Adagio for Strings

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Stacy Han

While living in a time of catastrophe is when I uncovered a strong inspiration. The composition of Adagio for Strings became the primary source of my emotional outlet. This twentieth century piece was performed in 1938—just one year before the start of World War II. America was still recovering from the Great Depression and was pushed to one of the world's most disparaging global conflicts.

Adagio for Strings was some sort of a prophesy displaying the destruction in which the war would create. The need for simplicity was prominent after many people faced economic hardships. Thus, this piece was constructed with somewhat very simple notes and rhythms. However, the emotional aspect is what makes this piece feel difficult. The dramatic change in dynamics adds to this effect. This is evident within five and six measures before 5; the two measures represent the path to the climax with the crescendo to the fortissimo dynamic marking.

The structure of Adagio for Strings also plays a significant role. The beginning of this piece symbolizes a tragic death. Then at the 6/2 time signature, the first violin's melody transitions to a new theme—a new birth—and soon shifts back to a tone of disparity. At the climax, I imagined many people who dreadfully faced their death, yet I also envisioned others who began their new lives. Starting from pick-up before 5, the piece demonstrates hope and heeling after the end of the war. The Tempo I section serves as a flashback of the beginning of the piece which portrayed death. This ending fades into nothingness in order to erase the sadness from the people's emotions in which they encountered.

My intention for composing this piece was to mainly transform my emotions and thoughts into music. Adagio for Strings can be the epiphany for death or life at the height of World War II.
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