hangos » Mon Mar 17, 2008 1:13 am

hollowman wrote:
keninottawa wrote:I always took 'lyricism' to mean the emotive quality of an artist or composer; that is, their ability to articulate their artistic creativity and sensitivity. This is why, for instance, I believe Schumann to be one of the most lyrical composers to have ever lived -- his creativity and sensitivity to emotional nuance shines through in almost every note.

A composer like Wagner, on the other hand, might be considered the antithesis of lyrical.
[...]

By the way, listen to some of Edvard Grieg's Lyric Pieces to get an idea of the great range of emotions that that composer can portray using only simple miniature sketches for solo piano.
Thx for your reply.

An Internet dictionary search defines "lyricism" (and not musical "lyricism" per se) as:
1.
a. The character or quality of subjectivity and sensuality of expression, especially in the arts.
b. The quality or state of being melodious; melodiousness.
2. An intense outpouring of exuberant emotion.

The difficulty, I think (and because I may not know better), is defining "emotion" -- which in of itself can be a highly personal/subjective concept.

I pulled out a copy of Naxos's Best of Grieg to sample a few of the Lyric Pieces, but found them dull and unemotional. Never been much of a Grieg fan, I guess. Then again, some classical buffs I know and respect find my faves -- such as the aforementioned Adagio for Strings -- not all that moving.
Lance wrote:Hi, and WELCOME ABOARD hollowman!
Thx -- I'm looking fwd to the journey!
Hollowman
I'd hate you to be misguided by keninottawa into thinking that Wagner wasn't lyrical!
Sure, his music is at times loud, bombastic and boring, but I wonder whether keninottawa has ever set ears on Tristan und Isolde :lol: which is full of what Wagner called "endless melody" as well as being excessively emotive! As for intense, a friend of mine once quipped "Wagner is so intense - even Mahler has relaxing breaks!"
I think ken might mean Stockhausen or Boulez! :wink:

absinthe
Posts: 3570
Joined: Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:13 pm
Location: UK

Post by absinthe » Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:38 am

I'd just suggest that lyricism is about melody and particularly the construction of melodies according to the guidelines taught to students in the 16th century when they learned monody as a preface to studying species counterpoint.

The principles concerned the balance between step motions (on a scale) with leaps and how to manipulate the line among the two. The maximum leap (as I learned it, though I'm a little more receont than the 16th century) was a major 6th, and following, the tune should move in the opposite direction, preferably by step, etc. The great polyphonic composers knew how to be lyrical.

The principles still hold good today for good lyrical writing, IMHO.

jbuck919
Military Band Specialist
Posts: 25924
Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
Location: Stony Creek, New York

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Mar 17, 2008 5:37 am

Well, it certainly does not mean meretriciously pretty tunes. When Berg wrote his 12-tone Lyric Suite, he meant it. In this case one need not resort to pitch class sets which tell us nothing about the relationship of the listener to the music. It is sufficient that the music evokes an emotive response, as does much well-written post-tonal music if given a chance. Nobody said it was easy, as great music never is.

(Incidentally, Aaron Copland wrote some serious post-tonal music with a lyric quality while for most of his career having sold out to his own self-justifying statement that he couldn't imagine writing something without a pretty tune.)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Ken
Posts: 2511
Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 6:17 am
Location: Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen

Re: Emotion = lyricism?

Post by Ken » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:07 am

[quote=hangos]
I'd hate you to be misguided by keninottawa into thinking that Wagner wasn't lyrical!
Sure, his music is at times loud, bombastic and boring, but I wonder whether keninottawa has ever set ears on Tristan und Isolde :lol: which is full of what Wagner called "endless melody" as well as being excessively emotive! As for intense, a friend of mine once quipped "Wagner is so intense - even Mahler has relaxing breaks!"
I think ken might mean Stockhausen or Boulez! :wink:[/b][/quote]

Tristan und Isolde... Phooey! He was faking it!

