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What's Wrong with Romanticism?


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I have been amember of this board for some time and I have listened to a lot of musical works that have been posted here. I've noticed that a lot of people write music in the baroque/classical style, and then there are some folks who write music that would not have been written before 1950.

But there is a complete dearth of music being composed and posted here that would have found a home in the Romantic period. I hear nothing that reminds me of Brahms or Bruckner. There is nothing that stirs like Mahler, or enchants like Tchaikovsky.

What is it that people have against this style of music? Is it just too difficult to compose in?

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Guest BitterDuck

I have been amember of this board for some time and I have listened to a lot of musical works that have been posted here. I've noticed that a lot of people write music in the baroque/classical style, and then there are some folks who write music that would not have been written before 1950.

But there is a complete dearth of music being composed and posted here that would have found a home in the Romantic period. I hear nothing that reminds me of Brahms or Bruckner. There is nothing that stirs like Mahler, or enchants like Tchaikovsky.

What is it that people have against this style of music? Is it just too difficult to compose in?

I just think a lot people cannot write in the style or simply prefer a more modern approach(or classical).
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I have to agree. It takes a certain mindset. I think modernism (for obvious reasons) is easier for modern people to get their heads around, and for those inclined toward older idioms, the rationality and clarity of classicism and the baroque is more natural to slip into. Classicism is certainly my most natural voice (of several I'm capable of producing), though every now and again I begin wandering down the romantic path.

Caltech, it's interesting to me that a person like yourself, devoted to the rational world of science, should come among the closest here to romanticism in your creative output.

Something else worthy of note: there are very few neo-Renaissance or neo-Medieval composers - none here, I believe. Perhaps these are altogether too rational, or in the case of the Medieval, too foreign...so far removed from who we are now as to be unreachable.

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I'm actually not all that surprised... music provides the emotional outlet that is missing in the sciences. There seem to be only two types of scientist-composers: some compose by mathematical processes, but almost all of the rest seem to subscribe to the entire Romantic mindset (if not necessarily Romantic techniques) as a foil to their scientific careers.

Consider Borodin, the only scientist among the Russian Five, who consistently wrote what is probably the most emotionally charged music among the five.

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Hmm, are you trying to suggest that scientists have little or no connection with beauty (the response to which is quite decidedly emotional)? I think you are wrong. Perhaps the multitudes of technicians who merely have degrees in science feel this way, but researchers and professors are often connected with their work very much in the same way a true artist is.

Anyway, I think the reason there seems to be so few Romantic composers is that it is rather hard to compose Romantic music well with a software program. It is supposed to sound very free and organic, and a software program makes it all to easy to write things that land squarely on the beat and sound rather mechanical. Therefore, the vast majority of compositions written with software sound Baroque or Classical. It is of course possible to make free sounding music with software---it just takes a bit more care and effort. I've just stuck with the old fashioned way---playing the piano and writing my ideas down (or allowing a composition to coalesce from my improvisations). I find this far more efficient than tweaking all kinds of tuplets and rubato MIDI instructions and what not...and much more enjoyable!

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Hmm, are you trying to suggest that scientists have little or no connection with beauty (the response to which is quite decidedly emotional)? I think you are wrong. Perhaps the multitudes of technicians who merely have degrees in science feel this way, but researchers and professors are often connected with their work very much in the same way a true artist is.

While it is true that scientists are often very passionate about their work, when it comes to publishing results, they are forced to write their papers in a very dispassionate style and format. What I'm suggesting, really, is that scientist-composers see music as a forum in which they can overtly express themselves in written (and thus permanent) form. The same goes for scientists engaged in other arts.

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Hehe.. funny... this might be slightly off-topic, but partially on...

First of all... I never considered Tchaikovsky to be from the Romantic Era. Whether he was alive during that time or not, I honestly don't know (i think he was), but something about his music... i just love it. His harmonies and counter-melodies, spread through a wide variation of parts, are used in a way that I find to be more interesting and entertaining as well as skillful than other Romantic Era compositions.

