Harmonic Language in Opera

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  • Topic: Key signature, Relative key, Musical keys
  • Pages : 3 (953 words )
  • Download(s) : 170
  • Published : March 21, 2006
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Throughout the centuries, composers have endeavored to capture human emotions in their work. Nowhere is this struggle more evident than in the works of operatic composers, who tailor their music to forcefully convey the poetry for which they write. An invaluable tool to these composers is harmonic language, helping to express desires and forces of good and evil underneath the plain and simple language of the text. Harmonic language encompasses several aspects of music, including the major or minor keys in which a piece is written, the piece's tonality, or even atonality, what kinds of resolutions and transitions are used to link or conclude ideas, and the homophonic or polyphonic texture of orchestral voices. Though their ideas often conflicted theoretically, composers of 19th Century opera were fully aware of the character and emotional implications of the harmonic language they used. Evidence of their deliberateness can be found in the revisions of their work- comparing an old draft with the finished piece, as well as by examining their unusual and sometimes disjunctive musical content. The concern these composers had for the effect of their music included even their choices of major and minor keys; a specific key produced a distinct and powerful effect unique to that tonality. Choosing a key or writing harmonies, it stands evidenced by the music produced that 19th Century operatic composers understood how to manipulate harmonic language to create feelings at their command. But why should some keys produce a different impression than others? After all, in this day and age, even music that is not synthesized is pretty much "in tune" and it doesn't really make a difference if a song is in Eb or F. In reality, though, it would be untrue to say that every major key is like every other, and for minor keys even more so. One could absolutely not equate music in D minor with music in F# minor by noting only that they differ by a major third; while the key of F# minor...
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