And as for Stockhausen--do you not find Stimmung to be emotionally-stirring?
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

diegobueno
Winds Specialist
Posts: 2362
Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
Contact:

Post by diegobueno » Mon Mar 17, 2008 8:21 am

And don't be misled by jbuck into thinking Copland "sold out".

An instrumental piece may be said to be lyrical when it emulates the quality of a singing voice. The slow movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto would be a good example. Instrumental lyricism gets to transcend the voice by covering a wider range, such as in the beautiful opening movement of the Copland Clarinet Concerto. Any composer who can describe that as merely a "pretty tune" is being modest in the extreme.

Imperfect Pitch
Posts: 652
Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:55 pm
Location: Brookline, MA

Re: What is "lyricism"

Post by Imperfect Pitch » Mon Mar 17, 2008 10:21 am

hollowman wrote:What does it mean when a non-vocal composer or composition is described as being "lyrical"?
Hollowman, try this: take any piece of music and try to sing it. Is it easy to sing? Then it's lyrical. Otherwise, it's not. This is an oversimplification, but as a rule of thumb, lyrical=singable.

To illustrate ...


Anything with big leaps, fast runs, and the like will be hard to sing. For example, I would put the following pieces into the "non-lyrical" category:

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LU_QR_FTt3E" target="_blank">Bach Cello Suite #1 (Prelude)</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yLr69_3F7co" target="_blank">Paganini Caprice #5</a>


In contrast, the following pieces feature a very strong melodic line. As a pianist, the idea is to separate the (lyrical) "vocal" part from the (non-lyrical) "accompaniment," as if to create the illusion of a singer and pianist performing together. As a listener, the challenge is to pick out the two parts in your mind's eye.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GkX4MyDeIqI" target="_blank">Schubert Impromptu Op. 90 #3</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eLjYifScjQ" target="_blank">Mendelssohn Song Without Words Op. 38 #6</a>


To further illustrate, compare these two Chopin Etudes. Here the difference is more subtle, but I would consider the first example to be more lyrical than the second.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKTfcX8NbaM" target="_blank">Chopin Etude Op. 10 #3</a>

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2N1iPkzCug" target="_blank">Chopin Etude Op. 10 #4</a>


Finally, below is an example of where the performers deliberately go against the grain: the cello plays the (lyrical) melody while the voice sings a (non-lyrical) Bach keyboard prelude that is very hard to sing. The path of least resistance would be for the two performers to swap parts, but that would spoil the fun.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYIIhis6jfI" target="_blank">Bach/Gounod Ave Maria</a>


Remember, this was just a working definition to get you started. Hope it helps ...


    hollowman
    Posts: 36
    Joined: Sat Mar 15, 2008 11:16 am
    Location: So. California

    Re: What is "lyricism"

    Post by hollowman » Mon Mar 17, 2008 12:14 pm

    First: a huge thx to everyone who has chimed in on my inaugural query. I noted the lack of a finding a clear and concise definition of “lyrical”/”lyricism” in my Internet search. Perhaps, now, with this thread, the search engines have something to home-in on.
    Anyway...
    Imperfect Pitch wrote:Hollowman, try this: take any piece of music and try to sing it. Is it easy to sing? Then it's lyrical. Otherwise, it's not. This is an oversimplification, but as a rule of thumb, lyrical=singable.
    […]
    Remember, this was just a working definition to get you started. Hope it helps ...
    Imperfect Pitch: what an informative and pragmatic response! Stuff like this will help fellow rookies wade thru some of these nebulous and subjective terms.
    A few days ago, I actually had the Chopin Etude Op. 10 #3 in mind when attempting to envision lyricism.

    This may be going a bit-off-topic but …

    In this performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto mvt. 1, how does one technically describe the transition (and the before and after segments) around 03:01.
    The piece builds up from a comforting/melodic romantic to something almost horrific/shocking; later it returns to comforting/melodic notes.
    What is this “technique” or “passage” or “change of melody/chord(?)” called?
    Is this “extreme” lyricism, or something else?
    How might the horrific/shocking segment (03:01-03:09) best be described in technical terms -- i.e., wrt use of notes, a slight atonality (?), etc.?

    jbuck919
    Military Band Specialist
    Posts: 25924
    Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
    Location: Stony Creek, New York

    Post by jbuck919 » Mon Mar 17, 2008 1:00 pm

    diegobueno wrote:And don't be misled by jbuck into thinking Copland "sold out".