I, personally, do not dislike the Romantic Era, but I also believe it is where composers "took a bad turn." It seems that in the 1920s jazz started heading in a direction that led away from this... temporary chaos. There were many aspects that seemed to lead to, well, overexaggerated nonsense that led to bizarre ideals.

Fugues were common in the Baroque period, and Tchaikovsky tends to use a lot of these methods, which are wonderfully skillful and energetic. The Romantic Era introduced multiple instruments to a part, which really clouds the true essence of the composers' projection. Music is our way of seeing the composer... who he really is. To compose music for smaller bands allows for a necessity in precision, and it reveals more than is concealed by larger groups. Also, I believe chromaticism, although eventually turned to be good after it was *cough* adapted to, was very overlyexpressed in the Romantic Era. It was just too much, and again clouds the vision.

I just said a bunch of randomly weird stuff... but... it can't be that random... it shows why i don't write much Romantic Era based stuff... although I do listen to Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Liszt, and others. If Vivaldi fits in that category, then put him down as number one, lol.

But yeah,hope that helps. Peace.

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The things that you mention about the Romantic era happened mostly later on, beginning with Wagner and, ironically enough, Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky created a unique style of orchestration that essentially split the orchestra into a four-part chorus that swapped positions; very often one would hear all the strings playing in unison or octaves, set against all the brass playing in unison or octaves, for example. Such techniques were the forerunner to the practices of "excessively romantic" conductors such as Furtwangler and Karajan, who frequently doubled wind and brass parts.

The composers that you associate with Romanticism as a whole are the late Romantic composers - Wagner, Mahler, Bruckner, R. Strauss, Sibelius and others. Because it was their school that ultimately persisted into the 20th century, I associate them more with the beginnings of modernism than with Romanticism itself.

Unfortunately, the split within the Romantic period is not discussed as much as it should be - late Romanticism is, to me, a completely separate period in music history.

The composers that I associate most strongly with the Romantic era - Schubert and Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms in Austria and Germany, and their contemporaries elsewhere in Europe - actually tended to write for a smaller orchestra than even Beethoven's. Unlike Mahler et al, they all wrote very significant masterpieces of chamber music; Mendelssohn was especially noted for his counterpoint, while Brahms's hallmark was his ability to spin out new themes organically from earlier material, as if they were logical conclusions rather than new departures.

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There seems to me a lot of people expressing what tey don't like about Romanticism. Allow me to state what it is about this period that I so love and wish to bring into my music.

The Romantic period was one full of emotions, full of Sturm und Nacht. Consider the early Romantics like Schubert. Listen to his 8th Symphony. There is tightly controlled emotional intensity in that work. Or consider his leider. The art of leider really grew into fruition during the Romantic period. That's a style that nobody has mentioned at all. Listen to Schubert's Erlkonig and you will hear something both dramatic, playful, and frightening.

The ROmantic period featured a great deal on bringing emotional epics and great plays, vast tapestries, into music. How many Romantic composers adapted Goethe's Faust? Berlioz (I'm surprised nobody has mentioned him) wrote his Symphonie Fantastique in the beginning of the Romantic period, and the music in that work will be remembered for all time. I have a recording of that played on period instruments, and I consider it one of the jewels of my collection. Berlioz showed what a grand orchestra can do. It is because of folks like Berlioz that more instrumental colour was brought into concert works. Without folks like Berlioz, you would not have seen the amazing things that Hollywood or modern composers have been able to achieve.

Move into the middle Romantic period, and you have Liszt creating the art of the tone poem, an orchestral work that tells a sort of story. Many Romantic composers have written tone poems since. In Disney's Fantasia we were introduced to the famous Sorcerer's Apprentice by Paul Dukas which is one such tone poem. And Liszt was also one of those great composer pianists of the 19th century, one of the men who took piano playing to a new level, and made it fashionable throughout Europe. It was he and others like him that made the piano the instrument that every true household had to have.

