Here’s the second response to the ‘Babe’ question, together with my feedback, as posted on the VCE Music Support Facebook page 2016
How is tension created in this piece?
Analyse up until “Get yourself a dog, Hoggett”
Tension is created through the manipulation of the expressive elements by the players.
The opening features the airy, aspirate flutes in their middle register, playing a descending motif in an adagio tempo. This is supported by an underlying brass, with the dark, mellow tone colour, playing a sustained note- giving the excerpt a brooding feeling, as if something mysterious is bubbling beneath the surface.
Jenn Gillan: Great. Tone colour plus reason for the tone colour is good. Words like ‘relentless’ when applied to repetitive motifs can help link these to character a little clearer. Just maybe leave out the ‘as if’ section.
The texture begins to thicken, and with it, the tension also gradually begins to build. The upper string section enters at the foreground, along with the upper woodwind, playing a similar eerie descending melody. This character is achieved by the violin playing an atonal melody, often using chromaticised notes which creates a feeling of uncertainty and tension.
Jenn Gillan: If you’re talking about foreground, maybe give reason for why it’s foreground. Descending doesn’t = eerie on its own so maybe give a bit more detail over why this makes it eerie. I don’t know if I’d call the violin melody atonal – this is a little extreme. Maybe say use of chromaticism rather than ‘chromaticised’. Some good links from elements of music to character here.
The homophonic texture is blended due to the warm tone colour of the strings with the full, lower brass section, to create a homogenous blend, where all play in a piano dynamic with a sostenuto articulation, which creates a murky essence, thus further establishing the tension.
Jenn Gillan: I’m not convinced that you’ve made a link from soft and legato to tension. Again, you need to bring in other elements of music to make it a little more convincing. For example, harmony maybe.
The section reaches its climax as the whole orchestra builds to a crescendo, and the metallic-sounding, ringing cymbal signifies the next section, which has a much more urgent feel, with the tense feeling still maintained. This time, the upper strings play an arpeggiated ostinato while the brass section play a harmonic role, changing notes every second beat. The piercing syncopated entries of the violins juxtapose the straight rhythms of the lower brass, and it is this point of difference which contributes the intensity of the work.
Jenn Gillan: Good rhythmic link to character. When talking of dynamics it is worth mentioning why dynamic change occurs. Does pitch change? Rhythm? Articulation? Instrumentation?
The reverberating chime signals the beginning of a new section, where the strings are now at the mid-ground and the woodwinds now have the melody. The dynamics here are noticeably louder, yet there is a subito piano, followed by a gradual crescendo, where the upper strings ascend chromatically with the chimes entering every second beat, the penetrating, shrill flute uses a flutter-tonguing technique at the climax, which creates a scream-like effect.
Jenn Gillan: Again, when it comes to where instruments are placed, or dynamic change, give some reason why. This is more convincing. Some good use of language here. Overall – try to combine elements in an open ended question to give depth to your response. Stay clear of factors that are not musical and make sure your musical links to character are clear and obvious. (Common time = tranquil is not enough!)