    An instrumental piece may be said to be lyrical when it emulates the quality of a singing voice. The slow movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto would be a good example. Instrumental lyricism gets to transcend the voice by covering a wider range, such as in the beautiful opening movement of the Copland Clarinet Concerto. Any composer who can describe that as merely a "pretty tune" is being modest in the extreme.
    This argument goes way back; Mark also thinks Porgy and Bess is an opera. I have a recording of Copland's (remarkably late--1967) on the same disk as Roger Sessions' Eighth Symphony and it is rather hard to tell the difference of inspiration. Rodeo and Appalachian Spring, well like them if you like them, but they are a horse of a different color.

    Welcome to the forum, by the way. Sorry I forgot to say that.

    There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
    -- Johann Sebastian Bach

    Steinway
    Posts: 2147
    Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 10:08 am
    Location: Philadelphia
    Contact:

    Post by Steinway » Mon Mar 17, 2008 1:54 pm

    I think that a wonderful example of lyricism is the piano performances of Bach & Chopin by Murray Perahia. He personifies the elegance and singing style that every serious pianist strives for and he appears to achieve that effortlessly when he plays.

    piston
    Posts: 10767
    Joined: Thu Jan 04, 2007 7:50 am

    Post by piston » Mon Mar 17, 2008 1:59 pm


    hangos
    Posts: 983
    Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 6:44 pm
    Location: England

    Re: Emotion = lyricism?

    Post by hangos » Mon Mar 17, 2008 4:38 pm

    keninottawa wrote:
    hangos wrote: I'd hate you to be misguided by keninottawa into thinking that Wagner wasn't lyrical!
    Sure, his music is at times loud, bombastic and boring, but I wonder whether keninottawa has ever set ears on Tristan und Isolde :lol: which is full of what Wagner called "endless melody" as well as being excessively emotive! As for intense, a friend of mine once quipped "Wagner is so intense - even Mahler has relaxing breaks!"
    I think ken might mean Stockhausen or Boulez! :wink:[/b]
    Tristan und Isolde... Phooey! He was faking it!

    And as for Stockhausen--do you not find Stimmung to be emotionally-stirring?
    Ken, have you ever sat through over 4 hours of Wagner's Tristan even on CD, let alone in the opera house, without being moved and ending up with a numb bum? If all art is artifice, Wagner faked it bigtime in this work. Seriously, do you think he was faking it in the lyrical outpouring of the Siegfried Idyll, surely his most tender and genuinely lyrical work? I think not.
    Can't comment on Stimmung as I've never heard it, but I do find a fair few of Boulez's works lyrical and moving (Rituel,Repons,Explosante-fixe, as well as most Ligeti (e.g. the aria from his violin concerto)
    One hell of a thread, isn't it?
    Martin

    diegobueno
    Winds Specialist
    Posts: 2362
    Joined: Thu Apr 07, 2005 2:26 pm
    Contact:

    Post by diegobueno » Mon Mar 17, 2008 6:08 pm

    jbuck919 wrote:
    This argument goes way back; Mark also thinks Porgy and Bess is an opera.
    That could have something to do with the fact that it's an opera.
    I have a recording of Copland's (remarkably late--1967)
    You mean Inscape? Wonderful piece. Much finer than that turgid morass that Sessions was pleased to call his 8th Symphony. Sessions tries hard, but he's an awfully dull boy. His best music, such as the Rhapsody for orchestra sounds like warmed-over Schoenberg. The rest of it sounds like wannabe Schoenberg. He had a lot of skill, but no personality to speak of.

    Copland's music, every note of it, sparkles with personality. And, unlike Sessions, he takes pains to make his texture crystal clear. Between the two of them Copland is the hands-down winner.

