Analysis Question with Sample Responses III Brenton Broadstock

Brenton Broadstock Symphony No. 2 Stars in a Dark Night

Sample Response III

Discuss how tension is created in the work. In your answer, refer to only 2 musical elements from the following list:

  • Tone colour
  • Blend of instrumental voices
  • Dynamics
  • Articulation



Jenn Gillan: Firstly I would make sure I used headings to point out really obviously what you were talking about. Not just up the top of your response.


A bassoon (or other woodwind instrument) is being played at a low register using legato at allegretto (tempo approx. crotchet=120) and generally ranging between p-mp.


Jenn Gillan: Maybe a little too specific here. I don’t think metronome markings are required. If this takes you too long to work out it’s time that could be better spent. Especially given it doesn’t really relate to the two elements you’re discussing.

A clarinet is added, also using legato but at mp-mf to take over the melody. The fast speed in legato, combined with adding instruments, forms an irksome, obnoxious, perversive, eerie, dangerous feeling, which creates tension.


Jenn Gillan: In questions like these, the character is given (tension) you don’t need to add to many other words to prove it, just proof of what is stated.


Midway through this section, when the clarinet has the melody, the clarinet uses staccato and marcato on a single note up the octave to suddenly end a phrase. This stressed, jerk-like sound adds a sense of fright, which contributes to creating tension in the excerpt.


Jenn Gillan: Just watch ‘jerk-like’ terminology. Is there a more sophisticated way of expressing this?


Just after intro: The cello plays detached notes very fast, gradually crescendoing throughout, which creates a mysterious feeling, anxiety and tension. Second cellos play detached triplets, the first beats being well marked, against the first cellos; this contributes to the tension by adding an irksome feeling.

Jenn Gillan: Again extra character words not needed. Some comment about any changing tone colour that corresponds with the crescendo may strengthen this point.


Church bells are sudden, using a tenuto and sfz accent proceeding with a short ringing on a single, tonic note. This creates a deathly, dramatic character, which adds to the tension.
The timpani’s single beats use similar articulations and dynamics to that of the church bells to create a heart-beat, dangerous, dramatic feeling, increasing the tension of the music.


Jenn Gillan: ‘a heart-beat, dangerous, dramatic feeling’ could be omitted. Well done on locating examples.


Intro: Playing many orchestral instruments (brass, xylophone, flute, etc) at the same time, slight crescendos to ff, marcato, straight after the single beats of the timpani, creates a sudden, fearsome feeling to introduce tension. The tension is added to when the dynamics quickly reduce to p with the cello, creating a mysterious feeling.


Jenn Gillan: Stressing the contrast from ff to silence could strengthen this.


A horn/brass instrument plays a long, crescendo until ff then decrescendo on a single note to create an irksome, eerie, horrible feeling, adding to the tension.


Echoing and phrasing, caused by a range of dynamics (decrescendos, p, etc) of the strings and especially the clarinet, creates anxiety and a menacing feeling to contribute to the tension.


Jenn Gillan: Overall, your response is good. It lacks a little clarity. It may be helpful to state some trends that create tension. For example, sudden, unexpected changes from one extreme to another. Remember to mention how dynamic change is caused (by changing tone colour, by going up the 8ve, by adding/removing instruments). You’ve done some of this but more might enhance your response. Articulation is a little light on. Mentioning attack and decay and comparing articulation in one instrument or between instruments might enhance this.