Music, Visual Arts and Film Studies

John Doe


MUS 121: Music Appreciation 1


May 24, 2018


Listening Journal Sample Paper


Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, or “A Little Night Music,” is a serenade originally written for just five string instruments;[1] however, the recording presented in the book uses a string orchestra rather than a string quintet. The piece was likely intended for outdoor performance,[2] which might explain the strong rhythm drive without which the music might not be heard out of doors. The opening movement is in Sonata-Allegro form with two themes in G major and D major.[3] The movement is happy and cheerful owing, in part, to the strong sense of rhythm provided by a rhythmic motor by the lower strings. The transition between theme group A and theme group B in the exposition is especially exciting because of the chromaticism and harmonic tension Mozart included in order to modulate from the home key to the dominant key. I think it was clever of Mozart to begin the development section by repeating the opening four-measure figure in a minor key. This is an obvious gesture, and it always makes me giggle, and I imagine Mozart meant for it to be a little humorous. I always enjoy music in sonata form and this cheerful opening movement is always a favorite.

The third movement from the same work is a minuet-and-trio movement in a triple  meter.[4] This is a graceful, dance-like movement that immediately reminds me of Austria. The trio theme is more lyrical and more chromatic than the opening and closing minuet theme. I especially enjoy the arpeggios played by the second violins and violas in the trio of this movement: I like listening to both textures at one and the conversation that Mozart created between the trio melody and the figurations played by the other instruments. The two movements of Eine kleine Nachtmusick we have studied seem to be perfect examples of the order, balance, and symmetry desirable in the Classical era.

The Dies Irae movement from Mozart’s Reqieum is exciting, frightening, and wonderful all at the same time. A requiem is a Roman Catholic mass for the dead and the Dies irae text relates to the day of wrath or judgment day.[5] The timpani stroke at the very beginning is a clever way to launch all of the abundant energy of the movement.  The singing in this movement is primarily homophonic, with the orchestra adding rhythmic interest with repeated figures and rapid scale-like passages. When the chorus sings “how great a tremor there will be, when the judge is to come…”[6] the music seems counterintuitively smooth and more relaxed than the opening moments. I especially enjoy the moment after the first two verses in which Mozart has the tenors and basses pitted against the sopranos and altos in a call-and-response texture, which leads to the exciting conclusion of this movement. It is shame that Mozart died while composing the work;[7] I wonder how it might have sounded had he been able to finish it himself.

Im wundershönen Monat Mai, or “In the lovely month of May,” is an achingly beautiful, if depressing, love song. This work is the first art song from a cycle of 16 songs by Robert Schumann called A Poet’s Love.[8] The singer sings two strophic verses accompanied by piano, and the pianist plays three times all alone: There is a piano introduction, an interlude between the verses, and a postlude for solo piano. The piano music includes simple arpeggios, but there is much beauty in this simplicity. Schuman uses dissonance between the vocal and piano lines to great effect to foreshadow the longing and heartache expressed in the other fifteen songs. In a stroke of genius, Schuman leaves the final note of the piano part unresolved, which seems to express two ideas simultaneously: the longing and lack of resolution in the mind and heart of the singer, and that there is more to come in the narrative arch of this song cycle and this one snapshot of May is not the whole story.










Forney, Kristine, Andrew DellAntonio, and Joseph Machlis. The Enjoyment of Music. 12th shorter ed. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017


NOTE: This is NOT the textbook we are using

[1] Forney, Kristine, Andrew DellAntonio, and Joseph Machlis,The Enjoyment of Music, 12th shorter ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017), 167

[2] Forney, 167

[3] Forney, 171

[4] Forney, 171

[5] Forney, 194

[6] Forney, 195

[7] Forney, 193

[8] Forney, 210

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