    Chalkperson
    Disposable Income Specialist
    Posts: 17635
    Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:19 pm
    Location: New York City
    Contact:

    Post by Chalkperson » Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:30 pm

    jbuck919 wrote:This argument goes way back; Mark also thinks Porgy and Bess is an opera.
    John, everybody but you thinks Porgy and Bess is an Opera, hollowman, this argument is a year old, I went from lurking to being a fully fledged poster in order to dispute John's suggestion that Porgy and Bess is NOT an Opera...he must be feeling in tip top shape (which makes us all very happy) to bring this back up again... :wink:
    Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

    Chalkperson
    Disposable Income Specialist
    Posts: 17635
    Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 1:19 pm
    Location: New York City
    Contact:

    Re: Emotion = lyricism?

    Post by Chalkperson » Mon Mar 17, 2008 7:35 pm

    hangos wrote:And as for Stockhausen--do you not find Stimmung to be emotionally-stirring?
    Can't comment on Stimmung as I've never heard it...
    Try Paul Hillier's recent release by The Theatre of Voices, it is stunning, you know stimmung/stunning...try it out, it is an incredible cd...cd

    http://www.amazon.com/Stockhausen-Stimm ... m_m_img_24
    Sent via Twitter by @chalkperson

    slofstra
    Posts: 8899
    Joined: Mon Jan 08, 2007 2:23 pm
    Location: Waterloo, ON, Canada
    Contact:

    Post by slofstra » Mon Mar 17, 2008 9:08 pm

    A little more on the etymology of "lyrical". From the point of view of poetry a lyric is a poem to accompany a song. So, whereas within the scope of music, lyrical = singable music, within the scope of poetry, lyric = singable words.
    The word is derived from "lyre", an instrument which would provide a musical setting for a poem called a "lyric".
    I knew I bought that 2 volume Shorter Oxford for a good reason.
    An example of a lyrical poem - The Highwayman by Noyles or Bells by Poe ( a la Rachmaninoff).

    RebLem
    Posts: 8734
    Joined: Tue May 17, 2005 1:06 pm
    Location: Albuquerque, NM, USA 87112, 2 blocks west of the Breaking Bad carwash.
    Contact:

    Post by RebLem » Mon Mar 17, 2008 11:11 pm

    Chalkperson wrote:
    jbuck919 wrote:This argument goes way back; Mark also thinks Porgy and Bess is an opera.
    John, everybody but you thinks Porgy and Bess is an Opera, hollowman, this argument is a year old, I went from lurking to being a fully fledged poster in order to dispute John's suggestion that Porgy and Bess is NOT an Opera...he must be feeling in tip top shape (which makes us all very happy) to bring this back up again... :wink:
    Well, of course, Porgy and Bess is an opera. I do my listening reports at five different sites now. At one of them, an MSN Group, another poster responded last December to my posting about having listened to the Rattle and Mauceri accounts of Porgy and Bess, with the following:

    Talk of coincidence, I watched the Rattle DVD of " Porgy and Bess " just last evening. This was, I'm a little ashamed to admit, my first encounter with it, not being a fan of musicals or crossover opera, neither of which I now consider this piece to be.

    The inhabitants of Catfish Row, expressing their raw yet universal suffrage and suffrance of the human condition, quite won me over. Of course I had heard the well worn
    numbers but the contexual material ( recitative ) and the thematic linkage that ensured continuity was a revelation to me.

    I didn't know of the Mauceri account but, certainly, Sir Simon is in his element here and I found the acting of Willard White more than adequate. I imagine so did Trevor Nunn or he would have thought twice about casting him as Othello opposite his wife.

    Yes it is a jazz opera but so much else besides ; blues, gospel, negro spirituals and an overall classicism that gives, so to speak, the catfish people a structered backbone.
    I think James Standifer sums up the cohering factors much better than I can.
    The blues provided rich opportunities for musicians like Gershwin, interested in an authentic American musical voice. Porgy and Bess represents Gershwin's most effective mixture of musical elements: folk (blues, spirituals, gospel), popular (blues, jazz, Tin Pan Alley), and classical (the recitatives, the use of the academic fugue and canonic techniques, the aria, the leitmotif). However, since its first appearance, the problem of classifying has remained. Is it an opera, a folk opera, or a musical? What does it owe to black music, to popular music, to European tradition, to Gershwin alone?