And then there is Wagner, much derided, but whose impact on the musical world is on the level of Beethoven. Wagner did push the harmonic language further than it had gone before, and he also blended legend and heroism into Opera. He also changed the way that Operas were arranged. In the past, sections of an Opera were very clearly delineated. Wagner blended his scenes into one another, and created themes in his music that would span several arias and scenes. Nobody can forget Ride of the Valkyries and his Seigfried Idyll is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed.

One of the signature contributes of the Romantic era on musical composition is the idea of the leitmotif - the leading motif. A musical idea that would be repeated and reused in various guises throughout a larger work. Its use became a stapple of many later works. Even Brahms used this in his Symphonies. An easy example to hear is in Franck's Symphony in D Minor, written in 1890. The leitmotif has even been used by Hollywood composers. John Williams used the leitmotif idea in his scores for the Star Wars movies. Each character has a theme associated with them. Who can forget the Imperial March? It's classic Romantic era music, even if written in this century.

Nor should we forget the way that composers like Bruckner challenged us on how we view the Symphony. Bruckner also developed news ways to modulate and develop themes. He used inversions and retrogrades of his themes frequently in his music, a technique later adopted by composer sin the twentieth century. Bruckner was not well understood in his time, but I have never heard music that sounds quite as towers or Cathedral-like than his. There is true power and majesty in the Symphonies of Bruckner. I fall to my knees before the titanic climax of the first movement of Bruckner's 9th. That is music for the ages.

I have mention Brahms once, but he bears mentioning again. Brahms led a school of thought that embraced some of the ideal of Romanticism, but also helped composers recall earlier more formal methods of constructing music. He ended his fourth symphony with a Passacaglia. He gave us two bold Piano Concertos that are a staple of the repetoire. He influenced a generation of composers, composers who would speak in a Romantic language, but would adhere to styles and forms of the classical area (including my personal favourite, the Hungarian Dohnányi).

And then of course, we cannot forget the late Romantics like Gustav Mahler, who brought us symphonies that tried to say everything that there was to be said. Symphonies of such scope and emotional power that one can be immersed in their sound world for hours and never tire of them. Every time I hear Mahler's Sixth Symphony I feel the agony of its strident marching chords, the cries of rage and despair that permeate the work become my own. Truly, as Alban Berg is reputed to have said, "There is only one Sixth, notwithstanding the Pastoral."

Let us not forget the Italian masters of this age, Verdi and Puccini, whose works both religious and operatic are still to this day performed in concert halls. Verdi's name because a rallying cry for Italians seeking more freedom.

France had Saint-Säens, D'Indy, Dukas, Magnard and Franck. Spain had de Falla. Poland had Paderewski. Russia had the mighty handful (Balakirev, Borodin, Cui, Moussorgsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov), Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, Glazunov, Rachmaninoff, and many others. Scandinavia had Gade, Grieg, and Svendsen. England had Parry, Stanford, Holbrooke, and more.

Truly, the Romantic era was one alive with great composers and great music. It was a time of upheavel and social change, and that is reflected in the music of the day. A time of great heroes and dastardly evils. Of folklore and legend come to life, and of the dark of storm and night. But also of love unbounded, and of deep sentiment. These are the works that stir our hearts and our minds. Their musical language was meant to speak to us fresh anew each time. I can hear a new symphony from this era and feel myself swept away on its currents. When I listen to Baroque or classical era works, I feel as if I'm sitting in a paddle boat tied to the dock letting the waves of the sea move beneath me. But on the sea of the Romantics, I am tossed about, before finally coming to safe glorious rest at last with the bright setting sun lighting my way.

And that is why in my own works I have attempted to use the language of the Romantics. I wish that I could speak so freely as did Wagner or Liszt. I wish more choose to do so. For it is a path rich with reward and delight.

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  • 2 weeks later...
But there is a complete dearth of music being composed and posted here that would have found a home in the Romantic period. I hear nothing that reminds me of Brahms or Bruckner. There is nothing that stirs like Mahler, or enchants like Tchaikovsky.

I am one of the Romantic composers on this site. I wasn't aware there was a lack of them here. Most of my works don't follow a format as proof :D I try to create my own formats.