    The poster in question is not, as you can perhaps tell from certain language clues, an American. I have reason to believe he is (it is a he) is a fairly famous entertainer, and I have known him for some time to be a man of exquisite taste and discernment.
    Don't drink and drive. You might spill it.--J. Eugene Baker, aka my late father
    "We're not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term."--Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S. Carolina.
    "Racism is America's Original Sin."--Francis Cardinal George, former Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago.

    nadej_baptiste
    Posts: 194
    Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2007 9:41 pm
    Location: Seattle
    Contact:

    Re: What is "lyricism"

    Post by nadej_baptiste » Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:23 am

    Imperfect Pitch wrote:[Is it easy to sing? Then it's lyrical.
    But I can hum that Bach cello suite note for note -- so then it's lyrical, right? That definition doesn't quite work.

    "Lyrical," however, must be derived from singing. Lyrical passages have a NATURAL sustenance and inspiration that one might hear in a human voice. Not necessarily something that is EASY to sing or hum, but something that might be composed with singing in mind; as if it were coming straight from the mouth of the composer, so to speak.

    That's my take on it, anyway.
    --Kamila

    jbuck919
    Military Band Specialist
    Posts: 25924
    Joined: Wed Jan 28, 2004 10:15 pm
    Location: Stony Creek, New York

    Post by jbuck919 » Tue Mar 18, 2008 5:33 am

    RebLem wrote:
    Chalkperson wrote:
    jbuck919 wrote:This argument goes way back; Mark also thinks Porgy and Bess is an opera.
    John, everybody but you thinks Porgy and Bess is an Opera, hollowman, this argument is a year old, I went from lurking to being a fully fledged poster in order to dispute John's suggestion that Porgy and Bess is NOT an Opera...he must be feeling in tip top shape (which makes us all very happy) to bring this back up again... :wink:
    Well, of course, Porgy and Bess is an opera. I do my listening reports at five different sites now. At one of them, an MSN Group, another poster responded last December to my posting about having listened to the Rattle and Mauceri accounts of Porgy and Bess, with the following:

    Talk of coincidence, I watched the Rattle DVD of " Porgy and Bess " just last evening. This was, I'm a little ashamed to admit, my first encounter with it, not being a fan of musicals or crossover opera, neither of which I now consider this piece to be.

    The inhabitants of Catfish Row, expressing their raw yet universal suffrage and suffrance of the human condition, quite won me over. Of course I had heard the well worn
    numbers but the contexual material ( recitative ) and the thematic linkage that ensured continuity was a revelation to me.

    I didn't know of the Mauceri account but, certainly, Sir Simon is in his element here and I found the acting of Willard White more than adequate. I imagine so did Trevor Nunn or he would have thought twice about casting him as Othello opposite his wife.

    Yes it is a jazz opera but so much else besides ; blues, gospel, negro spirituals and an overall classicism that gives, so to speak, the catfish people a structered backbone.
    I think James Standifer sums up the cohering factors much better than I can.
    The blues provided rich opportunities for musicians like Gershwin, interested in an authentic American musical voice. Porgy and Bess represents Gershwin's most effective mixture of musical elements: folk (blues, spirituals, gospel), popular (blues, jazz, Tin Pan Alley), and classical (the recitatives, the use of the academic fugue and canonic techniques, the aria, the leitmotif). However, since its first appearance, the problem of classifying has remained. Is it an opera, a folk opera, or a musical? What does it owe to black music, to popular music, to European tradition, to Gershwin alone?


    The poster in question is not, as you can perhaps tell from certain language clues, an American. I have reason to believe he is (it is a he) is a fairly famous entertainer, and I have known him for some time to be a man of exquisite taste and discernment.
    Let's set this aside again. What I was trying to do--and I was being probably too elliptical for a new poster, was give some notion of what the elusive concept of "lyrical" can mean that is beyond the obvious (the slow movement of Brahms' violin concerto). Actually, his example of the Barber adagio is a bit in the way of meretricious, where the slow movement of Barber's violin concerto is "classically lyrical" in the sense I mean. But one hesitates to say "because I can't define it doesn't mean it ain't necessarily so"... er.... :) Another good example among modern American composers is Bernstein, whose first symphony is marvelous and uncompromising, while at the same time he gave us "Mass," a melange which could arguably be called an opera by some peoples' definition (or non-definition).

    We don't get discussions of concepts here very much as opposed to posts on individual composers and performers, so you will forgive me for taking the opportunity to sink my teeth into this one.

    There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
    -- Johann Sebastian Bach

    Imperfect Pitch
    Posts: 652
    Joined: Tue Nov 27, 2007 9:55 pm
    Location: Brookline, MA

    Re: What is "lyricism"

    Post by Imperfect Pitch » Tue Mar 18, 2008 7:24 am

    nadej_batiste wrote:But I can hum that Bach cello suite note for note -- so then it's lyrical, right? That definition doesn't quite work.
    Nadej_batiste - Absolutely; by design, the definition sacrifices precision in exchange for ease of application. As I noted, it was a quick-and-dirty rule of thumb to serve as a convenient starting point. Your definition is more nuanced, but perhaps also a bit less accessible in light of the original poster's stated degree of experience. Incidentally, if you can hum the Bach cello suite note for note, then I commend you on your talent! But I think it's safe to say that an average singer would find it challenging. My test presupposes someone of average singing talent, not the likes of you or Mr. McFerrin :-) And with that assumption in place, I was hoping it would serve as a capable working definition that could be easily applied.

    Hollowman - From one "rookie" to another you're welcome ... and welcome aboard! I'm fairly new to this forum too. I'm not familiar with the Barber piece, but here's some additional background on it if you're interested (doesn't seem to answer your question, though):

    <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violin_Con ... 8Barber%29" target="_blank">Wikipedia: Barber Violin Concerto</a>

      greymouse
      Posts: 205
      Joined: Mon Mar 13, 2006 8:42 pm
      Location: MI

      Post by greymouse » Tue Mar 18, 2008 11:02 am

      slofstra wrote:A little more on the etymology of "lyrical". From the point of view of poetry a lyric is a poem to accompany a song. So, whereas within the scope of music, lyrical = singable music, within the scope of poetry, lyric = singable words.
      The word is derived from "lyre", an instrument which would provide a musical setting for a poem called a "lyric".
      I knew I bought that 2 volume Shorter Oxford for a good reason.
      An example of a lyrical poem - The Highwayman by Noyles or Bells by Poe ( a la Rachmaninoff).
      Agreed. The term "lyrical" in music became fashionable in the Romantic era when musicians became heavily influenced by poetry. Lyrical poetry is poetry that could be sung while strumming something.

      So lyrical pieces should be like poems - they have singable melodies and are evocative and poetic (and generally a bit shorter).

      nadej_baptiste
      Posts: 194
      Joined: Mon Sep 10, 2007 9:41 pm
      Location: Seattle
      Contact:

      On Porgy and Bess

      Post by nadej_baptiste » Tue Mar 18, 2008 12:42 pm

      L. Bernstein writes in what I will assume is an imaginary conversation:

      "[Gershwin] intended it as a grand opera, after all, and it seems to have failed as a grand opera. Whenever a production of Porgy really succeeds, you find that it's been changed into sort of an operetta. They have taken all the 'in-between' singing and replaced it with spoken lines, leaving only the main numbers."

      "[But]...there's a lot of that recitative that is in the character of the songs and fits the opera perfrectly."

      ~Joy Of Music

      Definitely an opera, but easy to mistake for an operetta.
      --Kamila

      Post Reply

      Who is online

      Users browsing this forum: Bing [Bot] and 2 guests