What is it that people have against this style of music? Is it just too difficult to compose in?

Like with anything, a certain style takes practice. I probably would be horrible at writing classical, although I do like some baroque and fugues are awesome, but I am not very used to writing classical because I chose not to train myself in that area...reason being, I am just a Romantic I guess :) Romance doesn't exactly have to follow the rules, and perhaps the people on this site so far feel they must follow the rules, to make themselves good composers. Us Romantics do follow rules, don't get us wrong, we just "bend" them a little :)

And that is why in my own works I have attempted to use the language of the Romantics. I wish that I could speak so freely as did Wagner or Liszt. I wish more choose to do so. For it is a path rich with reward and delight.

Good choice :) That makes 2 of us!

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I am one of the Romantic composers on this site. I wasn't aware there was a lack of them here. Most of my works don't follow a format as proof :thumbsup: I try to create my own formats.[/b]

Ah, I didn't realize that I was not alone here in this! I will definitely hav to take a gander at your works again. :D

Like with anything, a certain style takes practice. I probably would be horrible at writing classical, although I do like some baroque and fugues are awesome, but I am not very used to writing classical because I chose not to train myself in that area...reason being, I am just a Romantic I guess. Romance doesn't exactly have to follow the rules, and perhaps the people on this site so far feel they must follow the rules, to make themselves good composers. Us Romantics do follow rules, don't get us wrong, we just "bend" them a little :)

Well, I like to think that Romanticism blends emotional intensity into the intellectual rigour of classical form. At least some of it. Some as you say, just breaks all the rules to create its form. I have honestly struggled to create emotional intensity in my music. That sort of musical languange has not common easily to me. But it has been rewarding to develop.

Good choice :) That makes 2 of us!

Hoorah!! Us Romantics need to stick together! :)

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Have no fear, I am a neoromanticist as well. I try to take my romantic era compositions a step further, into the 21st century. I love using 20th century techniques and harmonies within a romantic style to add color to the music. It's a style that I love, and I can't see myself composing in a different one.

I used to compose in a classical style, but would never return to it. Frankly, I think that classical music can never express human emotion as well as romantic music can.

So that's four.

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Ah, I didn't realize that I was not alone here in this! I will definitely hav to take a gander at your works again

Then check out my

nocturne

It's my first submission on this site, and it is intended to be as a gift.

Looks like we have a few Romantics, but you're right, there seems to be a lack of them...hmmm.

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Romanticism is where my latests pieces I've been working on have been leaning, but I haven't finished any so unfortunately I can't/don't want to post them yet, but I can assure you, romanticism is my biggest influence and the sound I'm striving for.

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I'm full Romantic-ism ... keep an eye out for my first symphony which will be making it's way to this forum in the near future.

Tchaikovsky happens to be my favourite composer at the moment. If you get a chance, listen to his Violin Concerto and Fourth Symphony.

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Then check out my

nocturne

It's my first submission on this site, and it is intended to be as a gift.

Looks like we have a few Romantics, but you're right, there seems to be a lack of them...hmmm.

That was very lovely, chopin. I thought it lived up to your namesake. :-)

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Romanticism is the style of music for those of us who love life with heroic, Truth & Beauty seeking fervor and love being swept away.

...mere intellectual satisfaction based on architecture is not enough for us and is indeed a secondary consideration.

oh yea and chickz dig teh romantics

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So the question remains: why so few Romanticists here? Do younger composers really strongly prefer either Classical or modern styles, but nothing in between?

It may just look like there are fewer of us because we are far less prolific than the Classicists or the modernists. When I look through this thread, and see how much each of the professed Romantics has posted on Young Composers, I find that there are at least two or three other non-Romantic composers on YC whose posted output individually surpasses all of us combined. It simply takes longer to write in the Romantic style. Also, I suspect it takes some degree of maturity to write Romantic music, so we're mostly among the older YC members; and as an artifact of being older and having more non-musical things to deal with in life, we don't have nearly as much time to compose.

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